Studio #6 Choosing a Podcast Microphone (with samples)
Today’s show is all about microphones. Obviously, choosing the right microphone is important to the overall sound of your podcast. There are plenty of options for you at varying price points, and most people who dip their toes into podcasting start off with something a little more modest like a head set microphone, maybe a desktop USB microphone. Some people even opt to use ear buds. Professional podcasters typically favor an XLR based microphone that you’d find in a recording studio or radio station or even as part of a live performance.
I’ve got a collection of all of those different types of mics that I’ve used and still use to this day based upon the need that I have. I’m going to demonstrate them today. My plan is to use all of them in the same type of environment which happens to be a soundproof room and I’ll read the same passage using each of the different microphones to let you hear how they sound. It’s not going to be a really scientific test although I’ve done a few things to make sure the comparison is as meaningful as possible. Like I mentioned, I’m recording in the same place, I’m reading the same material, I’ve got all the microphones set at the same levels, and I’ll be sitting the same distance from each of the microphones where it’s applicable.
Obviously a headset mic or an ear bud, the proximity is going to be different than if you’re using a regular mic. Just suffice to say, I’m using what I consider to be proper microphone technique for all the different mics. In addition, the mics that are not USB based, the ones that are more XLR based or what I would consider more of a pro-sumer microphone. They all have pop filters on them to prevent as many of the explosive sounds that you can get from other types of microphones that don’t have that type of protection built in. That’s a topic that we’ll cover in another podcast.
Now let me introduce you to the different types of microphones that you’ll be hearing today. Microphone number one will simply be the built in microphone on a laptop. On this case, a MacBook Pro. If you have a laptop, which I’m assuming that most of you who are interested in podcasting do, then you probably have a built in microphone in that laptop. The expectations for this microphone shouldn’t be very high. I wouldn’t recommend it for podcast, but I did want to include it because I have heard lots of people podcast with the built in microphone on their computer. So without any further ado, here is a laptop microphone.
The second mic that I’m going to demonstrate is the one that’s built into Apple ear buds. I’m actually surprised at the number of people that I see podcast that use ear bud microphones as their primary mic. There are, of course, cases where that comes in handy if you’re doing a remote podcast where you’re physically going someplace and you don’t want to lug all your gear. You might use an iPhone or an android phone to do a recording, but I think it’s pretty obvious that ear buds are probably not going to provide you the best sound possible. Still, I wanted to include them in the examples.
Microphone number three is the Jabra UC Voice 550 Duo which is really long name but it is a USB office headset that came highly recommended from the wire cutter dot com. In fact, it’s number one rated office headset. At the time of recording this headset cost about $46 from Amazon. It’s a really simple two in one headphones/microphone combo that you can just plug into your computer. It has some convenient volume controls on it and a mute button. It’s just an affordable headset mic. Nothing particularly special about it, but one that I’ve actually recommended for remote guests that I’ve recorded with in the past and had pretty decent results from. Check it out.
This next microphone, microphone number four, is a Yeti by Blue Microphones. Lots of podcasters use the Blue Yeti because it’s durable. It’s inexpensive. It can be mounted on a shock mount and it delivers a pretty good sound. The microphone itself has several patterns that you can select which changes how the microphone behaves in various situations. In my experience, it’s been extremely reliable. The Blue Yeti cost $129 retail from Amazon dot com and can be a great addition to your podcast studio.
Microphone number five is an SM58 from Shure. Shure makes some of the best microphones on the market both for consumer and for professional use. It’s an XLR based microphone meaning that you’ll need some sort of an adapter to plug it into your computer. I happen to use a zoom recorder to capture audio from this to convert it over to digital. You can also use a digital audio interface like a focus right scarlet to convert it into a digital signal that can be understood by your computer. This microphone retails for about $100 off of Amazon.
Microphone number six is a Procaster by Road Microphones. This is one of my personal favorites and it’s one of the first mics that I purchased for myself when I decided to get more serious about recording. The Procaster is suited for broadcast and recording applications and at $229 is a little more expensive than most mics but shouldn’t break your bank. What it will do, in my opinion, is give you a noticeable step up in your sound quality, but you be the judge.
The final mic that we’re going to hear today, microphone number seven, is a Shure SM7B broadcast microphone. It’s the most expensive of the microphones that I own and it is the microphone that I most commonly use to record podcasts, including this one. At a retail cost of $350 this is more of what I would consider a high end podcast mic. It’s great for virtually every type of application and it’s extremely rugged and looks good in the studio. Let’s take a listen.
Hopefully this has been useful to kind of give you a listen at what some of these mics sound like. Of course, when you’re buying microphones, especially online, you’re not really getting to test them out first. It’s kind of a leap of faith. You’re doing a lot of listening or a lot of reading rather of reviews to see what people say. I find that being able to hear what they sound like is pretty cool. It’s pretty important because that’s what you’re looking for out of this piece of gear. You’re looking for something that’s going to capture a person’s voice reliably, it’s going to make them sound as good as possible, and it’s going to limit the amount of editing that you have to do.
Think you also want to find something that’s really rugged, that can stand up to some wear and tear. You could throw it in your bag. You can, you know, take it with you on the road or you can leave it as a permanent, you know, install in the studio and it’s going to look great. It’s going to function great. It’s going to be reliable. For my money, I prefer the Shure SM7B. I also really like the Road Procaster. They have totally different sounds, at least to my ears. Depending on the application I use one or the other, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
You know, if you’re looking for a budget microphone that’s a USB, I can’t recommend the Blue Yeti highly enough. I think it’s a great starter mic. It costs $120, but it’s super reliable. I still use it to this day. It’s what I recommend to a lot of people just getting started that don’t want to buy a lot of extra audio gear to have to accommodate these other microphones.
Let me know if there’s other microphones that you are interested in or if you have any kind of comments or feedback on the testing that I did. I’d be happy to answer any of your questions. I will look forward to talking to you the next time.