How to Choose the Best Mic for the Job

How to Choose the Best Mic for the Job

Whether you’ve got two mics or an entire closet full vintage ribbons and tube condensers, your understanding of your mic locker should be one thing: deep.

When we talk about understanding your mic locker, we’re talking about know what your mics sound like.

When you know what your mics sound like, you’ll better be able to choose the right mic for the job. When you know how they react in different settings and on different instruments, you’ll be able to pick the one that will suite the instrument, performance, and production best.

So how can you get to know your mics on a deeper level?

Do some shootouts.

A shootout is where you record (ideally) the same audio source with several different microphones, then listen back to choose the best one.

Notice I said ideally. That’s because you may not have enough inputs, cables, etc. It’s ok to record a take with one mic at a time. However, if you do it this way, you’ll want to be sure to try and keep the performances as consistent as possible.

Do a shootout for several different instruments/sounds. Do a spoken vocal, sung vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and even a hand clap.

Once you record all of these sounds with all of the different mics that you have, it’s time to listen back and analyze.

This is the most important step, because this is where you’ll learn about what each mic truly sounds like in your studio.

Listen to these three elements to better understand your mics:

1. The dynamic range/sensitivity.

If you’re using a dynamic microphone, the sensitivity will be less than with a condenser. Listen to how much detail the mic picks up.

2. The tonal characteristics of the mic.

This includes the frequency response and coloring of the mic. Some mics will make a vocal sound very boomy, and others will make it sound light and airy. Take note of what each mic tonally sounds like on different instruments.

3. The best use of the mic.

Decide which mic sounds best on each sound source. Then decide what sounds second best. This categorization will allow you to make better decisions down the road.