What Is A Condenser Microphone
A Condenser microphone converts sound into an electrical signal. In the case of this type of construction, the distance from the diaphragm to the counter electrode changes as a result of the incident sound and thus ensures a change in the capacitance of the capacitor. The Condenser microphone is a so-called electroacoustic transducer.
The Condenser microphone in the real world What it is, what it is used for, and when you use it best in your music. In addition, know when other types of microphones or types are more suitable and why the Condenser microphone is the most popular in many recording studios in the world.
Firstly, an important distinction must be made between small and large membrane Condenser microphones. The former are the small “sticks” (cigar-sized, for example), which are mainly used for instrument recording. However, large diaphragms are mainly used for voice recording.
As the names already reveal, there is a fundamental difference between these two subspecies in the membrane size. Here are two of the most important features that result from:
- Small membrane: accurate impulse behavior
- Large diaphragm: low noise
The “impulse behavior” describes how fast the membrane responds to the air pressure vibrations by a vibration – in concrete terms, the inertia is the determining factor, which ultimately provides a more or less detailed, transparent, high-resolution sound.
The noise of small membranes was a problem, especially in the early twentieth century. This has improved tremendously, but a small difference remains: an extremely low-noise large diaphragm has, for example, a self-noise of about 7 dB (A). A small diaphragm microphone excels in this respect by 15 dB (A).
1. Wider transmission range
Unlike a micro with moving coil ( dynamic microphone ) a condenser microphone has a wider transmission range and a more neutral frequency response. This is important for a full sound with deep and high frequencies.
2. Better impulse behavior
A Condenser microphone reacts faster to the incoming sound than a dynamic mic. This is particularly noticeable with impulsive, percussive sounds – see above in the chapter »Large diaphragm. Small diaphragm, “but the differences are usually more pronounced.
3. Relatively little pre-amplification necessary
For a sufficiently loud signal, you do not have to turn the gain control on the microphone preamplifier, audio interface or mixer as far as with the “dynamic duo” (dip coil or ribbon mic). For example, you can also use devices that deliver only about +45 to + 50 dB gain.
1. Less robust than the dynamics
A mic with a diving coil is significantly more robust than a condensation microphone. It is less sensitive to extreme temperatures or humidity. Thus, dynamic microphones are much better suited for stage and outdoor use than a condensation microphone.
2. Needs phantom power
The so-called phantom power ensures that the capacitor is charged. Only then is it able to convert the diaphragm vibrations excited by the sound waves into electrical voltage. In some recording devices, however, no phantom power can be applied – point for the dynamics, because they come without this voltage.
3. Maximum sound pressure not so (extremely) high
If you want to take down kickdrums and wind instruments at close range, a condensation microphone will generally reach its limits and cause overdriving. These and similarly extremely loud sound sources require microphones with a very high level of ambient sound pressure – the top performers deliver the dynamics.
4. More space and background noise
With a good Condenser microphone, too many background noises and not least the reverberation will be captured in an acoustically not / hardly optimized recording space. “Dry” vocals and instruments are less easy to do, making the mix more difficult, especially when you want to use additional reverb effects.
5. More Significant Sibilants
The last aspect compared with diving coil microphones: siblings (hissing in human language and singing) are more evident in a condensation microphone. Due to the extended height range, this may be reinforced. The use of a de-eater is often needed here.
A good Condenser microphone is stronger in the mentioned plus points and the disadvantages mentioned are not so pronounced. Reasonable copies do not have to be expensive, but dynamic microphones of comparable quality (with their typical weaknesses and strengths) are more favorable.
Which model do you use in the studio and why? What are your experiences with Condenser microphones? As always, we are excited about how you can contribute to the topic. Thanks in advance.