The Greatest Dynamic Microphone Ever?

Contributed By

George Sawyer, takes a quick look at dynamic mics, how they work and when they are useful. And, of course, adds in some personal opinions about the mics he likes best and why.

Hi Folks. Greetings from Lake Nokomis.

In the wide world of recording, there are hundreds of choices to make with regard to your equipment dollar. After you get the basics, much of what to buy next is often dictated by upkeep, repair and replacement. But what if you have some extra cash not spoken for by necessity? Or are you just starting out, and somewhat overwhelmed by all the choices you have to make? Even the microphone, whose humble job is nothing more than to convert sound waves to electrical impulses, is challenging you to make a choice. Condensers, dynamics, ribbon and PZMs. Many many choices, and us without the bank roll to buy 'em all, in pairs. Well, I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite mics, and which one it is may surprise some of you. But rest assured, once you own one, your recordings will make a giant step forward.

First, a little about dynamic mics. How do they work? Well, when sound waves hit the diaphragm, This causes the coil supporting the diaphragm to move back and forth across (through) a magnetic field. This induces a voltage in the coil, much like a speaker in reverse. Simple design, and quite rugged. And very hard to make distort (within bounds of reason). On the downside, since we are talking about a mostly mechanical process, transient response is not as good as some other types of mics. The ability to handle loud sources, coupled with toughness and durability, make the dynamic mic very valuable to us, both in recording and live sound reinforcement.

MainMainSo what is your favorite dynamic? SM57? A very popular choice, and still a standard for snare drums, guitar cabs, and is in fact the microphone that the President of the United States speaks through. SM7? A great mic when you want a warm, fat smooth sound. How about an RE20. Fabulous on kick drums, bass and guitar cabs, as well as uncooperative floor toms. I've also heard that Bonnie Raitt cuts her studio vocals through one of these. My favorite dynamic mic is the Sennheiser MD421 II. I have not heard a more versatile mic yet, and it sounds great.

The 421 is the first call mic for toms in many professional studios, and my first choice for snares. The lows make it sound fat and huge, and the high frequency extension really brings out the snap of the snare wires. It does a great job on guitar cabs, bass cabs and many folks use it for kick drum, as well. My favorite "secret" use is on scratchy vocals. If your trying to record a screamer, or just an "impassioned" vocal, the 421 reveals clarity like no other. And its not just for screamers. The tonal balance of this mic is exceptional, lending a pro sound to almost any vocal. The 421 also has a five position bass roll off dial, so you can tune the mic to each source. This is especially great for battling the proximity effect while close miking. I know, I know. They still cost three times as much as your 57. But I challenge you to make a side-by-side comparison. The highs are smoother, and it will support frequencies a heck of a lot lower, without sounding tubby. We get a lot of mail at the website asking for advice on a first condenser. I would have to recommend that condenser waits until you try you vocal(and guitar cabs, bass cabs, drums and anything else) through the MD 421.

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User-submitted comments

Apr 06, 2007 02:29 am
Dynamic mic's
I think the sm57 is, as you said, a very popular choice and also a must-have in any studio, almost everything you have heard on a record has a sm57 somewhere in the mix, one of my favorites thats for shure(from shure also.. ha!).
But i also like the AKG D112, i think is one of the best mics for bass drums and bass cabinets, and also for upright bass, definetly another keeper.

Apr 18, 2008 11:32 pm
Used one for 35 years. Ye cannae whack it. (Glaswegian for "It's unbeatable".)

eric levine
May 15, 2016 09:20 pm
Try this : a 441
I'd suggest you try the most accurate dynamic mike I'd ever used --- the Senn. 441. Much different sound than the 421, which to my ear always sounded like an sm57 refined to the nth degree. The price of the 441 used to be similar to the RE20, but is no longer. Very pricey now - I don't know why.

The 441 has almost no color, but it's also very unforgiving. I toured for years with them, but actually love the RE/PL 20 for my violin. ............ eric levine

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