If you are planning to record audio for a video or stream, you will need a microphone. You probably want to invest in one seeing as it might prove very helpful.
However, while searching for a suitable microphone, you may get overwhelmed with your search. You encounter two different microphones- condenser and dynamic mics. Which mic is better for me? What advantages do they have? You may have these questions.
Our condenser vs dynamic mic article will aid you to highlight the differences between the two mics and help you decide.
Microphone 101: How a Microphone Works
Before we can go into how the two microphones differ, it can be helpful to review how a microphone works. A microphone’s primary function is to convert sound into electrical energy, which can then be processed. They are important recording devices for sound.
There are several ways that a microphone works, and it largely depends on its internal structure. The most common operation method is electromagnetic induction, in which a changing magnetic field is made to induce electricity.
Inside a microphone is a plastic or polyester layer or film (known as the diaphragm), which is attached to a magnetic coil. When you talk into a microphone, sound waves are made to travel to the microphone and, in turn, make contact with the diaphragm and make it move up and down.
This also causes the coil to move up and down, which induces an electric current similar in nature to the sound wave. In this way, sound waves are converted to electrical energy.
However, the sound we all produce vary in pitch and range. There is no one microphone for every person or situation, and different microphones are made to work with different sounds and have unique advantages to them. These characteristics often arise from differences in their structure.
What is a Dynamic Microphone
A dynamic microphone is one of the oldest variants of a microphone. It is also known as a moving-coil microphone. A dynamic microphone consists of a diaphragm attached to a magnetic coil that is made to move up and down. It has a similar mechanism, as described above.
This type of microphone works via electromagnetic induction. A dynamic microphone is also a bit heavier and made to be stronger. These microphones are more robust and can withstand quite a bit of damage.
Advantages of Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic microphones are the cheaper option in comparison to condenser microphones. As a result, they are quite easy to pick up and use as a backup for some cases.
2. No Power Source Needed
As described previously, a dynamic microphone does not need a power source or battery to work as it does not use a capacitor. As long as your voice is loud enough to cause the diaphragm to move up and down to produce sufficient output, you will be in the clear.
3. Strong Construction And Durability
Both the external casing and internal parts of a dynamic microphone are made to be strong and durable. As such, they tend to last longer and can withstand damage without suffering from a decrease in sound quality.
Disadvantages of Dynamic Microphones
1. Low Sensitivity
This is a crippling weakness of the dynamic microphones. Due to the thicker diaphragm used and the mechanics involved, a dynamic microphone will not work with low sound or soft voices.
There will be more losses, and words will often not get through. These microphones also do not capture as much detail, so for some instruments or recordings, the audio might seem lacking.
2. Users with Lisps Might Face Issues
Users with lisps might have trouble using a dynamic microphone as the lisp might become more pronounced and end up making their words difficult to understand.
3. Does Not Work with High Frequencies
A dynamic microphone offers poor performance for anything producing a high frequency and harmonics.
What is a Condenser Microphone
These microphones were previously known capacitor microphones. To know how they differ, let us learn a bit about capacitors.
1. Capacitor or Condenser Basics
Unlike a dynamic microphone, a condenser microphone has an alteration to its structure. This alteration is in the form of an electrical device known as a capacitor.
In case you did not know or forgot, a capacitor is a device that consists of two metal plates. It can store electricity in an electric field between those two plates.
A capacitor’s ability to store charge is known as its capacitance. It can both store charge as well as discharge it.
Unlike a dynamic microphone, a condenser microphone features a much thinner diaphragm usually made out of thin metal foil. This diaphragm, along with another plate set at a fixed distance, work together as a capacitor. And this fixed plate is connected to the rest of the circuit, which allows output current to flow.
2. Energy Conversion
When sound waves are emitted, they cause the diaphragm to move up and down. This causes the distance between the two plates to change and, in essence, causes the capacitance to change. And this results in a varying electrical signal being produced.
In contrast to a dynamic microphone’s electromagnetic induction, a condenser microphone uses capacitors to get the job done.
3. Power Source
You may remember that a capacitor stores charge via an electric field. While the basic principle is the same, the change in capacitance will not take place if there is no external energy source beforehand.
This is why condenser microphones make use of a power source or batteries. The power source causes the electric field to manifest in the capacitor and thus allows the microphone to work.
Advantages of Condenser Microphones
1. Works with Higher Frequencies
The construction of a condenser microphone features a lighter diaphragm and thus works with higher frequency sounds. The range of frequencies that a condenser microphone can work with is much greater than a dynamic microphone, with most having a range from 80 Hz to 15 kHz.
2. Greater Degree of Sensitivity and Reception
Condenser microphones can pick up lower sounds. With the use of capacitance, the weaker sounds can be boosted and made stronger. This makes condenser microphones much more sensitive to sounds. As such, they are at their best when used indoors or in studios.
3. Smaller Design
Due to making use of a thinner diaphragm, a condenser microphone can be made much smaller and easier to carry around than a dynamic microphone. They also tend to be lighter.
Disadvantages of Condenser Microphones
1. Can Pick Up Stray Sounds
The high sensitivity of condenser microphones can also bring their fair share of troubles. They can pick up stray sounds, especially in a loud environment. The stray sounds can end up distorting your desired sound.
To properly use a condenser microphone, you’ll need to use it in an indoor setting where the place properly soundproof. Condenser microphones need a dedicated area to work in to fully function.
The thinner diaphragm and general construction of a condenser microphone do make it more fragile than a dynamic microphone. While the latest and more expensive models are much more robust, they can still take damage, which can upset the quality.
3. Need for a Power Source
The microphone needs an external power source to work with. This can either be supplied via batteries or by connecting it to a mixer. The power they need differs, but it usually ranges from 12 to 48 Volts of DC power.
Condenser Vs Dynamic Mic: The Differences
Let’s highlight some of the main differences between dynamic and condenser microphones.
1. Noise Sensitivity
Condenser microphones are much more sensitive and tend to pick up much smaller sounds and even stray sounds. They can work with high-frequency sounds. Also, they tend to pick up more details and can be used for more intricate sounds as they work with a greater range of frequencies.
Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, tend to pick up much louder sounds. Small, quieter sounds often don’t get recorded, and they generally work with lower frequency sounds. They will not pick up softer sounds as those sounds won’t be registered due to the bigger diaphragm.
2. Sound Output
Dynamic microphones make use of a wire coil for sound amplification. This involves an electromagnetic coil and a magnet. Now, this is an older method of sound amplification, and as such, while it may get the job done, the sound quality won’t always be the best and might be reduced in a few cases.
On the other hand, condenser microphones make use of capacitors and an external power source to run it. This provides additional power and thus enhances sound quality. Thus, in terms of sound output, condenser microphones have a better output than dynamic microphones.
3. Size and Durability
Condenser microphones make use of smaller diaphragms, so they end up being much smaller in size and lighter. This does make it easier to carry around. However, the smaller diaphragm and lighter construction do make condenser microphones much more fragile, and thus it can break or get damaged easily.
Some cheaper condenser microphones can be damaged after dropping it, due to its thin diaphragm.
Dynamic microphones make use of bigger diaphragms, and as a result, they tend to be bigger and heavier. They are also made to be much stronger and robust, so they’re quite durable. They don’t get damaged as easily and tend to last longer.
Dynamic microphones make use of cheaper components and less complex circuitry. This makes them overall much cheaper, with a price range of around 100 dollars to 200 or 250 dollars.
Condenser microphones are much more expensive with a wider price range. This is due to their more complex circuitry and design, which makes them more expensive than dynamic microphones. The price range is quite wide but usually around the 300 to 500 dollar range.
5. Power Source
Dynamic microphones do not use capacitors to work, so as a result, they don’t need a power source. You only need to turn it on for it to begin recording sound.
Condenser microphones use capacitors and need a power supply to work. Usually, it requires DC voltage ranging from 12 to 48 Volts Phantom Power. One option is to make use of batteries, although they’ll get drained quickly.
The better alternative is to make use of mixing boards that will supply the required power when the microphone is connected to it.
Dynamic microphones get used a lot in live performances and concerts since they pick up louder sounds but don’t pick up stray sounds. These microphones are often used for louder vocals (for rock or metal songs) or loud instruments (electric guitars and drums).
They are also much more robust and can take some damage. This leads them to be used in stages and concerts more.
Condenser microphones are an extremely popular pick for use in studios or personal usage. These microphones are more receptive to sound, especially much softer sounds, and tend to pick up many more details in sound.
All these points make condenser microphones a suitable microphone to use for vocals and softer instruments. Instruments like violins or pianos will often find it better to record their notes using these microphones.
If you are planning on streaming or doing YouTube videos, you will benefit greatly from a condenser microphone.
After reading this condenser vs dynamic mic guide, we hope you understand the differences between a condenser and dynamic microphone better now.
As you can see, there are quite a few specialties for both the microphones, and understanding where they work is key to their effective use. To summarize, dynamic microphones work with louder instruments and live concerts.
Condenser microphones work best with a higher range of sounds, especially softer vocals, and are seen mostly in studios.