studio condenser microphone in a recording studio

What Is the Difference Between Dynamic and Condenser Microphones?

Microphones are the life and soul of your performance. Whether you’re recording for a podcast or simply trying to have fun with friends, a high-quality microphone can help you deliver a killer performance.

You might be familiar with a standard microphone. The market includes a number of different microphones with varying shapes and sizes. These microphones may also differ in specialties and features due to the recent advancements in technology.

Also, these microphones are sold with various price tags. Some are inexpensive and wildly affordable, while others can easily exceed $1000. Whatever the case, all microphones fall into two basic categories: the condenser and the dynamic microphone. The major difference between them is the method each one uses to recreate electronic output signals.

On the other hand, both use a transducer to capture sound and relay it forward to the speakers. Beginners are often confused over the kind of microphone they should use. In short, it depends on the type of situation and your recording needs.

Dynamic Microphones

How They Work

A typical dynamic microphone works by using the principle of electromagnetism. The principle states that when a magnet is moved to or away from an electric coil, it induces an electric field within the wire.

The dynamic microphone consists of a coil, a permanent magnet, and a diaphragm. You can try relating the mechanism as an opposite to that of a loudspeaker. When you speak into the microphone, it generates sound waves that hit the diaphragm.

This diaphragm, in turn, vibrates back and forth and moves the magnet along with it. As a result, the movement of the magnet generates an electric current within the wire. This electric current is then channeled through the wire of the microphone and sent to the speaker system.

Characteristics

When the diaphragm moves, it produces a certain amount of current. The amount of this current depends on the speed of the diaphragm movement. Thus, dynamic mics are velocity sensitive.

Moreover, they are tough and can handle rough handling. They can also handle loud sounds without any distortion. The overall frequency response of these microphones is good; however, the inertia of the coil can limit it from handling higher frequencies.

Furthermore, the sound from a dynamic mic is said to be well-rounded and mellow. The sound pattern of all dynamic microphones tends to be a cardioid polar response. This helps the microphone in filtering out all noise from the rear end. As a result, your sound source is isolated while recording.

Pros

  1. Rugged and durable construction.
  2. Can handle high-pressure sound levels quite well.
  3. Overall good sound quality.
  4. Less expensive.
  5. Most (with the exception of active dynamic mics) do not need a power source to run.

Cons

  1. Not as suitable for recording of instruments that have a higher frequency such as the violin.
  2. Heavier components such as the wire, coil, and the diaphragm result in difficulties in the movement of the assembly. As a result, transient response and frequency are quite limited.

Condenser Microphones How They Work

The working of these microphones is quite like an electrostatic speaker in reverse. For those unfamiliar with a capacitor, it consists of two plates with a potential difference between them. A condenser mic uses a capacitor where one plate is very thin and acts as a diaphragm.

When sound waves reach the diaphragm, it vibrates. As a result, the distance between the two plates changes as well. This ultimately leads to a change in the capacitance. This is specifically predominant when the plates are closer to each other, which increases the capacitance. A charge current is generated through this mechanism while a discharge occurs when the plates move away from each other.

These microphones use an external battery or power source to generate the voltage between the two plates of the capacitor.

Characteristics

One of the major advantages of the condenser microphones is their enhanced sensitivity. This is due to the thin and lightweight diaphragm which easily vibrates at the slightest of sounds. They tend to be quite accurate. This makes them perfect for studio recordings.

In addition to that, they are available in various shapes and sizes so you can choose one that suits your fancy.

On the other hand, enhanced sensitivity can be a huge disadvantage for bands or performers. Loud instrumental sounds tend to result in distortion. Furthermore, you’ll find that they are more susceptible to feedback. They also tend to pick up unwanted sounds. Thus, they are not the best for outdoor use.

Pros

  1. Larger frequency response.
  2. Best for quiet places such as the indoors.
  3. More sensitive to sounds.
  4. Does not need an amp as the sound created is already strong.

Cons

  1. Tends to be more expensive.
  2. Leads to distortion.
  3. Requires an external power source.
  4. Not as durable as its dynamic counterpart.

Which One to Choose?

Each microphone holds its own and comes with its fair share of strengths and weaknesses. The best way to choose a microphone is to assess your needs. You may want to record live performances, acoustic instruments, vocals, interviews, studio recordings, etc. Generally, the dynamic mics are better suited to live performances, while the condenser mics are best with vocal recordings.

Another factor to consider is the dynamic frequency response. In some situations, it may be desirable while with others it may be not. In fact, some microphones sound neutral while others add tuning and enhancement.

Also, note that the durability and the price are key factors when choosing a microphone. You don’t want to pay a high price and end up with a broken mic within days. Thus, we recommend that whichever device you choose, you find a balance between these two factors.

Parting Notes

Condenser and dynamic microphones are the two major types of microphones available on the market today. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. At the same time, choosing one or the other depends entirely on you and the situation you will be using them in.

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