If you’re like me and live and work in a normal house or office and don’t have access to a sound-proof recording studio, then more likely than not, your “recording space” will have a lot of ambient sounds. I live in a 4th floor apartment in San Francisco in a very quiet neighborhood. I record within a very large walk-in closet in the center of my apartment, away from any windows, but I still have to deal with ambient noise in the form of the footsteps of my neighbors and the city buses that pass by my building.
I initially purchased the Rode NT-USB condenser mic because it is a plug-in-play mic that provides a great sound. But after working with it for a few weeks, I realized that it was too sensitive to the background noise in my apartment. Although I could reduce most of the noise during post-production, I wanted to find a mic that was better suited for my recording environment.
Here are the pros and cons of a condenser mic.
Pros of Condenser Mics
- High sensitivity leading to high fidelity sound recording.
- High sensitivity means good response at high frequencies.
- Ideal for use in recording vocals, either singing or spoken.
Cons of Condenser Mics
- Typically higher cost due to electronic parts.
- The electronics and capacitor are somewhat fragile, meaning they can be easily damaged.
- High sensitivity leads to poor performance, or even distortion, in environments that aren’t quiet and echo-proof.
Ultimately I made the switch to the Shure SM58 dynamic mic last week. It utilizes a XLR connection so I needed to get a USB audio interface to be able to connect it to my laptop, but so far I have been much happier with the sound. It is less sensitive to the ambient noise in my recording environment and my vocals sounds great.
Here are the pros and cons of a dynamic mic.
Pros of Dynamic Mics
- Durable and rugged.
- Ideal for recording louder sounds and instrumentation, such as drums or amplified guitar.
- Low sensitivity means they are unable to pick up distant sounds, making them better suited for live environments and minimizing feedback.
Cons of Dynamic Mics
- Flatter recording range leading to flatter audio.
- Low sensitivity, especially at high frequencies.
- Low sensitivity leads to poor performance in capturing detail in sounds.
The following are recordings I made of both the Rode NT-USB and the Shure SM58. I recorded some silence before and after my vocals to highlight the ambient noise that each mic picks up. I did not make any adjustments to these recordings in post-production so the recordings should be a good apples-to-apples comparison.
FYI: Turn up your volume to hear all the details in the recordings.
As you can tell from the recordings, the Rode NT-USB definitely picks up more ambient noise than the Shure SM58. This was the main reason I decided to switch from a condenser mic to a dynamic mic. In the long run, a dynamic mic will give me more flexibility in choosing my recording environments and save me more headaches when I am in the post-production process.
What type of mic do you use and why?