Microphones are one of the most important pieces of equipment for any audio engineer. They are vital for recording and transmitting sound to a sound system, and it’s important to be familiar with the different types. Dynamic and condenser microphones are two common types of microphones that are used in audio recording and broadcasting. But what are the differences between dynamic and condenser microphones?
Unfortunately, not knowing the differences between a dynamic and a condenser mic can lead to not knowing which type best suits your needs.
This article covers what a dynamic and a condenser mic are and how they differ. So if you’re looking to capture quality sound on your recordings or are just curious about these mics, this post is for you!
What are the differences between dynamic and condenser microphones? The way they function is different. A dynamic microphone’s diaphragm, voice coil, and magnet transform sound into an electric current. In condenser microphones, when a charged diaphragm moves, it sends an electrical signal proportional to the sound coming in.
What are dynamic and condenser microphones?
Microphones are uniform; they all work by transforming sound into voltage before sending it to a preamp. However, the process of converting this energy is quite different. Both condenser and dynamic microphones rely on electromagnetism and changeable capacitance, respectively. I realize this all seems very complicated, but please bear with me. Don’t worry. We’ll break it down for you!
Utilizing a magnet, dynamic microphones convert sound waves into electric currents. They function similarly to conventional speakers but in reverse. When an electric current flows through the diaphragm of a speaker, it makes sound waves.
But dynamic microphones get power from the diaphragm’s vibrations caused by sound waves. The power is amplified by a transformer and transferred to the microphone’s output, which converts it into audible vibrations.
Using the idea of changing capacitance, condenser microphones capture high-quality audio. For a better analogy, they provide the same function as a battery. The diaphragm, which has a magnetic plate behind it, is vibrated by sound waves.
This causes a voltage boost, amplified by a phantom power supply (+48V) and sent to the microphone’s output. The signal strength will be negligible without this phantom power source. In addition to the polar pattern switch, some condensers have a high pass filter, pads, and a switch.
How do dynamic and condenser mic works?
It’s not the same way that these microphones function.
Dynamic mics: how they work
Dynamic microphones use a coil of wire wrapped around a diaphragm suspended in a magnetic field to pick up sound. When the diaphragm moves, it makes the coil move similarly, creating an electric current.
- Handle heat and humidity well
- High volumes without distortion
- A rougher but usable audio signal
Dynamic mics are great for interviews, hosting, and live performances where the voice can be somewhat clear and smooth.
Due to their coarser sound qualities, dynamic microphones with a cardioid pattern (more on polar patterns in a bit) tend to remove more background noise. However, they may need to catch certain subtleties in a performance. This makes them ideal for hosting podcasts, recording voiceovers and interviews, and recording voices in general. They are also useful for recordings loud objects, such as drums, firearms, and explosions.
Condenser mics: how they work
A condenser microphone is a microphone that converts acoustic energy into electrical energy by vibrating a conductive diaphragm against a charged backplate.
- Smooth frequency response
- Clear, detailed sound with crisper highs
- Excellent low-frequency response
- Not suited to extremely hot or humid environments
When recording in a studio, a condenser microphone is the best choice. They create a voice with a distinct quality that is both warm and commanding. Finally, condenser mics are also good for field recording. Condenser mics are great for recording high-quality sound because they are more sensitive and have a smoother frequency response.
What is the difference between a dynamic mic and a condenser mic?
We’ll go into the technical details of how exactly these two microphones collect sound using different ‘technologies,’ but first, some considerations for everyday use:
Unlike condenser microphones, dynamic microphones don’t need additional electricity. Therefore, any dynamic microphone, including the Red5 Audio RVD30, will function when plugged into an active speaker, such as the Red5 Audio RV215A.
However, a condenser microphone must be powered to function like the Red5 Audio RV8. The phrase “phantom power” is often used to describe this phenomenon. (A condenser microphone, for instance, cannot be used with a speaker unless it is first powered.) See here for more reading about Phantom Power.
Small diaphragm condenser microphones and big diaphragm condenser microphones are the two main types of condenser microphones. Mics with a big diaphragm can pick up many subtle details in the sound. This makes them a popular option for studio recording, particularly for capturing voices. It’s common to find small diaphragm condenser microphones in live and studio settings, and they excel at picking up acoustic instruments and ensembles.
Smaller and less noticeable, as the name says. Take, for example, the condenser microphones that hang from the ceiling of the chamber of the House of Parliament. (Check out our own RV85 Hanging Condenser Microphone for something similar).
A dynamic microphone will be employed in situations with a lot of background noise, such as a live performance or sound reinforcement. They are also less likely to pick up unwanted feedback, making them the go-to mic for most live vocal performances.
What to consider when choosing a dynamic mic vs. a condenser mic
Before we compare condenser and dynamic microphones, defining a few technical terms is helpful.
While you may be on a tighter budget initially, you can still settle for subpar results. A decent microphone may still be had for a reasonable sum of money. The price of a dynamic microphone is often lower than that of a condenser one. However, this is only sometimes the case. Start your search by identifying your specific recording needs and considering your budget.
A microphone’s frequency response specifies the tonal range it can faithfully reproduce. The frequency response of a microphone may tell you a lot about its sound quality.
The microphone’s polar pattern shows how well it can pick up sounds from different directions. For example, when deciding between a condenser and a dynamic microphone, you should examine the following patterns.
A bi-directional microphone can record audio from both the front and back of the device. You and the interviewee may sit across from one other and still have great sound clarity with this mic, making it perfect for recording interviews.
The sound may be picked up from any direction using an omnidirectional microphone. It doesn’t matter where the sound is coming from around the microphone. They’ll pick it up. These aren’t great if you need to isolate a single sound in a busy room. However, in a more contained environment, they can be useful if you want to record many instruments with a single microphone or if you want to record multiple people talking into a single mic.
The “heart” shape of a cardioid microphone inspired the name. Unlike other microphones, cardioid mics don’t pick up sounds from the back or sides. When there is only one sound source to record, these super-cardioid microphones are helpful. They are also less sensitive to ambient noise so they won’t pick up any of it either.
Similar to cardioid microphones but with a much narrower pickup angle, super cardioid mics place a disproportionate amount of attention on sounds originating from the front of the microphone while minimizing or eliminating those from the sides and rear.
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones, What’s the Difference?” from the Podcastage YouTube channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the differences between dynamic and condenser mics.
Is a dynamic or condenser mic better for vocals?
Either a condenser or a dynamic system? Condenser mics, the most linear type of mic, are better at picking up voices than dynamic mics because they are more sensitive to small changes in sound. Because of this, the recording studio is tailor-made for use with condenser mics.
Can I record vocals with a dynamic mic?
An effective recording tool is a dynamic microphone. Having one in your studio is a good investment since you can use a popular example for very little money. If you need to record vocals on a tight budget or want to catch a loud amp or drum, a dynamic mic may be your best choice.
Do dynamic mics pick up background noise?
Noise rejection with a dynamic microphone is not a miracle. But a podcaster should use a dynamic microphone because it cuts down on background noise, as long as the microphone is used right.
Should I use a condenser or dynamic mic for streaming?
If you want to broadcast on the Internet but don’t have a studio, you might want to buy a dynamic microphone. Dynamic microphones are less sensitive than condenser microphones but generate high-quality sound.
Plus, they’re more cheap, sturdy, and long-lasting. On the other hand, condenser microphones are superior to dynamic microphones in terms of sensitivity and precision.
As you can see, the different types of microphones differ not only in their operation but also in their applications. This is why it’s important to know the differences between dynamic and condenser microphones if you need one for your projects.
However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great artist by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.
This article covered what dynamic and condenser mics are, how they work, and their differences. Here are some key takeaways:
- Microphones are uniform; they all work by transforming sound into voltage before sending it to a preamp.
- It’s different from the way that dynamic and condenser microphones function.
- These two microphones collect sound using different technologies.
- Extra tips:
- Since the collision of air molecules produces the vibrations, a large diaphragm is a significant plus.
- Microphones with a greater maximum spl are preferable for podcasters miking loud instruments like brass or drums.
- The dynamic shure sm7 b is a great choice for recording in noisy surroundings, while the condenser Neumann u87 is the way to go for recording voices.
- The terms “condenser” and “dynamic” refer to certain kinds of transducers that perform this function of changing one form of energy into another.
- High sound pressure levels won’t damage a dynamic microphone’s ability to pick up sound.
- Large-diaphragm condensers will typically have a modest boost in the high-frequency band followed by a slight roll-off at the top end of their frequency response.
- Regarding sound quality, ribbon microphones are unrivaled; nonetheless, they are notoriously pricey and fragile.
- One common use of condenser microphones is to record an acoustic guitar with a tiny diaphragm condenser microphone.
- The high-fidelity xlr output enhances the voice without distorting the subtleties of the singer’s tone.
- A dynamic microphone is a way to record loud instruments like guitar amplifiers, brass instruments, singers, and drum sets.
- In addition to being simple to use, dynamic microphones are also notable for their durability and adaptability.
- The bottom end of most dynamics is rolled off, making them unsuitable for use with bass instruments (such as the kick or bass).
So, which of the two microphones suits your needs? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.