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As musicians and performers, we strive for reaction from our audience. A Microphone is the first medium to communicating with your audience. May the audience be a large stadium, or friends on the internet, a microphone picks up the softest lulls to the loudest roars, to help intensify the reaction from your audiences. AMS has created the following guide to aid in the perfect selection of microphone for you.



Table of Contents
Types of Live Sound Microphones
- Dynamic Microphones
- Condenser Microphones
- Wireless Microphones
Advantages/Disadvantages
VHF/UHF

Polar Pattern
(Cardioid, Supercardioid, Hypercardioid)

Frequency Response

Sensitivity and SPL

Proximity Effect

What Microphone is Best for Me?
- Vocals
- Acoustic Instruments
Guitar
Piano
Drums
- Electric Instruments

Live Sound Microphones
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Types of Live Sound Microphones

Live Mics Dynamic
Dynamic Microphones

are the most common and the most basic type of microphone. They consist of a diaphragm attached to a coil that moves through a magnetic field inducing a small electrical signal. They operate using similar principals to a speaker and are very rugged. Dynamic Microphones are the do-it-all in live sound applications; if all else fails, use a Dynamic Microphone!

Handheld Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic Instrument Microphones





Live Mics Condenser
Condenser Microphones

have become more popular over the years because they have a very wide frequency response (tone) and are not as delicate or as expensive as ribbon microphones. They are, however, more delicate than dynamic microphones. They require a power source that can be an internal battery, an external power pack, or phantom power that is provided by the mixer. As well as being popular in recording studios, condenser microphones are becoming ever more popular in live sound applications. They work by supplying a charge to a fixed plate that creates a capacitor. A thin diaphragm is mounted adjacent to the plate and induces voltage changes in the plate when subjected to sound vibrations.

Handheld Condenser Microphones


In addition, many Lavalier Microphones are examples of Condenser Microphones found in television, theatre, and public speaking applications. These types of Microphones are inconspicuous and usually clip onto some portion of the user or stand.


Wireless Microphones
Wireless Microphones

Wireless microphones are exactly that; microphones that connect via no wires, but instead through radio signals, to a controller box attached with an antenna. Things to consider with Wireless Microphones are the range of the receiver in respect to the location of the Microphone and the radio frequency which may interfere with the mic/receiver signal.

Wireless Microphone Systems



Advantages of using a wireless microphone are:

- Greater freedom of movement
- Avoidance of cabling problems common with wired microphones caused by constant moving and stressing of cables.
- Reduction of cable trip hazards in the performance area.

Disadvantages of using wireless microphones are:
- Limited range (where as a wired XLR can run well over 300 ft.) Some wireless systems have a shorter range, while more expensive models can exceed that distance, possible interference with or, more often, from other radio equipment or other radio microphones, through models with many frequency-synthesized switch selectable channels are now plentiful and cost effective. Operation time is limited relative to battery life; it is shorter than a normal condenser microphone due to greater drain on microphone batteries.
- Noise interference/Dead Spots due to radio interference

VHF vs UHF
Professional models transmit in VHF or UHF radio signals.

VHF Microphones, short for Very High Frequency, are the least expensive wireless microphone types. This doesn't always mean that they're bad! They have longer wave lengths and have less usable channels. For limited travel applications or rural areas with low radio interference, VHF can be a cost effective option.

UHF Wireless Microphones, short for Ultra High Frequency, have more available channels, but have shorter wave lengths that tend to bounce off walls and objects. Having more channels available results in less of a chance your signal will drop out due to radio frequency interference.
Polar Pattern

Polar patterns are the manner or direction in which a microphone responds and picks up sound. Most microphones are either unidirectional (one direction) or omnidirectional (non-directional) and respond to sound from those respective directions in differing degrees of sensitivity. Unidirectional takes sound from one direction, in front/on top of the mic. These are the most frequently used microphone in live sound application and are either, cardioid, supercardioid, or hypercardioid, which refer to the polar pattern the microphone creates.
Cardioid Mic
Cardioid

roughly create a heart shape pattern, which makes the mic most sensitive from straight on and from the sides but rejects sounds from 180 degrees opposite the direction the mic is aimed.
Supercardioid
Supercardioid

accepts a little more sound from a 180 degree direction then cardioid but rejects sound coming from each side.
Hypercardioid
Hypercardioid

allows yet more sounds from 180 degrees but rejects more of the sound coming from 90 or 270 degrees.
Frequency Response,

Bass Drums Microphone
expressed in Hz, is an important specification in pairing a microphone to an instrument. This is the range of frequencies the microphone will respond to. Higher Frequencies relate to higher pitched sounds, and vice a versa for lower frequencies. So for low sounding kick drums or bass guitars, we recommend checking out or line of Bass Drum Microphones.
What is Sensitivity?

A Microphones' sensitivity is how quiet the sound source (minimum detected sound) can be for the microphone to detect. A microphone with a high sensitivity can more easily pick up quite (low dB) sounds.
What is SPL?

SPL, which is Sound Pressure Level, is the loudest a sound can be for the microphone to handle. The higher the SPL, the louder an instrument can be for the Microphone to support. Both sensitivity and SPL are expressed in Decibels, dB.
Proximity Effect

Is an increase in bass or low frequency response when the sound source is close to a microphone. This has an increased effect on all Cardioid microphones, but a minimal effect on Omnidirectional Microphones. Singers sometimes desire this, as proximity effect makes their voice sound fuller.
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What Microphone is Best for Me?

Choosing the right microphone is imperative in live sound application. The sound profile of what you are mic'ing will determine the optimal microphone. Are smooth lower sounds or pounding bass important? Or high pitched rapidly clear articulation? Also keep in mind your performing style. Are you…frenetically moving up and down on stage? A drummer that vivaciously flairs their sticks up high? Vocals - Dynamic Microphones are great for live singing performances. AMS recommends our range of Handheld Dynamic Microphones. These microphones tend to have a round sound, that “cuts the mix" better then more expensive condenser microphones, and also can take a beating. Dynamic mics are not only inexpensive, but also can capture all frequencies that the human voice can create! If the vocalist has a thinner voice then the precision of a Condenser Microphones' high end is in need. Of course if you are dancing or moving during your performance then a wireless microphone is in need.


Acoustic Instruments

Guitars - Can be mic'd through an amplifier or directly from the sound hole of the guitar. Electric Guitars share the same frequencies as a human voice, so a dynamic microphone would be best used to mic a guitar amp. For example, a popular choice for electric guitars is the Shure SM57 among other great Dynamic Instrument Microphones. If you want to mic an acoustic guitar directly, then we recommend using a mic with high sensitivity which can pick up on softer details such as an Instrument Condenser Microphone.

Piano - Pianos have a wide range of frequencies (notes) that can be played. So generally you would want to use a stereo pair of condenser microphones. The two condenser microphones, either large or small diaphragm, should be placed above the strings, but away from the hammers, one on the lower notes, and the other for the upper notes.

Drums - Since drum sets have so many different components, the best condition would be to have an individual microphone for each drum and cymbals. For this reason AMS provides excellent drum microphone packages, from 3 to 7 microphones. Click here to check out our Drum Microphone Packages. Each component has different sound characteristics they give off, so to do the microphones associated. Cardioid Dynamic microphones are tuned for the cracks and thumps of toms and kick drums, Supercardioid dynamic mics for snare drums, and Overhead Condenser microphones for Cymbals and Drums.


Electric Instruments

Electric instruments can be directly wired to your recording platform or mixer, but also can be mic'd through the amplifier. Recording an amp through a microphone can express the instrument in more of a live sound experience. Some like it grittier then clean and so to, you may find that you enjoy the sound of your electric instrument through its amplifier rather than a direct feed.


Things to remember while buying Microphones

- Always keep in mind the application of any given microphone. It's all about what you want to record and in what style. Subtle changes in microphone design may alter the way a listener experiences a performance. Louder sound sources dictate the use of high quality dynamic mics whereas general concert venues will need good quality condenser microphones. If in doubt, go with the overall workhorse of microphones, the Dynamic Mic. They are the multi-purpose microphones that can be used in almost any application.

- Wireless or Stationary - Simply put, will you be moving around during your performance? If so, then you definitely want to be using a wireless microphone. The key word for all microphones is application. The same as stationary mics, you must think about the application of your wireless mic in performance. How will you be moving? Do you need to use your hands? These are the types of questions you must ask yourself to decipher between wireless headsets/handsets, and wireless lavalier microphones.

Know your Microphone! Using the right microphone and understanding the polar pattern of your microphone, will allow more gain (volume) and less feedback.
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