For singers, regardless of genre or style, one of the most important tools needed for a successful performance is the right microphone. Mics can have a huge impact on the sound of your voice, whether you are recording in the studio or singing live. Choosing the right mic can be complex; your vocal style, the environment you are performing in, and even your budget can all impact your decision. Often, singers just use whatever the producer or sound engineer has on hand, and as a result, most vocalists have had an experience or two with a microphone that they just didn’t like.
In order to find mics that emphasize the features that you like (and avoid features you don’t like) it’s important to do your research. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution that works for every singer, as microphones have numerous complex characteristics. The two main types of microphones are dynamic and condenser. There is no “best” of these two, as they excel in different areas. You will likely have to try a few in order to really understand what works best for you, but here are five elements that everyone should consider when choosing a vocal microphone.
1) The ability to go where you want to take it: Will you be using your microphone in controlled studio conditions, or performing in unpredictable outdoor environments? Dynamic microphones are a great choice for live performances due to their ability to handle loud sounds without high frequencies or feedback. Condenser microphones are great for recording vocals in the studio due to their amazing sensitivity and wide frequency range. However, they are more delicate than dynamic microphones, and probably can’t stand up to the abuse of touring and energetic live performances.
2) Staying within your budget: Your budget has a big impact on your microphone selection. There are affordable microphones that sound great, but if you are looking to get professional sound out of your home studio, you may need to spend more. A good place to start is by testing microphones at your performances and recording sessions. Write down the details on any mics you love, then contact an expert retailer who carries products from multiple vendors at a wide range of prices.
3) The type of connection do you have or want: For home recording, using an XLR-to-audio interface instead of USB-to-computer will give you better sound quality. Will you need an audio interface in order to use the microphone that you want?
4) Durability and ergonomics: Can the microphones you are looking at handle your performance style? Do they feel good in your hand? Can you move naturally? Are you comfortable with a corded mic or do you need a wireless microphone that can enable freer movement?
5) The ability to capture the sound that matches your vision: Dynamic microphones work well for capturing hotter sound, like screaming rock and roll vocals, where condenser microphones might be better for capturing sensitive, detailed studio recordings. Tube condenser microphones give your recordings a warm, vintage-inspired tone.
Do you have an old faithful, go-to microphone, or are you always experimenting with new sounds and tools? Let us know in the comments!