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Tips on Buying Microphones: Getting to Know Type of Microphones

Have you ever wonder how exactly the thing called microphones can make sounds of different qualities over long distance? It will be troublesome to go through all the technical geeky things about how a microphone work to produce sound. However, when buying microphones for any applications, you will definitely need some pointers to start with. For one, you may have to at least have some ideas about some technical terms and type of microphones in order to do it right. While there are many tips on buying microphones getting to know type of microphones is important to get the basic idea. You will also need to consider about your budget and match the choices available with your own requirements to do it right. After all, buying microphones with high end specification does not necessarily mean that you will get the optimal performance for your application. First thing first, let's get down to things you need to know when looking at various type of microphones out there to see which one will fit best for your applications.

1. Dynamic Microphone

Dynamic microphone is perhaps one of the most common type of microphones you can find out there. In terms of build quality, it is also widely-recognized for its robustness for extended applications while being priced very affordable among other things. This type of microphones is especially better choice for those buying microphones for live stage application or sound amplification scenario with loud sounds. Other things you need to know about this type of microphones are that they may suffer from limited frequency responses and more susceptible to noise than other type of microphones. The reason for its weakness is closely related to the very nature of dynamic microphone itself. Leveraging on electromagnetic induction, dynamic microphone uses a thin diaphragm and small piece of coil to produce electric current which turns out not large enough to deliver signal response to the entire frequency range. In order to do it right, you may want to combine dynamic microphone for better results such as ribbon microphones which actually involves a similar electrical induction to produce sound, only with ribbon instead of coil as in dynamic microphones. However, it is argued that dynamic microphones may just work wonder for sound amplification applications where sound sources is nearby and strong enough.

2. Capacitor Microphone

While dynamic microphones may be considered the mainstream type of microphones, capacitor microphones takes the cream of the crop position. Also known as condenser microphones, this type of microphones are especially popular for high quality sound amplification applications such as or professional sound engineering. recording studio If you want to do it right regardless of any applications and sound amplification, then capacitor microphone is the must have and easy buy. But again buying microphones are not that simple and there is chance that dynamic microphone is good enough for your applications compared to the more high-end capacitor microphone. In any case, there are several things you need to know about this type of microphones before making any decision. At its heart, capacitor microphones is powered by a pair of conducting plates which work together to trigger capacitance and produce electrical signal. In terms of performance, they excel in almost every scenario of sound amplification thanks to its enhanced sensitivity and better coverage across frequency range. Because of its high sensitivity quality, capacitor microphones are also believed to offer wider audio pickup and thus more reliable audio performance for both close and distant sound sources. On the downside, this particular type of microphones are usually more expensive than their dynamic counterparts because of the integrated pre-amp used to boost the electrical current. Then, you may also want to note that this type of microphones require phantom power source to power the capsule and pre-amp. When buying microphones, power options or requirements is relatively important aspect to consider.

3. Electret Microphone

To begin with, electret microphone is literally the compromised, cheaper edition of capacitor microphone. The third type of microphones can be considered a sort of combination or hybrid product from the other two type of microphones explainer earlier: dynamic and capacitor microphones. If you are buying microphones with restricted budgets but wishes to make little compromise as possible, electret microphones may just do it right for you. Basically, this type of microphones really takes after capacitor microphone in that they integrate built-in pre-amp to help power the electrical current. As such, one can expect that a high end electret microphone is able to offer quality relatively on par with the capacitor microphone in much more affordable price tag. Next, it is also come handy that the integrated pre-amp can be powered via battery in some cases instead of dedicated phantom power source as in capacitor microphones. Other things you need to know when looking at this type of microphones including the fact that it packs fixed polar pattern; reducing the coverage of audio pickup because it only picks up audio from one direction instead of multi-direction. Despite the cheaper price as compared to capacitor type of microphones, it seems that electret microphone will likely to cause you extra costs in different way. Because it uses permanently charged back plates, the capsule which drives electret microphones will wear out after some time and needs to be changed. When buying microphones, it is important to check if your microphone have any components which needs regular maintenance such as capsule replacement as in electret microphones. Finally, it is worth noting that electret microphones are also used in diverse applications including computers, wireless headsets and even mobile phones.

Dynamic, capacitor, and electret microphones are the major type of microphones available at the market these days. A lot of manufacturers may uses different technical or specific term to address their microphones but they are basically divided into these three categories or at least modified out of these type of microphones. For that reason, it is for the better that you start with deciding the best type of microphones which will suit your requirements as well as budgets before going around for buying microphones. Regarding the technical terms, you should be more or less aware of what means what after getting know the type of microphones. For example, you will often find the terms frequency response which in case of microphones, essentially describes the capability of microphones to respond to a variety of sound signal running in different part of audio spectrum such as low frequency, middle range, or high frequencies.

Other things you need to know when reviewing the specification sheet of microphones are the proximity effect and pickup patterns, which are also introduced in the three types of microphones. As mentioned earlier, dynamic microphones are better match for close sound sources and the result can be enhanced with proximity effect put in play. Pickup patterns, on different light, may significantly determine your overall audio quality and performance. Cardiod microphones with one direction pickup pattern does not necessarily always equal to less optimized sound performance. Similarly, omni directional microphones can also produce less accurate sound because it simply picks up any sound including unwanted background noise. Despite the three main type of microphones, you may want to take another look at some of the more recent and less conventional type of microphones when buying microphones. Among the interesting ones are the fiber optic microphone and laser microphone.

(Date: 20 May 2013; Lidya)

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