Will a studio condenser mic work for capturing the sound of live power tools?

Started by UncleBarry, March 10, 2021, 02:45:18 PM

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I'm working on a new power electronics/noise project but I only like to make the music with live power tools or odd objects as instruments.

Is a studio condenser mic good for capturing these different sounds correctly or should I use a dynamic microphone?



 Due to how they function, a dynamic mic is 'better' suited for capturing 'loud' sources, while condenser microphones are more well suited for capturing 'softer' sources and tend to have a more broad frequency response, especially in the upper spectrum (a dynamic mic  like Shure SM58 drops off significantly around 10kHz, for example.)

Of course, this isn't a hard & fast rule (anything goes so long as it sounds 'good' to you) and ultimately things will depend just as much on things  like where you place the microphone in relation to the source and the acoustic space you're working in  e.g. you may get away with putting a dynamic mic 6 inches from a table-saw without overloading, whereas you may need to place a condenser microphone on the other side of the room to avoid overload...if that kind of thing is important to you.


All that makes sense and thanks for the tips, I never recorded loud sounds like that before but this is very helpful. Seems like I'm going to have to get a dynamic mic for what I'm looking to do without it being too much of a pain in the ass.


Major Carew

The chap who posted above is very much correct re. dynamic mics. I would personally recommend SM57 due to the slightly notched midrange response which will give a bit more bite compared to SM58, but depending on what you process it all through it might not make a difference.

I've also gotten great results out of kick drum mics inside of metal filing cabinets.

Electro Surgeon

Yeah with Hal on this one..the SM57 is great for shit like this.

I record using non powered tools so even less noise and harder to record, i have the better results using a sure57 than most other mics.

n a a r a

If the user who started the discussion has a possibility to loan mics from friends or something like that, I'd really recommend them to try different options (a dynamic microphone such as the mentioned SM-57, small and large diaphragm condensators either alone or in a stereo pair –  AKG and Oktava have some nice options in various price ranges, and DPA produces high-quality small lapel mics that are easy to attach in various surfaces, contact mics on the surface of the tool, cheapo electret microphones etc). There certainly is no wrong and right in this matter! Hope you have nice moments with the project!

Some ideas:

- attach contact mics on the surface of the tool; try different positions near or far from the motor! If you make your own contact mics, try different ways of the art of tape-mummification, it reduces the annoying buzz of cheap contact mic elements and makes the mics easier to use.
- try DPA lapel mics (many times used to amplify the speech of the actors on stage) either attached to the sound source with two-sided scotch tape or a little bit further. Hairclips  and Blue-Tack are great with small mics.
- record tools a little bit further away with a matched pair of small diaphragm condensator mics like you'd record the room sound of the drums. A great option to have in the mixing process

Hehe, I feel like a hobby crafts instructor with these silly ideas. Hope this helped!


Condenser microphones are completely able to handle extreme loud sources.
All depends on the distance from the mic to the source. Condensers microphones are more sensible to high SPL (Sound Pressure Level) rates than Decibels, or in other words, frequencies that moves too much air into the capsule, like when low frequencies hit you in the stomach at a concert.
But specific mics like FET Condensers do tolerate really well that energy. A pop-filter works too for reducing this amount of pression into the capsule.

I could recommend the Warm Audio WA-47jr, which is a clone of the Neumann U47 Fet that sells around €300
And in case of using dynamic mics, Electrovoice Re20 or Shure SM7 are a good option for loud sources with well balanced/neutral response.
Big Diaphragm = Big and clear bottom end