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 are designed to pick up sound from a single direction and are less sensitive than condenser microphones. They are typically used for live sound reinforcement and for recording instruments such as drums and guitar.
Condenser microphones are more sensitive than dynamic microphones and are designed to pick up sound from multiple directions. They are typically used for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. They also have a higher frequency response than dynamic microphones, making them better suited for capturing detailed nuances in sound.
Dynamic Microphone Basics
How does a dynamic microphone work? It’s a genius solution for transferring acoustic energy into an electrical signal.
- Acoustic energy moves through the air toward the microphone.
- The microphone’s diaphragm captures the acoustic energy. It works a little bit like a parachute as it captures all of the sound waves.
- The diaphragm is attached to a metal coil that encircles a magnet.
- An electric signal is generated as the coil moves up and down the length of the magnet.
- This electric signal is sent to another device via the XLR 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.
Related: What is an active dynamic microphone?
Dynamic Microphone Benefits
- High SPL Rating – As they rely on a mechanical process to generate a signal, dynamic microphones can handle a high volume level from whatever source they’re mic’ing. This works 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. The mic will be more forgiving of a less-than-ideal recording environment in a podcasting or live-streaming situation.
- 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; they have a pretty simple design with sturdy components. They’re backpack-friendly and will take a pretty good beating.
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 that 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, 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.
Popular Dynamic Microphones
Here is a list of the most popular dynamic microphones that we recommend:
- AKG Pro Audio D5 – https://currentprice.io/akg_d5
- Electro-Voice RE20 – https://currentprice.io/re20-black
- Heil Sound PR40 – https://currentprice.io/heil_pr40
- sE Electronics Dynacaster – https://currentprice.io/dynacaster
- Sennheiser MD 421-II – https://currentprice.io/md421-II
- Shure SM57 – https://currentprice.io/shure_sm57
- Shure SM58 – https://currentprice.io/shure_sm58
- Shure SM7B – https://currentprice.io/shure_sm7b
For more detail, check out our breakdown of these best dynamic microphones.
Condenser Microphone Basics
How do condenser microphones work? Unlike dynamic mics, they rely on 48V phantom power from an external source to convert acoustic energy into an electrical signal.
- Acoustic energy moves through the air toward the microphone.
- The microphone’s electrically charged diaphragm captures and reacts to these sound waves.
- A fixed electrically charged backplate is positioned behind the diaphragm.
- The diaphragm’s movement creates capacitance in the circuit, creating an electric signal.
- 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, resulting in a much more accurate and detailed sound.
- Size & Design Flexibility – Dynamic microphones are all similar in 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 – Using a condenser microphone requires 48 V of phantom power. 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 too loud. They’re not perfect for every situation.
- Additional Equipment – You need to buy more gear for a condenser microphone. They’re so sensitive we 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.
Popular Condenser Microphones
Below is a list of popular condenser microphones that we recommend, depending on your budget:
- Aston Microphones Spirit – https://currentprice.io/aston_spirit
- Audio-Technica AT2035 – https://currentprice.io/at2035
- AKG C414 XLII – https://currentprice.io/c414xlII
- Earthworks Icon Pro– https://currentprice.io/icon_pro
- Lewitt LCT 940 – https://currentprice.io/lct_940
- Neat King Bee II – https://currentprice.io/king_bee_ii
- Rode NT1 – https://currentprice.io/rode_nt1_kit
- Shure SM27 – https://currentprice.io/shure_sm27
- Sennheiser e965 – https://currentprice.io/e965
- Neumann TLM103 – https://currentprice.io/tlm103
- Neumann U87 – https://currentprice.io/u_87_ai
Drum Kit 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.
You’ll generally find people using dynamic mics on loud drums that don’t produce detailed sound. They’re well suited to this task.
In contrast, other drum kit parts produce a much richer, high-frequency sound with more detail. This is where condenser microphones shine.
- High hats
99% of the time, we 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 Recommendation
This is the same as podcasting; we recommend a dynamic microphone for the same reasons. A dynamic mic will do a much better job rejecting background noises, creating fewer distractions for your viewers.
Check out our live-streaming buyers guide for more equipment recommendations.
Music Production Recommendation
Both types have their place in the studio, but condenser mics are used most of the time (75%).
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.
You’ll commonly find dynamic mics used for drum kit elements and alternate mics for guitar and bass amps.
Live Sound Recommendation
Again, you’ll find both types of mic used in an on-stage environment, but dynamic microphones are more prevalent (75%).
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 vs Condenser Microphone FAQ
A condenser microphone is more sensitive and can do a better job of capturing more detail. Condenser microphones are perfect for recording acoustic guitars and pianos. They also do a good job of recording vocals in a well-treated environment.
A dynamic microphone can handle more volume while adding a smooth warmth to the recording, which is desired for live sound, podcasting, live-streaming, and some vocal recording. Dynamic microphones work very well on kick drums and snare drums as well.
Dynamic microphones capture loud sound sources, such as vocals or drums, in live performance settings or loud environments. They are also known for their durability and resistance to feedback and background noise.
Both types of microphones can be used for streaming, and the choice between a dynamic or condenser microphone often depends on personal preference and the specific needs of the streamer.
Condenser microphones have a wider frequency response and a higher sensitivity than dynamic microphones, making them better suited for capturing subtle nuances in speech and music but also picking up more background noise.
Dynamic microphones are known for their durability and resistance to background noise, which can be an advantage in a live-streaming setting. They also have a “warm” sound that many streamers find appealing.
The choice between a dynamic or condenser microphone for vocals depends on the specific needs and preferences of the artist.
Dynamic microphones are known for their durability and resistance to feedback, which can be an advantage in a live performance setting. They also tend to be less sensitive to background noise. Dynamic microphones are great for capturing loud sound sources and can handle high sound pressure levels (SPLs) quite well. For rock vocals and rap, a dynamic microphone is a great choice.
Condenser microphones have a wider frequency response and a higher sensitivity than dynamic microphones, making them better suited for capturing subtle nuances in speech and music. Condenser microphones are often used for choirs, female vocals, and music that requires extra detail in the recording.
A dynamic microphone has several disadvantages compared to a condenser microphone.
Dynamic microphones have a narrower frequency response compared to condenser microphones. This means that they may not capture a realistic, detailed sound.
Dynamic microphones are not as sensitive to quiet sounds as condenser microphones. This can be a problem if you’re recording in a large or reverberant space or the sound source is far from the microphone.
These disadvantages are often balanced with advantages such as durability, resistance to feedback, and ability to handle high sound pressure levels (SPLs).
A condenser microphone has several disadvantages compared to a dynamic microphone.
A condenser microphone requires external power (48v of phantom power). You’ll need an audio interface or mixer that provides phantom power to use a condenser microphone.
Another disadvantage of condenser microphones is that they are (generally) more sensitive to background noise than dynamic microphones. This means they can pick up more ambient sounds in the room, which can be problematic if you’re recording in a noisy, untreated environment.
Condenser microphones are also more delicate and lack durability compared to dynamic microphones. They can be damaged by high sound pressure levels (SPLs) or by being dropped. They are also more sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, affecting their performance.
These disadvantages are often balanced with advantages such as wider frequency response, higher sensitivity, and better representation of subtle nuances in speech or music.
The best dynamic microphones are known to be: AKG Pro Audio D5, Electro-Voice RE20, Heil Sound PR40, Sennheiser e965, Shure SM57, Shure SM58, and Shure SM7B, depending on your price range.
The best condenser microphones are known to be: AKG C12, Neat King Bee II, Rode NT1, Neumann TLM103, and Neumann U87, depending on your price range.
Dynamic & Condenser Microphone Pricing & Specs
- Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone: https://currentprice.io/shure_sm7b
- Rode NT1 Condenser Microphone: https://currentprice.io/rode_nt1_kit
- Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface: https://currentprice.io/scarlett_2i2
- Cloudlifter CL-1 Inline Preamp: https://currentprice.io/cloudlifter
- Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Headphones: https://currentprice.io/beyer_dt_990
- XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/xlr_cable
- TRS Cable: https://currentprice.io/trs_cable
- Mic Stand: https://currentprice.io/desk_stand
- Rode PSA1 Boom Arm: https://currentprice.io/boom_arm
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