Should You Use a Dynamic or a Condenser Microphone?( 'Takes about 4 minutes to read. )

~~ Idol & The Goblet of Fire ~~
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The question of whether you should use a
dynamic or condenser microphone is a
frequently-occurring and, at times, important question.

The answer depends on what you’re using the
microphone for.

Picking up sound”.

Well duh. – Who’d have thought it? – Exactly what sounds do you want to pick up?

A dynamic microphone will pick up sounds close to it; but it’s not that sensitive. It’s a fairly low-cost design that incorporates a diaphragm attached to a coil encompassing a magnet. Anyone who’s studied basic electricity/electronics will, at this point, say something like “That sounds like a dynamo”. – Yes it does,  and that’s pretty much what it is: Sound vibrations hitting the diaphragm cause the coil to move slightly in relation to the fixed permanent magnet, which produces a tiny electrical AC current.

Music Notes Color AnimaionUnlike a dynamic
microphone; a condenser microphone doesn’t
generate its own
electricity by its action.

Instead the sound vibrations hit a diaphragm which is one plate of a small-value electronic capacitor. The tiny movements of the plate vary the microphone’s in-circuit capacitance; which can be picked up by a very sensitive device on the preamplifier’s input called a Field Effect Transistor (FET). – Condenser microphones therefore don’t generate their own electrical signal as dynamic microphones do. – Rather they rely on a power-source; usually 48v DC phantom-power, which provides a DC potential across the device.

The ultra-sensitive FET input-stage in the FET input stage of the preamplifier reads the miniscule differences in potential caused by the microphone’s action; and it changes those tiny differences in capacitance into an electrical signal, similar to the signal from a dynamic microphone. – Similar, that is, in its being an AC waveform.

The big difference between the two types of microphone is that the condenser microphone not only picks up a larger frequency range – from around 5Hz up to around 25KHz (Whereas a dynamic microphone will pick up between 15-20Hz and a maximum of about 9KHz.) – but due to its extreme sensitivity, it will pick up pretty much every sound that’s audible to the Human ear (Maybe even a few that aren’t.) at whatever location it’s being used at.

Dynamic microphones are relatively inexpensive in comparison to decent condenser microphones. The tiny condenser microphones that you get on your laptop, phone, or webcam are the cheapest type of condenser microphone, and, while sometimes being quite sensitive, they usually are nevertheless fairly low-quality condenser mics, which would be as good as useless compared to an expensive professional unit.

Dynamic microphones are great for using on stage, and aren’t that expensive to replace if damaged by a performer either.

When it comes to professional sound recording, though, a quality condenser microphone comes into its own: It picks up everything. – In fact it picks up too much, particularly in the way of high-frequencies; and most artists, even to an extent those with a high-pitched voice, will use a level of compression on the pre-amp along with a condenser mic, as well as the 3 or more adjustable-level band-stop filter-points also used with dynamic mics in relation to a graphic-equaliser, to at least partially squelch-out what I call the ‘spoiler-sounds’. – But now we’re getting into more advanced sound-engineering which is beyond the scope of this article.

Girl With Guitar So to sum up then – in short if you’re deejaying, or on stage performing, a dynamic microphone will probably suffice,

although it can at times – for extra sound quality – be prudent to also use a condenser microphone at a greater distance and combine the two waveforms. (Tip:–This is particularly true when recording drums in the studio; but in such a case a lot of compression may be advisable.) If, however, you’re in the studio recording a vocal track; it’s usually better to use a condenser mic – on the proviso that the studio is adequately soundproofed from external noise, and that the internal sound resonance is properly managed: There’s nothing worse than trying to perform in an echo-y studio sometimes.

Lastly a condenser mic will pick up every little tonal mistake in the performer’s voice, and it’ll remain in the recording to a certain extent no matter how much you try squelching it out or compressing it. – Having said that; if the performer is crap then a decent dynamic mic will also pick it up, so there is no substitute for a decent performing artist – no matter how electronically enhanced they may end up.

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