What condenser microphone should you use?
If you’ve ever sat down and wondered to yourself “which microphone should I use to record vocals with” or “what microphone do I need to record acoustic guitars with” you’ll really want to get acquainted with the condenser microphone. For the home studio owner, hobbyist musician or serious producer, the condenser microphone is a mainstay in their bag of recording tricks and should definitely become part of your set up.
Due to the fact a condenser microphone is extremely sensitive, owing to the thin material diaphragm or “capsule” which vibrates and sends a signal to the output when engaged and is hit by sound waves, it provides an extremely accurate and highly detailed representation of what’s being played. This sensitivity makes it an ideal mic to capture vocals, acoustic guitars, acoustic pianos and even strings as the condenser is able to take an accurate snapshot and capture all the subtleties and nuances inherent in these instruments. They are also fantastic microphones for those who do voiceover work, are in radio or who want to get an overhead recording of a drum kit. There’s so many great uses for a condenser mic, but for now we’ll highlight a few of the different uses as well as some great options to start with.
Well we couldn’t really write a blog about condenser microphones and NOT include something about vocals could we? Due to the fact these microphones are so sensitive to soundwaves and the nuances in sound, they capture all the subtleties of your vocal performance. When I say everything, I mean everything. Breathing in, pops, the moisture in your mouth – everything. This is what makes them so great, they are able to really capture the emotion accurately. Take a sharp breath in – got it, your voice crackles with emotion – got that too, pronounce your ‘P’s’ a little too hard –that’ll be in the mix too. Don’t be dissuaded by the accuracy and relatively unforgiving nature of a condenser mic, with the right set up, a pop shield and a little reverb you’ll sound amazing.
Here’s a couple of options perfect for vocalists.
Rode NT1-A Complete Vocal Recording Solution
The Rode NT1-A Complete Vocal Recording Solution is a great starter pack for beginners but also a really great option for those who record at a professional level. This affordable pack contains everything you need to get your vocals down on a track. Not only do you get an industry standard microphone made by the geniuses at Rode in Australia that provides a warm and clear representation of your performance, but you also get an all-important studio grade pop shield, shock mount, DVD full of recording tips, 20 foot XLR cable and dust cover – brilliant.
SE Electronics Magneto Microphone and Reflexion Filter-X Bundle
The best way to get a clear and accurate vocal performance on track is to remove any outside noise and interference. Well, with the SE Electronics X1 Bundle you can do just that. The X1 cardioid condenser mic is a professional quality microphone that can be used for vocals in the studio or at home. With the convenient maximum sound pressure level of 140dB – you can scream as hard as you want or throw an electric guitar at it without worrying about distortion. The addition of the Reflexion Filter-X makes recordings is a welcome addition to your home studio, or mid-tour hotel room demo setup. It’s essentially a complete vocal booth in one small and easy to carry piece of kit. Reduce room ambience and get rid of any rubbish that might make it into the mix easily. For the touring musician or bedroom home recording artist, this is perfect.
The Acoustic Guitarist
Recording acoustic guitar is an art form, and no matter how much you’ve spent on your guitar, if you get the wrong microphone or don’t record it correctly, it’s not going to sound great. Fortunately there are plenty of condenser microphones out there that take all the fuss out of recording and just do the job and do it well!
SE Electronics X1 T Large Diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone
If you’re a guitarist, you’ll appreciate the quality and “vibe” valves add to your playing and overall sound when used in an amplifier. Well, the good people at SE Electronics decided to utilise this time tested method and place a valve in the mix with their X1 T Large Diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone and supply its own power pack with seven-pin PSU cable and a mic clip. You’re good to go straight out of the box and record warm acoustic guitars with the added benefit of a valve responsive sound. This will really add something special to your recordings, and at such an affordable price you can’t really go wrong.
For those on a budget, the SE-X1 microphone is another great starting point. There’s no valves here, but you’ll get high quality acoustic recordings down quickly, easily and accurately with this.
If you’re struggling to get the right sound from your drums in the mixing stage, chances are you’re not using the right microphone. Although they’re particularly sensitive, there are a few condenser microphones for drummers “kicking” around…
SE Electronics X1D Kick Drum Condenser Microphone
Finding the right microphone that won’t distort in front of a drum kit, or a bass drum specifically is a tough job. However, the SE Electronics X1D Kick Drum Condenser Microphone has got you covered. The incredibly robust Titanium diaphragm allows you to capture everything from vocals, to bass all the way to loud guitars, but it’s the ability to accurately capture kick drums that really makes this microphone stand out. Capture 140dB of bass drum with ease without having to worry about the sound breaking up. Perfect for sound engineers and drummers who record at home.
The Voiceover Artist
Being able to capture the subtle nuances of a spoken word track clearly is probably the main thing you’re looking for when you want the best microphones for voiceover work. Fail to get a good recording and just watch the work start to dry up! In addition, when capturing vocals for radio or podcasts any interference or clarity issues will really be brought to the forefront when you listen back, so there’s no way around it – you need something that is high quality, reliable and able to almost mimic the recording capabilities of a professional studio booth.
This is where the Neat range of microphones really shine. The Neat Beecaster Condenser Microphone (above) has been specifically designed for podcasters whilst the Neat Bumblebee Cardioid Condenser Microphone (below) works great for those who are involved in voiceover work. They’re both USB compatible, highly portable and easily manipulated with the Mic and headphone controls.
If you already have your own condenser microphone and want to get the best out of your vocal recordings, the Kaotica Eyeball is also perfect for emulating your very own studio – anywhere and at any time. Easily reduce the reflections of your recording environment and eliminate all that unwanted noise quickly and easily. It has a built in pop filter and the even frequency ensures there are no dead zones to your recording.
View a complete range of condenser microphones for all aspects of recording at the Dawsons website.
Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns.
After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery.
Utilising his experience in music journalism, Lee now works within the web team at Dawsons Music, where he can still relay his passion for music by producing great content for the Dawsons blog and social media. Lee is still an avid guitar player and writer.