Condenser Microphone Reviews
One of the best microphones used for recording in terms of considering complex sounds, sharp vocals, and with acoustic accompaniments, the condenser microphone were always the number one choice among sound engineers. They are used inside recording studios and radio stations as they deliver a clear crisper sound than dynamic microphones. They have a better response in terms of frequency and a higher output range.
The Condenser microphone were designed that its diaphragm is like one plate inside the capacitor and the vibrations that produces sound shifts distance in between the plates thus creating an electrical current. A power supply needs to charge the plate with a charge of 48V from a battery or a mixing desk. It uses the capacitor to convert acoustic energy to electrical energy thus resulting to a sound output.
The audio signal produced by a condenser microphone is much stronger than the dynamic type of microphone. In this case, condenser microphones are more sensitive in capturing subtle sounds, but on the other hand, they are not advisable to be used for high volume work as its sensitivity makes it more prone to distortion. But for instruments, such as drums, the number one choice are the dynamic microphones compared to the condenser microphones.
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If you’re new to music recording, you may think that a microphone is just a microphone. You would be wrong if you do. Choosing the right kind of microphone is critical, especially if you’re planning to record vocals. And if you’re working in a home recording studio, most likely that’s what you will be doing.
There are three main types of microphones:
- Dynamic microphones
- Condenser microphones
- Ribbon microphones
Each one has its own strengths and weakness, but I won’t be discussing that here. However, condenser microphones will be suitable for most situations.
What is a Condenser Microphone?
Sometimes called a “capacitor microphone” or an “electrostatic microphone,” a condenser microphone picks up sounds through a capacitor with a small “diaphragm” that looks like a plate. An electrical charge is sent to the capacitor, which amplifies the diaphragm’s vibration.
Condensers are more sensitive than other types of microphones, but they can pick up a broader frequency spectrum and dynamic range. That’s why they’re used in many recording studios.
The diaphragm’s size will vary with each microphone, and they will fit in one of two categories:
There are, of course, pros and cons for each one.
Does Size Matter?
In terms of diaphragm size, it can make a difference, but bigger isn’t always better. Large diaphragm condensers (LDC’s) are more sensitive than small-diaphragm condensers (SDC’s), and they have more amplification as well.
The reason for this increased sensitivity is because of the diaphragm’s larger surface area. The signal moving through the capacitor will vary with the sound level, so a larger diaphragm will allow it to pick up more frequency variations. They also have more room to handle stronger signals, so they have more room for amplification.
Large-diaphragm microphones are good for recording quieter instruments, and they work well for recording a large ensemble from a distance. LDC’s can also be used for picking up room ambience and natural reverb.
Large-diaphragm condensers are better at picking up lower frequencies than small-diaphragm condensers. The reason why is because of the larger surface area, which gives it a lower frequency resonance. So, these types of microphones are good for picking up toms or deep vocals.
Small-diaphragm condensers tend to be more directional, so they will work better if they’re used in close proximity to the instrument being recorded. However, they won’t pick up as much of the lower frequency spectrum, but they will often accentuate the low-mid’s.
Small-diaphragm condensers are better at picking up transient frequencies more cleanly and at a quicker pace, so they’re more suitable for recording acoustic guitar or any metallic percussion instruments (like cymbals).
Off-Axis Frequency Response
Another thing you have consider when you’re choosing a microphone is how well they will pick up frequencies that are moving off-axis. What do I mean by this?
Think of a “basic cardioid design”, which looks like this.
Notice that there’s a stronger frequency pickup toward the center than on the sides. This is a common configuration for many microphones, but there is an optimal point through which sound should travel.
Also notice that some sounds are picked up along the sides of the microphone. These “off-axis” frequencies are important, because they will add more color to the sound going through it. That’s why you should never put your hands on the microphone’s grill (also called “cupping the mic”). Doing so will distort this effect, which will make everything sound thinner.
Large-diaphragm condensers are better at picking up these off-axis frequencies, because there is more of a phase-shift in sounds that move across the diaphragm. Small-diaphragm condensers don’t have as much of a phase-shift, which is why they work better as directional microphones.
There is another reason why large-diaphragm condensers have more of an off-axis frequency response. The capacitor sits inside a cylindrical-shaped housing or grill, which allows it to pick up any reflections going on inside the microphone. Small-diaphragm condensers sit on the end of a pencil-shaped housing unit with no grill. This design doesn’t allow for the ability to pick up off-axis frequencies (or any sounds coming from far away). So, small-diaphragm condensers work better if they’re in close proximity to the sound being recorded.
Which One is Better?
There is no one true answer, because one isn’t better than the other. In fact, it will depend on your specific situation, and on what you’re recording. Remember that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution, and be sure to experiment to see what works for you.