"Do not disturb! Recording in progress!": How to choose the right studio microphone

There are a lot of different types of studio microphones – depending on the sound you want

Do you want to record your songs professionally in your home studio? Then you need the right equipment. "Studio microphones" are not a technical category like dynamic microphones or condenser microphones . What we mean here are microphones that are suitable for recording your guitars, bass and drums, but of course also your singer's voice in such a way that the end result is exactly what you want. So how do you choose the right studio microphone? It's all right here.

Check out the studio microphones from IMG STAGELINE:

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What interests you most about studio microphones?


What do we mean by "studio microphones"? That's simple: mics that do what you need in the studio

As a musician, you don't just record songs for yourself. You want your fans to hear them. You want to be heard as an artist. With a good studio microphone you bring your songs (and your band) straight into the ears and hearts of your fans. In many cases that works best with condenser microphones. But not always.

"Recording in progress": It's going to be a hit recording with these IMG STAGELINE studio microphones

It doesn't just depend on the instruments you want to record – but of course we have some microphone recommendations [###AnkerLink to H2: "From vocals to flute..."] for that too. It also depends on your style. Perhaps you want to deliberately give your recording a scrappy, rough edge so you prefer the less precise dynamic microphones like the DM series. Or maybe the sound needs to be soft, warm and full, then you probably should go for a large-diaphragm condenser microphone from the ECMS series. The all-round microphone that gives you the perfect recording doesn't really exist. Sure, a lot of post-processing happens in the studio – and even home recordings can do a lot with good DAW software. But downstream or integrated amplifiers, mixers and effects can be as high end as you like: If the microphone doesn't "rock" you during the recording, then that future all-time favourite hit probably isn't going to materialise.

ECMS-60: a value-for-money champion for professional studio use

  • Compact design

  • Extremely thin, gold-coated 2.5 cm (1") diaphragm

  • 48-V phantom power

  • Microphone holder with 16 mm (⅝") tripod thread

  • 9 mm (⅜") adapter screw

  • Leather case included


To the ECMS-60


ECMS-60: a value-for-money champion for professional studio use

  • Compact design

  • Extremely thin, gold-coated 2.5 cm (1") diaphragm

  • 48-V phantom power

  • Microphone holder with 16 mm (⅝") tripod thread

  • 9 mm (⅜") adapter screw

  • Leather case included


To the ECMS-60

"The ECMS-60 is fantastic value for money and is a great studio microphone, including accessories, that you'll be able to use whenever you want on stage as well."

— ECMS-60 | Soundcheck | 5/2018

ECMS-70: Your highest demands will be met here

  • Extremely thin, gold-coated 2.5 cm (1") diaphragm

  • 48-V phantom power

  • Anti-vibration stand (spider)

  • 16 mm (⅝") tripod thread

  • 9 mm (⅜") adapter screw

  • Leather case included


To the ECMS-70


ECMS-70: Your highest demands will be met here

  • Extremely thin, gold-coated 2.5 cm (1") diaphragm

  • 48-V phantom power

  • Anti-vibration stand (spider)

  • 16 mm (⅝") tripod thread

  • 9 mm (⅜") adapter screw

  • Leather case included


To the ECMS-70

ECMS-90: The top of the line with additional accessories

  • Super thin, gold-coated 2.8 cm (1,1") diaphragm

  • Low cut switch

  • Switchable 10-dB attenuation

  • 48-V phantom power

  • Anti-vibration stand (spider)

  • 16 mm (⅝") tripod thread

  • 9 mm (⅜") adapter screw

  • Microphone windscreen

  • Leather bag

  • Comes in a foam-padded case


To the ECMS-90


ECMS-90: The top of the line with additional accessories

  • Super thin, gold-coated 2.8 cm (1,1") diaphragm

  • Low cut switch

  • Switchable 10-dB attenuation

  • 48-V phantom power

  • Anti-vibration stand (spider)

  • 16 mm (⅝") tripod thread

  • 9 mm (⅜") adapter screw

  • Microphone windscreen

  • Leather bag

  • Comes in a foam-padded case


To the ECMS-90

"Big sound on a small budget."

— ECMS-90 | tools4music | 01/2018


ECM-270: Direct or overhead recording? It works with this

  • Back-electret capsule with cardioid pattern

  • Low cut switch

  • Switchable 10-dB attenuation

  • Electronically balanced output

  • High-quality, stable brass housing

  • Includes durable hard case

  • Includes microphone windscreen

  • Includes a tripod spider 16 mm (⅝")


To the ECM-270


ECM-270: Direct or overhead recording? It works with this

  • Back-electret capsule with cardioid pattern

  • Low cut switch

  • Switchable 10-dB attenuation

  • Electronically balanced output

  • High-quality, stable brass housing

  • Includes durable hard case

  • Includes microphone windscreen

  • Includes a tripod spider 16 mm (⅝")


To the ECM-270

Dynamic or condenser: Use the studio mic that takes your recording where you want it to go

Condenser mics are often used for recording because they...

  • have very good sound quality: The small mass of their thin, delicate diaphragms is particularly noticeable in the highs.
  • respond more sensitively to larger frequency ranges than dynamic microphones.
  • deliver a superior transient response*.
  • capture the authentic sounds of many instruments more effectively than dynamic microphones: They just have bigger, better capacity.

*Impulse fidelity or transient response: the (in and out) oscillation of the diaphragm

Impulse fidelity describes how precisely the diaphragm of a microphone converts sound (impulses) into an electrical voltage (for transmission to the mixing console). The more precisely this is done, the truer the microphone will sound. It is important how the diaphragm in the microphone reacts to incoming sounds. If the diaphragm reacts only sluggishly to sound impulses due to its material and mass, it needs a certain amount of time to react to the initial impulses and to settle in. This reduces the fidelity of the sound. The same at the other end: If the diaphragm vibrates too long at the end of a tone before it reaches its resting position again, this also changes the fidelity of the sound.

Some musicians find the somewhat colder, less "meticulous" sound of dynamic microphones more appropriate for their recordings. It depends on your sound, your instruments and your recording vision.

The difference between studio and live action: You have time

In the studio you are not subject to the hectic conditions of a live performance. You have the luxury of multiple takes and can pay attention to all the subtleties. You can select, edit, master and produce your first EP or the long-awaited "debut song"  [###Link to www.img-stageline.de/magazin/musik-produzieren]. Every single note of the acoustic guitar needs to be crystal clear. This works best with the condenser microphone design, which captures every breathy note of your singer and shows an impressive attention to detail.

 

Different rules apply on stage than in the studio

What counts on stage is an energetic performance; not every note has to be perfect. It's loud and wild, there are handling noises, stomping noises and sometimes a wrongly plucked string. The smaller dimensions of dynamic microphones helps with that sometimes. That is why dynamic mics work so well on stage:

  • They are super robust.
  • Despite being less accurate in picking up all sound sources, they tend to turn this disadvantage into an advantage on stage. With dynamic microphones you hardly have any disruptive noise or feedback.
  • They reliably pick up loud instruments because they are resistant to higher (limit) sound pressure.
  • You don't need an additional power source (phantom power).

→ Have a look here for more on dynamic microphones. 


From vocals to flutes: Which microphone do I use for recording...

"OK – and which studio microphone is best suited if we want to record our driving bass lines and bombastic lead guitar riffs?" you ask, rightly. We have a few recommendations for you here, where we envision a dynamic microphone as a better option, or where a condenser microphone would be a better choice.

Instrument

Best for recording ...

vocals

Condenser microphone: for melodic singing
Even if both microphone types work, the large-diaphragm condenser microphone has the edge here. Thanks to higher signal-to-noise ratios it delivers better detail, especially in the higher frequencies, and cleaner recordings.

Dynamic microphones: for more guttural vocals

When things get raw, your voice is more of an instrument alongside distorted electric guitars. In those cases, the somewhat simpler sound of a dynamic microphone can be more effective.

Electric guitar

Dynamic microphone:

It's best to use a dynamic microphone for electric guitars because it has a built-in moving coil that is resistant to high sound pressure levels. This helps avoid distortion.

Acoustic guitar

Condenser microphone:

In theory you can use both types of microphones with an acoustic guitar. But we would recommend a condenser microphone here. It picks up all the details more precisely and gives you a more natural, often warmer sound that suits acoustic guitars. A dynamic microphone delivers less treble and can distort that authentic sound.

Drums

Dynamic microphone, sometimes condenser microphone:
This is a special case. Since drum kits basically consist of several instruments, they should also be recorded individually and from close range. That gives you a more clearly defined sound. Since powerful volume is important, dynamic microphones are generally the better choice. They easily deal with high sound pressure levels and have low sensitivity. You can also use a condenser microphone for the hi-hat, which picks up the high frequencies of this drum element in great detail.

Electric bass

Dynamic microphone or condenser microphone:

Bass guitars use a lot of low frequencies. You need a microphone that will pick up the entire range of sound they produce. Both dynamic microphones with their high sound pressure level capabilities (for that "booming" bass sound) and large-diaphragm condenser microphones (for that velvety sound) are suitable for this.

Violin, viola, cello

Condenser microphone: When well placed, they clearly pick up the full range of high and low frequencies of the instrument. They also pick up overtones, resonances, subtleties in timbre, and the sound of the instrument itself.

Saxophone

Condenser microphones capture the high frequencies of the saxophone well, while the mids are less likely to slip through. But a dynamic microphone can be more suitable in blues rock, when there are many dynamic jumps and the shows can be generally a little rougher.

Flute

It depends. For a jazz flute recording, condenser microphones are better because they generally capture more of the flute's overtones, resulting in a bright sound. A good dynamic microphone delivers a slightly weightier and detailed flute sound. This sound might be better suited to a rock or R&B band.

The strict concept of "dynamic = stage, condenser = recording studio" tends to overlook some interesting "opportunities"

This list shows you again: There is no single recommendation for a microphone when it comes to recording your instruments or your singer's vocals. You have to give it a try – you will get different sounds, but none is better than the other. What makes a sound "better" is very subjective: You decide what goes better with your record.

 

The two variants of dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones are all based on the induction principle. But just to keep you on your toes in the already confusing world of microphones, dynamic microphones are divided into two different microphone types:

These are the classic, indestructible on-stage microphones. Sound waves here meet an easily movable diaphragm inside and stimulate it to vibrate. A coil connected to it is then also set in motion. The movement of the coil in a constant magnetic field creates voltage (electromagnetic induction). The result: electrical signals arise from sound waves, which we then perceive as acoustic tones at the end of the signal chain once they are processed by speakers or audio interfaces.

Here, instead of the (moving) coil, a thin aluminium ribbon (1-4 mm) serves as the diaphragm. This small mass allows the ribbon to move very easily, but it only vibrates by a few µm. It is also based on the induction principle, which means signals are generated due to movements of the diaphragm through the magnetic field. The special diaphragm used here, however, changes the sound significantly. Ribbon microphones are extremely sensitive, especially to wind, vibrations and fast movements. This leads to a lively, natural sound feeling and a great reflection of the sound space. Ribbon microphones have their own sound and are used in professional recording studios because of their sensitivity, which is atypical compared to other induction-controlled dynamic microphones. They record clear sound and feature good impulse behaviour. However, they are not all-round mics that can record any instrument: Use them as a supplement if you can afford multiple mics. You can achieve great results with a "ribbon microphone", especially with very loud instruments such as electric guitars or drums. They even give condenser microphones a run for their money here.

Where dynamic microphones are more robust and less sensitive to background noise, condenser microphones react more sensitively due to the feather-light diaphragm inside: The diaphragm reproduces sound waves precisely and true to detail.

The four variants of condenser microphones

Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are the ultimate in the studio if you want a microphone that really captures everything. The large diaphragm hears all the nuances of an instrument and of the room itself. Do you want a voluminous and warm recording? Then you need one of these. Sound engineers and musicians like to use large-diaphragm condenser microphones when it comes to recording vocals or instruments in the foreground. The housing itself is a so-called disruptive body: it influences the sound and gives it that typical feel of a large-diaphragm, condenser microphone. Large-diaphragm microphones usually have less intrinsic noise. Levels are more pronounced, so you don't need a lot of pre-amplification.

Condenser microphones with a small diaphragm are used where you need a particularly detailed recording with a natural sound. They have the best bandwidth for frequencies. The impulse fidelity of small-diaphragm condenser microphones is particularly high, and their frequency response is linear. This means even high frequencies are recorded evenly and the sound of your voice or your instruments is not distorted. Small-diaphragm microphones are used for a range of instruments: They are particularly suitable as overhead mics for picking up drum elements.

Electret condenser microphones are a special form of condenser microphone. Their peculiarity is that the polarisation voltage for the capsule does not come from the phantom power supply and does not have to be supplied externally: It is already present in the capsule in the form of a static charge. Still, electret condenser microphones require a power supply due to the internal amplifier electronics.

When you connect your mic to a computer you usually need an audio interface that converts the signals. But you can also save yourself the interface: Just use a USB microphone. The difference to normal condenser microphones lies in two additional circuits. The USB mic ...

  • includes an integrated pre-amplifier. This eliminates the need to connect to a mixer or an external microphone pre-amp.
  • already has an additional analogue-to-digital converter (A/D). This converts the output of the microphone from analogue (voltage) to digital (data). Connect it directly to your PC or notebook and record and edit with DAW software

What is (48V) phantom power?

Phantom power is an external power supply. It is DC voltage that is transmitted via the microphone cable. Your condenser microphone needs phantom power because it has active circuitry and needs external power. This is the only way the membrane can transport the sound.

Speaking of large diaphragms: What does diaphragm size mean?

Membrane size is important for the directivity of your microphone. If the diaphragm is large and therefore heavy, it is also more difficult to set in motion (sluggish) and therefore less sensitive. If the membrane is smaller it is easier to move and therefore has a higher impulse fidelity.
With large-diaphragm microphones, the pick-up field narrows more and more as the frequencies get higher: Signals that hit the membrane directly from the front ("on axis") sound richer in treble than sound sources arranged on the side ("off-axis"). Large diaphragms have a slightly poorer impulse behaviour than small membranes, which follow the sound waves more precisely due to their smaller mass.

You should know these microphone characteristics

Directional characteristics

The "polar pattern" explains how sensitive a microphone is to the sound source from a given angle:

  • With a kidney, if you pick up the sound from the front, the microphone is much less sensitive on the side and the least sensitive on the back. You get recordings with a direct sound but without a large proportion of space, because sound reflections from the "undesirable" sides are suppressed.

  • With an omnidirectional, your microphone picks up evenly all around. This pattern works well for backing choirs or group vocals where the individual members gather around the mic. They are also good for acoustic instruments where the spatial sound and the sound of the resonance body are important.

  • With a bidirectional microphone, sound is picked up well from the front and rear, but hardly at all from the side. Mics with this characteristic are often used by sound engineers to record two singers at the same time – it sounds better than two separate mics.

The figure-eight pattern produces a very strong proximity effect. This is a bass boost that occurs when the singer is very close to the microphone.

You can read more here in our article about directional characteristics (polar patterns)

Intrinsic noise

The term intrinsic noise tells you how loud your microphone is hissing without receiving any sound. The lower the inherent noise, the better the signal-to-noise ratio of the recording, especially with quiet singers or instruments. If your microphone has a high noise level (more than 20 dB), you must position it as close as possible to the sound source – a low-noise microphone (up to 10 dB) gives you more flexibility in positioning.

 

Frequency response

Frequency response describes how sensitive your microphone is at a certain frequency. This is measured against a predetermined loudness reference. If the frequency response is very linear, the microphone picks up the volume of the input very precisely. In practice, however, no model achieves perfect linearity.

 

Sensitivity

Sensitivity shows your microphone output voltage at a given sound pressure level. The higher the value, the better and louder the studio microphone is able to reproduce weak signals.

 

Transmission range

Transmission range indicates the frequency range in which your microphone records. Condenser microphones have a very wide transmission range that often covers the entire hearing spectrum.

 

Maximum sound pressure level

The maximum sound pressure level shows you where your microphone starts to distort the signal (clipping). This occurs when, above a certain volume, a microphone exceeds a distortion factor (an unwanted signal addition during recording due to the amplification of the audio signal) of 0.5% or 1% (measured at 1 kHz). Condenser microphones are at a disadvantage here compared to dynamic microphones with their high sensitivity. That's why they are rarely used in live performances or with loud instruments such as drums or electric guitars.

 

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Check out the studio microphones from IMG STAGELINE:

ltt
g4m
HUSS Licht und Ton

Dealers go directly to our B2B online shop:

Do you have questions about our studio microphones? We have answers. Write us!

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