Best Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones of 2017
If you are a high level musician, vocalist, or producer, it is likely that you understand the importance of the many different microphones available today. Condenser, dynamic, and ribbon microphones all serve a unique purpose in the music industry. However, no category of microphone offers quite the same degree of accuracy as condenser microphones. Small diaphragm condenser microphones are used for a fairly specific range of uses--the individual qualities and capabilities of this device make it better for use with some instruments than others. By learning the intricacies of these microphones, you will be able to apply it to your best advantage in the studio, creating a deeper, more nuanced result. This article will detail the specificities of this microphone variety, including its different variations, general tips for use, and the best small diaphragm condenser mics currently on the market. Read on to make this top-grade device a useful part of your day-to-day life.
Best Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones of 2017
20 Hz - 20,000 Hz
While there are many different small diaphragm microphones currently for sale, a selection of products stand apart from the rest for their popularity among consumers, high ratings, and advanced features. Below are the five best small diaphragm condensers currently on the market:
1. AKG Perception 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone (Best Diaphragm Condenser Mic of 2017)
This professional-grade microphone comes from AKG, one of the leading brands in the music industry. Used by stars such as Kanye West, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith, AKG’s high-caliber products are some of the best in the business. The Perception 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone from AKG is no exception; with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this product is popular and highly recommended.
With the Perception 170, AKG has set out to offer an expert-level microphone for a low price. Selling for around $80, this device is one of the most affordable options available. However, its great price does not mean its quality or technical advancement are compromised--this mic is as appropriate for professional studio sessions as other options that can cost twice as much.
The Perception 170 is built for intensive daily use. The microphone’s body is constructed entirely from metal, but still manages to weigh in at a light 10.6 ounces. The diaphragm has a diameter of ½ inch, allowing for excellent precision of sound. This end-address microphone also puts out a great transient response, so you can trust it will react to any sudden spikes of sound. A frequency response of 20 to 2000 Hz ensure that the mic will pick up the full range of instrument sounds, from very low to very high.
One of the most attractive features of the P170 is its switchable attenuation pad. This pad allows you to record high SPL instruments or other applications up to 155 dB SPL. Also, the microphone is designed with a cardioid pickup pattern, making it ideal for use with an additional mic for large-scale recording sessions.
Out of all the customer reviews for the P170, 90% grant it a 5 star rating. The one complaint to be found among users is in regard to the cable being used with the device--this mic requires a high-quality cable in order to function well. With that in mind, the Perception 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone is a not only of great value, but also an asset to expert-level musicians everywhere.
2. Audio-Technica PRO 37 Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Since 1962, A-T has put out some of the most innovative technology of the time, from cutting-edge phonograph cartridges to leading microphones, headphones, wireless systems, and more. Now, as one of the most awarded and longstanding companies in the audio equipment industry, Audio-Technica backs each of their products with a trusted reputation. The Pro 37 microphone is no exception to that excellency. Ideal for both onstage performances and in-studio recording sessions, this microphone delivers top-grade features for a variety of situations.
This mic includes an element constructed to be low-mass, thus delivering the best possible transient response. A sweeping frequency response of 30-15,000 Hz coupled with its excellent performance in high-SPL applications add to the versatility of this top-caliber device; it is ideal for use with pianos, group vocals, acoustic guitars, and more. The Pro 37 has a cardioid polar pattern which emphasizes the sound from directly in front of the device and decreases additional sound from the sides or back. This results in a cleaner, more focused recording in the studio and a more powerful sound projection onstage. This mic’s contacts have been built to withstand corrosion with the XLRM-type, gold plated connector, adding durability to the list of this product’s many assets. Additionally, the Pro 37 weighs in at 9.6 ounces, making it highly portable and easy to store.
The A-T Pro 37 has earned a rating of 4.7 stars on Amazon. Customers rave about this mic’s precision and clarity of sound, especially when used with acoustic instruments. The one minor downside to be found is its price; at around $170, this product is one of the more expensive options available. However, the quality of the Pro 37 justifies its price--think of it as an investment in your musical work for years to come.
3. MXL V67N Small Diaphragm Condenser Instrument Microphone With Cardioid And Omni Capsules
As the audio branch of Marshall Electronics, MXL Microphones maintains a global presence as a provider of professional-grade microphones. MXL products offer innovative technology without breaking the bank, making the brand popular amongst a range of consumers. Live performances, in-studio recording sessions, broadcasts, houses of worship, video conferences, courts, and even video gaming are among the many applications of MXL’s microphones.
In the 1980s, Marshall Electronics founder Leonard Marshall became interested in a Japanese-developed audio cable named the Mogami cable. Marshall brought the cutting-edge technology to the United States, and in doing so revolutionized operations in recording studios. Marshall Electronics is currently the largest and most successful distributor of Mogami in the world. MXL Microphones include the benefits of this one-of-a-kind technology.
The meticulous construction of the V67N mic from MXL includes hand-picked components and wiring of the renowned Mogami cable for the highest level of quality. The V67N also offers the benefits of both the cardioid and omni-directional pickup patterns with the option of using two different capsules. One of these gold-sputtered diaphragms is intended for a cardioid pattern and the other is made for an omni-directional pattern.
This mic from MXL is ideal for use with the sounds of pianos, choirs, drums, guitars, violins, and more. The flat frequency range of 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz allows it to accommodate a wide range of instruments and vocals. It weighs just 3.2 ounces, making it highly sensitive and portable.
The MXL V67N condenser microphone is a customer favorite on Amazon with over 300 reviews averaging a rating of 4.6 stars. Customers rave about the device’s clarity and balance of sound, among other popular features.
There is no denying that the V67N microphone is an outstanding product when you consider its glowing reviews and advanced range of capabilities. The downfall of this product is its price; at around $150, it is a serious purchase. However, if your budget can accommodate it, the V67N meets the standards of an upper-end microphone. In other words, the price tag may be high, but it is fair.
4. Audio Technica AT2021 Small Diaphragm Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone W/Clip, Pouch, And 20' XLR Cable
While the other microphone from Audio-Technica on this list costs over $150, the AT2021 is an affordable option from the same brand. At around $80, this microphone is one of the best small diaphragm condensers in its price range. Also, a clip, pouch, and 20-foot long XLR cable are included in the low price, making this mic from Audio-Technica an outstanding value. The included accessories are highly convenient-- the pouch protects the device when not in use, the clip secures the device in place during the recording process, and the long cable allows you to move around the studio as you work. With a 5-star rating on Amazon, you can feel confident that this product will deliver quality and efficiency.
The AT2021 mic is great for use in a variety of scenarios, from at-home recording to live performances. It is ideal for use with pianos, acoustic guitars, overheads, and group vocals, although it can work with a wide range of sounds. The expansive frequency response of 30-20,000 Hz adds versatility, enabling the mic to accommodate a large variety of instruments. A fantastic transient response is achieved with the low-mass element, allowing this microphone to pick up short bursts of sound. Additionally, the AT2021 has a cardioid pattern, meaning it is most perceptive to the area in front of it and does not pick up sound from the area in back of it. This makes for excellent sound isolation when recording and a clear, focused audio while performing onstage.
This AT2021 microphone is an excellent product for numerous reasons. But, if one had to point out a downfall, it would be that it weighs two pounds, making it significantly heavier than most of its competitors. This will not be an issue for everyone, but a heavier weight may make it more difficult to focus the microphone toward a specific source of sound, as well as more inconvenient to transport. This minor negative aspect does not diminish the many positive characteristics and advanced features of the Audio-Technica AT2021 Studio Condenser Microphone.
5. Sterling Audio ST31 Small Diaphragm FET Condenser Mic
Sterling Audio is a major name in the microphone industry with their studio mics maintaining a presence in professional studios across the globe. Despite the advanced technology incorporated into Sterling Audio devices, however, this brand is also an affordable option to fit into a modest budget. The ST31 Small Diaphragm FET Condenser Mic is one example of a product from Sterling that has both great value and is of high quality. And, with a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon, the ST31 is definitely a device to consider.
The ST31 features a mid-size capsule which measures ¾ of an inch, to be exact. This design makes the mic ideal for recording a range of sounds, especially amplifiers, drum overheads, and various acoustic instruments. The device’s diaphragm is thin and constructed using 6-micron evaporated gold to achieve the highest possible level of clarity and precision--a fantastic feature for use with guitars, drums, and pianos.
The ST31 mic operates with a fixed hyper-cardioid polar pattern for extremely focused sensitivity to sound at the front of the device, as well as limited sensitivity at the sides and back. This makes the microphone an excellent choice for in-studio recording and a viable option for performing. However, while this mic can certainly be used onstage, the sensitivity at the back of the device can make for projection of unwanted noise from the audience. The ST31 has a wide frequency response of 20Hz-18,000Hz for compatibility with several instruments, although other competitors do offer a larger range.
The Sterling Audio ST21 is selling for around $100--an great price for a high quality microphone. While it may not be as technically advanced as other models in the field, this mic is well-rounded, dependable, and affordable. Whether you are a professional on a budget or an amateur just starting out, this microphone is worth a look.
Small Diaphragm Condenser Buying Guide
Condenser microphones are typically made for use by professional musicians. However, with at-home recording becoming increasingly popular for its convenience, accessibility, and affordability, the market is opening to everyday consumers. Budgets vary among musicians and it’s important to find a product that fits within your price range. Small condenser microphones can cost anywhere from around $60 to upwards of $200 depending on several factors such as clarity of sound, efficient design, and durable construction.
To understand the most effective way to use this type of microphone, one must understand its basic functionality. Condenser microphones have two essential parts: the diaphragm and the backplate. These parts work together to act as a capacitor, which characteristically has two plates with a source of electricity in the middle of them. The diaphragm is lightweight and conductive, positioned near a backplate which is also conductive. Sound waves cause the diaphragm to pulsate, which in turn produces the signal. Unlike other types of microphones, condenser mics rely on electric power from a battery or external source. To put it briefly, condenser microphones work by translating movement into electricity.
Condenser microphones come in two varieties: large diaphragm and small diaphragm. Large diaphragm condensers are highly sensitive and have a higher signal-to-noise ratio, making them great for recording quiet instruments or vocalists, in-studio vocals, deep-toned drums, and more. Condensers with small diaphragms offer different benefits. This type of mic has a low-mass diaphragm and outstanding transient response which allow it to work well with very high frequencies found in instruments such as cymbals, triangles, and snare drums. Small diaphragm mics also tend to work well with acoustic instruments and percussion.
The Different Types Of The Small Diaphragm Condenser
As a specific kind of microphone, small diaphragm condensers do not differ greatly from product to product. There are, however, a few qualities that vary somewhat among devices, mainly polar pattern and frequency response.
A microphone’s polar pattern can be described as its sensitivity in respect to the direction at which sound reaches the mic. There are three main polar patterns associated with microphones: cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure eight.
A cardioid microphone is the most sensitive at the front, somewhat sensitive on the sides, and has no or almost no sensitivity at the back. Cardioid microphones are ideal for performing onstage in noisy venues because they don’t pick up as much ambient sound as other mic varieties.
As you may have guessed from the name, omnidirectional microphones offer the same level of sensitivity to sound at all angles. Unlike cardioid mics, omnidirectional microphones do not need to be positioned toward a specific sound source; everything in close proximity is picked up.
Figure eight, or bidirectional, microphones are sensitive at the front and at the back but not at all around the sides. Large diaphragm microphones tend to have this polar pattern, but it is not found with small diaphragm mics.
The frequency response of a microphone is the sensitivity of the device to different sound frequencies. This characteristic is usually portrayed as a range measured in Hertz (Hz), which in the International System of Units, or SI, unit for frequency. A flat frequency response is 20Hz - 20kHz, and a microphone with that range would have the same sensitivity to every sound frequency. You will notice that many microphones offer a wider or entirely different range than the flat frequency response. This is because some devices are intended to cater to instruments or vocals of a specific frequency. For example, small diaphragm mics tend to offer a limited low frequency range, which is what makes them great for use with high-pitched instruments like the triangle or cymbals. If you are looking for a microphone with a wholly realistic response to sounds of all frequencies, make sure that the frequency response is flat.
Small Diaphragm Condenser Wrap Up
Condenser mics with small diaphragms serve a multitude of purposes in the recording studio, onstage, and even at home; these devices can pick up the nuanced sounds of instruments and vocals in a way no other microphone can. As you have learned from the above information, this sought-after variety of condenser mic is not exclusive to the top tier of music professionals. Audio brands are now offering affordable yet advanced models to make high-level technology accessible for everyone. You don’t have to blow your budget in order to enjoy the benefits of a durable structure, high frequency range, and good transient response; the best small diaphragm mic for you can come at an affordable price. AKG, Audio-Technica, and several other leading companies in the music industry have earned glowing reviews for their microphones, giving you multiple reliable options that are available for sale online today. It’s time to record, perform, and share the music you’ve dreamed of creating--an outstanding mic will help you achieve just that.