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We have compared condenser and dynamic microphones in 8 applications. Here’re the results

When it comes to choosing a microphone, it can often be quite difficult to decide between a condenser or dynamic microphone.

Both have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will be highly dependent on your specific needs.

Condenser vs. dynamic microphones compared:

Vocals

For studio vocals, a condenser microphone is often, but not always, the preferred choice. Condensers have a more sensitive diaphragm, which allows for a more accurate and detailed capture of vocal nuances.

On the other hand, they are also more sensitive to background noise, which can be a drawback for live performances.

Audio-Technica AT2020 tested with microphone stand
Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser microphone

A dynamic microphone may be a better choice for live applications as they are less sensitive and will pick up less bleed from other surrounding instruments as well as audience chatter.

Check out our picks of the best vocal microphones for studio recording and the best live vocal microphones for onstage performance.

Voice-over and audio books

When it comes to voice-over and audio books, a condenser microphone is usually a good option. Again, the sensitivity of a condenser will help capture more articulation and nuance out of a vocalist than a great deal of dynamic microphones.

While there are some dynamic microphones that can certainly compete performance-wise, they tend to be a bit more expensive.

Streaming and podcasting

Both condenser and dynamic microphones can work well when it comes to podcasters and streamers. However, a condenser microphone will provide more precision, while a dynamic microphone will be more durable and better suited for live streaming or podcasting.

Shure SM7B tested with microphone stand
Shure SM7B dynamic microphone

Streamers who are often playing video games or typing might want to opt for a dynamic microphone such as the Shure SM7B, to help get rid of background noise from button smashing and typing sounds.

Guitars

To beat a dead horse, we’ll reiterate that condensers are extremely sensitive. A condenser mic will offer much more focus and articulation to your acoustic sound than a dynamic would.

That being said, a dynamic microphone may be a better choice for heavy and distorted guitars as they can handle higher volume levels and be more resistant to feedback.

If you’re working with a cleaner tone and are looking for a more subtle performance, however, condensers may yet again be the better option.

Check out our recommendations for the best acoustic guitar mics and the best electric guitar mics.

Drums

When it comes to capturing drums, both types of microphones have their place, but each has their own set of unique strengths and weaknesses.

AKG C451 B tested with microphone stand
AKG C451 B condenser microphone

Condenser microphones are wildly more sensitive and have a wider frequency response, which makes them ideal for capturing more subtleties and detail. Usually, condensers are used as overhead microphones, and sometimes placed as snare and hi-hat mics.

Depending on the microphone and how much it can handle, you’ll have to experiment with the distance you place the condenser at to keep harsher frequencies at bay.

Shure Beta 52A tested with microphone stand
Shure Beta 52A dynamic kick drum mic

Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, are known for their durability and resistance to feedback. They are great for live performances, where the drums’ sound needs to be reinforced through the PA system. They also have the ability to handle high sound pressure levels, making them suitable for close-miking.

Check out our recommendations for the best drum microphones.

Background noise

While we may be running the risk of annoying you by repeating the same few tidbits over and over again, we hope that it really drives home the main points of this article.

So, to say it again, condensers are incredibly, wildly, exceptionally sensitive. This means that if there is background noise, you should expect the microphone to pick up on it.

Some condensers often sport a cardioid polar pattern, which can definitely help, but it’s not in your best interest to rely on this. More often than not, the sensitivity of the microphone will overpower its polarity.

Home studio

Condensers and dynamic microphones are both integral parts of a professional arsenal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re recording at home or elsewhere, both microphones deserve a place in your recording sessions.

They have their differences, but one is not necessarily better than the other. It’s all about how you use it.

For those looking for a decent budget microphone for a bedroom studio setup, check our recommendations for the best cheap studio microphones to buy.

Durability and versatility

Dynamic microphones are known for their robustness and sturdiness, thanks to their simple design and fewer mechanical components. They are less susceptible to physical wear and tear, which makes them a reliable option for live performances and recording in rough environments.

Shure SM57 tested with microphone stand
Shure SM57 dynamic microphone

On the other hand, condenser microphones are known for their adaptability and flexibility. They (usually) possess a wider frequency range, allowing them to pick up more information and clarity out of a sound source. However, in turn they have a more delicate diaphragm, making them easier to ruin when used carelessly.

They’re extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes such as recording vocals, instruments and even nature sounds. You can get long-term use out of a condenser as long as they’re well-kept and handled with care.

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing between a condenser microphone and a dynamic microphone may seem like a more difficult task than it actually is.

Obviously, it’s important to consider your specific needs such as the type of recording or performance, the environment, and the desired sound quality.

If you’re planning on recording something more delicate, like a folky guitar, a mandolin, or jazz drumming – you’ll probably want to float towards a condenser.

If you’re recording louder sound sources, or recording in a noisier environment – dynamics are going to be a better option.

Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your unique situation and preferences. As always, it’s a good idea to test out different microphone options and select the one that best fits your needs and aesthetic.

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