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A microphone is a device that converts sound waves into an electrical signal. It captures acoustic vibrations through a membrane and converts their pressure into a signal. Used to amplify a sound (voice, instruments or various acoustic emissions) or to broadcast or record a sound, microphones have multiple applications. Below is an overview of the various uses and types of microphones and dedicated accessories to give you a better understanding of the variety of models available and help you choose the right microphone.

What is a microphone for?

A microphone has a variety of uses. Generally speaking, a microphone is used either to record a sound or to reproduce, broadcast or amplify its volume through speakers. There are numerous practical applications, in fields as varied as telecommunications, the media and environmental measurements.
  • Telecommunications: a microphone is essential for capturing and transmitting the voices of the people in a conversation. All telephones, smartphones and intercoms are therefore equipped with a microphone. In online conversations, the microphone built into a computer, tablet or smartphone is used as the audio receiver.
  • Sound systems and sound broadcasting: during a conference, presentation, concert or event, a microphone is used to capture the voice of speakers or the sound of instruments to amplify the volume or broadcast on a large scale.
  • Recording: microphones can also be used to capture any acoustic emission to preserve it via a recording device. Whether it's for recording an album or a radio programme, creating an audio file or adding sound to a video, a microphone is essential for capturing and laying down sound. During a video recording, a microphone can be external or integrated into the camera.
  • Acoustic measurement: microphones are used for example to determine noise pollution in cities, or in industry to assess the required level of hearing protection based on the noise pollution measured.
  • Military applications: certain specific microphones called hydrophones capture sounds in the water, notably to detect the presence of submarines.

The different microphones and microphone accessories

There is a different type of microphone for each application: microphones for the voice, musical instruments, cameras, computers and smartphones, studio microphones, wireless microphones, USB microphones, Bluetooth headset microphones, lavalier or clip microphones for discreet use, etc. There are microphones that are handheld, on a stand or boom, and a whole range of accessories to adapt to the desired use and acoustic quality.
The most common microphone accessories include the various supporting devices (stands, telescopic booms, fastening components, elastic suspensions, etc.), power and connection cables, and adapters. There are also many accessories designed to improve the acoustic quality, for example foam or synthetic hair covers that reduce wind noise when capturing sound outside, pop filters that reduce mouth noise when capturing the voice and reflection filters that improve the acoustics. Discover all our products

How to choose a microphone

Each type of microphone has its own specific use. A dynamic microphone is undoubtedly the most common: this affordable and versatile type can withstand high sound pressure levels and is perfectly suited to the stage and close mic'ing techniques. A static condenser microphone is better for far-field or studio audio capture and for voice and acoustic instruments. However, it requires an external power source and is more fragile. Meanwhile, electret models have the advantage of being able to be miniaturised.
To decide which type of microphone is best suited to your needs, you'll need to define what conditions it will be used in (indoors or outdoors, distance from the sound source, the type of sound, etc.) and consider the various criteria of the product.
  • Sensitivity: A microphone's sensitivity is measured in millivolts per Pascal (mV/Pa) or in decibel-Volt (dBV). This corresponds to the output voltage according to the sound pressure level. The higher this sensitivity is, the better the captured audio will be.
  • Directivity: this defines the audio capture area. An omnidirectional microphone can uniformly capture ambient sounds in a 360° radius, while a cardioid or unidirectional microphone only captures sound from the front, with an angle of around 130°. A cardioid microphone, which is most suitable for recording voice, is also the most common type. There is also a type of microphone called a "shotgun" or "ultra-cardioid" microphone, which captures audio at long distances, and bidirectional microphones for stereo audio capture, for example in an interview. Meanwhile, a supercardioid or hypercardioid microphone refers to a product with a narrower acoustic sensitivity, with an angle of usually no more than 115°.
  • Blowing or inherent noise: this is the noise generated by a microphone itself. The lower this is, the higher-quality the audio will be.
  • Maximum sound pressure level: this is the sound pressure level above which a membrane saturation phenomenon occurs.
  • Response curve: this is used to measure a microphone's sensitivity to different frequencies.
  • Connections and power: depending on the product you choose, microphones may have an XLR, jack or USB connection. Some microphones also require battery power or so-called phantom power. It's up to you to choose which type of cables and power are right for the recording setup you're using.
  • Other deciding factors: the weight and size of a microphone might also be important, particularly if it's being transported regularly. Its robustness also needs to be considered: for outdoor use, a sturdy model that withstands dampness and pressure changes is best. Lastly, microphones are available at all kinds of prices: decide how much you want to pay based on how often you'll be using the microphone and what level of quality you want.

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