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Old 04-16-2024, 08:45 AM   #1
thebigcheese
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Default Why do radios choose dynamic mics?

I'm sure there must be a way to word this question to get actually useful search results, but every time I try searching it, all I get are comparisons between dynamic and condenser mics. I know what the differences are and I also know that most of those search results make a lot of incorrect assumptions (the oft repeated "dynamic mics are better for untreated spaces" fallacy), but what I am trying to figure out is why specifically most radio studios seem to use dynamic mics like the RE20 and SM7B. Both are great mics, but there are also plenty of condenser mics that would probably be better suited to the task, especially in radio where audio quality is the main focus. Is it just that they look more professional than condenser mics in that price range? I can certainly understand not equipping a studio with U87s or not wanting to look "amateur" with a bunch of AT2020s, but is there something else I'm missing?
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Old 04-16-2024, 08:57 AM   #2
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1) Radio stations can afford to purchase good preamps, and radio stations usually have staff engineers who understand why dynamic mics sound excellent when paired with a preamp that has the best input impedance for the microphone it is intended to be used with.

2) The RE20 is a cardioid mic that is acoustically ported to minimize proximity effect, which allows a DJ to speak on air with a relatively consistent sound while reaching into a stack of records, setting the cue on a turntable, or grabbing a cup of coffee. Etc.

3) The SM7B just sounds good and has EQ switches to allow DJs to craft a stylized vocal brand.

Good luck.

PS the preamp selection is the important part.





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Last edited by mister happy; 04-16-2024 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 04-16-2024, 09:46 AM   #3
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Whatever extra detail or higher freq response a high quality condenser may offer is not going to be an advantage if the only source is a speaking voice, especially a male one.

The sensitivity of a condenser comes at a cost. In an active station the mic might be grabbed and swung on a boom to reposition all day long. People aren’t too precious about the handling of an RE20 or SM7b. Do that with an 87 that just came back from repair and the sky will fall .
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Old 04-16-2024, 09:54 AM   #4
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@vdubreeze has the answer. It's simply that.
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Old 04-16-2024, 12:36 PM   #5
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Fair enough, I kinda forgot about durability. Simple enough! I suppose the extra high frequency content is kind of irrelevant when you're broadcasting over the airwaves anyway. I figured there must be some practical consideration I was missing and I was right. Thanks!
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Old 04-16-2024, 01:36 PM   #6
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I'm going to guess "tradition".

I remember when basic broadcast & PA mixers didn't have phantom power. That was a recording studio thing.

It creates a "standard sound" for radio stations so a DJ/announcer isn't going to complain about how they sound at a different station or a different studio.

And since dynamic mics don't have any active electronics they tend to be rugged and reliable.

And as mister happy says, the Electro-Voice has "Variable-D" to minimize proximity effect and I THINK the Shure screen keeps you from getting real-close to the diaphragm so that may also minimize proximity effect.
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Old 04-16-2024, 01:42 PM   #7
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If you ever have a chance to listen to a dynamic mic through a properly matched preamp, you will realize that just about every condenser vs. dynamic mic comparison you have read in a magazine or on the internet was made up by someone who did not know what they were missing.


Fun facts: Condenser (capacitance) Mics were invented between 1916 and 1920 at Bell Labs and developed by the ATT subsidiary Western Electric in the US of A. Eventually, the mics were used in the motion picture industry because they offered a good signal-to-noise ratio when distance micing from a boom arm. Western Electric licensed their patents to AEG in Germany, where condenser mics were infamously used for radio broadcasting the male voice of a short little maniac with a silly mustache.

Back in the USA, dynamic mics flourished, and incredible high-gain preamps were developed with input impedance designs that made these mics sound fantastic by any standard.

If you have not heard a dynamic mic used with an ideally matched preamp, you probably have no idea what it can sound like. A few people do, and they surely count themselves lucky.

For example, the preamp in the Ampex AM-10 radio booth mixer, equipped with a plug-n-play input transformer specified to mate with an Electro-Voice RE20 microphone, will blow your mind. Anyway, it is a lot easier to just not know about this, because a really great preamp is not inexpensive.

Musicians and radio announcers routinely performed in front of dynamic mics that were placed in near-far proximity. The sound was excellent and infused with "Hi-Fidelity". For example, The RCA R44 sounds beautiful in front of just about any instrument or voice.

Close micing would not become necessary until live performances with multiple microphones on stages populated with powerful electric amplifiers became a norm. That's why you will see that even in the early 1970s, the close micing technique was being "worked out," and dynamic mics were still being developed and introduced specifically to survive the rigors of high-power concert reinforcement.

But back in the 1950s, a famous Italian-American male singer living in the USA encountered a condenser microphone imported from Germany by Gotham Audio, which was an audio electronics distributor based in NYC. At that time, the imported condenser mics were a novelty. Some were offered for use at a Columbia Records recording studio where this particular light baritone performer learned that he could work the mic close-up to get a pronounced rich low-mid tone that highlighted his signature sound.

Singers could not effectively work a ribbon mic like the RCA R44 close-up without distorting the ribbon structure, so these "new" mics, with their tightly tensioned diaphragms, introduced an opportunity for singers to experiment with new vocal styling techniques. Pretty soon, studios all over the world were adopting the technology to allow artists to create novel tones.

It did not take long for console and preamp builders to adapt their input circuits to accommodate the increased output of these condenser microphones. After all, the condenser mics had a preamp with an impedance buffer built right inside themselves. For example. an AKG 414 UL can output "professional line level" +4dBu all by itself.

Console builders felt at liberty to make preamps with less maximum gain. Dynamic mics were more or less relegated to being used with loud instruments, and the circuits they were used in gained a reputation for having less sensitivity, an actual technical term, and less "reach," a mythical characteristic popularized by magazine writers and internet gurus.

The perceived need for super high gain preamps with the ideal input impedance for dynamic mics diminished. Indeed, by the year 2024, it has become common for an internet denizen to boldly claim, "Your dynamic mic needs a cloud lifter", which is a sad and misinformed way of stating that the state-of-the-art console preamps, and most of the rack mount facsimiles, have devolved to the point where such a claim might seem sensible.

When the R44 or RE20 was in its heyday, no one ever said you needed to place a preamp before your preamp. The preamp simply took care of the job.

High-quality dynamic mics have persisted in radio booths, especially in well-equipped facilities that were built out with suitable circuitry before condenser mics became popularized.

Meanwhile, new microphone designs, such as the Shure Unidyne, were transformed into low-sensitivity battle-hardened transducers meant to be placed in front of stacks of amps, drum kits, and wedge monitors.

For a variety of reasons, the Cold War being the primary influence, USA manufacturers were slow to develop condenser mic technology. By and large, the manufacturers of condenser mics were located behind the Iron Curtain. Copying communist microphones, even if they were invented in the USA, was not exactly patriotic, so Gotham Audio was pretty much left alone to figure out how to source and import the mics. The rest is history.

A curious note is that because the mics have such a close association with Communist policies regarding intellectual property, the engineers at the Soviet Bloc microphone companies were compelled to not only share specifications and designs with Chinese manufacturers, the engineers were actually sent over to China to train personnel and set up factories so that China could supply itself with good quality condenser microphones.

This is why, despite the reputation of expensive European microphones, low-cost Chinese look-alike copies of famous maker microphones sound remarkably similar to the "real thing."

The irony is that a very good Chinese condenser microphone costs a fraction of what a premium made in the USA dynamic microphone costs. This would seem to discount the theory that condenser mics are too expensive for a radio booth. In fact, many radio announcers and voice-over artists enjoy using condenser mics, but a significant number of voice performers prefer the character of a dynamic mic.

Simples.

Good luck learning from the interweb...






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Last edited by mister happy; 04-19-2024 at 06:49 PM.
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Old 04-16-2024, 05:56 PM   #8
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Having spoken of firsthand knowledge learned in the USA, I thought it would be interesting to consider radio stations in other locales.

So, I started with the BBC and wondered if I would see bunches of the BBC Coles 4038 Ribbon Mics (one of my all-time favorite microphones) still in operation at Auntie's house.

I did find a few old black-and-white photos of DJs using the 4038.



I also found several very old photos of announcers speaking into giant BBC Marconi ribbon mics.

Nevertheless, there are hundreds of contemporary photographs of BBC radio booths that are equipped with numerous Neumann and AKG condenser mics.

Perhaps the premise that "most radio studios seem to use dynamic mics" is based upon a mistaken assumption.
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Old 04-17-2024, 02:29 AM   #9
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In German public radio you'd find Neumanns (mostly U87s or some TLM), in Austria AKGs.
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Old 04-18-2024, 06:03 AM   #10
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This has been very interesting and informative, thank you. I hadn't thought about the regional component, but I suppose it makes sense that US studios would (historically) have used mics from American brands. And I suppose the longevity of the companies is a selling point, knowing that parts will still be available in 20 years is useful.
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