Are you curious about dynamic microphones and how they work? Well, you’ve come to the right place! When you’re setting up your studio, you might have a lot of questions. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you out.
If you’re looking for a microphone that is simple, versatile, and tough as nails, then a dynamic microphone is an excellent choice. Singers, podcasters, and voiceover artists absolutely love them. But that’s not all! They are also great for miking up drums, electric guitars, and acoustic guitars.
Now, the world of voiceover equipment can be a bit confusing, but don’t worry—I’ll be your trusty guide. Before you start exploring specific options, it’s important to understand the key attributes of a dynamic microphone.
So, how exactly does a dynamic microphone work? Read on to find out.
Main Types of Microphones: Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones
There are two types of mics, dynamic and condenser microphones.
1. Dynamic Mics
Dynamic microphones are amazing because they have minimal movable parts and don’t need batteries or an external power source. They generate power through their electronics, making them convenient and efficient.
Dynamic microphones use the electromagnetic principle to convert sounds into audio signals. When a metal part inside the microphone moves through a magnetic field, it generates an electrical current. As sound waves hit the microphone, they cause the metal part to vibrate, altering the magnetic field and creating changes in the electrical current. This process produces an audio signal.
Dynamic microphones are called transducers because they convert energy from one form to another.
2. Condenser Mics
Condenser microphones are super sensitive and work wonders when paired with acoustic guitars and gentle vocals. They are particularly great for studio recordings, as they capture the subtlest details of singing and instrument playing.
But, it’s important to keep in mind that condenser mics can be quite sensitive, which means they can be prone to distortion and can pick up unwanted popping noises and even the sound of breathing. So, it’s crucial to handle them with care and use proper techniques to ensure optimal sound quality.
Types of Dynamic Microphones
When it comes to choosing the right microphone for your needs, there are two types of dynamic microphones that you should consider: moving coil and moving ribbon dynamic mics. Let’s take a closer look at these options and see which one might be the best fit for you!
1. Moving Coil
Moving coil dynamic microphones are the go-to choice for many people, thanks to their widespread popularity. These microphones work in a clever way: they have a coil of wire connected to a diaphragm that sits within a magnetic field. So, when you speak or make any sound, the diaphragm starts to vibrate. And guess what? That vibration transfers to the coil, causing it to move too. The coil’s movement generates an electrical signal, which is pretty cool because it captures your voice or any other sound you make. It’s like turning your words into magic electricity!
2. Moving Ribbon
Moving ribbon dynamic microphones are incredibly sensitive and versatile microphones that excel in capturing the rich nuances of atmospheric sounds. These mics are particularly well-suited for genres like jazz, folk, blues, and vocals that require a more restrained and intimate approach.
The design of ribbon microphones revolves around a delicate aluminum foil ribbon delicately positioned between two magnets. As sound waves gently sway this ribbon, it gracefully translates their vibrations into an exquisite audio signal, capturing every detail and subtlety with exceptional precision.
Components of Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic mics have components that are uniquely theirs.
Dynamic microphones have seven parts that, together, create their one-of-a-kind sound.
- Windscreen (or Grille). The windscreen is the part of the microphone that you speak or sing into.
- Diaphragm. The diaphragm collects sounds and transforms them into electrical currents. It can be equated to the human eardrum.
- Coil. The coil is a small section of wire attached to the diaphragm. When the diaphragm moves, it shifts the coil, which creates an electrical signal.
- Magnetic Core. It produces a magnetic field for the coil.
- Capsule. In the capsule, sound vibrations are converted to electrical signals, which are sent to the speakers.
- Body. The body is the external housing of the device. The sturdier the body, the more easily its electronics will be able to handle inevitable falls, knocks and drops.
- Output. The output (or output jack) is where a cable is plugged into the microphone so that signals can be transported out as sounds.
Here’s how all of these components come together to make a dynamic mic work.
How Does a Dynamic Microphone Work?
A dynamic device may seem simple with just a few parts, but when these components come together, they create a mic that is celebrated worldwide! It’s amazing how something so compact can produce such incredible sound quality.
The windscreen can be found right below the part of the device that resembles a metal grille. It’s actually a special foam lining that’s there to shield the microphone’s diaphragm from any pesky wind interference. Not only does it do a great job at that, but it also acts as a protective barrier against dust and debris, ensuring that nothing unwanted makes its way into the microphone. So, you can count on this nifty little windscreen to keep your audio clear and clean in all sorts of conditions!
Windscreens serve an important purpose by reducing disruptive plosives, those pesky popping or hissing sounds that occur when a microphone gets overwhelmed with blasts of air from certain consonants like “b,” “p,” “d,” “t,” “g,” and “k.” These plosives can be quite bothersome, but fear not! The ingenious design of windscreens is here to save the day. They work tirelessly to eliminate those unwanted sounds, ensuring a smooth and pleasant audio experience.
Now, let’s talk about pop filters, also known as pop shields or pop screens. These nifty devices are like superheroes in the studio, coming to the microphone’s rescue when windscreens alone can’t completely eliminate plosives. Pop filters act as guardians, intercepting and dispelling those annoying sounds before they have a chance to reach the sensitive mic.
While windscreens are crucial for outdoor scenarios where gusts of wind can wreak havoc on audio quality, their value extends beyond just the great outdoors. Even in the cozy confines of a studio, windscreens remain highly valuable, faithfully serving as the first line of defense against disruptive plosives.
So, whether you’re battling the elements outdoors or working your audio magic in the studio, windscreens and pop filters team up to ensure your microphone captures crisp and clear sound, free from those troublesome plosives.
The diaphragm in this amazing device is made of a special material called Mylar, which is a type of biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate. It’s like a thin, two-sided membrane that reacts to sound by moving. It’s incredibly delicate, measuring only about five microns in thickness, which allows it to pick up even the tiniest vibrations in the air around it. Isn’t it fascinating how such a small and delicate component can be so sensitive to sound?
The diaphragm is crucial for a microphone’s sound quality. It can make or break the overall performance.
Copper is used for several reasons:
- It produces a powerful audio signal.
- It optimizes electromagnetic induction.
- Its light weight makes the coil-diaphragm duo more receptive than weightier substances.
When sound waves cause air pressure to fluctuate, the diaphragm responds by vibrating. This vibration, in turn, sets the coil into motion. The coil oscillates within a magnetic field, effectively converting the sound waves into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is then transmitted to the speakers, where it is transformed back into audible sound.
The magnetic core generates a magnetic field within the coil, allowing the vibrations to convert into an electrical signal.
The diaphragm is essential for the microphone capsule to function as a transducer. It converts sound waves into electrical signals, making the capsule integral to capturing and shaping the microphone’s sound.
The output, also known as the jack, refers to the designated area on a device where you connect a cable. In the case of microphones, the output is designed to accommodate an XLR cable, which is a three-pronged cord used for transmitting stereo signals.
Some lower-end microphones are equipped with an attached cable, which simplifies their setup and connection process.
When it comes to microphone technology, different types exhibit distinct functionalities. If you’re interested in exploring the features of wireless microphones, I recommend reading this informative article.
Dynamic microphones, in particular, possess fundamental characteristics that make them indispensable in various scenarios such as live performances, presentations, and studio recordings.
Features of the Dynamic Microphone
Dynamic microphones have eight features that factor into their sound.
1. Frequency Response
Frequency response refers to a microphone’s ability to accurately capture and reproduce different frequencies. It represents the range of frequencies that a microphone can detect and replicate faithfully. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz) and corresponds to the speed at which vibrations occur.
To illustrate, if a vibration occurs 50 times per second, the frequency is 50 Hz. Sound waves inherently vibrate at specific frequencies, and each microphone model possesses a distinct sonic character shaped by its sensitivity to particular frequencies.
For instance, certain microphone models exhibit heightened sensitivity to lower frequencies, resulting in a “darker” sound quality. Conversely, “brighter” sounding microphones excel at capturing and reproducing higher frequencies.
2. Proximity Effect
The proximity effect refers to the phenomenon where the low bass frequencies are amplified when a microphone is placed closer to the source of sound. In simpler terms, when you bring a microphone closer to yourself or any sound source, it captures more of the low-frequency sounds.
Typically, this effect becomes noticeable when the microphone and the sound source are approximately one foot or less apart. The proximity effect can be advantageous for individuals engaging in activities like podcasting, as it allows them to sound similar to the deep and resonant voice of Barry White.
Conversely, when you move away from the microphone, it captures fewer low frequencies, resulting in a reduction of bass and a tendency for the sound to have an echoing effect.
3. On-Axis Response and Off-Axis Response
Axis refers to the angle at which a sound enters a microphone. There are two types:
- On-Axis Response
The on-axis response of a microphone refers to the sound that directly enters the microphone head-on. This particular angle of sound capture often results in a brighter sound profile. If your recording device has a lower sensitivity to high frequencies, utilizing the on-axis response can enhance the definition and clarity of the recorded sound.
Nevertheless, it’s important to consider that if your device is more sensitive to high frequencies, relying solely on the on-axis response might make it susceptible to harshness or hissing in the recorded audio. Additionally, plosive sounds can pose a challenge when using the on-axis response.
Therefore, when using the on-axis response, it is crucial to take into account the sensitivity of your device to high frequencies, as it can either enhance the definition or introduce unwanted artifacts such as harshness, hissing, or plosive issues.
- Off-Axis Response
The term “off-axis response” is used to describe any sound that is not directly in front of the microphone. When a sound source is located to the side of the room, it generates an off-axis response, causing a shift or distortion in the frequency of the audio.
Off-axis recording can be purposely employed to address the harshness of high frequencies. By intentionally capturing sound from an off-axis angle, it is possible to reduce the sharpness or harshness often associated with high-frequency audio. This technique can help create a more balanced and pleasing sound by avoiding excessive brightness or sibilance that may be present when recording directly on-axis.
In summary, off-axis response refers to sounds that originate from directions other than the front of the microphone, resulting in frequency shifts or distortions. Utilizing off-axis recording techniques can effectively mitigate the harshness of high frequencies, leading to a more pleasing and balanced audio recording.
4. Polar Patterns
A polar pattern is a graphical representation that depicts the sensitivity of a microphone in different directions for capturing sound and the areas from which it will disregard sound. In general, at lower frequencies, microphones tend to exhibit less directionality, meaning they are more likely to pick up sound from various angles. Conversely, at higher frequencies, microphones become more directional, allowing them to focus on specific sound sources while minimizing pickup from other directions.
There are several categories of polar patterns:
Unidirectional or cardioid microphones feature a fundamental polar pattern known as “cardioid” due to its resemblance to a heart shape. The cardioid mic selectively captures wavelengths directly in front of it, while disregarding sounds coming from behind or the sides.
It is important to position oneself towards the “voice side” of the microphone when singing or speaking, as this ensures optimal sound pickup. Failing to do so can result in poor or negligible sound reproduction.
Cardioid microphones excel in general-purpose applications and effectively minimize feedback issues. Additionally, they exhibit a phenomenon called the proximity effect, which enhances low-frequency response when the sound source is in close proximity to the mic.
Directional/Hypercardioid and Supercardioid Pattern
These microphones feature a sleeker heart-shaped pattern that enhances sensitivity to sounds from the front and sides while effectively filtering out sounds originating from a 150-degree angle behind them. They are exceptionally handy for capturing audio in various locations, effectively reducing ambient noise interference.
Furthermore, these microphones are equipped with the proximity effect, which further enhances their performance. The proximity effect ensures a heightened emphasis on audio sources located in close proximity to the microphone, resulting in a richer and more dynamic sound capture experience.
Bidirectional microphones, or figure-eight mics, capture audio from two opposing directions. They are ideal for face-to-face interviews, ensuring clear sound from both participants. Their unique polar pattern rejects side noise, focusing on the front and back sources. These versatile mics excel in capturing discussions and can be used for stereo recordings. Proper positioning and alignment maximize their performance, resulting in professional-grade audio recordings.
These microphones are also feedback-resistant and have the proximity effect.
Omnidirectional microphones capture sounds from all directions without cancellation, making them susceptible to picking up undesirable noise. However, their advantage lies in effectively capturing audio from a moving source when paired with a stationary microphone.
Omnidirectional mics don’t have the proximity effect.
5. Transient Response
Transients are challenging spikes of noise that occur when instruments are played or singers produce sharp consonant sounds like “t.” They are unpredictable and difficult to control, as they can happen at any time to any instrument. Regulating the force used while performing adds to the complexity. Achieving a good microphone sound requires understanding the instrument, proper placement, and techniques like gain staging and transient shaping. Skilled audio engineers can mitigate these challenges and capture a balanced and professional sound.
However, dynamic microphones typically have a slower reaction time compared to condenser microphones, which can sometimes pose challenges in capturing quick transients. In essence, dynamic microphones exhibit a slower response.
Nevertheless, this characteristic can actually prove advantageous when recording specific instruments or vocals.
Sensitivity is a characteristic of a microphone that describes its ability to convert acoustic pressure into electrical voltage. When two devices are exposed to the same sound pressure level, if one microphone produces a higher voltage compared to the other, it is considered to have superior sensitivity
Higher sensitivity microphones require less amplification to reach a usable audio level at the mixer, while less sensitive models need more amplification. However, higher sensitivity doesn’t necessarily make a microphone better than one with lower sensitivity. Other factors, such as intended use and environmental conditions, must also be considered when evaluating microphone quality.
7. SPL (Sound Pressure Level)
The sound pressure level (SPL) is a measure of the loudness that a microphone can handle before experiencing distortion. Dynamic microphones are particularly adept at handling high sound levels without distorting.
The maximum SPL (Max SPL) refers to the threshold at which distortion occurs. Certain devices offer controls that enhance their ability to handle louder instruments, such as electric guitars. These controls enable the devices to withstand higher sound pressures without compromising the quality of the captured audio.
Self-noise, also known as equivalent noise level, refers to the inherent signal generated by a microphone in the absence of any external sound source. All devices exhibit some level of self-noise, typically presenting as a faint hiss or resembling white noise.
The primary contributors to self-noise are two distinct phenomena within the microphone’s circuitry. Firstly, there is Poisson noise, also referred to as shot noise, which arises from the current flowing through the active components of the microphone. This type of noise adds to the overall self-noise characteristics.
Secondly, thermal noise, scientifically known as Johnson-Nyquist noise, is another factor influencing self-noise. As the temperature of the microphone increases, the level of self-noise tends to escalate accordingly. This relationship highlights how thermal noise plays a role in the manifestation of self-noise.
Noise can also arise from the random collision of air molecules with the diaphragm, as well as disturbances caused by preamp gain and mic cable movement. This phenomenon is scientifically referred to as Brownian movement.
However, self-noise shouldn’t be perceived solely as a drawback. Surprisingly, it can prove advantageous in certain circumstances. In a noisy environment, a microphone’s inherent self-noise aids in the rejection of quieter sounds, thereby creating more room to capture and emphasize louder ones.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Dynamic Microphones
Like any piece of equipment, dynamic mics have their pros and cons.
A dynamic mic’s advantages outweigh its disadvantages.
Advantages of Dynamic Microphones:
- They work well in applications that call for a warm sound, such as voiceovers.
- They need no power source. This makes them extremely easy to use in a variety of situations.
- They can endure loud volumes.
- They’re rugged and can be very forgiving of all sorts of abuse.
- They’re versatile and can be used for numerous applications.
- They’re water-resistant.
- They capably handle plosives.
- Since they’re simple, they can be very affordable.
Disadvantages of Dynamic Microphones:
- They’re not ideal for recording delicate sounds.
- They capture a limited amount of high-frequency detail.
- They can’t handle recording harmonics.
- Less detailed sound.
- You’ll need to be close to the diaphragm to receive a clear signal.
- Dynamic microphones are versatile pieces of equipment that have a variety of applications.
What Are Dynamic Mics Mostly Used For?
Dynamic microphones are suited to a wide range of uses:
- Singing (particularly with several people)
- Studio recording
- Recording drums and amps
- Situations that call for a mic that’s water-resistant and impact-resistant.
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Dynamic microphones are versatile and durable, converting sound waves into electrical signals. They have minimal movable parts and do not require batteries. They are commonly used in podcasts, voiceovers, broadcasting, concerts, and studio recordings. Their advantages include handling high sound levels and being water-resistant, while their limitations include capturing less high-frequency detail.