Microphones 101

Microphones 101

A brief explanation about a big topic: the differences of microphone types in layman’s terms

In basic terms there are two main types of microphones, Dynamic and Condenser and two main types of mic plugs used in the bus or sightseeing world, 4 Pin XLR used highway coaches and 4 Pin Din used in mini busses. The third variable is how those mics are connected to the different pins on the two styles of plugs.

Generally you can’t mix and match mics with different PA systems due to these variables. It’s kind of like saying Ford wheels don’t fit on GM vehicles… and that’s okay.

Dynamic: Dynamic mics were the first microphone design, they are mechanical and work like a speaker in reverse. The mic diaphragm vibrates then sends electrical pulses down the mic cord (wire) where the pulses are amplified and turned into sound. Remember the old crooners like Frank Sinatra and their big metal hand mics, those are the old dynamic mics. The problem is, you can only make them so small before they lose sound quality and mic pick up sensitivity. Because of the size and performance limitations, in most cases the world left dynamic mics behind years ago except for the bus industry using hand held CB style mics.

Condenser: Condenser mics have been in mass use for about 30 years and are todays industry standard. Being electronic they can be much smaller in size therefore they are a lot more popular today. Condenser mics are used in things like Bluetooth and computer headsets, cell phones and by TV interviewers, basically everything today uses a condenser mic. Being so prolific in today’s uses, they are less expensive too.

As with the basic concept for all mics, they pick up sound to be amplified, but being electronic condenser mics require a power source to make them work often using a small battery or phantom power. Generally, condenser mics offer better sound quality even though much smaller and being more prevalent today, they offer many more choices from hand mic to headset, wired to wireless. You may also recognize them as the little headsets with the tiny booms use by the secret service on TV shows… those are condenser mics.

NOTE: All Ready2Talk PA systems are designed to use condenser mics and send power up the microphone wire to the condenser mic, then take the sound down the same wire so additional batteries are never required.

Since you’re looking at a PA system website, let’s talk a bit about PA’s: Unless stipulated, all highway coaches and most mini buses are sold with old school PA systems that still use dynamic hand mics. The main reason is, “it’s always done that way” and since the bus manufacturers don’t use the vehicles they make, why change if they don’t know there is a need to change?

Technically there is nothing wrong with PA’s using a dynamic hand mic. Being an old design you’re options are limited when you want to upgrade to a headset or you have to upgrade because of Distracted Driving Laws (DDL). Because condenser mics are so prolific in the world, using PA’s that adopt the condenser platform can offer you the choice of many different mic styles for less money.

Ready2Talk sells both mic types, condenser for our Ready2Talk PA’s and dynamic headset upgrade kits for mini buses with Jensen or REI systems in highway coaches.

One more thing about mics: Unfortunately, you can’t mix and match condenser mics on PA’s designed for dynamic mics and visa-versa. Depending on your needs, it might be best to change to the condenser friendly PA platform and that will open your microphone options.

Headsets vs. handheld microphones: You most likely have some idea which mic style is best for your business. Generally, for tourism we’d suggest headsets if possible, as they allow you to keep both hands on the wheel which shows you care about your guest’s safety. Not to mention in some areas, it’s the law. Also when the drivers head moves, the headset microphone stays with them so your guests will always hear the commentary evenly.

For shuttles or transit, where the driver is constantly in and out of the vehicle, or the PA is used only for announcements while stopped, then a hand mic might still be the best option. Another solution is a gooseneck mic is fixed to the vehicle and the driver can lean slightly forward to use it with the touch of one button. This style often also meet DDL requirements.

How many mics do you need? This topic has changed dramatically since Covid-19! In the past, we had always recommended one mic per driver vs. one shared mic per vehicle. It added cost but the benefit was reduced sick days and potentially less damage.

I’m sure you will agree that today’s requirement of one mic per driver is the new normal. As an alternative, we do offer replacement foam covers in bags of 20, for our headsets as a lower cost option. And keep in mind, you must have a foam sock covering a condenser mic or it will sound awful.

In the past or today it’s most important to always have at least one spare mic in your office, just in case the one you are using breaks!

Recapping is a good idea: When choosing a mic type, the most important decision is to make sure it fits YOUR needs. Our goal is to make sure everyone is informed so they understand the differences, also knowing that Ready2Talk is here to help you any way you choose! If your vehicle uses a dynamic hand mic and it suits your needs, perfect. If you want or need to make a change to a headset or to a wireless mic, we can offer more choices and we’d love to have you on board, just give us a call.

Whether you have 2 vehicles or 102, you want to have one microphone standard for your fleet. It’s easier for staff training and you can swap headsets at a moment’s notice, because of course your favourite headset will go missing when you need it most!

Also, when choosing a microphone, ask about in and out of warranty repairs, often mics a considered disposable… not with R2T, we service everything we sell.

One last key point to remember is… when buying a new vehicle, you choose your PA once, but you’ll be buying many replacement microphones over the years. So choosing the PA type that is compatible with condenser mics offers a lower ongoing replacement cost. Ask your vehicle dealer about supplying Ready2Talk PA’s as an option, as we supply to most vehicle manufacturers.

We hope this information sheet helps explain the mic uses and differences?
If you have ANY questions, please give us a call at 1 888 724-5351.