A microphone diaphragm is an essential component of a microphone. It is a thin membrane located between the audio source and the microphone’s electronics, and is responsible for capturing sound waves and then transferring them into electrical signals. This membrane is made from a range of materials (ranging from metal to plastics) and is either circular or rectangular in shape.
The diaphragm itself performs the function of amplifying the incoming sound waves before transferring them to the microphone's electronics. In order to do this, the diaphragm has to physically move back and forth, stretching and compressing the air directly in front of it in a process known as sound pressure level (SPL) modulation.
The diaphragm is extremely sensitive to sound and this movement is what allows it to capture a wide range of frequencies and sounds. The material used to construct a diaphragm can greatly affect the overall sound quality of the microphone. If the material is able to move back and forth at a higher rate, it will provide a greater SPL modulation which, in turn, gives the microphone a greater dynamic range and greater sensitivity to sound.
What Is Frequency Response?
Frequency response is a measure of how a system or device responds to different frequencies of sound or other signals. In audio, frequency response measures how an audio system or product alters the audio signal from input to output. Frequency response is usually measured in terms of decibels (dB).
A flat frequency response means that the system does not change the audio signal at all when it is output. A system with a flat frequency response will sound true to the original audio signal. A system with a non-flat frequency response will alter the signal from input to output, possibly boosting some frequencies and cutting others, creating an unnatural sound.
Condenser vs Dynamic Microphones: What’s the Difference?
Dynamic microphones use a diaphragm connected to a voice coil set in a magnetic field to convert sound waves into electrical signals. The shape of the diaphragm focuses sound waves toward the element, resulting in a directional pickup pattern with reduced off-axis noise.
Condenser microphones use an etched metal piece, called a diaphragm, which vibrates when sound waves pass through. This vibration is then converted into an electrical signal. Unlike dynamic microphones, condenser microphones are more accurate and sensitive to sound and can capture more detailed and subtle nuances in a sound. They are better at handling higher frequencies, require more complex circuitry, and are more expensive but they are popular for recording music and live performances.
What to Consider When Choosing a Dynamic Mic vs a Condenser Mic
Consider where and what you plan to use the mic for. Condenser mics are very sensitive and require phantom power, so they typically work best in applications that don’t involve loud, disruptive sounds like live venues. Dynamic mics can take more abuse and are not as sensitive, making them great for live performances.
Condenser mics are typically more accurate and detailed than dynamic mics. Because of their higher sensitivity, they tend to capture much more detail and nuances in sound than dynamic mics. This makes them best suited for studio applications where accuracy and depth of sound are crucial.
Dynamic mics are typically less expensive than condenser mics. This is why they are great for those on a tight budget. They also require less maintenance and care than condenser mics since most models don’t require power.
Condenser mics typically have additional features like polar patterns, adjustable high pass filters, and many other features that dynamic mics don’t have. If you require any of these features, then a condenser mic may be the right choice for you.
Dynamic mics usually have a limited frequency response, which can make them great for use with certain instruments, while condenser mics tend to have wider frequency response and capture more detail and nuance in a sound.
Both types of mics can offer great sound quality, but a dynamic mic will generally provide a fuller sound for close miking, while a condenser mic may provide a more accurate representation of a sound for ambient miking.
Ease of Use
Dynamic mics are usually easier to use since they don’t require a power source. Condenser mics, on the other hand, generally require a power source to operate
Other Factors Beyond Condenser Vs Dynamic
When selecting a mic for a particular recording, there are several other factors beyond condenser vs. dynamic to take into account. These include mic frequency response, polar pattern, type of capsule, off axis coloration, self noise, and output impedance.
Other considerations include the intended use for the mic (e.g. vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, etc.), the size and layout of the recording space, and cost. Ultimately, selecting a mic that fits the specific needs of the session and the desired sound is key.
The Bottom Line
Condenser microphones are pressure-operated microphones which have a thin, lightweight diaphragm stretched over a metal frame. These microphones capture sound vibrations with much higher sensitivity than dynamic microphones, and are generally more accurate in reproducing sound. Condenser microphones are more delicate than dynamic microphones, and must be used with a power source in order to operate.
Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, have a moving coil of wire suspended in a permanent magnetic field. These microphones are far more resistant to overloads and feedback, but are less sensitive and accurate than condenser microphones. They require no external power source to operate, making them ideal for live performances.
You can read more:What Is a Dynamic Microphone, and Why Should You Be Using One?