What are Condenser Mics

Share This Post

Condenser microphones are inferior to dynamic microphones in every respect except for one: Sound.  In a general sense, condenser mics are simply able to capture a more detailed recording than dynamic mics.

Here are the two main reasons why:

1. Phantom Power

Because of the fact that condenser mics use an active power source, they are able to achieve higher levels of gain, and pick up much more detail with quieter sounds.

2. Lighter Diaphragms

Because of the fact that condenser mics use much lighter diaphragms compared to dynamic mics, it allows them to record high frequency details with a greater level of accuracy.

Large Diaphragm Condensers vs Small Diaphragm Condensers

Condenser microphones can be divided into two main categories: small diaphragm condensers and large diaphragm condensers.

Here is a typical example of each type:

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser: Neumann TLM49
  • Neumann TLM49 – condenser microphone
  • Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone: Shure SM81
  • Shure SM81 condenser microphones

As you can see, the design of each type is quite different.  The most important difference is the size of the capsule and the diaphragm inside of it.  A smaller diaphragm will allow for better high frequency response, while the larger diaphragm will provide a better response in the lower midrange.

Instruments Recorded with Condenser Microphones

Certain instruments will almost always sound better recorded with a condenser mic compared to a dynamic mic or usb mic.  Here are some examples of common instruments that are typically recorded with a condenser microphone:

1. Vocals

Depending on the sound you are looking to achieve, vocals can be recorded nicely with either a dynamic or condenser mic.  For a more detailed, airy sound, condenser mics work much better.  When a condenser mic is used for vocals, it is usually a large diaphragm.

2. Acoustic guitars, acoustic pianos, or any type stringed instrument

These instruments have a good amount of high frequency content and are typically recorded with a pair of small diaphragm condenser mics, although large diaphragm condensers can work nicely as well.

3. Cymbals or any type of metallic percussion

These instruments mainly have high frequency content so they will almost always be recorded with either one or two small diaphragm condensers.