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Audio Basics (Part 3)

Microphone Design Types

There are many types of microphones that have been produced through the years although only a select few have become successful enough to be used in studios regularly, the following groups of microphones are some of the most widely used today.

Moving Coil & Ribbon Based Dynamic Microphones

These types of microphones are known as being the more durable type of microphone hence their popularity in live music scenarios, moving coil based dynamic microphones can also withstand high sound pressure levels as well as working well when used to close mic an instrument. Whist they have some very obvious advantages these dynamic microphones do however suffer when it comes to higher frequencies as they have a limited high frequency response; popular moving coil based dynamic microphones include the Sure SM57, Senheiser MD421 and the AKG D112. Ribbon based dynamic microphones are slightly more fragile than moving coils mainly due to their small moving parts, these microphones will also encounter proximity effect (bass tip up) when placed too close to a sound source.

Condensor Microphones

First and foremost, condenser microphones are far more fragile than dynamic and ribbon microphones, this is due to their incredibly light moving parts which can be damaged very easily furthermore condenser microphones require an extra forty eight volts (also known as phantom power) in order to function. Although these characteristics may at first appear to be set backs condenser microphones in fact benefit a lot from this design type as these types of microphone have “a fast transient response and high sensitivity” Carlos Lellis Ferreira - 2013. Condenser microphones also benefit from a much better overall high frequency response meaning that these types of microphones will sound better for certain instruments.

Polar Patterns

“Microphones are designed to have a specific directional response pattern, described by a so-called ‘polar diagram’. The polar diagram is a form of two- dimensional contour map, showing the magnitude of the microphones output at different angles of incidence of a sound wave”. Francis Rumsey and Tim McCormick 2009, the six most common polar pattern types are; omnidirectional, figure of eight, hypocardioid, cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid. Each of these six polar patterns work well in different circumstances and environments each with their own advantages and disadvantages when recording different instruments.

George Capon

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