Dynamic vs. Condenser in Home Studio – Which Microphone Should I Use?

On the new video in my mic demo series I’m out to challenge an old and common misconception – Do I have to use a condenser mic for professional sounding vocals, or can a dynamic mic sound just as good? Listen to Shure SM7B vs. Rode NT2-A and share your thoughts! As many self-taught, home studio owners I went on a long journey of trial and error in search for the right gear. Looking at what seemed to be the choice for professional studio technicians as well as internet forum dwellers, I fell under the spell of condenser mics. They seemed to embody the only proper way to record a great sounding vocal track. Dynamic mics seemed to be a compromise for vocals, only good for keeping things like feedback and bleed under control in a live setting. I borrowed, then purchased a large diaphragm condenser and by the time I had a few home recordings under my belt, I arrived at the following conclusions about home recording with a condenser mic:
  • The less than perfect acoustics of my room would cause audible reflections in quiet or Acapella recordings
  • Even the slightest outdoor noise could destroy a good take
  • Some singers would come-off as very harsh sounding
  • I was de-essing like crazy
At the same time, I discovered that some of my favourite vocal recordings of all time were actually made in a live setting and used a dynamic mic. Say all that you will about the benefits of condenser mics, but you can’t take them up on stage, and that doesn’t stop many live DVDs from featuring great sounding vocals.

So what are the benefits of using a dynamic microphone to record vocals at home?

  • They’re ideal for recording with less mic-bleed from other, close-by instruments
  • Dynamic mics are more tolerant towards those nasty early reflections of an untreated or semi-treated room
  • You can record even when it’s not dead-silent outside (and keep the A.C. on!)
  • Keep harsh vocals under control and let your de-esser take a break

This doesn’t mean you should ditch the condenser concept by any means. When used with proper placement technique in an acoustically treated room, the condenser microphone is great for producing crisp, great sounding vocal tracks.

However, the condenser mic is a delicate creature; don’t buy the first flashy model you see before you take care of your room’s acoustics and learn about proper mic placement. I find it best to keep an open mind and use a microphone that suits your recording environment and your singer, whether it’s a dynamic or a condenser mic.

Let’s Hear It!

I created the following demo using two similarly-priced dynamic and condenser microphones:

Shure SM7B – A legendary broadcast mic and studio favourite of many male singers.
Rode NT2-A – An excellent condenser by this Australian manufacturer, a step-up from the very popular NT1-A which I covered before.

Can you tell the difference? Is there anything missing or in-excess in any of the takes? Share your thoughts below!

Vocals courtesy of Michael Rose
Visit his channel: youtube.com/channel/UCdGxWN0N9QIMuoiabOvh1hQ
Song: “שיר נהיגה” (Original)

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Joseph

    I’ve gotten some shockingly good vocal results from Electro Voice’s dynamic line. I’m not talking the RE20 either. I mean their $100 models.

  2. Kamil T.

    Thank you for this. It’s the most helpful advise I found on picking my first mic so far. I’m a hobbyist, I’m not going to sing proper vocals, but I want a mic as yet another instrument in my toolbox – to record short vocal phrases and different sounds to be used as samples. And I have a super light room treatment to fight reflections, but apartment is close to the street and is thus noisy. On the other hand I can easily afford to only record at nights, so street noise isn’t that important. But the question is… If you go down price-range wise will your statement/comparision still hold? Since my requirements are so light I narrowed my choices down to considerably cheaper mics: SM57 and AT2020 – would you still advise dynamic and thus SM57?

    I simply love artists you present in your videos and you are doing a great job explaining things in a simple manner. To sum it up: great blog, thank you and keep it up! 🙂

    1. Oren Gilad

      Hi Kamil,
      I’ve used the SM57/8 before and they’re great for live settings and rehearsals. Can’t say they’d been able to “fool” my ears in a studio setting like this against a condenser but you can try! There are also other mid-level dynamic mics by other manufacturers that you can try which may be cheaper than the SM7B but also surprisingly sensitive.
      And thanks a lot for your comment, I appreciate it! Glad to have you around 😉

  3. jeffri rahman

    A very good article and full of advice. Hope you don’t mind if I will ask too many questions after this about recording especially voice-over. 🙂

    1. Oren Gilad

      Thanks Jeffri, glad you liked it! No problem, ask away 😉

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