What Microphone to Use When Recording a Podcast – Dynamic VS. Condenser

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Episode Summary

If you’re looking to start your own podcast, the first thing you would need is a microphone. If you decided to go for an XLR mic, then the next step would be to choose between a dynamic and a condenser microphone and in this video we talk about the difference between the two and which ones are better when it comes to podcast recording. Enjoy!

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Resources

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Episode Transcript

[Nemanja] In the previous video, we talked about the difference between the USB and XLR mics and which ones are better when it comes to podcast recording or recording in general. If you decided to go for an XLR mic, then the next step would be to choose something you can use to record your show with.

Before we get into the actual examples of micrpophones you can buy, which is going to be our next video, let’s talk about the different types  of mics that are out there. But before we do that, if you’re not already a subscriber, make sure to subscribe, especially if you’re interested in all of this stuff.

Okay, there three main types of microphones. You can even say two, because the third one is kind of a sub-category and since those mics are somewhat specific we usually classify them as a separate group.

We have the dynamic or the moving-coil microphones, condenser (which are also reffered to capacitor mics) and then the ribbon microphones. Ribbon microphones are dynamic microphones, but they are really fragile and they are the first mics that were ever built so they are mostly used in recording studios to get that vintage, analog sound and you typically wouldn’t bump into them in your everyday life. So don’t worry about those.

Now, let’s talk about the difference between dynamic and condenser microphones and which ones should you go for when doing a podcast. 

Dynamic mics are mostly used for live shows because they’re sturdy, robust and more resistant to water. This doesn’t mean they’re water proof, it just means that it’s tougher for them to break because of moisture, also they don’t require any external power to work. But because of all this, their frequency response is somewhat limited, which means you don’t get all of the sonic information that you would with a condenser, especially in the high frequencies.

On the other hand, condenser mics are much more sensitive, fragile, they pick up more details, including the background sounds, while dynamic mics aren’t really that sensitive – they mostly pick up only what’s in front of them. That’s why condensers are used mostly in recording studios where you have an acoustically treated silent room and there’s not much ambience or reflections you need to worry about.

One big difference is that condenser mics require external power to work and that is something that’s called the phantom power. The phantom power is basically just 48 V supplied to the mic in order for it to work. That’s why on mixers or audio interfaces you have a 48V button which indicates phantom power. Make sure you supply phantom power only to condenser mics, dynamic microphones can take it, but don’t do that unless you absolutely have to. However, if you supply a Ribbon mic with phantom power you will break it for sure, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Also, there are two types of condenser mics, small diaphragm (or a pencil mic) and large diahprahm – which are the ones you usually see in tv shows when somebody is in a studio.

Small diaphragm condenser microphones are really good for picking up transients. So they work really well as drum overheads. However, for vocal recording they aren’t really that good. So if you want a condenser mic for vocal recording, then definitely go for a large diaphragm condenser microphone.

Now, with everything I’ve said you could argue that condenser mics are better because they generally pick up more sonic information, but that doesn’t really matter if you’re in bad recording space, so it all depends on the situation and what you’re trying to record.

In 99% of cases, when it comes to recording a podcast, I would recommend a dynamic microphone, unless you have access to an acoustically treated recording space, which I’m sure most of us don’t. Now remember, these are all tips and guidelines, either way you choose, you can’t go wrong, all of those mics are good and each of them has a specific use in audio production. 

Finally, let’s check out this quick sample that I recorded that showcases the sonic difference between a dynamic and a condenser mic so you can actually hear what’s going on. I’d suggest putting on headphones or listening through studio monitors if you have access to those. 

Let’s test the sonic difference between a dynamic and a condenser microphone. I’ve set them up right next to each other, so the mic positioning and all the other factors are the same. I also used a signal generator to set up the gain so the volume should be equal as well. I left my windows open on purpose so you can hear the amount of ambience noise each mic picks up. You can also hear the washing machine in the background. The mics we are using are MXL 770 condenser microphone and Mackie EM 89D dynamic microphone, I chose those too because they are in the similar price range and can be considered lower budget microphones that you can pick up for podcasting or your home studio. There’s no EQ, compression or any other effects added to the signal chain. Which one do you like more? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you so much for watching, make sure to like and share this video. If you’re interested in seeing what my favorite microphones are when it comes to podcast recording specifically, make sure you check out our next video which will be coming out next week!

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