Shotgun Microphone

A shotgun mic is an elongated small diaphragm condenser microphone that is usually mounted either on the camera or held close to the audio source using a boom pole or microphone stand.

  • These mics are great for pinpointing the exact audio you want without the problem of audio interference from surrounding ambient noise. The mic can be manually held using a boom pole or attached to a boom stand.
  • They have a lobar pattern of sound pickup – meaning that their reach extends in front of the microphone in a kind of oval shape while extruding sound to the sides and rear.
  • They are the main cardioid microphone used by film crews because of their versatility – being able to capture everything from an interview to the noise of a crowd, or the ambiance of a forest for example. Shotgun microphones are designed to be robust and durable, also to be weatherproof.

Handheld microphones

These are typically what you see local TV reporters using. These are also usually used on stage.

Lapel Mics

These are tiny little mics, also referred to as lavalier microphones, that clip to someone’s shirt or tie and are usually used in a sit-down interview situation. These are great for capturing consistent audio levels as the microphone does not move around like a handheld mic.

Different types of microphones use different ways to capture sound.

  • Condenser Microphones pick up sound waves with the diaphragm of the microphone and then convert them to an electrical signal by varying the resistance to a charged capsule.
  • Dynamic Microphones use air pressure to convert sound waves into electrical signals by moving a coil inside a magnetic field.
  • Ribbon microphones use a thin strip of metal to capture sound waves.

Ribbon Microphones

 Ribbon microphones are quite rare outside of a professional audio studio setup.

  • A high-quality ribbon mic can capture the most faithful representation of sounds – for example, voices and instruments – but their delicacy and need to be perfectly positioned means that ribbon mics are not suited to live or recording environments where they could be knocked and the ribbon damaged.

Podcasting & Live Streaming Microphones

The explosion in podcasting and live streaming, plus also the huge growth in YouTube channels, means that a large range of USB microphones are now available to serve this market.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic Microphones are typically used when the sound source is quite loud, for example in a live performance, or when it is important to severely reduce ambient noise or loud sounds from the sound that you wish to capture or record. This is why you’ll often find them on music stages, in radio studios, or podcasting or live streaming setups.

  • They generally need to be placed quite close to the sound source but have the advantage that they do not usually require external power.
  • Dynamic microphones have a strong proximity effect (see below), meaning that a voice will have a lot of amplitude and presence when close to the microphone. Making them an ideal vocal microphone.
  • However, they are less prone to distort and overload, compared to condenser microphones. They also can be hand-held, without undue noise.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones are the microphone of choice for voiceover artists and in many filming conditions. They usually require external power, and microphone placement is critical to a good result. The main advantage they have over dynamic microphones is their sensitivity to tone and amplitude, resulting in a more faithful rendering of the voice. Or an acoustic guitar, for example.

  • This is why audiobook narrators, for example, who need to portray different characters in a work of fiction choose a large diaphragm condenser microphone rather than dynamic microphones. 
  • Filmmakers use special condenser microphones called shotgun microphones, which usually have a highly directional polar pattern (see below) in order to capture sound immediately in front of the microphone while reducing sounds to the side or behind it.

Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones – Differences

SoundGreat for loud sounds and stage performances.Captures a much greater depth of sound, including higher frequencies. Very useful for vocals.
Best forLive gigs, studio, noisy environments (they don’t pick up as much background noise)Studios with good acoustic treatment.
Live gigs in certain situations (e.g. overhead drum mics)
InstrumentsDrums, guitar, live vocals.Vocals, stringed instruments, wind instruments, overhead drum mics (e.g. capturing cymbal sound)
BuildVery ruggedFragile (i.e. don’t drop them!)
ConsNot very good at picking up subtle or delicate sounds.
Very solid. They can handle being dropped much better than condenser mics.
Not very good at dealing with loud volumes.
They can pick up a lot of background noise.
CostMore affordableMore expensive
PowerNo power requiredRequires phantom power from Mixer or Audio interface.
Cable typeXLR (or USB)XLR (or USB)

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