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

What is a condenser microphone

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.