Typically, microphones are used to amplify sounds, such as your voice during a conference or an event performance. Microphones also convert sound waves into electrical signals such as what happens during a phone call. With all different types of microphones out in the market nowadays, how can you tell what makes one kind of microphone significantly better than the other? Well then read on.
The amplification output of a microphone is affected by where the source of the sound is coming from. This is known as directivity and different kinds of microphones have different direction response patterns, or also known as polar patterns, affecting the directivity. The most widely used polar pattern is cardioid, wherein the sound is picked up from in front of the microphone and spread out evenly within a certain radius. Thus, if you are speaking in front of an audience, consider using a microphone with a cardioid polar pattern.
A wider range of frequency response means that a microphone is more capable of capturing high and low pitches. It goes without saying that different microphones have different frequency responses. A range of 20Hz to 20kHz is regarded as the desired frequency response range because it entails that the microphone can still be configured for a better high pitch response, such as capturing a guitar solo at a high pitch. Conversely, a narrower frequency response range may limit the capabilities of a microphone, because even if it captures the high pitch sound of the guitar solo, the sound may be remarkably thinner.
A microphone with a higher sample rate means that it has the capability to generate a clearer sound. The sample rate is generally how much sound samples are taken per second. It follows that the more samples are taken in a certain duration of time, the higher the quality of sound that is recorded. One microphone comparison done by an avid guitar and piano player showed that USB microphones generally have high sample rates, which was typically above 44kHz. Hence, these USB microphones are sufficient to be used for podcasts. However, if you are looking for a microphone to use in your audio recordings, then consider a microphone with an even higher sample rate.
Signal-to-Noise Ratio, SNR
Microphones produce self-noise, or the sound that the microphone makes in the absence of any other sound. The signal-to-noise ratio, or SNR, is the relation of the reference signal in comparison to the self-noise that is generated by the microphone. Thus, it entails that a microphone with a higher SNR is better than a microphone with a lower SNR. Condenser microphones, which are generally sensitive, typically have a high SNR. This type of microphones is the best fit for low-level audio.
There are different types of microphones intended for different purposes. There are analog microphones, and thanks to modern technology, there are already USB microphones nowadays. Each microphone variant poses a certain characteristic that may not be present in another. Hence, it can be noted that the finest microphone is one that is best suited for your purpose.