Most consumers think that there is just one type of microphone that everyone uses, but that is far from the truth. There are many different types of microphones that are used in a variety of situations. So what are they? There are four main types which are dynamic, condenser, boundary and ribbon.
Fun fact: Did you know that a microphone is a speaker reversed?
Dynamic microphones are the most common that are used in live performances, in a recording studio and the same technology is used video camera microphones. They work using magnets and a copper coil which create an electrical current which then turns into an audio signal. A small diaphragm inside the microphone moves when air is passed through causing the magnet to move back and forward through the copper coil creating the electrical current. These microphones are well known to have a solid build quality, which is why they are used for live performances. The most well known and most used by musicians is the Shure SM58, this microphone was developed in the 60s for rock and roll but others soon learnt about its clear and crisp sound quality and now use it for professional sound recordings.
The most common type used in a studio situation is a condenser microphones and typically needs an electrical current to operate. These microphones are mostly used in a studio situation and not in live performance as they are too sensitive. They work with two plates, one being the diaphragm. These move when current audio waves pass through changing how much signal goes through the microphone. They can be used in all sort of situations in a music studio, to capture vocals, room ambience, drum mic ups and guitars. They offer a flatter frequency when compared to the dynamic variety but come at a heavier price.
The next two microphones are well less known and used within the music industry, but they are still used in some places. A boundary is a small microphone which is can be used in a recording studio environment but it is mainly used in meeting rooms so the meeting can be recorded. It works with a boundary plate and a dynamic microphone. Sound bounces of the boundary plate and into the microphone capsule. For best results it has to be flat or mounted on a wall.
A ribbon microphone is very special, this type was used in the early days of radio, giving broadcasts that amazing warm sound. These microphones are mainly used in studios for the clear crisp sound, which is caused by a ribbon of metal in the microphone. This minute piece of delicate metal is suspended between a magnet when the pressure changes it sends the signal to the microphone. Ribbon microphones are extremely delicate and very expensive, they can easily be damaged by loud noise.
I hope this give you some insight into the four main types of microphone available.
Author: Jake George