What Is The Most Common Type Of Microphone? (With Examples)

My New Microphone What Is The Most Common Type Of Microphone? (With Examples)

There are many microphone types on the market today. They are most often classified by transducer type, polar pattern, and application, though they may be differentiated in many other ways. Of all the types, there are certainly some mics that are more common than others.

What is the most common type of microphone? The most common type of microphone transducer is the electret condenser. Electret condensers are built as high-end studio and film mics, cheap consumer mics, and are by far the most common mic in electronic devices (cellphones, laptops, hearing aids, etc.).

In this article, we'll discuss the electret microphone and all its applications in greater detail. We'll also discuss the most common mic types for certain applications (both professional and amateur) so that you get a good idea of the microphone variety on the market.

The Most Common Microphone Transducer Type

The most common microphone transducer type in the world today is the electret condenser.

Electret condenser capsules are used in professional studio microphones, lavalier microphones, measurement microphones, and in medical, consumer, and professional electronics (cell phones, laptops, hearing aids, etc.).

This transducer type is also the typical type in MEMS (micro electro-mechanical systems) microphones. MEMS microphones (with electret-style transducers) have recently passed regular electret condensers as the world's most-produced microphone type.

Let's quickly run through how electret condenser microphone technology works.

A condenser microphone basically works like a parallel-plate capacitor with one moving plate (the diaphragm) and one stationary plate (the backplate). In electret microphones, one or both plates has electret material that holds a quasi-permanent charge.

With this permanent charge, any variation in capacitance between the plates will cause an inversely proportional voltage (our mic signal).

How do we alter the capacitance? By altering the distance between the plates, which is exactly what happens as the diaphragm (moving plate) moves back and forth in reaction to the sound waves that hit it.

So when subjecting an electret condenser microphone to sound waves, the mic's diaphragm will move, and a coinciding AC voltage (audio signal) will be outputted.

The signal is immediately sent through a JFET (junction-gate field-effect transistor) to drop the signal impedance while boosting its strength. This new, low-impedance signal is then sent where it needs to go.

MEMS microphones are a step forward in the development of electret mics. With MEMS technology, these types of microphones can be made faster and cheaper, with a smaller footprint, and with arguably easier integration in our modern electronics.

In 2014, MEMS microphones surpassed regular electret condenser microphones in terms of items sold (source).

For more information on microphone transducer types, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Microphone Types: The 2 Primary Transducer Types + 5 Subtypes

What Is A Microphone? (Mic Types, Examples, And Pictures)

The Most Common Microphone Polar Pattern

The most common microphone polar pattern in the world is the omnidirectional pattern.

| My New Microphone
Omnidirectional polar pattern graph

However, if we look at professional studio and live sound mics, we'd see that the cardioid polar pattern is most common.

| My New Microphone
Cardioid polar pattern graph

Why is this?

If we were to take all the microphones in the world, we'd find most of them in consumer electronics rather than in professional microphones. These consumer electronics typically feature electret mics with omnidirectional polar patterns.

Omnidirectional mics are designed to capture sound in all directions. They are often used in electronics and especially when the mic's direction or position is not obvious. Omni mics help to capture the best sound regardless of where the user is relative to the mic.

When we look at “professional” microphones (those dynamic, ribbon, and condenser mics used in the studio; for broadcasting; and on the stage), we find that the cardioid polar pattern is the most popular.

Cardioid microphones are very popular in microphones for the following reasons:

Due to their unidirectionality, cardioid microphones can effectively isolate the sound sources they point at. This makes them effective in the studio, in broadcast, and certainly in sound reinforcement situations.

Cardioid mics “focus in” on the sound source they are pointed at while rejecting sound from their rear null points and attenuating sound from the sides.

In studio situations, this makes for decent isolation of a sound source, particularly when close-miking. Cardioid mics will pick up much more of the intended sound and less extraneous sound if positioned correctly. The same is true in broadcasting situations.

In live sound reinforcement, cardioid mics will offer high gain-before-feedback. Cardioid mics are commonly positioned near (but pointing away from) foldback monitors on the stage. The mics remain sensitive in the direction they point but reject the sound of the monitors, allowing singers to stand in front of the monitors in order to hear themselves.

To read about all the possible microphone polar patterns, click through to my article The Complete Guide To Microphone Polar Patterns.

The Most Common Microphone Application

Capturing the human voice is, by far, the most common microphone application.

Think of all the situations where voice/vocals require recording, reinforcement, streaming, or broadcasting.

For my recommended microphones for vocals and voices, check out the following My New Microphone pages:

The Most Common Microphone Type For Live Sound Reinforcement

Directional dynamic microphones are the most popular microphones in live sound reinforcement situations.

To further the specification, I would say that cardioid moving-coil dynamic microphones are the most common in live sound reinforcement. Reasons for this include:

  • Durability: moving-coil dynamic mics are among the toughest microphones on the market. In live sound reinforcement, mics will often be subjected to changing temperatures, abuse, and high humidity. It's important to have a microphone that can handle that for the sake of longevity.
  • Directionality: in loud environments, directional mics do a better job of isolating a close-miked sound source. The null points of directional mics can be pointed at the speakers without a high risk of feedback.
  • Often coloured frequency response: moving-coil mics often have coloured frequency responses. This often helps to accentuate the important frequencies of a sound source while simultaneously dampening the low-end rumble from the stage and high-end brilliance of cymbals and loudspeakers.
  • High gain-before-feedback: directional microphones can be positioned in a way that allows for high amounts of gain-before-feedback, which help the microphone signal to be heard.
  • High maximum sound pressure level: moving-coil dynamic microphones generally have max SPL ratings that are off the charts. We can safely use a moving-coil dynamic mic on any sound source without worrying about distortion.
  • Passivity: dynamic mics are passive and require no power in order to function. This makes them very easy to use with a great variety of live sound equipments.
mnm Shure SM57 And SM58 | My New Microphone
The Shure SM57 (left) and Shure SM58 (right) are standard moving-coil dynamic microphones for live sound reinforcement situations


Shure is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

For an in-depth read on moving-coil dynamic microphones, check out my Complete Guide To Moving-Coil Dynamic Microphones.

To learn more about the cardioid polar pattern and all other directional polar patterns, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Is A Cardioid Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples)

The Complete Guide To Microphone Polar Patterns

For a few of my recommended live microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

The Most Common Microphone Type For Studio Recordings

Many microphone types are used in the studio. Therefore, the best answer I can give for this question is based on an assumption.

As we've alluded to earlier, this assumption is that the most common application for a microphone is the capture of the human voice. If we take this assumption to the studio environment, the large-diaphragm condenser microphone would likely be the most common studio microphone type!

So although many microphone types are used in the typical studio, large-diaphragm condensers are the most commonly used mic type on voiceover/vocal. For this reason, I'd argue that LDCs are the most common mic type for studio recordings.

| My New Microphone
The Neumann U87 is somewhat of an industry-standard studio microphone


Neumann is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

For a few of my recommended studio microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

The Most Common Microphone Type For Computer Audio

The most common built-in microphone type in a computer has recently become the electret-styled MEMS microphone. Regular electret condensers are also common.

These microphones are easily powered by the computer itself and are very affordable to make. These mics are typically omnidirectional and well protected within the body of the computer.

As for external microphones that connect to computers, USB mics have become the most popular.

| My New Microphone
The Blue Yeti is the most famed USB microphone.

Blue Microphones

Blue Microphones is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

USB microphones are most often electret condenser mics, although they can have any transducer type.

These mics are designed with built-in analog-to-digital converters and interfaces. They often have internal headphone amps for zero-latency monitoring. They connect via USB (hence the name) and draw the necessary voltage through the USB connection.

For more information on microphones and computer audio, check out my article How To Connect A Microphone To A Computer (A Detailed Guide).

The Most Common Microphone Type For Video And Film

There are actually two answers to this question. The two most common mic types for video and film are shotgun microphones and lavalier microphones.

There are often more lavalier mics (which are hidden on the talent or around the set) than shotgun microphones (which are usually boomed overhead). Let's discuss each of them in more detail here.

Lavalier microphones (otherwise known as lapel or body mics) are miniature microphones that are often attached to the talent in film/video.

These lav mics are generally miniature electret condenser microphones and are most often attached to a wireless transmitter and sent wirelessly. They are also most often omnidirectional to pick up consistent audio.

mnm 300x300 Sanken COS 11D | My New Microphone
The Sanken Cos-11D is an industry-standard lavalier microphone

For more information on lavalier microphones and their roles in film/video, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
How And Where To Attach A Lavalier/Lapel Microphone

Do Actors Wear Microphones? (Film, Theatre, And Other Performances)

Are Microphones Used On Broadway And In Other Theatres?

Shotgun mics are the long microphones we often see mounted to cameras or on the end of boom poles. The design of these microphones can be described as a pencil mic with a long interference tube that extends in front of its capsule.

The interference tube of a shotgun mic is responsible for its highly directional “shotgun” polar pattern. These mics are used to pinpoint and capture audio in a specific direction while rejecting sound from other directions.

| My New Microphone
The Sennheiser MKH 416 is an industry-standard shotgun microphone


Sennheiser is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

For more information on shotgun microphones and their roles in film/video, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
The Lobar/Shotgun Microphone Polar Pattern (With Mic Examples)

What Is A Boom Microphone? (Applications + Mic Examples)

How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone

For a few of my recommended film and video microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

Microphones are bought on Amazon every day. At the time of this article, the top 5 microphones on Amazon's “Best Sellers in Musical Instruments” are:

  1. PowerDeWise Lav Mic
  2. Fifine K669B USB
  3. Rode VideoMicro
  4. Blue Snowball iCE USB
  5. Singing Machine SMM-205 karaoke

Note that just because a microphone sells well on Amazon doesn't necessarily make it professional quality. In fact, most of Amazon's top sellers are not high-quality.

Related article: Is A Microphone Considered A Musical Instrument?

Sweetwater is a reputable online dealer of audio equipment, including microphones. Let's look at the most popular microphone in each of the 6 main categories (as of the writing of this article):

What is the best microphone in the world? Different acoustic situations call for different microphone types, and so it's impossible to crown a “best microphone in the world.” However, it is possible (though controversial) to pinpoint the best microphone for a specific application.

For information/opinions on the best microphones in the world, check out the following My New Microphone links:
What Is The Best Microphone? (Full Guide To Choosing The Best Mic)

Recommended Microphones And Gear

What are all the different types of microphones? Though there are plenty of differentiating factors between microphones, they are typically divided up by transducer type. The two most common types, then, are dynamic and condenser, though there are plenty of other types and subtypes:

  • Moving-Coil Dynamic
  • Ribbon Dynamic
  • Condenser
  • Tube Condenser
  • Electret Condenser
  • Piezoelectric
  • Liquid
  • Carbon
  • MEMS
  • Fibre Optic
  • Laser

For more information on microphone transducer types, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Microphone Types: The 2 Primary Transducer Types + 5 Subtypes
How Do Microphones Work? (A Helpful Illustrated Guide)

Choosing the right microphone(s) for your applications and budget can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Microphone Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next microphone purchase.

Leave A Comment!

Have any thoughts, questions or concerns? I invite you to add them to the comment section at the bottom of the page! I'd love to hear your insights and inquiries and will do my best to add to the conversation. Thanks!

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

MNM Ebook Updated mixing guidebook | My New Microphone

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