Dynamic Mic's are better than Condenser Mic's - Noooooo!

12:18 Michael - nooooooo ! “Dynamic mic’s are better quality than condenser mic’s” - is a statement that’s so horribly wrong in so many ways that I’m puzzled where to start.
Different designs of mic’s serve different purposes, so you cannot ever say that generally a dynamic mic is better or worse that a condenser mic UNLESS you specify the use case, and even then there are exceptions to every rule.

What I think Michael might be referring to is a cardiod dynamic mic’s tendency to what is called ‘proximity effect’ where some bass frequencies will be accentuated, sometimes in a way the human ear hears as desirable. This is the root of your ‘eating the mic’ line, but to say this makes dynamic mic’s “better” is plain wrong.

For the use case described another type of mic is perhaps worth considering - this is called a boundary mic because it is typically placed on a flat surface and picks up sound from all around it. Think of a hemisphere with the mic at the centre.

By contrast an omnidirectional condenser mic is going to pick up a spherical pattern around it, while your typical dynamic mic will have a cardioid (as in 'cardiac or roughly heart shaped) pick up pattern and tend to reject sounds that aren’t directed directly into it. This is very useful for podcasts because with several people, each with their own mic pointing at their face, each mic mostly picks up speech from the person it’s pointing at, but not the other people. Oversimplification but close enough.

So you probably want a dynamic cardioid mic for the teacher or child presenting - it will pick up their voice, but not the classroom noise. Actually it’s not true that it doesn’t pick up ANY other noise, just that it’s more sensitive to the louder, higher amplitude sounds, right in front of it. You might then consider two boundary mic’s one for each group of students.

They are often used in board room meeting type situations: and so long as everyone is roughly the same distance from the mic they will perform well against a reasonably quiet background level of noise. For example if two students are having a conversation it will pick up both voices, but it can also pick up the the kid tapping their pen on the desk because theyre bored. At some point however simply put across, the students have to get some education about what any mic can and can’t do - for example encouraging softly spoken children to speak up and louder students to be quieter.

Because they have this hemispherical pattern they can go in the centre of a table or on the ceiling above depending on the height of the ceiling and whatever noise sources might be coming through the ceiling. For example, if there’s a classroom on the floor above with students running around or aircon ducting noises etc, then the mic will pick those up - though much less so than an identically placed omni condenser mic. That’s why they’re called boundary mic’s after all.

As with all mic’s they range in price from cheap rubbish through decent value to prosumer and professional grade gear. I don’t know the age of the students but there might even be an argument for using a more low budget option if they’re going to be chucking paint and soda about?

Lastly you should be able to set up something like Carla to handle plugins to deal with noise gates/limiters to deal with some of the room noise without thinking you have to spend more money on hardware compressor/limiter/noise gates. That’s a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down - not for this use case anyway.



I know literally nothing about audio but that was a interesting read.

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Spot on. I’ve used Omni condenser lavalier microphones extensively and often times if “splatter” is expected I’ll add a layer, or two, of fleece to the mic to help absorb anything and it’s fairly accousticly transparent.

I worked with a camera operator who assumed that as long as the boom mic wasn’t pointed at him no one on set with a headset would hear him saying dumb stuff. Sound just bounces off the wall into the mic anyway no matter where it’s pointed. He looked so betrayed when that was explained to him, he’d only been smack talking directors for 2 decades.

I also had a professor in University who taught in this big lecture hall, she would wear a Cardioid lav mic on her left lapel and talk to her right lapel as she wrote on the board. Most of the lecture was projected in the opposite direction to the mic and her body would block most of the reflected sound too. She would get quite irate when anyone told her she couldn’t be heard and the only thing I ever heard from those lectures was her yelling “What do you mean!? I’m wearing a fricken microphone!” Yeah, I know… it’s a microphone not magic, lady, get it together! Luckily the class had a rotating cast of professors so I only skipped every 4th class. My favorite prof. was the one who defended Judas Priest in the 80’s against allegations of subliminal messages in their music. What a legend.

Basically any Omnidirectional microphone affixed to a flat surface will operate like a boundary mic too.

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Welcome to the forum! I am glad you joined and I prefer to comment here instead of YouTube anyway so that’s great. :smiley:

I was talking about the richness of the types of microphones. Condenser mics sound more tinny compared to Dynamic but I also did say that it totally depends on the kind of scenario which mic should be used and I also said that a condenser mic would be best in Wendy’s specific need. It seems like you very quick to jump to conclusions about what I was saying. I did talk about quality but it was intended in terms as richness. I did mention the rich sound of dynamics but I was commenting off the cuff.

While you have a point that a boundary mic pickup pattern could be a good option for her to look into I think the claim of me being “horribly wrong” is a vast overstatement because what you claimed I said, is not what I said.

Quick Note to add:
it should also be taken into consideration that the question asked was a spur of the moment and did not have any time for research about what would work best exactly for said need. I have a significant amount of experience with dynamic and condenser mics of all kinds, I am not an expert in this field by any stretch.

I have been criticized on many occasions because someone is able to pause and playback for a detailed response but when podcasting on the fly, that’s not something we’re able to do. This means that the exact wording might not be ideal or even what I fully meant because I am shooting at the hip and I may not have worded my response properly. I admit I have done this at times.

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Hey Michael - Sorry no intent to be over-critical, and certainly not in any personal way. My “Nooooo!” was an attempt to convey humour which obviously didn’t come across as intended. My apologies.

Believe me, regarding audio I am very, very used to people getting things wrong, or right for the wrong reasons, or wrong for the right reasons :slight_smile: Frankly it’s mostly because audio is pretty boring by comparison to all the exciting developments in PC hardware and software and is very much perceived as a second class citizen, especially in you tube land where they all spend a small fortune on cameras but almost never concern themselves with audio quality. That said, I’ve been very happy to see some significant improvements with how tech you tubers deal with audio in recent years, but still routinely see/hear channels with millions of subscribers mangle the basics.

Sorry but if this were true then nobody would use condenser mic’s for vocals in recording studios, when the reality is they rarely use anything else. Dynamic mic’s are very much more forgiving of sudden high pressure sound so they’re typically used to mic guitar cabinets, bass and snare drums etc, but almost never for voice and rarely for other acoustic instruments. They tend to be used for live vocals because of their robustness, relative cheapness and ability to reject sound from the artist’s stage monitors, which would otherwise cause feedback. Ditto with podcasts.

So let’s unpack what you’re hearing - because I have no doubt that your experience has taught you that, “condenser mic’s are more tinny”. I am not arguing with your perception, only questioning why you may have come to the conclusion you have.

So the proximity effect of a dynamic mic exaggerates or accentuates bass frequencies, the more you “eat it” the more it’s accentuated. Do an A/B comparison and that lack of proximity effect from the condenser is what you perhaps hear as “tinny”, when it’s likely that it’s a more accurate capturing of the sound source, which is why they’re used in studios. That does not deny that accuracy can be less pleasing to the ear, especially if it’s your own voice!

That said a lot of cheaper condenser mic’s capsules can have a peak in the upper mid range - on the wrong type of female vocal this can make even a mellow female voice sound a bit shrill on the recording, depending on how bad the cheap condenser is and on the particular voice.

Then there’s the whole can of worms that’s “true condenser versus electret condenser” with the vast majority of condenser mic’s sold these days being electret because they’re so very much cheaper to make. While there are high-end electret mic’s, mostly they compare poorly to condenser mic’s with traditional externally polarised capsules. These tend to cost a LOT more money, (thousands of dollars) but are prized for having pretty much the exact same attributes you give dynamic mic’s ! :crazy_face:

I don’t know what you have heard but typically a decent quality dynamic mic costs about the same as a fairly low quality electret condenser - which leads to false comparisons being made, at least in terms of audio qualities. The discussion wasn’t about budget (which it perhaps should have been) but about differences that were supposedly inherent in a mic’s fundamental design - I immediately thought of the truly god awful dynamic mic’s people can and do buy for $20 and less online being imbued with “richness” !

Ok so this is what you said, word for word as close as I can get it:
“If you get a dynamic microphone they’re much, much more rich - the sound is better in a dynamic and they have a better ability for the quality to be higher . . . however they also limit the range of distance that something can . . . and also the cone size is so tiny with a dynamic that you have to be basically eating the microphone for it to pick it up well.”

I think from the above you’ll maybe understand why I wrote what I did - you can’t tell people that a dynamic mic somehow inherently has a ‘better ability for the quality to be higher’ or that ‘they’re much, much more rich’ without expecting audio engineers to start metaphorically frothing at the mouth :wink:

Anyway I am sorry it came across as being overly critical especially in the context of people previously picking apart what’s been said after the event. I was genuinely trying to be helpful and explain what I thought of as a misunderstanding of what was being heard - god only knows it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last time I hear this about dynamics - Shure are laughing all the way to the bank from the number of SM7B’s they’ve sold to podcasters :slight_smile:

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I’ve learned so much from this thread. Thank you for breaking this down for me. This was very interesting. I will spend a bit more time for replying to specifics later on. I have to finish preparing for TWIL but I just wanted to say thank you for such an in-depth reply to address this info. :+1:

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Not to confuse anymore but proximity effect is about pickup pattern, not whether the mic is dynamic or condenser types. A Cardioid pickup pattern on any mic will produce this effect. Proximity effect may be more perceptible in dynamic mics because the mass of the moving parts is larger and the lower frequencies just create more movement. Thus a biased sensitivity to low frequencies.

But the real, super nerdy, reason for PE is the design of the transducer, and whether it operates through pure pressure or pressure gradient. Blends of these two types create the pickup patterns we know and love. The latter type produces PE and the purest of pressure gradient patterns is actually Figure-8 (or bi-directional). The Figure-8 pattern is found in many condenser mics and, everyone’s favorite, Ribbon mics - which are considered the richest of the rich.

In modern times sound isolation trumps every good excuse to use Figure-8 and so Cardioid became the kind of PE, and by extension, dynamic mics because effectively ALL of them are Cardioid. They’re also cheap and robust and there’s just way more of them.

The technologies vary in cost quite a lot. Dynamic uses the same tech as any old speaker and you can literally use a speaker as a microphone because it’s the same. Condensers use micron thick metal wafers, coated in gold, and use capacitance to send varying electrical signals. The moving parts are much thinner and more sensitive, requiring less gain to achieve a usable level (volume). The tolerances are much tighter and more expensive to produce.

This is why a $100 dynamic mic is a great mic and a condenser at the same price is basically unusable.

Condensers come in varying sizes too which only makes it harder to pick the right one. And the orientation of the diaphragm inside may confuse people who are used to speaking into the end of a mic instead of the side, providing consistent phantom power can have affects on the tone/timbre etc. etc.

The two are like Auto mode VS Manual mode on your digital camera.

Can we get an “Audio” sub-forum here? I can already hear people reading this yelling “Get a room already! NERDS!”

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Sounds good to me :smile:

Just watched the LTT WAN show where Linus reports having no sound out when he first installs Linux (some flavour of KDE) and then coming back to it the next day to find audio working for no reason he can figure out. So maybe somewhere people can go for audio specific help/info/guidance would be good. Personally I’m here to learn about audio on Linux and to share info where and when I can.

BTW - LTT WAN show is using RE20 mic’s on their new set - they’re great mic’s, especially if cost is not an issue. However - and I don’t want to be mean, I suspect they were chosen and set up with, let’s say, more of a visual than acoustic priority. :crazy_face:

I’d say it’s a good mic choice for Linus, less so for Luke, but having different mic’s just wouldn’t LOOK the same :wink: