Importance of Microphones and Their Placements in Music Production

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Good quality music equipment has become much more accessible now. You can get industry-standard results with your music in the comfort of your own home.

So here are reasons why you should consider getting high-quality equipment, specifically microphones.

Microphone Characteristics

There are many microphone features to be aware of. Here are some common characteristics worth knowing to help you gauge what microphone you need.


The transducer is what converts the acoustic energy the microphone records into an electric signal.

When it comes to music production, the two most common microphones being used are the dynamic and the condenser microphones.

The way dynamic microphones pick up signal is through a line made up of the diaphragm, voice coil, and followed by a magnet that surrounds the coil in a magnetic field.

An electric signal is generated when sound waves hit the diaphragm, causing it to vibrate. Since the voice coil is attached to the diaphragm, it vibrates along with it.

It is the motion of the coil around the magnetic field that generates an electrical signal.

Condenser microphones utilize a diaphragm and a backplate that creates a sound-sensitive capacitor. As for their placement, the diaphragm is mounted in front of the backplate.

When charged, there is a magnetic field created between them. The diaphragm also moves when this occurs. The electric signal is created due to the diaphragm’s motion relative to the backplate.

The difference in their construction is what makes the condenser microphone more sensitive than the dynamic microphone.

Dynamic microphones are made more simply. The diaphragm is made of thin plastic, and the magnet is relatively small. However, this doesn’t make them a bad choice.

On the contrary, they can handle high sound levels and are unaffected by extreme temperatures.

Condenser microphones are more sensitive and they require external sources of power to make them work. These external power supplies come from batteries or phantom power (found in audio interfaces).

The advantage that they have is that they can record clear and detailed takes, which makes them great choices for recording vocals in a studio.

Frequency Response

Frequency response is the next characteristic found in a microphone.

This is the output level of the microphone over its operating range.

A flat frequency response is equally sensitive to all frequencies. A microphone with this type of response reproduces the sound source as accurately as it can.

Shaped frequency response is more sensitive in certain areas compared to others. Unlike a flat frequency response, it has peaks and valleys and is typically less sensitive to the lower frequencies.

Condenser microphones have a flatter, while not completely flat, frequency response. They have almost equal sensitivity to all frequencies, which makes them more sensitive.

Dynamic microphones have a more shaped frequency response. They are less sensitive to lower frequencies.

What frequency response you’ll prefer will depend on what you are recording and the area you are recording in.


The last characteristic that will be mentioned is directionality.

Directionality refers to the microphone’s sensitivity relative to the direction it picks up sound.

The three directionalities associated with microphones are unidirectionality, bi-directionality, and omnidirectionality.

Unidirectional, also known as cardioid, only picks up sound from one direction, the front. Bi-directional picks up sounds coming from the front and back and not the sides. Omnidirectional picks up signals equally in all directions.

Both condenser and dynamic microphones come in unidirectional directionality.

Microphone Placement

Now that you are familiar with the core microphone features, we’ll get into the importance of microphone placement.

As discussed earlier, there are many characteristics that a microphone has that affect what and how it will record sound. This is why knowing where to place them is just as important.

There are a couple of placement techniques you can incorporate in your recording setup that compliments the two common microphones.

Close Mic Placement

The first placement is what most people are familiar with. Hence, this is the most commonly used placement.

You place the microphone around 3 feet away from whatever you are recording. This results in a dry and direct recording. This can be advantageous since you can control the sound of the take during the post-process and mixing portion of the production.

Remember that this is best achieved in a room that has little to no noise. This is to ensure that the only thing the microphone picks up is the sound being recorded and nothing else.

3-to-1 rule

The 3-to-1 rule applies to a setting that has different sound sources and microphones in an area. So this principle is followed in many recording studios.

The rule says that if a microphone is one unit of measurement away from the source it is recording, the other microphone should be at least three units of measurement away from the microphone that will record.

So let’s say you record a guitar amp and the microphone is 5 inches away from the amp. The other microphone should then be 15 inches away from the active microphone.

The goal is to lessen sound leakage from occurring. Sound leakages can ruin an otherwise good recording take. This concept applies to cardioid microphones, which are the pattern of many dynamic and condenser microphones.

You can take the rule further and follow a 5-to-1 rule if you think you need more distance away from the recording microphone.

Distance Mic Placement

This is the opposite of close mic placement. Instead, you are putting the microphone further away from the source. The goal is to create a natural reverb and also add some ambiance in the recording.

However, this type of placement is only really for studios with proper room treatment. It will be difficult to get the same result in your home studio.

The best thing to do when recording in a home studio is to do a close mic and then add effects like reverb after.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I position condenser microphones to avoid excess noise?

If you are recording vocals, chances are you want to avoid breathing and plosives from being recorded.

Positioning the condenser microphone slightly off-center will do the trick. Try to still keep the microphone in front so it is pointed to your mouth.

As for plosives, a pop filter should help block those off.

What instruments are good for recording using a dynamic microphone?

Dynamic microphones are a good choice for recording guitar amps. Since they are less sensitive to lower frequencies, this makes it perfect for not picking up rumbles and low sounds from the amp.

They’ll also be able to accentuate the mid frequencies, which could benefit your guitar sound.

Is there a standardized distance for close and distant placements?

There is no one distance that you should follow. The distance depends on what sound you are going for as well as the microphone’s quality.

Experimenting with different distances and placements is also a good way of identifying how close or far your microphone should be.


We hope this article gives you a more nuanced understanding of microphones and the importance of understanding placement.

The best way to master this is to do it. Hopefully, you can start experimenting with your microphone and the different results you can get from different placements.

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