There is no shortage of options to wade through, but the most important consideration is your budget. That’s because microphones provide an excellent return on investment: The more expensive they are, the better they sound and the easier they are to use.
If you’re on a tight budget, it might be best to start with something inexpensive that will at least get you started recording music or podcasts from home or in your office.
What types of microphones do you need for your projects?
There are many different kinds of microphones on market. There is a large variety in price ranges and features which can be confusing when looking to purchase the right kind for your project. Here is a list of common microphone types:
- Dynamic microphone – used for live performance, broadcasts, and recording.
- Condenser microphone – used for broadcast, home or professional studio recording.
- Ribbon microphone – generally used in the broadcast industry only because of its complex nature and expensive price tag.
- Boom microphone – used on boom stands with a handle to move around as needed during interviews/rehearsals.
- Shotgun microphone – used for documentary and outdoor projects, though some musicians and singers use shotgun microphones on stage and in the studio.
- Lavalier microphone – a lapel microphone that is attached to clothing or hidden under hair or on props.
- Stereo microphone – two condenser microphones installed into one housing.
- Surround microphone – multiple microphones placed around the set to capture audio in surround sound (5.1).
- Wireless microphone – two microphones connected by a transmitter wirelessly signal the recorder to either record or not record both signals simultaneously.
- Handheld microphone – used for film, broadcast, theater and live performance.
- Headset microphone – worn on the head and used for broadcast, theater, and live performance.
How to determine what’s best for your needs
There are three things to consider when choosing a microphone: budget, purpose, and situation. By assessing these factors one can properly choose which microphone is best for their project. The microphone should suit the purpose of the production and the situation it will be used in.
Budget: Microphones range greatly in cost. The higher-priced microphones usually have a better quality sound, but that doesn’t mean that all lower priced microphones are too muffled to be useful or can’t be used in professional situations.
If money is an issue, it may be better to choose a microphone that fits the purpose of your project rather than just choosing one based on price. A microphone will last longer than the time it takes to finish most projects so it is worth investing in something with high quality for future use as well.
Purpose: What is the purpose of the project? What will be needed for this production? Is it a documentary or a commercial? Is it for theater, music or film? Or all of the above?
Usually, when planning out a project to make sure all aspects are covered, one should start with writing and storyboarding to make sure all the necessary equipment is accounted for and utilized.
Situation: Where will this production take place? Is there a studio available to record in or do we need to bring the equipment elsewhere? What if we’re filming outside? Will we be inside or outside during production? Sometimes location dictates what kind of microphone would be best to use.
Choosing a microphone that fits your budget
Picking a microphone that fits into your budget may depend on what you already have available in terms of equipment or what you can afford for this project which is why it’s important to examine the three things mentioned above (budget, purpose, situation).
As mentioned before, microphones can be expensive but are very useful when looking to become a professional filmmaker or musician. The following are some microphones in various price ranges that will suit different budgets.
- Drum microphone – around $40
- XLR shotgun microphone – around $180
- Condenser microphone – around $300-$1000
- Lavalier microphone – around $90+
- Stereo microphone – around $500-$1,000
What to do if you’re on a tight budget?
The best way to get your hands on some microphones is often through asking friends and family who have them if they are willing to let you borrow their equipment for the time you need it. Or, one could buy a lavalier microphone and use that in combination with the internal microphones on their video camera or smartphone.
Depending on the quality of these built-in microphones, this may limit what you can do with them especially if you’re planning on editing the audio by adding music and background sound to your production. Still, it may be beneficial for certain purposes.
Choosing the best microphone for your production
This article can only go into so much detail about all possible microphones that are available to you in terms of price and purpose (job).
It would be best to do some research on forums, sites like B&H Photo Video (lots of information on microphones), and even YouTube to learn more about the benefits of each microphone in terms of the price range.
Just remember that the microphone you choose will largely depend on the purpose of your production, your budget, and your location.
The best advice is to make sure you are aware of what each microphone can do and what it cannot do so that the limitations don’t become a problem during production.
Choosing a microphone can be daunting at first but it is definitely worthwhile to learn more about the different options available.