If you’re into the audio production business or a budding musician that wants to build a proper recording setup at your home, at some point, you must’ve noticed how much the prices of microphones can vary.
With so many famous and good-quality budget microphones like the infamous Shure SM58 to choose from, why should anyone in their right mind go for more expensive alternatives? And are costly microphones worth it in reality?
A decent quality “budget” microphone combined with proper microphone technique may give you better results overall than just investing in an expensive microphone while ignoring the rest.
As long as the microphone you are using is not completely terrible and doesn’t distort or add color to the sound in unrepairable ways, you don’t necessarily need to fork out the extra cash for an expensive microphone. The money saved could be used in the other more critical areas where your recording setup is lacking.
This post will help finally answer the burning question, are expensive microphones worth it? And we’ll also talk in detail about a few things that you should keep in mind when choosing your next microphone. Let’s get right into it.
Are Expensive Microphones Worth It?
These days the quality of most budget microphones is good enough for most individuals; you’d have to go very cheap to get a terrible mic. For vocal recordings, for instance, the vocalist and their skills are the most crucial factors, not the microphone they use.
Don’t get me wrong though, mics do matter, but an expensive mic can’t replace everything, and no mic can magically make you a better sound engineer or enhance the end product to be ten times as good just because you paid ten times the price for a higher-end option.
The mic in a recording setup plays a substantial role. Still, more often than not, the price tag of some extraordinarily high-end and expensive microphones isn’t justifiable, considering that a more budget-friendly alternative could do the same job without too much of a difference in the output quality.
So as far as the question goes, are expensive microphones worth it? Well, having a good mic with a sound recording setup and skills is much better than just investing in the “high quality” and more expensive microphone without improving the other areas of your studio and recording techniques.
It may also be possible that a singer’s voice doesn’t sound too good on one particular expensive mic. What works for one doesn’t mean it will work for others. Maybe their natural voice sounds much better on a cheaper dynamic or condenser mic. A lot of it also comes down to personal preference.
Also, it’s important to remember that no one mic is the ideal choice in every situation. An expensive vocal mic may not be the best option for some instruments like the piano, drums, and acoustic or electric guitars. Arguably choosing the right mic for the job may lead to a better result overall and have a much more significant difference than using some high-end options.
So to summarize, are expensive microphones worth it? If finances are not a problem, or you want to fully optimize every aspect of your recording setup, then it’s a yes. But as for the rest, they should consider and are probably better off with just improving their recording skills and set up before going for anything super expensive.
The Polar Pattern
In simple terms, the polar pattern of a mic is the built-in directionality of the microphone. The opposite way describes how well it picks up and captures sound or how sensitive it is to sound relative to the angle or direction of the source. The three most common types of polar patterns are cardioid, super-cardioid, and omnidirectional.
Every mic has a polar pattern that defines the inherent directionality and coverage of the microphone. For example, a mic with a cardioid pattern is susceptible to sound from the front but has almost no pickup from the back. As the name suggests, an omnidirectional polar pattern is sensitive to sound from every direction and angle.
Therefore in situations where you want to capture sound from only one source or direction, cardioid or super-cardioid polar pattern mics are your best bet. On the other hand, omnidirectional patterns are better for recording audio from multiple sources, such as in recording the sound of a room.
The Dynamic Range
Probably the most significant difference between the most expensive and cheap mics is the dynamic range offered by both. The dynamic range refers to the highest and lowest degree of signals that it can handle. Meaning how accurately a mic can capture audio in the field between the most significant and lowest input.
A more extensive dynamic range translates to less loss of information, meaning you have more to work with during post-processing.
The Frequency Response
The frequency response is the range of audio that it can reproduce and how its output varies inside this range. It is a crucial factor in deciding the sound signature of a mic.
An important thing to be aware of is that the human ear can hear the audio in the range of 20hz up to 20khz. Usually, good-quality mics have such broad fields.
A Few Other Important Factors
Besides the three factors described above, sensitivity, impedance, S/N ratio, power requirements, and physical characteristics like dimensions and weight also play a huge role in choosing the right mic for your needs.
Some mics even come with bundled accessories for consumer convenience, so always be sure to take a close look at all the information, details, and reviews when choosing a microphone for your studio.