Microphones have been in use for over a century and are a vital part of nearly every production, from films to music to even stage production. These devices capture sound and transform it into an electronic signal, which is then read and outputted by speakers or recorded for later use. There are several types of microphones, but two of the more common are condenser and dynamic devices.
You'll find both condenser and dynamic microphones in many audio or electronics stores. While they may seem similar, they're actually very different in not only how they work, but also how they're constructed and what sort of sound recording they may be best suited for. Both condenser and dynamic microphones come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Condenser microphones are considered the most common type of microphone. Condenser mics use diaphragms, which are thin, membranous plates, as one plate in a capacitor. A voltage runs in between the capacitor and the diaphragm, which moves up and down as sound vibrations enter the microphone. The distance between the diaphragm and the capacitor is recorded via the electronic charge and is transmitted into electronic sound.
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Pros and Cons of Condenser Mics
Condenser mics require either a battery or phantom power (external power used in audio productions), as a voltage must be constantly maintained between the capacitor and the diaphragm inside. Condenser microphones, because of their sensitivity and speed, are well-suited for in-studio productions and for use in film production.
Dynamic microphones are a bit more complicated as they use electromagnetic induction to transmit sound. As sound vibrations enter a dynamic microphone, a diaphragm vibrates and bounces a coil embedded in the magnetic field of a permanent magnet, thereby creating a current that varies in accordance with the sound entering the microphone. This varying current reproduces the sound electronically as it is moved to an output like a speaker.
Pros and Cons of Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic microphones are typically not as accurate or as sensitive as condenser microphones, and are thus usually unsuitable for in-studio productions or film work. However, they do not require a battery or other power source and are very sturdy thanks to their 100-percent mechanical construction, allowing them to take a lot of abuse and not deteriorate in quality over the years. This strength makes dynamic microphones a popular choice for live concerts and other events.