If you are someone who is into music production, chances are that you have heard of the cardioid condenser mic.
What are these microphones best for, and what should you know about them before buying one?
What is a condenser microphone?
Before jumping in on what this microphone is good for, let’s learn more about what it is.
When it comes to the world of recording, there are two common types of microphones that musicians and producers use. The first is the dynamic microphone, and the other is the condenser.
Dynamic microphones are the spheric shapes microphones you see during concerts. As for the condenser microphones, they have a more rectangular shape.
Both microphones are typically cardioid in polar pattern. What this means is that it only picks up the audio signal in one direction, the front.
This makes it so that noise coming from other directions, like the sides and the back, don’t get picked up by the microphone.
Condenser microphones also come in two different forms. There is the small diaphragm and big diaphragm. The obvious difference that sets them apart is their sizes.
But what does the size of the diaphragm mean for a microphone?
The positioning of the microphone will depend on the size of the diaphragm. While both are still unidirectional, larger diaphragms are facing parallel to the source of the signal.
With smaller diaphragms, they are pointed directly at the source. Usually, they are pointing below.
What is it good for?
Now that you are familiar with what a condenser microphone is, what are some situations where this microphone excels greatly?
If crisp and clear vocal takes are what you are after, then this is the go-to microphone for the job. There is a reason why this type of microphone is put in music recording bundles.
Condenser microphones have and require more power than dynamic microphones. As such, it picks up more signals regardless of how soft it is.
Picking up details is what makes a vocal have more clarity and excitement.
You won’t have as many details with using a dynamic microphone when recording. This is why dynamic microphones are mostly used for rehearsals and concerts .
The sensitivity level of a condenser microphone won’t have any benefits for those kinds of settings.
Acoustic guitars also shine when they are recorded via a condenser microphone.
The details are better captured using this type of microphone than a dynamic one.
When it comes to the diaphragm size, there is no strict rule to follow. So long as it is a condenser microphone, the results will still be great.
If you are curious however, larger diaphragms are great for recording solo acoustic guitar, or if that is the only instrument that is being played.
As for smaller diaphragms, this is best used if the acoustic guitar is a part of a multi-instrument track.
Since the guitar is the only instrument aside from vocals, it encapsulates most of the frequencies so you only have to adjust it slightly so it doesn’t clash with the vocals.
With multi-instrumental tracks, smaller frequency ranged microphones will be beneficial to the acoustic guitar recording so it doesn’t clash as much with the other instruments.
Drum overheads produce very punchy transients due to the nature of hitting a drum with a stick.
Because of this, having a condenser microphone with a small diaphragm is very ideal in capturing punchy drum sounds with clear and effective transients.
Things to keep in mind
Unlike dynamic microphones, condenser microphones require an external power source. This is what is known as phantom power.
It is important that you buy an external power supply alongside a condenser microphone.
Luckily, audio interfaces come with phantom power. So the interface is already powering up the microphone once it is connected.
Treat your room
Just because the microphone will not pick up sound from the sides and the back, that doesn’t mean excess noise won’t be captured.
Remember that the sensitivity level of a condenser microphone is a lot more powerful than a dynamic microphone. Every detail will be captured, and that will include background noise.
You will likely hear footsteps, car sounds, and other such noises if you record in your room. To prevent this, treating your room is crucial.
This is why vocal booths are almost dead silent and hot. Studios have their rooms treated to ensure that only the recorded music is captured and nothing else.
A common practice in room treatment is adding foam to the walls. This is so that the sound doesn’t bounce that much. Pointing the microphone to the corner of the walls will also lessen the amount of background noise it will capture.
Another thing you can do to mitigate unnecessary noise is to add a pop filter. These are used to block off plosives or the sounds you make when saying the letters b and p.
When to use dynamic microphones
As mentioned earlier, different microphones have different uses. Condenser microphones may be good for recording, but not so much for concerts.
Singing on a condenser microphone in a concert setting will cause background noise to be picked up.
This is where dynamic microphones shine. Since they have lower power, they can handle the concert setting without the rise of background noise.
Can you record with a dynamic microphone? In some cases, dynamic microphones are used for recording guitar and bass amps.
The reason for this is that amplifiers can be very loud. This makes the less detailed and lower sensitivity of the dynamic microphone work to its advantage.
It will be easier for the electric guitars to sit well in the mix.
Condenser microphones are a go-to when it comes to capturing crisp, clear, and detailed recordings.
Although it may require some adjustments to your recording area, the outcome will be worth it.
Whether it’s vocals, acoustic guitars, or other instruments, get excellent recordings from a condenser microphone.