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Studio Setup | Studio Gear | Microphones | Mic Techniques | Mixers | Mixing
Multitracks | Common Effects | EQ Techniques | PC | Terminology

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Studio Equipment

Microphones

  A few microphones will be essential for the studio, mics for vocal, and for instruments, such as percussion or acoustic guitar and piano, are a must. There is a wide selection of microphones to chose from, (see types of microphones), each having characteristics that make them ideal for their given purpose. The cost of these units can be from under $100 to well over $1000. We will assume, as in the previous section, that we are setting up a home studio on a modest budget.
  For most applications you can use Dynamic microphones, which take advantage of electromagnetic effects. In a dynamic microphone, the diaphragm moves either a magnet or a coil when sound waves hit the diaphragm, and this movement creates a small current. Dynamic microphones were developed during the 1930s and allowed for greater sensitivity and clearer sound reproduction. Dynamic mics are durable, can handle high volume levels, are relatively inexpensive, and can also double for stage mics, giving us the most bang for the buck. Examples of some affordable mics are;

Vocal: Shure Sm58 - Sennheiser e835 - Neumann KMS105 - AKG D5 - Audio Technica AT2010
Instrument: Shure SM57 - Shure KSM109 - Audio Technica ATM450 - Audix i5

 Another important factor in choosing a microphone is the microphones "Polar Pattern", this pattern is basically the area of the mic that is most receptive to the sound waves being directed at it. This "Pickup Pattern" is the major determining factor when choosing a mic for a particular purpose, such as vocal, instrument, and so forth.
The polar patterns of the different types of microphones and the general use of these types is listed below with 0° being the top of the mic;

Omnidirectional, - Has all-around pickup which includes the pickup of room reverberation. Omnidirectionals offer little isolation, (unless you mic close to your source), have a low sensitivity to pops, (explosive breath sounds), and have no up-close bass boost, (proximity effect) . Proximity effect is an emphasis on the low frequency components of any source that is very close to the diaphragm.

Unidirectional, (cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid) - Has a selective pickup and rejects room acoustics, (reverb due to reflected sound), and background noise. Unidirectionals offer good isolation, and therefore, good separation on recorded audio tracks.They have a broad angle of pickup for sources in front of the mic with maximun rejection of sound behind the mic.

Supercardioid, - Offer maximum difference between front hemisphere and rear hemisphere pickup, (good for stage usage). SuperCardioids have more isolation than the cardioid and less reverb due to room acoustics.

Hypercardioid, - Has maximum side rejection in a unidirectional mic, offering maximum isolation and maximum rejection of reverberation, leakage, feedback, and background noise.

Bidirectional, - Has nearly equal front and rear pickup, with rejection of sound coming from the side, (good for that two part harmony). These are also good for stereo effect by using two Bidirectionals crossing at 90°.

Pop filters

Pop filters or pop screens are used in controlled studio environments to keep aggressive "P" sounds down when recording. A typical pop filter is composed of one or more layers of acoustically semi-transparent material such as woven nylon stretched over a circular frame and a clamp and a flexible mounting bracket to attach to the microphone stand. The pop shield is placed between the vocalist and the microphone. The need for a windscreen increases the closer a vocalist brings the microphone to their lips. Singers can be trained to soften their P's, in which case the screen becomes less necessary. Snowball mics have a built in screen in the "snowball" which helps to some extent in live performances.

 

Audio Cables

The most common microphone connector in consumer use is the TRS connector, also known as the phone plug, in both the 1/4" and 3.5 mm sizes, and in both mono and stereo configurations. On professional microphones, the 3-pin XLR connector is standard for transferring balanced audio among professional audio equipment.

Mic Connectors

 

The phono or 1/4 inch, can be both balanced (TRS) and unbalanced (TS). Unbalanced looks like the end of a guitar lead, balanced looks like a big headphone plug. Balanced provides the same function as balanced XLR, and is common on audio interfaces with lots of inputs, as the physical size of the jack socket is smaller than the XLR.

TRS PlugTS Plug

Though the phono plug is used for microphone and instrument connections, they are also commonly seen for connecting interfaces to monitors, or monitor amplifiers. These "patch cords" come in varying lengths and colors and are a must in the studio for connecting your components together.

Patch cords

 

Other factors beside the Polar Patterns that should be considered when chosing a particular microphone include Presence Peak, Proximity Effect, and Frequency Response.

Presence Peak

Presence Peak is an increase in a microphone's output in a specific frequency range. A presence peak increases clarity, articulation, apparent closeness, and “punch.” A hand-held vocal microphone often has a presence peak built into its frequency response, this frequency range is usually between 1250 and 8000 Hertz, which will cause the voice to stand out or appear closer. It can make the voice clearer and more intelligible. The presence peak of a Shure SM58 vocal mic is from about 2kHz to 7kHz.

Proximity Effect

Proximity Effect is the increase in bass occurring with most unidirectional microphones when they are placed close to an instrument or vocalist (within 1 ft.). This proximity effect does not occur with omnidirectional microphones. This gradual increase in low frequency responses is in direct proportion to how close the mic is located to the sound source. Because this close range vocal style is flattering to many voices, this mic technique has become the norm in virtually all modern musical styles.

Frequency Response

Frequency Response is the measurement of a mic's sensitivity to sound at different frequencies . It is a characteristic of all microphones that some frequencies are exaggerated and others are attenuated or reduced. For example, a frequency response which favours high frequencies means that the resulting audio output will sound more trebly than the original sound. Frequency ranges of instruments:

Frequency Response

 

Stereo Microphones

One of the more popular specialized microphone techniques is stereo miking. The use of two or more microphones to create a stereo image will often give depth and spatial placement to an instrument or overall recording. There are a number of different methods for stereo micing which will be covered in the tech section. Stereo micing is best done with two identical mics, and manufacturers will seel a matched pair of stereo mics just for this technique.

Studio Setup | Studio Gear | Microphones | Mic Techniques | Mixers | Mixing
Multitracks | Common Effects | EQ Techniques | PC | Terminology

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