Condenser microphones provide the best audio recording quality when compared to any other type of microphone. Their sensitivity and higher frequency response enable us to get a professional quality sound recording. The popularity of condenser mics is huge due to their potential audio recording quality.
You also might have heard about electret microphones apart from condenser mics in the market. In this blog post, we shall discuss the difference between electret mics and condenser mics including their pros and cons.
Electret Microphone vs Condenser Microphone
Electret microphones are a type of condenser microphone that operates almost using the same working principle. But the major difference between condenser and electret types is that the condenser mics require external power (phantom power) to operate while the electret mics don’t require that.
We shall look at a table briefing about the differences between these two mics so you can have a clear understanding of them.
|Electret Microphone||Condenser Microphone|
|Year of Invention||1962||1916|
|Who Invented it?||James West and Gerard Sessler||E.C. Wente|
|Working Principle||Electret use a dielectric material fixed to the backplate and can provide continuous charge to boost the signals from the backplate. This electret material is pre-charged and fixed to the backplate when manufacturing. So, it avoids the need for providing external power source.||True condenser or condenser mics require external power source known as the Phantom power to boost the signals from the backplate.|
|Types||Foil ElectretBack ElectretFront Electret||Small DiaphragmLarge Diaphragm|
|Specifications||Voltage: 2V to 10V
Frequency: 20Hz to 16000Hz
|Voltage: 12V to 48V
Frequency: 20Hz to 20,000Hz
|Popular use cases||Portable micsSmartphone micsRadio mics||Studio recordingVocal recording|
Difference in operation
Both the electret mic and condenser mic have a very similar circuit. They differ in the material used for the backplate.
If you look at a condenser mic, it will have a diaphragm and a backplate that will act like a capacitor. When the sound waves hit the diaphragm, the distance between the plates differs and creates an electrical signal.
This electrical signal can be very low and requires amplification. This amplification is provided by the phantom power which is another external power circuit. This phantom power is present in the preamp or mixer used with the mic.
On the other hand, if you look at an electret mic, it will have the same setup but instead of a normal backplate, it will have a dielectric material coated onto it.
This dielectric can provide continuous power which amplifies the low signal from the backplate. This material is charged during manufacture and fixed to the circuit.
That is why you can find a huge setup for a normal condenser mic while in an electret mic, the setup will be compact and portable. They can be found even in smartphone and laptop mics.
Now let us discuss the pros and cons of these microphones so that you can choose whichever suits your requirement.
Electret Microphone: Pros and Cons
|Electret mics don’t need phantom power to operate||May not have professional audio recording quality|
|They are compact and can be made more compact to use its devices like laptops and smartphones devices||Needs a quiet environment to get good recordings
Since the size of the mic is small, the diaphragm will be small and it cannot capture a large amount of sound waves
|They have good sensitivity and frequency response||May not be powerful as a true condenser|
|Can be powered by batteries||Not used for studio recordings widely|
|You can have wireless microphones using the electret mic|
|Can last longer than a true condenser mic|
|Doesn’t require any additional power source or circuit components|
|Good quality recording can be obtained|
Condenser Microphone: Pros and Cons
|It has higher sensitivity, dynamic range, and frequency response which is best for recording high-quality audio||Requires a sophisticated setup to get high-quality recordings|
|The phantom power from external sources can amplify the signal better and produce professional recordings.||You need phantom power as an external source to operate the mic. So, you need to buy a preamp or mixer|
|Highly suitable for vocal and studio recordings||You need additional accessories like a mic stand, noise filter, etc. so that you can have clear recordings|
|Has a large form factor that contains a bigger diaphragm and captures a large amount of sound from the source.||Can be costlier than other mics|
|Widely used by professional musicians, singers, voice artists, etc.|
|You can have a large diaphragm and small diaphragm models as per your requirement|
Also read: How to use Mic Condenser without Sound Card?
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Why is the electret microphone important?
Since they don’t require any kind of external power, it is widely used in many consumer electronic products like smartphones, etc. Their compact size and longevity make them more efficient and cost-effective when compared to true condenser mics.
2. How long do electret microphones last?
The electret material in the mic can last more than 100 years. But the overall lifespan of the mic can last anywhere from 30 to 40 years. Because the diaphragm and other components tend to wear out faster than the electret and you cannot use the mic if they are repaired.
3. What is the sensitivity of an electret microphone?
An electret microphone can have a sensitivity between -46dbV and -35dbV. This is a good range that can pick up highly sensitive voices to produce clear recordings. Also, the noise floor is lower than this range. Therefore, you can get high-quality recordings without any distortion.
4. How long do condenser microphones last?
Condenser mics can last similarly to electret mics since they are almost similar in construction. They will also last around 40 years and the diaphragm will start to wear out even with proper maintenance.
5. Can loud sounds damage the condenser mic?
Yes, a condenser mic can get damaged by loud sounds. Since the diaphragm is a sensitive part, it can easily damage with high sound pressure levels. Therefore, a condenser mic is more suitable for quiet studio environments.
As a content creator or sound artist, you need to understand the difference between a condenser mic and an electret condenser mic. Because both are widely used for different applications. With this understanding, you will be able to get the right type of device for your requirement and use it effectively.