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Mics 101

Sorry there is a lot here, but you folks are my only hope for answering these questions:

What is the difference between Small and Large Diaphragm?

What is a good Maximum SPL for drum overhead condensers? Or rather, how do I calculate that? How about SPL for a guitar amp?

How important are "pads" on a condenser? Will I just have to adjust distance if I don't have one?

On what occasions should I use a shockmount? Are there special conditions or is it an always type thing?

That's all I can think of for now :)


Member for
51 years 5 months

Thom IV Sat, 03/15/2003 - 04:00


There are no hard and fast ‘rules’—anyone that tells you that there are probably just has some strong opinions, or works for a mic company...

That being said...

Large condenser mics are generally mics with diaphragms one inch or larger (AKG advertises one inch single or dual diaphragm mics—AKG C3000 or C4000B, whereas Groovetubes are currently advertising 1.07 in—GT67, etc). Small diaphragm mics usually have diaphragms less than .5 in. Then there are medium diaphragm mics with diaphragms .5 to 1 in. Large diaphragms tend to pick up more bass and are considered to be ‘warmer’ than small diaphragms, although I’ve used both for numerous same and different applications with good alls depends on the context and the sound you’re looking for...

SPL levels are also a somewhat subjective affair...The higher the better for the applications you’re talking about. You should contrast and compare, experimenting with different mics and mic placement techniques. Specs are a good guide, but when it comes down to it, your ear will tell you if the SPL level of the mic that your using is too low. Generally speaking, the dynamic mics have higher SPLs and are better for very loud sources. That being said, I use a pair of AKG large diaphragm condensers for my drumset, and my 2x12 toob amp all the time, with no prob.

As far as pads go...yes. You will have to play with the mic placement if you have no pads on your mic. You will also have to play with mic placement if you do have pads. Put on a set of cans and play with mic placement until it sounds good, regardless of the mic you’re using...

Shockmounts. I use no shockmount on my one AKG, and I do have a shockmount on my other condenser. I’ve never had a problem with either, although neither ever leave my little third floor home studio, and there are hardly ever more than 1, 2 or 3 conscientious friends up there. I’ve heard others make mention of the fact that, if your using your condensers in a ‘live’ situation (recording/playing out—in a bar or coffeehouse situation, etc), then you would probably need a shockmount.

Groovetubes has a pretty informative site if your so inclined...

Hope that helps...