Condenser VS Dynamic MicrophoneMRH Audio Digest
Most of the time, we hear the terms “condenser microphones” and “dynamic microphones” in live sound and studio environments. We also often hear people say that condenser or dynamic microphones are only suitable for use in certain circumstances. Is this really the case? Are there any distinct differences between these two microphones? Let’s explore this topic in this article.
First, we must understand that the two microphones operate differently. In fact, there’s no “one mic fits all” theory in real world environment. Both mic can be used in studio or live sound environment depending on the type of application. All microphones are electro-acoustic transducers that convert acoustical energy into electric energy.
This type of microphone is also known as a “capacitor microphone” or “electrostatic microphone”. A capacitor is basically a passive electrical component that stores electrical energy. The structure of a condenser microphone usually includes an extremely thin diaphragm (some less than 5 microns), a backplate, a battery, and a resistor. The built-in material of the thin diaphragm has to be electrically conductive and usually uses a thin metal foil or Mylar coated with gold or aluminium (known as gold sputtered mylar).
To operate a condenser microphone, a DC voltage is required which supplied by the internal battery or phantom power line. The voltage required could vary from 24V-48V depending on the microphone. Some audio interfaces or sound mixers do have built-in 48V phantom power to support any condenser microphone. Condenser microphone usually has higher transducer impedance comparing to dynamic. That’s why it needs phantom power drive the output of the signal. As sound waves hit the diaphragm, it vibrates the diaphragm against the charged metal backplate behind it to convert acoustic energy to electrical energy.
The dynamic microphone has a different structure and operates differently compared to the condenser microphone. It is also known as a moving coil microphone. Most handheld microphones are dynamic microphones. Unlike condenser microphones, the dynamic microphone relies on electromagnetism, whereas the condenser microphone relies on variable capacitance. The structure of a dynamic microphone consists of a diaphragm, a coil, and a magnet. Whenever the sound wave hits the diaphragm, the coil vibrates within the magnetic field and creates an electrical current. Most of the time, since the transducer impedance of dynamic microphones is relatively low, they only require 5V power to operate.
A condenser microphone usually has natural tonality, higher sensitivity, wider frequency response, faster transient response, better clarity, and lower noise as compared to a dynamic microphone. Therefore, it is highly appropriate to record any application such as vocals, guitar, piano, violin, saxophone, or room ambience where clear and detailed characteristics are required, especially in a studio. When using a condenser microphone, it’s also important to pay attention to how the room sounds. A well acoustically treated room will elevate your recording quality effectively.
A dynamic microphone is capable in capturing high SPL sound source comparing to a condenser microphone. This is relatively important when recording louder sound source such as snare drum and toms, brass instrument, loud vocal, keyboards, guitar amplifiers and so on. Although dynamic microphones can sometimes be used in a studio, they are mostly used in live sound environments due to their low sensitivity in capturing ambience noise and higher gain threshold.
|Condenser Microphone||Dynamic Microphone|
|Working Principle||Variable Capacitance||Electromagnetism|
|Tonality||Natural, Wide and Flat Frequency Response, Warm, Detailed||Rough, Emphasize On Low & Mid Frequency Response, Less Sibilance & Clarity|
|Power Required||Phantom Power Required (24V – 48V)||No Phantom Power Required (5V)|
|Polar Pattern||Can Have Multi-Polar Pattern||Only One Polar Pattern|
|Sensitivity to Ambience Noise||Higher||Lower|
|Capability to Sustain Greater Sound Pressure||Lower||Higher|
|Capability to Handle Humidity||Lower||Higher|
|Usage||Studio Recording||Live Sound|