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Best Condenser Microphone 2021 • 7 Condenser Microphones Reviews

Despite so much time passing since their first invention in 1917, we only have two basic types of microphones today: dynamic and condenser microphones. Dynamic mics work best to record louder sounds, while condenser mics are great for capturing delicate vocals and high frequencies.

Condenser Microphone Leaderboard 2021

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What is a condenser microphone and how does it work?

Condenser microphones, or electrostatic microphones, are built with a microphone capsule that is composed of two condenser plates that are separated by insulation. One of these plates is fixed, while the other is mobile. The floating plate allows the membrane (or diaphragm) of the microphone to function.

They are most commonly found in studios because of their sensitivity to loud sounds and the fact that they are a bit fragile. Tests have shown that condenser microphones capture a larger frequency range and have the ability to reproduce the “speed” of an instrument or voice. They also generally have a louder output but are much more sensitive to loud sounds.

What types of condenser microphones are there?

There are two different types of condenser mics: the large and small diaphragm.

Large diaphragm condenser microphone

Large diaphragm microphones are tested and mainly used for studio vocals and any instrument recording where a deeper sound is required. Basically, this type of microphone warms up the sound of what it’s recording. Large diaphragm microphones are great for use in your home, at a recording studio, or in live performances.

Small diaphragm condenser microphone

Compared to large ones, small diaphragm condenser microphones are usually tube-shaped with the capsule at the end of the body. These types of microphones are your best choice for capturing a pure and natural sound without added effects. No other type of microphone will give you a more detailed sound image. They were tested numerous times, and it is because of their neutral sound and high quality that they can be used for almost anything.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Condenser Microphones

A condenser microphone is often preferred by sound engineers because of its test-proven acute sensitivity. Depending on what you plan on using this type of microphone for, it will present its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

AdvantagesCondenser microphones offer a series of important advantages, featuring a higher quality of sound and improved sensitivity.

  • The sound is clearer and more natural
  • Superior sound quality
  • Possesses a more amplified frequency response and a better transient response
  • Offers superior sensitivity

Disadvantages

  • Generally higher price than a dynamic microphone
  • Very fragile equipment
  • It can be affected by certain environmental conditions

Shopping Criteria for Condenser Microphones

You want to make sure that you know everything to watch for when choosing a microphone. In this section, we go into more detail about the criteria you need to know. We have also compared and considered the opinions of satisfied customers. We hope they will help you with your choice, and that you can get the best product that offers great value for money.

  • Intended use
  • Location
  • Sensitivity
  • Self-noise
  • Other equipment
  • Brand

Intended Use

Logically, the most important thing you should consider when buying a condenser microphone is how you plan to use it. Condenser microphones can be used for recording solo music, podcasts, and other audio recordings. Since tests have shown that condenser microphones are more sensitive to noise, they should be used with noise gate software or in a padded sound booth to block out unwanted sounds.

Location

The location where you are going to be using your microphone is another one of the most important criteria you need to think about. Avoid small rooms as they can be an acoustical nightmare. The bigger the room, the better. Plus, the opinion of customers is that this gives you more space for other equipment. Also, avoid rooms with too many reflective, hard surfaces. Wooden floors are desirable as carpet only absorbs high frequencies, which can make the room sound muffled.

As mentioned, you want the room to be as quiet as possible. Condenser microphones were tested and proven great at picking up small noises, so you want to avoid rooms with lots of outside noise while your recording.

The worldwide market for condenser microphones is expected to reach 1.11 billion USD in 2024, from 970 million USD in 2019.

Condenser microphones are much more sensitive than dynamic models.

Sensitivity

When exposed to the same sound, tests show that different microphones may produce different output levels. This means some microphones are more sensitive than others. Microphone sensitivity is the measure of the microphone’s ability for converting acoustic pressure into an electric voltage. The lesser the sensitivity, the greater the pre-amplification required.

Sensitivity is measured from a frequency of 1000 Hz and is expressed in millivolts per pascal (mV/Pa). It is possible to calculate the sensitivity using the following formulae: S = t/P. Logically, S is the sensitivity, t is the supplied electric voltage, and P is the sonic pressure placed on the diaphragm. As a general rule, the higher the sensitivity rating, the better the performance of the microphone.

Self-Noise

For condenser microphones, noise is usually specified in terms of “equivalent noise level,” More commonly known as “self-noise,” this is the signal the microphone produces of itself, even when no sound source is present. Weighted decibels (dBA) measure this.

In general, the amount of self-noise that is acceptable for a microphone should be under 40 dB SPL. However, a really good level is less than 20 dB SPL. In comparison, microphones like the Rode NT1A offer extremely low levels of self-noise at around 5dB SPL. Although, anything below 10 dB-A is extremely low-noise.

Other Equipment

Given that you are going to be using your condenser microphone with other equipment, you want to avoid buying a high-end microphone if the rest of your equipment isn’t also of the same level of quality. In customers’ opinion, if you are on a budget, you should plan to upgrade the rest of your sound gear in the future.

Brand

In general, the most prestigious brands have earned their reputation from years of manufacturing quality products and building up a dedicated consumer base. In the opinion of happy customers, in order to ensure the highest quality, you should go for a recognized brand.

Some of the most popular brands are Rode, Neumann, Behringer, Samson, Blue Microphones, Auna, Audio Technica, MXL, and Neewer. Neumann is widely regarded as one of the world’s top manufacturers of high-end microphones. Rode is the most popular brand for medium-priced microphones that are still of professional quality.

Alternatives to a Condenser Microphone

Generally speaking, there are two main types of microphones: dynamic and condenser. Each has its own set of characteristics and are best for different types of situations. Depending on what you plan to use your microphone for, you can decide which best for you.

The dynamic microphone is the main type of microphone used in live performances.

Some dynamic microphones can also be used in studios for recording. They are often used for recording the sound directly from a guitar amplifier or speaker. In the opinion of experts, dynamic microphones are more robust pieces of equipment and can survive in rough working conditions, while also being less susceptible to unwanted interference from high frequencies. They are less expensive, but this does not mean they are of lower quality.

Compared to them, condenser microphones are used primarily in studios for recording sound. They can be more fragile, and so they require more careful handling. Generally speaking, they have a lower sound pressure but offer an improved frequency response and a better dynamic response. The price is often higher than for a dynamic microphone.

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(Source of the featured image: Unsplash / Prince Abid)

FAQs

What accessories are needed for a condenser microphone?

In our opinion, there are several frequently overlooked accessories that can also have a major impact on your sound. Pop filters are foam (or a suspended stretched fabric) filters positioned between the vocalist and the microphone to block those harsh pops that often come with pronouncing P and B consonants. This is best when using sensitive microphones that will pick up those sounds. You may also choose to use portable vocal booths. These are shields made from acoustic absorption material that sit behind your microphone and prevent sound from moving past the mic and reflecting off of the surfaces of the room.

Another useful accessory is a studio mic stand. These are a bit different than a standard mic stand that might appear on stage during a live performance. While these types of stands are lightweight and able to be maneuvered easily, compared to them, studio mic stands are sturdy and designed to remain in a fixed position. This is useful as your mic stand will not move during your recording, making extra noise that may be picked up.

How do you use a condenser microphone?

When using a condenser microphone, it is important that the ambient environment is as isolated as possible. This will help to avoid unnecessary background noise interfering with your recording. The expert opinion is that the room does not need to be completely soundproof, although the more isolated the better. Lastly, it is important that the microphone is connected and is receiving the necessary current (or phantom power) either from the audio recorder or the internal battery.

It is vital that your condenser microphone is kept away from any type of moisture. Pop filters are great for this reason, as they prevent moisture from developing on your mic during recording. Over time, condensation can seriously damage your microphone, not to mention being very unhygienic. Another important step is minimizing any vibration, which will affect the quality of your audio recording. Shock mounts or even just a microphone stand with a clip are an easy solution to this problem.

Why are the directionality and polar patterns of a condenser microphone important?

A polar pattern is an area around the microphone that picks up sound. Most dynamic microphones have a cardioid polar pattern. With this type of polar pattern, the microphone naturally filters background noise, isolating the voice of the speaker for recording. This makes dynamic microphones the best solution for solo performances. However, this can also cause your voice and other sounds to be more animated and less natural when played back.

Condenser microphones are much more sensitive to sound. They pick up every little noise in the room. This is because condenser microphones often have an omnidirectional polar pattern. This makes condenser microphones the best choice for bands or singing groups that need to project several different sounds from multiple angles.

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