How To Make Your Mic Sound Like A Military Radio

How To Make Your Mic Sound Like A Military Radio – Learn how microphone types work so you can choose the perfect one for singing, broadcasting, podcasting, recording instruments, and more.

Every microphone can pick up sound, but that doesn’t mean every microphone is a good investment to make. We explain the differences. Medy Siregar, Unsplash

How To Make Your Mic Sound Like A Military Radio

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Why Is My Mic So Quiet?

There are many types of microphones available today. Audio companies make microphones for recording music, microphones for podcasts, and microphones for gaming, among many others. Not to mention the built-in microphones in the headphones, webcams and speakers. In order to choose the right microphone for the right task, it is helpful to understand the characteristics and behavior of different types of microphones.

Microphones pick up sound waves in the air and convert them into identical electrical signals. To replicate the original sound, you can send signals from the microphone output to a mixer or audio recording interface, or to studio monitors (or mixer headphones), which will convert them back into sound waves. But to get something good out of your speaker, you have to make sure you’re getting something good to begin with. So here’s our guide on what to expect from different microphones.

Each of the three main types of microphones—dynamic microphones, condenser microphones, and ribbon microphones—has its own method of converting sound into an electrical signal.

All three share the same basic design. The capsule, sometimes called a septum, picks up sound and converts it into electrical energy. Inside the capsule is a diaphragm, a thin membrane that vibrates upon contact with sound waves, initiating the conversion process.

Types Of Microphones

The ideal types of microphones for this situation directly capture the intended sound source, such as your voice or a musical instrument, without picking up any other nearby sounds. For example, a singer on stage needs a microphone that will capture her voice while minimizing the sound of instruments in the group. (Audio from other unintended sources that is picked up by the microphone is called “leaking” or “leaking”.)

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One of the most important characteristics of any microphone is its polar pattern, or the direction(s) from which the microphone picks up sound. Some microphones can only pick up sound directly in front of them, others can pick up sound from either side.

Cardioid microphones are unidirectional. They pick up much more sound from the front of the capsule than from the back and sides. The name cardioid comes from the heart-like shape you see in the diagram of its polar diagram.

Supercardioid mics are more focused on the front panel than cardioid mics, but have a small lobe that rises at the back, but at a much lower level.

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Hypercardioid microphones prevent more sound bleeding from the sides, but pick up a bit more noise directly behind the capsule. Engineers often choose hypercardioid or supercardioid mics when even a cardioid mic gets too much bleed from other sources.

Taking this to its logical extreme, a shotgun microphone—such as the $199 Sennheiser MKE 400—picks up sounds only directly in front of it and only at a distance. Shotgun microphones have a lobe pattern, a modified version of the hypercardioid or supercardioid that is even more directional. You’ll often see them mounted on high-end camcorders.

If you don’t care about ambient noise, you can use an omnidirectional microphone that picks up equally from all directions. They are great for situations where you want to record sources from more than one side of the microphone. If you’ve ever seen multiple singers gathered around the same microphone, they’ve probably been using one of these.

An omni-magnetic microphone is best used in a recording studio where you can control ambient noise, or in a situation where you want to record everything around you. Imagine you are recording an acoustic guitar in a cathedral and you want the acoustics of the room to be part of the recording.

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Finally, bidirectional microphones pick up equally from both sides of the capsule, but reject sound coming from the front. This makes them useful in the studio in ensemble mic situations where you want to record, say, a background singer on either side of the mic, but minimize bleed from an instrument in front of them.

Dynamic microphones like the $189 beyerdynamic M70 Pro X or the $99 Samson Q9U use electromagnetic induction to convert sound waves into an electrical signal. Inside the capsule is a mylar diaphragm with a conductive coil attached to it. When the sound waves vibrate the diaphragm, it moves the coil in the magnetic field, creating an alternating voltage. As a result, the speakers are sometimes called dynamic moving coil microphones.

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They are durable and versatile. Dynamic mics are less likely to overload and distort than condenser mics when capturing high SPL sources such as drums, guitar amps, horns, and vocals. Their capsules tend to be less fragile than condenser microphones, making them well suited as portable vocal microphones for live performances.

Condenser microphones like the $239 beyerdynamic M90 Pro X or the $169 Neat Microphones King Bee II use electrostatic technology. In the most common design, a movable metal diaphragm is attached to a fixed metal plate, both charged and having electrodes attached. When sound waves hit the diaphragm, it changes the distance between itself and the plate, creating a so-called capacitance and causing small voltage changes that mimic the original wave. (Fun fact: Condenser mics are sometimes called “condenser mics”, especially in the UK.)

Mic Technique For Podcasters

Charging a condenser microphone usually requires an external power source. They usually receive a charge called “phantom power” from a mixer or audio interface.

Of the three types of microphone designs, condenser mics generally provide the best high-frequency sound reproduction, making them the most common choice for capturing the nuances of voices. Their high response also allows them to better reproduce transients, the peaks at the beginning of a sound wave. Hand percussion such as the shaker and tambourine, as well as the acoustic guitar, also benefit from accurate reproduction of transients.

Condenser microphones come in two main categories: large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm. Large-diaphragm microphones are generally defined as microphones with a diaphragm of 1 inch or more. Generally, large diaphragm capacitors have a wider frequency response and are best suited for voice recording. Small diaphragm capacitors have the best high response and are preferred for recording instruments.

Many large diaphragm capacitors offer multiple polar patterns, so you can switch between cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional. Some even allow you to adjust the polar pattern to fine-tune its directional focus.

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Ribbon microphones are technically a type of dynamic microphone, but are usually considered a separate design because they work and sound very differently than their traditional counterparts. The ribbon design includes an extended rectangular diaphragm of thin aluminum with magnets on both ends. When sound waves hit it, it vibrates, creating an electrical charge. Most ribbon microphones have a bi-directional pattern (figure 8).

A great ribbon microphone offers the most natural sound reproduction. Its frequency range most closely mimics human hearing, so the sound is not as bright as on condensers or speakers, but vocals and instruments sound very clear and natural. Ribbon mics are mostly used in recording studios where you can get the perfect placement and protect them as they tend to be more fragile than other types.

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Another important concept to be aware of with certain microphones is the proximity effect, which is present in all types of microphones except those that have an omnidirectional pattern. This is manifested in an increase in the low-frequency response the closer the microphone is to the source. If you’ve ever noticed how much deeper your voice sounds when you hold the microphone right up to your mouth, you’re experiencing the proximity effect.

The effect is most noticeable in sources with a lot of low-frequency content, such as male voices. Radio presenters have long used the zoom effect to make their voices louder and more authoritative.

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Although you can use the proximity effect to help thicken or deepen the sound of the source, you must be careful not to add too much low-frequency information. One of the reasons that singers use pop screens in front of studio mics is that the emphasized low frequencies due to the zoom effect mean that the mic will pick up more of the explosives (popped consonants sound like “P”s and “Bs”).

The proximity effect can also be problematic if you place the mic close to the acoustic guitar’s sound hole, pointing directly at it. That’s where most of the bottom end of the guitar comes from, and the proximity effect amplifies it even more. Sometimes, if you need an audio tone, you can use an omnidirectional microphone because it does not show the effect of proximity.

When choosing from the many types of microphones, the most important question to ask yourself is, “What do I need it for?”

If you’re looking for the best microphone for podcasts and only want to record your voice, a large-diaphragm condenser is probably your best choice because it reproduces your voice perfectly. You won’t need multiple polar diagrams, just a cardioid. You might want to consider a USB condenser microphone — like the $129 Blue Yeti or the $169 Yeti X — for podcasting if you don’t have audio

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