I find microphones fascinating. The very idea that something as ephemeral as a musical performance can be captured and stored still fills me with wonder. The engineering that goes into building these tiny precision devices is amazing. And the satisfaction to be gained from solving the 3D geometry puzzles associated with mic placement is hard to beat. In short, I love microphones and I don’t care who knows it!
If your own love affair with microphones is still in the early stages, though, the choice on offer can be bewildering. Should you buy a capacitor microphone, or will a cheaper dynamic model meet your needs? If you pay extra for a multipattern mic, or additional features such as pads and low‑cut filters, will you ever use them in real life? Are you better off buying one really good all‑rounder, or separate mics for different jobs? What’s so special about vintage mics, and can you get the same magic from modern recreations?
As with so many questions relating to music technology, the universal response to all of these questions is an infuriating ‘It depends.’ No‑one can tell you exactly what to buy without knowing more about your circumstances, your preferences, your studio and the things you’re likely to be recording. And the best person to provide that information and come up with those answers is you. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to equip you with the knowledge and understanding you need to make the right decisions for your own situation.
I find microphones fascinating. The very idea that something as ephemeral as a musical performance can be captured and stored still fills me with wonder.
If you Google “What is the best mic for X instrument?” or “How do I mic up a Y?” you’ll get thousands of answers. Some will be useful, some less so, but even the best will only address one specific circumstance. However, good engineers don’t simply have an internal library of mic selections and positions that work. They also have a sound understanding of the principles behind those choices. The test of a real engineer isn’t his or her ability to remember and replicate a setup that’s been used before: it’s the ability to come up with results in a situation that isn’t familiar.
That ability comes partly from experience, and there’s no shortcut to acquiring that. But experience can also be distilled into rules of thumb, and few people are better qualified to do that than our Executive Editor, Paul White. Paul’s article in this issue crystallises the knowledge he’s gained through many, many years of miking things up in home studios, and it’s essential reading for anyone who needs practical, hands‑on advice on how to get things sounding good, fast. There’s also no substitute for understanding the theory that underpins these rules of thumb, so we’ve paired Paul’s article with Hugh Robjohns’ must‑read guide to the most important aspect of mic behaviour: polar patterns.
These two workshops will go a long way towards equipping you for a lifetime of successful recording. Just be aware that cultivating a love of microphones can have bad effects on your bank balance!
Sam Inglis Editor In Chief