Being the Second part of my Beginners Guide, we shall focus at the start of the Signal Chain, and later posts will focus on later items.
As stated in the previous post, Microphones and Speakers are both Transducers, converting energy from one form to another. Microphone transfer Kinetic (movement energy) to Electrical energy, where as Speakers transfer Electrical energy back into Kinetic energy.
Something to note is that all microphones do not all work in all directions. Some may be best to pick up sound from in front and behind equally, while others reject sound from the rear. he way mics are split up into these categories is by their Polar Patterns (directionality).
Please forgive my artwork! These sketches show (roughly) how each mic responds in directionality. The closer the Red Line is to the outside of the circle, the louder it will pick up from that area.
This is by far the most common at the moment. The Mic picks up from the front, while rejecting / ignoring sound present behind it.
Super (Hyper) Cardioid
Slightly more directional than the Cardioid pattern, this is shown in the pattern being narrower, allowing a more isolated sound to be acheived. This pattern also picks up a small amount from behind the mic.
Fig 8 (BiDirectional)
My wonky Fig 8 diagram shows how the microphone picks up equally whats in front and behind it. This can be useful for getting a Stereo Image over a drum kit with 1 mic, or more complex Studio Techniques like Mid/Side and Blumlein Pair!
This simply picks up equally from all angles, and is used most in Lapel Mics. Which useful for getting the vocals, but will also pick up jangling bracelets!
The diagram above shows a cut through of two different mics. The Dynamic mic has very little to go wrong, as it’s just the mic capsule and XLR output. Condensers on the other hand, house a circuit to power the mic, hence needing power to come from the desk.
Dynamics are the simplest of all mics to use. Just plug in and play. Physical strength and durability (withstanding high sound levels), along with a punchy warm sound are some great aspects of these mics. They range in price, but for a industry standard dynamic your looking around £100.
Super Cardioid Shure Beta57a – This is a great mic for many applications, be it Snare Drum, Guitar Cab, Horns or Vocals. This is one of my favourite all round mics.
This is a Large Diaphragm Dynamic Mic. Also a SuperCardioid pickup pattern. The flat silver side allows it to be placed next to Guitar Amps, meaning less hassle with stands. Its Diaphragm is also larger than the Beta 57’s, allowing more low end information to be captured.
More fragile than Dynamic Mics generally, and require ‘Phantom Power’ (+48V) to power their circuitry. High quality clarity to these mics, and able to withstand more SPL than Ribbon mics. Price wise they range from £100 to £10,000+, so suited to every budget.
Within the Condenser Mic range, there are Small Diaphragm and Large Diaphragm mics. Small Diaphragms are under 1 inch, while the Large Diaphragm are 1 inch upwards. This small difference has a big effect on the performance characteristics of the microphone.
Small Diaphragm Condenser (SDC)
Because of its smaller diaphragm, these microphones respond quicker to short sounds than an equivalent LDC. This makes an SDC a good choice whenever you are trying to capture quick attack sounds cleanly, for example an acoustic guitar, metal percussion, or cymbals.
Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC)
This is a budget LDC, and its easy see the Diaphragm shining through the Pop Shield. A LDC has a larger surface area for the vibrations to hit, meaning that more detailed representation is recorded. In general terms, a LDC is more sensitive than a SDC, and gives a larger output from the same source signal. Its more sensitive because Condenser are made of conductive materials, both the diaphragm and the backplate. This makes a Capacitor. The larger the plate and Diaphragm, the larger the change in capacitance is produced by the vibrations hitting it, the more voltage is outputted!
Uses a thin ‘ribbon’ as a diaphragm, which vibrates a magnet. These are used most in Studio’s as they are fragile, don’t handle loud sounds well – as it can damage the ribbon. Breath or sudden movement of air from a drum kit can also cause damage to the ribbon. Have a warm & natural sound quality that gives them the price tag! Sadly I don’t own any Ribbon mics, as I can get by without them, here is a pic of one anyway!
Wireless vs Wired
I’ve seen worship leaders with a wireless microphones standing motionless in front of their floor monitor. Are they really able to move in this scenario? Not really, as they’re basically tethered to the wedge in order hear the mix.
If you want the talent to be mobile, complete the circle by making everything wireless. Give them wireless in-ear monitors, wireless guitar and wireless microphones. Now they can move wherever they need to while playing, singing and hearing their mix.