Condenser Microphones vs. Dynamic Microphones

Condenser Microphones Vs Dynamic Microphones

These days you can find many good microphones, and much cheaper than they were a few years ago. If you have a good microphone, a good performer, and a good room to record, you can get excellent recordings results. Microphones are varied, and everyone is wondering what microphone needs to record something.

There does not exist a rule or a standard recipe. But a few useful things about microphones will help you to know what to choose and how to use them. One of the criteria is price, next is the environment (home, live, studio, etc).

There are endless threads dealing with the question: which microphone is better – dynamic or condenser?

In this article, you will learn when it makes sense to use a dynamic or a condenser microphone.

First things first: Both microphone types convert sound waves into an electrical signal and can be used for recording, streaming, podcasts, and live applications.

Condenser Microphones

Many people name them studio microphones because they are used a lot in the studio, capturing detailed frequencies. To record voice details or acoustic instruments, the best way is to use a condenser microphone.

In more technical terms…

Condenser Microphones Technical DetailsCondenser means capacitor. A capacitor has two plates with a voltage between them. In the condenser mic, one of these plates is made of very light material and acts as the diaphragm. The diaphragm vibrates when struck by sound waves, changing the distance between the two plates and therefore changing the capacitance. Specifically, when the plates are closer together, capacitance increases and a charge current occurs.

When the plates are further apart, capacitance decreases, and a discharge current occurs. Condenser microphones with small diaphragms have higher self-noise, low sensitivity, wider frequency response, and a greater dynamic than microphones with a large diaphragm.

Condenser microphones are more complicated to build. They have more components, the capsule production is more difficult. This means that all other things being equal, the condenser mic is more expensive.

Technical Notes:

  • Condenser microphones need for this additional 48V power source also called Phantom Power.
  • Condenser microphones have a flatter frequency response than dynamics.
  • A condenser mic works in much the same way as an electrostatic tweeter (although obviously in reverse).

Dynamic Microphones PrinciplesDynamic Microphones

Most dynamic microphones are so-called moving coil microphones. Dynamic Microphones are used mainly on stage for shows and live concerts, but also in the studio for various applications. Dynamic microphones are the best choice when comes to recording percussion instruments in the studio.

They have a more solid construction and withstand at high sound pressure – suitable for capturing amplified instruments, like electric guitar or bass, percussion instruments, and drums.

The operating principle is simple. Dynamic microphones work via electromagnetic induction. Sound waves move the diaphragm (a circular nylon membrane in many cases), and this moves the coil that is stuck to it, in a permanent magnetic field and induction generates a small current across it, depending on the frequency at which the diaphragm is excited.

One of the major drawbacks of the dynamic microphone relates to the mass of its moving coil. Due to this mass, the dynamic mic has a relatively poor transient response and is less sensitive than the condenser mic.

These kinds of microphones do not require additional power, are resistant to moisture, and are relatively inexpensive.

Microphone polar patterns

Microphone polar patterns

Microphone polar patterns show how sensitive is the microphone to sounds from different angles from its central axis. Shows you from which direction captures the best sound. Most condenser microphones have the ability to set multiple polar patterns: cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional, directional, etc.

Which microphone for acoustic guitars?

Typical Choice: Condenser

Both types of microphones, dynamic, and condenser, are suitable for recording acoustic guitar. Still, there are some significant differences in the sound of the result.

  • A condenser microphone picks up all the details of your instrument and results in a natural sound.
  • A dynamic microphone delivers less treble and affects the natural sound of the acoustic guitar (character).
  • The diaphragm of the condenser microphone reacts much faster to sound and reproduces the higher frequencies more accurately.

We can say that the condenser microphone delivers a more authentic sound image due to the better transient response.

Which microphone for drum recordings?

Typical choice: Dynamic

In order to get a particularly defined sound, it makes sense to record parts of the drum kit up close. The best examples are kick and snare. Dynamic microphones are the usual candidates for applications here.

This is because of the following reasons.

  • A dynamic microphone can easily handle high sound pressure levels.
  • Dynamic microphones have low sensitivity and even the high SPLs result in signals that can be easily processed by the next device in your recording chain without distortion.

Which microphone for podcasts and voiceovers?

Typical Choices: Condenser and Dynamic

As with recording vocals, podcasts and vocal recordings sound particularly impressive when you use a condenser microphone. The condenser microphone reproduces many details of your voice. Still, many broadcast studios, like radio stations, use dynamic microphones for their live sessions.

Please note that a dynamic mic will not isolate your voice better or perform “better” in an untreated room. The main difference between the two microphones, as already mentioned, is the difference in sensitivity and level of detail in the high frequencies.

Recording offers you a wide space in which to be creative. You can get great results with any quality microphone. But as we’ve seen, there are some things that work a lot easier when using one mic or the other.

I hope now after you read this article you will know what type of microphone to choose for your needs.

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