Recording studio Microphone choice

Recording studio Microphone choice

In our Recording studio, Crash Symphony Productions, we have many different vocal microphones available for our clients to use on their projects. What many people don’t realise, is that each microphone sounds very different to any of our other ones, and there isn’t any ‘best’ microphone for every song. Rather, we select a microphone for its tonal characteristics, or sonic signature. Our Recording studio engineers are highly familiar with the sounds of these microphones and, in turn, how they will mix with the artist’s voice and how the microphone will sit with the genre of music being recorded. Let’s take a look at a few of the microphones in our Recording studio and how they vary in sound and suitability for different projects.

Recording studio microphone price is not related to its purpose

The first thing to note, is that expensive microphones are certainly great to have around, but they are not always the appropriate selection for your project. We have microphones that vary in price from $300 through to $12,000 AU, but we don’t run our Recording studio services only on the $12,000 microphone. Each microphone has its time and place in a project and knowing when a microphone is appropriate is the real skill of the audio engineer.

Contrasting two important Recording studio microphones

For example, let’s take a look at two completely different-sounding microphones that sit at opposite ends of the price spectrum: the Shure Sm7b dynamic broadcast microphone and the Wagner U47w Tube condenser microphone.
The Shure Sm7b is a microphone that was originally designed and built for broadcast purposes in radio stations. It wasn’t long before this microphone found its home in the Recording studio being used on records like Thriller by Michael Jackson, and the Joshua Tree by U2, respectively. This is a microphone that retails at around $700AU but has a mid-range presence that helps the lead vocal cut through the mix but is in no way shrill. It naturally controls sibilant frequencies well and is not an overly bright microphone.

More interestingly, artists who are used to holding a microphone in a live setting will feel at home singing with this microphone in the studio. This is because the microphone has a very low handling noise, thereby allowing the artist to hold the microphone in the studio and the mechanical noises won’t translate easily to the recording. They can also hold the microphone close to their mouths and it will still sound great on recordings. This microphone has a tonal quality that works perfectly in many rock, pop, and rap settings.
In contrast, the Wagner U47w could be considered to be one of the most valuable pieces of hardware that our Recording studio possesses. It is an extremely difficult item to attain, not only due to its cost but also because of the scarcity of the material that the microphone is made from, and the skill to put it together. This tube condenser microphone is highly-coloured in the quality of sound that it produces. This is the warm and clear sound of the Frank Sinatra or Michael Buble lead vocal. It has a large bottom-end with a clear mid-range and well-controlled sibilant frequencies. There is an indescribable magic about how this microphone settles a lead vocal into a mix. This would be the microphone pick for jazz, smooth pop songs or voice-overs that need that larger-than-life God sound.

On many occasions, the person who sings the lead vocal also does backing vocals over their own voice. In this situation, it can be a good idea to use different microphones for the lead and backing vocals. This will give the same vocal a slightly different timbre, which helps to separate the lead from the backing vocals. Furthermore, in this situation we would choose a microphone for the lead vocal that has a frequency response curve with a boost in the 3 – 4kHz frequency range. This is the frequency bandwidth that our ears are most sensitive to, due to the anatomical dimensions of our auditory canals. Hence, a microphone with a boost in this region will help the vocal to stand out as the lead voice. When we choose a microphone for the backing vocal, we will choose a microphone that is less powerful in the 3 – 4kHz frequency range, and ideally, has a more flat top-end. This will naturally set the backing vocals behind the vocals in the mix and enhance the separation between voices.

Conclusion of our Recording studio microphone discussion

These are just a few examples of how choice of microphone has a direct impact on the final sound of the recording. It is important to have a listen to the different microphones in our Recording studio, especially if you are unsure which is right for your voice and the project that you are working on. The audio engineers in our Recording studio, Crash Symphony Productions, know the sound of all our microphones extremely well. After working with these microphones day in and day out for years, it becomes very easy to foresee how a microphone will pair up with a voice and how it will serve the project.
Remember, the most expensive isn’t always best. The trick is to marry the frequency response curve of the microphone to the voice and let them gel together with the project.
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