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Tutorial: Picking Out Your Microphone Cabinet

By moosers on 04/14/2010 - (Beginner)
< All tips & tutorials

Introduction

Here is a tutorial for beginners to give you an idea of what a well rounded microphone cabinet should consist of...

Step 1

First, let's just quickly go through the different types of microphones.  The two most often used microphones in a recording studio setting are known as dynamic and condensers.  Both of these can vary in sound a great deal, but there are certain applications where you'll generally want to
use one or the other.  In general, dynamic microphones are best for drums, electric guitar, some vocals, and other applications with a louder signal, while condenser microphones are best for acoustic instruments, vocals, and anything where you're looking for a good amount of detail more than anything else.  However, all microphones are different and each individual microphone will have it's own strengths and weaknesses in terms of what it can do and what it can't.  Pick up patters, frequency responses, and other features will all help to determine what a microphone is best at.  The third main type of microphones are ribbon microphones, which are the most fragile of the bunch in general.  I find that with ribbon microphones more than dynamic and condenser mics, it will vary from mic to mic what it is best for.  For more detailed information on types of mics, check out my other tutorial entitled "Microphone Types & Suggested Uses."

Step 2

When assembling your microphone cabinet from scratch, knowing what type of work you'll generally be doing will be very helpful.  Of course recording studios come in a all shapes and sizes, so naturally every studio will have it's own set of microphones for it's specific uses in the studio.  For example, if you're recording mostly classical music you aren't going to be needing too many dynamic microphones since you're going to want as much clarity and fidelity as possible for just about everything you record.  Perhaps you might want some for percussive instruments, but for the most part you'll probably be using condenser microphones.  This is only one general example, but just keep in mind that the microphones you pick for your studio should be tailored for what you're going to be recording.

Step 3

Smaller home studio owners might only need a few microphones, or in some cases in really small studios perhaps just one.  If you find yourself in this boat, it is even more important that you make your microphone selections wisely.  For example, let's say you can only afford and/or only really need two microphones for your studio.  If it were me, I'd get two very diverse microphones to cover the spectrum of potential sounds.  I'd probably go with a high end condenser microphone and then a dynamic microphone like a Shure SM57.  This would provide you with enough coverage over a wide array of applications to get the job done when needed and without needing a ton of different microphones.

Step 4

If you're talking about a professional studio, then we're in a whole new ballgame.  Professional studios need to have all sorts of microphones on hand, many just in case they are needed.  If you're going to adequately offer your clients flexibility, having all the proper types of microphones available is crucial.  You need to have microphones to cover all different types of voices and for any instruments that might be used on any given day.  Having different types and sizes of condenser, dynamic, and ribbons microphones is a must.  For example, you'll want to have a number of both small and large diaphragm condensers for different applications.  Again, it does matter the size of the studio, but having a well rounded microphone cabinet in any professional studio is a must.

Step 5

Putting together a microphone cabinet can take a long time and can definitely be fun.  Of course money will play a large roll in this, so most microphone collections are built up over time.  If you're a home studio owner I'd recommend getting one or two microphones to start with and expand as you need them (unless of course you can afford more!).  While professional studios need a bit more to get off the ground, building up your collection over time is still a good idea, and ss you need different types of microphones you can add them as you go...

Conclusion

Remember to weight all your options when it comes to microphones and to have fun doing it!
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