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You can get reasonably good sound recordings from moderately priced microphones.
Think very carefully about what you will be using your microphone to record, and about your budget. Be sensible about the quality of sound you need. For study purposes, you will not need expensive microphones. Cheaper microphones start at around £5.
Make sure that the microphone you buy is compatible with your recording device and that you have the right connectors and plugs.
Computer desk microphones are ideal for study purposes. They are not professional, but the quality can be quite good. These usually come with a stand and will normally allow you to adjust the direction they point. They are designed to record straight into your computer or laptop and will come with a USB connection. One example is the Logitech USB desk microphone.
These are good for using with a multimedia phone or for dictating into speech recognition software, but the quality is not always great. There is less flexibility about the distance you can place the microphone from your mouth and will connect to your computer via a USB connection.
Higher quality microphones will be much more expensive. If you do use these to record straight into your computer, you may need to check that you have a compatible sound card, which has the appropriate connections and features available. Hand-held microphones sometimes come with a stand, so you can place them on a table. You can also buy high quality desk microphones such as the Audio Technica AT2020, which will provide a professional sounding recording.
All microphones pick up sound, however they can have different or variable polar patterns. These polar patterns determine which direction the microphone will pick up the sound from. For example, some microphones will record from all directions, and some are directional, which means that they focus in on a particular area.
These are the best types of microphones to use if you are a beginner, as they are more flexible and have a more natural sound. These are good all-purpose microphones that are ideal for interviews as they pick up sound from all directions.
These are directional and more sensitive to sound coming from one direction, which is in front of the microphone. These are very common pickup patterns and require accurate placement in order to be most effective.
These are used for recording two people facing each other and are typically found on microphones that have two visible sides to them such as the AKG414 pictured right.
These microphones are usually omni-directional and come in different sizes. They are small and attached to a clip, which can be placed on your clothing. They provide very good quality sound. They are useful because you can position them close, and at a fixed distance from the speaker.