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What can you tell me about condenser microphones?

Rja4000

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I've not had hands on an actual KM84
The Neumann KM84 is one of my favorite microphones.
Its main drawback is that it's discontinued for a while, and second hand prices are getting crazy.
Its replacement, the KM184 has this "à la mode" high frequency boost, that increases "air", but is usually just too much of a sound coloration.

I own a pair of KM184, and they are excellent, for sure. But I whish I coukd own this pair of KM84 I was able to rent several times.

If those Warm Audio WA84 are that good... I may give them a try.
 

Rja4000

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Trell

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Well, a smaller diaphragm usually means flatter overall response and stronger proximity effect.

Larger diaphragm are usually more sensitive, and therefore have better signal/ noise ratio.

https://www.neumann.com/homestudio/en/difference-between-large-and-small-diaphragm-microphones

I've the Earthworks M23R measurement microphone (an omnidirectional SCD) that has a frequency response of 3Hz - 23kHz ±0.5dB, and that is before loading any calibration file that Earthworks gives to the owners.

Edit: Typo.
 
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Rja4000

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Microphones are tools for specialized work.
Saying "condenser" is just talking about technology, not about specific reproduction target.

Characteristics of interest are

Technology, indeed: dynamic, ribbon, condenser, electret... each have specificities.

Sensitivity (usually in mV/Pa or dBV/Pa)
This can be widely variable, and the less the sensitivity, the better(/stronger) the preamp you'll need.

Max SPL. Not all microphones can close mic a snare drum or a grand piano !

Frequency response, of course.
Do you need a ruler-flat sub-micro omnidirectional microphone ? Or a lavalier-ready response ? Or a bass drum optimized one ? Or a vocal mic ? Male or female ?

Directivity
Beyond typical classification (omni, figure of 8, cardiod, hypercardioid,...), the directivity pattern according to frequency will tell you a lot about the possible uses and drawbacks. Especially for live PA, but also for multi-mic recording of complex instruments, like a full drums set,...

Powering method, for condenser mic is also good to know: batteries ? Phantom ?

For hand-held microphone, protection against handling noise is key.

For close vocals, anti pop and proper windshield are required.

How robust do you need ?
You won't put a $3000 high end large diaphragm condenser on a stage. You would need a specific (expensive and also fragile) suspension anyway.
If you want to use it where you may encounter rain, you don't want a condenser or an electret, to begin with. Oh, and don't give a fragile ribbon microphone to a drunk rock singer. He (or she) might just blow the (expensive) ribbon in pieces by shouting into it (it happened to me once)
...

Not 2 microphones are equal.

Microphone selection is not an easy task.
Talk to pros about what they use for what and start from there.
 
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Trell

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I kept hold of a USB Condenser microphone expecting to find a use for it one day.
The model is: Beyerdynamic Fox Professional USB microphone.
Believing "condenser" meant it was more sensitive I thought it was a flexible type and could find a use for it.

I decided to test it recently by plugging it into the iPad and hit record.

To my disappointment even with the gain switch on the microphone in the "High-gain" position, the levels were extremely low.
So low that even shouting into the microphone directly I could not cause it to clip. . .
I maxed out all the "dials" and still, just an extremely low level recording.
Playing back the recording I had to turn the volume up considerably on the iPad only to hear a "normal conversation level" recording resulted in a whisper quite recording with a high noise-floor.

The microphone is so damn simple I cannot believe I have done anything wrong.
Is this performance just due to being a "USB" condenser microphone?

I mean the gain level switch must be there for function, they just did not give it enough gain to start with?

Any thoughts?

Most likely you'll need the "Apple Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter" dongle that also accepts external power.
 

Rja4000

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You won't put a $3000 high end large diaphragm condenser on a stage
(Unless your group is named RHCP)

Speaking of which...: did you know that a specific microphone was created to allow the RHCP singer to "hand cup" its (hyper cardio) microphone without an immediate feedback sanction (larsen) ?
That's the Audix OM7.
One of the finest dynamic stage microphones for voices, IMO.
 
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mononoaware

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you probably need a powered USB hub. normaly a condenser needs 48v

Ok thanks. It makes sense USB power is probably limiting the built in pre-amp power.

The iPad has a big battery, so I have not had any "power" issues with other USB products.
Maybe to get the best levels I need to plug it into a USB 3.0 port on a computer with higher power output.
 

Trell

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Ok thanks. It makes sense USB power is probably limiting the built in pre-amp power.

The iPad has a big battery, so I have not had any "power" issues with other USB products.
Maybe to get the best levels I need to plug it into a USB 3.0 port on a computer with higher power output.

The iPad is limiting output power, thus my suggestion that this might be your issue with the USB powered mic.
 

mononoaware

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Most likely you'll need the "Apple Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter" dongle that also accepts external power.

Ok.
I am using the normal Apple Lightning to USB adapter, which is the exact one showed in Beyerdynamic Official's "using with a smart-phone/tablet" video so I thought it provided sufficient power.
 

Trell

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Ok.
I am using the normal Apple Lightning to USB adapter, which is the exact one showed in Beyerdynamic Official's "using with a smart-phone/tablet" video so I thought it provided sufficient power.

That is a reasonable assumption :)
 

mononoaware

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That is a reasonable assumption :)

Found the video:

Just to clarify, the microphone functions with Apple devices as described without any issues.
It is just that the recording levels are much lower than expected, which was confusing for me after often hearing "condenser's" were more sensitive with their larger diaphragm's.

It was probably even more of a shock since I had the microphone sitting in a box for many months, with the internal belief that it was a "good" condenser microphone. So the actual shock of reality regarding its performance hit hard I guess.
I'm sure microphone experts reading this are shaking their heads regarding the use of "USB" microphones.
 

Trell

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Found the video:

Just to clarify, the microphone functions with Apple devices as described without any issues.
It is just that the recording levels are much lower than expected, which was confusing for me after often hearing "condenser's" were more sensitive with their larger diaphragm's.

It was probably even more of a shock since I had the microphone sitting in a box for many months, with the internal belief that it was a "good" condenser microphone. So the actual shock of reality regarding its performance hit hard I guess.
I'm sure microphone experts reading this are shaking their heads regarding the use of "USB" microphones.

I don't use iOS for this so take my comments with a grain of salt or two.

To test if the mic is faulty, for some reason, try recording on a Mac or PC using Audacity as it can analyse the input very well and you have a different test environment. From the video of the "Garage Band" app there is an output level slide on the right side and I wonder if that can be an issue? If you play recordings on another device does it still sound low?

On Windows I've seen that some applications set the recording level on their own automatically, and Microsoft programs are bad at this.
 

Cbdb2

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The rejection happens generally by some designed in phase discrepancy between front and back so the signal entering the back of the mic is out of phase - the exception is ribbon mics where they just all work as figure 8 (or hypercardioid) by virtue of how the pickup actually works mechanically.



They are not hypercardioid, they are cardioid.

They start to become hypercard above 1khz, where feedback usually happens. All cardioid mics change patterns with freq. (the U87 even changes patterns with freq. in omni). Thats one of the nuances that separates mics of the same class, and one reason different 2" diaphragm condenser mics (even from Neuman) sound different. You really need to look at the polar plots with freq. as cardiod is a pretty generic term.
 

Blumlein 88

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The Neumann KM84 is one of my favorite microphones.
Its main drawback is that it's discontinued for a while, and second hand prices are getting crazy.
Its replacement, the KM184 has this "à la mode" high frequency boost, that increases "air", but is usually just too much of a sound coloration.

I own a pair of KM184, and they are excellent, for sure. But I whish I coukd own this pair of KM84 I was able to rent several times.

If those Warm Audio WA84 are that good... I may give them a try.
My opinion is they are quite neutral, but just the slightest bit warmer than neutral. I also have the omni capsule for mine to go along with the cardioid capsule.

Those who have had both to compare say the 184 is a touch bright. The KM84s are pretty much neutral, and the WA84s are a slightly warmer, weightier sound. Most also say the two 84 variants are closer to each other than the KM184 is to the KM84. All sighted and anecdotal of course.

Here is one FR plot of the WA-84 I found. I need to make one of my own.
1626461812447.png

And this fuzzy plot from the manual of the KM84.
1626462021680.png
 

mononoaware

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From the video of the "Garage Band" app there is an output level slide on the right side and I wonder if that can be an issue? If you play recordings on another device does it still sound low?

I must admit I used the "Voice Memos" App recording in Lossless since I was just testing the Mic.
The "Garage Band" App was quite a large download so I just thought recording with "Voice Memos" in Lossless would have the same basic function, and that boosting levels in "Garage Band" would be the same as recording with "Voice Memos" in Lossless and boosting the Levels in post-production (similar to turning up the iPad volume).

Maybe I should test with Garage Band App as displayed in the video.
I am quite aware of iOS and their finicky system when using third-party USB devices.
e.g. when using Voice Memos App, iOS may be identifying the "Third-party" Fox Microphone the same as a "Default Apple" Earpods Microphone and therefore may be applying corresponding filters and processing (that is usually applied to the Earpods microphone) to the captured input.

And possibly only when using Garage Band App does iOS correctly recognise the Fox Microphone is a "Third-Party" Condenser microphone, and pass through the original signal to be captured.

On Windows I've seen that some applications set the recording level on their own automatically, and Microsoft programs are bad at this.

Hmm yes maybe this is what iOS is doing, particularly with the Voice Memos App.
 
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mononoaware

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LTig

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But YouTubers flocks to dynamic mics like fleas to poop so that all we see is the mic that they are eating along with some enormous pop filter. If they only positioned the mic to the side pointing to their mouth they can avoid the pop filter (with some practice) and I can actually see what they look like. /rant

Edit: Spelling
Or use a better suited mic. With the begin of the pandemic I went into home office, and after 2 days of many video meetings I began to hate the wireless headset supplied by my employer. I switched to my private equipment: a hypercardioid Beyer Dynamic MCE 86 S2 connected to a Mackie 1402 VLZ PRO mixer (which supplies phantom power) connected to an RME ADI-2PRO fs which also feeds 2 Genelec 8020a for listening. The mic is located below the left screen at about 50 cm distance which means I can move my head freely without major impact on loudness of the recorded voice. The room is very small but heavily furnitured so no problem with reflections.

I know this looks like total overkill just for video meetings, OTOH people told me that my voice had the quality of a professional news speaker ...
 

Rja4000

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I began to hate the wireless headset supplied by my employer. I switched to my private equipment: a hypercardioid Beyer Dynamic MCE 86 S2 connected to a Mackie 1402 VLZ PRO mixer (which supplies phantom power) connected to an RME ADI-2PRO fs which also feeds 2 Genelec 8020a for listening.
Funny. I did the same :)
DPA 4066, the same Mackie 1402 VLZ pro, connected to RME ADI2-Pro fs BE.
I listen through Focal Elegia, though ;-)
 

AnalogSteph

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I know this looks like total overkill just for video meetings, OTOH people told me that my voice had the quality of a professional news speaker ...
Hardly a surprise if you're using a short shotgun. One of those is still missing in my arsenal. Rather spendy little buggers if you want one that sounds reasonably good.

Sadly, it looks like Beyerdynamic have discontinued their shotgun mics altogether.

A few more random comments...
If you want to use it where you may encounter rain, you don't want a condenser or an electret, to begin with.
That apparently depends. As far as I read, RF condensers are the kings of damp, since they don't involve any large DC voltages, so you can't get any arcing that would result in crackling. Gold-sputtered diaphragms also resist corrosion well. (You'd be keeping a windscreen on there anyway, so the mic would never get soaking wet.)
All cardioid mics change patterns with freq. (the U87 even changes patterns with freq. in omni).
As do other variable pattern LDCs of comparable capsule size. The larger the diaphragm, the earlier the pattern becomes directional in the highs. It's the same geometric issues that affect tweeter dispersion - the relation of aperture size to wavelength. This is why the ideal mic element has a size of zero. Unfortunately that is diametrally opposed to signal/noise ratio (sensitivity) considerations, so in practice a compromise has to be found. Legit omnis tend to be using far smaller capsules, typically anywhere from 6.3 to 16 mm (1/4" to 5/8") and possibly mounted behind a smaller hole (though then cavity resonance has to be a consideration).
 
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