A vocal microphone is a device used to pick up soundwaves created by a person's voice. This microphone can feature different methods for picking up such sounds, and can then transfer those sounds through a cable and into a mixing board, amplifier, or recording device. The two most common types of microphones used as a vocal microphone are cardioid and condenser microphones; each has its own specific purpose, as well as its own ways of picking up vocal sounds from a singer or speaker. If only one person will be speaking or singing into the microphone, a cardioid microphone is commonly used.
Cardioid microphones are directional mics. This means the vocal microphone will only pick up sounds that are created directly in front of the microphone, eliminating ambient noise from being amplified through the mic. If a person is signing or speaking directly into the microphone, and all other noise needs to be eliminated, a cardioid microphone is commonly used as the vocal microphone of choice. These mics usually do not require any source of power, so they can be plugged directly into most mixing boards, amplifiers, or PA systems.
Condenser microphones are the vocal microphone of choice when more than one person is singing or speaking into the mic. They are also commonly used during the recording process, but only if the mic is being used in a room that is sound-controlled; ambient noise needs to be eliminated or reduced significantly, since a condenser mic will pick up sounds from all over the room or space. These mics are sometimes used for recording because they tend to pick up more of the singer's voice, creating a richer sound. They are not commonly used for live performances because ambient noise is easily picked up by the mic and transferred into the PA system.
During the recording process, a vocal microphone is often covered by a pop filter. This filter is essentially a screen that prevents gusts of air from a person's breath from striking the microphone, thereby causing a popping sound. Such air gusts are common when people sing or speak into the microphone: when a person speaks or sings an S or a P, for example, the resulting air rush will strike the microphone and cause an unpleasant noise. The pop filter can be foam, or it can be made from layers of thin material stacked on top of each other.