Best Microphone For A Noisy Environment


Woman looking out window at noisy traffic

It’s easy to get lost in a wave of different microphones when you’re trying to choose the one that’s best for your situation. 

Many studios opt for condenser mics because they are much more sensitive and can pick up sound very easily. But what if every time you record you spend hours trying to remove unwanted dog barks or car hooters that your microphone picked up? 

If you live in an area with a lot of background noise you’re not in control of, a dynamic mic may suit you better, but which microphone is ultimately the best?

What is the best microphone for a noisy environment?

The Best microphone for a noisy environment is the Shure SM7B. This microphone rocks thanks to its ability to record with a very low noise floor, reducing background noise extremely well.

This microphone is a cardioid microphone, which is the best polar pattern for recording a source in high quality without picking up too much unwanted noise.

The Shure SM7B is also optimized for electronic hum reduction against hum from computer monitors or LED lights. It is also fitted with a high-quality pop-filter for explosive breaths. 

In this article, we’ll discuss which microphones are the best for your situation and their pros and cons to help you decide which one fits your needs best. 

Let’s go through five different microphones and their pros and cons to help you decide which one solves your problem. 

Product 1: Shure SM7B Large Diaphragm directional cardioid dynamic microphone

The Shure SM7B is a large-diaphragm, cardioid dynamic microphone notorious for being able to handle loud vocals and instruments without picking up much if any, ambient noise. 

This microphone is optimized to reject electromagnetic hum from a blaring computer monitor or LED lights noise interference and reduces noise floor even in a sonically untreated environment.

Along with good ambient noise reduction, the microphone is fitted with a high-quality pop filter, successfully reducing input from explosive breaths during singing or podcast narration. 

Even without the hype around Michael Jackson using one of these mics, SM Microphones, the manufacturer of the Shure SM7B, has a strong reputation for producing some of the most popular and high-quality mics worldwide.

SM Microphones set the industry standard by which many other mics are judged in terms of controlling ambient noise input and better feedback gain.

This microphone is perfect for anyone looking to record a podcast or record loud heavy metal vocals and instruments. The build of the mic is hardy and a great long-term investment for any recording studio looking to record without background noise interference.

Lastly, despite the reputation for dynamic mics having a lower frequency range, this hardy microphone, when paired with a preamp can successfully pick up a healthy range of high end as well, making it ideal for a studio environment struggling with excess noise.

The SM7B can go a long way in terms of versatility when paired with a good external pre-amp, successfully recording softer vocals too.

Pros:

  • High-quality audio
  • Very low noise floor
  • Highly versatile
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Higher price range
  • May require a preamp

Product 2: Plantronics Voyager 5200 BlueTooth Earpiece with Noise Cancelling

Living or working in a noisy environment causes a lot of difficulty and frustration. A Bluetooth earpiece with noise-canceling technology like the Plantronics Voyager 5200 can make you sound like you are in a quiet office during calls instead of out on the move. 

The device features four digital microphones to enhance voice quality and advanced voice recognizing technology to single out the speaker’s voice and cancel out background noise for the listener. 

The earpiece is designed for optimal comfort, tested on a range of ear shapes and sizes, and has an impressive range of up to 30 meters.

The Plantronics Voyager 5200 is perfect for anyone needing to make mobile and skype calls regularly, especially in a noise polluted or windy environment. 

Pros:

  • Effective noise cancellation technology
  • 6 layers of WindSmart wind protection
  • Comfortable ergonomic earpiece 
  • 30-meter range
  • Voice command operated

Cons:

  • Battery life is only 7 hours per charge
  • Higher price range
  • Not suited for studio recording

Product 3: Sennheiser Presence BlueTooth Earpiece with Noise Cancelling

Another great device for successfully canceling out noise pollution during important mobile and skype calls is the Sennheiser Presence Bluetooth Headset.

Much like the Plantronics Voyager 5200, this headset also features voice signaling technology that tunes into the user’s voice and intelligently tunes out any unwanted background noise, also effective indoors and outdoors.

The battery life is long with up to 10 hours of usage per charge. Unlike the Voyager, this device can be synced to two devices at once, including both a mobile device and a PC all while switching back and forth seamlessly as needed.

The Sennheiser Presence Bluetooth Headset is more discreet than its competitors and features ActiveGuard technology to protect your ear from any loud surges of sound that may cause damage.

Sennheiser has a good reputation for creating good quality electronics. Even if the price range is higher, you usually get what you pay for.

Pros:

  • Long battery life of up to 10 hours
  • Dual Bluetooth syncing
  • Multiple ways to wear to accommodate personal preferences
  • Successfully cancels out background noise
  • Discreet appearance
  • ActiveGuard sound protection technology

Cons:

  • Higher price range
  • Not suitable for studio recording

Product 4: Noise Canceling Adapter

If you already have a pair of headphones with a built-in mic that you love and don’t want to replace just to reduce background noise during use, then this little device is for you.

The ASUS Ai Noise-Canceling Mic Adapter is a revolutionary device that can easily fit into your pocket on the go and is compatible with computers, gaming consoles and mobiles. The bundle comes with a USB 2.0 adapter for PC and it works with any 3.5mm headset.

This adapter effectively removes background noise from your voice input with a tiny Ai chip within the device, meaning that it doesn’t need your computer to work, the technology is inside it. The chip inside the device is programmed to combat a remarkable 50 million different types of background noises!

The tiny, but mighty, ASUS Ai noise-canceling mic adapter is definitely worth the $30-$40 you pay for it, not to mention that ASUS is one of the leading motherboard and gaming brands in the world.

Pros:

  • Effective noise canceling Ai chip
  • Highly portable
  • Compatible with mobile, PC, and gaming consoles
  • Affordable
  • Combats 50 million different background noises
  • USB 2.0 adapter included

Cons:

  • I could not find any cons. It’s a done deal!

Product 5: Blue Yeti USB Condenser Microphone

Probably one of the best microphones for the price, the Blue Yeti USB microphone is a multi directional microphone, meaning that you can choose which polar pattern you’d like the microphone to exhibit. 

This microphone has three high quality condensers inside the capsule to effectively deliver crisp sound, up to standard for almost any purpose, including music and vocal recording.

The best part about the Blue Yeti is the four polar patterns to choose from. It comes with cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and even stereo. This is truly ideal; it makes the microphone more all in one, and better than having separate microphones for each purpose.

In noisy environments, you can set the polar pattern to cardioid to help reduce background noise and lower the intake of noise floor frequencies.

The Blue Yeti is definitely a mic you can’t go wrong with, and for the price it really is a steal and worth every penny. It even has a jack for your headphones to lower latency! Who wouldn’t want that?

Pros:

  • Highly versatile with multidirectional capabilities
  • Affordable
  • 3 condensers inside the capsule
  • High quality
  • Available in various colors

Cons:

  • Not the most durable
  • Prone to delay when not using headphones
  • Quite bulky

Using a microphone isolation shield to reduce noise

Using a microphone isolation shield while recording can help reduce background noise along with natural resonance and echoes that are picked up from the room.

Different Types of Microphone Technology

There are two main types of microphones, dynamic, and condenser microphones. Each one records in a different way, one is more sensitive to high frequency and the other is better at recording low frequency.

Along with the types of microphones available, different microphones can have different polar patterns, which refers to the direction of recording and areas of sensitivity in the mics head.

Dynamic Microphones

To keep it simple, dynamic microphones transform sound into an electrical signal through electromagnetism. These microphones are generally built using a small coil of wire connected to a membrane, and a magnet surrounding the coil.

When sound is played to this microphone, the sound waves vibrate the coil and membrane to the rhythm of the sound frequency. With the magnet surrounding the coil, as it vibrates, it creates a small signal voltage, converting the sound into an electrical signal. 

Dynamic microphones are quite robust, and are most commonly used on stage for live events, or recording situations. They are favorable here as they don’t require an external power source.

These mics are also preferred when recording certain instruments like drums because they are less likely to sustain damage from overexertion in comparison to condenser mics.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones have a strong reputation for being the best type of microphones for studio recording purposes. These microphones are generally higher in price range and are highly sensitive to higher frequencies in comparison to other microphones.

Sometimes referred to as capacitor microphones, these sophisticated mics are built very similarly to capacitors with two metal disks, one a fixed metal disk and one a movable gold plated disk.

The disks vibrate when in contact with sound waves, conducting an electrical current which is translated into sound electronically. The sound is naturally very quiet in these mics as they are so sensitive but work by using a built-in amplifier.

Condenser microphones are fragile and prone to damage with overexertion or mishandling. They are much better suited to in-studio recording environments.

These mics also come with directional differences to choose from including omnidirectional, cardioid, and bidirectional polar patterns. Some mics even come with all of the polar patterns for you to switch between as needed called multi-pattern condenser mics.

Cardioid Polar Pattern (directional) Microphones

Out of the numerous condenser mics, cardioid, or directional microphones are the most popular for their ability to record only the desired sound and not much unwanted background noise.

A polar pattern refers to the pattern of sensitivity that a mic has. In the cardioid microphones case, the pattern looks heart-shaped on a 2D axis. This means that these microphones are most sensitive to sound from the front, with medium sensitivity from the sides and next to no sensitivity from the back. 

Thanks to this polar pattern, cardioid microphones are favored for live recording situations as less background noise and bleed from other instruments makes for a smoother recording process and a cleaner result.

However, these microphones are good for any recording situation where background noise is an issue. 

Omnidirectional Polar Pattern Microphones

Omnidirectional microphones simply record sound from every direction equally. The polar pattern for these mics is a perfect circle around the mic head.

An omnidirectional polar pattern means that no matter which direction the sound is coming from, including in two or more directions at once, the microphone will record the sound equally. This is very useful in situations where, for example, you need to record a band and a choir simultaneously. 

It may sound very useful to use one of these mics, but they do have a big downside in situations where you need to record from a single direction. For example, for a public speaker with an audience, there will be a lot of unwanted background noise and voices in the recording. 

If you struggle with a lot of background noise in your recordings, a unidirectional or a cardioid microphone will serve you much better and save you a lot of time in editing.

Every producer has different needs and different recording environments to work with. If you are having trouble with unwanted background noise bleeding into your recordings or just need a mic that can handle louder recording sessions, there is something out there for you. 

Things to think about when choosing a microphone for a noisy environment

Before choosing a microphone, consider the following aspects:

  1. Physical size: The size of the diaphragm can make a world of difference. Bigger means more sensitive, and smaller means more high end. Choose which one is best for you.
  2. Type of Technology: Choose between noise-canceling cardioid to minimize background noise and noise floor, super-cardioid for more directionality, or unidirectional to single out your sound source completely.
  3. Value for money: Try to find the best quality microphone for the price you pay. Generally you get what you pay for.
  4. Quality of Construction: Look for a mic with a solid build and good durability.
  5. Audio Quality: The audio quality will be good if the mic build is high quality. 
  6. Connectivity: Make sure to choose a mic with the right connectivity for your equipment, for example, USB or XLR.
  7. Compatibility: Make sure to purchase a mic that is compatible with your equipment and your software.
  8. Design Aesthetics: Especially if you plan to film yourself or clients using the mic, maybe for Youtube, make sure that you are happy with the aesthetics of the mic. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Condenser Mic Better for Vocals?

Yes, a condenser mic is better for vocals in general as these microphones are designed to pick up a lot of high-end frequencies, often present in vocals and acoustic guitar, along with being able to pick up a wider range of vocals, including quiet or soft vocals.

Having said this, for some types of vocals, like loud heavy metal vocalizations, a dynamic microphone is better in general as they aren’t easily damaged by loud voices or instruments.

Which is better – A dynamic or condenser microphone?

Neither a dynamic mic nor a condenser mic is better than the other. Each one has their place and purpose in the recording studio.

Condenser mics are often more sought after in a recording studio setting because they are more sensitive and their higher price tag often makes them seem more advanced or better quality.

The truth is, sometimes a dynamic microphone would do a better job, depending on the task, like recording drums for example. They are also much more durable than condenser mics and a lot more affordable.

Does a pop filter reduce background noise?

No it does not. A pop filter will reduce the loud consonant sounds like ‘p’s and ‘b’s which generate a lot of air flow from the mouth. These sounds can cause big ‘pops’ which are disproportionately loud when a vocalist is singing or speaking close to a microphone. A pop filter won’t reduce background noise from the room or nearby.

How to reduce background noise when recording

Make sure you turn all non essential equipment off when you’re recording such as air conditioners, fans, guitar amps. If there’s a drum kit in the room, turn the snare off. You can also use sound deadening material to reduce echos and reverberation in the room. To reduce background noise from outside the room, you’ll need to get into some more serious soundproofing.

What are the pros and cons of a condenser microphone?

Condenser microphones are a great choice depending on your needs from a mic. Below are some pros and cons to consider before buying one.

Pros:

  • Wide frequency range
  • Good at recording high end
  • Come with various polar pattern directions (cardioid, multidirectional, omnidirectional)

Cons:

  • Needs an external power source (phantom power source or battery)
  • Sensitive to damage from overexertion 
  • Can be costly

Conclusion

Noise control is an issue in every recording studio, even the sonically treated ones. Sometimes you just can’t stop an unwanted sound from coming through in your recording.

Maybe your equipment setup or quality makes room for a bunch of bleed from other instruments you were hoping to avoid, and now it’s up to you or your editor to fix it in post.

Thankfully, if noise from your environment is unavoidable, investing in the right equipment can help make your recordings better, or at least make your post production life easier.

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