Do you want a good microphone but aren’t sure if an expensive one is worth it? Today’s topic will be the distinction between Cheap and Expensive Microphones and how to increase the quality of a cheap Microphone.
The microphones used for recordings are a vital component of every studio, amateur or professional. Mics are essential to any audio recording endeavor, whether making a podcast, an online video, or a full live band recording. Condenser microphones are widely used in studios because of their superior sensitivity to low-volume sounds.
During a performance or recording session, a vocal recording microphone captures and translates the performer’s or singer’s audible performance into an electrical signal that can be amplified and further processed. Studio microphones often fall into two categories: condenser and dynamic.
Dynamic recording microphones are sturdy devices that can handle louder sound levels without distorting the audio. This makes them ideal for recording instruments like guitar amps and drums. On the other hand, a condenser microphone is ideal for capturing the full spectrum of vocal performance or an acoustic string instrument’s tonal coloration.
Are expensive Microphones worth it?
Whether or not you find value in it relies on your perspective. Although cheap mics aren’t as durable as more expensive models, and their sound isn’t as rich, you can still use them to record great music, provided you know how to compensate for their shortcomings.
Depending on the quality of the microphone, the sounds you capture could come out sounding muddy, harsh, boxy, or simply “wrong” when using a low-quality device. Also, a low-quality microphone will typically omit the lowest and highest frequencies, add audible hiss or noise, introduce audible harmonic or intermodulation distortion, and exhibit overload distortion on powerful noises.
Finally, a low-quality microphone will provide a drastically different audio recording from the source material. While it’s true that some listeners seek out these variations, a seasoned pro would typically begin with a high-quality microphone and judiciously add any needed variations using equipment further down the recording chain.
Although there are many other advantages, you should listen for an improvement over your current microphone and weigh the cost-benefit analysis carefully in light of the principle of diminishing returns. When upgrading from a $50 to a $300 microphone, the difference in quality is usually striking.
Sometimes subtle but always welcome enhancements can be seen in the $1k price range, which is quite a jump from the $300 price point. In addition, the incremental gains from increasing the initial investment from 1k to 5k will be minimal. Although many will welcome the upgrades, others argue that the money is better spent elsewhere.
Engineering levels of fidelity or accuracy into a microphone can be pretty pricey, but you can expect good results from high-end models. But accuracy isn’t usually a priority when recording vocals. It’s more about flattery, and certain voices require various forms of flattery.
It is standard practice to experiment with several different microphones while recording a new vocalist. It’s not uncommon for the most expensive microphone to perform best, but cheaper options aren’t always inferior.
Do You Need a High-End Microphone to Get Pro-Quality Vocals?
Because of the potential for distortion when using a low-cost microphone, professional-quality vocal recordings may need an investment of several thousand dollars. In all honesty, even budget mics today sound quite respectable, and the quality boost from going all the way up to a professional mic could be more noticeable.
Having a professional microphone on hand is helpful, but it’s okay to make high-quality recordings. Using the microphone you have effectively is what matters most. If you need to know what you’re doing with a microphone, it doesn’t matter if it costs more than $4,000.
Does the type of microphone make a difference in the overall sound quality?
Even though microphones all capture audible data, not all microphones capture the same sounds. Therefore, how your microphone records sound waves is a significant factor in the final quality of your recordings.
More miniature microphones, such as dynamic microphones, collect sound with an induction coil in a magnetic field. This magnetic coil allows them to record sounds from various sources accurately.
Condenser and ribbon microphones, on the other hand, have a significantly narrower dynamic range than their smaller counterparts. They use potent energy sources and equipment, such as a capacitor, to record sound; thus, the waves they record are much more erratic in terms of loudness and pitch. It’s common for them to record human speech because it’s so dynamic.
You may use this information to narrow down the types of microphones available to the one that best suits your needs and the requirements of the job at hand. Picking the right microphone from a selection of high-priced options requires careful consideration.
Why do microphones cost so much?
A microphone’s high price tag results from its many associated costs, both upfront and later. Development time, design difficulty, materials needed, manufacturing costs, and quality control testing are all examples of direct expenses. In addition, promotion, recognition, service, and administrative costs are indirect factors.
High-priced microphones do indeed contain numerous high-quality components. Many high-end microphones are packed to the gills with features that maximize performance. Many can record sound from all directions via omnidirectional waves, for instance. Some microphones have omnidirectional capabilities, allowing them to record sound from any direction rather than just the front or center.
In addition, microphones have different polar patterns, affecting the directions from which they can pick up sound. Some models also contain internal noise-canceling sensors to minimize ambient noise. This allows the mic to ignore extraneous sounds and zero in on the subject matter.
There is also the issue of branding to consider. After all, reputable businesses want to profit from their standing. However, this raises the bar for the microphone’s overall quality. You anticipate receiving the finest quality product when you spend your money on a microphone from a well-known company like Sennheiser or Shure.
A higher initial cost may seem excessive, but it ultimately pays off. No-name brands may still be just as effective, though. An off-brand model will suffice in some cases, especially with dynamic microphones. The significance of the microphone’s name concerning its capabilities is something to consider before making a purchase.
Dynamic ribbon microphones and diaphragm condenser microphones are extremely difficult to construct compared to other microphones. For this reason, high-end models can cost upwards of $4,000 (almost $12,000 for top diaphragm condenser mics), whereas simple-design high-end mics can retail for little more than $3,000.
Bill Of Materials
As in the raw elements from which a microphone is constructed, copper, gold, platinum, and other superior-grade metals can be used in manufactured goods. The effectiveness and durability of a product can be affected by the quality of its raw materials. This is mainly an issue for microphones costing less than $1000, as companies that produce more than this usually employ high-quality components.
The highest-end microphones are made with a more intricate (precise) manufacturing process. However, since there is a small market for high-end microphones everywhere, many manufacturers only make them in limited quantities. Therefore, compared to mass-produced, cheap products, the unit cost is higher since the economies of scale are more difficult to achieve at a small production scale.
What to look for when buying a microphone?
- Polar Pattern
A microphone’s polar pattern describes how well it “hears” sound from various directions. This sensitivity varies depending on the microphone’s design and the direction or angle from which the sound is received.
Supercardioid, Cardioid, and Omnidirectional polar patterns are the most typical. Here is a quick lesson in audio recording fundamentals: every microphone has a specific polar pattern that determines its pickup range. For instance, a cardioid’s sensitivity peak is in the front, but its rearward pickup is negligible. Conversely, an omnidirectional microphone is sensitive to sound from all directions. Therefore, filmmakers typically utilize Cardioid or super-cardioid shotgun microphones to record audio from a single source, whereas omnidirectional microphones are better suited for recording ambient sounds.
- Frequency Response
We can evaluate any system’s output by seeing how it responds to a signal with changing frequencies, a phenomenon known as the frequency response (but constant amplitude). The magnitude of the system’s response in decibels and the response phase in radians vs. frequency are conventional measures of frequency response.
Many microphones sold online will display a frequency range, such as 20Hz to 20kHz. Indicated by these figures is the scope of the frequency response. The better quality a microphone is, the further the sound can travel. The human ear is limited to a frequency range; nevertheless, this does not negate the significance of collecting frequencies outside this range.
Keep an eye on the extras that come with your microphone because many include them to make the device more user-friendly. If you still need to get equipment, it might be best to start with a complete audio recording package; however, if you already have a good foundation, splurging on a professional-grade microphone might be the best option.
- Dynamic Range
In audio, the maximum signal output of a component can be indicated by its dynamic range, and the noise floor of a system can be rated based on this metric. A benchmark ranges from the quietest to the loudest sounds a human can hear.
One of the most noticeable features that differentiate inexpensive microphones from high-end microphones is the dynamic range of each. Specifically, the dynamic range of a microphone is the range between its maximum sound pressure level and its lowest possible recording level, known as the noise floor.
How can you increase the sound quality of a cheap microphone?
To make an inexpensive microphone sound better, you must increase all other aspects of audio quality. The most dependable method is to record in a peaceful environment. The level of soundproofing and acoustic treatment also improves the sound of your microphone.
So told, you should concentrate on recording the cleanest and most transparent sound possible. You should now understand the price and quality variations between microphones. You don’t need to spend more than $2,000 on a high-end microphone; a quality mic in the $200-$500 price range will suffice.
Quiet the Noises
Despite how obvious it may be, please take note of this. You need to silence your room by turning off any electronic devices. As an illustration, if you have a ceiling fan in your room, you should disable it before recording. Condenser microphones are sensitive enough to pick up even the faintest sounds, so be careful what you record.
It is still advisable to muffle unwanted sounds, even while utilizing a dynamic microphone. There may come a time when you need to pause what you’re doing and listen to the sounds in your room since you’ve grown accustomed to them.
Plosives are another factor that might make your recordings sound unprofessional. For example, when too much air is released at once into the mike, it might provide an irritating “P” or “B” sound. A pop filter in front of the microphone can help with this.
Sing At The Proper Distance
A professional vocal recording also relies heavily on the singer’s proximity to and positioning of the microphone. This is because different microphones have different ways of picking up sound, affecting how you should sing into the microphone.
Keep space between yourself and the device to get the best sound quality from a cardioid condenser microphone. It depends on how loud you want to sing and the sound you want to get, but usually somewhere between 6 and 12 inches.
Try Not To Move Around Too Much
When singing or dancing along with the music, it’s tempting to get into the rhythm and bob your head. You or your vocalist should remain as motionless as possible during the recording to provide the evenest volume. Vocal quality drops dramatically with increased movement.
But you also don’t want to be a rigid robot during recording, which can hurt your vocal performance. When recording, you should get into the groove of the music but not let it go out of hand; when singing a mild section followed by a thunderous section, lean in slightly when singing the soft section, and lean back a little when recording the loud section to maintain a more consistent performance.
A skilled recording also relies on proper gain levels being set. If the volume is turned up too high, clipping will occur, but if it’s turned down too low, the quality of the sound will degrade. The optimal level for recording vocals at 24-bit resolution is -18dB. The performance’s volume level should range from a high of -10dB to a low of -24dB. You will record the best possible sound quality in this way.
You may have picked up some background noise even after taking all these precautions. Furthermore, depending on its design, the microphone may be a source of interference. A DeNoising plugin is an excellent method for achieving a clean vocal delivery.
To surgically remove noise, clicks pops, and more, iZotope’s RX is the most excellent DeNoising plugin available. Wave’s Z-Noise is a cheaper alternative to RX that does a similarly good job of DeNoising but with fewer features.
Put Your Microphone On A Stand
Putting your microphone on your desk is also not a good idea because any movement you make will cause vibrations that the mic will pick up as a dull banging noise. If you’re recording audio, it’s best to utilize a mic stand or a boom arm, which can be attached to a desk but also has a microphone shock mount to dampen unwanted noise and tremors. You can get the job done with a basic microphone stand.
What are the various kinds of microphones available?
- Dynamic Microphone
In operation, a dynamic microphone is quite similar to an inverted speaker. Altering the sound pressure is what moves the diaphragm. As a result, current flows as lines of flux from the magnet are disrupted by the movement of the coil. Therefore, unlike a speaker, where electricity is used to power the coil, in this case, it is the receiver of electrical current.
The durability and dependability of dynamic microphones have earned them a solid reputation. Batteries or other external power sources are not required. They can provide a gradual and sustained response and create a “custom” response for unique uses.
The output level is high enough that the signal-to-noise ratio is good enough to plug straight into the microphone input of most devices. They don’t require constant upkeep but can keep running efficiently for years with minimal effort.
- Ribbon Microphone
The ribbon provides the most basic form of transduction, with a thin strip of aluminum moving between two magnets to induce a voltage. Ribbon microphones have always been prone to breakdown and compatibility issues while being highly sought after for their distinctively warm sound.
Audio-Technica created a patented forming method when designing their ribbon microphone to prevent the two ribbons from stretching laterally and distorting the sound. This means the mics can be stored horizontally instead of vertically, as is typically advised for ribbon microphones.
The ribbon cartridge has a dual-ribbon construction for enhanced sensitivity; the two ribbons are suspended between the leading and trailing edges of mighty N50 neodymium magnets.
- Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphones
The frequency response of a large-diaphragm condenser microphone is typically flattered at lower volumes. This feature lessens the proximity effect, so the singer’s voice remains complete and comprehensive even if she moves away from the mic capsule.
In addition, tonal variations are less pronounced when using a more extensive membrane. A large-diaphragm microphone’s sound is smooth, bright, and clear when used on vocals.
The sound is warm and genuine on an instrument, with subtle overtones of space. Large-diaphragm microphones also have a distinctive, comforting sound that depends on the quality of the preamplifier or audio interface. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are the standard for studio recordings by professionals.
- Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
Technically speaking, the tiny diaphragm condenser is the best option available. Its key benefits are a constant pickup pattern, extended high-frequency response (far beyond human hearing), and exceptional transient response (because a small diaphragm can more accurately follow sound waves).
A well-made tiny diaphragm condenser microphone exhibits a relatively constant cardioid pattern compared to a large diaphragm condenser microphone at varying frequencies. But there is so much more to sound than how well it works technically.
Large-diaphragm condenser microphones have been criticized for their inability to pick up subtle nuances in vocals and speech, but this quality makes them so appealing. Low-frequency broadening, for instance, reduces the intensity of the proximity effect.
The dynamic microphone is the one most commonly seen in households. You can find these dynamic microphones in many different sizes and forms. These mics are fantastic in every way and work equally well for home and professional use.
Both condenser and ribbon mics are standard in studios and other professional settings. In addition, the use of ribbon mics is typically linked with older forms of radio broadcasting.
Hopefully, this post has shed some light on the primary elements contributing to a microphone’s final cost. Reasons why many mics sell for more than you think, are not hard to fathom. Condensers, for example, need a lot of juice and fancy electronics to sound well.
Other models will try to outdo their competitors in price by capitalizing on their notoriety and the fame of the celebrities that promote them. As for how much you’ll have to invest in the studio itself, that’s something to consider as your mic budget rises. Expensive mics are susceptible and pick up any mismatched sound, plus you need a Pre-amp and a lot of other analog effects that can add a lot of costs.
Death metal enthusiast here. I am a Romanian musician and producer with over 13 years of experience in the music industry. I’ve experienced all types of Metal up until now, playing Melodic Death Metal, Brutal Death Metal, and Black Metal with different bands. Learning by doing is my base principle, which is why I’ve been drawn to sound design from an early age.