Among the various types of microphones you’ll come across on stage and in the studio, none are as common as dynamic and condenser mics. Because of this, it is important to know the differences between them in order to figure out which of the two is right for a particular job. Below, we take a look at how both of these mics work on a basic level along with each of their strengths and weaknesses.
How They Work
Dynamic microphones consist of a small diaphragm made of thin, lightweight material, usually plastic. At the center of the diaphragm is a small voice coil which – along with the diaphragm – sits suspended on top of a circular magnet. As sound travels through the diaphragm, it moves up and down which pulls the coils through the magnetic field, which in turn creates an electric signal that corresponds with the sound waves being picked up by the mic.
One of the biggest strengths of dynamic microphones is their toughness and reliability. Compared to other types of microphones, dynamic mics can take more of a beating before they fail and are generally unaffected by extreme temperatures or humidity. They are also much better at handling loud sound sources, making them much less prone to feedback problems than other mics. Because of these traits, they are a popular choice for concerts and other particularly loud environments.
While dynamic mics have a lot of advantages other mics don't, they aren’t perfect. One of the biggest weaknesses among many dynamic mics is their limited frequency response. In other words, they tend to be more specialized towards certain frequencies. For example, the one dynamic mic might be better attuned to picking up mid frequencies while lacking in the low end, while another might have a good bass response while cutting off the higher ranges. Because of this, it is not uncommon to have multiple dynamic mics and use them on different sound sources, depending on which mic is better suited for the job. You should definitely check out our Why The Sennheiser e609 Silver Is A Great Guitar Cab Mic article for a good idea on how the characteristics of a mic make it better suited for towards certain sound sources.
How They Work
Although there are plenty of variations within condenser mics, they all typically work by using a backplate and a small diaphragm which each act like an electrical conductor. When sound vibrates between the diaphragm and the back plate, it changes the capacitance (the amount of electrical charge being held) of the circuit. This change in capacitance is then given off as a small electrical signal that is then amplified by a power source. Unlike dynamic mics, condenser mics need an external power source in order for them to function, which is usually in the form of phantom power.
Compared to dynamic mics, condensers typically record in much better quality and are far more sensitive to sound due to the smaller amount of room needed to distinguish changes in frequency. This increased sensitivity and higher fidelity make condenser mics a popular choice for high-quality studio recordings. That's not to say you'll never find condenser mics on a live stage, as they are sometimes used for sound reinforcement, especially with orchestras.
While condensers work great for recording vocals or an acoustic guitar in a controlled studio environment, they are typically avoided for use in live performances since their added sensitivity makes them highly susceptible to high gain feedback from all of the background noise they pick up, unlike dynamic mics which only pick up what is generally near them. They are also comparatively more fragile than dynamic mics and require an external power source to function.
The Right Mic For The Right Job ...
There is no single mic that will work in every situation and with every single sound source, and that's true with both condensers and dynamic microphones. But by knowing the general characteristics of these two types of mics, you can give yourself a good idea of what type of mic to start with.
At ProAudioLand, we have a wide selection of dynamic and condenser microphones at the best prices around! If you're looking for a good deal, make sure to browse our selection! If you have any questions regarding the purchase of a microphone or any other piece of gear, don't hesitate to chat with one of our friendly PAL pros by using the live chat feature below or by calling us toll-free at 1 877-671-2200!
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