Microphones are essential tools in the world of audio recording and performance. They come in various shapes, sizes, and configurations, each tailored to capture specific types of sounds. When searching for a microphone, you'll encounter a plethora of specifications, often presented as a series of numbers and technical jargon. In this blog post, we will dive into the world of microphone specifications and unravel their significance in helping you choose the right microphone for your needs.
One of the fundamental specifications you'll encounter is the polar pattern. Polar patterns describe the microphone's sensitivity to sound from different directions. Common polar patterns include omnidirectional, cardioid, figure-8, and hypercardioid. Understanding polar patterns is crucial because it determines how the microphone captures sound and its sensitivity to off-axis noise. For example, a cardioid microphone is more sensitive to sounds coming from the front while rejecting sounds from the sides and rear.
The frequency response specification provides information about the microphone's ability to reproduce sound across the audible spectrum. It is usually represented graphically as a frequency response curve. A flat frequency response indicates that the microphone captures sound evenly across different frequencies, which is desirable in most recording scenarios. However, some microphones have tailored frequency responses to emphasize or attenuate certain frequency ranges, making them suitable for specific applications like vocal recording or instrument miking.
Sensitivity and SPL Handling:
Microphone sensitivity refers to its ability to convert acoustic energy into an electrical signal. It is usually measured in millivolts per Pascal (mV/Pa) or decibels relative to 1 volt per Pascal (dBV/Pa). High-sensitivity microphones are more responsive and suitable for capturing soft and delicate sounds, while low-sensitivity microphones are less prone to distortion when recording loud sound sources.
Sound Pressure Level (SPL) handling refers to a microphone's maximum capacity to handle loud sound sources without distorting the audio signal. It is typically indicated by the maximum SPL or the equivalent noise level (ENL). If you plan on recording loud sources such as drums or guitar amplifiers, choosing a microphone with a high SPL handling capability ensures accurate sound reproduction without unwanted distortion.
Impedance and Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR):
Microphone impedance, measured in ohms, represents the electrical resistance offered by the microphone's output circuitry. Matching the microphone's impedance with the input impedance of your audio interface or mixer ensures optimal signal transfer. A mismatch can result in signal degradation and loss of audio quality.
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) is a measure of a microphone's ability to capture the desired sound compared to unwanted background noise. It quantifies the difference between the desired signal level and the inherent noise level of the microphone. A higher SNR indicates a cleaner and more accurate signal capture, especially in quiet recording environments or when recording subtle nuances.