Dynamic vs. Condenser Microphone | Differences Explained + When to Use Which

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  January 9, 2021
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If you want to record yourself playing guitar or start podcasting, you need to use a microphone to get good sound quality.

Depending on what type of sound you want to record, you need to use either a dynamic or a condenser microphone. But, which one should you use?

Though both mics capture sounds effectively, they are used for different purposes, and each is suitable to record certain instruments in specific sound settings.

Dynamic vs condenser microphones

So, what’s the difference between the dynamic and condenser mic?

Dynamic microphones are used to capture loud and powerful sounds, such as the sound of drums and vocals in large venues and live settings. Dynamic mics don’t require power. Condenser microphones are used to capture high frequencies like studio vocals and other more delicate sounds in a studio setting, and it requires electricity to function.

Since the condenser mic picks up sounds more accurately, it is the top choice for studio applications like music recording and podcasting.

In contrast, the dynamic mic is best for recording large groups and band performances in live venues.

Let’s dive deeper into the differences between these two crucial pieces of recording equipment.

What’s the Role of the Microphone?

To understand the difference between a dynamic and condenser mic, you need to know the mic’s role.

It is a piece of equipment that converts soundwaves. It has the capacity to record all types of sound, from human voices to instruments.

Then, the mic converts the soundwaves into electrical waves. A computer or a recording device can then pick up the waves and produce the audio.

Dynamic Microphone

The dynamic mic is a cheap yet durable type of device, and it doesn’t require power.

In the music industry, it’s used to record live vocals and loud instruments, such as amps, guitars, and drums.

If you are going to have a loud concert, a dynamic mic is a good piece of equipment to use.

A dynamic mic’s disadvantage is that it’s not sensitive enough for quiet, subtle, or high-frequency sounds.

In terms of design, the dynamic mic is the older type of recording mic, and it has basic design features.

The way it works is that sound is created in the mic when sound waves hit the plastic or polyester diaphragm. As it moves, it creates sounds.

In short, this type of mic uses a wire coil that then amplifies the signal picked up from the diaphragm. The resulting output is lower compared to the condenser mic.

When to Use a Dynamic Mic?

As a result of its design, the dynamic mic can withstand the high sound pressure levels of loud noises.

Also, the simple design is resistant to the wear and tear of concerts and transportation.

In terms of price, the dynamic mic is much cheaper.

Therefore, this type of mic is the best option for recording sounds in a live setting when the noise is loud.

I don’t recommend a dynamic mic for recording in the studio.

Its limitation is that it has a weighty coil. Thus, when the sound is too quiet, the coil may not vibrate sufficiently.

As a result, the sound doesn’t get represented accurately.

Best Dynamic Mics

You can buy dynamic mics that cost anywhere between $100 – $1000.

The top brands that bands use include the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB, the Shure 55SH Series, and the Sennheiser MD 421 II.

Also read: Windscreen vs. Pop Filter | Differences Explained + Top Choices.

Condenser Microphone

For recording sound in a studio, where you need to record the human voice’s subtle intricacies, a condenser mic is the best option.

The condenser mic is used to record a varied range of high and low frequencies.

It can pick up any quiet and complex sound waves the dynamic mic just can’t. It works well to capture sensitive noises accurately.

While it’s not recommended for recording loud sounds (i.e., at rock concerts), it is the top choice of studio recording in the music industry, and excellent for recording acoustic guitar live performances.

In general, condenser mics are more expensive due to a more sophisticated design.

The mic must accurately capture the sounds; thus, it has a diaphragm made of metal and an additional backplate, also made of thin metal.

In contrast to the dynamic mic, the condenser uses electricity to create a static charge between the two metal plates.

So, once the sound hits the diaphragm, it creates an electrical current. This is known as phantom power, and it’s the most convenient power source for your condenser mic.

Therefore, a condenser mic always requires electricity ranging from about 9 to 48 volts, depending on the model. This added power boost gives the mic a high-output sound capability.

When to Use a Condenser Mic?

Use a condenser mic to record vocals and instruments or record podcasts in a studio setting.

Since the mic is better at picking up subtle low and high-frequency sound waves, it gives you very high-quality audio.

As a musician or podcaster, you need to give your listeners accurate, buzz-free sound.

The dynamic mic’s plastic components just don’t convey sounds the same way that the condenser mic’s metal plates do.

The condenser mic’s limitation is that it just can’t pick up very loud sounds and instruments like drums.

If you add in a singer or two, you can end up with a muffled sound and poor audio quality.

Therefore, I recommend a dynamic mic for recording large vocal and instrumental groups.

Best Condenser Mics

The most popular condenser mics on the market are more expensive than dynamic mics.

They start at about $500 and can cost several thousand dollars.

Check out the Neumann U 87 Rhodium Edition, which is best for professional podcasting, or the Rode NT-USB Versatile Studio-Quality USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone, which is good for recording music too.

That said, there are also quite a few good condenser mics to be found under $200.

Dynamic Mic vs. Condenser Mic: The Bottom Line

If you are an avid podcaster or musician and want to record audio or music for your listeners, you’re best off investing in a condenser mic that can pick up subtle high and low-frequency sounds.

If, on the other hand, you want to play live venues where there’s lots of noise, the dynamic mic is the better choice.

In the end, it all comes down to your budget and needs.

Read next: Best Microphones For Noisy Environment Recording.

          Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of his passion, and together with his team, He's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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