Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones: Which is Better?
Whether it’s recording a large live event or a smaller-scale video production, sound quality is essential to any videographer’s work. Audio plays an essential role in how an audience perceives and understands your message. In fact, a joint study found that sound was so important that it influenced the listener’s ability to trust its source, thereby affecting credibility for content creators.
To get the best possible audio for your video productions, investing in a proper microphone is a must. Choosing the right type of mic is just important as purchasing the tool itself; a microphone that is ill-equipped to record the type of audio you’ll be producing will only lead to bad results. Two types of microphones are often compared for professional quality audio recording: condenser and dynamic microphones. The question is, which is better?
Condenser microphones are ideal for recording vocals and higher-frequency audio. Typically used for studio applications, the structure of this microphone allows it to capture sound with plenty of detail and accuracy through its design components, one of which is the diaphragm. This part of the microphone vibrates in response to sound waves, and different aspects of its design will determine the frequency and the microphone’s directionality (how it responds to sounds from different angles).
Condenser mics have thinner, more lightweight diaphragms that are suspended from a fixed plate, which increases their sensitivity to even the most delicate sounds. This is thanks to the continuously improving technology behind the components of these mics, with rigid-flex PCB designs, in particular, becoming more advanced. As with other electronic systems that require circuit pathways to operate, PCBs allow signals and power to be routed within the microphone more efficiently. Good-quality condenser microphones use PCBs with two or more layers for better circuitry, making high-fidelity sounds possible even in inexpensive models. This technology also provides multi-pattern capabilities that allow specific sound isolation that can cater to many vocal styles while reducing feedback and bleed.
Dynamic microphones are quite the opposite of condenser mics in that they are ideal for recording louder sounds. This is because of their high dynamic range, which refers to the ratio between the lowest and highest possible undistorted audio signal that a mic can measure. A key component in the dynamic microphone is the moving wire coil inside that amplifies the audio signals read by the diaphragm. Unlike the condenser mic, which relies on the capacitor to amplify sound, it is the voltage applied across the moving coil that allows a dynamic microphone to work.
There are three factors that determine the voltage level that moves through the coil: the number of loops in the coil, the strength of the magnetic field, and the velocity of the coil itself. The first two remain constant, so velocity is responsible for changing the voltage and, therefore, the movement of the diaphragm that produces the sound. These microphones are best for live use since they have decreased sensitivity, high maximum sound pressure levels, and no self-noise. They’re also much sturdier and a lot cheaper than their condenser counterparts.
Which is the Better Microphone?
Choosing which microphone is better will be highly contingent on your needs as a videographer. Neither option is objectively better than the other, as their different functions make them ideal for capturing different types of audio. Before making a decision, carefully assess what the majority of your projects entail in terms of audio capture. Will you be recording small-scale productions that involve plenty of speaking and singing? Or does your work involve live performances with louder sounds?
If the majority of your sound recording will involve vocals and acoustic guitars, then the condenser microphone is best for you. However, live performances or studio recordings with instruments like electric guitars and loud drum kits will often require a dynamic microphone to accurately capture a wide range of sounds. In some cases, you may need to alternate between both. The best microphone is the one that meets your needs, so it’s crucial to determine that first before making a decision.
Capturing better audio can make a marked improvement on your work as a whole. Having the right equipment can vastly improve sound quality, from USB condenser microphone models such as the Samson C01U Pro to audio recorders like the Zoom H5. These are not just investments for your work’s overall production value — they are also investments in the people that will see and hear your work.