Basic Audio Terms You Should Learn Before Buying a Microphone

If this is your first time shopping for a microphone, the process can be daunting, especially when you need help understanding the jargon and specs. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn about the audio-related technical specifications you need to know to help you choose the right microphone for your needs.

Microphone Types

There are certain types of microphones for specific purposes. Knowing the types of mics helps you choose the right mic whether it's for gaming, recording vocals, podcasting, or making vlogs or videos. 

A dynamic microphone is a type of microphone that is frequently used for both general-purpose recording and live performances. A tiny magnet and a wire coil are used to transform sound waves into electrical impulses. They are less sensitive to background noise in surroundings since they do not pick up on every little detail. Dynamic microphones are convenient to use anywhere because they don't need an external power source, such as batteries or phantom power.


Condenser microphones are sensitive and accurate in high-quality studio recordings that capture every sound detail of instruments and voices. Condenser microphones are more sensitive than dynamic microphones. They are frequently used for gaming, recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and other studio applications where sound quality is essential since they can catch a wide range of frequencies and subtle noises.

  • Ribbon¬†

A ribbon microphone is a type of microphone that produces a pleasant, natural, and smooth sound. Compared to other types of microphones, they are more brittle because they use a narrow ribbon of metal to capture sound. Ribbon microphones, like dynamic microphones, don't require an external power supply, but they are more fragile in handling. They are usually used in professional studios and are generally rare and expensive.

  • Lavalier

A lavalier microphone, often known as a lapel mic, is a tiny, hands-free microphone that you can clip or attach to your clothing. It frees up your hands for other tasks, making it ideal for performances, interviews, and presentations. It's easy to use since you can connect it directly to a camera or recording device, or to a transmitter if wireless. If you need this type of mic, you can add the MAONO XLR10 Premium Lavalier Microphone to your cart and grab yours now. 

  • Shotgun Microphone

A shotgun microphone is a directional, highly focused mic that functions similarly to a flashlight pointed in the direction you want to hear sounds. It earns its name because of its long, narrow shape, resembling a shotgun's barrel. Its design allows it to reject sound from certain directions and capture sound even over long distances. This makes it excellent for recording audio from a specific source while reducing background noise. Shotgun mics are frequently used in TV and film production to minimize ambient noise while capturing speech or sound effects.

Polar Patterns 

Polar patterns describe the direction from which sound can be captured by the microphone. It explains how sensitive the microphone is to sound coming from various angles (such as cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional).

  • Omnidirectional

An omnidirectional microphone records audio in a balanced and organic manner by evenly capturing sound coming from all directions. It works great when capturing several sound sources or when you want to capture the ambient sound of a room.

  • Cardioid

A cardioid microphone is ideal for isolating a single source since it greatly reduces noise from the sides and rear while being extremely sensitive to sound coming from the front. Recording vocals or instruments in a noisy environment is made possible by its heart-shaped pickup pattern, which concentrates on capturing sound immediately in front of the microphone. The most popular cardioid microphones among gamers are the DM30RGB, DGM20 GamerWave, and PD200X USB Gaming Microphones from Maono. 

gaming microphone

Here you can learn more about these¬†microphones =„ÄčMicrophone¬†Comparision

  • Supercardioid

A super cardioid microphone is like a laser beam for sound, focusing strongly on what's in front while blocking out a lot of the noise from the sides and back. It offers a tighter pickup than a cardioid and it's great for picking up specific sounds in noisy places like concerts or outdoor events.

  • Hypercardioid

A hypercardioid microphone focuses even more on picking up sound from the front and blocks out even more noise from the sides and back, acting like a spotlight for capturing clear audio from a particular source, such as in theaters or conference rooms.

  • Bi-directional/Figure-Eight

A bi-directional microphone and a Figure-Eight microphone is essentially the same. These mics are frequently used synonymously when discussing microphones that have this particular polar pattern. They capture sound from both the front and back while ignoring the noise from the sides, making it like having two mics in one, shaping its pickup pattern like the number eight. It's great for recording from two different sides, like in interviews where two people talk facing each other.

Technical Specifications

  • Frequency Response

Frequency response in a microphone is about how well it can pick up different pitches of sound, from deep bass to high treble. If a microphone has a flat frequency response, it captures all pitches equally, but some microphones might boost or reduce certain pitches to suit different types of sounds. It shows the frequency range (in Hz) that a microphone is capable of recording.

  • Sensitivity

A microphone's sensitivity can be defined as the amount of electrical output it generates for a specific sound pressure input. This makes it a practical method for contrasting various mics. The majority of manufacturers test at 94 dB or 1 Pascal of sound pressure. Hence, a microphone with a higher output voltage is more sensitive than one with a lower output. Sensitivity (often expressed in mV/Pa) gauges the microphone's output level at a specific sound pressure level. 

  • Self-Noise

Self-noise is the noise made by the microphone itself. The lower the self-noise, the better. 

  • Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)

The signal-to-noise ratio compares the volume of the wanted sound to the volume of unwanted background noise, showing how clear the wanted sound is.

  • Max SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

The maximum sound pressure level or Max SPL is the highest volume of sound it can handle without distorting or getting damaged. It's like the limit where the microphone can still accurately capture sound without sounding bad. Max SPL is often measured in decibels (dB) and shows the loudest sound the microphone can handle before it starts to sound bad.

Connectivity and Power

Knowing how a microphone connects to your equipment and whether it needs power is important because it decides if it can work with what you already have. For instance, if you're using a professional audio setup, making sure the microphone connects with XLR cables ensures everything works together while knowing if it needs phantom power prevents any damage to the mic.

  • XLR/USB¬†

XLR and USB connections on a microphone decide how it plugs into your recording gear or computer. XLR is often used in professional setups, giving strong sound signals and sometimes power, while USB goes straight into computers for easy recording without extra stuff.¬†Here you can learn more about USB microphones and XLR microphones =„ÄčUSB vs XLR¬†

  • Phantom Power¬†

Phantom power in microphones is a secret power boost that certain mics rely on to function. It travels through the same wire that carries the sound, so the microphone can work without needing separate wires or batteries for power. Condenser mics need phantom power to function, which is typically 48V delivered via XLR connections.

  • TRS/TS

TRS and TS are different kinds of plugs used for microphones, where TRS has an extra section compared to TS. TRS plugs are usually used for things like stereo sound or strong connections, while TS plugs are more for basic setups with one signal.

Usage Contexts

  • Proximity Effect¬†

The proximity effect in microphones means that when you put the mic close to the sound, it makes the bass sound stronger. It can make voices or instruments sound richer, but if you use it too much, it might make them sound too boomy.

  • Off-Axis Rejection¬†

Off-axis rejection in microphones is like wearing blinders for the ears, so they only hear what's right in front of them. This helps block out distracting noises from the sides or behind, making the sound you want to capture sound clearer.

  • Plosive¬†

Plosives are the loud bursts of air that occur when pronouncing sounds like "p" or "b", which can distort recordings.

The pop filter is a thin mesh or screen that you place in front of the microphone to block the bursts of air coming from plosive sounds like "p" and "b". Using a pop filter helps minimize plosives and maintain clear audio quality. It's often used indoors.

A windscreen is a foam cover for microphones, also known as blowout foam, that helps cut down on noise from wind or breathing. It keeps recordings clear by stopping unwanted air movements that could distort the sound. It's often used outdoors.


Choosing the right microphone can be confusing, especially for beginners who don't know the technical jargon and specs. This guide helps clear up these terms and helps you pick the right microphone for your needs. By learning about different microphone types, polar patterns, technical specifications, and connectivity options, you'll be able to make a smart choice and get great recordings for any purpose.