Choosing a microphone to produce your podcast is in my opinion one of the most exciting points of the whole podcasting journey. OK, I am a bit of a tech nerd and do love my audio gear but even if you don’t get as excited as I do about these things, it’s still a big decision to make.
We’ve already covered the differences between an XLR and a USB microphone so in this article, we’ll be looking at condenser vs dynamic mics and which is better for podcasting.
If you have the luxury of a sound treated room and you record alone then a condenser mic would be a good choice and you would benefit from the greater dynamic and frequency range. If you record multiple voices and your sound treatment is less than ideal, a dynamic mic would be better suited.
There are some fundamental differences in how the two types of microphone are constructed and how they work. To make the best decision about which might work best for your needs, let us explore these differences and at the end, we’ll summarise and make some recommendations.
Table of Contents
Technical Differences Between a Condenser and Dynamic Microphone
First, we need to cover what a transducer is and what one does. The transducer is a key component inside a microphone and its job is to detect and convert sound waves into an electrical signal. The two most common types of transducer are condenser transducers and dynamic transducers, hence the name given to each microphone type.
Both transducer types contain a diaphragm which vibrates when sound waves hit it. That’s where the differences end though.
With a condenser transducer, a charged backplate is mounted just behind the diaphragm. When soundwaves hit the diaphragm and it starts to vibrate, the electric field between this and the backplate changes, and that in turn generates an electrical signal.
With a dynamic transducer, there is no backplate. Instead, a coil of wire is attached to the back of the diaphragm. Because this coil is attached to the diaphragm, they vibrate together as the sound waves hit the diaphragm. The coil sits inside a magnetic field which is created by a magnet that makes up part of the element. It’s the action of the coil vibrating inside of this magnetic field which generates the electrical signal.
Another technical difference between a condenser and a dynamic mic is how they’re powered. All condenser mics require some sort of power source be it 48v phantom power or with a battery. The reason for this is that ‘condenser’ actually means ‘capacitor’, and voltage is required for a capacitor to work correctly.
Dynamic mics on the other hand are passive which means that they contain no active circuitry. It’s the movement of the coil inside the magnetic field which produces the electrical signal and no power source is needed.
Condenser Mic Characteristics
Both condenser mics and dynamic mics can produce great sounding audio but because of the fundamental differences in how they work, each one does have its own characteristics.
Condenser mics tend to have a greater dynamic and frequency range. Dynamic range is the difference between the quietest and loudest sounds the microphone can register. Frequency range is the difference between the lowest and highest frequencies the mic can register. Because of this, condenser mics are known for producing detailed, smooth and natural sound.
For podcasting and other voice work, a large diaphragm condenser mic is the one to go for. These shape the sound in such a way that the end result is a rich and vibrant tone.
Dynamic Mic Characteristics
In comparison to condensers, dynamic microphones have a more limited dynamic and frequency range so the sound quality they produce tends not to be as accurate. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get fantastic sounding audio for your podcast from a dynamic mic though, you absolutely can. The Shure SM7B for example would not be so popular with podcasters if this wasn’t the case.
Setup correctly and paired with the right preamp, dynamic mics can produce a lovely warm, broadcast style sound.
Use Cases for Dynamic and Condenser Microphones
So, you now know what the technical differences are between these two microphone types and you also know the characteristics of each one. There are however more pieces to the puzzle…
Beyond what we’ve already explored, you also need to think about where you’re going to be recording your podcast. Is the room you’re recording in large or small? Is it sound treated to avoid echo? What about external noises, are you close to a main road or a busy part of the house? How many voices are you recording at once?
What seems like a list of advantages a condenser mic has over a dynamic mic can soon be flipped to become a list of disadvantages. If you’re recording in an untreated room or in a noisy part of the house, because of how sensitive condenser mics are, they will pick up much more in the way of background noise.
This is also true of other voices if you have a co-host or are interviewing a guest. A dynamic mic will pick up the other voices but much less so because of how much less sensitive they are. This gives the dynamic mic an edge because when you come to edit the audio and the two voice tracks are mixed together, you get closer to the true sound of what each mic should sound like as there’s little ‘pollution’ from the other track. With condenser mics being more sensitive, this pollution can be much greater, therefore reducing the quality of the audio.
If you are able to record in a quiet room which is sound treated, and you have good separation between each microphone then condensers would then come back into consideration.
Another thing to consider is longevity and robustness. Dynamic mics are known for being real workhorses and ultra-reliable. Condensers on the other hand contain electric circuitry and tend to be more sensitive as a result. If you do a lot of recording on location, a dynamic mic may be better. If however you record your podcast in the studio/at home exclusively then a condenser will be fine.
Pros and cons of Condenser and Dynamic Mics
Let’s summarise where we’ve got to so far with a list of advantages and disadvantages of both microphone types. We’ll then get stuck into having a look at some different models to help you choose the one for you.
- Great dynamic and frequency range
- A smooth frequency response
- Natural sounding smooth and detailed sound
- Rich and vibrant tone
- They need some sort of power (the most commonly used being 48v phantom power)
- To get the best sound from them, they ideally need to be used in an acoustically treated and quiet room
- Because of their sensitivity, can pick up other voices in the room being recorded and make editing harder
- Need handling with care
- More electronic components to go wrong
- Very robust and should therefore last a long time
- High quality dynamic mics tend to be at a lower price point than high quality condenser mics
- Less complex electronics and therefore less to go wrong
- Because they’re less sensitive, they’re more suited for use in rooms which aren’t ideal in terms of sound treatment
- Will pickup less of other voices in the room which will make the editor’s job easier in post-production
- Can produce a lovely warm broadcast style sound
- Don’t require an external power source
- Don’t have the dynamic or frequency range that condenser mics do, therefore giving a less detailed sound
- The frequency response isn’t as smooth which means a less natural sound
- Although they produce a nice warm sound, it’s not as vibrant as that of a condenser mic
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Popular Condenser Podcasting Microphones
Let’s now have a look at some condenser mics which are popular with podcast producers. We’ve intentionally picked models at different price points and with different features to give you a broad overview of what’s available.
This side-address condenser mic delivers great performance at a very reasonable price point. The dynamic range is very impressive as are the low levels of self-noise.
For the price, it feels reassuringly durable and it delivers excellent voice clarity. Click here to view the latest price on Amazon.
A slightly upgraded version is also available in the form of the AT2035. That model features a 10dB pad and a switchable 80hz high-pass filter. It also comes with a shock mount. The difference in price isn’t huge so it’s definitely worth a look if you want a complete package.
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
This microphone is widely used by beginner podcasters and for good reason – it offers great sound quality and being a USB mic is essentially plug and play with no audio interface or mixer required to use it.
Features include a 3.5mm headphone socket so you can monitor what’s being recorded in real-time, a gain knob to set your levels and a polar pattern selector which allows you to choose between cardioid, bi-directional & stereo. It also comes with an adjustable stand.
The Rode NT1-A is another mic which offers exceptional value, especially in the kit form we’ve picked. When paired with a good preamp, the self-noise level is extremely low, and the sound is crisp and pleasing with a nice level of warmth to it.
Build quality is good and with the kit including a shock mount, pop filter and XLR cable, you’re ready to plug it into an audio interface and start podcasting.
AKG Pro Audio C214
For something a bit higher end, the AKG Pro Audio C214 is one to consider.
With a die-cast metal body, the build quality is good, but it is the performance of it which really makes it stand out. The dynamic and frequency range is excellent as is the very low level of self-noise. The sound is powerful, natural and very detailed with a pleasing level of ‘crispness’ to it.
It features a low-cut filter to reduce any low frequency rumblings and the element is mounted on an integrated suspension mechanism which helps to reduce mechanical noise. Read more about it here on Amazon.
Popular Dynamic Microphones for Podcasting
Here are some favourite dynamic mic podcaster picks.
The Rode Procaster is a broadcast quality microphone which has been designed for voice so is a great fit for podcasting.
It features an in-built shock mount and pop filter although we’d always recommend having dedicated external accessories to get the best out of any microphone. The polar pattern is quite tight with it being made specifically for voice and this also helps when it’s being used in a room with less than ideal sound treatment.
Sound quality is great with some nice low-end tones. This mic is quite gain hungry so use it with a good preamp or add something like a Cloudlifter to your setup.
Perhaps the standard in podcasting circles, the infamous Shure SM7B is so popular for good reason. The sound which comes from the SM7B is warm, smooth, clean and very natural with lots of presence.
Build quality is excellent and it features an air suspension shock mount system, an in-built pop filter and shielding from electromagnet hum.
Like the Rode Procaster, this mic is gain hungry so pair it with a good preamp and/or a mic activator.
HEiL Sound PR-40
The PR-40 is a classic mic for voice work and one which many podcasters aspire to own.
For a dynamic mic, the frequency range is impressive. From 28 Hz to 18k Hz, the response is flat and smooth which is helped by its large 1” diaphragm.
When positioned correctly in relation to the mouth, the PR-40 produces a lovely warm and intimate sound right out of the box with a nice amount of the low-end frequencies coming through yet remaining crisp and bright.
The Rode PodMic is our budget pick of dynamic podcasting mics. For the price it performs brilliantly and delivers a rich sound that’s both crisp and warm.
Holding it in your hand reassures you that although a budget mic, this thing will last – it just feels solid. Again, being a dynamic mic it’s gain hungry so you’ll likely need to use an inline gain booster to avoid having to crank up your preamp which could introduce excessive noise.
A lot of people say that this mic punches way above its price point and we tend to agree.
So, after all that, which is better for podcasting, a condenser or dynamic mic? Actually, if you pick a good one then either will do a great job. However, you must consider above all else the conditions in which you’re recording.
If you have the luxury of a sound treated room and you’re largely recording alone then a condenser would work fine. If however you record with another host or have regular guests on your show and the room where you record isn’t sound treated (or tends to have background noise) then a dynamic mic will be more forgiving.
Which would we choose personally? Rightly or wrongly more dynamic mics than condensers tend to end up on our wishlist.