What are dynamic microphones best for?

Which microphone is best for which voice?

... and which preamplifier goes with it?

A couple of typical microphones for recording vocals in the studio

Which microphone is best for recording a particular voice? Well: Well-stocked recording studios have a multitude of different microphones when it comes to recording voices.With a little time you can then try out which microphone is best suited to record the vocals.

A detailed shoot-out is unfortunately seldom possible in practice - solely because of the time required and sometimes also because of the mostly sparse fund. Because not every studio can have classic microphones ready for vocal recording. And when it comes to buying a microphone, it is usually a specific voice that is mainly recorded with it.

So which microphone should you listen to first (or take it out of the microphone cabinet in front of the others)? Well, a guide that gives a suitable recommendation for a microphone without knowing the individual voice, the music style and the idea of ​​the sound aesthetics of a mix cannot work. Actually. But at least it can help to look for microphones in the right place in the jungle, which is now difficult to see through.

Microphones for pop and crooner vocals

In pop and hit songs, voices have to be clear and understandable. Typical microphones that have a fine resolution, allow extensive processing and offer a grippy, assertive output sound are transistorized large-diaphragm condenser microphones like the Neumann U 87. If you want a little more color, a tube microphone like the U 47 or AKG C12 can be the right choice - or their imitators, since not everyone has the originals in their closets. Last but not least, the Sony C800G is very popular for soul and R'n'B vocals - but also anything but a bargain. But there are many replicas in lower price ranges in every amplifier technology, for example from Mojave, Aston and many, many more. The preamps should be clear, detailed and slightly supportive of assertiveness. The recommendation here is very clear: SSL. In the current, affordable version, the SSL VHD for the API rack should be mentioned in particular.

Large membrane condenser mics are the standard. Shown in the picture: Tube microphone AK-47 MKII from Telefunken.

Microphones for jazz vocals

Jazz vocals often thrive on their intimacy, especially when it comes to female voices. Short distances and rather dark timbres are required here. Many people turn to the Neumann U 67 or the more affordable, velvety tuned, slightly enriching tube microphones, including clones like the Peluso P67. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a condenser microphone: The ribbon microphones, which are in principle more susceptible to noise, are ideal here because they have enough signal-to-noise ratio in the close range, even with soft voices, provide a wonderful proximity and, due to the directional characteristic eight, provide an enormously pleasant bass boost through the close-talking effect. The highs are rather occupied and soft, but still detailed - and the signals from ribbons can almost always be edited very well in the mix. Old RCA classics or their current AEA reincarnations such as KU4 or RC44 are more than ingenious, but it can also be a cheaper one.

Preamps can either be clean and transparent, but also butter character to the signal. Tube amps like a UA-610, an RCA (or Retro) OP-6, a Tube-Tech, but also a Pre like the Neve 1073 are well suited. High-quality, low-noise preamplifiers are required, especially with ribbons!

Motor element of the ribbon microphone NTR by Rode: Jazz vocals are usually recorded either with ribbons or large-diaphragm condenser mics.

Microphones for rock vocals ("and beyond" ...)

In the broad field of rock vocals, large-diaphragm condenser microphones are mainly used. In addition to tube classics, you will also find transistorized microphones such as the AKG C414 or the Neumann U 47 fet. High sound levels, robust, powerful sound - that is more important than absolute linearity or fine tube drawing. And that's why dynamic moving coil microphones are often used in addition to large-diaphragm condensers. In recent years, the Shure SM7B has become more popular in Europe, but the SM58 is great. If the lows are to be supported, one can think of a Beyerdynamic M88, close sound without too much bass is possible with the Electro-Voice RE20. The Sennheiser MD 421 can very well lend its own character.

With an API 512 as a preamplifier, you will most likely be happy in harder areas because it is particularly punchy. If you are afraid of the costs, you might think of Trident or Tonelux, Neve 1073 and successors / replicas are also popular. Important: Most moving coil microphones place high demands on the preamp. So if you think you can get away with it very cheaply, you will unfortunately have to be disappointed.

It doesn't necessarily have to be a condenser microphone: Many swear by moving coil microphones like the EV RE20.

Microphones for rap vocals

Uuuh: Very difficult. It is difficult to give really handy tips here, because in this task the peculiarities of the voices in particular have to be worked out, but the speech intelligibility must always be given. Mostly, condenser microphones are used, usually with large diaphragm capsules, again Neumann classics and comparable, often C414 from AKG, also crunchy, crisp tube sounds like those from Brauner microphones. Even if they don't look big and important, small-diaphragm condenser microphones like the Neumann KM184 are a good choice for rap vocals. Still, transistor condenser microphones are often used. And with the preamps, the whole range is open, from strong coloring tube pres to clean preamps.

Brauner, here the Phantera from our review, is one of the more crisp sounding microphones.

Micros for folk and country vocals or singer / songwriters

In addition to the notorious large-diaphragm classics and their sound alikes, dynamic microphones are also used. Now and then there are moving coil microphones (e.g. Shure's Unidyne III models such as the SM 7B), but more often ribbon microphones with their detailed, but controlled and grounded sound. Some think that a colored pre is a must, but that is definitely debatable: especially with a microphone full of character, it should be a very fine amp that amplifies the microphone signal, for example a true system.

Very characterful sound can be created with many ribbon microphones.

Microphones for classic vocals

Vocal soloists should sound as natural as possible, tone coloration, nonlinearities and above all the close-up effect should be avoided. That speaks in favor of the most linear and natural microphones, and these are condenser microphones with true omnidirectional characteristics (i.e. pressure receivers). The choice often falls on the Colette system from Schoeps with the free-field equalized MK2 capsule, which works linearly at short distances. There are alternatives in the high-priced segment from Sennheiser, DPA, Microtech Gefell or Earthworks; Audio-Technica, for example, are cheaper. And very interesting: DPA has a large diaphragm condenser microphone with a pressure receiver!

The mic preamp is important: here, very impulse-fidelity, low-noise preamplifiers should be used. That is really expensive, because Grace Design, GML, Forssell and the like are not one thing above all: inexpensive. But if you only need one channel, you can also think of the monoblocks True Systems, Grace m101 or even Sonum H2O or Fredenstein HD for the API rack.

A Schoeps CMC6 body with a pressure receiver capsule (recognizable by the lack of lateral openings).

Music production requires individual decisions

Again, these are Notes, recommendations and frequently used standards. Sometimes a recording needs exactly the opposite - after all, music production is not algebra. Sometimes it is supposedly negligible qualities of the vocalist or the music that place a certain demand on the microphone. Some have particularly high or particularly low voices, some components in the voice that you want to strongly support or reduce with the microphone (strong S-sounds, an interesting "weird" overtone), sometimes you need because of the constant strong movement in front of the Microphone a wide, frequency-constant sweet spot ...