The 4 Types of Microphones in Plain English

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Are you baffled by all the different types of microphones available? You won’t be by the end of my no-nonsense guide. Too many posts on this topic are unnecessarily complicated, but not this one. The technical side of things is fascinating and has its place. But such endless waffle is pointless for those who only want a simple lesson on mic types, choices, and uses.

The only way to make educated buying decisions is to become better informed. That is the purpose of this guide. You can always learn more of the technicalities once you know the type of mic you need.

Your 4 Choices of Audio Mic

There are lots of mics and sub-mic choices, but we don’t need to get into those. There are only four types of microphone novice buyers need to focus on, namely:

  1. Dynamic microphones
  2. Condenser microphones with large diaphragms
  3. Condenser microphone with small diaphragms
  4. Ribbon microphones

At the end of each description are 3 short reviews to illustrate the mic category. I have chosen one for Best Budget, Best Value, and the Top Pick for each respective category. First, let’s look at the basics of microphone polar patterns and what you need to know.

Microphone Polar Patterns

Microphone polar patterns sound technical, and they are. But a basic understanding is useful as it can help you to make better buying decisions. Here we look at the following three patterns:

  1. Omnidirectional
  2. Cardioid
  3. Figure-8 (bi-directional)

All three patterns refer to the 3-dimensional space that surrounds the mic capsule. You may also see this space referred to as the microphone’s directionality. It’s the surrounding space that’s most sensitive to sound. Some mics are more sensitive than others, but there’s no right or wrong here. What’s best depends on the user’s recording needs. Let’s look at each one in turn.

Cardioid-Polar-Pattern

#1 Omnidirectional pattern

Omnidirectional means all directions. So, omnidirectional mics are equally sensitive to sound from the front, rear, and both sides. These microphones are an excellent choice for recording what’s referred to as ‘wide sound.’ Some examples are choirs, a band with a backing choir, or an entire orchestra. A nondirectional microphone—like the cardioid below—could not do this.

#2 Cardioid pattern

The invisible area—or bulb—of sensitivity that surrounds the capsule is heat-shaped. The space in front of the mic is the most sensitive. The rear of the mic has no sensitivity to sound (it’s ignored). And the sides have minimal sensitivity. These mics record in the direction you point them and ignore the rest. Some products advertise Supercardioid and Hypercardioid, which are similar but with narrower bulbs.

Cardioid mics are a favorite choice for vocals, live performances, and miking drum kits up, as three examples. They’re also invaluable for recording in rooms that have awful acoustics.

#3 Figure of eight pattern

The figure-of-eight is also known as bi-directional. It has equal sensitivity to sound from the front and back, but the sides are ignored. Bi-directional microphones are typically used for stereo recording. They also come in handy for recording two or a group of musical instruments. You are sure to come across the figure of eight pattern on some large diaphragm and ribbon mics.

You now know something of microphone polar patterns. You’ll come across these again once you get to the review sections. OK, now let’s look at the 4 types of microphones and their uses.

Dynamic Microphones

Who are they for? Dynamic microphones are the ideal choice for outdoors and multi-purpose stage usage. That includes guitar cabinets and drum kits as well as vocals.

Dynamic mics are unique in several ways. They can handle extreme volume or SPL (sound pressure level). That makes them ideal in places where you need to abuse the sound. These mics don’t need an external power source to work either. The price of dynamic mics is lower than the condenser types. That’s something to consider if you’re on a tight budget. They won’t suit everyone, though.

Dynamic mic cons

One of the downsides of dynamic mics is the need for an additional amplifier for best results. They’re not very sensitive either, so they can’t capture highly detailed recordings. The frequency response—range of treble, mids, and bass—can also vary significantly.

Below are 3 excellent examples of dynamic microphones in 3 price categories.

1. Ultravoice Xm8500 Vocal Dynamic Mic | Best Budget

Ultravoice Xm8500 Vocal Dynamic MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The Best Budget pick in the dynamic microphone category goes to the Ultravoice XM8500. It’s an excellent entry-level mic for live vocal performances and to record amplified instruments.

Ultravoice Xm8500 Highlights

The XM8500 is a decent cardioid mic for voice projection. It has a 2-stage pop filter that minimizes p-pop sounds and other noises from breath. It’s a sturdy product with a metal construction which is surprising considering its low price. There’s even a rugged protective case plus a mic clip included. All the microphone needs is a cable (not included), and you’re all set.

The Not So Good

There’s no on/off switch, but that’s more of an inconvenience than a major con. You must buy a cable before you can use it too. Again, that’s more of a hassle than a flaw.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Behringer (German)
Mic Type: Dynamic
Form Factor: Handheld
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Cable: XLR to XLR (not included)
Connector: 3-pin XLR
Power Supply: Active speaker
Frequency Range: 50Hz to 15kHz
Sensitivity: -70 dB
Package Dimensions: 12.05 x 6.75 x 3.05”
Product Weight: 8.47 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
Excellent value
Big loud sound for its class
Sturdy build
Decent protective carry case
Cardioid characteristic
Shock mount system
Integrated wind & pop filter
Microphone stand adapter
German Designed
The Cons
No ON/OFF switch
Cable not included

2. Shure Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone | Best Value

Shure Cardioid Dynamic Vocal MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The handheld Shure SM58-LC makes the Best Budget dynamic microphone slot. It’s a popular cardioid mic used for studio recordings, sound reinforcement, and live performances.

Shure SM58-LC Vocal Mic Highlights

This mic comes equipped with an effective built-in spherical filter to minimize pop noise (wind/breath). The cardioid (unidirectional) polar pattern isolates vocals and reduces any background sounds. It has a drop and knock-resistant construction complete with a shock-mount system. Add to this the steel mesh grille, and we have a workhorse of a mic that’s at home outdoors as well as inside.

The Not So Good

You can’t go wrong with this microphone, not for the money. One negative is that there’s no ON/Off button. Others may argue that it’s one less thing to go wrong. Also, it doesn’t come with a cable; it uses a standard 3-pin XLR. A 10ft cable costs around $7 at the time of writing.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Shure
Color: Black
Form Factor: Handheld
Mic Type: Dynamic vocal
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Cable: Standard 3 pin XLR
Power Supply: Active speaker
Frequency Response: Tailored
Product Dimensions: 10 x 4 x 10”
Product Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Warranty: Limited 2 year
The Pros
Brand reputation
Rugged & reliable (stage proof)
Ideal for vocals and instruments
Consistent indoors or out
Built-in spherical filter
Minimal background noise
Pneumatic shock-mount
Steel mesh grille
Zippered, padded pouch
The Cons
Doesn’t have ON/OFF switch
Cable not included

3. Super 55 Deluxe Vintage Dynamic Vocal Mic | Top Pick

Super 55 Deluxe Vintage Dynamic Vocal MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

You’ll love the dynamic mic Top Pick if the iconic, vintage design appeals to you. This one is the Super 55 Deluxe Vocal Microphone. It’s the Pitch-Black Edition by Sure, and only available for a limited time.

Shure Vintage Vocal Mic Highlights

Shure’s Super 55 Deluxe Vocal Mic is aesthetically gorgeous and a solid performer. It has a supercardioid polar pattern and tailored frequency response. The mic produces natural-sounding vocals and speech. That makes it an attractive choice for studio, stage, and podcasting. This dramatic product sports an integrated, self-tensioning swivel mount. You can tilt it forward by 45° and backward by 80°.

A shock-mounted cartridge does an excellent job at minimizing handling noise. Consider this dynamic mic if you want old-world charm with modern, high-quality sound capability.

The Not So Good

Industry experts note that this mic isn’t as sensitive as other high-end Sure products. They’re right too. But it’s possible to compensate for that—if you need to—by using a PA preamp. Another way is to increase the gain on the amp. Lastly, classic design mics are not the most comfortable to hold. They can start to feel a little heavy and awkward after a while.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Shure
Mic Type: Dynamic
Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
Form Factor: Handheld or stand
Frequency Range: 60 Hz to 17 kHz
Cable Length: 20
Connector: 3-Pin XLR
Power Supply: Active speaker
Product Dimensions: 3 x 4 x 10
Product Weight: 1.45 lbs.
Warranty: 2 year
The Pros
Iconic, vintage design
Stage proof construction
Chrome-plated
Limited addition mic
Natural-sounding vocals
Self-tensioning swivel mount
Thread adapter
Heavy-duty, durable build
Performs well outdoors and in
Shock-mounted cartridge
The Cons
Not as sensitive as other Sure quality microphones
Uncomfortable to hold for long periods

Condenser (Capacitor) Mics with Large Diaphragms

Large-diaphragm condenser mics are—as the name suggests—big compared to other types. They typically have diaphragms with a minimum 1” diameter. They’re sexy looking too and the kind of mic seen in recording studios and music videos. The condenser (capacitor) converts audio vibrations into electrical currents. Thus, condenser mics with large diaphragms need 48V phantom power to function.

Large diaphragm condenser mics are more sensitive than both ribbon and dynamic alternatives. It’s this sensitivity that makes them a perfect choice for vocalists. Even those with quiet voices can produce larger than life sounds with these powerful tools.

Historical Appeal

Historically, these mics were the first on the scene. Some modern options recapture the attractive designs of the 1930s and 40s by replicating those classic shapes. Musicians often refer to them as an instrument as much as a microphone. They certainly make vocals bigger, more engaging, and add a touch of beauty to any voice. These mics put vocals and lead instruments firmly in the spotlight.

Next, are 3 examples of condenser mics with large diaphragms in 3 price categories.

1. C-1 Pro Large-Diaphragm Condenser Mic | Best Budget

C-1 Pro Large-Diaphragm Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

I have chosen the Behringer C-1 Professional for the Best Budget large-diaphragm condenser mic. It’s an ideal choice for those who need to capture clean vocals and various types of acoustic instruments.

1 C-1 Pro Condenser Mic Highlights

The C-1 is a superb entry-level condenser mic with an affordable price tag. Its cardioid (heart-shaped) polar pattern ensures near neutral sound recording. It boasts virtually noise-free transmission. That’s thanks to a shock-mounted transducer and a gold-plated XLR output. The mic’s die-cast body gives it stage proof protection. That means it’s not easily damaged if knocked, dropped, and abused.

A welcome extra is the rugged hard-shell, foam-padded case that comes with the mic. There’s also a swivel stand mount in the box so you can fix it to a studio stand.

C–1 Vs. C–1U Large Diaphragm Mic

For an extra 10 dollars, you can opt for the C-1U USB Pro Large-Diaphragm Studio mic. The difference with this one is that it plugs into a PC or Mac, thus turning the computer into a recording system. That means no phantom power or other external hardware needed. However, Windows computers don’t have an adjustable gain setting. There are workarounds, but nothing a newbie would want to tackle.

The Not So Good

It needs an XLR cable (not included). This mic is a little over-sensitive with the gain cranked. It tends to pick up unwanted sounds in a room and even traffic passing by outside. It works as advertised, but only in a quiet space. Add a pop filter and some in-room soundproofing if that’s an option. Newbies to audio recording may want to bypass this mic if they’d sooner not deal with the over sensitivity issue.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Behringer
Mic Type: Studio condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Form Factor: Handheld
Cable: XLR (not included)
Connector: 3-pin XLR
Power Supply: Phantom
Frequency Response: 40 Hz–20 kHz
Max. SPL: 136 dB
Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 2.1 x 7.1”
Product Weight: 14.9 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
Ideal entry-level mic
Vocals & acoustic instruments
Robust, stage proof build
High-quality components
Phantom power LED indicator
Clean, neutral sound
Shock-mounted transducer
Gold-plated XLR output
Hard-shell carry case
Swivel stand mount
The Cons
Cable not included
Sensitive to surrounding sounds

2. AKG Project S. Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic | Best Value

AKG Project S. Large Diaphragm Condenser MicView on BH

Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

The beautiful AKG Project Studio P220 makes the Best Value pick. This is a capable large-diaphragm condenser microphone. Its cardioid polar pattern captures crystal clear audio from the front.

AKG Project Studio Condenser Mic Highlights

It’s ideal for a range of miking applications. That includes lead vocalists, acoustic, and brass instruments among other uses. The mic’s low-cut filter takes care of unwanted, low-end noise. It also has a -20 dB selectable pad. The dB pad lets the mic manage Sound Pressure Levels (SPLs) up to 155dB. So, users can place this versatile microphone in front of multiple recording sources.

The build quality of this puppy feels more expensive than its price tag suggests. Its smooth all-metal body feels great to the touch. In the box is a spider shock mount that has a 5/8 to 3/8 adapter and some spare rubber bands. Other extras include a 20ft XLR cable and a pop filter. Lastly, the P220 comes with an attractive aluminum carry case.

The Not So Good

I found the treble frequencies a little overwhelming, but that’s subjective of course. On the vocal side, it seems a tad breathy. Again, that’s more of a personal dislike than an actual negative.

View on BH

Tech Specs
Brand: AKG
Mic Type: Studio condenser
Cable: XLR to XLR (included)
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Form Factor: Mount
Connector: 3-pin XLR
Power Supply: Phantom
Signal to Noise Ratio: 78 dB-A
Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 8.9 x 5.2”
Product Weight: 18.69 oz.
Warranty: 2 years
The Pros
Reliable home studio mic
Clean audio
Sturdy, all-metal construction
Spider shockmount
Smart, aluminum carry case
-20 dB Pad
Pop filter
Includes XLR cable
The Cons
Treble frequencies overwhelming
Breathy vocals and speech

3. Aston Spirit Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic | Top Pick

Aston Spirit Large Diaphragm Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The Top Pick large diaphragm capacitor microphone is the Aston Spirit. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing mic, and some may even consider it ugly or dull. But it is an outstanding instrument.

Spirit Large Diaphragm Mic Highlights

The Aston Spirit is a high-performance microphone designed and manufactured in the UK. This mic is the brainchild of professional engineers, artists, and producers. One of the standout features is its multi-pattern capability. A body switch lets you choose between Cardioid, Omni, or bi-directional (fig-8) polar patterns. That makes it a versatile mic for use with vocals and a variety of instruments.

Users get beautiful open, warm sounds, vibrant harmonics, and transparent recording with this mic. The all-metal build includes a built-in stainless steel pop filter with mesh knit. And the location of the mounting hole makes it easy to attach the mic to a regular stand.

The Not So Good

There isn’t a USB mount. You must have the correct XLR/pro sound setup to exploit its potential. The built-in pop filter is a nice touch, but it’s not on a par with an external filter. Some users will need an extra screen to eliminate p-pops. You don’t get an XLR cable in the box, so that’s an additional cost.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Aston Microphones
Mic Type: Studio condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid, figure-of-eight, and omni-directional pick-up
Connector: XLR
Power Supply: 48V phantom
Signal to noise ratio: 94dB SPL
Product Dimensions: 20 x 10 x 10”
Product Weight: 1.38 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years
The Pros
Designed and made in the UK
Switchable pattern mic
High-quality, all-metal build
Wave-form mesh spring head
Ideal for vocals & instruments
Clear, warm sounds
Vibrant harmonics
Built-in pop filter
Custom molded end caps
Eco-friendly packaging
The Cons
No USB mount
No XLR cable
Average built-in filter

Condenser (Capacitor) Mics with Small Diaphragms

Small diaphragm condenser microphones don’t have the same sexy appeal as their larger cousins. The diaphragm is typically half an inch or even smaller in size. Many of them have a skinny pencil-like design but don’t let that put you off. These are powerful recording tools. They boast reliable pickup patterns, extended top end, and excellent transient response.

The best condenser mics with small diaphragms have highly-consistent cardioid patterns. That makes them ideal for creating realistic, ultra-precise stereo recordings. It’s also why they’re often sold as a pair. These microphones are the go-to product for musicians of acoustic instruments.

Here are 3 favorite condenser mics with small diaphragms in 3 price categories.

1. AT2021 Small Diaphragm Condenser Mic | Best Budget

AT2021 Small Diaphragm Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

My Best Budget condenser microphone with a small diaphragm is the Audio Technica AT2021. It’s a good choice for overheads, group vocals, piano, and acoustic guitars.

AT2021 Small Diaphragm Mic Highlights

The price is just right, and the quality is perfect for a mic in its class. It performs exceptionally well with high sound pressure levels (SPLs). That means distortion-free recordings, on drums, for example. The cardioid polar pattern reduces sounds from the rear and both sides. The mic has a rugged design as well as consistent performance. That includes its corrosion-resistant gold-plated XLRM contacts.

The Not So Good

The mic’s holder seems slightly big as it doesn’t tend to grip too well on the barrel. The other con is that the small size of this mic makes it awkward to hold for folks with large hands.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Audio Technica
Mic Type: Small studio condenser
Cable: XLR (not included)
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Connector: XLR
Power Supply: Phantom 48V DC
Signal to noise ratio: 75 dB
Dimensions: 4 x 0.83”
Product Weight: 2.9 oz.
Warranty: 2 years limited
The Pros
Excellent multi-purpose mic
Focused audio pickup
Studio-quality sound
Consistent performance
Copes well with high SPLs
Durable, lasting design
Value for money
The Cons
Holder to big
Small size, awkward to hold

2. Pair of Small-Diaphragm Condenser Mics | Best Value

Pair of Small-Diaphragm Condenser MicsView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.2/5

This pair of Monoprice small-diaphragm condenser mics make the Best Value slot. These transparent microphones can amplify your musical instruments with superior audio.

Monoprice Small-Diaphragm Condenser Mic Highlights

The Low profile, compact design makes this set ideal for working in tight spots. A high-quality drum kit sounds great, but when you “stereo mic” it, the sound is phenomenal. The cardioid polar patterns make this pair of microphones perfect for acoustic duets. They are identical, so they both share the same features and build. That includes a gold-sputtered 6-micron diaphragm.

This product needs +48V phantom power and a mixer to function. The extras include 2 Monoprice mic clips and a couple of windscreens. The items arrive in a storage box with precise foam cutouts for each microphone. There are 4 other cutouts for transducer capsules (sold separately).

The Not So Good

There’s no carry case. The box the mics come in is okay for storage, but it would have been nice to get a purpose carrying case for this pair. There are no other negatives considering the price.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: Monoprice
Color: Black
Material: Metal
Mic Type: Small condenser (pair)
Cable: XLR (not included)
Connector: gold-plated XLR
Power Supply: +48V Phantom
Signal to noise ratio: 80 dB
Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9”
Product Weight: 4.8 oz. (each)
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
Excellent value pair of mics
Stereo recording
Warm tone w/ extended highs
Low profile, compact design
Ideal for working in tight spots
Gold-sputtered diaphragm
Mic clips included
Windscreens included
The Cons
No carry case
XLR cable not included

3. AKG C1000S Small Diaphragm Condenser Mic | Top Pick

AKG C1000S Small Diaphragm Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

Last of the small-diaphragm condenser mics is the C1000 S by AKG. It’s a superb piece of engineering designed for live-sound recording, vocals, and musical instruments.

C1000S Small Diaphragm Mic Highlights

The product has a gold-sputtered mic capsule housing and sturdy metal chassis. It’s well-protected to work even in high-humidity settings. That makes it ideal for recording interviews and broadcasts out in the field. This versatile mic has two polar patterns. You can easily switch from the default cardioid to hypercardioid to reduce feedback still further. That’s especially valuable for stage performance.

Another neat feature is the presence-boost adapter. What that does is present the user with three discrete frequency settings. These allow you to add more clarity to instrumental sounds and speech as needed. And a low-cut filter switch reduces wind noise or other rumble type sounds.

Power Source Backup

There may be occasions when phantom power is unavailable. Well, the C1000 S covers that too. All you do is power the mic with two regular AA batteries, which should last for around 120 hours. The box also includes a microphone bag, stand adapter, PPC1000 converter, and a windscreen.

The Not So Good

The C1000S is almost perfect but not quite, or not for those working in small recording venues. It tends to have feedback issues in overly tight spaces. That’s nothing that can’t be tweaked, but worth a mention all the same. Lastly, the included external foam windscreen is a poor fit and may fall off.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: AKG Pro Audio
Mic Type: Small studio condenser
Cable: XLR (not included)
Polar Pattern: Cardioid/Hypercardioid
Connector: Gold plated 3-pin XLR
Power Supply: Phantom or 2 x AA
Maximum SPL: 137dB
Pad: -10dB
Signal to Noise Ratio: 73dB A-weighted
Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 6.7 x 3.9”
Product Weight: 11.2 oz.
Warranty: Limited 3 year
The Pros
Excellent all-around microphone
Rugged metal chassis
Gold-sputtered mic capsule
Gold plated connector
Humidity-proof
2 polar patterns
Works with AA batteries
Windscreen included
Stand adapter
Converter
Microphone bag
The Cons
Feedback in small spaces
Poor fitting foam windscreen

Ribbon Microphones

Most broadcasts and recordings used ribbon mics from the 1930s through to the mid-1970s. Advanced models are popular today, especially for guitar cabinets, drum overheads, and horns.

These mics have ultra-thin ribbons made from electro-conductive pure aluminum. The poles of super strong magnets suspend the ribbon to generate the signal. It’s a simple yet impressive technology that’s been around since the dawn of microphones.

A Unique Appeal

Ribbon microphones—also ribbon velocity mics—hear like human ears. They are the most natural type available. These mics have lots of exciting qualities not least their figure-of-8 polar pattern. Ribbon microphones do an excellent job at catching a wide range of sounds. That includes the ambiance of space as well as musical instruments and the human voice.

All mics record sound, but they don’t all record in the same way. Consider ribbons if you want a soundtrack that replicates how you hear with your ears. It’s this warm, vintage, natural sound that makes these mics so appealing to some musicians.

The Cons of a Ribbon Microphone

The downside to ribbon microphones is their fragility. That’s because the ribbon is so thin and has a large surface area. But how fragile are they? Well, it’s possible to damage the ribbon if you blow too hard into the mic, or expose it outdoors to strong gusts of wind. Either of these situations could stretch it. Horizontal storage can also damage the ribbon by causing it to sag.

The good news is that today’s ribbon mics are getting more robust, and will continue to do so.

Below are 3 best-selling ribbon microphones in 3 price categories.

1. MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone | Best Budget

MXL R144 Ribbon MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The R144 ribbon microphone by MXL is the editor’s choice for Best Budget. The mic comes complete with a shock mount—also isolation mount—and a microfiber cleaning cloth.

MXL R144 Ribbon Mic Highlights

MXL’s R144 has an attractive, compact design that makes it easy to place wherever it’s needed. The mic produces that timeless mellow ribbon sound with its familiar rich, even midrange. It uses a figure-8 or bi-directional polar pattern that captures sound from the front and rear. The mic produces natural results with vocals and musical instruments. It also helps to broaden a singer’s tonal palette.

A figure-8 pick-up is also perfect for singing duets. Sound is always subjective, but this beauty undoubtedly helps an average voice to sound much better. The mic’s high Sound Pressure Level (SPL) capability make it ideal for isolating and amplifying musical instruments.

The Not So Good

You need a decent preamp to exploit the R144’s full potential. Also, the mic doesn’t come with an external pop filter. Make sure you invest in a good one. I notice that some DIYers like to remove the mic’s inner mesh filter to increase its gain and to improve clarity. It works too, but the mic also sounds great as is. Tweaking is not something to try unless you really know what you’re doing.

View on Amazon

Tech Specs
Brand: MXL
Mic Type: Ribbon studio
Cable: XLR (not included)
Polar Pattern: Figure-8
Power Supply: Preamp & mixer
Maximum SPL: 130dB
Dimensions: 1.85 x 6.75”
Product Weight: 14.1 oz.
Warranty: Limited 1 year
The Pros
Excellent value ribbon microphone
Mellow sound w/ rich midrange
Compact design, easy placement
Shock mount included
Ultra-precise directivity
Impressive side rejection
Perfect for vocals & instruments
High SPL capability
The Cons
Needs a decent preamp
No pop filter (spit guard)
Cable not included

2. 98-G-A FAT HEAD Ribbon Microphone | Best Value

98-G-A FAT HEAD Ribbon MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

Meet the 8-G-A FAT HEAD Ribbon Mic from Cascade Microphones. The brown body and large gold grill give it a less traditional look. It’s a highly capable product for those who dare to be different.

Cascade Microphones Ribbon Mic Highlights

Cascade Microphones’ FAT HEAD is a versatile mic. It can handle all manner of vocals, musical instruments, and live sounds. That includes singers, presenters, guitar cabinets, horns, and piano, etc. The hand-tuned ribbon element and figure-of-8 polar pattern guarantee immaculate audio every time. It has a full-bodied warm signature and increased sensitivity.

The design may not be practical for every situation, but the mic doesn’t disappoint on performance. It sounds fantastic with most—though not all—of what you place in front of it.

The Not So Good

This ribbon mic needs a quality preamp to get the best out of it. Reviewers who complain about the results are most likely using a low-quality preamp. The Fat Head is perfect for electric guitars but not so great for every acoustic. The sound is just too boomy and dark for many non-electric guitars. However, brighter sounding acoustics are sure to fare better than those with warm tones.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Cascade Microphones
Mic Type: Fat Head Ribbon
Cable: XLR (not included)
Polar Pattern: Figure-8
Power Supply: Preamp & mixer
Maximum SPL: 135dB
Dimensions: 6.5 x 3”
Product Weight: 32 oz.
Warranty: Limited 5 years
Warranty (Ribbon): Limited 1 year
The Pros
Excellent value for money
Attractive design
Versatile application
Ideal for studio use
Perfect for guitar cabinets
Smart molded flight case
Leatherette pouch
Microphone clip
Microfiber cleaning cloth
The Cons
Needs a quality preamp
Not good for all acoustic guitars
No cable included

3. M160 Hypercardioid Double Ribbon Mic | Top Pick

M160 Hypercardioid Double Ribbon MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The final ribbon microphone goes to the mostly handmade German-made M160. It’s a double ribbon hyper-cardioid mic. It has a more conventional handheld design than the previous pick.

Beyerdynamic M160 Ribbon Mic Highlights

Beyerdynamic’s M160 double ribbon microphone is a fine piece of engineering. The rugged, compact design is welcome with any mic, but especially the sensitive ribbons. It’s also a versatile product that works well with vocals, drums, and amps. You can expect a natural warm sound—characteristic of these types. The difference with this one is that it’s not as dark as the typical ribbon microphones.

The M160 boasts a full frequency range, so it’s ideal for acoustic guitars, drum overheads, and individual drum types. It’s hypercardioid polar pattern makes it an excellent choice for stage performances as well as studio. Consider this double ribbon if you need to mike instruments. Some examples are viola, violin, cello, saxophone, piano, toms, and hi-hats.

The Not So Good

The M160 needs a quality preamp to exploit its full potential. That’s the case for most ribbon mics and not only this double ribbon design. You can afford a high-quality preamp if you can justify the cost of this product. The price has come down somewhat since its launch, but this is still an expensive mic.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Beyerdynamic
Mic Type: Double Ribbon
Cable: XLR (not included)
Polar Pattern: Hypercardiod
Connector: XLR 3-Pin (M)
Power Supply: Preamp & mixer
Dimensions: 6.14 x 0.90”
Head diameter: 1.49”
Product Weight: 16 oz.
Warranty: 2 years
The Pros
Double ribbon design
Made in Heilbronn, Germany
Compact, unobtrusive design
Versatile application
Easy to place
Warm, natural classic sound
Extended frequency response
The Cons
Needs quality preamp
Expensive
Cable not included