Condenser mics are one of the most popular in recording studios. They are mainly used on instruments with lots of dynamics and less volume – sudden transients. Vocals (no metal brutals), acoustic guitars, violins and everything less transient oriented are mostly suited for condenser microphones.
Since they are sensitive to louder sounds you can rarely see them playing the main role on live shows. On the contrary, they produce a wider frequency range with better overall audio quality which is the main reason why they are used in silent recording studios, where audio quality plays a huge role.
This does not mean that dynamic microphones have less audio quality just because they produce less frequencies. Sometimes, depending on the situation (instrument) getting rid of some frequencies is just what we’re aiming for.
Condenser microphones need some extra power to work, they need 48v more to operate. This is not even a problem since even the cheapest audio interface in the world can give you this kind of power. This switch can be found on the back of the mixer or on your audio interface.
In short, turn the switch on if you’re using a condenser microphone and leave if off for dynamic microphones. Dynamic microphones don’t need 48v of extra power.
Condenser mics tend to receive audio from multiple directions and not by 1 direction (front only) like dynamic microphones. So if your vocalist has the tendency to move while singing just let him enjoy it
Condenser mics are usually more expensive than dynamics ones. The word usually is important in this one. There are mainly 2 types of condenser mics.
Large Diaphragm Microphones
Large diaphragm microphones or LDMs are the ones that are mostly used on vocals. They tend to warm up the sound giving a richer low end and sweeter low mids.
They tend to change the recorded sound (in a good way) by making it deeper and fuller, since they tend to play with the low mids and the low end.
Small Diaphragm Microphones
Condenser mics with small diaphragms or SDMs are perfectly suited to reproduce a frequency response that’s more balanced with less to no warming effects.
SDMs are also great at capturing the dynamics with perfect detail. If you want the most accurate representation of a wide and balanced frequency response including perfect dynamics, then the SDMs are the microphones to go.
Both LDMs and SDMs need a pop filter since they are sensitive to the Sss and Pop sounds. It’s really hard to remove sibilance and popping during mixing so please try to record properly by using a pop filter and experimenting with mic positions.
Dynamic microphones can withstand lots of transients and pressure from hard hitting instruments. This is the reason they are mostly used on drum shells and on brutal metal and hip-hop vocals.
Dynamics mics are the ones that can be found mostly on live situations. They are not as sensitive as the condenser ones, moisture is not an abuse for them and they can withdraw lots of pressure.
As already mentioned above, they have a narrower frequency response but that’s not necessary a bad thing, sometimes that’s what we’re aiming for.
Dynamic microphones receive audio mainly from 1 direction (front) so the singer should sing direct to it. This is perfect for home studio situations where the rooms – walls are not treated properly.
Last but also very important, dynamic microphones are usually cheaper than condenser ones. Cheaper does not always mean worse though.
Large Diaphragm & Dynamic Mics
Companies have started to listen to the wishes of home studio owners where soundproofing and proper room acoustics is an issue.
It’s one of the reason companies are trying to create dynamic mics but with a larger frequency and dynamic response. I like to call these mics hybrids, but this is not an official term, just something I like to use.
One of these mics I personally use and love is the Shure SM7b.
Reasons? Its got most of the benefits of the dynamic and the diaphragm mics, at the same time. Plus, as a dynamic microphone it’s cheaper than its condenser counterparts.
Many famous engineers call this mic their “secret weapon” and can be seen in lots of behind the recording scenes on famous albums, especially in rock and rap ones.
It works wonders on vocals, especially on aggressive like hip-hop and rock but also on non-aggressive vocals, guitar cabs, bass cabs and literally anything.
It’s one of the dynamic mics that sounds like an expensive condenser microphone, but it’s not as sensitive and as expensive as the condenser one.
In short: It’s a steal. The best price for value ratio I’ve encountered in my whole audio engineering life.
Condenser VS Dynamic Microphones
While there’s really no best than another I will recommend you the most suited type on which situation to use.
The only way to find what’s best is to actually test it out on a music store, but if you googled your way here I suppose you’d like some free knowledge and some shortcuts to find the better ones, so there you go:
Vocals: LDMs are preferred. If money and proper room audio quality is an issue then go with a large diaphragm dynamic mic. If money is even a harder issue and you want to stay at the $100 range, then get the Shure SM58. Perfect for live and recording situations, also it includes a pop-filter on its own.
Drums: Dynamics for shells and a couple of condensers for Overheads and Room sounds.
Guitars on cabinet: Dynamics to withdraw all the cabinet air pressure. Especially the legendary and perfectly suited for guitar cabs Shure sm57.