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Dynamic and Condenser

Polar patterns
Frequency response

How a microphone functions

Dynamic microphones

Based on a moving coil of

Think of the reverse of a
Sound waves push on a
diaphragm which in turn
moves a coil of very fine wire
through a magnetic field
Produces current
proportional to the sound

Dynamic microphones

very robust and durable

Very often used on stage where rough handling or

dropping is common
Damage is most often caused by breaking
suspension wires

Two wires which hold the diaphragm and coil in place


do not produce a flat frequency

response and not very sensitive to low SPL

The relatively massive coil of wire takes a great

deal of power to make move

Condenser microphones

Creates a capacitor using the

diaphragm as one plate.

Capacitor is used to store an

electric charge. Changing the
distance between plates changes
its ability to do that.
Requires the plates to be charged
by an external source
Battery, phantom power
As the diaphragm moves, it causes
a ripple in the current from the
phantom power. This ripple is
proportional to the sound waves

Condenser microphone

to the lightweight diaphragm, only small

pressure changes are required to produce an
audio signal.

Very sensitive to small SPL

Much flatter frequency response than dynamic


more susceptible to damage

Requires external power supply to function

Frequency Response

A graph showing how a specific microphone

responds to different frequencies.

No microphone is perfectly flat

Usually not desirable anyway
Microphones are designed for specific purposes and
frequency responses are tailored for each use

Proximity effect

Usually only seen on dynamic microphones

As you move the mic closer to the sound source, you get an
increase in the low frequency response.
Trained vocalists will make good use of this effect, the
untrained will make themselves unintelligible.

Frequency Response
Dynamic Vocal Mic

Live Instrument Mic

Condenser Vocal Mic

Studio Instrument Mic

Directional properties

Every microphone will have a polar pattern

Description of the sensitivity of the microphone

related to the direction the sound is coming

Sensitive from all directions

Used for ambient noise recording or where the
sound source is moving and the mic cannot

Often on lavaliere mics

Sound is often general and unfocused.

Feedback more likely

polar pattern

Directional properties

Mostly sensitive from one direction and less
from all others
Cardioid pattern

Sound is mostly picked up from the front, but

some from the sides as well to allow for some
movement of the mic off axis
Most common pattern, good for general use
Most common on hand held mics

Cardioid polar

Super and Hyper Cardioid pattern

Less sensitive to the sides, more sensitive to the

Sometimes called a shotgun mic
Very directional
Super cardioid
polar pattern

Directional properties

Sensitive from the front and back and
much less to the sides
Not much use on stage
Variable directionality
Polar pattern is adjustable to different
Seems like a good idea, but rarely works
perfectly well

Bi-directional pattern

Specialty Microphones

PCC and PZM microphones

Collectively known as Boundary microphones

Trade names of Crown International


Often used as a floor mic to reinforce a large group of
people who are moving
Musical chorus for example

Choir microphones

Small sensitive condenser mics usually hung overhead


RF (wireless) microphones

A microphone which transmits its audio signal using

radio frequencies rather than a cable

The mic has a radio transmitter built into it which transmits

to a receiver off-stage. The receiver then sends the audio
signal to a mixer

Most often in the form of a wireless

Vocal mic transmitter is built into the body of the mic

Lavaliere small mic capsule is clipped onto clothing or
taped to the head (preferred). The mic capsule is wired to
a small pack with the transmitter and batteries.

RF (wireless) microphones

frequency that the packs transmit on are

very important

Usually transmit in the VHF or UHF range and are

susceptible to interference from other radio
Diversity receivers

MUCH more interference resistant than non-diversity

Involves two separate receivers spaced apart from
each other

The system will select the strongest signal

RF (wireless) microphones

Lavaliere mic mounting

Usually mounted on the center of the forehead or over the ear

Toupee clips, bobby pins, high quality surgical tape.

Spirit gum only if ALL else fails

Occasionally mounted on clothing

Traditional use. TV interviews for example

Poor sound quality

Low frequency boost from being near the chest

Wind or clothing noise likely
Sound level changes as performer moves their head

Boom mounting a.k.a. Madonna Mic

Mounted on a rig over the ear which puts mic very close to the mouth.
Best sound. Poor aesthetics.

Additional Readings

Interesting discussion on mic techniques