Dynamic Microphones vs Condenser Microphones

Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone
The Shure SM58 is a classic example of a dynamic microphone.

When it comes to picking a microphone for your upcoming event or studio session you have two main choices to choose from: Dynamic microphones or condenser microphones.

We put this article together to tackle the age-old debate between the two biggest microphone categories and help you determine whether you want to use a condenser or dynamic microphone.

How These Microphones Work: Magnet VS Phantom Power

Shure MX412S
The Shure MX412 is a classic example of a Condenser microphone.

Dynamic microphones essentially work like backwards speakers. The diaphragm in a dynamic mic moves in time with the sound pressure changes. This diaphragm is connected to a coil which then moves within a constant magnetic field. The coil moving through the field produces an electrical signal that directly corresponds to the sound waves that caused it. Since the magnetic field can be generated using a permanent magnet, dynamic microphones do not require an external power source.

Condenser microphones, on the other hand work by putting a balanced electrical charge (Phantom Power +48v) across two metal plates. This creates an electrical field between them, and when one of the plates moves because of the sound vibrations in the air, the voltage attached to this field changes accordingly. The change in voltage is directly proportional to the change in sound. In order to create the initial charge, however, condenser microphones need a power source (Phantom Power +48v).

Real World Differences

Now that we understand how these microphones work. Let’s explore the real world differences between the two types of microphones.

Dynamic microphones have a very simple construction which means that they are very rugged. Their rugged design means that they can handle extremely loud sound signals really well.

Dynamic microphones do a greatjob at rejecting background noise. But, the downside of thisis that they aren’t very sensitive and may lack the full frequency response that you desire.

Dynamic microphones have a very distinct broadcast sound to them, which makes them very popular in studios

Fun fact: The Shure SM58 which is easily the most popular microphone in live events was designed as a studio microphone.

Condenser microphones on the other hand are more complex which makes them less desirable in live event situations. Their high sensitivity means that they may not be ideal for things like drum kits or micing guitar amps but they are absolutely perfect for things like choir microphones and classical instruments.

Condenser microphones are extremely popular in studios. Studios are an ideal environment for condenser microphones due to the sound treatment and engineered acoustic environment.

External Power

Condenser microphones require external power supplies (Phantom Power), which is usually provided by the soundboard or an internal battery. Without this power, the microphone will not function.

How Much Do Dynamic and Condenser Microphones Cost?

Traditionally, condenser microphones are much more expensive than dynamic microphones, but you get what you pay for. Condenser mic usually have better sound quality because they’re more responsive to a wider range of signals. If you expect your microphones to take a lot of abuse, it’s best to just go with a high-end dynamic microphone so that you don’t risk needing to replace them.

Finally, remember that all condenser and dynamic microphones are manufactured with specific uses in mind. Instead of simply picking one type over the other because it seems like the thing to do, take time to evaluate each individual model thoroughly before buying anything. If you need help, feel free to contact our production coordinator for more information.

Kettner Creative is a full service audio visual (A/V) company located in Vancouver, BC. We rent AudioVideoLightingDrape and LED Furniture for events. If you’re interested in our services for an upcoming event – Please contact us!