There are different types of microphones out there and they all serve their own unique end for the user.
One of the most important microphones are reference microphones and I feel like they are not discussed enough.
Most newbie music producers ask what reference microphones actually, therefore this post will discuss this……In order to give you some understanding and more insights into this topic.
With that said, What is a reference microphone?
Reference microphones, sometimes called a measurement microphones are microphones designed to deliver a flat, uncolored response. They are intended for use with audio analysis equipment for measuring the acoustical characteristics of a room because they can detect what the human ear detects, namely pressure.
Basically all precision reference/measurement microphones are just pressure sensing condenser microphones that use a constant electrical charge for conversion of the diaphragm displacement into an analog electrical signal.
Uses of Reference Microphones
Let’s get into the various uses of reference microphones
The key thing to know about these types of microphones is that they are meant to provide you a unique frequency response that is both clean and an actual representation of sound.
With this said, reference microphones are primarily used to analyse sound because reference microphones offer an unbiased response to sound.
An extra pair of ears
Reference microphones can be used as a sound analysis tool because they are generally able to detect what the human ear can detect. Therefore you can employ them to be an extra pair of ears so you can get certain nuances and an attention to detail thay you’d otherwise miss.
One of the most important things in audio production that shouldn’t be overlooked is the space in which you use a Microphone to record whatever it is you’re recording.
A reference microphone with its ability to be a measurement tool can help you assess the sonic properties of your recording space or room.
This can be helpful in ensuring that you take the necessary steps in improving the particular room for your recording.
A room with bad acoustic properties can easily affect the quality of your recordings which would then mess up the quality of the audio that you produce.
Furthermore Not all microphones can easily reveal to you the sonic capabilities or limitation of your recording space which is why getting a specialized reference or measurement microphone can be your best move.
What to Look for in a reference microphone
Now that we’ve discussed the various applications of reference microphones which are pretty self explanatory.
Let’s dive into what I’d recommend you to look for in a reference microphone before you even think of purchasing one.
Excellent acoustic and electric performance
This is one of the very key things you need to take note of when picking up a reference microphone.
Ensure that it is one that has a very wide frequency range because if you’re going to use it for reference, you need to be able to cover a diverse range of frequencies. If it has a limited frequency range then you cannot be guaranteed a true representation of audio.
That wide frequency range has to be coupled with a flat frequency response for the purposes of clean actual representation of sound.
For your microphone to be able to act as a reference microphone it also needs to be one that has a wide linear dynamic range so it can deal with varying dynamics.
With that said, it also has to have very low noise and Distortion because that can easily get in the way of your recordings that is what we want to avoid With a microphone intended for audio analysis.
Little environmental influence
With a microphone intended for audio analysis we should go for a steady and stable microphone.
You have to ensure that the reference microphone you choose gets low influence from ambient pressure, temperature and humidity because these things can easily come in between what has to be measured and how it is measured.
Furthermore you need a microphone that is stable in the “physics” way so-to-speak, that is, the microphone cannot get be influenced by factors like vibration, magnetic and electromagnetic fields because this can mess with its operation which would then defeat the whole purpose of the microphone.
Furthermore you have to pay attention to how it is mechanically built, ensuring that the mechanics it utilizes are robust. The microphone should also have some good bump and shock resistance.
The reference microphone also has to be resistant to chemicals and corrosion because you need it to maintain a certain level of quality that serves you best either in the immediate future or far along the future.
Furthermore the reference microphone you go for has to be a sensitive one that can pick up on subtle sounds aswell as be able to adjust quickly enough to random changes.
Suitable for the job
As you go about looking for a reference or measurement microphone, one thing that you have to keep in mind is that a good reference microphone is one that is suitable for measurement and calculation purposes.
This essentially means that a reference microphone should be engineered for calibration because you’re going to need those abilities for your practical measurements.
The reference microphone also has to have a fair and decent shape coupled with dynamic system parameters that can easily be described.
Specifications and performance descriptions
If you’re going to use a Microphone as a reference and measurement tool, you’ll need to have enough information about it.
This basically means having all specifications and performance descriptions that are necessary for you to know so you can carry out your job much easier.
You can see to it that the seller of the microphone you intend to purchase provides you with the necessary performance documentation and individual calibration chart.
As well offer you an after sales service for periodic recalibration.
This serves you best as you go along your journey with the reference microphone.
Reference microphones are simply special microphones that are meant for sound analysis and measurement.
You should always use the buying tips I’ve laid out because they can be help you when choosing to buy a reference microphone.