Welcome, to this basic introduction to the most popular types of microphone – DYNAMIC and the CONDENSER . Masterclass no. 36
What are microphones? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Microphones are basically TRANSDUCERS – that is an object that changes one form of ENERGY into another. For example a light bulb changes ELECTRICAL ENERGY into HEAT AND LIGHT. A microphone changes ACOUSTIC ENERGY (differences in air pressure) into ELECTRICAL ENERGY (Alternating Current) that can then be recorded.
What is a Dynamic Microphone? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Dynamic mics are the standard general-purpose mics like the type you see people singing into on top of the pops. The design of a dynamic microphone is very simple and they have few moving parts. This makes them quite rugged and able to withstand high volumes and abuse from hairy roadies.
How do dynamic microphones work? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Dynamic microphones work using the electromagnet principal. The diaphragm vibrates when sound waves hit its surface and this in turn moves a coil of wire back and forth past a magnet. This generates an electrical current that is sent down two wires and out of the mic.
Examples of Dynamic microphones: Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Sure SM58 THE industry standard live mic AKG D112 Also known a the EGG. Designed specifically for kick drums and bass frequencies.
What is a Condenser Microphone? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Condenser microphones are much more expensive and fragile than their dynamic brethren. They can generally record a wider frequency range and have a flatter frequency response. Condenser mics also need power either from a battery or in the form of “phantom” power (+48v) from a mixing desk or mic pre-amp.
How do condenser microphones work? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Condenser mics work on the principal of CAPACITANCE. They have TWO PLATES that have a voltage between them. One of the plates is the DIAPHRAGM that is usually only a few microns thick and sputtered with gold to make it electrically conductive. The second plate is called the BACKPLATE. This is fixed in position and usually has holes drilled into it to allow air to move freely. Condenser microphones generate a signal when the diaphragm vibrates and moves closer to and further away from the backplate. A fixed charge is placed across the two plates and so when they move closer the capacitance increases and when they move away capacitance decreases. This produces an electrical current that can be recorded.
How do condenser microphones work? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones
When are condenser microphones used? Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones As condenser mics have much thinner diaphragms, they can pick up much higher frequencies and quieter sounds. This makes them ideal for recording just about anything in the studio (vocals, guitars, etc.). Care does need to be taken when using them for micing up loud instruments as they can DISTORT with high SPLs (SOUND PRESSURE LEVELS). Many condensers have a PAD SWITCH that makes them less sensitive and less likely to distort. The only real downsides of condensers are their COST and FRAGILITY. They cost anything from £100 to £3000 and up. Due to their design and extremely thin diaphragm, they are not very robust. If you drop a condenser that may be the last time you use it! For this reason (and the fact that they will pick up everything) they are generally not used as much for live work.
Examples of Condenser microphones: Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones Neumann U87 Excellent, but pricey all round studio microphone AKG C414 Excellent all round studio microphone.
Masterclass Top Tips Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones If you’re looking for a general-purpose microphone for your home studio, a decent quality condenser mic would be a good option. You can pick up a very respectable performing condenser such as a Rode NT1000 for around the £160 mark. If your budget can stretch to it, AKG’s C414 is a great, versatile, multi polar pattern mic for around £600. For live use Sure’s dynamic SM58s are great vocal mics and their SM57s will do your amp proud. For instruments that need higher frequencies to be picked up, AKG’s C1000s is a solid performer and is surprisingly rugged for a condenser.
Media Masterclass Masterclass no. 36 : Microphones WANT TO KNOW MORE? Go to www.bang-ed.com/masterclass