Whether it’s a documentary on your favorite band, a movie scene in a recording studio, or a full-page ad in Sweetwater‘s latest catalog, one common theme exists: vocalists use large-diaphragm condenser microphones.
I’m not a big fan of the phrase “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Certainly we should learn from the experience of others, but doing something just because everyone else does it leads to a fairly boring experience.
Do I use a condenser mic on vocals? Sure… but not exclusively.
I’ve mentioned this before. On my album, I used three different microphones — a tube condenser mic, a regular condenser mic, and a dynamic mic. Why? Because I chose the mic that sounded best for that particular song. Some days one mic just didn’t sound that great. I switched it out, liked what I heard, and moved on.
More and more, I reach for the dynamic mic when I need to record a vocalist. Here are three reasons why.
1) Less Room Noise
If you record in a noisy room, then you’re constantly battling picking up noise in your recordings. Whether it’s the computer fan, hard drives, lawnmowers outside (or inside)—it’s a common problem.
Condenser mics are wonderful. They’re detailed and crisp, but they sometimes pick up everything.
Because dynamic mics are less sensitive than condensers, you can record the vocalist without all the extra noise. This reason alone should be enough to convince you to try it.
2) Less De-Essing Needed
Sibilance can make or break a lead vocal track. Condenser mics tend to really emphasize the S’s and T’s of a singer. Typically, you’ll reach for your handy de-esser plugin…but they don’t always work perfectly.
A dynamic mic, on the other hand, doesn’t capture all that extra high frequency material, and it tends to not need a de-esser at all, even with heavy compression.
3) Less Likely To Be Harsh
Dynamic mics don’t have the high end of condensers. That’s a given. In some scenarios this may sound dull or dark, but I submit to you that condensers can sound overly bright and harsh at times.
If you’re getting a harsh sound with your condenser, it may be time to switch to a dynamic. It won’t have nearly the high end detail of a condenser, but it probably won’t have the harshness either.
One final point on dynamic mics, if you don’t have a decent preamp with a lot of gain, you may have problems. Dynamic mics have a much weaker signal than condensers, so you need to have a preamp that can give you enough gain without adding a lot of additional noise.
Now, let’s move on to condenser mics…