Despite the reputation surrounding the large diaphragm condenser, dynamic microphones do more than enough to hold their own in both the studio and live sound applications. Dynamic microphones are the go-anywhere and do-anything microphone type and can handle anything from smooth vocals to thundering drums. Let’s look at the best dynamic microphones currently out on the market and also look at what makes dynamic microphones special and what you should pay attention to when buying one.
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Best dynamic microphone
sE Electronics V7
The sE Electronics V7 has everything we’re looking for in a dynamic microphone. It features a specialized aluminum voice coil that delivers clean and crisp audio. It also comes with an internal windscreen that reduces wind noise and plosives, making it a great mic at events.
So, if you’re looking for the best of the best, the sE Electronics V7 has the best value at an even better price.
Best budget dynamic microphone
Sennheiser e 825-S
When it comes to pricing alone, the Sennheiser e 825-S comes in at just around $79. It is a good handheld microphone for tight-budget projects. Despite its price, it still captures great quality audio. Additionally, this mic utilizes a cardioid pattern.
If you’re really strapped for cash but want a quality mic, the Sennheiser e 825-S is your best bet.
Best dynamic microphone for voice-overs
At first glance, the Shure SM7B can look quite pricy. But there’s a reason for that price. It brings a lot of value via its adjustable bass roll-off and mid-range switches. This adjustability takes an already great-sound microphone and enables it to work with a great range of voices. Also, when you factor in its cardioid pickup pattern, you have a recipe for solid directional pickup.
The Shure SM7B is a great mic for voice recording and is our top pick for any kind of voice-over work.
What are dynamic microphones?
The dynamic microphone family operates using electromagnetic induction and consists of three components: magnet, induction coil and diaphragm. A simplified explanation is that the induction coil and diaphragm sit in a magnetic field. When sound waves strike the diaphragm, it moves the induction coil, and because it is suspended in a magnetic field, a current is created through induction. The current is then amplified, and voila — mic level signal.
For a more detailed explanation on dynamic microphone design, please refer to the beginning of our article on condenser microphones.
Durability and simplicity
It is not out of line to say that dynamic microphones are the most durable when compared to their condenser and ribbon microphone siblings. The overall simpler design means fewer components that can fail or break in the event of a fall. Factor in the requirement of no phantom power, and you have a microphone that can work anywhere at any time.
Quality and performance can be quite subjective to gauge outside of specifications. Dynamic microphones are certainly capable of producing quality recordings. The main area where they differ tends to be sensitivity in terms of slightly reduced brightness and, more importantly, pickup at a shorter distance when compared to condenser microphones. This does not mean that dynamic microphones are not frequently the right tool for the job or the right sound.
This is largely an across-the-board comparison and far from saying that dynamic microphones are dull or any less capable.
Dynamic microphones are well known for their durability and ease of use. Their simpler design makes them easier to handle and doesn’t require any extras like phantom power. This makes them a good platform to learn on and a staple in every inventory. The list of applications is many and varied.
There is a game we play called “Spot the SM58” die to its popularity in live sound applications. Its shape and design make it easy to identify for anyone and do not require a comprehensive knowledge of microphones. The SM58 shares a lot in common with the SM57 and mainly differs with its more vocal-friendly spherical grille. This microphone encompasses every quality that makes dynamic microphones great to work with in live sound settings. More below regarding their directionality and ability to work with a wide range of sources.
The first two applications benefit from the more directional cardioid microphones. The latter will benefit from an omnidirectional pattern that requires less strict tracking of the source. The Rode Reporter is made with interviews in mind, featuring an omnidirectional pattern and easy to grip handle.
Microphones with round bodies are generally usable as handheld microphones. The Shure SM58, for example, features a rounded body, cardioid directional design. What’s not to love?
Common applications include non-static vocalists, speakers, stand-up comedy acts and roaming interviews.
Be careful when using handheld microphones with built-in on/off switches and accidentally muting yourself. The Sennheiser e825 and e835 series handhelds include on/off slide switches.
Vocals, dialogue, podcasts
Three reasons dynamic microphones work well for voice applications include ease of use, directional pickup and great sound.
Let’s start with the ease of use and how well these microphones hold up to louder and more varied vocal inputs. Dynamic microphones are a great training ground for learning mic control in terms of how to address them, altering your distance relative to vocal power and learning how to hold them correctly.
Their availability at lower prices makes them a great first addition to your inventory and a great opportunity to learn microphone control.
This is another area where dynamic microphones are superb all-around performers. A single microphone model easily accommodates multiple sources ranging from vocals, guitars and drums. For example, take the Shure SM57 or Sennheiser MD 421; both can effortlessly fulfill the above roles.
Lower frequency sources, like bass guitar amplifiers and kick drums, benefit from more bass frequency-centric models, such as the Shure Beta 52 or the AKG D112 — both now in their MK2 variants.
One thing these sound sources share in common is for the potential to get loud. Dynamic microphones traditionally fare well in high amplitude environments.
Dynamic microphones offer a lower entry price point than their condenser counterparts and tend to be the first microphone anyone buys. There is good quality and value on hand at the lower end of the scale. Higher-priced options are always available.
Open world and live performance
Compared to condensers, dynamic microphones have a certain edge when used in live sound applications. Compared with the less sensitive electromagnetic induction design, the cardioid pattern’s directionality makes for a microphone good at side on rejection, resulting in less bleed and a better ability to resist feedback.
There are several patterns on offer here. However, the vast majority of dynamic microphones are cardioids.
The cardioid family
The bulk of dynamic microphones falls under the cardioid family and subsets of super and hypercardioid patterns. Their directional characteristics make them highly sought after.
There is a smaller selection of omnidirectional models for more specific applications like interviews and broadcasts featuring extended handles. More specialized still is the harmonica microphone.
Dynamic microphones in this category are a rarity and primarily come as sub-mic models designed to be mounted inside kick drums.
The Royer R-121 Live Version does get a mention by virtue of exclusion from this list, while Ribbon microphones are part of the dynamic family and produce quality recordings. Its $1,200 price and the fragility of ribbon microphones do not make it a practical choice for most users.
There are a few universal handling rules, such as:
- Grip the microphone firmly further down the body
- Do not hold the microphone or cup your hands around the grill, as that will block sound from entering and cause muffling
- Avoid hitting or tapping the microphone or stand
- Don’t drop the microphone or set it down hard
Pop filters and windscreens
These are both necessary and good investments. Pop filters earn their keep by significantly reducing the impact of plosives on recordings. Plosives include the letters T, K, P, D, G, B and represent a set of consonants formed by stopping and sudden release of airflow using different parts of the mouth.
If you are short of a pop filter, tape a pencil to the front of the microphone, which will help deflect the force of the sound waves enough to take the worst out of a plosive.
The Sennheiser MZP 40 is priced high on the high side, but it’s worth noting the following: clamp quality, pop filter size and durability of the adjustable gooseneck. Pop filters are of no use if they can’t be attached or retain their adjustment.
Windscreens do their part in countering the effects of gusts and wind noise in outdoor settings. Additionally, they serve as an external membrane that can be taken off and washed. Considering the increased importance of hygiene over the last two years, the ability to keep microphones clean is even more important.
To clean a windscreen, wash them with soap and warm water and let it dry for a day. This is a gentler, longer-term option than repeatedly wiping down microphones with more abrasive disinfectants.
Both are worthwhile investments that will save you from re-recording takes because of unwanted plosives or wind noise.
Contributors to this article include Blag Ivanov and The Videomaker Editors.