Dynamic microphones are the tougher brother of condenser microphones, and are perfect for recording loud sources like guitar amplifiers and drum kits. But how does a dynamic microphone work? Some well-known classics are the Shure SM57 and SM58 – you’ll probably find these in every studio in the world!
The first microphone I ever purchased was a Shure SM58 so I could record my guitar amp at home. A dynamic mic is a key component of any studio and you should certainly look into picking up at least one model, alongside a condenser microphone to help give you a balance of recording sources.
Dynamic Mic Essentials
Dynamics are solid and durable. They can be used to record loud sounds with high sound pressure levels like drums and guitar amps. These sorts of instruments don’t really have much high-end detail either, making them even more suited to dynamic microphones.
Just like condenser mics, dynamics can suffer from the proximity effect, something to always be aware of. This causes lower bass frequencies to increase in level when the sound source gets too close to the microphone.
They usually have a slight bump in their mid-range frequency response, where certain frequencies are emphasised a little more during recording compared to other frequencies. This is a part of the microphone design that makes them so useful for things like guitar amps, which already emphasise these frequencies as well. The frequency bump is usually somewhere between the 1kHz-8kHz mark.
The high-frequency response of this type of microphone tends to fall around the 15kHz area, so they’re not ideal for recording the types of instruments better suited to condenser mics. If you’re after a recording with less detail but with a full-bodied sound, go for a dynamic.
I generally recommend using a dynamic mic on:
- Rock or loud vocals
- Guitar and bass amps
- Loud brass instruments
The transient of a microphone refers to how fast it can react to an incoming sound. Due to the moving parts of the inner diaphragm and coil, dynamics react slower than condensers. This is one of the reasons for the rugged sound typical of a dynamic.
The background noise generated by dynamic models is higher than with condensers, due to their physical design. This is known as the signal-to-noise ratio, and is another reason why they’re not the best choice of microphone for quieter, gentler instruments. Condensers have lower noise backgrounds, so are the better choice in these scenarios.
I have attempted to record an acoustic guitar with a dynamic mic on a few occasions in the past, only to find that the result was pretty much useless because of the background noise coming through. Try to avoid this if you can!
There are plenty of models to choose from if you’re looking for a dynamic mic, for any level of budget. Some popular models you’ll find are:
- Up to $99 – Shure SM57, Shure SM58
- $100-$200 – Shure Beta 57A, Shure Beta 58A
- $200-$500 – Sennheiser E945, Electro-Voice RE20
You can never go wrong with the SM57 or SM58, perfect dynamic microphones for guitar and bass, drums, and vocals.
You should now be able to easily answer the question posed at the top of this page – how does a dynamic microphone work? Dynamic microphones are tough and robust, and can easily record very loud sounds with high sound pressure levels without any problems.
I definitely think you should get one for your own studio, as it’ll sit nicely alongside your condenser microphone. With a mic of each type you’ll be able to record a great range of sounds for your productions.