Last week I shared with you why you should use a dynamic mic on vocals. Today I want to give you three reasons to use a condenser mic.

Condenser microphones are, by far, the most common type of microphones to track lead vocals. While I do love a good dynamic on a vocal, sometimes the session calls for a condenser. I would say I use a condenser microphone on a lead vocal at least 70% of the time.

So you may be asking how do I decide when to use a condenser? Let me share with you three reasons.

1. Less gain needed at the preamp

Condenser microphones require a voltage in order to work. That’s why you send 48V phantom power to the microphone from the preamp. This voltage charges a metal plate which, when moved by sound waves, generates an electric current. This current is the audio signal.

That’s probably more detail than you wanted to know, but the point is this- condenser microphones have a higher output than dynamic mics. Because of this, you don’t need as much gain at the preamp to get the signal to a useable level.

The problem with dynamic microphones is that they need a lot of gain at the preamp. Cheaper preamps typically don’t have enough gain, or introduce too much noise when cranked all the way up. You don’t usually have this problem with condenser microphones.

2. Lots of detail

Because we’re dealing with a charged metal plate and an extremely thin diaphragm, condenser mics capture much more detail than dynamic mics. This makes a condenser mic ideal for capturing the subtle nuances in a singer’s voice.

This may not matter if you are recording a screaming rock singer, but for the singer-songwriter ballad, it’s perfect.

3. Defined high-end

If there’s one thing a dynamic microphone lacks, it’s high frequencies. If you look at a frequency chart for a typical dynamic microphone, you’ll see that the frequency response starts to roll off around 12-15 kHz.

If you’re wanting a nice, breathy vocal sound, you probably won’t get it with a dynamic mic. When people talk about having a vocal track with a lot of “air”, chances are the vocal was recorded through a nice condenser microphone.

So, what’s your favorite type of vocal microphone?

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27 Responses to “Why You Should Use a Condenser Mic on Vocals”

  1. Jeffery Deleva

    Let’s say you have a great singer on stage. No recording room, just a standard size bar. I do know that you can use an EV condenser type mic for a lead vocalist and be fine. But what are your thoughts on using a really cool looking recording mic for live sound. Thanks guys

  2. Chantal Mailhac

    I’m not sure anymore now…. I tell stories and I sing, and sometimes I get to perform indeed in unprepared places, such as warehouses. What would you recommand? I was looking at the Sennheiser MKE 2…

  3. Pranav

    I record vocals at home. I don’t have a recording booth. I cant afford noise proofing my room. So there is obviously a lot of ambient noise. The cardoid pickup pattern should take care of the noises from the back of the mic, but i’m worried about the echo of my vocals bouncing off the concrete walls of my room. Should i buy a condenser mic or a dynamic mic? I use audacity to record my vocals on a preexisting soundtrack. So please advise.

  4. Shawn

    I think condenser mics are definitely the better choice most of the time for vocals, but only if you are recording in a good room with proper acoustic treatment. correct?
    In a poor sounding room, a condenser mic will likely create a much worse sound compared to a dynamic mic. imho of course.

    • Joe Gilder

      I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like that. Theoretically, yes a dynamic might make more sense in an untreated room, but you never know for sure until you plug a mic in and listen. πŸ™‚

    • Daniel Price

      That’s not necessarily true especially if you are miked within a few inches unless you are recording in a REALLY small room with REALLY reflective walls. If the mic is unidirectional and in close enough proximity to the sound source, the room won’t make much of a difference.

  5. Rory Grozny

    We were recording this rapper and had no end of trouble trying to record his vox with any of our condensers simply because we could not keep him still in the booth πŸ™‚ He wanted to jump around and pull gang signs and whatever else, but in truth we got the best vocal performances out him when he did, so we just recorded him with an SM58 with a mic afro, and it worked like a charm πŸ™‚

  6. Cody Kraski

    Huge fan of the Audio-technica AT2020 condenser mic… it really is the best quality microphone for its price (I got lucky with $70 from Amazon). I write and record everything myself in my home-studio and I LOVE the AT2020. Granted I would have to agree that it may be mostly because I’d consider myself singer-songwriter, so the clarity is what won me over πŸ™‚

  7. gerry

    I remember Howard Stern droning on about how condenser mics have prolonged his career and he behaves like its a manna from god.

  8. Melvin Blickenstaff

    I usually use a condenser (Rode NT-1A) for my vocals, but I try both when working with other vocalists and different styles of music. My uncle’s voice sounded much better on a Beta-58 than my NT-1A on songs I recorded with him.

  9. Toby Baxley

    Rode NT1. It seems to sound really great on my voice. I just recorded a singer last week with an SM57 and it sounded great. Some of his vocal inflections were a bit harsh for the condenser, but the dynamic worked to tame those.


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