What is a Condenser Microphone?

Here is a quick guide that will answer what is a condenser microphone, how they work, compare them to different microphones, and how to use them.

What is a Condenser Microphone
What is a Condenser Microphone

What Is A Condenser Microphone?

Most people choose condenser microphones because they are flexible, sensitive, accurate with transients, and have a high level of sound quality. Certain condensers can, however, surpass others in certain respects.

Since there are so many condenser mics on the market, it isn’t easy to develop a list of generalities that describe them all. To understand what a condenser microphone is, we must first understand its components.

Condenser microphones are active microphone transducers with capacitor-based capsules that use electrostatic principles to produce audio signals. Most condenser microphones are equipped with a diaphragm to interact with sound waves and approximate their movement.

Despite all the various types of condenser microphones, they are all based on one fundamental principle. Condenser microphones have the following components as a result of this principle:

Backplate

Backplates are static pieces of metal located behind the diaphragm. The diaphragm vibrates while the backplate remains still, and the air pressure difference between them from the sound waves creates capacitance, which is then translated into an audio signal.

Electricity is stored in a capacitor between two components, and the backplate in a condenser microphone serves as one of these components.

Capsule

Typically, a capsule consists of various components, such as a diaphragm and a backplate. Most of the time, the entire mic component that captures sound is described as the capsule.

Many people also use the terms “capsule” and “diaphragm” interchangeably, although this is incorrect.

Diaphragm

The diaphragm serves as the capsule’s membrane. The thin, electrically-conducting side of the capsule vibrates opposite the backplate to create capacitance. Diaphragms are usually coated with gold to enhance electrical conductivity.

Impedance Converter

Condenser microphones have an impedance converter, which increases the voltage generated by the diaphragm and backplate vibrations. Most microphones have this converter since they create a low current despite producing sufficient voltage.

Power Supply

A dedicated power supply or a USB or XLR cable is used to supply power. The impedance converter amplifies the current to provide power to the microphone.

Related: 10 Best Condenser Microphones


What Is A Condenser Microphone Used For?

Generally speaking, condenser microphones are the most useful for capturing vocals and high frequencies. Condenser microphones are also the most common microphones used in studios. A condenser microphone can pick up delicate sounds due to its thin diaphragm and increased sensitivity.

Indeed, condenser mics work very well for capturing acoustic guitars, drum overheads, and vocals.

However, they are not as effective for louder sounds as those created by guitar or bass amp, and dynamic microphones are a better choice than condenser microphones for these applications.


How Does A Condenser Microphone Work?

The components mentioned above have already been discussed, but let’s discuss how they work together to record and transfer sound.

The condenser mic capsule has a membrane containing a conductor material like gold, and a metal backplate surrounds this membrane.

The diaphragm vibrates near the backplate when sound waves strike it. The microphone membrane vibrates against a metal backplate in a capsule that causes changes in air pressure (sound waves).

Differences in pressure between a backplate and a diaphragm (capacitance) are recorded via voltage, which is amplified and transformed into audio sound waves in a recording device or software.

See the video to know how a condenser mic works.

How a Condenser Microphone Works

What Are The Four Types Of Microphones?

There are many different microphones available. Finding the most suitable microphone is not an easy task.

However, this is not as difficult as it may seem. Making a decision between your choices and finding the appropriate tool will depend on what type of microphone you need.

Following are the four types of microphones used widely at the moment:

  1. Dynamic microphones
  2. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones
  3. Small diaphragm condenser microphones
  4. Ribbon microphones

Condenser Microphone Vs. Dynamic Microphone?

Choosing a microphone starts with determining what you want to use it for. Not all live performance mics are the same as studio mics. Before purchasing a microphone, you should determine whether you need a vocal mic, an instrument mic, or a drum mic.

Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones, What’s the Difference? – Source

Let’s now dive into the condenser and dynamic microphones in more detail.

Condenser Microphones

Generally speaking, condenser microphones are the most useful for capturing vocals and high frequencies. In addition, they are the preferred microphone type in most recording studios.

Condenser mics work very well for capturing acoustic guitars, drum overheads, and vocals. However, they are not as effective for louder sounds as those created by guitar or bass amplifiers.

Condenser microphones come in two general types: large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm. Each one captures sound differently, and each is used differently during recording.

Large-Diaphragm

In general, devices with large diaphragms receive audio sources from the side. The diaphragm is longer than an inch, allowing the capsule to cover a larger surface area.

Mics with large diaphragms are usually fixed in a stationary position when used in a recording booth. A diaphragm with a large diaphragm is often used to capture deep bass notes since it produces a widening effect that fills and enhances the mix.

Small Diaphragm

Small-diaphragm condenser mics have diaphragms less than an inch long and are often referred to as pencil microphones due to their small size and long, thin designs.

The diaphragm is typically positioned in front of the microphone, while the energy from the source is directed to the top of the microphone. Even though they can be handheld, they are generally mounted on a studio wall or used on a desktop.

Furthermore, a device with a small diaphragm is perfect for picking up transients and other high-end sounds.

Dynamic Microphones

A dynamic microphone is best used in louder environments or with booming sounds. Since they can handle loud sounds and have a decreased sensitivity, they are the perfect choice for live performances.

In contrast to condensers, dynamic microphones use a wire coil to amplify the sound picked up by the diaphragm. Therefore, dynamic microphones are lower in output than condensers.

The fact that dynamic microphones are extremely durable makes them excellent for live sound. Although it is not wise to drop a microphone, it will be less damaged if you drop a dynamic mic than a condenser mic.

Additionally, dynamic mics do not require batteries or phantom power, and they are typically less expensive than condenser mics. If you take reasonable care of your dynamic mic, it will remain functional for a lifetime.


What Are the Best Condenser Microphones?

Here are the 5 best selling Condenser Microphones on Amazon with thousands of customer reviews.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone for Broadcast, Podcast & Recording, XLR...
3,888 Reviews
Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone for Broadcast, Podcast & Recording, XLR...
  • ONE MICROPHONE FOR EVERYTHING - Studio Recording, Home Recording, Podcasting and Streaming. The SM7B Is Trusted By The Worlds Leading Vocalists, Podcasters and Streamers.
  • STUDIO VOCAL RECORDING - The SM7B’s Dynamic Cartridge With Smooth, Flat, Wide-range Frequency Response Produces Exceptionally Clean and Natural Reproduction Of Both Music and Speech.
  • PODCAST and BROADCAST - Found In The Top Podcasting Studios Around The World, The SM7B Air Suspension Shock Isolation and Pop Filter Eliminate Both Mechanical Noise And Breathiness. So Words Get Through And The Rest Stays Out Of The Mix.
  • STREAMING CONTENT - Professional Live Streaming Starts With A Microphone Capable Of Capturing Exceptionally Clean And Natural Reproduction Of Both Music And Speech. The SM7B Has Been A Pioneer In Such Abilities For Decades.
  • PROFESSIONAL XLR CONNECTION - The XLR Connection Along With An Audio Interface Allows You More Control Over The Sound — Thus A Better Overall Sound Quality. At least 60dB of gain is recommended to get that iconic warm and balanced tone most commonly associated with the SM7B.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Blue Yeti Nano Premium Condenser USB Microphone with Multiple Pickup Patterns &...
7,256 Reviews
Blue Yeti Nano Premium Condenser USB Microphone with Multiple Pickup Patterns &...
  • Legendary Blue Broadcast Sound – Two custom mic capsules give your voice exceptional presence and detail for professional-level recording and streaming
  • Blue VO!CE Software: Craft the perfect broadcast vocal sound and entertain your audience with enhanced effects, advanced modulation and HD audio samples. Advanced Blue VO!CE is compatible with Yeti, Yeti Nano and Yeti X. To access Blue VO!CE, please download Logitech’s free G HUB software.
  • Multiple Pickup Patterns – Cardioid and Omni pickup patterns are perfect for pro recording and streaming
  • No-Latency Monitoring – Onboard headphone output and volume control for ensuring great sound
  • Compact Footprint and Aesthetic – Yeti Nano fits on any desktop and looks great on camera
SaleBestseller No. 3
XLR Condenser Microphone, TONOR Professional Cardioid Studio Mic Kit with T20...
2,256 Reviews
XLR Condenser Microphone, TONOR Professional Cardioid Studio Mic Kit with T20...
  • External Power Source Required: Note: Condenser microphones have active electronics that need an external power source. In order to function properly, you need to connect the TC20 to 48V phantom power, audio interface, mixer, or preamp. Designed for studio recording, home studio, podcasting, voice-over, streaming, YouTube video production, etc.
  • Professional Sound: The upgraded mic capsule with low-noise FET preamplifier, high SPL handling, and wide dynamic range provides smooth, high-end clarity, warm and natural sound.
  • Cardioid Pattern: TC20 adopts a cardioid polar pattern with excellent off-axis sound suppression capabilities to reduce the sound pickup from the side and rear and better eliminate background noise. Ideal for recording vocals and acoustic instruments.
  • Upgraded T20 Boom Arm: T20 is made of durable steel and comes with a desk clamp with 4 times larger contact area for easily clip to any desk up to 2.4''/60mm thick, suitable for most mics weighing up to 4lbs/1.8k.
  • What You Get: 1 x condenser microphone, 1 x T20 suspension stand, 1 x metal shock mount, 1 x pop filter, 1 x mic cover, 4 x cable tie, 1 x XLR cable (2m) and 1 x manual.
Bestseller No. 4
Blue Yeti USB Mic for Recording and Streaming on PC and Mac, Blue VO!CE Effects,...
19,434 Reviews
Blue Yeti USB Mic for Recording and Streaming on PC and Mac, Blue VO!CE Effects,...
  • Custom Three-Capsule Array: Produces clear, powerful, broadcast-quality sound for YouTube, game streaming, podcasting, Zoom calls and music.
  • Blue VO!CE Software: Craft the perfect broadcast vocal sound and entertain your audience with enhanced effects, advanced modulation and HD audio samples. Advanced Blue VO!CE is compatible with Yeti, Yeti Nano and Yeti X. To access Blue VO!CE, please download Logitech’s free G HUB software.
  • Four Pickup Patterns: Flexible cardioid, omni, bidirectional, and stereo pickup patterns allow you to record in ways that would normally require multiple mics.
  • Onboard Audio Controls: Headphone volume, pattern selection, instant mute, and mic gain put you in charge of every level of the recording and streaming process.
  • Unique Positionable Design: Adjust and pivot the microphone in relation to the sound source to optimize your sound quality.
Bestseller No. 5
Blue Yeti X USB Microphone for PC & Mac, Gaming, Podcast, Streaming and...
2,375 Reviews
Blue Yeti X USB Microphone for PC & Mac, Gaming, Podcast, Streaming and...
  • Four-Capsule Array – Capture legendary Blue broadcast sound with greater focus and clarity than ever for professional streaming, podcasting and YouTube
  • High-Res LED Metering – Visualize your voice level at a glance and adjust up or down for powerful, broadcast quality sound
  • Multi-Function Smart Knob – Fine-tune your on-stream sound with easy-access controls for mic gain, mute, headphone volume and blend
  • Blue VO!CE Software: Craft the perfect broadcast vocal sound and entertain your audience with enhanced effects, advanced modulation and HD audio samples. Advanced Blue VO!CE is compatible with Yeti, Yeti Nano and Yeti X. To access Blue VO!CE, please download Logitech’s free G HUB software.
  • Customizable LED Lighting – Personalize the color of Yeti X’s LED lights to match your on-stream aesthetic

Last update on 2021-11-26 / Affiliate Links


Are Condenser Mics Good For Instruments?

Generally speaking, condenser microphones are the most useful for capturing vocals and high frequencies. In addition, they are the preferred microphone type in most recording studios.

Condenser microphones are also known as capacitor microphones, and they are mainly used in studios due to their precision and detail.

Condenser mics are ideal for capturing sounds from instruments such as acoustic guitars and drum overheads. You can also use them to record vocals. However, they don’t work well with louder sounds, such as guitar amplifiers and bass amplifiers.


Are Condenser Mics Better?

There is a never-ending debate between condenser microphones and dynamic microphones, and we must clarify a few points regarding dynamic and condenser microphones.

Both are based on different transducer principles, and there is nothing related to the directional properties of the microphones. Therefore, the question of which one is better is not relevant.

It depends on what you need. If you are looking for a microphone for your studio recordings, then consider a condenser mic. For louder recordings, like live performances, you may want to choose a dynamic microphone.


Can You Use A Condenser Mic For Live Vocals?

Condenser microphones are best suited for studio recording. They are sensitive to noise, so they are not recommended for use in live situations.

If you were to use a condenser mic for live vocals, you would need to find a way to reduce the ambient noise caused by the crowd or sound equipment. One way of doing this is by using acoustic panels.

What is the difference between a dynamic and condenser microphone

They will absorb much of the sound waves and prevent them from reaching your microphone.


Summary of Condenser Microphones

A condenser microphone is ideal for capturing vocals. Microphones are classified as condensers and dynamic. Condenser microphones are commonly used in recording studios because they reproduce the voice’s natural sound more accurately.

A condenser microphone contains a diaphragm that is suspended by a fixed plate. Pressure from sound waves pushes against the diaphragm, causing it to move.

Condenser microphones are often used for picking up delicate sounds due to their thin diaphragms and increased sensitivity.


We hope you found this information on Condenser Microphone helpful.

If we missed anything, please share it in the comments.

Mark V. at Hip Hop Makers

Written By Mark V.

Hip Hop Makers is a music production website that launched in 2008 to teach music lovers how to make music, sell beats, and make money from music.

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