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An Easy Guide to Understanding Microphones - Dynamics and Condensers

Guides

There are a lot of resources out there on different types of microphones and what to use them for. We look at these and some are just confusing and contradicting to others. Today, we want to steer clear of the noise and give you a simple guide to easily understand how different microphones work and what to use them for.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser Microphones have become the most commonly used microphone for recording in recent years. There are literally thousands of different condenser mics to choose from. But why do people gravitate toward these?

How do they work?

Inside, there is a capsule with a diaphragm that moves back and forth as sound pressure hits it. Behind the diaphragm is a small space followed by a stationary backplate. When the diaphragm moves toward the the backplate, it creates a charge of electrical energy. That energy is too quiet to use on its own, so it needs to go through a preamp within the microphone to bring up the level.

The preamp in the microphone needs extra power to be used. You can get that power by pressing the +48 button on your interface. This supplies up to 48 volts to the microphone. We refer to this as "Phantom Power." Condenser microphones need this phantom power to get the preamp inside enough energy to work.

The result?

The result of having this extra gain before hitting your audio interface or other recording device is lots of detail. Particularly in the high end. This is why lots of people like using condenser microphones. They typically sound brighter and more exciting and need less EQ in a final mix.

Having more gain also creates a higher noise floor. This means that the incoming signal will be much higher compared to the electronic noise of the microphone, making for a cleaner recording.

Recommendations

One of our favorite condenser microphones is the Studio Projects C1.

It sells for a low price of $249 and sounds incredible on everything from vocals and acoustic guitar to drum overheads and room mics. For more vocal mic recommendations check out this article.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are very commonly used on loud sources and on stage because of their incredible durability. Due to their lower gain, they tend to pick up less bleed from the sides which makes them a great choice for drums.

How do they work?

This illustration perfectly shows us the innards of common dynamic microphones. Just like condenser microphones, sound waves hit the diaphragm and cause it to vibrate. In this case, however, the diaphragm is connected to the voice coil. Dynamic microphones are also commonly referred to as moving coil microphones for this reason.

Because the diaphragm and voice coil are connected, the coil will move back and forth along with the diaphragm. In the center of the coil, you will see a magnet. The movement of the voice coil within the magnetic field is what turns the acoustical energy into an electronic signal.

The result?

 

Since dynamic microphones can create a mic-level signal without the use of an internal preamp, they don't need phantom power. That also means that they don't have as much gain, so the result is a much quieter signal in many cases. Dynamics are not as sensitive as condensers, so they can handle much higher incoming levels.

These kinds of microphones also tend to have much better side rejection. This makes dynamics a great choice when you are recording in a room with little no to treatment. In a scenario like this, condenser microphones would pick up the room noise whereas dynamics would only pick up what's direction in front of the them.

Recommendations

For large diaphragm dynamic microphones, it's hard to beat the Aston Stealth.

This is a microphone made to suit any situation. Check out the sound samples in this Unfiltered Video.

As always, enjoy FAST and FREE shipping on any order in the continental US. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to give us a toll free call at 855-269-0474, or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton! Be sure to check out our other articles here.

 

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