Dynamic and Condenser Microphone
In the beginning, when I began recording, I desired to record some simple acoustic guitar and vocals. I had no many options, mainly because I owned just an acoustic guitar at that time. I was running out of a microphone due to no line output in my traditional guitar.
But when I started looking for which one is as per my need, I soon recognized it wasn't easy as pie. At my research stage, I got to know about different types of microphones. Condenser and dynamic were the most used terms in types of microphone. But what is the difference between them? Did I need to purchase both? I started testing different microphone?
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Firstly, clear the difference. A dynamic microphone is better to catch loud and strong sounds (drums and loud vocals), Usually in live programs, While a condenser microphone uses to capture light sound and higher frequencies, Specially in Studio sessions. There is no requirement of power for a dynamic microphone, but the condenser mic does.
Their characteristics depend on their construction and how they function. And I discover how they are excellent for various purposes. They weren't just to distract me.
In this article, I will try to explain what I found while researching in detail, also the conclusion and my first purchase. In the end, I will list microphones which I think are quite suitable for different types of instruments and situations.
What does a microphone do?
So let's start with the most basics.
A microphone is a device that converts sound waves into electrical waves that computers or another recording device can understand.
The sound waves can be human created sound or anything.
The way a microphone converts this signal varies based on the sort of microphone.
What is a dynamic microphone?
- It is Used to record loud sounds, live instruments (guitars, drums, amplifiers, and more).
- Pros: Cheap, durable, and no power source required.
- Cons: Not very responsive for quiet or high-frequency sounds.
The oldest types of microphones dynamic are, hence simple in terms of their composition.
Get it in simple words. Dynamic microphone creates a sound when a sound wave hits a diaphragm causing it to move. A diaphragm is a device used to sense a sound signal made of plastic or polyester film.
The diaphragm is attached to a metal coil, which hanged between two magnets. After a sound wave hits a diaphragm, the diaphragm moves, which later influence coils to move up and down, producing a little AC (Alternate current), imitating that the sound wave.
To examine and make this more simple to understand, let's take an example. Consider sound wave like a wave on the water created by splashing. Now Imagine a metal coil as a plug bobbing up and down on the surface as each wave passes it...I hope that is logical.
Dynamic microphones are capable of facing high sound pressure levels. This makes them fit perfectly for recording loud sounds or for live settings uses. They are available at a very reasonable price because of their primary design. They can be damaged-proof devices. That's what they are used mostly in live performances.
Their durability advantages sometimes become a limitation in some situations.
The coil carries a certain weight. Therefore if you make a sound with particularly low or high frequency, the coil will not vibrate enough to represent an accurate sound.
It is a reason where dynamic mic lacks for recording in studios. Studios are limited up to recording vocals, so a dynamic microphone doesn't meet the needs of studios. And in that situation, you necessitate a condenser microphone.
What is a condenser microphone?
- Used to record quiet sounds with higher frequencies.
- Pros: It is Sensitive and accurate.
- Cons: muchExpensive, delicate, dealing with loud sounds is difficult for it.
Unlike dynamic mics, condenser mics are proficient at capturing thin sound with a high-frequency rate.
There is a diaphragm also in the condenser microphone but made of a different material. Here, the diaphragm is made of extremely thin metal with another piece of metal in the upper layer called blackplate. Electricity is applied to both of them creating a static charge. Once a soundwave hits a diaphragm it vibrates and produces a little electric current.
As I mentioned electricity is applied to the diaphragm and the backplate. This means you need electricity for condenser mics to carry the workload. The required electricity amount varies from 9 to 48 volts. So you will need either battery in the microphone itself or a PHANTOM POWER.
Now, what is phantom power?
No, phantom power isn't some type of mysterious energy source that requires more space to keep. It indicates a tiny amount of energy needs to move the diaphragm. This power comes from your audio interface or pre-amp. Commonly you will find a phantom power switch on them.
Are there more microphones available?
Of course. Makers come with various choices for you to opt for one of them. There are less common types of microphone available that you may come across are :
They are condenser microphones used in a special kind of room, designed to pick up sounds reflected off a surface.
It is use when multiple instruments are getting recorded at a time. This microphone can also use when people want to catch sound produce in a particular type of room.
Like a condenser microphone, a boundary microphone requires phantom power too.
This microphone has a thin ribbon of aluminum instead of plastic as a diaphragm, hence its name as ribbon Microphone. These mics share similar properties with dynamic mics, hence no difference between both.
Ribbon Microphones are no more common these days. They are expensive, also brittle. They are too sensitive that even a light breeze could damage one.
Difference between small and large diaphragm.
The diaphragm is used to vibrate when a sound wave hits it, mentioned earlier.
While buying a condenser microphone, you may come across a large diaphragm or small diaphragm. But what is the difference and which one to opt for while making a purchase?
Understand easily, a large diaphragm is better at picking up lower frequencies of the sound wave due to its size. While the small diaphragm is at its best at capturing higher frequencies.
Your choice must base on your needs, what you will be recording. If your goal is to record mainly vocals, then go for a microphone with a large diaphragm. But if you need to capture high-pitched violin or flute then switching to a small-diaphragm may be the best decision you could make.
Omnidirectional Vs cardioid
While shopping, you may face very confusing words, quite difficult to conquer. Those confusing words are omnidirectional and cardioid.
It's not such difficult to understand. First, guess what you think? The answer lies in names. Ok, let it be, I will explain. Omnidirectional means the microphone captures sound all from it's surrounding. A cardioid microphone captures sound directly from the face of the source.
When you are looking for recording sounds of instruments/ voice along with the sound of the room, boom, Omnidirectional mics will work great for you.
If your purpose is to record the direct sound of instruments, cardioid mics are great. They will only record the sound of instruments to which it's facing, not the sound of another instrument crashing around it.
Hope, this article will help you to understand the different types of microphone. It could help you make better decisions while making purchases.