Let’s explore the differences between dynamic and condenser microphones. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both designs and discuss when we would consider using each one. 

Quick Answer: Dynamic microphones do a good job of rejecting background noise and are well optimized for voice work. Condenser microphones offer more detail and clarity, but their sensitivity makes them better suited to controlled studio environments.

Dynamic Microphone Basics

How does a dynamic microphone work? It’s actually a genius solution for taking acoustic energy and transferring it into an electrical signal.

  1. Acoustic energy moves through the air towards the microphone.
  2. The microphone’s diaphragm captures the acoustic energy. It works a little bit like a parachute as it captures all of the sound waves.
  3. The diaphragm is attached to a metal coil that encircles a magnet.
  4. An electric signal is generated as the coil moves up and down the length of the magnet.
  5. This electric signal is sent to another device via the microphone cable.

Essentially, you can think of a dynamic microphone as being self-powered. It relies on vibrations caused by sound waves to create an interaction between a metal coil and a magnet.

Dynamic Microphone Benefits

  • High SPL Rating
    As they rely on a mechanical process to generate a signal, dynamic microphones can handle a really high volume level from whatever source they’re mic’ing. This works really well for loud drums. The relatively inexpensive SM57 is still the industry standard for snare drums.
  • Rejects Background Noise
    Another benefit of the mechanical process employed by dynamic mics is that it makes them resilient to background noise. In a live sound environment, this helps to reduce the risk of feedback. In a podcasting or live streaming situation, this means the mic will be more forgiving of a less than ideal recording environment.
  • Smooth Tone
    Generally, a dynamic microphone will have a much more rounded tone. It will sound smooth and full, with less sharp detail. This can be good or bad, depending on your intentions. Still, it’s the reason why dynamic mics are commonly used for broadcasting.
  • Rugged Design
    Dynamic microphones are more rugged and durable; it’s a pretty simple design with sturdy components. They’re backpack-friendly and will take a pretty good beating.

H2 Dynamic Microphone Cons

  • Low Sensitivity
    One of the biggest downsides to dynamic microphones is that they require a lot of gain. They produce a small electrical signal, which often needs significant boosting via the mixer or audio interface. Sometimes, an inline preamp like the Cloudlifter is required.
  • Less Resolution
    We mentioned this in the pros section too, but dynamic microphones capture less detail and sharpness. This is fine for talking head videos, but it’s less desirable if you’re recording an acoustic guitar or a grand piano. 

Condenser Microphone Basics

How do condenser microphones work? Unlike dynamic mics, they rely on 48 V phantom power from an external source to convert acoustic energy into an electrical signal.

  1. Acoustic energy moves through the air towards the microphone.
  2. The microphone’s electrically charged diaphragm captures and reacts to these soundwaves.
  3. A fixed electrically charged backplate is positioned behind the diaphragm.
  4. The diaphragm’s movement creates capacitance in the circuit which creates an electric signal.
  5. This electric signal is sent to another device via the microphone cable.

Condenser Microphone Benefits

  • Very Responsive
    The moving pieces inside a condenser microphone are much lighter in weight, resulting in a much more accurate and detailed sound.
  • Size & Design Flexibility
    Dynamic microphones are all of a similar size and design. Condenser mics come in all shapes and sizes, with varying diaphragm areas. This offers a lot more flexibility in design for various use cases.

Condesner Microphone Cons

  • Price
    Condenser microphones are more expensive due to the technology and components they contain.
  • External Power
    You need 48 V of phantom power to use a condenser microphone. It’s not a huge problem as most audio interfaces and mixers can supply this.
  • Max SPL Rating
    Condenser microphones can be blown out if they’re mic’ing something that is too loud. They’re not perfect for every situation.
  • Additional Equipment
    You generally need to buy more gear for a condenser microphone. They’re so sensitive, we’d always recommend using a shock mount. Also, they don’t tend to come with built-in pop filters, so you’ll need to buy an external one for vocal work.

Drum Kit Microphone Recommendation

Drum kits are an excellent example of when you’d want to use either type of microphone. You’ll need a mix of both to get a great drum kit recording.

Dynamic Microphones

You’ll generally find people using dynamic mics on loud drums that don’t produce a very detailed sound. They’re well suited to this task.

  • Snare
  • Toms
  • Kick

Condenser Microphones

In contrast, other parts of a drum kit produce a much richer, high-frequency sound with more detail. This is where condenser microphones shine.

  • Cymbals
  • High hats

Podcasting Microphone Recommendation

Dynamic Microphone

99% of the time, we would recommend purchasing a dynamic microphone for a podcasting setup

  • Works better in an untreated room or non-professional environment.
  • Broadcast tone optimized for voice.
  • More forgiving of background noise from keyboards and note shuffling.

Live Streaming Microphone Recommendation

Dynamic Microphone

This is exactly the same as podcasting and we recommend a dynamic microphone for precisely the same reasons. A dynamic mic will do a much better job of rejecting background noises, creating fewer distractions for your viewers.

Check out our live streaming buyers guide for more equipment recommendations.

Music Production Microphone Recommendation

Both types have their place in the studio, but condenser mics are used the majority (75%) of the time.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones are used a lot in a controlled studio environment. Vocals, acoustic guitars, guitar amps, and pianos all benefit from the detailed sound of a condenser mic.

Dynamic Microphones

You’ll commonly find dynamic mics used for elements of a drum kit and also as alternate mics for guitar and bass amps.

Live Sound Microphone Recommendation

Again, you’ll find both types of mic used in an on-stage environment, but with dynamic microphones being more (75%) prevalent. 

Condenser microphones are less likely to be used as they are so sensitive and accurate, they’re more likely to create feedback. Dynamic mics offer a lot more consistency and reliability for live performances.

Dynamic & Condenser Microphone Pricing & Specs

Dynamic vs. Condenser Microphones Topics

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 0:10 – Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone
  • 0:37 – Dynamic Microphone Basics
  • 1:30 – Dynamic Microphone Benefits
  • 4:10 – Dynamic Microphone Cons
  • 5:15 – Rode NT1 Condenser Microphone
  • 5:25 – Condenser Microphone Basics
  • 6:10 – Condenser Microphone Benefits
  • 7:30 – Condenser Microphone Cons
  • 8:37 – Recommendations
  • 9:00 – Drum Kit
  • 9:52 – Podcasting
  • 10:53 – Live Streaming
  • 11:08 – Music Recording
  • 11:53 – Live Sound
  • 12:30 – Final Thoughts