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PCRECORDING.COM - - Microphones

The microphone is a very critical part of the DAW system. This makes sense because a microphone is often the very first connection into the recording. Remember the "bottleneck" of audio quality - your sound will only be as good as your weakest link. Put another way, you will only sound as good as the best quality your worst component can produce. The quality and proper use of the microphone will have a fundamental effect on the end quality of your recording.

Basically, there are two types of microphones that can be used for DAW applications, dynamic and condenser. Dynamic microphones require no external power supply, will provide adequate frequency response and are very robust. In a dynamic microphone sound waves cause vibrations in a diaphragm inside the microphone. This diaphragm is hooked up to a coil, causing changes in its current which are then translated into an analog signal. The reason these microphones are called "dynamic" is because they require no external power to operate.

Condenser microphones microphones have a lightweight membrane and a fixed plate inside instead of the diaphragm described above. These parts act as the two sides of a capacitor. Sound waves hitting it cause vibrations in the membrane - - changing the capacitance of the circuit. These changes are translated into an analog signal by the system. Condenser microphones require "phantom power" in order to operate.

Dynamic microphones will work well for most applications and are very durable. Typically, a condenser microphones have a more extended frequency response and will capture transient sounds better than a dynamic microphone. This is due to the difference in the mass of the diaphragm (dynamic) and membrane (condenser)- - the lighter membrane allows for the capture of higher frequencies.

In addition, both types of microphones record with different pickup patterns (e.g., cardioid, hypercardioid, omnidirectional and figure-eight), which may come into play depending on your particular needs.

For a more in-depth review of microphones, I have included a link to which has a very informative article on basic microphone characteristics.

Again, do your research, consult your music pro, your friends and make a choice based on your budget and ears. It is important to note that most sound cards require a line-level input (i.e., a high-level signal like the output from a CD player), so a microphone preamp may be required to boost the microphone signal.