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Choosing a Microphone--The First Step

How do you choose the right microphone for a particular application?

First, consider what you are trying to mic and in what acoustic and physical environment. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you need to mic music or speech? Nature sounds or the roar of race cars? An acoustic guitar or a Marshall amp? A singer belting out the blues or a child in a community play?

  • Will the mic be used for sound reinforcement, video or audio recording, or both?

  • And where will the microphone be used? Inside a quiet studio, on a theatrical stage, or out on a noisy street? Will you have to brave the elements of rain, sleet, snow, wind or beer-drinking fans at a football stadium?

  • Does the mic need to stand up to physical abuse?

  • How far away will the mic be positioned from the sound source that it needs to pick up. Close-up or at some distance?

  • What about appearance? Does the mic need to fade from view for a video or theatrical production?

  • Does the mic need to be wireless?

Once you have the answers to these types of questions, then you can start evaluating mic specifications, user reports, and application notes to help make your selection. More details to follow in future Audio Tips.