Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones

In a nutshell, dynamic microphones can be plugged into a microphone input of any PA system speaker, mixer or mixer/amp and they will work straight away.

Condenser microphones need power. That power can be supplied from a mixing desk with a Phantom Power supply or by an external Phantom Power supply (battery or mains powered). Some condenser microphones have an AA battery in them and supply their own power, and some are designed to be powered from a PC/Laptop via a USB cable.

There are 3 basic factors to take into account when choosing wired microphones for live use:

  Operating Principle (dynamic or condenser)

Dynamic RecommendedSimple, rugged. Handles extreme volume levels without distortion. Used primarily on stage.
Condenser Lightweight, sensitive. Precisely and smoothly captures sound nuances. Powered by battery or phantom power supply. Used primarily in studios.

  Polar Patterns (the area the microphone picks up from)

Cardioid RecommendedPicks up the most sound in front of the microphone and some from the sides. Less susceptible to feedback in high volume environments. Used primarily for stage vocals.
Super Cardioid RecommendedScreens unwanted sounds sources. Ideal for individual instruments in a multi-microphone setting, or single sources in noisy environments.
Used primarily for miking instrument cabinets.
Omni directional Equally sensitive to sound from all directions, but cannot be 'aimed' to isolate one area.
Bi Directional Picks up sound equally from the front and back of the microphone.
Hyper Cardioid Provides maximum isolation from ambient noise and adjacent sound such as musical instruments, loud speakers and other performers.
Half Cardioid Picks up the most sound from above the flat mounted microphone and some sound from the sides.

  Frequency Response (the range of sound frequencies the mic can reproduce)

Frequency response determines the basic sound of the microphone. It is determined by the range of sound (from the lowest to the highest) that a microphone can reproduce, and how that sound varies at different frequencies.

Typical response curves are:

Flat Wide, uniform response. Consistent sensitivity through the frequency range.
Tailored RecommendedSmooth, extended response. Tuned to accentuate specific types of instruments or voices. Typically for stage use.
Adjustable Interchangeable frequency response caps for mild and high boosts.

Recommendations for stage use

Mic Type Frequency
Vocals Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 60Hz - 15kHz

Guitar Amps Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 50Hz - 15kHz

Bass Amps Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 50Hz - 15kHz

Acoustic Guitar Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 40Hz - 18kHz

Kick Drum Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 30Hz - 13kHz

Snare/Toms Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 50Hz - 15kHz

Cymbals Dynamic Cardoid

Tailored 40Hz - 18kHz