What are the different types of microphones

Microphone Types - Different types of microphones

When you say microphone, you usually mean one of the two major main categories of this product class: either live microphones / stage microphones or studio microphones. In fact, however, the various models are divided into further microphone types, which are either related to the primary purpose of the device or to the construction and function of the microphone.

Different microphone types

When choosing the right type of microphone, it is of course important that you are clear about what you want to record with your new device. Basically, we distinguish between four main types of recording devices that are most commonly used: dynamic microphones, condenser microphones, USB -Microphones and shotgun microphones. While the first two microphone types rather describe the design of the device, the names of the other two main categories refer to the connection types or designs, as well as the resulting application scenarios. Here on this page we introduce you to the four most important microphone types and show you what their special features are with a microphone test.

Dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones are devices that are particularly suitable for live performances and, due to their construction, are very insensitive to external influences. Most of the dynamic microphones available today use the moving coil design. There is a coil made of copper wire on the microphone diaphragm, which is wound over a permanent magnet. If the membrane is set in vibration, the coil moves along the magnet, which in turn generates electromagnetic signals and these are then picked up by the microphone.

The simple design and the high availability of the resources required for dynamic microphones lead to low production costs. Extremely cheap consumer devices are available in retail stores for just a few euros. However, high-quality vocal microphones from Shure, Rode or Sennheiser can easily cost three-digit amounts. These professional devices not only have the highest sound quality, but also very often have useful features such as an elastically mounted membrane or internal pop filter.

Condenser microphones

A condenser microphone generates electrical signals by measuring the capacitance between two charged capacitor plates. This type of conversion of sound in the form of air vibrations into acoustic signals works very reliably and leads to very high quality recordings. For this reason, studio microphones in particular are often manufactured using the condenser design. The size of the diaphragm plays a very important role in this type of microphone, both in terms of the recording environment and the preferred sound source.

A disadvantage of condenser microphones is the fact that the capacitor plates inside the microphone have to be under voltage so that the capacitance between them changes at all and can therefore also be measured. This voltage is made possible by what is known as phantom power, which comes from an audio interface and is transmitted to the microphone via the XLR cable. Some condenser microphones can also be operated with batteries, while USB microphones with a capacitor design do not require an additional power supply.

USB microphones

USB microphones are dynamic or condenser microphones that are not plugged in or operated via an XLR cable, but are connected to a computer via a USB cable. For this reason, USB microphones are exclusively recording microphones, which are mainly used today by YouTubers, podcasters and other users who value ease of use for high-quality voice recordings. USB microphones have many advantages, but also some disadvantages, especially when it comes to the scope of their use.

The USB connection allows condenser microphones to be operated without phantom power (since power can also be transmitted via USB cables), but this eliminates the possibility of using an audio interface or a mixer, which in turn allows for fine adjustment of the sound is severely limited. Furthermore, microphones with a USB connection are very well suited for voice recordings on the computer - these microphones are rather unsuitable for vocal recordings or the recording of instruments.

Shotgun microphone

So-called shotgun microphones (also called shotgun microphones or camera microphones) are devices with a very special design, which owe their name to the external appearance of these products. In order to understand the conception of these mics, you first have to know what they are used for: As a rule, shotgun microphones are attached to cameras and then record the sound that comes from the image. The specialty of these devices is the recording of distant sound sources with the highest possible sound quality.

In order to be able to cover the set direction as well as possible, these microphones have special directional characteristics: Usually this is a lobe characteristic or a supercardioid. In this way, background noise or background noise can be shielded reliably, while only the sound that is located directly in front of the microphone body is recorded. Most of these microphones are designed according to the capacitor design and have very small capsules. Power is usually supplied by batteries or rechargeable batteries.