The first microphone ever invented dates to the 1870s and was used as a telephone voice transmitter. This was a dynamic device, given that it was not until 1917 when the first condenser microphone was invented. A lot of things have changed since then and technology has evolved considerably.
However, there are still only the same two basic types of microphones in existence today: dynamic and condenser microphones. Condenser microphones offer a superior sound quality, which is why they are ideal for the large majority of professional applications. They are however more fragile than dynamic microphones and do require more careful use. Plus they often have a bigger price tag as well.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Ranking: The best condenser microphones on the Australian market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about condenser microphones
- 3.1 What are condenser microphones exactly?
- 3.2 What are the principal uses of condenser microphones?
- 3.3 What are the advantages and disadvantages of a condenser microphone?
- 3.4 Who should buy a condenser microphone?
- 3.5 What type of condenser microphones are available on the market?
- 3.6 What accessories are needed for a condenser microphone?
- 3.7 How is a condenser microphone used?
- 3.8 What is the difference between dynamic and condenser microphones?
- 3.9 Why are the directionality and polar patterns of a condenser microphone important to know about?
- 4 Shopping Criteria
- 5 Summary
- Condenser microphones, also known as electrostatic microphones, are those in which the microphone capsule is made with two condenser plates, one fixed and the other floating, separated by insulation.
- The main application of condenser microphones is for recording sound in a studio. However, they can be used for giving public speeches, on film sets and a multitude of other tasks.
- When using a condenser microphone, it is important that you do it in an acoustically isolated environment to avoid any possible noise interference. These microphones are much more sensitive than dynamic models.
Ranking: The best condenser microphones on the Australian market
In the following section we have prepared a list for you of the five best condenser microphones available right now. We have only included products from top brands, but we have been careful to always choose options that give great value for money. In addition, we have tried to show you a good variety of the wide-range of different models available on the market.
No. 1: Neewer NW-800
The NW-800 condenser microphone adopts a completely new audio circuit. Capture rich, full-bodied sound from sources that are directly in front of the mic. The cardioid pick-up pattern minimises background noise and isolates the main sound source. Also included is the NW-35 Boom Scissor Arm Stand which is of a sturdy iron construction, with a load capacity up to 1.5 kilograms. You can freely adjust it to a suitable angle and height that’s perfect for you.
Great reviews for this handy product from buyers. Neewer are a well-known brand that make very good quality products, at a fraction of the cost of the really high-end manufacturers.
No. 2: Condenser Microphone with Scissor Arm Stand
Here we have a very similar product to the Neewer NW-800, but at a significantly cheaper price. It performs all the same functions as the Neewer, and is perfect for someone who is starting out, or wants to spend as little as possible. The sound quality from the microphone isn’t as good as the more expensive option, however this can always be upgraded at a later date.
Positive reviews from buyers who love how easy this product is to use. People who are buying their first microphone love the fact that everything they need to get started is included, and at such a low price.
No. 3: KLIM Voice
The KLIM Voice is the latest offering from KLIM Technologies. This microphone is designed to be used with you PC for things like gaming, Skype or if you simply want to record your voice. This not a suitable microphone for professional jobs like filming or recording vocals, but is perfect for simple applications.
Users love the design, easy setup, build quality and value for money. Users of Skype and online games who need a device specialised for picking up their voice (even from a distance) give this product 5 stars.
No. 4: Rode NT1-A
Here we have a serious microphone for anyone that wants professional standard audio recording (vocals, voice overs, instruments etc). Rode is one of the most popular microphone brands in the world, and it’s easy to see why. This amazing Australian company offers top quality, broadcast standard equipment at around half the price of its nearest competitor. The build quality of their products is top-notch, which is why they have developed such as strong following in a relatively short time in the marketplace.
As is the case with all Rode products, it’s hard to find anyone saying anything bad about this microphone. Unless you are working on a huge budget, you should always definitely go for Rode if you need a professional standard product. Plus you are supporting an Australian company!
No. 5: Gyvazla omnidirectional lavalier microphone
Need a useful microphone but want to spend as little as possible? This lavalier (or lav) microphone could be the answer. This particular model is very cheap, so it is perfect for anyone looking to improve the quality of the audio they record without spending lots of money. It can plug straight into your phone, or into any other recording device that accepts a 35mm jack.
Users have given great feedback for this product, especially for the price point. It is simple to use and is perfect for anyone who records videos on their phone and wants much better audio.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about condenser microphones
When deciding upon a condenser microphone, it is vital that you keep a few things in mind. The most important thing to realise is that there are lots of different types of condenser microphones on the market, and not all of them have the same features, nor are they all suitable for the same applications. In the following section, we try to answer any questions that might come up while you are deciding which type of condenser microphone you are going to buy.
What are condenser microphones exactly?
Condenser microphones, or electrostatic microphones, are built with a microphone capsule that is composed of two condenser plates which are separated by insulation. One of these plates is fixed, while the other is mobile. The floating plate allows the membrane (or diaphragm) of the microphone to function.
This happens when the floating plate moves closer or further away from the fixed plate, causing a reaction in the electric charge stored in the condenser. Finally, the electrical current is transformed into an audio signal. In general, condenser microphones are for professional applications, in particular for recordings in studios, on film sets and at public speaking events.
What are the principal uses of condenser microphones?
Condenser microphones are an integral part of any music studio. They are also used for public speaking (especially headsets and lapels) and on film sets where boom microphones are used. They are sometimes used by singers at live performances, even if dynamics are usually preferred for this task.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a condenser microphone?
A condenser microphone offers a series of important advantages, featuring a higher quality of sound and improved sensitivity. This is the reason it is the preferred microphone of choice used by sound engineers. However, the price is usually much higher and they are often more fragile than dynamic microphones.
Who should buy a condenser microphone?
Condenser microphones are a fundamental tool for anyone wanting to setup their own studio for radio, television, recordings or even personal use. You will also need a condenser microphone if you are a professional sound designer, musician, or an audio engineer or technician.
What type of condenser microphones are available on the market?
There are many distinctive types of condenser microphones for all the different applications they are designed to be used for. Some of the main types are lapel (or lavalier, boom (or shotgun), handheld (for reporters and singers) and headsets. Some condenser microphones are built with larger or smaller diaphragms which are good for different tasks.
Large diaphragm microphones are more sensitive and allow you to isolate background sounds, from those that are being produced in very close proximity to the microphone. These are not only great for recording vocals in a studio, but also for a reporter making a live report in a noisy environment. Condenser microphones with a smaller diaphragm are great for recording instruments, they are more sensitive and produce a more detailed sound.
What accessories are needed for a condenser microphone?
Condenser microphones need a several accessories in order to be used correctly. Firstly, as the condenser plates require an electric charge to function, it is necessary to connect the microphone to an amplifier that emits this charge known as phantom power. There are also some microphones that use batteries that provide phantom power, which is a very handy feature to have in certain situations.
Other required accessories include things like XLR cables, shock mounts (for setting the microphone up on a stand), wind breakers (or dead cats) and popper stoppers which are always a great idea for recording singing vocals. Lavalier microphones usually come with some type of clip, which is how it is attached to clothing. Whatever the microphone, it is always good to use some type of filter which levels out any loud breaths of air and minimises wind interference, if you are outside.
How is a condenser microphone used?
When you are using a condenser microphone it is important that you make sure the ambient environment is as isolated as possible. This will help to avoid unnecessary background noise interfering with your recording. When indoors you don’t need a fully soundproof room, but it is a good idea to at least consider purchasing an acoustic panel to minimise echo. Lastly, it is important that the microphone is connected and is receiving the necessary current (or phantom power) either from the audio recorder or the internal battery.
It is vital that you protect your condenser microphone from any type of moisture. Not only are popper stoppers great for recording clean vocals, they are also perfect for avoiding any saliva coming into contact with the microphone. Over time this can seriously damage your microphone, not to mention being very unhygienic. Another important step is minimising any vibration, which can seriously affect the quality of your audio recording. Shock mounts or even just a microphone stand with a clip are handy tools for this task.
What is the difference between dynamic and condenser microphones?
Generally speaking, there are two main types of microphones: dynamic and condenser. Condenser microphones are often more expensive and offer a better sound quality. However, it is not possible to simply say that they are better than dynamic microphones. They each have specific characteristics which are useful for different applications.
|Type of microphone||Principle uses||Construction||Price|
|Dynamic microphone||Are the main type of microphone used in live performances.
Some dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57 or Sennheiser MD421 can also be used in studios for recording. They are often used for recording the sound directly from a guitar amplifier or speaker.
|They are more robust pieces of equipment and can survive in rough working conditions, while also being less susceptible to unwanted interference from high frequencies||They are less expensive, but this does not mean they are lower quality.|
|Condenser microphone||Used primarily in studios for recording sound.||They can be more fragile, so do require more careful handling.
Generally speaking, they have a lower sound pressure, but offer an improved frequency response and a better dynamic response.
|The price is often higher than for a dynamic microphone.|
Why are the directionality and polar patterns of a condenser microphone important to know about?
A unidirectional microphone is one that captures sounds from a single direction and can have one of three sensitivity patterns: cardiod, supercardiod and hypercardiod. Conversely, an omnidirectional microphone uniformly captures sound in every direction, while a bidirectional microphone captures sound from two directions.
The cardiod sensitivity pattern is shaped like a heart, which is where it gets its name (from the Greek word kardios). This shape makes it more sensitive to sounds waves received at front of the microphone. A supercardiod has a similar shaped pattern, but with a less extreme angle of 115 degrees, while a hypercardiod has a front lobe that is even narrower again.
In order to buy the condenser microphone that’s best for your needs, you should take the following criteria into account when making your choice. We go into more detail about the factors we think you need to know the most. We hope they will help you with your choice, and that you can get a product that is great value for money.
- How will it be used?
- Other equipment
How will it be used?
Logically, the most important things you should consider when buying a condenser microphone is how you plan to use it. In general, condenser microphones are perfect for recording acoustic instruments, brass or delicate vocals. On the other hand, for live vocals, drums or amplified guitars, it is better to opt for a dynamic microphone.
The location where you are going to be using your microphone is another one of the most important criteria you need to think about. For a recording studio, omnidirectional microphones with a flat frequency response, will be of interest to you. However, for recording out on location unidirectional microphones (with a polar cardiod pattern) are more practical.
Microphones with a cardiod pattern are designed to reduce background sound and feedback. However, if you are filming on a smaller set, it’s better to opt for a supercardioid microphone, as it has a narrower pickup pattern.
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The sensitivity of a microphone is a reference to the quantity of the sound it captures. As we have already seen, condenser microphones are more sensitive than dynamic microphones. In either case, when it is time to make your purchase keep this factor in mind. It will allow you to know the precision with which it will capture weak sounds.
Sensitivity is measured from a frequency of 1,000 Hz and is expressed in millivolts per Pascal (mV/Pa). It is possible to calculate the sensitivity using the following formulae: S=t/P. Logically, S is the sensitivity, t is the supplied electric voltage, and P is the sonic pressure placed on the diaphragm. As a general rule, the higher the sensitivity rating, the better the performance of the microphone.
Self-noise is the term given to the sonic pressure which exits the microphone when there is no external agitation. This is the internal noise created by the microphone. It is caused by the thermal movement of electrons in the electrical circuit. It is expressed in dB SPL.
In general, the amount of self-noise that is acceptable for a microphone that should be under 40dB SPL. However, a really good level is less than 20 dB SPL. Microphones like the Rode NT1A offer extremely low levels of self-noise at around 5dB SPL.
Given that you are going to be using your condenser microphone with other equipment, it doesn’t make much sense buying a high-end microphone if the rest of your equipment isn’t also of the same level of quality. If you have a limited budget right now, you should at least plan to upgrade the rest of your sound gear at some time in the future.
In general, the most prestigious brands have earned their reputation from years of manufacturing quality products, and building up legions of dedicated users. In order to make sure you are buying a quality microphone, you really should go for a recognised brand.
Some of the most popular brands are Rode, Neumann, Behringer, Samson, Blue Microphones, Auna, Audio Technica, MXL and Neewer. Neuman is widely regarded as one of the world’s top manufacturers of high-end microphones. Rode are the most popular brand for medium priced microphones that are still of professional quality.
Condenser microphones offer a superior quality of sound. This is why they are perfect for professionals, especially in recording studios. There are distinctive types of condenser microphones, which makes choosing the model that is perfect for you a rather tricky decision. This can be especially true if you don’t have any previous experience, or a great deal of knowledge on the subject.
Therefore, it is super important that you keep the shopping criteria in mind. Of course, the first thing you need to think about is how you plan to use the microphone. Also, you should consider the location in which it will be used, the brand, the level of self-noise and the sensitivity.
Finally, if you have found this guide useful when making your choice, please leave a comment below. Or else, share it on social media so your friends can know all about it!
(Source of the featured image: Thananit Suntiviriyanon: 46221160/ 123rf.com)