How to make your microphones sound better

Part of the learning process of any audio engineer is learning the art of taking what they have and doing their best to make it sound better. Whether it be recording, mixing or mastering, this is essentially an audio engineers’ job. Working with microphones is no exception. Learning to use the proper tools such as pop filters, windscreens and shock mounts in conjunction with your microphones will lead to better quality recordings. Lets review a few of the basic tools in today’s Studio Corner Blog Session.

What are Plosives?

When dealing with the human voice in live or recording situations, you are going to come across what is known as plosives. Don’t worry though, plosives are natural and can be controlled if understood.

What is a plosive? Plosives are that sudden burst of air that humans emit when singing or saying words that contain a P, S, C, K or V. Other letter can cause this sudden burst of air depending on the performer, but these are the most common occurrences

In your DAW, you’ll know a plosive has been recorded because the waveform looks like a little football. To learn more about how to handle plosives when recording and mixing, please read “How to edit and mix plosives”

With that being said, let’s look at our first option to improving our microphone’s performance

Pop Filters

A pop filter is a definitive must buy when owning a studio. Aside from being relatively inexpensive they will change and improve your vocal recordings drastically. Most microphones have an internal mesh screen built into the casing typically found right in front of the capsule of the microphone. This barrier type mesh is good for typical usage but when recording you will need more control of your vocalist’s dynamics.

A properly placed pop filters will allow you to control the distance that a performer is from the microphone which is crucial in capturing a great tone and sound in the studio. Each performer is unique just like every microphone out there and finding the perfect distance is part of creating and capturing that perfect vocal take in your DAW.

Pop Filters will also help control the plosive impulses coming from your vocalist. Plosives are inevitable in every recording. A pop filter will not only create distance between the microphone and performer, the mesh screen of the pop filter will help dissipate the extreme push of air created by the plosive leading to a smoother annunciation. This will lead to better audio quality and performance when it comes time to mix.

Another reason for pop filters is to save your precious investment, your microphones, from saliva and spit from your performers. Any hint of moisture that finds its way into microphone may lead to sound degradation and may make the microphone inoperable. Be careful and protect your investments with a pop filter.

Shock Mounts

Shock mounts are needed when dealing with large diaphragm condenser microphones because of their extreme sensitivity to vibration and mechanical noise. When capturing a vocal performance without a shock mount, any sudden movement or step towards or away from the microphone will be picked up by the microphone. This is because the vibrations of these movements are being sent through the microphone cable and up through the microphone stand. Shock mounts do not allow these vibrations to be heard because the microphone is an essence floating in midair. Because there is no direct contact between the microphone and the stand, the vibrations will not translate into the microphone at audible levels.

Capturing a great vocal performance will require a shock mount especially if you are looking to take your level of recordings from amateur to professional.

Wind Screens

Wind screens are the solution to controlling the damaging effects that outside wind can have when recording. When shooting on “location,” sometimes wind can be an unexpected hurdle to overcome. Heavy winds will produce a low rumble in your microphones that will translate into horrible recordings that can’t be fixed during the mix process.

A large windscreen, like a blimp, for example, will be very effective in controlling the amount of wind when recording outside.