Did you know the first microphone was invented in the 1870s and was used as a telephone voice transmitter? This was a dynamic device, and the first condenser microphone was not invented until 1917. Needless to say, technology has evolved in leaps and bounds since then.

That being said, today we still only have the same two basic types of microphones: dynamic and condenser microphones. Condenser microphones are great for capturing delicate vocals, high frequencies, and professionals use them in studios. Dynamic mics work best to record louder sounds. The output is considerably lower than a condenser, which is appropriate when the signal you’re capturing is already very strong.

Key Facts

  • Condenser microphones, also known as electrostatic microphones, are those in which the microphone capsule is made with a lightweight membrane (referred to as the diaphragm) suspended by a fixed plate.
  • Professionals use condenser microphones in a studio. However people also use them for public speeches, on film sets and for a multitude of other tasks.
  • It is important to use a condenser microphones 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 U.S market

There are several options available on the U.S market when it comes to purchasing condenser microphones. Though they are used for the same purpose, they are not all the same. Each has its own set of features and capabilities. To make it easy for you, we have developed this list of the top 5 condenser microphones on the market today based off of user reviews, best features, and price.

No. 1: Fifine Metal Condenser Recording Microphone

This is a great option if you are looking to record with your condenser microphone via your computer. Simply plug this microphone by Fifine into your computer’s USB port with the included cable, calibrate it with your operating system, and you’re ready to record. You may be using your computer to record for tasks like podcasting or voiceovers.

This microphone is built to last, as it is constructed out of metal, and it comes with tripod desk stand for secure and easily portable tabletop use. You can also use this microphone for recording professional sound for Youtube videos.

No. 2: Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone

Audio Technica is a well known brand and trusted by many users. This microphone is best suited for at home projects and studio situations, as the cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source.

It is important to note, this is not a USB mic and will require other products to use this with a PC. For $100, this microphone also comes with a stand mount for 5/8″-27 threaded stands; 5/8″-27 to 3/8″-16 threaded adapter; and a soft protective pouch. Audio-Technica guarantees quality and consistency!

No. 3: Neewer NW-700 Professional Studio Condenser Microphone

This item is a number one best seller, so its no surprise that it has a place in our ranking. As a brand, Neewer focuses on photography, video, and music equipment. This product of theirs is a professional condenser microphone with a cardioid pick-up pattern to minimize background noise and isolate the main sound source.

It also comes with an adjustable scissor arm stand that is made out of steel, making it sturdy and durable. It also folds down, making it portable and convenient to carry. The stand can be mounted on the announcers’ table. Please note, this condenser microphone only works with devices that provide enough power (Voltage Required: 5V).

No. 4: Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone

This is a very unique and highly rated item in our ranking. The Snowball ice USB microphone delivers audio quality can be plugged into your computer, but is much better quality than your computer’s built-in microphone. Improve audio quality on Skype, Twitch and FaceTime, or add crystal clear audio to recordings for YouTube.

This is a very easy and convenient microphone to use at home. Just plug in to your USB port and play directly to your Mac or PC, no driver installation necessary. At only $50, this is also a great microphone for those on a budget but still require good quality sound.

No. 5: Blue Yeti USB Microphone

This is another great option for those looking to capture good quality sound with a computer. With this microphone, you are able to control headphone volume, pattern selection, instant mute and microphone gain, putting you in charge of every level of the recording and streaming process.

The microphone comes equipped with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack and allows you to listen to what you’re recording in real-time, without latency delays. It also comes with a desktop stand that is designed to adjust and pivot the microphone in relation to the sound source, improving sound quality. There are also 4 different polar pattern options, making this mic a great option for those using it for several different purposes.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about condenser microphones

Choosing the right microphone is extremely important to getting the perfect sound quality. If your mic isn’t capable of capturing the sound clearly and accurately, even the best post-production won’t produce the sound you want. This is why it is important to consider a few different aspects when it comes time to purchase a microphone. In this article, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about condenser microphones, and tell you exactly what you need to know.

Condenser microphones are a vital piece of equipment for anyone who wants to setup their own recording studio at home.
(Source: Tyler Olson: 47936636/ 123rf.com)

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.

They are most commonly found in studios because of their sensitivity to loud sounds and the fact that they are a bit fragile . Condenser microphones capture a larger frequency range and have the ability to reproduce the “speed” of an instrument or voice. They also generally have a louder output but are much more sensitive to loud sounds.

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.

Condenser microphones offer a series of important advantages, featuring a higher quality of sound and improved sensitivity.
(Source: Yanyong Kanokshoti: 78744337/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a condenser microphone?

A condenser microphone is often preferred by sound engineers because of their acute sensitivity. Depending on what you plan on using this type of microphone for, it will present its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages
  • The sound is more natural and clearer
  • Superior sound quality
  • Possesses a more amplified frequency response and a better transient response
  • Offers superior sensitivity
Disadvantages
  • The price is generally higher than a dynamic microphone
  • Very fragile piece of equipment
  • It can be affected by certain environmental conditions

Who should buy a condenser microphone?

You may need a condenser microphone if you are a professional sound designer, musician, or an audio engineer or technician. If you plan to set up a home studio, you will benefit from using this type of microphone over a dynamic type.

What type of condenser microphones are available on the market?

There are two different types of condenser mics: small and large diaphragm. Large-diaphragm microphones are mainly used for studio vocals and any instrument recording where a deeper sound is required. Basically, this type of microphone warms up the sound of what it’s recording. Large diaphragm microphones are great for use in your home, at a recording studio, or in live performances.

Small diaphragm condenser microphones are usually tube-shaped with the capsule at the end of the body. These types of microphones are your best choice for capturing a pure and natural sound, without added affects. No other type of microphone will give you a more detailed sound image. Because of their neutral sound, high quality small diaphragm microphones can be used for almost anything.

What accessories are needed for a condenser microphone?

There are several frequently overlooked accessories that can also have a major impact on your sound. Pop filters are foam filters, or a suspended stretched fabric, positioned between the vocalist and the microphone to block those harsh P and B sounds. This is best when using sensitive microphones that will pick up those sounds. You may also choose to use portable vocal booths. These are shields made from acoustic absorption material that sit behind your microphone and prevent sound moving past the mic and reflecting off of the surfaces of the room.

Another useful accessory is a studio mic stand. These are a bit different than a standard mic stand that might appear on stage during a live performance. While these types of stands are lightweight and able to be maneuvered easily, studio mic stands are sturdy and designed to remain in a fixed position. This is useful as you mic stand will not move during your recording, making extra noise that may be picked up.

How do you use a condenser microphone?

When using a condenser microphone, it is important that the ambient environment is as isolated as possible. This will help to avoid unnecessary background noise interfering with your recording. The room does not need to be completely sound proof, although the more isolated the better. 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 your condenser microphone is kept away from any type of moisture. Pop filters are great for this reason, as they prevent access moisture from developing on your mic during recording. Over time, condensation can seriously damage your microphone, not to mention being very unhygienic.  Another important step is minimizing any vibration, which will affect the quality of your audio recording. Shock mounts or even just a microphone stand with a clip are an easy solution to this problem.

MadonnaPopstar

“Music brings people together”.

What is the difference between dynamic and condenser microphones?

Generally speaking, there are two main types of microphones: dynamic and condenser. Each has its own set of characteristics and are best for different types of situations. Depending on what you plan to use your microphone for, you can decide which best for you.

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.

Dynamic microphones 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 polar pattern is the area around the microphone that picks up sound. Most dynamic microphones have a cardioid polar pattern. With this type of polar pattern, the microphone naturally filters background noise, isolating the voice of the speaker for recording. This makes dynamic microphones ideal for solo performances. However, this can also cause your voice and other sounds to be more animated and less natural when played back. Condenser microphones are much more sensitive to sound. They pick up every little noise in the room. This is because condenser microphones often have an omni-directional polar pattern.

Condenser microphones are much more sensitive to sound. They pick up every little noise in the room. This is because condenser microphones often have an omni-directional polar pattern. This makes condenser microphones perfect for bands or singing groups that need to project several different sounds from multiple angles.

Shopping Criteria

You want to make sure that you choose a microphone, you know everything to look out for. In this section,  we go into more detail about the criteria you need to know. We hope they will help you with your choice, and that you can get a product that is great value for money.

  • How will you use it?
  • Location
  • Sensitivity
  • Self-noise
  • Other equipment
  • Brand

How will you use it?

Logically, the most important things you should consider when buying a condenser microphone is how you plan to use it. Condenser microphones can be used for recording solo music, podcasts and other audio recordings. Since condenser microphones are more sensitive to noise, they should be used with noise gate software or in a padded sound booth to block out unwanted sounds.

Location

The location where you are going to be using your microphone is another one of the most important criteria you need to think about. Avoid small rooms as they can be an acoustical nightmare. The bigger the room, the better. Plus, this gives you more space for other equipment. Also, avoid rooms with too many reflective, hard surfaces. Wooden floors are desirable as carpet only absorbs high frequencies, which can make the room sound muffled.

As mentioned, you want the room to be as quiet as possible. Condenser microphones are great at picking up small noises, so you want to avoid rooms with lots of outside noise while your recording.

Sensitivity

When exposed to the same sound, different microphones may produce different output levels. This means some microphones are more sensitive than others. Microphone sensitivity is the measure of the microphone’s ability for converting acoustic pressure into an electric voltage. The less the sensitivity, the greater the pre-amplification required.

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.

Sinead O’ConnorSinger

“Nobody gets between me and my microphone”.

Self-noise

For condenser microphones, noise is usually specified in terms of “equivalent noise level”. More commonly known as “self-noise”, this is the signal the microphone produces of itself, even when no sound source is present. A-weighted decibels (dBA) measure this.

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. Although, anything below 10 dB-A is extremely low noise.

Other equipment

Given that you are going to be using your condenser microphone with other equipment, you want to avoid buying a high-end microphone if the rest of your equipment isn’t also of the same level of quality. If you are on a budget, you should plan to upgrade the rest of your sound gear in the future.

Brand

In general, the most prestigious brands have earned their reputation from years of manufacturing quality products, and building up a dedicated consumer base. In order tonsure the highest quality, you should go for a recognized 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.

Summary

In general, condenser microphones are more expensive than dynamic microphones, but are more suitable for capturing the sounds of acoustic instruments and vocals due to their high sensitivity. There are distinctive types of condenser microphones, which can make the decision making process a bit difficult. This can be especially true if you are not a professional, or have a great deal of knowledge on the subject.

Therefore, it is super important that you keep the shopping criteria in mind. Of course, your main deciding factor will be how you plan to use the microphone. Also, you should consider the location you will use it, 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)

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