Microphones 101

Microphones 101

A brief explanation about a big topic… the different types of microphones 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 and 4 Pin Din”. The third variable is how those mics are connected to the different pins on the plug. Generally you can’t mix and match mics with different PA systems. It’s kind of like saying Ford wheels don’t fit on GM vehicles… and that’s okay.

Dynamic: Dynamic mics are considered mechanical and were the first microphone design so are generally larger. They work like a speaker in reverse, the mic diaphragm vibrates then sends electrical pulses down the mic cord (wire) to the preamp 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.

Condenser: Condenser mics are electronic and have been in mass production for about 30 years.  As the name applies they are much smaller in size therefore they are a lot more popular in today’s small electronics.  Condenser mics are used in things like Bluetooth and computer headsets, cell phones and by TV interviewers, basically everything today.  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.

The basic concept for all mics is the same, they pick up sound, but being electronic Condenser mics require a power source to make them work often using a small battery.  Generally, Condenser mics have 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.  They are less expensive too.

NOTE:  All Ready2Talk PA systems 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, most Mini Buses are sold with old school PA systems that use Dynamic hand mics.  The main reason is, “they have always done it that way” and since the bus manufacturers don’t use the vehicles they make every day like you do… why change?

Technically there is nothing wrong with Dynamic PA’s with a hand mic.  But you’re options are limited when you want to upgrade to a headset or you must because of Distracted Driving Laws.  With Condenser mic PA’s you have the choice.  We sell both types! Condenser for our Ready2Talk PA’s and we offer a Dynamic headset upgrade kits for mini buses with Jensen or REI in highway coaches.

One more thing about mics: Unfortunately, you can’t mix and match Condenser mics on PA’s that use Dynamic mics and visa versa.

Headsets vs. handheld microphones: You most likely have some idea which mic style is best for your business… Tourism, Shuttle, Transit?  Generally, we’d suggest headsets if possible, as they allow you to keep both hands on the wheel which shows you care about your guests 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.

How many mics do you need?  We have found that most fleets follow one of these two ways of thinking, and both work.

1) Buy one mic per vehicle.  The benefit is lower cost short term, but often there isn’t a lot of “buy in” from the drivers and the mics generally suffer a short life.

2) Buy one per driver.  This obviously cost more up front, but in the long term the benefit is less mic damage and with people keep their germs to themselves, this can also equal less sick days?  A managers dream.

Most important… always have at least one spare mic in your office, just in case!  And keep in mind, you must have a foam sock covering the mic or it will sound awful.

Recapping is a good idea:  When choosing a mic type, the most important decision is to make sure it fits YOUR needs.  Our task is to make sure everyone is informed so they know the differences and knowing that Ready2Talk is here to help you any way you choose is best!  If your vehicle has 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.

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

One last key point to remember is… if you have the option to choose the PA type, you’ll buy the PA once for that vehicle, but you will likely by many replacement microphones over the years, so choosing the PA type that offers the lower ongoing microphone cost is the one to buy!

We hope this information sheet helps explain the mic uses and differences?

If you have ANY questions…. please give us a call.  1 888 724-5351