When the moment of getting the right microphone for your voice recording comes, you want to be sure that you get exactly what you need: the highest recording quality to get the most out of your vocal talent. Today you will learn about some factors that you might want to consider when it comes to determine the best microphone for your soft vocals recording.
This topic, of course, brings the age old questions: What microphones are the best? Which one should I buy?
Although there is no definite answer to the questions above, being able to narrow your search by knowing what to look for out there will surely cover a lot of ground into the path of your voice recording. This way, let me introduce you to some considerations about choosing a microphone:
#1: Usability: What’s the best microphone out there? The one that gives you the less amount of technical trouble. When all other specifications are equal, go for the one with the simplest setup, the one that will enable you to record as soon as possible, aiming for the closest “plug and play” approach.
#2: Frequency Response: Have you seen the different sizes between microphones? These sizes are differentiated by their diaphragm. A larger diaphragm microphone will be useful to record lower frequencies like the ones of a deep male voice, a bass guitar or even a bass drum. The smaller capsule microphones are designed to get the most out of higher and brighter frequencies like the ones of female voices, acoustic guitars, cymbals or violins from an orchestra.
When speaking of frequencies, we’re talking about how many times a certain sound wave is vibrating, numbered in cycles per second. The frequencies are measured in Hertz because of German physicist Heinrich Hertz. Regarding the human voice, Hertz will measure the number of times your vocals fold will vibrate per second.
A healthy male voice will go between 110-120 Hz
A female voice will go between 200-210 Hz
Children voices will go between 300-400 Hz
These measures will apply for the spoken voice, and can go around another 100 Hz lower or higher for professional singers. Each particular sound in the musical scale will vibrate to a certain frequency, such as the A 440 Concert Pitch, meaning that the A sound at the center of the piano is produced when the sound wave is vibrating at 440 Hz per second.
#3: Directionality: Time to decide which directional pattern (also known as microphone’s polar pattern) is the most appropriate. For your soft vocal recording a focused directional pattern is likely best, so you should search for a hypercardioid or cardioids polar pattern. This particular type will help to minimize the room’s noises and it’s designed to pick up sounds in close proximity to the microphone, just like you need for your soft singing.
#4: Pop Filter: This is must buy accessory for your soft vocals recording, since it will reduce the ‘popping’ effect that will come out of P and B sounds pronunciation from most of the singers. It will also reduce the amount of sibilance coming from S and C sounds, so that hissing will be more treatable in the mixing process.
#5: Shock Mount: The shock mount is an accessory that will allow your microphone to hold it in place. One of the benefits you will get is that the microphone will be isolated for any stand vibrations like an under foot rumbling for instance.
#6: Testing: What if you have to choose among many candidates? Maybe the best option is to get them for a test drive before deciding for one particular microphone. You can experiment with a friend’s microphone; get ones for rental for just a couple of bucks. The point being that you will be able to experience the microphone, and therefore decide whether if it fits or not your needs.
Reviews of microphones for soft vocal recording
Now that we have a checklist that will help us to decide between the wide range of excellent microphone equipment for our soft vocals recording, it is time to list some of the best microphones out there for your purpose. In this article we will give you a nice price/quality relationship, to make sure you get the most of your well earned money:
- Shure SM58: The Shure SM58 has been a long favorite for all time, the most popular vocal mic in the world. Being good for performance it is just as good for your studio recording because it is has resistance to feedback, an ergonomic capsule and rugged casing. It is a dynamic mic that will go well with your female singer, since it will work wonders with close singing, perfect for a soft voice, keeping it bright and intimate.
- Rode NT1A: This time we introduce this large diaphragm mic to enhance the qualities of your soft singing male voice. Its diaphragm will allow you to pick up the best from the lower register (therefore lower frequencies) of your singer, that pillow-talking tone that goes well in most of the soft vocals male recordings. Budget wise it is a nice mid-priced microphone from Rode company that doesn’t need a lot of preamping to get the right sound from soft vocals, but if you run it through a good tube preamp you will get a nice warm and pristine sound from it.
- ShureM7B: The Shure Company makes another appearance in this list with a microphone that is specifically tailored for vocals, that holds the badge of being the one used by Michael Jackson for his Thriller album. The warm and rich sound it can give to almost-spoken type of soft singing is amazing and recognized by artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennnings or Anthony Kiedis.
- Sennheiser MD421: Although is not viewed as a traditional “vocal microphone”, It is regarded as one of the best dynamic mics out there. The game here is versatility: you can record a good male or female soft vocal recording with it thanks to its great frequency response. Being used by such giants like George Harrison (Concert for Bangladesh) or Leon Russell should give you a reference of how does it works. You can also record your bright acoustic guitars and percussion to compy your vocals and it will also do the job! So if versatility at the best price is what you’re looking for, the Sennheiser’s MD421 will prove worth of your choice.
- Rode NTK: This time we are getting a condenser for the list. Most of the audio experts will agree that, for vocals, nothing beats the great warm and vintage sound of a tube microphone. But here’s an issue: most of them will go over the $1000 budget. So here’s the NTK, a nice price/quality choice that will get you a nice smooth full-range sound for your soft vocal recording, widely accepted as a quality trademark for Rode Company.
- The sE Electronics sE220a II: Known as a classic mic, it is the perfect piece of equipment every studio should have: a multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone. The versatility you can with it is amazing, being able to pick up the best out of your singer without most of the issues coming from directional adjustments.
- Neumann TLM102: For under $1000, the Neumann company puts this nice microphone out there doing a great job in offering you a great quality for the best price. Being so popular, it lives to the saying that Neumann’s mics are one of the best vocal mics. From crowning falsetto to low airy vocals, the TLM102 will do an excellent job at the studio.
Happy with our list? Be sure to check out for reviews and videos to experience every microphone on it!