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Microphones: The First Step in the Signal Chain

By David Ciccarelli

August 1, 2006

Comments (4)

One of the biggest trends in recent audio production involves merging digital recording with computer technology. The recording of audio onto a computers' hard drive allows you to edit and manipulate your sound files.

But what if the sound going into the computer wasn't recorded using a good microphone?

Whether you are using a Mac or PC, you will need a microphone to record your voice into your computer. One option is to purchase a microphone (or you may already have one) with a 1/8th inch jack. This is the size of the jack or audio line in port on your personal computer.

You are probably familiar with the Signal Chain. The microphone is the first step in the Signal Chain, which I've demonstrated visually for you in this diagram:

signal-chain.png

You'd be surprised by how easily a vocal gem can be thrown to the wayside if an improper microphone is used. Let's take a look at a few standard microphones and how they are employed.

.: Lapel Microphone

Multipurpose stereo microphone

Lapel Mic offers the highest quality stereo or mono audio input for recording interviews, lectures and other events. Griffin Lapel Mic features quality stereo sound, a standard 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, and a swivel clip for ease of use.

This multipurpose lapel microphone offers quality stereo audio input for recording interviews, lectures and other events. An iPod equipped with the Griffin iTalk voice recorder instantly becomes a mobile recording unit. The addition of a Lapel Mic adds flexibility and ease of use. Lapel Mic is a great new accessory for iPod owners everywhere. For reporters, presenters, and students, our Lapel Mic combines the versatility of the iPod with the comfort and ease of use of a high-quality microphone. The Lapel Microphone sounds great with the iRiver because its records at 44.1kHz, a much higher sound quality than the 8kHz sample rate inherent with default iPod recording setting.

.: Condenser Microphone

Marshall Electronics

The MXL2001-P is a great microphone that is capable of handling numerous recording tasks competently. The MXL2001-P is a straight-ahead, plug-and-play type of instrument without any controls whatsoever, yet it records with a nice, open sound that will cut through just about any mix.

Such characteristics make this microphone a good choice for the smaller studio that focuses most of its efforts on the recording of popular music.

Without getting too caught up in the specs, it is important to note that the MXL2001-P has a single cardioid polar pattern and a frequency range of 30 to 20k Hz. The microphone is phantom-powered so you'll need a small mixer or audio interface with phantom-power. There are no switches for pre-attenuation or bass cut. In terms of workmanship, these products have a look and feel that is the mark of well-made equipment.

Neumann

The TLM 103 is the ideal large diaphragm microphone for all professional and semi-professional applications requiring the utmost in sound quality on a limited budget. By utilizing the tried and true transformerless circuit found in numerous Neumann microphones, the TLM 103 features yet unattained low self-noise and the highest sound pressure level transmission. The capsule, derived from that used in the U 87, has a cardioid pattern, is acoustically well-balanced and provides extraordinary attenuation of signals from the rear.


These were just a few examples of microphones that you could use to record professionally.

Do you have a personal favorite that you'd like to tell us about?

David

Related Topics: Microphones


Comments


    Correction: Dynamic mics do not require phantom power. Examples of dynamic mics are the Sennheiser MD421U, the EV RE20 and the Shure SM58. Condenser mics, like the Neumann TLM 103, require phantom power.

    My mic is a Lawson L47FET studio condenser.

    Posted by:
    • Allen
    • August 2, 2006 9:15 AM

      Yes Allen, you're right.
      Thanks for pointing out that dynamic microphones do not require phantom power. Marshall's MXL2001-P is a condenser microphone, so I've edit the post to reflect the correction.

      I just read a review by Gene Lawson who bills his L47 microphone as a "combination of vintage circuitry and state-of-the-art technology." Good choice!

      Posted by:
      • David
      • August 2, 2006 9:59 AM

        My favorite is the Sennheiser 416, Shotgun Condensor Mic. (It's been called the VO mic of L.A.). Working it can be tricky but once you get it down, I think it does wonders, esp. for those "whisper" spots. Not cheap...street is about $900 (BSWUSA.com).

        Also have a Rode NT1, the original. Large-diaphragm condensor mic made in Australia, real smooth, and highly affordable (under 250 at Guitar Center).

        Both require phantom power.

        My $.02 on the topic.

        Dave Roberts

        Posted by:

          I'll jump in the same boat as Dave Roberts, in this thread. I've used my Sennie 416 for years now, and as long as I keep it clean (no dust, spittle or splashed beverages), it works like a charm. The nice thing is that I use the dual-function screw-on power supply, which allows me to use an AA cell or phantom from my mixer. With a decent pop screen about 2 inches in front of the mic, I can sneak up on it and rattle the subwoofers or move out a bit and get raunchy and loud - and the 416 handles it all. If I had to pic a second fav instrument, it would be the AKG C414 - another venerable workhorse in all areas of audio recording.

          Posted by:
          • Al Soifer
          • August 17, 2014 3:06 PM

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