Microphones > Selection Of The "Right" Microphone
Selection of the "Right" Microphone
There are thousands of microphones available of various qualities, designed for many different purposes. Basically this vast assortment can be divided into two classes and a few different categories. Our selection process works like this.
Professional vs. Consumer Microphones
Consumer companies do not usually make any products which are up to professional standard. Some of the professional companies only make professional products, others make both lines of products. The consumer products sometimes say "professional" in their name, which is often a dead giveaway that they are not. Unless you know the industry, it can be difficult to know the difference just by looking at it.
Avoiding Consumer Products
Recognizing and avoiding consumer products can be a difficult task since some salesmen are under the impression that their lower quality microphones actually meet professional standards. You are best to deal with someone who has experience and is seriously involved with professional sound It is also a good idea to avoid stereo and electronics shops because they generally do not sell professional microphones. However, most higher end music stores will carry both. Keep in mind that professional microphones are not necessarily expensive, they just work much better.
Different microphones are designed for different applications and although some types might be interchangeable with each other, each type excels in excellence when placed in particular situations. It is your task to find the microphones that are not only high quality but also designed to fit your applications and needs.
For a pulpit or lectern, it us usually best to get a good gooseneck microphone like this C33E and install it using a shock mount such as the SM93 to reduce sound transfer from the wood into the microphone. You need one with a deep pickup range so that it will work effectively at the various distances required. Although you could use a hand held style of microphone, you would need to be very careful to get one with a very low proximity effect. Most hand held microphones are designed specifically for close use, and therefore become very ineffective in pulpit and lectern applications.
A decent gooseneck microphone is designed to provide good sound pick up between 6 and 12 inches. The ones we use can actually be quite effective up to 18 inches and beyond. They are thin and relatively inconspicuous. They also have a tapered frequency response which is excellent for speech intelligibility.
If you have serious problems with "Pops", you should consider the C800E. It's design doesn't allow the person's breath to hit the microphone diaphragm, thus eliminating the possibility of "Pops".
Remember that all microphones are not created equal. Just because it is a gooseneck microphone, it doesn't mean that it will work well. It takes considerable experience to sort out the good ones from the bad. There have been times where we have significantly improved the sound in a church simply by replacing a poor gooseneck microphone with a good one.
For permanent choir applications, there are tiny microphones which are designed to hang from the ceiling specifically for this purpose, such as the Electro Voice RE90H. Like the Pulpit microphone, they need to have a deep pickup range.
Choir microphones should be installed about 2 feet in front of the front row and about 2 feet above their heads. Assuming the choir is 2 or 3 rows deep, you will need 1 microphone for each 4 to 5 people wide. For example, if your choir is 8 people wide and 2 rows deep, you will need two microphones. If the choir is 4 or more rows deep, you should add a second set of microphones to pick up the back two rows.
If you need to mic a choir on an occasional bases, or if they are not always standing in the same location, you can consider placing microphones on boom stands in the same locations as described above. You can use gooseneck microphones, like the ones for pulpit and lectern, or low proximity hand held microphones as described below.
If you need to mic a group of people (singing or speaking), it is best to use low proximity microphones on stands. Unlike most hand held style microphones, a microphone such as the C535EB will give a very accurate sound at any distance. This makes it perfect for picking up two or three singers, or a group of people in a skit or play.
If the microphone is only for close-up vocal use, there are many models which will do a good job, like the AKG D5. Keep in mind however that most vocal microphones are effective up to 3 inches. Beyond this distance they become thin and tinny sounding. This can be a problem for churches because often church singers don't hold the microphone close.
If you want a more versatile and forgiving microphone, you should choose a low proximity one like the C535EB. If you do this, you won't need to worry so much about holding it close.
For acoustic guitar, place the microphone as close to the hole as possible.
For upright piano, place it behind the piano, about 1 - 2 feet above the floor and about 3 inches away from the centre of the sound board.
For grand piano, it works best inside the piano. Place the microphone on a tea towel (to prevent vibration) on the harp with the head of the microphone in the second hole from the front. Then close the lid. This gives a very smooth natural sound with plenty of gain before feedback.
For other instruments such a flute, violin, trumpet etc. Place the microphone close to the part of the instrument where most of the sound comes out. Avoid locations where the musician's breath will blow into the microphone.
With electric instruments such as electric guitar or amplifier, keyboard etc., you don't need to use a microphone at all. You can connect the instrument to your mixer using a DI box or DI cable.
Another good way to mic many instruments like acoustic guitar, saxophone, etc. is with a lapel wireless microphone system.
To provide freedom of movement and consistent sound pick up, the best way to mic a person is with a good wireless head microphone system. Although some are black and rather noticeable, there are a few which are very tiny and inconspicuous.
The advantage of a head microphone is that it provides excellent sound with minimum feedback. Because it never moves relative to the person's mouth, the volume level and sound quality is much more consistent than with a lapel microphone.
The alternate method of course is to use a good lapel microphone. The microphone should be placed in the centre of the chest about 6 inches below the chin. Be careful that it doesn't get covered by, or rub against clothing.
If there is only one person speaking at the table, then a wireless head or lapel microphone is the best way to go. If you have more people, or don't want to use wireless, you can use a gooseneck microphone (as on the pulpit) with a short table stand.