Which microphone for a computer to choose — the main characteristics

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For gaming, Skype, video conferencing, streaming and podcasting, you need a good microphone for your computer with clear sound.

best microphones for pc

In this article, we will look at the most popular models. The rating includes both simple computer microphones designed for simple tasks, and professional devices for bloggers and vocalists.

Sound Recording Basics

How is audio recorded? Let me explain this in a few words. Simply put, this is the conversion of a sound wave into a digital recording. For this to be possible, sounds must be captured through the membrane and then converted into electrical impulses. An audio recorder gives them a digital form. Through this process, you can enjoy your favorite songs and programs every day.

It is worth noting that before digital recordings became the most popular, the most commonly used method was to record sound in analog format. Recording directly to tape required a lot of work, and the recording was often surreptitiously covered in noise and crackling. Nevertheless, this technique still enjoys great prestige among specialists.

Remember that the degree sound recording quality depends not only on environmental conditions, but also on the applied technological solutions. This is why choosing a specific type of microphone is so important.

Form factor

The need for a microphone for most people arises when they want to talk on the Internet using a computer. All other reasons for which such a device may be needed relate to professional activities. It is with this use that the variety of forms of devices is associated. What are microphones?

  • vocal devices that are held in the hand;
  • noise protection devices;
  • devices on clothespins for recording the conversation of several people;
  • directional devices used to receive sound from a specific location;
  • studio devices that are used to record songs and melodies;
  • desktop for video conferencing.

All these products are used in different conditions, because they have different characteristics. A microphone device for a computer must be suitable for its task, therefore, all such products have their own special devices that help them perform their function.

Characteristics of the main properties of microphones

Sound Wave Processing Technology

Based on this criterion, microphones are divided into condenser and dynamic. As you probably already guessed, both types have their uses.

Condenser microphones

They pick up sound due to a thin membrane made of conductive material. It is located parallel to a fixed metal plate (called a permanent electrode), together with which it forms a capacitor plate.

As a result of membrane oscillations, the capacitance of the capacitor changes, which is accompanied by the formation of electrical impulses. Then they are transferred to the registrar.

Diagram of the basic design of a condenser microphone

It is important to note that condenser microphones must be connected to a power source (such as phantom power to supply power from a preamp or mixing console using a microphone cable).

Dynamic microphones

They are simple and very durable structures. At the heart of such a microphone is a thin membrane to which a coil is attached. Both of these elements are within the created magnetic field.

Diagram of a standard dynamic microphone

Acoustic waves cause the membrane to vibrate, resulting in a voltage across the coil. The resulting impulses are received by the registrar. Unlike condenser microphones, dynamic microphones most often have batteries.

Let’s say we understand how dynamic and condenser microphones work. But, how does this affect the use of such accessories and the properties of the recorded sound?

The biggest difference between dynamic and condenser microphone manifested in sensitivity and volume. This is where the first one gets the advantage. However, it is important to mention other properties.

Condenser microphones allow you to maintain very high fidelity of the recorded sounds. They accurately respond to voice modulations and timbre changes. In addition, they are lightweight, making them easy to use. A potential disadvantage is the fact that in the case of condenser microphones, too strong sound waves can greatly affect the quality of the recording.

Due to their high sensitivity, condenser microphones also often pick up ambient sounds. Therefore, they are mainly used in recording studios, where unwanted environmental sounds can be eliminated.

Dynamic microphones have lower sensitivity and volume. However, they do an excellent job of dealing with high acoustic pressure, and they are durable and resistant to damage and adverse weather conditions. This makes them ideal for performing on stage and during vocal recording. Also suitable for home use.

Remember that in order to connect them to a computer and enjoy really good sound quality, you need not only an adapter (XLR → 3.5 mm jack), but also a preamplifier. In some situations, you will also need additional drivers to hear your voice while recording.

Microphone Diaphragm Size

Another feature of microphones that you should pay attention to is membrane size. Currently, condenser and dynamic microphones are divided in this respect into small-diaphragm, medium-diaphragm and large-diaphragm.

What characterizes each of these groups?

Small-membrane microphones capture high-pitched sounds with great accuracy and fidelity. This feature is associated with high sensitivity to the slightest fluctuations in air.

Large diaphragm microphones are characterized by very high sensitivity due to the large surface area of ​​the membrane. The sound recorded with their help changes a little — it becomes warmer, deeper. On the other hand, they are more prone to echo.

Mid-diaphragm microphones combine, to varying degrees, the characteristics of the two types presented earlier.

Microphone sensitivity and frequency response

Microphone sensitivity is usually measured in mV/Pa (millivolts per pascal). Many people believe that the higher the value, the better the microphone. However, it is not! If you do not have a suitably adapted room, too high sensitivity can ruin all your plans: Unwanted sounds will be heard on the finished media, such as a neighbor’s vacuum cleaner or a car horn outside the window.

The frequency response is also important. This term refers to the sensitivity of a microphone to sounds of various frequencies. What does this mean in practice?

The main difference involves two frequency responses — flat and local. The graph of the first illustrates a simple line. Such a microphone reproduces sound without any amplification and correction in frequencies. A line with a local maximum indicates that this microphone will boost or cut sounds from the corresponding frequency. This solution is used, for example, to reinforce the lower part of vocals or instruments.

Microphone directivity

Maybe you have ever watched a report during which the journalist, although speaking into the microphone, was almost inaudible, he was drowned out by the surrounding sounds. This situation could be the result of using an all-round microphone, which picks up sounds from all directions.

Microphones available on the market include: unidirectional, bidirectional and omnidirectional. Let’s see what characterizes each of these types.

Characteristics of sound recording by microphones with different types of directivity

Unidirectional microphone (e.g. cardioid, supercardioid) – picks up sound waves from one direction. Perfectly proved itself during concerts and performances.

Bi-directional microphone (e.g. octal) — picks up sounds from two opposite directions (often from the front and back of the microphone, sounds from the side will be muffled). As a rule, it is used in the implementation of programs on television, for example, during an interview.

Omnidirectional microphone — captures sounds from all directions. It has the most natural sound. However, it is recommended to use only in adapted rooms that protect against unwanted sounds.

Microphone connector type

Computer microphones use 3 types of connectors:

  • mini-jack (3.5 mm): located on the sound card.
  • USB: Microphones with their own sound systems are equipped with this. You can also connect them to other devices.
  • XLR-3: Mainly used in professional microphones. To connect such a microphone, you will need a sound card that is equipped with an XLR-3 port or an appropriate adapter, for example, an XLR → 3.5 mm jack cable, which will be the best solution if you care about high sound quality.

Model Shure SM-58

The American company Shure is one of the leaders in the segment of the production of audio equipment. In this case, the SM-58 dynamic microphone model is considered, which is suitable for use in concerts and in studio recording. This microphone «Shur» is good not only for the main performance characteristics, but also for the ergonomics of the design. The developers of this company traditionally produce compact hand-held models with comfortable shapes, and this version fully fits into the concept of comfortable minimalism.

As for the acoustic capabilities, the filling is sharpened for deep processing of all the main shades of the voice. The device works with a cardioid polar pattern, which allows you to rationally distinguish between the target and third-party sound areas. The frequency range varies from 50 Hz to 15 kHz. This spectrum allows you to count on the disclosure of the possibilities of vocals with a clear and transparent sound. The question of how much the microphone in this version costs will also not disappoint fans of the brand: the average price tag is 10 thousand, which is not bad for a high-quality device of this level. Especially if we take into account the presence of technological features that are expressed both in the original design and in the device of switching systems.

Practical possibilities of microphones

Volume control — Mute button

The slider or volume control and the Mute button make everyday use of the microphone much easier.

Thanks to the first element, you can conveniently adjust the volume without the need for software.

In turn, the Mute button allows you to completely turn off the device, which is ideal for those situations in which you just want to stop broadcasting or recording.

Noise suppression

Noise reduction minimizes the impact of ambient noise on recording quality. How is this effect achieved? The standard solution is to use at least two holes through which sound enters.

The first one is larger, to which the main signal is sent. The second is smaller, located on the opposite side. Between them is a membrane, which has the greatest sensitivity in the part close to the central hole. Sounds coming from other directions are perceived as background.

Noise reduction can also be achieved by using the built-in microphone, as, for example, in the ASUS ROG Strix Magnus model. This small accessory actively captures ambient sounds and then transmits them to 3 capacitors where they are analyzed. The effect is the elimination of unwanted noise.

Change in directivity

More technologically advanced microphones, such as the Razer Seiren Pro, allow you to freely switch between different directional characteristics.

Thanks to this, you can easily customize the device for your needs, changing, for example, from unidirectional to bidirectional recording.

Equipment

Transmitter (external) — a device that is equipped with miniature models with a wireless connection (headsets, lavalier microphones). The microphone is connected to the transmitter, which is hung on the belt. This design of the microphone allows it to be connected to other equipment, and not just to the transmitter.

Receiver — a receiver that is found in microphones with a wireless connection. The receiver is connected to various audio equipment, for example, an amplifier to transmit a signal from a microphone to it.

Monitor mount — used in computer microphones. A good solution when there is a shortage of free space on the table where the computer is located. This mount can also be used to work with a laptop.

bare wire – an open section of the microphone, which is used to connect to equipment that has terminals (including loudspeaker systems). Accordingly, this microphone does not have a plug.

Display – displays information about microphone operation. Most often found in wireless models, when using which it is important to know about the battery level, the selected channel, and so on.

Rack holder – allows you to easily install the model on a stand / tripod or remove it. Such a holder is used in instrumental and vocal microphones. Useful for concerts.

Anti-shock suspension («spider») — dampens noise in the sound from various vibrations of the microphone caused by the steps of people or the operation of equipment.

Pop filter — a round plate that is installed in front of a studio microphone when recording vocals. Such a screen prevents interference in the sound from the flow of air (exhalations into the microphone). The pop filter protects the microphone from splashes of saliva, which prolongs its life.

Detachable cable — makes it possible to change the complete cable for a longer or shorter one. This solution greatly simplifies the transportation and storage of the microphone.

Power adapter – Provides phantom power from a standard 220V outlet to an electret or condenser microphone. Useful if you want to connect a microphone to receivers, players and other equipment that do not have phantom power inputs.

Tripod – a miniature tripod for mounting the microphone on a table or other high surface. Such a tripod is easy to carry, but this solution is not suitable for working with a structure on the floor or ground.

Wind protection — a foam or fur case that is put on the microphone. Protects the device from interference with strong air currents and human breathing.

Case or cover – protects the microphone and accessories from the negative effects of the environment (dirt, scratches, bumps), facilitates storage and transportation. As a result, the fixtures will not be lost, and the wire will unravel. The case protects against serious mechanical impacts better than the cover.

Which microphone is best for you

Microphone for talking

Here, at least theoretically, the freedom of choice is greatest. If you’re using a microphone to chat on Skype, and you’re talking mostly with family and friends, you have a lot of choices. Both budget microphones and more complex designs are suitable here. Buying an expensive condenser microphone would be too much of a waste.

The situation looks completely different if you are conducting business negotiations, especially in foreign languages. During such conversations, intonation and precise articulation of vowels are of great importance. Therefore, the best choice would be unidirectional condenser microphone. Thanks to him, your voice will retain the dynamics and natural sound, and the interlocutors will easily hear the words you speak.

Microphone for online games

During virtual clashes, emotions often take over. Shouts of joy, sighs and loud commands confirm your participation in the gameplay. You need a microphone that is strong enough and resistant to high acoustic pressure.

Would be a very good choice small diaphragm condenser microphone with noise cancellation. Dynamic microphones will also live up to expectations. Of course, if they are properly connected.

Microphone for karaoke

If you enjoy spending time singing your favorite songs, then you know that choosing the right microphone is essential. A low-end or improperly tuned device will not only not provide satisfaction from the process, but will also collect all the surrounding noise.

To avoid this scenario, select (unidirectional or bidirectional) dynamic or condenser microphone. This gives you the confidence that sound will be captured from the direction that matters most to you.

Record video stream, podcasts and vocal tracks

Your voice should reflect emotions, sound natural and expressive. In addition, everything should be clear. Noise, crackling, environmental sounds are undesirable. Therefore, for such a situation, a really high quality microphone is needed. Best fit unidirectional condenser microphone. If you’re recording with other people, a bi-directional microphone might be a good option.

In the case of recording vocal tracks, the requirements for the microphone are even higher. We recommend investing in a professional microphone. For example, a capacitive unidirectional large diaphragm microphone or a unidirectional dynamic microphone that is very well suited for live performances in front of a web audience.

The frequency response is also important. If you want to bring out or limit the sound of a certain range, check the charts provided by the manufacturers. Based on them, you will evaluate how your voice will sound.

How to choose a microphone for a computer by country / region of production

The cheapest models on the market are offered by Asian countries. If the choice of the manufacturer is approached responsibly, it will be possible to find quality products at an inexpensive price.

  • The European quality of electronics is not discussed by anyone, but sometimes the cost of these devices for a computer is not justified if all you need a microphone for is chatting with friends on Skype.

It makes sense to invest in such devices if you are professionally engaged in sound recording, blogging, recording videos.

In this case, the choice of Russian manufacturers seems to be a good option. They offer their products at reasonable prices, but with quite acceptable quality.

Useful accessories for microphones

Recording accessories make everyday use of microphones more convenient. Here are a few practical things that will definitely come in handy.

Microphone stand

Tripods often come with a microphone. As a rule, this is the basic version, which is small in size. If you shoot a lot and you care about convenience, purchase an additional microphone stand, allowing you to adjust the height in a wide range. This will allow you to take the most comfortable position.

When using a condenser microphone, be aware of the anti-vibration basket — a rubber-mounted holder that prevents the transmission of environmental vibration.

Windscreen for microphone

Especially useful if you use the microphone outdoors. By putting it on the microphone, you will protect yourself from the influence of gusts of air on the quality of the recorded sound. In home and studio conditions, its use is not recommended.

Microphone pop filter

This accessory will come in handy if you record podcasts and vocals. The thin material is stretched between the sound source and the microphone, it stops too strong gusts of air that occur, for example, during the pronunciation of explosive vowels such as p, b, t.

Microphone case

Very important if you want to take care of the safety of your microphone, especially a capacitive one. Thanks to him, you can safely transport the accessory, as well as store it in optimal conditions.

Food

«Phantom» – Power is supplied through the cable connecting the microphone and the receiving equipment. This option eliminates the need to monitor the battery charge level. At the same time, freedom of movement depends on the length of the network cable.

Important: for the microphone to work properly, you need a receiver or amplifier that supports this power supply. Some devices are equipped with a module that makes it possible to be powered from a conventional network (220 V).

Battery — does not have extra wires and provides maximum freedom of movement, which compares favorably with the phantom method. True, this option requires regular recharging of the battery. It is used in electret, devices with wireless connection. Almost never found in condenser microphones.

battery / phantom — Runs on two power sources. Universal solution.

A few tips from a pro

  • Primarily, when choosing a microphone you need to decide what you will use it for. Standard microphones can be divided into condenser and dynamic. The former are better suited for voice-over or dubbing, but they are very sensitive and require adequate room silence. Dynamic are designed primarily for singers and pick up less sound from the environment.
  • Another thing to pay attention to when buying a condenser microphone, when for example we will record a story, commentate games or record vocals with a condenser microphone, is having a headphone output, which we will use for interactive listening. This is an incredibly useful thing that makes the recording process easier. Allows you to eliminate many problems or adjust the microphone so that the recorded signal is clean.
  • It is worth remembering that condenser microphones pick up sound much better from the front (cardioid system). The closer, the better low frequencies are recorded. Likewise, the farther you are from the microphone, the better the high frequencies should be picked up. To keep the right balance, you need to record at a distance of about 12-15 cm from the microphone. This knowledge can be used during the creation of various materials, such as audiobooks or dubbing.

Recording sound frequencies at different distances from the microphone

Criterias of choice

Sometimes a customer comes to the store but can’t make a choice because they don’t know which microphone is best for gaming. To make it easier for people to make a purchase, it is worth reading the list below:

  • you can communicate via Skype through a model designed for the network;
  • for filming video, there are on-camera devices;
  • for karaoke you will need a vocal dynamic apparatus;
  • musical instruments will sound amazing if you use a condenser device with the lowest frequency;
  • the recording of reports at the conference will be clear if you use a sensitive omnidirectional desktop device;
  • if the source is far away, and there is a lot of interference, you need to purchase a highly sensitive product.

How to find out what are the characteristics on a computer microphone and what is sensitivity and directivity?

Microphones we recommend

ASUS ROG Strix Magnus The microphone is designed specifically for leading gaming streams. With three capacitance modules and Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) technology, it delivers impeccable recording quality. Moreover, it is equipped with a function that allows you to switch between cardioid and bidirectional recording. So you can record material on your own or in collaboration. And all this in a compact accessory.
Razer Seiren Universal USB microphone with stable aluminum base. The built-in headphone amplifier will allow you to listen to the current recording.
Creative iRoar mic Dynamic microphone with many uses. Ideal for both performances and karaoke. The small size makes it easy to attach to clothing, allowing freedom of movement. The accessory is compatible with Creative iRoar portable speaker.
Trust Emita Studio (USB) USB condenser microphone with cardioid response. Designed for recording video streams, vlogs and musical instruments. Includes pop filter, sturdy tripod, anti-vibration basket and durable aluminum case.
Trust Madell Desktop condenser microphone with attached pop filter. It will be a very good choice if you record vlogs and also for use in instant voice messaging programs. A stable tripod will provide ease of use and allow you to place the accessory in a convenient place for you.
Trust Starzz All-Round Well-designed condenser microphone with mute button and stable stand. Designed primarily for gaming sessions, vlogging and negotiation. The gold-plated 3.5 mm mini-jack connector provides excellent sound quality.
Zalman ZM-MIC1 A practical microphone built for virtual collisions. Thanks to a specially designed clip, it can be easily attached to the headphones. The small sizes will provide you full freedom.
Trust Elvi Vintage An omnidirectional condenser microphone with a classic design that is great for talking and vlogging. The stable stand and the ability to adjust the angle of the accessory greatly facilitate daily use.

Model Neumann U 87 AI

High-quality and technologically advanced model designed for professional studio recording. This device is considered by some experts as the standard of studio microphones today. The device is distinguished by several radiation patterns, including circular, eight-shaped and cardioid. And if the Shur microphone in the SM-58 modification is rather designed to use one specific sound coverage spectrum, then in this case the user can use the selector to choose the most appropriate configuration in narrow directions. In addition, the possibility of performing a cutoff of frequencies and lowering the signal is also provided. This concerns the processing of the lower spectrum.

If we talk about design features, they are expressed in an increased size of the membrane, the use of a new generation XLR3F connector, as well as a switchable attenuator by 10 dB. This model is also optimally suited for amateur tasks, since the ergonomics of adjustment and control are implemented according to the traditional scheme. But, there is also a drawback that this microphone has. The price of the device is about 220-230 thousand. For this reason, this modification is mainly used by large music studios and television companies that need to provide high-quality clear sound.

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