Small diaphragm condensers are the preferred choices for any sources that produce fast attacks and/or delicate harmonic structures. Small diaphragm mics are designed for transparent sound and minimal coloration and, because of their consistent pick-up patterns, are ideal for stereo miking and large sound sources.
Small diaphragm condensers are often used on:
- acoustic guitar (both steel- and nylon strings)
- drums overheads
- string ensembles
- brass sections
- background vocals
Small diaphragm condensers are rarely used on:
- lead vocals (most engineers prefer large diaphragm condensers)
- electric guitar (dynamic moving coil and ribbon microphones give a smoother sound, some engineers use large diaphragm condensers, too)
But, as always, trust your own ears! What most people do and what sounds convincing in theory may not be what sounds best to you. Go ahead and try small diaphragm condensers on lead vocals! Many opera singers prefer to be recorded with small diaphragm mics. If realism is your goal, a small diaphragm condenser is your truest friend.