When it comes to microphones, one of the most popular types is the condenser mic. But is it the right microphone for your intended use? What is it best used for? Let’s check out below.
You’ll probably encounter two major types when choosing a microphone – the condenser and dynamic microphones. In general, a condenser microphone is used in recording audio in a controlled environment such as a studio. Meanwhile, a dynamic microphone is usually used in a live setting where audio levels are louder.
The condenser mic is preferred for studio recording because of its ability to pick up subtle, low-frequency sounds instead of high, loud volume. It lets you capture the very clear audio signal and reproduce real-like, high-quality sound.
Basically, the condenser mic works like a highly specialized capacitor designed to store energy temporarily. Inside the microphone are two plates in close proximity with each other. The proximity between these plates determines its capacitance or its ability to store electrical energy.
In DPA Condenser Microphones production, one of the plates is made of a very thin and lightweight material that serves as the diaphragm. Once it picks up an audio signal, the diaphragm vibrates, and the two plates become closer, resulting in a change in capacitance. These fluctuations are converted into an electrical representation of the sound waves that can be reproduced or amplified.
Best Uses of Condenser Microphone
The condenser mic is ideal in a controlled setting, such as in a recording studio. Generally, a condenser mic is used for situations where accuracy, quality, and sensitivity are vital, like recording vocals, brass instruments, acoustic guitars, and drum overheads. However, there are various condenser microphones now that can be used for multiple purposes. For example, some condenser mics are apt for live performances or similar situations where a dynamic mic is more commonly used.
Condenser microphones can be categorized either as small-diaphragm or large-diaphragm mic. They can be easily distinguished by their looks and have unique purposes.
Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
The condenser mic is the best option for recording vocals. The main reason is that it is more sensitive to sound pressure and picks up details better. Large-diaphragm mics can pick up low-end frequencies, the nuances, the intricacies, and the nuances of the vocalist. Likewise, large-diaphragm mics have better noise performance than their small-diaphragm counterpart.
Piano, Bass Guitar, Acoustic Bass, Trumpet, Saxophone
Condenser mics have high sensitivity to capture higher-range details and frequencies. Although both condenser microphones are excellent for recording these instruments, the large-diaphragm condenser mic picks up low-end frequency better.
Solo Acoustic Guitar
The large-diaphragm condenser mic is better if you are recording acoustic guitar without other accompaniments. It produces a thicker, fuller, livelier, and vibrant sound for recording stringed instruments. In addition, it adds a bit of color to the sound, unlike the small-diaphragm microphone that only captures the sounds clearly but without any flavor.
Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
The small-diaphragm condenser offers a consistent pickup pattern in recording orchestral instruments and classical music. With its ability to pick up surround sounds and stereo, this condenser mic allows recording and preserving the authenticity of sounds.
With its wide range of sound, recording a piano requires a microphone that can pick up the lowest to the highest frequencies. A small-diaphragm condenser can capture notes from the different octaves of the piano with the highest sensitivity.
Its superb transient response makes a small-diaphragm mic perfect for recording drum overhead. The drums produce explosive movement that results in a short, intense burst of energy. Small-diaphragm condensers are ideal for picking up this type of sound.
As mentioned above, the small-diaphragm condenser mic is excellent for recording natural acoustic guitar sounds. The condenser mic captures the details with its superior transient response without unnecessarily adding color. It’s a good option if you intend to highlight pick attacks and other short bursts of energy. The small-diaphragm condenser is best used when the acoustic guitar plays alongside another instrument.
While this post describes the best uses of the condenser microphone, it should be emphasized that the condenser mic is very versatile and could be used for pretty much any situation. The condenser mic is your best bet if you need clarity, sensitivity, and full range in a studio setting.