Microphones are my favorite electro-mechanical devices. For almost ten years, I taught "Microphones: Theory and Application" at McNally Smith College and I have been fascinated with these funky and personable devices since I first discovered reproduced and reinforced sound in the early 1960’s. I've evaluated the microphones included in this column exclusively in recording studio environments, unless otherwise indicated. Often, my evaluations were conducted during recording sessions or in classroom experiments. Like all reviews, much of what I've written is my opinion, based on my experience, listening tastes, personal biases, and the limitations of my ability. I suggest you take all reviews with a small block of salt, mine included. What I might love, you might hate and visa versa.
Some of my favorite texts on this subject are:
The Microphone Book, John Eargle. Probably the best modern book on this subject.
Getting Great Sounds: The Microphone Book, Tom Lubin. Another solid book on this complicated subject. The first half of the book is dedicated to explaining acoustics, microphone construction, and theory. The rest is application.
Sound Advice on Microphone Techniques, Bill Gibson (A very basic book with an included CD.)
Microphones Technology & Technique, John Borwick
Music, Physics, and Engineering, Harry F. Olson
Sound Recording Handbook, John Woram (out-of-print, but a great reference)
Microphones: Design and Application, Lou Burroughs (out-of-print, but possibly the best microphone book ever written)
Microphones for Professional and Semi-Professional Applications, Dr. Ling. Gerhart Boré (Dr. Boré is an ex-Neumann design engineer. However, translated from German, it’s a tough read.)
Perversely, I am a big fan of microphones and have a foolishly large collection of these expensive tools. I'm not a fan of collecting anything, but microphones have captured my heart and imagination. The imperfections caused by the transduction of acoustic energy into electrical energy creates a sonic signature unlike any other device in the audio signal chain except, probably, loudspeakers. Microphones put more of a stamp on a recording than analog vs. digital, digital plug-ins or analog external devices, or any other device in the recording path.
Today, for the first time ever spectacular microphones are available to the ordinary recordist for a reasonable price or, even, outrageously cheap prices. Maybe more than any other reason, it is possible for an amateur recordist or artist to produce a professional sounding product in an unprofessional environment; like a living room. The availability of low cost, high quality microphones is part of the reason that this aspect of recording music has changed so much.