What is the difference between large and small diaphragm microphones?
Studio microphones are often divided into small and large diaphragms. What do they stand for? What are the unique differences? Which one is more suitable for you? All the answers are in this article.
Size means everything
You will find this explanation in most microphone manuals: "Large diaphragm" means that the diaphragm or diaphragm of the condenser head is 1 inch (25.4mm) or larger in diameter; "Small diaphragm" means that the diaphragm is halfway. Inches (12.7mm) or even smaller. But this is just a convention. In reality, many small-diaphragm microphones used in recording (different from measurement) will use a slightly larger condenser head. Similarly, there are also many large-diaphragm microphones The diaphragm is less than 1 inch, about 22mm. In order to induce you, some manufacturers will mark the size of the entire capacitor head as the size of the diaphragm, such as 32~34mm. The real diaphragm is difficult to achieve 27mm. Of course these examples It doesn't matter! In practical applications, the large and small diaphragms are easy to distinguish.
Please note that the names of large and small diaphragms are commonly used in condenser microphones. Some broadcast-grade dynamic microphones are also clearly marked as "large diaphragm", but that's it. Most manufacturers or users do not agree on the size of the diaphragm of dynamic microphones. do not care.
Interestingly, the size of the diaphragm will affect the overall structure of the microphone. The small diaphragm condenser microphone is slender, similar to a pencil, and has a top pickup. The large diaphragm has a large barrel and uses one side of the head for recording.
The advantages and disadvantages of large and small diaphragms
According to historical records, the large-diaphragm microphone was the first to be invented. In the 1930s and 1940s, the condenser microphone must use a large enough diaphragm to avoid the noise of the tube. The large metal diaphragm can capture more original sound information and produce Higher signal voltage. In the 1950s and 60s, the appearance of special-purpose microphone tubes and low-noise vacuum tubes made the market for small-diaphragm condenser microphones with a good signal-to-noise ratio.
To this day, the technical advantage of the large diaphragm microphone is still its good noise control. For example, the TLM-103, its own noise floor is only 7dB-A. This means that it is worse than the industry’s top level of noise floor KM-184 It is 6dB lower.
However, in other aspects, the small diaphragm microphone has an overall advantage. Technically speaking, its advantages are:
Excellent conversion sensitivity
Extended high frequency response
Very smooth pickup direction
The continuation of the pickup direction is sometimes very important. Let's compare the direction changes of large and small diaphragm condenser microphones at different frequencies.
The difference of sound and common application environment
Of course, the sound is not just some technical indicators. These shortcomings (pointing changes at different frequencies) that appear on the large-diaphragm microphone have achieved its unique charm, especially for singing and language. The openness of the low frequency is very open. A good connection has the proximity effect. In other words, even if the singer moves during the singing (some singers move specifically to create ups and downs), the low-frequency response can still remain very full.
The large-diaphragm condenser microphone shapes the sound to be pleasant to the ear. Hearing your own voice through the headphones will make you feel great. A good large-diaphragm microphone allows you to sing non-stop, because it sounds like a star on a record There are also many singers who like to use large-diaphragm microphones very much, because it allows them to focus and has something to put them in. In addition to singing and voice, large-diaphragm microphones are also used to record certain solo instruments to make them sound distinct , Plump, "beyond reality".
But if you want to capture pure and natural sound, a small diaphragm microphone is the best choice, without any coloring. No microphone can record all the details of the sound better than a small diaphragm. Based on this real sound, small Diaphragm microphones can be used in all fields.
In popular music, small-diaphragm microphones are used in pianos, acoustic guitars, stringed instruments and even drums (suspension, snare drums, hi-hats, cymbals) and percussion instruments. Small-diaphragm microphones can also be used because of their low frequency accuracy. On bass instruments, but most popular sound engineers will prefer the fullness of low frequencies brought by large-diaphragm microphones.
Classical music recording engineers almost only use small diaphragm microphones. Because of its almost constant pickup direction, the small diaphragm is very suitable for recording chorus, unison, stereo orchestra (even surround sound)
There is contrast but no harm. Both large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm condenser microphones are great recording tools. The difference is only for your purpose.
The small-diaphragm microphone gives you a natural, richly detailed sound scene. The small diaphragms are all "realists". You can use them for any sound you want to record seriously.
Large-diaphragm microphones can also be microphones or a musical instrument. They are intended to make the sound louder, more intimate, beautiful and vivid. They will give you a "record"-like feeling. Large-diaphragm microphones are more like They are "romantic". They are like a spotlight on the head of a vocal or solo instrument.