What is A Condenser Microphone and what is it best used for

What is a condenser microphone, why should you use a condenser microphone, are they suitable for vocals, and are they better than dynamic microphones.

A condenser microphone is used primarily for recording instruments such as guitars, drums, basses, pianos, etc. Condensers are generally smaller than dynamic mics and therefore easier to carry around.

They also excel at capturing voices because their large-diaphragm allows for greater sensitivity. If you’re interested in more, check out this post on the Best Condenser Microphones Under 200.

There’s a lot to cover. So to make it all easy, here’s an index to help you get what you need.

Condenser microphones and what they are used for

The most common type of mic is the cardioid patterned condenser microphone, an omnidirectional polar response with a cardioid polar pattern on one side only. The sound waves from your source hit the front of the capsule, where it begins to move back and forth, causing air pressure changes within the capsule.

Why use a condenser mic when we can get great results using just about any other type of microphone?

People choose to use a condenser over another kind of microphone due to its ability to capture more detail in the low frequencies while still maintaining clarity in the high frequencies. This makes them ideal for vocal recordings or instrumentals that have lots of lower frequency content. These sounds will often be recorded through tiny speakers, so having a mic that captures this range well is essential.

Are condensers better than dynamic mics?

Dynamic Mics: Dynamic Microphones are designed to pick up all frequencies equally without regard to how loud they are. These mics tend to work best when there’s no ambient noise present. If there is too much background noise, then the signal becomes distorted, making it hard to hear anything.

Condenser Mic: Condenser mics are sensitive but not nearly as sharp as dynamic mics. Because of this, they’re able to record quieter sources like voiceovers and instrumental music. Also, since they don’t need to amplify the audio before processing, less distortion occurs during mixing.

Are there advantages and disadvantages to using Condenser vs. Dynamic Mics?

  • Advantages of Using Condenser Microphone: Smaller size – Easier to transport – More sensitive
  • Disadvantage of Using Condenser Microphones: Less clear highs – Can distort higher-pitched sounds
  • Advantages of Using Dynamic Mics: Higher quality sound – Able to handle louder volumes
  • Disadvantage of Using Dynamic Mics: Distortion – Need amplification before being processed

What is phantom power?

Phantom Power refers to the amount of voltage being sent into the input jack of a device. It’s usually measured in millivolts and ranges anywhere between 0 – 600 mV depending on the manufacturer. For example, if you plug headphones into a computer via a USB port, the headphone output may require 300 mV of phantom power, whereas a line out might require 100 mV. It changes the sound by changing the impedance of the circuit. When phantom power is turned off, the resistance increases dramatically, resulting in poor quality sound.

How do I know if my mic needs phantom power?

If you see “phantom” written next to the word MICROPHONE on the box, it requires phantom power. You’ll notice that some devices come with both options available. Some manufacturers include phantom power on every model even though it isn’t needed.

How do I know if my mic needs cleaning?

If you notice static buildup inside the mic housing, it could mean dirt or dust has gotten into the mic. You’ll want to clean out the insides of the mic by removing the top cover and gently blowing out the interior. Make sure to blow out both sides of the mic. Once cleaned, make sure to replace the top surface and give it some time to dry completely.

What is the primary reason to use a condenser mic instead of a dynamic mic?

It depends on what you’re recording, but generally speaking, a condenser mic is preferred because it allows you to record vocals and instruments at lower levels without distorting the sound. It also gives you greater control over the amount of bass/treble produced.

Is a condenser mic good for vocals?

A condenser mic is excellent for capturing voices with minimal distortion. The main disadvantage would be that it doesn’t produce quite as crisp highs as a dynamic mic. However, most singers prefer the warmer tone of a condenser mic rather than the brighter tones from a dynamic mic.

Can I use an external preamp with a condenser mic?

Yes! An external pre-amplifier is used to boost the volume level of your input source before sending it to the microphone. This way, you can get more gain to capture more precise recordings. The answer depends on whether you intend to mix further down the tracks yourself or leave them untouched until mastering. 

What is a condenser microphone made of?

Condensers are usually constructed of metal which makes them highly durable. They have two parts; one part contains the diaphragm while the other houses the electronics. The diaphragm is where all the magic happens. When air pressure hits the diaphragm, it causes it to vibrate back and forth, creating electrical signals. These vibrations create the actual recorded sound.

What type of material should I choose when buying a new condenser microphone?

The best choice will depend upon how often you plan on moving around the microphone. If you only move it once every few months, then any plastic model may work just fine. On the other hand, if you frequently travel with it, you might consider purchasing something more substantial such as aluminum or titanium.

Why is a condenser microphone called a “condenser microphone”?

“Condenser microphones” were originally developed by RCA engineers who wanted to improve their radio receivers’ ability to pick up weak AM broadcasts. Back then, they had no idea that people could later use these same microphones to record music and vocals. So, they named this particular design after its original purpose. They were called “condensers” because they collect energy/ sound from the surrounding environment and store it inside themselves. 

What type of microphones should I buy?

Many different types of microphones are available today, ranging from cardioid patterned mics to super wide-angle omnidirectional mics. There are pros and cons associated with each style, so it’s essential to understand their differences.

What is the difference between cardioid and condenser microphones?

Cardioids are designed to isolate sounds coming directly towards the front of the microphone versus sounds coming from behind. At the same time, condensers gather ambient noise and focus it into the center of the recording space. Cardioids tend to give off less background hissing but require careful placement due to their narrow beamwidth. Condensers offer better overall performance but do not perform well in noisy environments.

What types of condenser microphones are there? 

There are two main types of condenser microphones: electret and capacitor. Each has advantages and disadvantages depending on what kind of application you need them for. 

Electrets are good at picking up low-frequency noises like breathing and footsteps. Capacitor mics are generally considered the most versatile since they cover almost everything from high frequencies to bass.

When to Use a Large-Diaphragm Condenser Mics?

Large-diaphragm mics are great for capturing vocals and instruments at low volumes. However, large diaphragms also make them susceptible to picking up unwanted noises like wind blowing through trees or cars driving past. Small-diaphragm condenser microphones are much easier to handle and generally provide superior results.

When to Use a Small-Diaphragm Condenser Mic?

Small-diaphragm mics are ideal for capturing live performances since they can easily capture high volume levels without distorting. This allows musicians to play louder than ever before. Small diaphragm condensers are also very easy to use and transport, making them perfect for anyone looking to start recording right away. In addition, small diaphragm condensing mics have an extremely long life span which makes them affordable over time.

How Do You Know Which Type Of Mic To Buy?

If you’re planning on using your mic primarily indoors, then small-diaphragm condensing mics would work. Otherwise, larger diaphragm models would likely serve you better. It’s always good practice to test out several different styles until you find one that works best for you. However, if you don’t know how to set up a mic properly, chances are you’ll end up buying something that doesn’t work as intended. If this happens, return it and get another model instead.

The Best Condenser Microphones Under 200

1. Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 microphone is a well-known and appreciated quality mic on the market, which has been on the market for a while. This microphone sounds great and makes for a good all-around sound solution.

The Shure SM81 is designed to capture sound from any direction. This makes it perfect for recording live performances, capturing instruments from different areas of the orchestra, or getting an instrument’s true sound in isolation.

It’s not just your average directional mic with no polar pattern options. The user has the option to select cardioid or omni modes depending on the need.

The best thing about this mic is that it can handle high SPL levels without blowing out your ears or distorting your recording because of its rugged design and professional components.

2. AKG Perception 220 Studio Condenser microphone

The AKG Perception 220 Studio Condenser microphone is a great microphone for those looking to record vocals, voiceovers, or acoustic guitar. It is the perfect fit for any musician’s home studio.

The AKG Perception 220 Studio Condenser mic has a cardioid polar pattern that offers excellent noise rejection and sound isolation. It has a low distortion rate with signal-to-noise ratio of 75dB and THD of just 0.8%. The microphone also comes with the option to remove the bass roll-off which makes it more versatile and suitable for other applications like guitar amplifiers.

This microphone can be purchased on Amazon for $149, which is an affordable price considering all of the features it offers.

3. Blue Snowball iCE condenser USB microphone

Blue Snowball Condenser Microphone

The Blue Snowball iCE condenser USB mic is a high-quality, professional-grade microphone that delivers the clarity of sound needed to create any type of audio. It has a cardioid polar pattern and features an innovative design that eliminates background noise as well as unnecessary vibrations. The Blue Snowball iCE also includes an adjustable stand and comes with some free editing software, making it perfect for those looking to record podcasts or audiobooks alike. Finally, it’s affordable!

The Blue Snowball iCE condenser USB microphone delivers the clarity of sound required to create any type of audio. This high-quality, professional-

4. Audio-Technica AT2005 microphone

Audio-Technica AT2005

The Audio-Technica AT2005 microphone is a condenser microphone that is widely used for live performances, recordings, and broadcasting. It has a frequency response of 50-16000 Hz and a cardioid pickup pattern.

Many musicians use this as the go-to microphone because it’s durable, works well in fields with high levels of noise, and has an affordable price point. The best thing about this mic is the sound quality – it’s perfect for those who are looking for audio that is super crisp without sacrificing the warmth of vocals.

The main downside to this microphone is that it lacks in flexibility – there are no switches or knobs to adjust which settings you want it to have.

5. MXL 2003A microphone

The MXL 2003A is a condenser mic that is perfect for recording vocals or any instrument. It has a switchable pad and features an internal shock mount, which makes it virtually silent.

The MXL 2003A microphone is the best choice for people who are looking for a high-quality, professional-grade microphone that is easy to use and will work with any type of application. The MXL 2003A has a rugged build that makes it tough and dependable.

6. CAD E100X microphone

If you want a great microphone, but don’t want to spend a whole lot of money, the CAD E100X is perfect for you.

Since the CAD E100X is a condenser microphone, it naturally has very good sensitivity- it can pick up sound from across the room. The frequency response is very flat and this makes the sound quality of your recording natural and clear.

If you are on a budget and just need a good microphone that won’t break anytime soon, then this mic will work for you.

Condenser Microphone Buying Guide

What is a Condenser Microphone?

A condenser microphone works by picking up sound waves and converting them to an electric signal. This signal is amplified and then converted into an audio wave again. Condenser microphones are often used for recording vocals, string instruments (cello, violin, etc.), drums, and other acoustic instruments.

Condenser microphones are able to make a direct conversion of the sound waves into an electric signal without any need for external power. These types of microphones are often favored because their high-quality recordings can capture rich details in the audio that might otherwise be lost if it were recorded with other types of mics or without a mic at all.

How do microphones use phantom power?

The purpose of phantom power is to provide a constant voltage to the microphone that can be switched on and off by the user.

What is a dynamic microphone?

Dynamic microphones are the most commonly used type of microphone in music and public speaking. They can also be used in radio broadcasting.

A dynamic microphone converts sound waves into electrical signals, which are then amplified or converted before being reproduced through speakers. Dynamic microphones are great for live performances because they capture the natural sound of the singer’s voice and do not have too much feedback.

They also have a lower output level than condenser microphones, meaning they need less amplification which is useful in big spaces where sound needs to travel further without being distorted.

Condenser Microphones vs Dynamic Microphones

Condenser microphones are known to produce a more natural sound than the dynamic microphones.

Condenser microphones are also much more sensitive to sounds from outside, which may result in unwanted background noise. This is not usually the case with dynamic microphones, which makes them perfect for noisy environments.

There are a few disadvantages of condenser microphones. They require an external power source and they are generally more expensive than dynamic microphones.

What you should look for in a condenser microphone

The condenser microphone is a popular choice for recording most instruments and vocals because it captures sound in a very natural manner.

Condenser microphones are made with an electret or metal-foil, which are used for generating an electric current in response to the vibrations of sound waves. This type of microphone is sensitive to the subtleties and nuances of sound, and so it creates recordings that have an accurate representation of the original recording.

When choosing a condenser microphone, you should look at its frequency response, sensitivity, impedance, polar pattern and size. If you want to be more comfortable with your decision before buying one you can read reviews on sites like Amazon or Best Buy before purchasing one.

Conclusion: choosing the right microphone for your needs

Choosing the right microphone for your needs is not an easy task. The first thing you need to think about is what you want to use the mic for. The second thing is how important audio quality is to you in comparison to ease of use and portability.

The final piece of advice we can give you when it comes to choosing a microphone is this: try them out! Like headphones, microphones are both personal purchases, so the best way for you to decide which one will be best for your needs is through testing them all out in person.