Dynamic Microphone vs Condenser Microphone: Which one is right for you?

Jun 08, 2020

So, today we’ve decided to enter the murky, oily, vacuous world of Microphones, and which one is the right one for you?? Oh, Brother!!

Let me quietly and carefully start by saying, there are many different types of Microphones and all of them have their place in the world and some of them shine in certain applications and aren’t so great in others, some are iconic, some are old school… but in order to try and pull back the curtains to ‘demystify’ the whole process of choosing the right microphone from a Voiceover Journey point of view… we’d better start with what each Microphone does…

But first, What does a Microphone do?

Put simply, a microphone captures sound waves and converts these waves into electrical impulses that can then be read and ‘understood’ by analog or digital recording equipment, or in our case, a digital interface or DAW, connected to your computer.

We could get into how microphones produce AC currents that mimic sound waves, but I think it’s probably a little technical for what’s required in this article… Just know that both types of microphones produce and convert electric current to mimic soundwaves, it’s just that they do it in different ways, using different technologies...

So, What’s the difference between a Dynamic microphone and a Condenser microphone?

The rudimentary differences between the two are laid out below: please note these comparisons are general in nature and are not meant to be biased in any way.

Dynamic Microphones:

  • Used in production studios and live settings to primarily record loud sounds and live instruments including drums.
  • They are robust and can withstand some pretty rough handling and wear and tear. This is why they are the professional's choice for concerts and live music.
  • These represent the oldest type of microphone technology and are, therefore, fairly rudimentary in design.

Pros: Dynamic microphones don’t need a power source to drive them.

Affordability wise, dynamic microphones are generally cheaper to buy 

than Condenser microphones.

  • Less sensitive to quiet and sounds of high frequency which can be a major plus for noise reduction or filtering.

Cons: Dynamic microphones are less sensitive to quiet nuances and sounds of high frequency which can be limiting in some recording circumstances.

Condenser Microphones:

  • Used in production studios to record sound that is generally quieter, with greater levels of complexity and tone, and also used in recording greater frequencies.
  • The newer type of microphone technology and therefore, more complex in design with the capability of a much higher degree of accuracy in capturing sound.

Pros: Condenser microphones need a phantom power source to drive them.

Condenser microphones are generally more expensive to buy 

than Dynamic microphones.

- Condensers generally are a more sensitive microphone

- More accurate reproduction of sound captured

- More sensitive to quiet sounds and sounds of high frequency.

Cons: 

  • Condenser microphones need a phantom power source to drive them.
  • Condenser microphones are generally more expensive to buy than Dynamic microphones.
  • Condenser microphones are generally more fragile than dynamic microphones.
  • Condenser microphones are more sensitive to quiet nuances and sounds of high frequency and if in a poorly treated room without filters, plug-ins, and gates, etc, are guaranteed to pick up the next-door neighbors dog, the parakeet’s snoring and his Saturday morning lawn mower and whipper snipper derby with the greatest of ease…

Stigma - what the industry says:

You’ll find in most creative industries there’s always personal bias towards iconic equipment and industry standards…

Take the Sennheiser MKH 416 for example, known as the ‘L.A. Mic’ and used in recording studios all over, this is a small diaphragm condenser microphone that works beautifully in its application of voiceover because it’s clear and crisp, has loads of tone and has a very quiet noise floor and because it’s a shotgun mic, it’d directional to the degree it will only really pick up what’s directly in front of it, so it’s great for home studios that struggle with noisy environments. But what’s interesting is that the 416’s initial intention and what it was designed for was to be used on a boom arm in film sets… so there’s an example of a happy accident if ever I’ve seen one…

Neumann microphones are also classed as the industry standard by many, warm creamy tones are characteristic in this series of highly prized and generally higher priced microphones, but fear not young Jedi, you can get a really nice tone, from a very affordable Microphone in a well-treated space…

It’s a bit like whether you drive your Ford family wagon to the supermarket or whether you take the Lamborghini... both have four wheels and a steering wheel and both will get you there and generally, the person serving you at the checkouts doesn't know what you arrived in!

For more information on microphones and essential gear CLICK HERE

As long as your sound is clean, well-modulated, and of the correct tone and cadence, you’ll get paid for your beautiful read!

For more information on Microphone, Technique CLICK HERE

For more information on voiceover, style courses CLICK HERE

Recommendations - A final word on Microphones:

It really doesn’t matter what the brand name is on your Microphone or how much you paid for it. It’s more important that it works well with your voice and is aligned nicely with your equipment and the way you’ve treated your recording space…

The most expensive microphone will sound terrible in an untreated room and will also pick up the slightest hum if your room treatment needs work, that’s why it’s better not to overdo it based on your recording space.

Let’s face it, most of our corporate clients wouldn’t pick the difference in Microphone quality if we presented it to them… It’s more an industry bias than anything else.

If You’d like to book in a microphone sound audit with me CLICK HERE 

Here’s to your ongoing voiceover success,  

Anthony Pica

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