What Is a Condenser Microphone

Condenser microphones possess certain attributes that make them well suited for their best tasks, namely picking up quieter sounds. For instance, if you wanted to record a single performer's voice in a crowded room, it would be natural to reach for a condenser microphone because condensers can better capture the quiet words of your singer over the howls and cries of an adoring crowd. However, there are instances when these characteristics are valuable to everyday consumers. For example, most prefer not to blast their music via earbuds or a pair of speakers - but would rather keep things at lower volume levels, a job more easily accomplished by using this type of microphone!


How Does a Condenser Microphone Work?

Condenser mics are specialized capacitors designed to store energy in an electric field temporarily. Capacitors work by using two plates near one another, forming a perfect environment for all electricity to pass through. The greater the distance between the capacitor's plates, the higher its capacitance level - in other words, the greater its ability to store an electrical charge. 

Condenser microphones are made up of two concentric cylinders, the smaller one acting as a diaphragm with a very thin membrane. For example, PreSonus' PX-1 vocal microphone and PM-2 dynamic mic each have diaphragms comprised of gold-sputtered Mylar measuring only 0.006 inches (6 microns). The membrane vibrates when struck by incoming sound waves, which change its distance from the larger cylinder conductor plate, resulting in fluctuating capacitance which is then converted into an electrical signal wirelessly transmitted by RF to your mixer or recorder.

Active circuitry is required to transform the very high impedance of a DC-polarized capsule's output to a usable low impedance. +48V phantom power is commonly used to supply current to this circuitry. Other methods include dedicated power supplies (mostly with tube condensers) and batteries (often seen with electret condensers). In addition, all PreSonus® audio interfaces and mixers can provide phantom power for condenser mics.


Condenser Microphone Variations: Large Diaphragms, Small Diaphragms, and Electret

The diaphragm of a condenser microphone makes these microphones so well-known for superior sound quality, especially when picking up minute details. This is because the low mass of a condenser microphone diaphragm allows it to vibrate with the sound waves of an input source more accurately than the heavy moving coil attached to a dynamic microphone. Because of this, smaller condenser microphones that work within the same design principles as larger versions are known to offer superior sound quality, the widest frequency response and the best ability to accurately reproduce transients. 

While shopping for condenser microphones, you'll likely hear the terms' small diaphragm' and 'large-diaphragm.' If the movement of a movie in a camera creates the picture we see, it easily follows that the size of the camera affects how it responds to light. Traditionally, large-diaphragm mics, like the PreSonus PX-1, have larger than 1 centimetre or 0.4 inches in diameter diaphragms, whereas small-diaphragm mics like the PreSonus PM-2 have diaphragms smaller than one centimetre or 0.4 inches. So, for example, the PreSonus PM-2 has a 3/4 -inch diaphragm.

A budget pick at a low cost is the PreSonus AudioBox 96 Digital Recording Studio (M7 & MiniDisc Bundle). As previously stated, condenser microphones need to be activated by a high voltage. Therefore, the AudioBox 96 package has an M7 microphone that offers superb sound quality and clarity. In addition, there are other essential studio accessories like the mic stand, pop filter and 20-foot XLR cable.

An alternative electrostatic polarizing method is to apply an electric charge using electret film permanently. Electret film is an electrostatic magnet, eliminating the need for a high voltage power supply or a condenser microphone with a DC polarized capsule. In addition, microphones that use these films don't require preamps, unlike condenser microphones with a large diaphragm.

Large-diaphragm mics are often the mic of choice when capturing vocals, acoustic guitars and pianos. They also work great for adding ambience on top of a direct signal when wanting to give your guitar or piano a warm and round sound. Small diaphragm mics are usually used to capture instruments up close, such as drums, horn sections, string ensembles, etc. Of course, they are perfect for acoustic instruments too! No matter what kind of music you're recording, there's always an opportunity to experiment with different techniques, so feel free to get creative whenever possible!

So now you'll have an idea about condenser microphones and if you want more such blogs on the best wireless microphone, check our website.


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