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Thread: Dynamic, condenser or even ribbon: can you tell ?

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    Dynamic, condenser or even ribbon: can you tell ?

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    When listening to music, be it home recordings or otherwise, can you tell whether a dynamic, condenser or ribbon mic was used on any particular sound source ?
    What are the essential differences between the different kinds of mic ? Is there anything intrinsic to each one that makes them better suited to some sound sources ?

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    I can.
    I can even tell what year the mic capsule was made and what the countrys origin that made the mic by only hearing 10 micro seconds of sound.
    In a dense mix it might take me some more drugs to tell.

    seriously: no I cant tell

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    Not going to pretend you can always hear the difference and that's that but there are examples where I think it's pretty clear.

    The common perception is that condenser = bright, dynamic = dull, ribbon = dull + super smooth/full.
    Of course that doesn't always fit but it's a decent generalisation.


    The main differences are condensers have the highest output of the lot and are the most sensitive.
    It can take very little to overload a condenser - Super lightweight diaphragm susceptible to wind, handling noise, etc.
    Obviously they require power.
    Favoured for detail and clarity but not usually where reliability and durability are concerns. (presidential 57s, live stage mics, etc)

    Dynamics are basically a speaker wired backwards. Heavy diaphragm, moving coil in a magnetic field...It takes a lot to move them.
    That makes them able to handle much louder sources but, then, harder to agitate with higher frequencies. Quite often you'll find them specced up to 16k or thereabouts.
    Favoured in applications where reliability and durability are important and also in bad/noisy environments where they can be placed very close to the source,
    effectively increasing signal to (background) noise ratio.
    The same is true in the studio where bleed is concerned. Dynamics can generally be placed closer to a loud source than condensers without issue.


    Ribbons are technically dynamic microphones but with a different mechanical set up - Moving part is a fine metal ribbon in a magnetic field.
    Often associated with a very full smooth sound but quite delicate and easy to damage, compared with the others.
    I'd guess they're usually chosen for their sound rather than any practical reason. Think all the old crooners.


    A good example of choosing a dynamic for vocals where there would have been limitless other options is Anthony Keidis (chilis).
    They used an SM7B because he has that half-lisp thing going on and the dynamic softened that a little bit.

    I guess they could have used some eq or de-esser but they chose to address it at the mic.
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    How you are listening makes a huge difference, too. Headphones, speakers/monitors in an acoustically treated room, earbuds...
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    Based on just straight mic-pre recording to a track with nothing else done...yes, you can hear the differences on some sources...but, I don't really see the relevance of that.

    IOW...it's not about being able to hear what mic was used...it's about what and how a particular mic does for a given source.
    As an example...you can try to capture a particular guitar cab sound with a LDC mic...and you might be able to mess with the sound using EQ and what not to eventually shape the sound into what you want...or, you can just stick ribbon mic or a 57 dynamic (or both), depending on what you want...and the sound is just there, without further work.

    Who cares if you can tell which mic was used...the important thing is which mic TO use to get the sound you want easy, and often quickly.

    It would be like asking can you tell if I hammered in a nail with a hammer or a rock...which isn't really important so much after the fact...but during the work, a hammer would certainly do a better, faster job in most cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post

    It would be like asking can you tell if I hammered in a nail with a hammer or a rock...which isn't really important so much after the fact...but during the work, a hammer would certainly do a better, faster job in most cases.
    That and the fact that no one in their right mind would recommend a rock to hammer in a nail.
    Hammers are generally cheaper.

    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    I don't really see the relevance of that.
    The relevance is that I'm curious as to whether or not various people can tell the difference. No mystery.

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    On my recordings, I can tell when I have used a dynamic vs a condenser. Don't have a ribbon so I can't say.

    For other people's recordings, probably not. There's so much processing that can be done, plus not being familiar with the original source sound would make it difficult to make a judgement from a singular track.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grimtraveller View Post
    When listening to music, be it home recordings or otherwise, can you tell whether a dynamic, condenser or ribbon mic was used on any particular sound source ?
    What are the essential differences between the different kinds of mic ? Is there anything intrinsic to each one that makes them better suited to some sound sources ?
    When i am recording then, yes. I use different mics, amps and guitars and they all sound unique. I have three Oktave 219s and all three sound different on the same amp in the same place. I know because i tested them and have the sound files along with each one labeled so that i know which is which.

    I personally love the sound of a ribbon on a small practice amp running near dimed. I like condensers for room or special addition mics(putting one in the hall or pointing at a wall opposite the amp can make a guitar huge.

    I have found that after recording many guitar tracks that nowadays i feel like on some commercial tracks i can "hear" the difference between them "some times" . Usually not, but sometimes it just seems obvious.
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    This I suspect is the question people hope never gets asked. Each mic sounds slightly different, but as everybody has EQ at their command, it's extremely rare to find any microphone that is unusable. The most appropriate mic for each sound source might not need EQ, but with it, it's very rare for any to fail on 'quality'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    This I suspect is the question people hope never gets asked
    That's an interesting statement Rob. Can you elaborate ?

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