How to Choose the Perfect Microphone – Part 2

Picking up from where we left of in the first installment of this two-part blog series, we aim to provide more sensible advice when it comes to choosing a new mic. You might think that it is the easiest thing in the world to do; however, as we have already learned, it isn’t quite as simple as that. In the previous article we covered two of probably the most important points to consider, namely:

  • What are you going to use it for?
  • Have you considered the other equipment it is going to work with?

Now that we have passed the initial stage, let’s dive in and take a closer look at some of the more technical elements of your potential microphone purchase.

Polar Patterns

Figure 8 Microphone

If you are wondering that we might start talking about the north pole, it’s okay, don’t panic. When it comes to polar patterns for microphones, it can be simply defined as the direction that the sounds are pick-up or ignored from.

The most common of all mics are the unidirectional ones which accept sounds from only one direction and “reject” the sounds from others. There are, of course, different polar patterns:

  • Bi-Directional Mic, or a Figure 8 Microphone, these pick up sounds from left to right, but are designed to “ignore” sounds from the front and back areas.
  • Cardioid Microphones are normally similar in shape to a heart. These microphones are sensitive to sounds that come from the sides and straight on; however, sounds from the rear are suppressed. Aside from Cardioid mics there are also Super cardioid and Hyper cardioid types. Each of these suppress more of the sound coming from the sides than the preceding one, which is ideal if you are using the mic to work with the lead singer of a band or similar.

Choosing the right polar pattern is something that needs to be given ample consideration, otherwise there is a chance you will have a mic that just isn’t fit for purpose. If your mic is going to be used in a noisy environment, then polar patterns become increasingly important.

Multi Pattern Microphones

One solution if you are planning to have a number of purposes for your mic is to buy yourself a Multi Pattern mic. These have the ability to allow polar patterns to be changed depending on your exact requirements. Generally, this is achieved by either interchangeable units or by that of a switch unit. If you are on a fairly limited budget then it might be worth considering a multi-pattern microphone. Although these will cost more than their individual counterparts you can almost certainly save money by buying just one unit, rather than two, three or more.

Response Curves

One final element that really must be considered is termed as “response curves”. Put simply, these are the way that a mic deals with certain sounds. For example, you can expect to see dips and peaks during certain places, which gives the sound its own character. To understand this better, you need to know that a mic designed for speech might have spikes in the midrange and upper midrange areas, which provide a better production of voice.