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Mics turn sound into energy signals. To produce the sound you want it is crucial for the microphone to capture the sound accurately. Selecting the right microphone is very important to get your sound right. Microphones can be grouped into two main categories. Condenser microphones and Dynamic microphones.
Determine the Intended Purpose for Microphones - Instrument, Vocal or Drum
While in many situations, dynamic microphones have been preferred for live use and capturing powerful vocals, condenser microphones are also highly useful for delicate vocals and in-studio use. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution, a different range of applications require different mics, So, the first step to picking the right microphone is determining whether you need an instrument mic, a vocal mic or a drum mic.
Common Misunderstandings Around the Condenser and Dynamic Mics
Before we take a more in-depth look at condenser mics and dynamic microphones, let us first look at some of the statements that are not necessarily true and give rise to common misunderstandings regarding condenser and dynamic microphones.
- Condenser mics are more fragile as compared to dynamic mics: Many mics have a delicate design which makes them suitable for use in studios. This goes for both condenser and dynamic mics, however, if such a mic is used for musical touring purposes, they won’t be able to manage the rough handling. There are several high-quality solid-state condenser mics that are as good as any robust dynamic microphone.
- All dynamic mics can do without a power supply: This is not always true. Most dynamic microphones are plug-and-play and can manage without power, while condenser mics definitely need a power supply. It is for non-electret condensers to charge the electrodes. However, active dynamic microphones need a power supply as well.
- Condenser mics are louder than the dynamic mics: No mic is louder than the other, whether it is a condenser or a dynamic microphone. What is important is to select a unit with a sensitivity that is required as per its application.
- Dynamic mics can handle sound pressures better than condenser mics: If a mike pre-amp can handle all the juice coming out of the mic, a condenser mic can handle high sound pressure just as well as any microphone.
- Condenser mics feed more easily than dynamic mics: It boils down to selecting the right microphone. A common mistake is picking a condenser mic that is developed for recording at a distance. When amplified, this may lead to low-frequency feed. It would be better to use a low-cut/high-pass or pick a microphone that is designed for stage use.
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Dynamic Vs. Condenser microphones: What are the key differences?
- While both microphones convert sound waves into a voltage and then send them to a pre-amp, the difference lies in the way this energy is converted. Dynamic microphones use electromagnetism to turn sound waves into voltage. They use sound waves that vibrate the diaphragm and create electricity, which is then increased with the use of a transformer, and sent to the microphone’s output, creating sound. Condenser microphones work as a battery. Sound waves vibrate the diaphragm with a magnetic plate that’s behind it and boost voltage which is sent through a phantom power supply (+48V) to increase it and send it to the microphone.
- A word on the common applications of dynamic and condenser microphones. Dynamic mics will often be used for scenarios like a live performance where there is a loud sound source. They are mainly considered best-fit for loud, live vocals. They are also good for brass instruments, keyboards, drums and guitar amplifiers. Condenser mics are the preferred type for studio applications to achieve a bigger, natural tone. Some examples of what they’re typically used for includes acoustic guitars, bass drums, piano and vocals.
- Difference between the polar patterns. Usually, dynamic microphones have a cardioid or supercardioid pattern, whereas condensers can have any pattern, often with the ability to change polar patterns.
- There is a difference in how they work. The dynamic mics use a diaphragm, voice coil and magnet to pick the sound waves and convert them into an electrical signal. Condenser mics use an electrically-charged diaphragm, which when vibrates, an electrical signal is generated that is proportional to the sound.
A Final Word