There are three clear ways to distinguish between microphone types. You should be aware of each when making a purchasing decision: transducer style, pickup, and mode.
You’ll want to figure out the right configuration to meet your purpose. By selecting the right mic you get two benefits:
- Improved signal strength. The mic will sound a lot louder
- Improved mic presence. Less room noise (signal to noise ratio)
A transducer converts one kind of energy into another one. In this case, it gathers sound and converts it into an electronic impulse. If you are concerned about quality of sound, this will be an important distinction to make.
- Dynamic Mic—vibrating diaphragm.
- Most rugged (can take a dropping)
- E.g. On stage music artists, Church podium mics
- Ribbon Mic—vibrating ribbon.
- E.g. Orson Wells and recording studios
Condenser Mic—vibrating positive and negative plates
- Weaker, so it has to be boosted by an extra power source
- Accurately reproduce high and low frequencies like sound effects
A second way to classify a mic is by its pickup pattern. If you need a mic that will pick up in a certain direction, this will be most important to you.
- Omnidirectional—picks up sound from EVERYWHERE
- Unidirectional—block sounds coming from other directions
- Cardioid—picks up sound in a heart shape.
- E.g. Best for vocalists
- Bidirectional—picks up sound from top and bottom
- E.g. Interviews and movies (Boom with a Dead Cat)
Mic Type (mode)
There are essentially four types of mics. This will be most important if your subject is moving around.
- Camera mic—the mic native to the camera
- Easy but it doesn’t get you close to the source of the sound.
- Lavalier mic—Wear it on your lapel
- E.g. Stand up talent doing an instructional piece.
- Boom mic—mic attached to a long, telescoping pole called a boom.
- Hand mic—hold it in your hand
- E.g. Man-on-the-street
There are Four Types of Audio Cables/Connectors:
- 1/4 inch phone plug
- mini plug—Ubiquitous
- RCA—Red, Yellow, White
- XLR—Best audio connection (three prongs).