Recording 101: Which microphone to choose: Dynamic, Condenser or Ribbon

Most people working in the sound industry are dependent on the beautifully complex device known as, “The Microphone”. The microphone has greatly evolved since Emile Berliner, invented the first in 1877. There are many different types of microphones out there, but these are the important ones to remember:

  1. The Dynamic

Dynamic Microphones are known for being physically tough, thus reliable. This is why the live sound industry invests very heavily in this type of microphone. It is usually a popular choice with podcasters and those in the radio space, due to their strong directional quality, suitable for dialogue. Dynamic Microphones don’t require phantom power and are plug and play. This is because they use magnetism to generate electricity when capturing sound. One of the most famous dynamic microphones, is the Shure SM7B.

  1. The Condenser

Condenser Microphones are usually more fragile physically than Dynamic Microphones. This is because they are mostly used in controlled environments such as recording studios. They make up for their fragility with a clear tone. Most Condenser Microphones require phantom power, (unless power supply is present) to power the thin and sensitive metal plates inside which convert movements in the air, into audible sound. Those plates together form, the “capsule”. One of the most famous condenser microphones is the Neumann U87.

  1. The Ribbon

Ribbon Microphones are the least common type of microphone. They are usually costly and more fragile than condenser microphones. They have a beautiful and warm tone and are commonly used in recording studios for brass instruments and singers. The ribbon microphone works both similarly to dynamic and condenser microphones, with an ultra-thin and sensitive metal ribbon vibrating between two magnets to capture sound. Phantom power can terminally damage the ribbon in Passive Ribbon microphones, which are the most favored for their sound. Whereas Active ribbon microphones require phantom power. One of the most famous ribbon microphones is the AEA R44.

When looking for your next microphone, keep these three types in mind to help you find the right one for you.