There are many vocal microphones that are suitable for stage use, from the cheapest dynamic to the most expensive condenser. You might assume that the more you spend on a microphone, the better result you’ll achieve, so why is it that a live sound engineer’s first choice is often a relatively inexpensive model? The reason is, that unlike studio microphones, where the ‘you get what you pay for’ rule generally holds true, when it comes to mics for live performance there are several factors to bear in mind, other than simply optimum audio fidelity. Venues you might perform at will vary in size, temperature and acoustic, not to mention such vital aspects as the quality of the dressing rooms and the size of the courtesy limo to the hotel! All of these factors will affect the ability to achieve a good vocal sound, and so a compromise is made to ensure that the vocal gets across to the audience in simplest and most direct way. |
This often comes down to the most basic of choices - a microphone that is rugged, straightforward in design and so less likely to go wrong, and also inexpensive to replace should it get lost or stolen. As singers on stage often hold the mic in their hand, a less sensitive design that won’t pick up handling noise and the movement of the singer is also an important consideration. You’ll often find the same microphone used for other ‘instruments’ in the band so that there are fewer different mics for the engineer to use, as the same philosophy applies all round when it comes to live sound – keep it simple! On the other hand, if you have a residency at a cocktail bar accompanied solely by a pianist for instance, and so have more control over your environment, you might feel that the more intimate surroundings would suit a higher quality microphone.
Whatever the circumstances, it’s important to know which microphone designs are available and how each of them works, so that you can make the most informed choice. To start with, we’ll look at some microphone basics: