Who Makes The Top Microphones?
Over the years, many people have asked me what the best microphone brands are. The answer is not easy to answer because it depends on what you are using the microphone for. However, in a nutshell, if you want to know the best brands, then I would have to say that they are Neumann, Sennheiser, Shure, Audio Technica, Rode, Blue, and AKG.
All of these brands produce professional-grade mics and are available in a wide range of classes, styles, and uses. In order to establish which is the best brand for you, let’s take a moment and look at the main features and type of microphone that is best for you.
Main Features of the Best Microphone Brands
Microphones are more complicated than they look. There are a lot of different features that impact the quality and performance of the mic and the sound quality that they send to a mixer. In the top brands of microphones, you will notice some of those important features like their frequency response, a lower sensitivity range, and a higher SPL.
Frequency response is the range of frequencies that the microphone will pick up. The wider the range the better the frequency response. Some mics, like drum mics, focus on a lower-end frequency response that will capture sounds in the 30 Hz range. Vocal mics will capture a much wider range, and cymbal mics will target a higher range. You want to pick the microphone that has the best frequency response for your intended use.
You also need to look at the sensitivity and SPL ratings. Higher sensitivity means the mic will pick up more sounds, and lower means that you need a stronger sound source to pick up the sound. On the other hand, the SPL rating is basically how loud you can send sound to the microphone before it starts to distort. A higher SPL rating means it can record sounds at higher volume levels.
Along with these specifications, you need to look at how the microphone is built. A quality microphone produces a clear sound free from static, hissing, or popping when it is moved. How they are manufactured, and the materials used in construction are important. If it feels cheap, it probably is. A quality microphone has a little bit of weight to it.
Read over some of the reviews on microphones made by Neumann, Sennheiser, and Shure. You will get a feel for what a good microphone brand is.
Dynamic and Condenser Microphones
Most microphones come in two categories, with some exceptions to the rule. They are dynamic and condenser microphones. Dynamic microphones feature a coil that is connected to a diaphragm inside a magnetic field. When the diaphragm moves, the coil moves to produce a low-level electrical signal. Dynamic mics usually have a higher SPL and work well for live performances and church settings.
On the other hand, condenser mics are used more in the studio setting or when people are recording. They have a thin diaphragm and a metal backplate. Most of them are run on phantom power. They do not have as high of a SPL but lower sensitivity, making them perfect for the recording studio. However, some of the best condenser mics are also used for live performances.
Shure and Sennheiser manufacture both dynamic and condenser microphones. Some of their mics can cost as low as $100.00. I know of many musicians that use Shure dynamic microphones for live performances and recording. However, in my opinion, if you really want the best recording, you will use condenser mics.
Understanding How Polar Patterns Work
Next, you need to look at the microphone’s polar pattern. The polar pattern is what type of directionality the microphone has. In other words, which direction or directions will the microphone pick up sound from?
The most common polar pattern is the cardioid pattern. It is a heart-shaped pattern that picks up sound from the front of the microphone. Omnidirectional microphones are just what they sound like. They pick up sounds from all around the microphone. These are perfect for recording acoustic sets or an orchestra but are not as good for recording vocals.
Other types of polar patterns include the hyper-cardioid pattern, the super-cardioid pattern, the figure-eight pattern, and the ultra-directional pattern. All of these differentiate from a standard 180-degree arc.
Some manufacturers make microphones that have multiple polar patterns. For example, Rode has several podcasting condenser microphones that allow you to select which polar pattern you want to use by choosing the polar pattern with a selector switch. They offer everything from cardioid to figure eight patterns.
As with everything, it is not cheap if you want the best. The same goes for the best microphone brands. There are cheap microphone manufacturers out there, but in the end, you get what you pay for.
A top-of-the-line Neumann microphone can run you thousands of dollars. However, companies like Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, and AKG can provide you with a good professional mic for a few hundred to around a thousand dollars.
Remember to select the best mic for your type of use. Just because it is best, for one thing, does not mean it is best for what you want to use it for.
I hope this answers your question about what are the best microphone brands.