Ribbon Microphone Vs Condenser – Know Everything About Microphones

When you work in the recording studio, you have to deal with dozens of microphones every single day. The mics come in all shapes and sizes. There are various types, and each one is used for a specific situation. It is essential to understand the purpose of your performance before choosing the best suitable mic. It’s a balance of science and art. The most common and frequently used descriptions are “dark” and “bright” microphones. Confused? Well, don’t be! Let’s understand these terms in detail.

You may not have heard about these terms known as Ribbon Microphone and Condenser, but once you complete reading this article, you will soon realize that you already know these products. “Dark” is often used for ribbon mics. “Bright” for the condenser mics. Dig in.

Ribbon Microphone Vs Condenser

Before we start looking for the differences of ribbon vs condenser mic, it’s essential to know about them individually. A ribbon microphone that looks exactly like the other mics is an electromechanical device. It is famous for its conversion ability of sound into the frequency. You can also say that it converts sound into an electrical signal. It has a unique design and a specific purpose.

Now talking about the condenser microphone, just like the ribbon mic, it also converts the sound into electricity, but in a different manner. If you go deep in the name of this type – the condenser – you can take it as a ‘capacitor’ in this case. It’s just like a circuit element that can be used to store the electrical charge. So, these variations are the primary difference between ribbon microphone and condenser.

How does a ribbon microphone work

How does a ribbon microphone workA ribbon microphone includes a thin sheet of metal that is known as the ribbon. It is made of aluminum and arranged between two stable magnets. The ribbon is very sensitive and has a very low mass. When the sound waves come into contact with the ribbon, they create a voltage. It will then be transferred through wires and connect to the top and bottom of the ribbon. After completing all these processes, the signal will be sent to a transformer that eventually increases the voltage.

How does a condenser microphone work

How does a condenser microphone workA condenser microphone has two main components. These elements come together like the capsule and contact with each other to generate the signal. You may know them as the diaphragm and the backplate. The diaphragm is a very thin sheet of gold-sputtered Mylar. You can find it closest to the backplate. The backplate is a piece of metal that is electrically charged. The diaphragm vibrates when the sound waves start passing over it. So, it changes the capacitance between the diaphragm and the backplate and transfers current through the wires that are well-connected with them.

Uses of ribbon vs condenser microphones

A ribbon mic is excellent for podcasts with two people, recording brass, woodwinds, and electric guitar, while a condenser is specially designed for recording a wide range of sounds. The cardioid condensers are very popular for vocals.

Ribbon Mic vs Condenser 

  • The ribbon microphones can be active as well as passive, but the condenser mics are always active.
  • The transient response of a ribbon mic is accurate, while the transient response of a condenser is mostly fast.
  • The ribbon mic doesn’t use variations in capacitance to generate an electrical signal, while a condenser uses them.
  • The sensitivity of a ribbon mic is very low. It can be higher if active. On the other hand, the condenser is much more sensitive than the ribbon. You can also get self-noise when it comes to the capacitor.
  • When the price is concerned, a ribbon mic is moderate, and a condenser mic can either be cheap or very expensive. It depends on the different models.
  • You have to take extra care while using a ribbon mic, as they are quite fragile. The condenser mics are durable if compared to the ribbon microphones. 
  • The frequency response of a ribbon microphone is dark or warm, while a condenser’s reaction may vary. You may get warm, bright, or even neutral frequencies.
  • The ribbon mics don’t require phantom power, while the condenser mics will require the same.
  • The polar patterns of the ribbon mic can be Omni, cardioid, super-cardioid, or hyper-cardioid. The majority of the time, it is figure-8. The polar patterns of the condenser are usually cardioid. They can be Omni, figure-8, super-cardioid, or hyper-cardioid.

These are the fundamental differences between the two popular microphones – ribbon vs condenser. As you may have already figured out that the main difference between ribbon and condenser mics is that ribbon mic converts sound with electromagnetic induction, and condensers do it through electrostatic principles. So, it entirely depends upon your purpose of using these mics. I hope you guys are now clear about these two beauties. Stay tuned to know more about such things and stay up-to-date! 🙂 

Ruth Hull

I am Ruth Hull. I am a sound engineer. I have to work with all types of microphones. So, I have decided to dig deeper and explain various accessories related to mics. This website can become your informative source of Mic Stands & Boom Arms, Microphone Clips, Shock Mounts, Thread Adapters & Fittings, and lots more. I try to create this site as a mic encyclopedia. So, stay tuned and enjoy!

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