Assessing Your Home Recording Microphone Needs - dummies

Assessing Your Home Recording Microphone Needs

By Jeff Strong

Buying microphones is, without a doubt, one of the most critical decisions that you make when setting up your home studio. Using the right microphone for the job can mean the difference between recording okay tracks and truly spectacular ones.

A decade or so ago, you had to choose between inexpensive dynamic mics (what most home recordists could afford) and expensive condenser or ribbon mics (what the pro studios had). But, as luck would have it, you’ve entered a time in home recording where you have many more options. In fact, a whole line of project studio mics has recently emerged.

This is relatively a new market in the long history of microphones that manufacturers have found to be hugely profitable, so the choices are expanding almost daily. In some cases, a $500 project studio mic can rival a $2,000-plus pro mic — at least for the home recordist’s purposes.

So the question that you’re inevitably going to ask is, “What microphones should I get for my home studio?” Good question. And the answer is, “Well, it depends on what you need.” So before going into detail about what mics may be best for you, you should spend a minute assessing your needs. The following questions may help you in your assessment:

  • What type of music will you record? If you play rock or pop music, you should probably start with dynamic mics because they’re inexpensive and their limitations in high or low frequencies don’t matter as much as if, for example, you wanted to record your string quartet. In this case, a pair of condenser mics would do the trick.

  • What instruments will you record? Loud amps, drums, and screaming singers beg to be recorded with dynamic mics, whereas light percussion, vocals, and stand-up basses shine through with large-diaphragm condenser mics.

  • How many mics will you use at once? If you need to record your whole band at once, budget constraints may dictate your choice between dynamic and condenser mics or a condenser or ribbon mic for vocals. If you need only a couple of mics to record the occasional vocal or instrument, you can invest more in each mic.