Stereo microphones are designed to mimic human hearing. Inside these microphones are two elements that pick up sound from the right and left sides of a room or space. Stereo microphones capture sound from the person or instrument being recorded, as well as sound from the surrounding area, known as the field. When choosing the best stereo microphone, consider how it will be used, other recording equipment to be used, and the cost.
The different types of stereo microphones are dynamic, ribbon, and condenser. Condenser, also known as capacitor, is the most commonly used type. Condenser microphones require power from a battery, a separate power pack, or phantom power, which is power provided by the recording device.
Consider how a microphone will be used for a project. For capturing audio with video, such as news footage or home videos, a microphone that mounts to the camera may be the best choice. For live performances or studio recording sessions, a stereo microphone that attaches to a stand will work well. Handheld microphones are another option for news reporting and live or recorded vocal performances. Microphones that have a pop or wind screen can help eliminate noise from wind, breathing, and harsh "b" and "p" sounds.
The amount of background sound desired in the recording is another factor in choosing a stereo microphone. There are two elements inside a stereo microphone, set at an angle called the X/Y configuration. The angle can be fixed or adjustable depending on the microphone. Generally, a wider angle will pick up more surrounding, or ambient, sounds from the field.
The stereo microphone must also have connections that will fit into the recording equipment to be used. XLR and 1/4-inch (6.35 mm) jacks and plugs are common types of connectors for equipment such as video cameras and audio recorders. Professional stereo microphones usually have XLR connectors. If a microphone needs to be plugged in directly to a computer, look for microphones with USB connectors. For certain condenser microphones, ensure that the recording device has phantom power if needed.
Cost is a big consideration when choosing a stereo microphone. A wide variety of stereo microphones are available with a large range of prices. Beginners and amateurs can spend less than professionals and still get a quality microphone. Different microphones should be tested prior to purchasing if possible. Choose a microphone at the price level that will get the project done and not break the budget.