4 Things to Consider When Buying a Condenser Mic

Condenser Mic

4 Things to Consider When Buying a Condenser Mic

What exactly is a condenser mic? It’s a type of microphone that uses a capacitor instead of a coil like dynamic mic to pick up sound. A condenser microphone’s transducer is more sensitive than a dynamic microphone’s, so it tends to pick up a lot of noise and is mostly used in studios. As a layman, here’s the 4 things you need to consider before buying a condenser mic for your recording studio.

 

  1. The Right Size

  2. The Right Sound Quality

  3. The Right Price

  4. The Right Features

 

The Right Size.

AKG%20P120
Example of Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone – AKG P120

There are two main diaphragm sizes of condenser mics: large diaphragm condensers and small diaphragm condenser. Large diaphragm condenser mics tend to be more expensive than smaller ones, but they also produce thicker, wider, and warmer tone with more bass response. They usually perform well in human vocal frequency range. The large diaphragm microphone usually have diaphragm size with 16mm and above. Some examples of large diaphragm condenser microphone are Vanguard Audio V4, Rode NT1, Comica STM01, AKG P120 and so on.

Small diaphragm condensers are better at picking up high frequencies and sounding more focus but lacking the low end response of larger diaphragm. Some examples of small diaphragm condenser microphone are Presonus PM-2, Vanguard Audio V1, AKG C1000S, and so on. They are are mostly used for miking musical instruments such as snare drums, piano, acoustic guitars, or even guitar cabinets.

PM 2 hero
Example of Small Diaphragm Condenser Mic: Presonus PM-2

 

The Right Sound Quality.

There are several things to consider when choosing a condenser mic. First, you’ll want to make sure that the microphone has good sound quality. This means that it will pick up sounds well and won’t distort them. If you are good enough at reading spec data, you might want to look into the frequency response curve, noise floor, dynamic range, and headroom.

Frequency%20Response%20Chart

Frequency response is the measure of the magnitude (dB) of the microphone across a range of frequencies, usually from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Some higher end condenser microphones have extended frequency response. Knowing the frequency response of a mic will help you find the most suitable recording microphone to use when you know what your singer sounds like in the studio.

Theoretically, noise floor is the combination of all noise sources and unwanted signals within a microphone, or commonly known as self-noise. Most of the time, this noise is audible, especially when you switch on your phantom power and turn up the gain level of your preamplifier. To achieve a low-noise recording, you’ll need a good microphone with lower self noise but also a low noise recording environment and a microphone preamplifier. Any low self-noise microphone with a sensitivity of 10dB or less is considered a good choice for anyone who only wants more audio signal than noise signal.

Dynamic range is perceived as the ratio of the amplitude of the loudest possible undistorted signal to the noise floor. Wider dynamic range means a microphone has lower self noise and more headroom to work with during recording.

 

The Right Price.

You should consider how much money you’re willing to spend before purchasing a microphone. If you’re just about to start your first recording project and budget is your concern, there are a lot of affordable condenser microphones to choose from, such as the Superlux E205, Marantz MPM-1000, Yanmai Q8, and so on, to kick off your first demo. That should meet the requirement of regular use. However, if you’re serious about creating professional recordings, it is wise to invest in a high quality condenser microphone such as the Vanguard Audio V4, Audix A133, Beyerdynamic M90 Pro X, and so on.

 

The Right Features.

You should also look at the features of the microphone. These include the number of inputs, whether there are any XLR or USB connections, how much power the mic requires, pad selection, high pass filters, polar patterns, and so on.

Pad%20Switch HighPassFilter C414
Example of C414 XLII Condenser Microphone. The pad switch allows additional headroom for your recording by automatically reducing the level of signal before passing through the active circuitry by 6dB to 12dB whenever it exceeds the Max SPL of the microphone.

You will need to know the application of your recording. Are you recording high SPL music instruments or just vocal? For instance, if you are miking a kick drum, you might need a microphone with a pad switch to provide extra headroom for your recording by attenuate the signal before distortion occurs. Some condenser microphones, such as the AKG P420, have a few selectable polar patterns from cardioid, figure-8, and omni to allow flexible recording in various environments.

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