Which microphone choice?
Let’s look at a few options.
It really depends upon what we are doing. There are lots of microphones on offer so we have many choices. Here we will discuss just four of the microphones that I use and these fall into two types. Condensor and Dynamic.
For stage -Shure SM58, Shure SM57, AKG D5 or Pro35cw.
For Recording – Audio Technica AT2035 and Shure SM58, Shure SM57, AKG D5 read on for reasons I would choose these.
Condenser microphones are capable of picking up higher frequencies. They do require power to work though – often called phantom power. Phantom power is typical around 48V or less and is supplied through the xlr cable from the desk or transmitter, check that your desk has phantom power without which the mic will not work. They are not as rugged as dynamic mics and can be more affected by excessive humidity and condensation.
In a cold environment the players breath will condensate inside brass instruments and may drip onto the condenser capsule, this can cause dropouts crackles pops and a host of other problems.
Audio Tecnica AT2035
The Audio Technica AT2035 has a great sound for a relatively inexpensive mic, it has a switchable 80Hz high pass filter to remove rumble and a switchable 10db pad if your instrument is too “hot”. I use it primarily for recording saxophone but it is versatile enough to record vox and acoustic guitar.
It is a condenser mic and must have phantom power. It is great for vocals and capture the upper frequencies of your voice with clarity. Its sensitivity and pickup pattern make it harder to use on stage as it may feed back especially so if monitors are in close proximity to the mic.
When playing a saxophone on stage and playing into a microphone on a stand the saxophonist is restricted in their movements. The sax has to stand in the correct position just in front of the mic. This restricts the players movements and limits eye contact with the rest of the band. The beauty of a radio mic is the freedom it affords the player. It clips to the bell of the mic and the transmitter is worn on the hip. The performer is now free to wander any where in range of the receiver.
Audio Technica Pro35w
The quality of the Pro35cw works well enough on stage but would show its limitations if used for recording. It is a condenser mic (condenser mic have capacitors in them which is why they need a small electric current to make them work) so the caution about getting the capsule wet still applies. In this case the phantom power is tiny and supplied by batteries in the transmitter.
Dynamic microphones are rugged, they do not require additional power and can be seen in use on most stages in the world.
The Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 is an excellent mic and is generally used for vocals. Its design has not changed in years and so is a tried and trusted microphone. It comes with a filter which is there to help stop the pressure wave caused by saying or singing words that start with a “P” or “T” Its supporters range from the likes of U2, Henry Rollins, Patti Smith and Sheryl Crow to name just a few. It can be used for both recording and stage where its ability to reject feedback is welcomed by sound engineers all over the globe. On stage it has a warm solid sound. Ive seen models with significant dents in the windshield still functioning perfectly.
The Shure SM57
The Shure SM57 is very similar and due to the nature of its “windshield” can get really close to its sound source. It is great for snare drums, brass and wood wind and a favourite for miking up guitar amps too.
The AKG D5
Another Mic that I have used which gives a brighter sound and picks up the upper frequencies of the saxophone is the AKG D5 seen here below. The design of the diaphragm is such that there is an increased sensitivity to the high frequencies and because it is a dynamic mic there is no need for power. It is an ideal microphone for street performances where it can be used with battery powered amplifiers such as the Roland “Street Cube Ex”
Recording requires use of a shock mount to help isolate the mic from low rumble which can travel up the mic stand to the microphone.