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Condenser mic life?

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Condenser mic life?

Postby GlynB » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:30 am

How long could one expect a cheepo condenser mic to last these days?

What would be the sign that it was time to replace? Would it start to lose clarity and become dull? or would it just give up the ghost as the plate deteriorated?

Ive been using this RV10 with good results for a few years...

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun02/a ... d5mics.asp

Just wondering if there's anything better around now in the low budget range?
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Re: Condenser mic life?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:44 pm

Provided you look after it, I would expect a true condenser mic to last over 50 years without requiring any major work. Even electret condenser mics (which have been occasionally known to lose their charge over time) should last at least 20-30 years.

Signs of ageing include increased noise as dirt accumulates on the capsule and reduced sensitivity as the electret charge becomes weaker.

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Re: Condenser mic life?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:45 pm

GlynB wrote:How long could one expect a cheepo condenser mic to last these days?


I prefer the term 'capacitor mic' -- condensers died out in the 1950s!

But are we talking about a DC-biased capacitor capsule here, or an electret? it makes a big difference!

What would be the sign that it was time to replace? Would it start to lose clarity and become dull? or would it just give up the ghost as the plate deteriorated?


A DC-biased capacitor mic should go on for ever. There is no inherent deterioration process in the capsule itself. Dirt on the diaphragm (or a very high humidity environment) will cause temporary charge leakage that will reduce the output level and lead to hissing and/or 'frying' noises, but that can be cleaned and performance fully restored by a skilled technician.

An electret mic can lose the internal stored charge over time and that will also reduce output level and increase noise. Early electret mics (from the 70s and 80s) are much worse for this than modern designs which are vastly improved and can expect a life of 50 years or more.

If it sounds dull it could be a contaminated diaphragm -- especially if it has been used a lot on close vocals without a pop screen, or in a smokey environment -- or it could conceivably be because the diaphragm has stretched if used in front of very loud sources (especially kick drums).

Alternatively, it could be caused by deteriorating components -- especially ageing capacitors -- in the impedance converter electronics.

If it was a high end mic from a company with a decent service department then it would be worth returning it for a service... but in this case I doubt that is an option at all, let alone a cost-effective option. The good news is that there are a lot of well performing cheap mics around these days, as semi-disposable prices!

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Re: Condenser mic life?

Postby GlynB » Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:30 pm

Both - Thanks very much for the advice/assurance.

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Re: Condenser mic life?

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:47 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
A DC-biased capacitor mic should go on for ever. There is no inherent deterioration process in the capsule itself.

Some of the materials that were used to make diaphragms in the past seem to be prone to age-related problems. I've had two AKG C414s -- one with the 'brass ring' capsule and one with the 'nylon' capsule -- that have suffered loss of tension in the diaphragm. (Hopefully of course this is a problem that is confined to a few older mics, and shouldn't arise with new designs.)
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Re: Condenser mic life?

Postby Magic Matt » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:20 pm

GlynB wrote:How long could one expect a cheepo condenser mic to last these days?

About 10 minutes if you let the drummer get hold of it...

From personal experience.
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Re: Condenser mic life?

Postby Tamika Caleigh » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:11 am

Recently, however, condenser mics have come down in cost, and you can buy a decent one for about $200. Very good ones start about $500.

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