What Is a Condenser Microphone, and How Do They Work?

Justin Duino / How-To Geek
Condenser microphones are sometimes far more delicate than different microphones like dynamic microphones. They’re good for capturing element throughout the complete vary of frequencies however make it a lot simpler to choose up undesirable sounds within the background. For recording devices, condenser mics are usually extra detailed.Whether or not you’re a content material creator, musician, or producer, a high quality microphone can go a great distance. Individuals usually advocate condenser microphones for correct recordings, however what are they? How do they evaluate to different kinds of mics?

What Is a Condenser Microphone?
A condenser microphone is a sort of microphone that’s meant to be extra delicate than options like dynamic microphones. This sensitivity means they will decide up far more element than dynamic microphones in lots of circumstances.
There are two kinds of condenser microphones: large-diaphragm condenser microphones and small-diaphragm condenser microphones. These phrases consult with the diaphragm of the microphone, the bodily component that truly does the work of selecting up sound.

Giant-diaphragm condenser microphones sometimes have a diaphragm round one inch in diameter, or barely bigger or smaller. A big-diaphragm condenser microphone just like the Audio-Technica AT4040 doesn’t have as constant a pickup sample as mics with smaller diaphragms, however this results in the “heat” folks speak about with large-diaphragm condenser microphones.
Small-diaphragm condensers just like the Lewitt LCT 140 AIR sometimes have a diaphragm round half an inch or much less in measurement. These don’t have the identical low-end response as large-diaphragm condensers, however they’re wonderful at high-end element. In addition they have nice transient response (assume appears like claps).
No matter the kind of condenser microphone you’re utilizing, the additional sensitivity does have downsides. Primarily, when you’re recording in a less-than-quiet setting (i.e., not an expert recording studio), you’re more likely to seize undesirable background noise.
Not like dynamic microphones, condenser microphones additionally require an exterior energy supply, normally within the type of phantom energy. We’ll have a look at this extra within the subsequent part.
How Do Condenser Microphones Work?
Like different microphones, condenser microphones decide up sound as vibrations via the diaphragm. The diaphragm converts this vibration into an electrical sign, which then travels via the microphone’s circuitry and thru the output.
The diaphragm in a condenser mic is basically a capacitor, however you don’t must know a lot about electrical energy to know the way it works. On this case, the diaphragm is manufactured from conductive materials that sits subsequent to a strong steel plate. Because the diaphragm vibrates, this creates a present within the steel plate, creating an audio sign.
This sign could be very low stage, far more so than the low stage sign popping out of a dynamic microphone. It’s additionally a really excessive impedance, whereas microphone preamps anticipate low impedance alerts.
Due to this, despite the fact that you’ll want to plug the microphone right into a preamp, condenser microphones have an extra built-in preamp to boost the extent of the output. The preamp requires energy, albeit not a lot.
For this reason condenser mics require phantom energy, which is a 48V sign despatched over the XLR cable out of your mixer or preamp into the microphone. USB microphones use energy over USB as an alternative of phantom energy, whereas different condenser mics that use vacuum tubes use exterior energy provides.
Condenser Mics vs. Dynamic Mics: What Are the Variations?
As talked about above, one of many predominant variations between condenser microphones and dynamic microphones is the sensitivity. Dynamic microphones aren’t as delicate, and infrequently don’t seize the total vary of frequencies as a condenser microphone. They’re additionally extra susceptible to self noise and have very low output.
This makes dynamic microphones good for any scenario the place the supply is near the microphone. For the spoken phrase, dynamic mics are inclined to excel as they decide up the voice with out selecting up the sound of the room. A condenser mic will decide up far more atmosphere.
Dynamic microphones are additionally sometimes far more rugged than condenser mics. This makes them supreme for utilization in dwell music. That decrease sensitivity additionally makes them much less susceptible to suggestions, one other helpful function in dwell concert events.
Condenser microphones usually seize a extra correct image of what you’re recording, however that is each a very good factor and a foul factor. Recording a wonderfully tuned instrument in an ideal sounding room, you’ll probably get a significantly better recording than you’d with a dynamic microphone.
Put that very same condenser microphone and completely tuned instrument in a room with poor acoustic properties, and it’ll decide up simply how dangerous the room sounds. You have to be far more cautious along with your setting.
Typically, condenser mics are extra suited towards music. When you’re a gamer or content material creator, that gained’t be of a lot use to you. As a substitute, check out our roundup of the perfect gaming microphones.