Building a Sontronics Solo microphone

SUPPORT & ADVICE

Whether you need advice about your Sontronics product, you want to learn a bit more about microphones and recording or you need some specific support, you've come to the right place...

SUPPORT
& SERVICE

What to do if you need help with your mic

LIFETIME
WARRANTY

Find out more about our unique warranty

faq%20icon%20blue_edited.png
QUESTIONS & TROUBLESHOOTING

Find quick answers to your support queries

ADVICE
& TOP TIPS

All you need to know about recording & microphones

 

FAQs

Quick Guide to Condenser Microphones


Some of the most commonly used microphones for recording vocals and instruments are condenser (also known as capacitor) microphones, which working by converting energy from soundwaves into an electrical signal. In the head of the microphone is a capsule that is made up of a front diaphragm (or transducer) and a back plate with an attached electrical wire, usually in the centre but sometimes at the edge, known as ‘edge-terminated’, as with our Aria and Mercury. The diaphragm is made from a disc of very thin film, usually Mylar, covered in a layer of gold. When sound pressure from an audio source reaches the capsule, the thin diaphragm moves. The resulting changes in electrical value or capacitance are transmitted through the wire from the capsule to the electronics inside the microphone. At this point, the very weak signal from the capsule is amplified by components in the microphones internal circuit. Condenser microphones are extremely sensitive and therefore able to capture their subjects quickly and accurately. Their wide frequency response enables them to produce very natural recordings that are true to the original sound. For these reasons, condenser microphones are most often used in recording studios and other professional applications where absolute accuracy is critical. Some condenser microphones employ two capsules, back-to-back, to allow the microphone to pick up sound from 360° around it. By changing the way that the combination of the two capsules pick up sound from all around means that multiple polar patterns such as omnidirectional and figure-of-eight can be employed. Find out more about polar patterns here. Sontronics condenser mics: AriaDM-1BDM-1S & DM-1TOrpheusSTC-1STC-1SSTC-10STC-2STC-20STC-3X




Quick Guide to Dynamic Microphones


The capsule inside the head of a dynamic microphone also employs a diaphragm, but rather than being mounted on a backplate with a connecting wire, the diaphragm in a dynamic mic is attached to a tiny copper coil set within the field of a permanent magnet.

When sound waves reach the diaphragm, it vibrates and therefore moves the coil, so creating a varying current in the electromagnetic field.

Although the coil is tiny, its mass means that the capsule in a dynamic mic responds more slowly than that of a condenser mic, and therefore it does not capture as much subtle detail, especially in the highest and lowest frequencies.

Some dynamic microphones use low-strength magnets which means they have poor sensitivity and a low output level, and therefore can sound dull. You will also need a lot of additional gain to obtain a useful signal. However, all of our Sontronics dynamic mic capsules use high-power neodymium magnets, which improve not only output sensitivity but also frequency response.

Dynamic microphones tend to be more sturdily constructed than condenser or ribbon microphones, making them far less prone to accidental damage. They are often designed to provide high signal levels before feedback occurs, and these factors have led to dynamic microphones being used for stage vocal performance and many other live sound reinforcement applications.

Sontronics dynamic mics: CoronaHaloPodcast ProSolo




Quick Guide to Ribbon Microphones


A ribbon mic is another type of dynamic microphone, but instead of a coil attached to a diaphragm it features a microscopically thin, corrugated aluminium ribbon suspended in a magnetic field. Commonly a ribbon microphone is open to sound at the front and back, giving a figure-of-eight or bi-directional pattern (See more on polar patterns here.) Ribbon microphones have a very specific frequency response directly related to the mass of the aluminium ribbon and its inability to oscillate at very high frequencies. As such, the high-frequency response tends to roll-off quite early in the audio spectrum, usually around 7kHz. This character makes ribbon mics excellent for use on acoustic instruments (such as violin or flute) due to the microphone’s limited ability to reproduce many ambient or reflected frequencies, delivering a very authentic, 'natural' result. Ribbon microphones are particularly good for miking electric guitar amplifiers, since the speakers’ output and the microphone’s frequency response are closely matched. Over time ribbon microphones have earned a reputation for being extremely fragile and historically it was inadvisable to use them with very loud or low sound sources. Their low sensitivity and poor output levels meant that high levels of gain were required to reach a reasonable output level, and this led to difficulties in achieving a respectable signal-to-noise ratio. However, our SIGMA 2, DELTA 2 and APOLLO 2 ribbon microphones solve and avoid these problems through the addition of a 48V preamplified circuit, giving them a significant boost in sensitivity and the ability to reproduce stable and consistent results without the noise problems of ribbon microphones from history. The aluminium ribbon used to make each capsule, or ‘motor’, is made from some of the lowest-mass material available, delivering both a class-leading frequency response and a very high output sensitivity. Furthermore, these three microphones, particularly DELTA 2, have been engineered to withstand everyday use in both studio and live sound applications. It is important to note that that the ribbon element itself, much like the tyres on a car, will experience gradual wear and tear over time, eventually stretching beyond useable limits and requiring necessary replacement. You can find out more about ribbon servicing and replacement here. Sontronics ribbon microphones: Apollo 2Delta 2Sigma 2




Quick Guide to Valve/Tube Microphones


A valve/tube microphone most commonly refers to a condenser microphone which uses a small vacuum-tube in its amplification electronics.

The vacuum tube is an antiquated electronic component which was superseded in the 1950s by the ‘solid-state’ transistor. Compared to the outdated tube, the transistor was developed to be a far more reliable device which could be consistently and accurately mass produced in huge numbers. However, despite the improvements and efficiencies brought on by the transistor, the vacuum tube continues to hold its place in the hearts of many an audiophile, thanks to some very specific and some non-specific characteristics.

One of the key characteristics of a vacuum tube is that is adds harmonic distortion to the signal. This is not a ‘heavy-metal overdrive’ type of distortion, but something very subtle and delicate and very pleasant to the human ear.

When subjected to high sound pressure levels (SPLs), vacuum tubes exhibit natural compression, resulting in an output signal full of energy and tonal balance. The low-frequency response can often appear to sound stronger than the high-frequencies, leading to valve/tube microphones being described as sounding ‘warm’.

It’s worth noting that the majority of the iconic and most coveted vintage studio condenser microphones were all valve/tube models, and therefore there can be no doubt that there is also a degree of nostalgia which continues to influence the popularity of the vacuum tube to this day.

Since vacuum tubes require high-voltage power supplies to operate, this naturally increases the level of the microphone’s ’self-noise’, a very common issue associated with vintage valve/tube mics. However, the high-quality modern electronic circuits we use in both Aria and Mercury are expertly designed to provide you with the classic vacuum tube tone but with a minimum of self-noise.

A vacuum tube has a finite lifespan and will need to be replaced if the microphone begins to exhibit noise or if its sound response changes in any way, often indicated by a loss of low-frequency output. Find out more about this in the *Valve Mics section* [hyperlink to this section] of our Support pages.

Sontronics valve mics: AriaMercuryMercury Vintage Edition





Sontronics Product Manager Chris Cook

"Sontronics is one of those rare companies that actually treats all its users like members of an extended family and nothing is too much trouble for the support team. They're amazing!"

Ed Harcourt, Artist/Composer/Producer

Sontronics Advice microphone types icon
MICROPHONE
TYPES
Sontronics Advice polar patterns icon
POLAR
PATTERNS
Sontronics Advice proximity effect icon
PROXIMITY
EFFECT
Sontronics Advice pad switch icon
PAD & FILTER
CONTROLS
Sontronics Advice ribbon mic icon
RIBBON
MICS
Sontronics Advice phantom power icon
PHANTOM
POWER
Sontronics Advice care & cleaning icon
CARE &
CLEANING
Sontronics Advice product table icon
TABLE OF
PRODUCTS
 

TECHNICAL ADVICE & TOP TIPS

Click the links below for specific advice articles and information or scroll down for more info

 
Building a Sontronics Mercury microphone

MICROPHONE TYPES

Quick Guide to Condenser Microphones


Some of the most commonly used microphones for recording vocals and instruments are condenser (also known as capacitor) microphones, which working by converting energy from soundwaves into an electrical signal. In the head of the microphone is a capsule that is made up of a front diaphragm (or transducer) and a back plate with an attached electrical wire, usually in the centre but sometimes at the edge, known as ‘edge-terminated’, as with our Aria and Mercury. The diaphragm is made from a disc of very thin film, usually Mylar, covered in a layer of gold. When sound pressure from an audio source reaches the capsule, the thin diaphragm moves. The resulting changes in electrical value or capacitance are transmitted through the wire from the capsule to the electronics inside the microphone. At this point, the very weak signal from the capsule is amplified by components in the microphones internal circuit. Condenser microphones are extremely sensitive and therefore able to capture their subjects quickly and accurately. Their wide frequency response enables them to produce very natural recordings that are true to the original sound. For these reasons, condenser microphones are most often used in recording studios and other professional applications where absolute accuracy is critical. Some condenser microphones employ two capsules, back-to-back, to allow the microphone to pick up sound from 360° around it. By changing the way that the combination of the two capsules pick up sound from all around means that multiple polar patterns such as omnidirectional and figure-of-eight can be employed. Find out more about polar patterns here. Sontronics condenser mics: AriaDM-1BDM-1S & DM-1TOrpheusSTC-1STC-1SSTC-10STC-2STC-20STC-3X




Quick Guide to Dynamic Microphones


The capsule inside the head of a dynamic microphone also employs a diaphragm, but rather than being mounted on a backplate with a connecting wire, the diaphragm in a dynamic mic is attached to a tiny copper coil set within the field of a permanent magnet.

When sound waves reach the diaphragm, it vibrates and therefore moves the coil, so creating a varying current in the electromagnetic field.

Although the coil is tiny, its mass means that the capsule in a dynamic mic responds more slowly than that of a condenser mic, and therefore it does not capture as much subtle detail, especially in the highest and lowest frequencies.

Some dynamic microphones use low-strength magnets which means they have poor sensitivity and a low output level, and therefore can sound dull. You will also need a lot of additional gain to obtain a useful signal. However, all of our Sontronics dynamic mic capsules use high-power neodymium magnets, which improve not only output sensitivity but also frequency response.

Dynamic microphones tend to be more sturdily constructed than condenser or ribbon microphones, making them far less prone to accidental damage. They are often designed to provide high signal levels before feedback occurs, and these factors have led to dynamic microphones being used for stage vocal performance and many other live sound reinforcement applications.

Sontronics dynamic mics: CoronaHaloPodcast ProSolo




Quick Guide to Ribbon Microphones


A ribbon mic is another type of dynamic microphone, but instead of a coil attached to a diaphragm it features a microscopically thin, corrugated aluminium ribbon suspended in a magnetic field. Commonly a ribbon microphone is open to sound at the front and back, giving a figure-of-eight or bi-directional pattern (See more on polar patterns here.) Ribbon microphones have a very specific frequency response directly related to the mass of the aluminium ribbon and its inability to oscillate at very high frequencies. As such, the high-frequency response tends to roll-off quite early in the audio spectrum, usually around 7kHz. This character makes ribbon mics excellent for use on acoustic instruments (such as violin or flute) due to the microphone’s limited ability to reproduce many ambient or reflected frequencies, delivering a very authentic, 'natural' result. Ribbon microphones are particularly good for miking electric guitar amplifiers, since the speakers’ output and the microphone’s frequency response are closely matched. Over time ribbon microphones have earned a reputation for being extremely fragile and historically it was inadvisable to use them with very loud or low sound sources. Their low sensitivity and poor output levels meant that high levels of gain were required to reach a reasonable output level, and this led to difficulties in achieving a respectable signal-to-noise ratio. However, our SIGMA 2, DELTA 2 and APOLLO 2 ribbon microphones solve and avoid these problems through the addition of a 48V preamplified circuit, giving them a significant boost in sensitivity and the ability to reproduce stable and consistent results without the noise problems of ribbon microphones from history. The aluminium ribbon used to make each capsule, or ‘motor’, is made from some of the lowest-mass material available, delivering both a class-leading frequency response and a very high output sensitivity. Furthermore, these three microphones, particularly DELTA 2, have been engineered to withstand everyday use in both studio and live sound applications. It is important to note that that the ribbon element itself, much like the tyres on a car, will experience gradual wear and tear over time, eventually stretching beyond useable limits and requiring necessary replacement. You can find out more about ribbon servicing and replacement here. Sontronics ribbon microphones: Apollo 2Delta 2Sigma 2




Quick Guide to Valve/Tube Microphones


A valve/tube microphone most commonly refers to a condenser microphone which uses a small vacuum-tube in its amplification electronics.

The vacuum tube is an antiquated electronic component which was superseded in the 1950s by the ‘solid-state’ transistor. Compared to the outdated tube, the transistor was developed to be a far more reliable device which could be consistently and accurately mass produced in huge numbers. However, despite the improvements and efficiencies brought on by the transistor, the vacuum tube continues to hold its place in the hearts of many an audiophile, thanks to some very specific and some non-specific characteristics.

One of the key characteristics of a vacuum tube is that is adds harmonic distortion to the signal. This is not a ‘heavy-metal overdrive’ type of distortion, but something very subtle and delicate and very pleasant to the human ear.

When subjected to high sound pressure levels (SPLs), vacuum tubes exhibit natural compression, resulting in an output signal full of energy and tonal balance. The low-frequency response can often appear to sound stronger than the high-frequencies, leading to valve/tube microphones being described as sounding ‘warm’.

It’s worth noting that the majority of the iconic and most coveted vintage studio condenser microphones were all valve/tube models, and therefore there can be no doubt that there is also a degree of nostalgia which continues to influence the popularity of the vacuum tube to this day.

Since vacuum tubes require high-voltage power supplies to operate, this naturally increases the level of the microphone’s ’self-noise’, a very common issue associated with vintage valve/tube mics. However, the high-quality modern electronic circuits we use in both Aria and Mercury are expertly designed to provide you with the classic vacuum tube tone but with a minimum of self-noise.

A vacuum tube has a finite lifespan and will need to be replaced if the microphone begins to exhibit noise or if its sound response changes in any way, often indicated by a loss of low-frequency output. Find out more about this in the *Valve Mics section* [hyperlink to this section] of our Support pages.

Sontronics valve mics: AriaMercuryMercury Vintage Edition





 

POLAR PATTERNS

Sontronics cardioid pattern
CARDIOID PATTERN

A cardioid pattern picks up sound 
from the source it is pointed at but 
also offers a graduated rejection of sounds from the side and very 
little input from the rear.

When shown on a graph, the pickup response resembles a heart shape, 
hence 'cardioid'.

 

Cardioid mics are also referred to as 'pressure-gradient' and are ideal for recording vocals and spoken word, guitar, piano, guitar amp, strings and other instruments.

Cardioid mics exhibit the proximity effect (more on this below).

Sontronics omnidirectional pattern
OMNI-DIRECTIONAL

An omni-directional pattern picks 
up sound equally from all directions, 
like a large sphere around the head of the microphone.

This pattern is useful for recording groups, ensembles and choirs, for using overhead on a large instrument such as piano or drumkit as well as for capturing the natural ambience of a room or performance space.

Omni-directional mics can also be referred to 'pressure-sensitive'.

Mics in omni mode do not exhibit the proximity effect.

Sontronics figure-of-eight pattern
FIGURE-OF-EIGHT

Another common polar pattern is 
figure-of-eight, which picks up an 
equal response from the front and the rear of the microphone with complete rejection at the sides.

A single figure-of-eight microphone can give a very intimate reproduction of sung vocals or solo instruments, and also for use in stereo applications where rejection of sound and noise from the off-axis is critical.

A figure-of-eight mic can be used in combination with a cardioid mic for mid-side stereo technique.

By controlling the voltage and phase cancellation to a capsule, it is possible to create other kinds of directional polar pattern, such as subcardioid, hypercardioid and supercardioid.

Sontronics hypercardioid pattern
HYPERCARDIOID

Sitting between cardioid and figure-of-eight, HYPERCARDIOID offers good side rejection and a flatter frequency response (compared to regular cardioid) while having a low sensitivity to sounds coming from the rear of the microphone. 

Use this pattern if you need greater focus on a particular source, such as recording hi-hat within a drumkit or a violin in a string quartet.

Sontronics subcardioid pattern
SUBCARDIOID

Sitting somewhere between cardioid and omnidirectional, a subcardioid pattern reduces the level of proximity effect (see below) while maintaining excellent

off-axis rejection.

This pattern is useful if a vocalist has a habit of moving while singing, keeping the signal as focused and uninterrupted as possible.

Sontronics supercardioid pattern
SUPERCARDIOID

This pattern is related to both cardioid and hypercardioid, but has an even tighter pickup with more rejection on the sides and a slight pickup from the rear.

 

It’s ideal for use on stage as it offers superior feedback rejection too. You’ll find this pattern in the capsule used for our best-selling Podcast Pro, Solo, Halo and Corona dynamic mics.

PROXIMITY EFFECT

 

Often, when talking about microphone placement, you'll hear the term 'proximity effect'.

 

This describes the phenomenon you experience when a cardioid (or 'pressure-gradient') microphone is moved closer to its sound source (or the source moves closer to the mic) and its bass response increases.

When recording vocals, the singer can move closer to the microphone and achieve a richer, more intense sound.

 

It's also a classic technique for voiceover artists to sound deeper and more intimate.

If you're experiencing too much proximity effect but don't want to change your mic positioning, you can take advantage of the mic's low-cut filter (see below), which can be found on most of our condenser microphones.

 
 

PAD & FILTER CONTROLS

As instruments and voices can vary wildly in character (as can the methods by which they can be captured), you need to be flexible. In order to make our mics as versatile as possible and to help you get the best possible recording every time, most of our mics feature filter and attenuation or pad controls.

LOW-CUT FILTER

The low-cut (or high-pass) filter reduces the output of lower frequencies captured by the microphone.

 

As mentioned above, this is particularly useful when the proximity effect may not be desired or where low-frequency sounds such as vibrations or distant traffic rumble are being picked up.

 

It is also very useful when your sound source exhibits little or now low-frequency output. In this case, the filter can be switched in to add definition to your recording while limiting unwanted noise.

ATTENUATION/PAD CONTROLS

The pad switch is used to attenuate (or reduce) the sensitivity of the microphone by a number of decibels (usually -10 or -20dB).

 

This is very useful when recording a loud sound source (for example, a trumpet played directly at the mic) which could overload the sensitive internal electronics and cause unpleasant distortion.

 

In this case, the pad can be switched in to reduce the level of sound being captured by the microphone while still allowing it to pick up and reproduce the characteristics of the instrument.

 
Sontronics Delta 2 ribbon microphone

3 THINGS TO REMEMBER

ABOUT RIBBON MICROPHONES

1
OH SO
NATURAL

Ribbon microphones capture a beautifully natural picture of whatever you're recording. This can lead to incredibly intimate results, especially on vocals and wind instruments. You will love it!

2
IT'S A
TWO-WAY THING

The ribbon element suspended between the two magnets can only react to sound pressure coming from the front and back, hence its figure-of-eight bi-directional polar pattern.

3
PUT IT
DELICATELY

Our ribbon mics are more rugged than vintage ones but they're still delicate, and a blast of sound can stretch or completely disintegrate the delicate ribbon, so handle them with care.

PHANTOM POWER

Any microphone that has active electronic circuitry inside (this includes all Sontronics condenser and ribbon microphones) will require DC current to be sent into the microphone via the third pin of an XLR cable.

Most audio interfaces, soundcards and mixers offer an option to supply phantom power, usually via a switch labelled 48V (even though some interfaces don't even supply half of that voltage!).

If you are using a Sontronics condenser or ribbon mic, simply make sure phantom power is switched on so that the internal circuit of the microphone is powered up and the mic will work perfectly!

Our Aria and Mercury microphones are supplied with their own power unit and don't require phantom power. Ensure your device has the phantom power switched off when using these mics so no harm is done to their internal electronics.

 

CARE & CLEANING

Now matter how many microphones you have in your set-up, it's important to treat them with care so that they continue to operate to their full potential as long as possible.

Get into the habit of wiping down your microphone with a clean, dry cloth after each session.

 

Acid in your fingerprints can start to eat into the surface of the microphone body leading to corrosion, so regular cleaning each time you handle the microphone will prevent this from happening.

Dust and dirt can settle on the delicate capsule surface, which is so microscopically thin, it's impossible to clean. A build-up of dirt and dried moisture can stop the capsule reacting to the incoming soundwaves and lead to dull or fuzzy sound.

Keep your microphone covered between sessions to protect from dust in the air and always use a popshield when recording vocals to reduce the amount of moisture entering the microphone.

As with any electronic equipment, you should do what you can to protect your microphone from extremes of heat and humidity.

Using a cold microphone (either in a cold room or brought into the studio from a cold storage cupboard) to record vocals will cause condensation to gather on the mic body and the electronics inside, which can lead to corrosion, capsule damage and short circuiting.

COVID PRECAUTIONS

 

Today we are more aware than ever of the need to keep strict hygiene rules to stop the spread of viruses, and microphones are no exception.

It is advisable to use anti-bacterial wipes (or a clean cloth sprayed with anti-bacterial liquid) to clean the exterior surface of your mic and its clip, shockmount and any accessories, especially if the mic will be used by another person. However, you MUST ensure that all surfaces are then wiped with a second dry cloth to stop any moisture settling on or in the microphone.

We suggest that you have spare grilles and inner windshield foam for mics such as our handheld Solo (right). These can be swapped out and cleaned with anti-bacterial spray, scrubbed carefully with a small brush, then patted dry with kitchen roll and left to dry fully before replacing on the mic.

Our ST-POP popshield is supplied with a spare nylon-mesh cartridge so you can clean one (wash in warm soapy water, rinse and leave to dry) while the other is in use.

 

INTERACTIVE PRODUCT TABLE

This handy table lists all our mics in alphabetical order, but can be rearranged to list mic by type, by polar pattern or by application simply by clicking on the header. Use the SEARCH box to find what you need.