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A Beginners Guide to Microphone Types

With so many microphones out there, it can be hard to even know what type to even begin looking for. Especially if you have never used a mic outside of your smartphone. In this post, we will explain the basics of different microphones and cover some great entry-level options for each.

Microphone Capsules

To put it simply, a dynamic capsule produces signals from just the source of the sound, which means that it requires a larger amount of sound and makes them quite robust. This makes them great for drums specifically, as well as any live performances.

Condensors, on the other hand, use an electrically charged plate that gets moved by sound. This means they are more sensitive to sound and pick up a more balanced sound. The tradeoff is they’re a bit more delicate and require the power of some sort.

Lastly, Ribbon microphones use a very thin metal ribbon that gets moved by the sound. Because the ribbon is so thin, a loud sound source, like a drum, can easily break the ribbon. However, they are well renowned for their warm, vintage sound. Ribbon microphones are much more specialised and tend to be more expensive.

Types of Microphones


Handheld microphones are generally used by singers for live performances, and tend to have dynamic capsules, although there are some great high-end condenser handheld microphones! The industry standard for handheld microphones for over half a century had been the Shure SM58, which is a great place to start your collection.


Instrument microphones are generally microphones designed for use with guitar amps, drums and brass. They tend to be dynamic and come in many shapes, depending on the instrument they’re designed for. The SM58’s little brother, the Shure SM57 is also an industry standard and is extremely versatile.

Used mostly in the studio, large-diaphragm condenser microphones are great for recording quieter instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano and are the most common type of microphone for recording vocals. Commonly used for Podcasting, the Audio Technica AT2020 is a great starting point.

Small Diaphragm, often referred to as pencil microphones, are also commonly used in the studio. They pick up a wider frequency range and can handle loud sounds well, so they are great as drum overheads, close microphones for cymbals, and recording acoustic guitar. Some good entry-level pencil microphones would be the Audio Technica ATM450, Sennheiser E614 and Rode M5’s.

Lavalier microphones, also called lapels, are about the size of a peanut and are designed to attach to the lapel of a jacket or coat (hence the name!). They are great for picking up a person speaking and are used for live events and interviews mostly. The ATR3350IS by Audio Technica is a great budget lapel, which can be used with both Cameras and Smartphones!

Headset microphones tend to be very similar to lavalier’s and are used to pick up a person speaking or singing. Because they are so close, they don’t need much gain, and they stay in the same position, even when the person is moving! You can get them in either single ear or double ear configurations and Samson has a version of each, the SE10 and DE10 respectively, for a great price.

Used mainly for podium/lectern speaking for its small size, gooseneck microphones feature a similar capsule to a lavalier mounted on a flexible neck, so the speaker can adjust it into position. Samson has both the CM15P and CM20P goosenecks, depending on the length you need!

Shotgun microphones are the standard for filmmaking – they are similar to pencil microphones, except have a much longer body. This design means that they pick sound up from the front far more than the side or back. Rode has a wide range of shotgun microphones, even ones that can be used with a smartphone, like the VideoMic Me.

Lastly, there are boundary microphones. These are flat microphones that are designed to sit on a table or mount to the ceiling and pick up sound evenly from all directions; they’re great for conference meetings and skype calls. Samson makes a great USB boundary microphone, the UB1.

For more information on any of the Mics listed above, contact the team at Rubber Monkey and we can find a solution that works perfectly for you and your budget!


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