Microphone Types

Since we are talking about recording speech, we will be talking about dynamic mics verses condenser mics. At this time I have around $12,000.00 invested in these types of mics and my favorite one for speech, is the Shure SM57 dynamic mic. It cost $99.00. I also have the Shure SM7b which cost $450.00. This is the mic that Michael Jackson used to record the number one selling album of all times, Thriller.

The SM7b is known world wide for being used by broadcasters and radio stations as well as professional narrators and voice over artist. While this may be one of the best mics on the market, you will also need to invest in a quality preamp to power this mic. If you use a low quality preamp with a high noise floor, this will only be amplified by this mic and your audio will suffer greatly.

I use the Tascam US 16×8 Audio Interface that gets patched into my Alesis USB 8 channel sound board, just to have the proper amount of gain to power this mic. Shure recommends that a minimum of 59dbs of gain are required and make no mistake about it, you NEVER want to go with the minimum requirements when dealing with any type of audio recording.

The cost of these two pieces of hardware is around $600.00 including the cables. Combine that with the $450.00 for the mic and you can see where this will be very expensive to set this type of mic up properly. So lets talk about the Shure SM57. Believe it or not, it has the same capsule as the SM7b. This comes straight from the Shure website. You can have the most expensive mic made and if it is set up improperly, you gain absolutely nothing.

So what is the big deal when it comes to choosing a dynamic mic over a condenser mic? Noise! Yes noise. Background noises can include: Computer Fans, AC vents, TVs, Washers/Dryers, Kids Playing and things of this nature. Outside noises can consist of Kids Playing, Overhead Flight Paths, Lawn Cutting, Traffic, Emergency Vehicles, Dogs Barking and things of this nature.

Now combine this with electrical interference noise. Preamps, Overhead High Voltage Lines, Electrical Circuits, Noisy USB Buss or Sound Cards and Signal to Noise Ratios concerning your recording equipment input levels. When all of these noises are added together, you now have what is called a “Noise Floor”.

While these types of noises will effect both mics, the dynamic mics are much more forgiving when it comes to outside noise influences. To put it simply, I can be recording with my dynamic mics while the lawn care company is mowing outside my home and it will never be picked up by my mics and make its way into my recording.

You can not achieve these same results using a condenser mic. Condenser mics require a very quite recording environment. You need to understand that it is all the little things added together that will result in a professional recording. Condensers mics are made for studio work and that is why you never see them being used on stage for live performances.

They are so sensitive, you simply can not filter out all the unwanted background noise that they will pick up. And I promise you, they will pick it up! Does this mean that you can not use a USB condenser mic and achieve good results? Of course not! It means you will have to work twice as hard to achieve results that will be comparable to or below what you can achieve with a dynamic mic outside of a studio.

If you have invested in a $29.00 condenser mic package, off of some website that includes a condenser mic, a mic boom arm, USB cable and pop filter, you have already probably condemned yourself to failure. This setup is great if you want to have conversations over the internet but they have no place for recording audio you want to submit to the ACX.

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