Ultimate Microphone Showdown: Condenser vs Dynamic vs Ribbon

Who is this article for?

Any musician who wants to understand the fundamentals of different types of microphones.

 

There are three main types of microphones: Condensers, Dynamics, and Ribbons. Any of these types can be used to record great sounding vocals but the two most popular microphone choices for recording vocals are condenser and dynamic. 
 
So, what’s the difference between them? This article will give you a quick breakdown of what you need to know. 
 

CONDENSER.

 

Condenser microphones are generally the most popular microphone types for recording vocals. These microphones are efficient and deliver the best noise performance and the highest sensitivity of all studio microphones. 

 

Condenser Microphone

 

A condenser requires electricity (phantom power, with a charge of +48V) to work, this electrical signal is sent from your interface, via the microphone cable, into your microphone. Condensers are typically better at capturing higher frequencies than most dynamic microphones. They are more sensitive and so the resulting sound is more detailed. Having greater clarity is great for capturing expressive, and emotive, performances by a singer. 



DYNAMIC.

 

Dynamic microphones have a ‘moving coil’ and unlinke the condenser, they don’t require a power supply. Dynamic microphones are better suited to recording louder sound sources than a condenser as they are versatile, pretty sturdy, and are also comparatively more robust and far less likely to become damaged. 

 

Dynamic microphone

 

Dynamic microphones are capable of withstanding far greater volumes than the other types of microphone, hence why they’re often used for recording drums, guitar amplifiers and aggressive rap or screamo vocals. The dynamic’s also have a superior rejection of feedback, which also makes them the most popular microphone for live performances. 



RIBBON.

 

Ribbon microphones get their name from their design - they have a small aluminum foil ‘ribbon’ that vibrates when sound hits it and this vibration is translated into an electrical signal. Ribbon microphones had notable use by the crooners of the 1940s and 50s. 

 

ribbon microphone

 

Ribbon microphones typically have a smoother, less abrasive top-end or, compared to condenser microphones. They have a flat mid-range frequency response that rolls off above 15kHz and are far more delicate. In the modern day, ribbon microphones are more frequently used as drum overheads, or on individual orchestral instruments, and are still used when the aim is to record a natural vocal sound. 

 

Out of all 3 types of microphone, the ribbon mic is by far the most delicate. If a loud noise occurs too close to the mic, the ribbon can become damaged, resulting in a potentially very costly replacement job. For home-recording vocals, we would suggest avoiding using ribbon microphones and sticking to either a condenser or a dynamic mic.

 

Which one will you pick?

 

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