Choosing the Right Microphone
A high-quality microphone is the best tool to improve the sound of vocals and acoustic instruments when recording or performing live. Signal processing, amplifiers, mixers, and recording equipment cannot enhance what wasn’t captured by your microphones in the first place, so make sure to get the best mics you can afford. Fortunately, today’s microphone technology makes finding the right equipment easier and more affordable than ever.
Dynamic Microphones vs. Condenser Microphones
Dynamic Microphones convert sound waves into electricity by moving a coil through a magnetic field. The microphone has a diaphragm that vibrates in response to sound waves and the attached coil of fine wire moves through a magnetic field creating a current that changes with the sound wave.
Condenser Microphones convert sound waves using the principal of capacitance (in electrical parlance a capacitor is also known as a condenser). In a condenser microphone the diaphragm is a thin film coated with gold or nickel on one side separated by a gap from a conducting back plate. A current applied to the diaphragm induces a current in the back plate, which changes as the diaphragm moves in response to sound waves. Because a current must be applied to the diaphragm, condenser mics must be have a power source, either from an internal battery or an external source such as a phantom power from a mixer or power supply or a USB port.
Live Microphones vs. Recording Microphones
Dynamic Microphones are the rugged workhorse of the musician’s toolbox. Dynamic mics can handle high sound volumes, are good at rejecting extraneous sounds (so they avoid handling noise and feedback), and are good at resisting moisture and shock. Because no power source is needed, dynamic microphones are always ready to perform on stage. For live performance applications, most performers choose dynamic mics.
Although more expensive than dynamic mics, condenser microphones have been the choice for most studio recording, broadcast, and podcast applications because of their high sensitivity and wide frequency response. Within the condenser microphone category, there are large diaphragm and pencil mics. Large diaphragm models are the choice for studio vocals, reproducing an overall deeper and warmer tone that enhances the sound of the human voice. This makes them a great choice for podcasting and is why so many of the best USB mics are large diaphragm condensers. These mics are at their best when used with pop filters.
Small diaphragm condenser microphones (pencil mics) reproduce sound more evenly and have faster transient response times. They are commonly used for direct and overhead recording of pianos, cymbals and choirs. Small diaphragm condensers come in durable handheld version for live use and are available in matched pairs for stereo recording.
Modern manufacturing has greatly improved microphone performance in recent years, providing high-quality sound at a relatively low cost. There are great condenser mics designed for live performance and great dynamic mics that can enhance your recordings. Sam Ash has a large selection of both dynamic and condenser microphones for most any application call or click to chat with one of our experts for the best advice.