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Trends in Technology: Microphones
Condenser microphones, when compared to their dynamic cousins, are more sensitive to sound, typically have a greater sound output level, higher frequency response range, and lower noise output content. Because of their lighter weight elements, a condenser microphone will more quickly and accurately react to rapid changes in sound dynamics such as volume and rapidly changing music transients. On the down side, condenser microphones are more sensitive to incoming volume. Their output may become distorted if placed too close to a sound source whereas most dynamic microphones can typically be placed up against a source without creating sound distortion. Most professional condenser microphones require a +48V phantom power source while dynamic microphones do not. The phantom power source is usually derived from an audio mixing device to which the microphone is connected, although external phantom power sources are available. Care should be taken to assure the manufacturer's recommended phantom power voltage is reaching the microphone in order to avoid poor microphone performance -- typically in the form of lower output and higher noise level.
Condenser microphones typically come in two forms: large or small diaphragm. Whereas large diaphragm condenser microphones are known across the industry for creating a warm sound, the small diaphragm microphones will typically provide a better response to musical transients and an overall smoother and somewhat wider frequency response.
Dynamic microphones are traditionally more durable physically and far less susceptible to moisture when compared to condenser microphones. While dynamic microphones do not have the wide, smooth frequency response of a condenser mic, they are capable of withstanding far greater incoming sound levels making them a good choice for miking very loud vocals and instruments.
Condenser and dynamic microphones both have similar sound pickup patterns. An omni-directional pattern will allow sound to enter the microphone from any direction (360-degree acceptance angle). A uni-directional cardioid pickup pattern microphone typically allows sound to enter into the front of the microphone (180-degree acceptance angle) but minimally accepts sound from the back. A hyper-cardioid pattern allows even less sound to enter the front of the microphone and practically no sound to enter into the back of the unit.
There have been many microphones introduced throughout history that have become industry favorites. Models such as the Electro-Voice 635 in earlier days and the RE-20 in later times are well established in the broadcast industry. And, for stage and high-level vocal recording, the Shure Model SM58 has become a tasty favorite of vocalists throughout the World. And Sennheiser's Model MD-421 dynamic, now celebrating 50 years in the marketplace, has long-served as a studio standard.
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