The 10 Best Condenser Microphones
How Condenser Microphones Work
The capacitors are made of a plate of metal facing a very thin gold foil.
Sound engineers choose to use condenser microphones because they are extremely sensitive.
If you have ever been in a recording booth, you have likely used a condenser microphone. Condenser microphones are preferred in the studio, mainly for their frequency response, which is the ability to pick up a wide range of noises and keep them intact in a recording. Sound engineers choose to use condenser microphones because they are extremely sensitive.
The sensitivity of condenser microphones comes from the way they function. Condenser microphones use capacitors to create sound. The capacitors are made of a plate of metal facing a very thin gold foil. These two are so close together they are practically touching. As the vibrations from a voice or instrument enter the microphone, they bounce back and forth between the two plates, and are turned into an electric signal.
To be heard, the signal from condenser microphones needs a boost of power, created through the use of phantom power. In the early days of condenser microphones, every microphone had to have its own dedicated power box. If you had six singers in the studio at once, chances are you were tripping over someone’s power box.
Over the years, microphone manufacturers sought to eliminate the problem, coming up with different ways to get power to the microphones without lugging power boxes around. Power from studio preamplifiers or mixing desks is the industry standard now.
Creative engineers have continued to explore other methods to achieve the phantom power as well. Some additional ways include the use of a battery to send the signal and computer power via a USB cable. Many microphones still use a dedicated power box though. One way or another, the signal from a condenser mic gets a power boost to create a strong signal. This strong signal can now be transferred through wires and translated back into that crisp sound coming out of your speakers.
Who Uses Condenser Microphones?
If you only use your microphone when you play video games or talk to people online through chat rooms, a condenser mic might be overdoing it, but anyone who needs a consistent high quality sound can benefit from using one. Voice-over actors enjoy condenser microphones for their ability to capture all the depth and range of the speaking voice, even when whispering. Other types of microphones can’t match the vocal range produced with a condenser microphone.
Condenser microphones can pick up those breathy nuances that other microphones miss.
This same range and vocal quality make condenser microphones a great choice for singers as well. Condenser microphones can pick up those breathy nuances that other microphones miss. Instrumentalists can enjoy listening to the crisp, clear sounds made by condenser microphones, as they require very little gain to create a rich sound.
People who create audio blogs or podcasts have also come to value the realistic sound that comes from using a condenser microphone. Anyone trying to break into the world of audiobook creation may like condenser microphones for their transparency and depth; a clear voice can really bring out the drama of a well-told story.
Choosing The Best Condenser Microphone
Picking the best condenser microphone for you will vary based on your needs. There are microphones made for every use. Think about in what type of applications you will be using your mic the most. If you do a lot of traveling and recording on the road, you may want to consider a more durable condenser microphone that can bounce around in the back of your car. When your band is trying to hit it big on a budget, you may want to pick a USB condenser microphone. They are powered through your computer, and do not require any additional hardware to work. But if you are the next Pavarotti, and have a dedicated studio for your vocal practice, you don’t have to factor in these things. For you, a high quality XLR condenser microphone with a dedicated power supply is an easy choice.
This sensitivity also means you will automatically notice all the noises your mouth makes.
One thing to consider is that condenser microphones are very sensitive. If you can hear the birds chirping outside - so can your microphone. That car driving down the street? Yup, it picked that up too. If you are working in a space that is not soundproofed, you may want to consider a unidirectional microphone. These microphones will reduce the amount of noise being picked up from anywhere but the front of the microphone.
This sensitivity also means you will automatically notice all the noises your mouth makes. Lip smacks from having a dry mouth, the hiss from saying the letters S, T, or C, and the pop sounds from saying the letter P, will all be easily picked up from a good condenser microphone. You can prevent this by buying a pop filter. They are very inexpensive and will save you hours of editing time.