If you are a professional recording artist, you run a recording studio, or you just enjoy singing and / or recording music in your spare time, a condenser microphone is something that you are definitely going to want to have. Condenser microphones are the most commonly used microphones in studios. They offer a much greater frequency response and transient response, and they also provide a louder output.
If you are shopping for a condenser microphone, you are going to find that there are a lot of options available, and that finding the best one to suit your specific needs can be a bit of a challenge. With so many options, finding what you need can be a real challenge. To help you on your quest for finding the best condenser microphone, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. In this guide you will find everything you need to know about buying a condenser microphone, including the different types, the factors to consider when choosing one, the features that they can offer, and the best brands of condenser microphones. After reading this buyer’s guide, you will have all of the information that you will need to find – and purchase – the best condenser microphone for your specific needs.
Types of Condenser Microphones
Before you start shopping for a condenser microphone, you first need to understand that there are different types available, and what these different types are. With this knowledge, you will be able to make the best decision for your specific needs. While the goal of all condenser microphones is the same, the manner in which the produce sound is different. This is impacted by the size of the diaphragm, which is the main feature that produces the sound that this specialized microphone is known for.
There are two main types of condenser microphones:
- The large diaphragm condenser microphone
- The small diaphragm condenser microphone
Below, you will find a detailed description of both of these types of condenser microphones, which will help you determine which one will work better for your needs.
The Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
The large diaphragm condenser microphone, as the name suggest, has a large diaphragm. This type of condenser microphone produces warmer tones, thanks to the greater amount of sound that can pass through its large diameter, which is nearly one inch in size. It is important to note that because it requires more sound to operate, the response time of the large diaphragm condenser microphone is slightly slower than the response time of a small diaphragm microphone. This can be a very good effect for you if your goal is to smooth out background or transient noise. Because of this, large diaphragm microphones are generally used to record rich vocals.
The Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
The small diaphragm condenser microphone, as you probably guessed, has a smaller diaphragm, which makes it quick to respond to sound. This is because the sound waves have a decreased space to travel in. This makes this type of condenser microphone more sensitive, and therefore more capable of generating a far more detailed sound than a large diaphragm can, though that sound is not as warm as the sound that a large diaphragm microphone can produce. This type of condenser microphone is often used for recording any intricate instrument or melody that requires fine detail, as it improves the quality of the listening experience.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Condenser Microphone
In order to choose the best condenser microphone for your specific needs, there are several factors that you are going to want to take into consideration before you start shopping. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to choose the best option to create the sound that you are trying to achieve. Some of the most important factors that you are going to want to consider include the proximity effect sensitivity, the frequency response curve and the power supply, among other things. By considering these factors before you start shopping, you will have a better idea of exactly what it is that you are looking for in a condenser mic, and you will be better able to choose a microphone that will best suit your specific needs.
To learn more about the above mentioned factors, and other factors, that we consider to be the most important when shopping for a condenser mic, please keep on reading.
The Pickup Pattern Variations
Essentially, the pickup pattern is the sound field in which the microphone will ‘pick up’ a sound. For example, some condenser mics will capture sound fairly evenly in the front and the back of the microphone, which is ideal if you are planning on using the mic to record a small group of singers, drum players or if you are going to be playing in a room that provides excellent acoustics and you want to capture the natural characteristics of sound, as well as the direct sound, that you are recording. Other condenser mics have a pickup batter that is kind of in the shape of a heart, and will reject the sound from behind, but pickup the sound in the front. If you are recording in a home studio and you don’t have the ideal control that you would like, this is an ideal option for you.
The Proximity Effect Sensitivity
If you are going to be recording a professional voice over, doing a podcast, or you are going to be working with a group of singers that have a tendency to drift away from the microphone, than an important factor for you to consider is the condenser microphone’s proximity effect sensitivity. This will impact the sound that the microphone picks up in relation to the proximity of the microphone. There are condenser microphones that are specifically designed to give more of an even result, whether the source of the sound they are picking up is three inches away, or 10 inches away. In other words, the sound can be right up on top of the microphone, or it can be several inches away, and you won’t have to worry about a severe increase in bass response.
The Frequency Response Curve
Another important factor to consider when choosing a condenser mic is the frequency response. Frequency response refers to the measurement of magnitude in which it responds to any given frequency range. Being aware of how a microphone responds to certain frequencies should definitely be a factor that will influence the decision for the type of microphone that you will purchase.
The Power Supply for the Condenser Mic
Yet another factor that you are going to want to take into consideration when shopping for a condenser mic is the power supply, or the required phantom power. If you are planning on staying more mobile, buying a mic that has a required power supply can be a real challenge.
The Noise Floor of the Condenser Mic
‘Noise floor’ refers to the microphone’s level of self noise; in other words, when you turn the mic up, but don’t make any sound, you will hear a bit of noise in the background. A lot of the overall noise in the background will be determined by the electricity and grounding in the space that you are recording, the type of amp that you are using, and the audio device that you are using. Even the cables that you are using will impact this. However, it should be noted that the microphone you choose can certainly impact the noise floor, producing more noise than you want it to.
The Dynamic Range
The dynamic range of the condenser mic is another important factor that you are going to want to take into consideration. The dynamic range is the difference between the lowest level and the loudest level that you can record sound at. Some mics will respond very well across the entire dynamic range, and others simply will not. Many mics will lose bass response or gain unwanted frequencies at various levels. The best condenser microphones will provide you with ample head room to work with, and will ive you an even response across its entire dynamic range.
The Noise Floor
The noise floor is another very important factor to consider when purchasing a condenser mic, as it can impact the dynamic range. Make sure that you choose a condenser mic that offers a high quality noise floor so that you can record the best sound possible.
The Set Up
How easy is the condenser mic to set up? Will you be able to easily set it up, or will it require a lot of work? According to users, the best condenser mics are those that are easy to set up and don’t require a lot of adjustments. In other words, you can basically set the microphone up within no time and start recording your ideal sounds without having to make a lot of adjustments.
Condenser mics will come with a variety of connectors, and you want to make sure that the mic you choose will connect with the equipment that you are using to record. The most common type of connector is a three pin XLR, while others plug directly into PC soundcards. Make sure you consider the connection so that you can choose a microphone that you can actually use with your equipment.
Mountings and Supports
Something else that you are going to want to consider is where you will be mounting or supporting your mic, and whether or not you will want to use it in an unusual location. The type of mounting that the condenser mic offers will impact where you can attach it, and any sound that you may pick up with the microphone based on where it is located.
The Reliability of the Condenser Mic
The reliability of the condenser mic is also important. You want to make sure that you choose a microphone that you can rely on to work the right way, otherwise, you will run into problems when you are recording. The best condenser microphones are those that are very reliable and perform top notch at all times.
The Cost of the Condenser Mic
Lastly, the cost of the condenser mic is an important factor to take into consideration. These microphones can vary widely in price and you want to make sure that you choose an option that will fit into your budget without causing you to spend more than you are comfortable with. Consider the price before you start shopping so you can stay on budget.
The Features Condenser Mics Can Offer
There are a number of features that condenser mics can offer. These features are intended to improve the sound quality that these microphones pick up, as well as make using them easier. It is important to note that the more features a condenser mic offers, the more expensive it will be. For that reason, you want to make sure that you understand the available features so that you can determine whether you want or need them, and if the added expense will be worth your while.
Here’s a look at some of the top features condenser mics can offer.
Some condenser mics come complete with a stand to hold them up. This can save you from having to spend more money on an additional stand.
This feature will allow you to pick up clearer sound with your condenser mic.
Windscreens will also allow you to pick up clearer sound, as it will reduce the amount of wind that is hear in the background through the microphone.
The Best Condenser Mic Brands
There are several companies that manufacture condenser mics. Here is a look at our picks for the brands that we consider to be the best of the best.
This company is highly regarded for producing excellent condenser mics. They offer the latest technologies and the most crisp and clear sound. They are also very easy and straightforward to use.
We are also big fans of the condenser mics produced by Sterling Audio. This company produces condenser mics that offers a variety of features and produce outstanding sound.
Users report that the condenser mics produced by Audio Tehcnica are top of the line, are very reliable and have the ability to create warm and smooth sounds that sound amazing.