Types of Microphones | Everything Explained (2022)

How many types of microphones are there? And how do these types of microphones differ from each other? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know.

Microphones are tricky pieces of electronics and cannot be understood by people who are just starting out. Tens of different types of microphones are available at the market which further adds to the confusion. Thus, in order to help such individuals, we have compiled this article to include all the types of microphones that you might encounter.

In this article, you would get an introduction to each of these types of microphones and how these microphones work. This article will be comprehensive and also easy to understand for people who are new to this field. So, without any further ado, let’s dive right into this article on the types of microphones.

Criterion To Differentiate Different Types of Microphones

This question might have popped in your head and it is a valid question, how do you divide the microphones into different classes? Well! The answer is simple: every part or component that affects the quality of audio of a microphone can be used to classify the microphones.

The widely accepted criteria are:)

  1. Circuitry Type
  2. Pattern type
  3. Connectivity Type

Although microphones can be divided into categories using tens of different criteria, the above-mentioned ones are the most significant.

Thus, in this article on types of microphones, we would limit ourselves to only these three classifications. We would let you know how these microphones operate and the purposes they are designed for.

So, let’s jump right into it.

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Types of Microphones Based on Type of Circuitry

As the name suggests, as per this classification the microphones are divided on the type of circuitry used in them. The circuit is essentially the main part of any microphone and determines its usage.

Usually, you would encounter the dynamic and the condenser microphones in the market. However, there is a third type as well known as ribbon microphone, though its use is limited to professionals only, it would not have been fair to leave it out.

I) Dynamic Microphones- Ideal For Live Performances

These microphones have a magnetic coil that moves according to the frequency it is subjected to. These movements of the coil are converted into an electric signal that is transmitted to the receiver which decodes it and produces the output. Because of this mechanical coil, the SPL (the ability of the microphone to respond to higher frequencies) of these microphones is usually much higher.

types of microphones

Therefore, these microphones are capable enough to resist distortion even when subjected to high noise. Moreover, these microphones also provide a wide and flat frequency response which consequently produces a natural sound. And most importantly, these microphones capture the ambient environment as well which makes them excellent choices for live settings.

It is because of these features, this microphone is preferred for on-stage performances by vocalists, drummers, and guitarists.

These are some other benefits, However, it does have its fair share of cons as well.

  • Low cost
  • Power Supply is not required
  • Versatile applications
  • Not good for indoor recordings
  • Output is difficult to modify in post-production

II) Condenser Microphones- Ideal For Recordings

The condenser microphones have a thin conductive diaphragm right over the metal backplate. This circuit works exactly like a capacitor where the vibration in the diaphragm is used as a signal to transmit via backplate. The use of capacitance instead of actual moving coil results in much better fidelity and sound quality.

The better and improved sound quality make these microphones ideal for recording vocals and instruments. It is because of this you would often see vocalists, voiceover artists, light instrument players using these microphones in their studios.

different types of microphones

Another component that plays a key role in these microphones is the condenser itself. This component improves the sound even further by dampening the noise around the sound source. The better the condenser the clearer the output would be.

However, the downside of using this circuitry is it requires a constant power supply which is often referred to as Phantom Power. This power supply is provided using an interface or mixer as some people call it. This would make the microphone more expensive which is also a major drawback of using condenser microphones.

So, in the nutshell, the pros and cons of the condenser microphones are:

  • Ideal for precision recording
  • Clear and natural output
  • Variety of options to choose from
  • Ideal for recording light music instruments
  • Sensitive to breath
  • Expensive
  • Not suitable for loud instruments

The problem with the sensitivity can be resolved using the popping filters or some other accessories. However, it is a problem nonetheless.

III) Ribbon Microphone-For Professional Quality Recordings

It is the third type of microphone based on circuitry and is not as common or popular as the other two. However, the significance of this cannot be ignored as it is the most widely used microphone by professionals. The performance of these microphones is unmatchable especially when it comes to recording the vocals.

The construction of these microphones includes a thin aluminum or a nanofilm of conductive ribbon placed between two poles of the magnets. Hence, the name “ribbon”, also known as ribbon velocity microphone sometimes. The configuration produces the voltages via electromagnetic induction.

ribbon microphones

The ribbon of the microphone vibrates when it is subjected to sound. The vibration produces the voltages induced at the right angles to both magnetic poles. These are referred to as velocity ribbons because the voltages induced are directly proportional to the velocity of the ribbon. It is a far superior configuration to condenser and dynamic microphones which is why it results in much better quality.

It is because of this quality that these microphones are used by professionals to record music in the studio. These microphones also excel at capturing the ambient environment which results in more natural output. These are some pros and cons of Ribbon microphones below.

  • Recording the natural sound
  • Recording the instruments
  • Capturing both high and low frequencies
  • Output near prefect
  • Captures both high and low notes effectively
  • Quite expensive
  • Prone to breakage

Types of Microphones Based on Polar Pattern

The polar pattern is the word that you would often come across while looking for a microphone. And it is for the right reason as it plays a key role in determining the usage of microphones. Thus, it was pertinent to include this classification in our types of microphones.

So, first thing first, what the polar pattern actually is?

Well! Simply put, it is the area that is designated to record or capture the sound coming towards the microphone. A microphone would capture the sound only from those areas that are designated in the polar pattern.

Thus, based on this, one can classify the microphones in a number of categories for the types of microphones. Some of the most important ones are as follow

I)  Unidirectional or Cardioid Microphones-Ideal For Isolation and Noise Reduction

Unidirectional or cardioid microphones are those that have a pattern that allows them to record from one direction only. All the other areas of the diaphragm are practical of no use. The pattern is usually of the heart shape, hence the name cardioid.

Since these microphones can capture from one direction only they are very effective at reducing the noise. As they capture only that sound that is projected toward them no noise can make into the microphone. Thus, the audio one gets in the output is free of all the distortion and noise.

These types of mics are very useful when one needs to isolate different sound sources that are present in the same place. Hence, these types of mics would come in handy while composing the music with different instruments in the same studios.

However, since these microphones can only capture from designated area mics with small diaphragms may present some issues. For example, it would have to be placed precisely next to the sound source as a slight deviation in angle might result in dampened audio.

So, in the nutshell, these are the pros and cons of unidirectional or cardioid microphones.

  • Can isolate the different sound sources
  • Dampen the noise from surroundings
  • Clear audio
  • Best for recording voice overs and vocals
  • Slight deviation can result in dampened sound
  • The angle of the instruments has to be precise
  • Setting up the microphone might take some time

II) Omnidirectional Microphones-Ideal for Recording Ambient Environment

Omnidirectional are those microphone types that can capture the sound from all directions. Unlike cardioid microphones, these do not have a designated area to record the audio and all of their diaphragm actively capture the sound from all directions.

So, these microphones are used when one wants to capture the ambient environment as well. The acoustics of the rooms or studio is known as ambient environments. Thus, in places like churches where one wants to record the echo as well, these microphones come in really handy.

Furthermore, at times, when one wants to record the vocals and instruments together, these microphones would be highly beneficial. Individuals who use acoustic guitars would be able to greatly benefit from it.

However, with all these advantages, there is a certain downside as well which is pretty obvious. These microphones are not great at dampening the noise around them. Thus, whenever there would be high noise around you, the audio would come out distorted.  

So, the bottom line is, out of different types of microphones, omnidirectional mics have the following advantages & disadvantages.

  • Can capture the ambient environment
  • Versatile microphones
  • Natural Sound
  • No background noise rejection
  • Prone to monitor feedback

Besides these two types of polar patterns, you might come across the stereo patterns, bidirectional and multiple polar patterns as well. However, they are not as popular or common as the two that have been mentioned in different types of mics. Thus, those microphones are beyond the scope of this article on different types of mics.

Types of Microphones Based on Connectivity

Under this classification, the different kinds of microphones are divided into categories based on what type of connector they use. Usually, you would come across two kinds of microphones based on this and those are

  • USB Microphone
  • XLR Microphone

USB Microphone- More Convenient

The USB microphones, as the name indicates, use the USB to connect with other devices. The USB connector makes it convenient to connect with other devices like desktops and laptops. Therefore, such microphones make ideal options for individuals that need something for live streaming or video calling.

However, the USB microphones have downsides as well that include substandard quality. Don’t get spooky, it isn’t the “Bad ” bad, it is just not good enough for purposes like recording vocals or voiceovers. Besides these, you would get decent quality when it comes to live streaming and video calls.

  • More convenient to connect with other electronics
  • Cheap price
  • Cool looking designs
  • No interface is required
  • Quality is not good enough for recording vocals or voice overs
  • Construction is not sturdy

XLR Microphones- The Quality is Priority

The second type of microphone when it comes to classification based on connection is the XLR microphones. These microphones use an XLR connector which is the standard connector for studio equipment. This connector provides far more superior quality than USB microphones.

Thus, these are used for more professional purposes that include recording voice-overs, recording of instruments and vocals. The obvious downside of these microphones is their price which can be very expensive sometimes

  • High quality audio
  • Easy connection with studio gear
  • Expensive
  • Interface is required

Conclusion- Types of Microphones

It can be tough for beginners to understand the microphones but we hope this article has helped you understand microphone types and uses. There are a lot of other features that can be used as the basics of classifications but in our microphones types and uses article we have tried to keep it simple and relevant.

We hope this article has answered all your queries on the types of microphones. In case, there is anything that you want to add or ask about types of microphones, let us know in the given section. We would love to respond. Thanks!

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