Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones: Which Do You Actually Need?


For most of us, the microphones built into our smartphones, laptops, and cameras are often enough to get by. However, if you’re looking to record high-quality audio, you may want to consider investing in a separate microphone.

Once you’ve decided to upgrade, you have a choice to make between a dynamic microphone or a condenser microphone. Both have advantages but are more suited to particular applications.

So, let’s compare condenser vs. dynamic mics so that you can decide which microphone is right for your needs.

Why Invest in a Microphone?

Whether it’s for Instagram videos or Twitch streaming, many people start with the microphone included in their smartphone or computer. After all, you don’t want to spend money on additional equipment before you know if content creation is something you’re into. That said, if you are looking to broadcast your gaming sessions, you’ll need to decide which streaming platform is best for you.

However, once you’ve been recording audio for a while, the investment begins to make more sense. A standalone microphone will dramatically improve the quality of your sound and give your listeners or viewers a better experience. As a result, your operation appears more professional and will attract more attention as well.

While there are microphones that cost significant amounts of money, you also don’t have to spend much to get a high return on your investment. Whether you’re an aspiring podcaster, home recording musician, or Twitch streamer, adding a microphone to your setup will improve your recorded output.

Once you’ve decided to make the switch, before deciding on a specific model, you need to consider which type of microphone would work best for your setup.

What Is a Condenser Mic?

Condenser mics are also known as capacitor microphones due to the technologies inside. A capacitor provides the primary sound capturing mechanism just underneath the exterior of the mic. This component stores an electrical charge and is measured in capacitance.

The microphone has a capacitor formed of two plates; a fixed backplate and a thinner, flexible front plate. When sound waves enter the microphone, they cause the front plate to vibrate. This varies the distance between the front and back plates, changing the capacitance.

This process converts sound waves into electrical signals, which can then be transported to the pre-amp, mixing table, or other recording devices. To register this change in capacitance, there has to be charge across the capacitor in the first place.

As a result, all condenser mics require a phantom power—a constant +48V input. This can be provided by the mixing desk or pre-amp, although some models include a battery inside the microphone instead.

Condenser microphones are ideal for recording sung or spoken vocals. This is thanks to the flexible front plate, which leads to accurate sound recording. Additionally, they are well-suited to recording high frequencies. The electronic components are small, resulting in a variety of options, from handheld microphones to wearable lapel mics.

On the other hand, condenser mics require phantom power, are typically higher cost than other microphones, and capture background noise due to their high sensitivity. The components are fragile, so the microphone is more easily damaged or compromised.

Recommended Condenser Mics

There are many condenser microphones available on the market, so here a couple of choices to get you started.

If you intend to record audio while on the go or at a live event, then the AKG C636 Handheld Vocal Microphone makes an ideal choice. While condenser mics are generally fragile, the C636 is designed to be durable, so a few minor drops or knocks shouldn’t be damaging.

The Audio-Technica AT5040 is one of the best condenser microphones available today. Audio-Technica has a well-deserved reputation for high-quality mics, and the AT5040 is no exception. It’s expensive, but depending on your use, it may be worth the investment.

What Is a Dynamic Mic?

Dynamic microphones, sometimes referred to as moving-coil mics, utilize electromagnetic induction to record sound. Inside the microphone, there is a diaphragm with an induction coil attached.

This coil is usually composed of two insulating wires tightly wound around an iron core. The coil is positioned within the magnetic field of a permanent magnet. When sound waves enter the microphone, they cause the diaphragm to vibrate.

Consequently, the induction coil moves within the magnetic field, creating a varying current. As a result, the components transduce the sound waves into electrical energy. The resulting electrical signal is then amplified by your microphone, pre-amp, or mixing desk.

You may want to use a dynamic microphone as they are available at affordable, entry-level prices due to low-cost components. They are also comparatively durable and rugged as the internal mechanisms aren’t as fragile.

This style of mic is also ideal for recording louder sounds and instruments, such as drums or amplified guitar. The low sensitivity makes them an excellent choice for noisy environments, such as live events or music performances.

However, the units struggle to to capture higher frequencies and their low sensitivity means losing out on some detail in the audio captured. Similarly, they respond poorly to short duration or transient sound and have reduced optimal frequency range compared to other microphones.

Recommended Dynamic Mics

If you think a dynamic mic is right for your setup, consider one of the following devices.

The Shure SM57 is one of the most popular microphones available today. The mic first went into production in 1965 and is often used for live events, including speeches by all US presidents, and studio recordings. The SM57 is affordable, durable, and is well-suited to almost any type of sound.

If you’re after a dynamic mic for recording vocals, then you should consider the AKG D5. This microphone comes with the company’s Laminated Varimotion Diaphragm, which can be fine-tuned to suit your recording needs. The super-cardioid polar pattern enables the mic to achieve a high gain without causing feedback.

Dynamic vs. Condenser Mic: Which Is Right for You?

When it comes to microphones, some people pit condenser microphones against dynamic mics. However, both have different strengths and drawbacks, making them more suited to different environments and uses.

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