Condenser microphones undoubtedly produce better audio sound quality and are definitely a go-to mic when considering recording in the studio. However, they are expensive and
Condenser mics can break more easily when compared to dynamic mics, and in some regards, they can break easily due to their internal preamp, which is made up of delicate circuitry. This circuitry is susceptible to corrosion, wear and tear, rust, water, and high voltage.
We will consider condenser microphones and their internal workings to determine if they can break easily. We’ll also look at comparing them to dynamic microphones and why they seem to be more fragile than dynamic mics. Then we’ll discuss how condenser mics can get damaged and give you solutions to these problems.
Do condenser mics break easily?
In order to determine whether condenser mics break easily, we will need to look at them from a design and manufacturing aspect. When we understand how a condenser mic is made and what components are used, we will be able to assess whether or not they can easily break.
Thus, let us start with a quick overview of a condenser mic.
Condenser mic overview
Condenser microphones are mics that have a preamp built into them. This means that they will draw power in order for the microphone to work. These are different from dynamic microphones that do not have a preamp built into them and require absolutely nothing for them to function correctly.
Condenser vs. dynamic microphones
There are two types of microphones that you can get: condenser microphones and dynamic. If we consider the differences between the two, we will be able to determine which is more robust and if condenser microphones do indeed break more easily or more frequently.
Dynamic microphones are built around a diaphragm, voice coil, and a magnet (this is basically a speaker in reverse). Think of it like this, a speaker outputs audio while a dynamic microphone is able to analyze audio input (sound).
When sound waves hit the diaphragm, the voice coil will vibrate, and the movement of the coil within the magnetic field converts those audio signals (sound) into electrical signals. These signals can then be interpreted by whatever piece of audio equipment you have in your chain (such as your audio interface).
A condenser microphone also has three main components that make up its inner core. It has a diaphragm, a diaphragm case, and a backplate. This capsule (case) has to be charged, and when it is, it generates an electric field. As sound waves hit the diaphragm. The sound waves will cause the diaphragm to move either forwards or backward, depending on the frequency of the signals.
When the diaphragm moves further away or closer to the backplate, the microphone converts the sound (audio signal) into electric signals that can once again be read and understood by your audio devices (amplifier, audio interface).
Please take note that there are two types of condenser microphones that we will need to understand, namely standard condenser mics and electret condenser microphones.
Standard vs. electret condenser microphones
Standard condenser mics will require phantom power in order for the diaphragm capsule to charge, while electret condenser mics have a permanently charged capsule. Take note that all condenser microphones (both standard and electret) will need phantom power in order for the mics to function correctly.
What does this have to do with how easily condenser microphones break? Well, we stated at the beginning of this article that condenser microphones require a preamp to work.
This is crucial in understanding whether or not condenser microphones can easily break because these tiny preamps made up of small electrical components can easily get damaged if the microphone is not properly taken care of.
In what ways can a condenser mic get damaged?
We now know that condenser microphones (unlike dynamic microphones, which are more rugged) are built with preamps that are made up of small circuitry components and require power.
Sending to much voltage to a condenser mic can break it
Typically most of your audio equipment that requires phantom power will use 48v. This is the standard in the music and audio equipment industry. However, you do get pieces of audio equipment that utilize varying and different voltages (even condenser microphones).
One of the easiest ways to damage a condenser microphone is to send the incorrect amount of voltage to it. You will need to check the owner’s manual of your condenser mic to see what the voltage requirement is, and do not in any situation think that anything other than the exact voltage will be fine. As with any delicate circuitry, a spike in the current (voltage) will cause it to burn out (blow) and will, in essence, turn it into a large paperweight.
Dropping your condenser mic can break it
The internal preamp of a condenser microphone is tiny. So small in fact that a powerful knock or dropping it can cause any part of the components of that preamp to get damaged or break.
It will help if you remember that the components that make up the internal preamp are typically 1mm in size or smaller, depending on what component you are looking at.
Unlike dynamic microphones that do not have internal preamps, you can literally drive over them with a car, and if they are not crushed, they will probably still work.
Not storing it correctly can break it
Many individuals think that it doesn’t really matter how you store a condenser microphone. However, the elements (cold, heat, water) can all play a role in damaging and essentially breaking your condenser microphone. Corrosion, rust, and water are sure to damage any delicate circuitry, and once again, the preamps in a condenser microphone are susceptible to these factors.
Condenser microphones typically come with their own carry bags lined with soft material and can be closed securely. This will help keep it safe and protect it from the elements.
Another thing to consider is those small packets that absorb moisture (desiccant bags). If you live in an area that has high humidity and there is nothing you can do about it (like getting aircon) then getting a couple of these packets and putting them into your condenser mic bag will go a long way.
Check out these Desiccant Bags on Amazon below.
What is the most robust condenser mic?
Well, you may think if condenser microphones are delicate, then which is the most robust one out there that can handle a lot of punishment and one that you do not have to worry about every two minutes.
Shure is renowned for its microphones, and the SM27 is no different. It sports one of the most robust designs there is producing a uniformed cardio pattern for superior off-axis rejection.
It has a flat and neutral response (as all good condenser mics should have) and a 3-position switchable low-frequency filter that will help reduce unwanted background noise. This switch also helps to reduce and counteract the proximity effect.
Check out the Shure SM27-Sc on Amazon below.
We discovered that condenser microphones have an internal preamp that is made up of delicate components. This internal circuitry requires phantom power to function,
This circuitry can get damaged due to various factors, including bumping, knocking, dropping, corrosion, rust, and a high spike in voltage.
It is best always to store your condenser microphone properly and make sure that you are sending the correct amount of phantom power to it.
If you are worried about your audio interface being broken, read this article to find out for sure.