Drop the mic

As the party season draws ever closer, I am being asked more and more frequently about the best microphones around. Now it's true that I know a thing or to about a mic, but I'm also lucky enough to be surrounded by a few folk who know exactly what to do, say and consider when purchasing this kind of equipment.

So, for this article I've turned to my good friend Paul Finch. Paul is a touring sound engineer with Theatre shows and produces original artists at his studio in Southend-on-sea; so he knows a thing or two about what to look for. I asked him some questions to provide some much needed guidance on how to decide on which microphone you need, how much you should be spending and how to approach it all:  

Wired or Wireless?

"Lets start by looking at your needs for a wireless mic. What kind of venue are you playing? Pubs, Open Mic, Theatres, Stadiums or Arenas? If you are going to be stationary with a microphone stand, moving no more than 6ft in any direction wired is BEST". 

What is a good wired Microphone?

"The industry standard and most common microphone is the legendary SM58 by SHURE. At around £90 this microphone has held its own in venues across the world and has even been used to record some very famous albums: Dave Grohl used it on some early Foo Fighters recordings! 

There are various versions of the ’58 form SHURE including the Beta 58 (This has a warmer sound and you can really push this mic at the higher end of EQ before any feedback kicks in and will give you more volume control). At the higher end of the market, the solid SM87a condenser mic will allow more range to a vocal, especially with good microphone technique". 

What is a good wireless Microphone?

"If you do feel the need to have a wireless microphone here is my guide to entry level wireless microphones and some hurdles you may have to cross. 

As above, SHURE are industry standard and have a wireless version of each of the above Microphones. The SM58 starts at £250 and for the Beta and 87a you will pay considerably more. If you are looking for top class SHURE look at the KSM9, used by Beyonce on her world tours! I have used these mics with touring shows  and they really are worth the £1K+ price tag. 

As a working touring engineer on shows such as, A Night of Dirty Dancing and Motown I use the Sennhieser Wireless range. In the world of wireless and frequencies Sennhiesser have always been more stable against interference, something that can happen at any time from any source: door security walkie talkies, taxis and, as has happened to me; a Spin Class instructor at the gym next door!

The Sennhiesser to equal SHURE will start with the ‘e'Range: with an equivalent cost, from £250. I cannot fault this mic, it is solid night after night, playing to crowds between 500-1000 people". 

What else to look for?

"With wireless, please always look at the latest Frequency Laws when buying your microphone: the UK and EU have different rules - ask your dealer what you should be looking out for here. 

Also make sure you ask your dealer for a demonstration; how to switch frequencies, what band of frequencies you can use and how many options of frequencies does the mic have? The cheaper models tend to have a fixed frequency, then can go to 4-6 options, and upwards. 

Ask the dealer to explain this, and anything else you need in layman's terms; especially if you're going to be the one controlling the sound". 

How to buy?

"First and foremost; only buy a microphone that best suits your needs: if you are playing local pub gigs, is wireless really necessary? The most expensive, isn't necessarily going to be best suited for what you're using it for. 

DON'T BUY ONLINE! Go to a dealer and ask questions - they are very knowledgable and can really help guide you to the right decision". 

Watch out for more from Paul in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions for him, please comment below.