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Dynamic vs Condenser microphones – which should you choose?

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All microphones fundamentally do the same job, converting the air movements caused by a sound source into an electrical signal. The two most common types, condenser and dynamic mics achieve this in different ways, a condenser measures the variance in capacitance between two plates, one vibrating, one fixed and electrically charged, whereas in a dynamic mic a diaphragm is attached to a coil which reacts a with a powerful magnet as it vibrates.

Condenser mics need 48v phantom power to operate – most good quality interfaces and mixers have this function. Most dynamic, or ‘moving-coil’ mics do not require power to operate as their magnets already carry charge, however there are exceptions…

For example, the Aston Element is a moving coil mic with active electronics which require power, and the Aston Stealth is a dynamic mic which works in either passive or active modes. In active mode Stealth requires 48v to power its built-in pre amp.

In general, condenser mics are more sensitive than dynamics and will capture more detail, particularly in the high-end. This makes them popular as studio vocal mics and for recording acoustic instruments. Dynamics tend not to reproduce high frequencies with as much accuracy as condensers but this may not be a problem depending on the sound source and the application – high-end ‘sparkle’ is not always desirable.

Dynamic mics are good for capturing loud sound sources, such as drums (or screaming metal vocalists!). Their resilience also makes them the usual choice for live vocals, especially where the mic is to be hand-held.

The only real rule for choosing a mic is that if it sounds good, go with it.

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