4 Top Quality Studio Condenser Mics
A professional audiophile would always ask for a mic which gives clean audio recordings with true sounds being recorded. In no way would a professional want to compromise on the quality of audio. Studio quality recording equipment must always have a flat response over the entire audio frequency band to achieve highest level of details. Equipment which can meet such stringent requirements can be very expensive and that is what we are going to look at; expensive but top quality studio condenser mics. These microphones are the most important among all other studio equipment because they are what convert sound to electrical signals. Any compromise at this stage can lead to ruined recording. Problems such as low sensitivity and background noise can affect the low amplitude sounds at higher frequencies, it may even fail to record the not so noticeable but vital tones produced by guitar strings for example.
The Neumann TLM103 is known for extremely low self-noise. Self-noise is electrical noise that is produced due to the inherent properties of the components used inside. Every component produces some level of noise including the condenser used in the mic. Lower this noise and it’s sensitivity becomes higher. By achieving a minimum self-noise level of 17.5dB and having an upper threshold of 138dB, Neumann TLM103 has a dynamic range of 131dB A-weighted. 138 dB of upper threshold indicates that it can handle very loud sound pressure without inducing any distortion to the recorded audio. The external metal grill helps in blocking pop noise. It can also be covered with wind shield to reduce wind noise while recording out doors. Going transformer-less in this mic designhas helped the designers achieve rejection of RF interference and also helped increase the common mode noise (the noise that is common to both channels).
Being so sensitive to tiniest sounds, using this mic effectively means that you need to have a silent studio environment. Users have reported that even the unknown noise sources were clearly audible with this mic. The frequency response of the mic is pretty much flat up to 5kHz after which it takes a bump, which is normal for cardioid microphones. In order to use this microphone, you really need to engineer your studio environment to obtain the best quality recording from this mic. The reflections off the hard surfaces are also detected on this mic which are usually lost on cheap ones. A perfect studio mic is all I have got to say about Neumann TLM103 coming at a whopping price of £890.
Coming in a small form factor with a black body, the microphone looks cheap. But don’t let the looks fool you because it is one of the popular mics you can use for recording your rehearsals. The Sennheiser E614 comes with an electret condenser microphone. Electrets have a bad image of being low quality, but there is nothing low quality when it comes to Sennheiser. The microphone looks like a small tube the size of a cigar. It is a directional microphone which can record precise sounds over the entire frequency range starting at 40 Hz up to 20000 Hz. When you plan to use any microphone as an overhead mic for your drum setup, you usually have to use an equalizer to get proper tones. That is not required with E614 because of the precise sound pickup capabilities. This ease of use is possible because the mic itself is designed to withstand high sound pressure. Users have reported that they have been able to portray the feel of the actual instrument being used which is not possible with every other microphone out there. The depth and the precision of sound being recorded is excellent. Sennheiser also suggests using two microphones correctly positioned to obtain a true stereo recording. The microphone is priced at a mere £140.
A solid feeling microphone which is used in quite a lot of studios. Many popular Youtubers out there use this microphone for their recordings. It has also found its place for radio shows, guitar recordings, drum overheads and vocal recording. The RODE NT1 has a single, large diaphragm with a cardioid shaped directivity pattern. It has become quite popular among the audio professionals due to the reason that it is quiet with very low self noise. It has high sensitivity and requires no frequency filters such as high pass filter and does not require any kind of equalization. The sounds recorded with NT1 feel absolutely natural and it can withstand quite a lot of sound pressure giving it a large dynamic range. The best thing about this mic is there is no vocal compression and nor is there any significant harshness which is characteristic of cardioids. NT1 is one of the oldest mics from Rode. They released the NT1-A (anniversary edition) approximately 10 years ago and recently released the new NT1 with a slightly different body design and black colour. Inspite of the different names the NT1 has remained unchanged in matter regarding quality of sound it provides. For a very low cost of under £170, this is one of the most well performing studio quality microphones on the market.
Audio-Technica is another great company which has lined up high quality microphones in the market from time to time. Microphones that are meant for professionals to record the sound as it is. What makes it special is the maximum sound pressure it can handle; whopping 155dB giving it a dynamic range of 144dB. If you are into rock and heavy mental kind of music, this mic is the right choice for you. AT4047 comes in two flavours, multi directivity pattern and single directivity pattern. The multi pattern microphone can be switched to give a figure-8 pattern or a cardioid pattern depending on the application. It can also be switched to have an omnidirectional pattern which is quite useful when you got one mic where everyone is singing into. Internal to the mic is transformer coupling connected to the output XLRM connector. The transformer coupling is partially responsible for giving that vintage feel to the recorded sound. There is a switchable 80Hz high pass filter in-built that can come handy at times. Other than that, AT4047 is a microphone which is quite capable to deliver the natural sounds without adding in any kind of modifications to it. AT4047 is not as inexpensive as the Rode being priced at £400.
With the quality of microphones sky rocketing in the past few years, it has led to a higher number of higher quality sound recordings. These are only some of the excellent quality microphones I could mention here, but there are so many more. Another good thing to note before ending this post is that even the low price microphones such as the MXL990 are able to record studio quality audio. So those looking for a career in this field don’t necessarily need to invest too much money buying expensive microphones, but should rather concentrate on the buying better pre-amplifiers for tailoring the sounds. And for those looking to upgrade their equipment should definitely consider buying the microphones I mentioned above.