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June 2017 Giveaway

Microphone Mysteries Revealed, by Ted Hunter: Handheld condensers vs. dynamics.

Q: “Is a handheld condenser better for live vocals than a standard dynamic mic? Why?”

A: There’s not an easy answer to this question. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of microphones. The most noticeable difference will usually be an extended high-frequency response in a condenser microphone when compared to a dynamic, which in and of itself most people would probably consider “better”. They certainly do have the potential to be more accurate. However, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration. With that higher frequency response comes a greater susceptibility to feedback, and condensers may be too sensitive in some live situations. Condensers typically aren’t as durable as dynamics, although that’s not necessarily the case with many of today’s handheld condensers that are built with the abuse handheld microphones tend to be subjected to in mind. And of course, just as in the studio, there are certain vocalists that may just sound better with a dynamic microphone than a condenser. The extra bleed some condensers pick up can also be hard to deal with.

On the other hand, there certainly are advantages to condenser microphones in a live situation. Condensers do typically do a better job of reproducing the audible frequencies of the human voice, and many people find that it’s easier to mix a vocal picked up by a condenser than a dynamic. The improved higher frequency reproduction helps the vocal cut through the mix better, and the engineer may not need to resort to equalization as much. And especially with the number of in-ear monitoring systems out there, vocalists may prefer to hear the detail in their voice that a condenser microphone provides.

As with most of the equipment we deal with, what it really comes down to is that what’s better can depend on a number of factors…the singer, the engineer, the system, the room…and really should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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