The Different Types Of Mics And Their Uses

The Different Types Of Mics And Their Uses

Microphone Gear Guides

These guides explain what you need to consider when buying microphones and also show you which mics have the highest Gearank scores:

This article will help you understand what the main kinds of microphones are that are used in music production, both live and recording, and what each type of mic is typically used for.

Microphone Polar Patterns

Polar patterns describe how microphones pick up sound, showing specifically where mics 'listen' spatially and which positions are blocked. Having a good grasp of these polar patterns will help you select the right mics that capture the sound that you need while minimizing unwanted noise.

Cardioid Microphones

Cardioid polar pattern Cardioid mics capture everything in front and block everything else. This front-focused pattern will let you point the mic to a sound source and isolate it from unwanted ambient sound, making it ideal for live performance and other situations where noise reduction and feedback suppression are needed. Cardioid mics surpass other polar patterns by far in terms of popularity, used widely in live performances, from karaoke to big arena concerts. Other common uses include miking loud instruments like drum kits and guitar speakers. Note that these types of mics add subtle sound coloration when the source is off axis, which is why mic position when speaking and singing is very important.

Super/Hyper Cardioid Microphones

Supercardioid polar pattern Hypercardioid polar pattern These mics have the same front directionality, but have a narrower area of sensitivity compared to cardioids. This results in improved isolation and higher resistance to feedback. Because of their enhanced ability to reject noise, you can use these for loud sound sources, noisy stage environments or even for untreated recording rooms. On the flip side, back rejection is a bit compromised, so you will have to position unwanted sounds like stage monitors and drum kits on the dead spot sides.

Omnidirectional Microphones

Omnidirectional polar pattern These are microphones that capture sound from all angles. Because of their non-directional design and zero rejection, these mics capture nuances better, resulting in a more natural sound. You can use these mics in studios and other venues (like old churches) with great acoustics, and can also be used for live recording of multiple instruments, as long as the noise level is low. The obvious downside is that they lack background noise rejection and are prone to monitor feedback, which makes them unsuitable for loud and noisy venues.

Figure-8 Microphones

Figure-8 polar pattern The name of this pattern is derived from its graphical representation, which looks like the number 8. The long and short of it is that Figure-8 mics capture the sound of both the front and back, while rejecting the two sides. This front and back sensitivity makes them idea for stereo recording and for capturing two or more instruments. They are essentially like omni directional mics, but with sound rejection on two sides. Although not as popular as other polar patterns, the figure-8 is commonly used on ribbon mics and on some large diaphragm condenser microphones.

Shotgun Microphones

Figure-8 polar pattern Shotgun mics, also called Line and Gradient, feature a tube like design that make their polar pattern even more directional than hyper cardioids. The capsule is placed at the end of an interference tube, which eliminates sound from the sides via phase cancellation. This design results in a tighter polar pattern up front with longer pickup range. Although Shotgun mics are more commonly used for film and theatre, they also make great overhead mics for capturing things like singing groups, chorals, drum cymbals. .

Switchable/Multi-Pattern Microphones

These are microphones that can change between different polar patterns, allowing for versatile placement. Many of today's USB condenser microphones have this feature, letting you switch between multiple patterns by simply flicking a switch. Others provide the same flexibility through changing the mic head. The advantage that these mics offer is obvious, more positioning possibilities and more usage. Just remember to be careful when handling these mics, you don't want to accidentally damage the extra moving parts and circuitry that give them their versatility.

Diaphragm Sizes

Microphones pick up sounds through their diaphragm, a thin material that vibrates when it comes into contact with sound. This vibration converts sonic energy into electrical energy. While there is no actual standard unit of measurement, there are currently three main classifications for mic diaphragms, all of which are referring to the diaphragm's mass. The size of the diaphragm affects the microphone's sound pressure level handling, sensitivity, dynamic range and internal noise level.

Small Diaphragm

Small Diaphragm MicrophoneMics with small diaphragms are commonly called pencil mics because of their thin cylindrical shapes. Their compact design makes them lighter and easier to position, and interestingly, they are designed to be stiffer, to handle higher sound pressure levels and have wider dynamic range. You can use them on acoustic guitars, hi-hats, cymbals, and other instruments. Known limitations of this particular diaphragm type are increased internal noise, and low sensitivity.

Large Diaphragm

Large Diaphragm MicrophoneThe bigger the diaphragm, the more it can sense air vibrations, and the more vibrations are captured, more of the sonic details are faithfully reproduced. Unlike small diaphragms that are stiff, large diaphragms move easily, allowing them to detect even faint differences in sound pressure levels which result in a more transparent and natural sound. This affinity to fidelity has made large diaphragm mics a staple in recording studios, and they are now the most common configuration used on modern USB mics. You can use them to record just about anything, from vocals to guitars and other instruments, just make sure that you keep the volume in check because they can distort when the sound pressure level is increased.

Medium Diaphragm

Medium Diaphragm MicrophoneMedium Diaphragm mics are sometimes called hybrid because they combine the characteristics of small and large diaphragms. They tend to have a slightly fuller and warm sound similar to large diaphragms while retaining some of the high frequency content that small diaphragms could. These are modern microphones that are gaining reputation in both live and recording situations, but essentially, you can skip on these mics if you're setting up a small home studio or a small venue, especially if you already have large and small diaphragm mics to work with.

3 Types of Microphones used in Music

Here are the three types of microphones most commonly used in music, available with either XLR or USB connectivity. Note that USB powered versions don't require phantom power.


Dynamic MicIf you're looking for something reliable and versatile, then you ought to start with dynamic mics. Thanks to their moving coil magnetic diaphragm, these mics reliably capture sound and can do so even at high sound pressure levels. As such, you can use them for miking loud sound sources like bass and guitar amplifiers, and even drum kits without worrying about unwanted distortion or damage. Finally, they are not just for high SPL (Sound Pressure Level) applications because they work quite well in quieter settings.

Click here to see which Dynamic Microphones we recommend.


Condenser MicCondenser mics have a thin conductive diaphragm that sits close to a metal backplate. This configuration works like a capacitor wherein sound pressure vibrates the diaphragm which in turn changes the capacitance to produce the audio signal. Since they use capacitance instead of actual moving coils, fidelity and sound quality is improved, making these mics ideal for precision recording in the studio. Note that this method of sound capture requires power, so you'll need a mixer or direct box with phantom power (except in cases where batteries are used). Whatever instrument you are trying to record, condenser mics will get the job done so long as the sound pressure levels aren't too high. Just remember to handle them with care as they are not as sturdy as dynamic mics.

Click here to see which Condenser Microphones we recommend.


Ribbon MicWhile these mics are no longer as popular, Ribbon mics were once very successful particularly in the radio industry. The light metal ribbon used in these mics allows it to pickup the velocity of the air and not just air displacement. This allows for improved sensitive to higher frequencies, capturing higher notes without the harshness while retaining a warm vintage voicing. These days, interest for Ribbon mics have returned, especially since modern production ribbon mics are now sturdier and more reliable than their old counterparts, making them viable for live multi-instrument recording on venues where noise level is manageable. You can also use them for recording if you're looking for vintage vibe, or you can set it up in combination with dynamic or condenser mics for a more open sounding track.

We recommend the Royer R-121 Ribbon Microphone.

Practical Microphone Applications in Music

Here we look at the main purpose each kind of microphone is typically used for. This is a good guide to get you started and once you gain experience with each mic type you'll find additional applications that work for you.


Mic for VocalsFor live vocal performances where stage volume can get loud and feedback suppression is important, the best choice is to use cardioid mics - see our guide to the best microphones for singing live. Recording vocals on the other hand is a different undertaking that requires more attention to the singer's nuances, as such large diaphragm condensers work best. If you are going for a more vintage sounding vocal recording, use ribbon mics or go for good old dynamic mics instead. In addition, small diaphragm omnidirectional mics and shotgun mics can be used for capturing choirs and singing groups, and are especially useful when choirs perform in venues with great acoustics, like churches.

Here are our vocal mic recommended lists:


Mic kit for DrumsBecause acoustic drum kits are naturally loud and punchy, you'll want to go with dynamic cardioid mics for the snare, bass and toms. Small diaphragm microphones can then be used to capture the nuances of the hi-hat, ride and cymbals. For best results, there are specialized mics that are fine tuned to handle the different frequencies and SPLs of each part of a drum kit, you can either get them one by one or go for convenient drum kit mic bundles. In the studio, you can setup an Omnidirection or ribbon mic to blend in some ambience into your drum tracks.

Here are the mics we recommend for drums:

Electric Guitar Amplifier

Mic for Electric Guitar AmpsClose mic'd guitar amplifiers are as loud, sometimes louder than drum kits, and as such they require mics that can handle high SPL. Your best bet is a cardioid or hyper cardioid dynamic mic that is well positioned in front of the amp speaker. Again a second condenser mic or ribbon mic, set back at a distance, can be used in case you are using multiple amps or if you want a warmer more classic sounding output, or in combination with a close mic to capture some of the room ambience.

These dynamic mics are great for recording guitar amps.

Acoustic Guitar

Mic for Acoustic GuitarAcoustic guitars when not amplified have a softer sound with immersive nuances. These type of instruments require the fidelity and quality of large diaphragm condenser mics. You can also go for a well placed Cardioid condenser mic or Figure-8 pattern ribbons depending on the situation and noise level. Finally, setting up an extra small diaphragm mic will work wonders in capturing the higher frequencies that sometimes get lost when acoustics are plugged in or miked directly up front.

See which mics we recommend for Acoustic Guitars.

Microphone Summary

We've talked about the main types of microphones you'll use in various situations, however as you gain experience you'll also learn how to break with convention. If there's anything more you would like to know about microphones then please feel free to ask in the comments below.


What is the best sort of

What is the best sort of microphone for using for internet chats via messengeer

Hello, Thank you for the

Hello, Thank you for the great article. I am looking to mic an area in an outdoors horse arena. My goal is to be able to have a rider in a good size area (200+ sf) be able to be picked up (speaking/projecting their voice)when they are in that area. I am thinking shotgun but not sure if they cast too narrow an area. It would need to be fairly weather proof and hopefully wireless. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Matthew,

Hi Matthew,

A mid to long shotgun mic would be appropriate for your situation. If you want more directionality, go with the longer one. If you want more environment, get a mid length mic. I recommend the Audio Technica AT8035


I'm looking for a microphone

I'm looking for a microphone/array that will block out noise by the distance from the source. In other words I only want to hear sound that originated under 3 meters from me.

Hi Eitan,

Hi Eitan,

We don't have a guide for this mic type but I think what you're looking for would be a shotgun microphone. They are commonly used in filmmaking to capture a specific sound source in a narrow area.

Here is an instructional video from Shure about Shotgun Mics: How Shotgun Microphones Work


I would like to know what

I would like to know what kind of microphone is suitable for machine-monitoring in a noisy factory?(Strange sound might be made during machine operating incorrectly)

In "Pumped Up Kicks", the

In "Pumped Up Kicks", the singer's voice is sort of distorted throughout the entire song as if it's coming out of a radio, and in the music video, you can see the microphone he is using. I would like to know the name of the microphone/technique being used here. I think it is the same one used in the first part of BTS Jung Kook's "Still With You" before his voice sounds like the normal studio voice. I have hear something about this being a talkbox effect? I don't really know

Hi Ema,

Hi Ema,

I wouldn't base the kind of mic a singer is using on a music video. All I can say is that the voice has been processed in post with plugins or analog gear to have that effect. It's more of a clever application of high cut and low cut with some saturation during the mix.


I'm a journalist which

I'm a journalist which microphone is the best for my work?

Hi Hauwau Allyu,

Hi Hauwau Allyu,

For journalism, a shotgun mic picks up more of your voice and rejects sound that isn't directly in front of it. Live news field reporters use shotgun mics to focus on their voice especially in loud environments.


Which mic will be best for

Which mic will be best for recording vocal and guitar at the same time? Which mic can capture vocal and guitar together with same intensity?

Hello Partha Jana,

Hello Partha Jana,

Condenser mics would be your top pick. As for capturing guitar and vocals together, mic position plays a crucial role as to what you capture.


Thanks for the article!

Thanks for the article!

In an exhibition setting, I want to have the sound of people stepping on a plastic carpet louder. Considering that most of the mics are noise cancellation, I want the exact opposite effect. Which type of microphone could I use?

Thank you!

Hi Sofia,

Hi Sofia,

One type of mic you can try is something called a "boundary mic". It's a floor positioned mic that picks up sound by reflections. I've never tried a boundary mic on carpet but on a flat surface, the proximity of the footsteps becomes more apparent and you can blend that in with another mic placed elsewhere.


i used to lve american made .

I used to love american made .. but there is not any made in usa ... so i changed to made in germany

Hi if I may know. Where does

Hi if I may know, where does boom mic lie and how many types of boom mics do we have?

Don't quote me but I believe

Don't quote me but I believe a boom would be in the shotgun mic category given it's shape and use.

Could you please include all

Could you please include all the different microphones that go with their ideal pick-up pattern?

We publish many microphone

We publish many microphone guides which are based on features such as price, diaphragm size, diaphragm type (dynamic, condenser etc.) and type of connection (USB or XLR), however we haven't had any previous requests to base one on polar patterns (pickup patterns).

Please elaborate on why you want us to make a list based on polar pattern types and we'll consider the request.

I would like to record

I would like to record harmonica against karaoke or backing track. (That will go go a sound card). Output will go to another input of soundcard.Which mic would you recommend?

I am looking for a whole room

I am looking for a whole room mic to to connect to my I phone7 to live stream a church service.

I have a home made studio for

I have a home made studio for recording known as The Legend Gospel studio, I need wireless microphones that I can use for best results of my works.

Hi Maurice!

Hi Maurice!

You've come to the right place! We have a guide up for The Best Wireless Microphones that you can read to check which one suits your studio's needs!

Though wireless mics are usually used live, they're also great studio tools especially when filming livestreams as there won't be any cables lying around the studio area when you stream.


Could you please include all

Could you please include all the different microphones that go with their ideal pick up pattern?

Brilliant piece. Just what I

Brilliant piece. Just what I've been looking for. This article is now saved in my "Bookmarks" header for future reference.

our church is doing drive in

our church is doing drive in church in the Covid epidemic, We are then sending it to facebook live so those at home can listen also. We have a lot of wind here and it sometimes takes over the mic. What kind should we use in this windy environ we live in? Newbee here.

What would be the best

What would be the best microphone for filming doctors on a camera

Sir kindly suggest me a mic

Sir kindly suggest me a mic which is most sensitive mic to capture all types of sounds inclusive with surrounded noise as well with-in the open field.
Note: (Relevant to stumps mics)


what type of mic would be suitable for live outdoor/indoor choir performance of school aged students?

Recommendations on

Recommendations on microphones for live performances of ensembles?; trying to create more of a coffee house feel. Is there a microphone that would pick up a keyboard, violin player and 3 vocalists?

I am looking for miniature

I am looking for miniature Mike that is sensitive enough to pickup heart beat sound.

Pretty much any microphone

Pretty much any microphone that you can place on someone's chest aught to work - for extra sensitivity go for a condenser rather than a dynamic mic.

Condenser mic is best for

Condenser mic is best for studio recording, but are very fragile. They do however give you the best sound quality overall because they pick up sound in close range and “shut out” ambient sound. I’d say maybe a Lavalier mic would be great for gaming or the ones that come attached to a headphone.

Hi, i've purchased a Sony HXR

Hi, i've purchased a Sony HXR nx5E Camcorder and would like to try both indoor and out door interviewing, i have a shotgun mic with the camera, what would you advise I use to achieve best quality?... thank you. Alan


What are the types of mics which are used to record the Foley Sounds? Either inside or outside the studio.


So helpful. I'm running a club at school that will include foley sound work, radio dramas, and podcast interviews. Three setups. Thinking of two sets of lavalier mics for the interviews going into a laptop or possibly a used H1 or H2 Zoom for field work. Unsure what to get for the radio dramas. Limited budget for sure. Any thoughts? Thanks!

I teach 20 3rd - 5th grade

I teach 20 3rd - 5th grade children to play ukulele and sing each year. At the end of the school year the kids give a recital, but without amplification. This year we have money for a microphone -- what is best for a group of this size? Thanks!

Assuming that you already

Assuming that you already have a PA System to plug your mics into, then I'd usually go with a pair of Cardiod Condenser mics like these from Samson - but you will have to check with your sound technician first to see if your PA System provides phantom power to operate the mics.

If you don't have phantom power then you'll need a couple of dynamic mics. The industry standard is the Shure SM58 however the GLS Audio ES-58-S is a good budget alternative.

I am looking for professional

I am looking for professional quality mic for a youtube channel. I would be grateful for any recommendations or suggestions.

I am really struggling for

I am really struggling for choice of mic. We have a ukulele group and sing and play. Some of us are comfortable on dynamic mics, not scared off by the sound of our own voice. Others, however, well, a little timid. There are 12 of us (more sometimes) our harmonies are great but we need to be able to pick up the overall sound - not sure what kind of mic would be best, only one or two of the ukes have pickups, so we need to mic up some of the vocals and pretty well all of the ukes. What do you suggest?

Which mikes only pick up

Which mikes only pick up close (noise cancelling) and which are the ones that pick up everything around?

Microphones don't use noise

Microphones don't use noise cancelling, instead they have different polar patters to determine which directions they pick up sound from.

Cardioid mics pick up sound from in front while Omnidirectional mics pick it up from all directions.

Hi. I am looking for a mic

Hi. I am looking for a mic suggestion for vocals where I picture the mic will be on boom over a large drum with multiple singers sitting around it. I intend to mic the drum with a kick mic on a short stand from below.

It would be ideal if the vocals mic could somehow reject below it to some extent as the drum can be very loud.

The room is big and the speakers are a long way from each drum. But it is a large gymnasium so acoustics are lively.

To make matters worse it can't be too expensive (unless you suggest a mic I have lol) . I need to mic 4 groups at the same time.. I do this event only once a year.. and due to cultural protocols there is no money exchanged.

... But I want to do it right so I'm open to any ideas.

Right now I have one wireless 58 on a boom stand and a tech moves it from drum to drum between songs. none of the singers are on axis so they sound far away, and the drum is boomy because the mic is too far above it.

Any help, is very appreciated.

i was wondering if i could

I was wondering if i could use a lapelle mic for live band use. My aim is to make more of a show of running round a venue but carrying on vocally singing but wondering about issues of feedback etc.

That should work just fine -

That should work just fine - it's common practice in musical theater and I've used wireless lavaliere mics (the technical name for lapel mics) in that context successfully many times.