Dynamic Microphones vs Condensor Microphones

Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone

The Shure SM58 is a classic example of a dynamic microphone.

Are you confused about what microphone you want to rent for an upcoming event? What microphone is the best for your situation?

Today, we’ll tackle the age-old question and help you determine whether you ought to use a condenser or dynamic microphone. As you’ll soon discover, the answer isn’t always straightforward.

The Basics
Condenser microphones work by putting a balanced electrical charge across two metal plates. This creates an electrical field between them, and when one of the plates moves because of the sound vibrations in the air, the voltage attached to this field changes accordingly. The change in voltage is directly proportional to the change in sound. In order to create the initial charge, however, condenser microphones need a power source.

Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, work like backwards speakers. Instead of an electrically-created, variable magnetic field moving a speaker cone to create sound vibrations, the diaphragm in a dynamic mic moves in time with the sound pressure changes. It’s connected to a coil which then moves within a constant magnetic field. The coil moving through the field produces an electrical signal that directly corresponds to the sound waves that caused it. Because the magnetic field can be generated using a permanent magnet, this doesn’t necessarily require an external power source, although some higher-quality active dynamic microphones do make use of one.

Pros and Cons
The two different types of microphone each have different characteristics. As technology improves, however, manufacturers are coming closer to achieving parity in important areas.

External Power
Some microphones require external power supplies, which are usually provided by the switchboard or an internal battery. It’s important to select a microphone that matches your input equipment. Input equipment that provides so-called “phantom power” must be used with all condenser and certain dynamic microphones.

Another commonly touted difference between the two is that some dynamic microphones are a bit more hardy. This isn’t true across the board, however. An increasing number of modern condenser microphones use solid-state (no moving parts) technology that makes them every bit as rugged and robust as their dynamic counterparts. Generally, microphones designed for studio recording sacrifice robustness for higher sound quality.

Traditionally, condenser microphones were much more expensive than dynamic microphones, but the fact of the matter is that you get what you pay for. Condensers usually have better sound quality because they’re more responsive to a wider range of signals, but if you expect your microphones to take a lot of abuse, it’s best to just go with high-end dynamics so that you don’t pay as much replacing them.

Finally, remember that all condenser and dynamic microphones are manufactured with specific uses in mind. Instead of simply picking one type over the other because it seems like the thing to do, take time to evaluate each individual model thoroughly before buying anything. If you need help, feel free to contact our production coordinator for more information.