One of the most important decisions that you’ll make as a podcaster is the microphone that you’ll be using. After all, you want your podcast to come across to listeners as a credible and professional – which you can’t accomplish if you’re using a subpar microphone. Your podcast needs a professional sound. Yes, listeners know!
That’s not to say that cheaper options, such as that generic headset microphone you’ve used for Skype, can’t handle the job if you’re in a pitch, it just means that you get what you pay for. So, what mics should you be using if you want to have a proper podcast?
Before we make some suggestions, here are some friendly reminders to keep in mind while shopping.
What’s the Difference Between Dynamic and Condenser Microphones?
The two most common mics that you’ll come across are dynamic and condenser microphones. Since I’m not an audio expert, I’ll have the fine folks at Sweetwater Sound Inc. and the Podcast Host explain the differences between the two types.
With a “dynamic microphone, the audio signal is generated by the motion of a conductor within a magnetic field. In most dynamic mics, a very thin, lightweight diaphragm moves in response to sound pressure.”
These mics are less sensitive to sound pressure levels and high frequencies, less expensive than condenser mics and typically don’t have to have a power supply. Furthermore, dynamic mics record less surrounding, but aren’t always as rich.
Condensers, on the other hand, “are more responsive to the “speed” and nuances of sound waves than dynamic mics. This simple mechanical system consists of a thin stretched conductive diaphragm placed close to a metal disk (backplate).” These mics must have a power supply and are usually more expensive. When used in a proper and quiet setting, you can’t beat the quality of a condenser mic. Just be aware that they pick up a lot of background noise.
How to Hook Up a Microphone to Your Computer
This really isn’t that major of concern nowadays. Why? Because USB microphones that are compatible with computers and tablets are becoming more common. This means they work just like any other gadget that you would plug-into a USB port – just simply plug the mic into your device and you’re good-to-go.
But, what if you really love that mic that has that old school XLR plug? That’s not necessarily a problem either, you’ll just have to spend a little extra money to make it work. You can either purchase an adaptor (like the Roland Duo capture UA-11 UA-1G), or a mixer (such as the Behringer Xenyx 802 or the Mackie 402-VLZ4).
If you’re a lone podcaster, or not all that familiar in this area, you just want to stick with a USB mic. It just makes life easier. However, a mixer does have benefits for your podcast, like the boosting the tone of your voice and being able to add multiple mics. Since this isn’t about mixers, I suggest you visit what the Audacity of Podcast has to say on the matter.
Hopefully, you can have a better understanding of the different types of microphones that are available on the market. Now it’s time to make some suggestions – in no particular order- that have been based on quality and price. These are top-notch mics that any of us can afford.
1. Heil PR-40
If you’re an advanced podcaster than you definitely need to invest in the Heil PR-40. According to Dan Benjamin, author of the Podcasting Handbook, the “Heil PR-40 is the best dynamic mic I’ve ever used, and I’ve used most of them.” This mic is also recommended by Cliff Ravenscraft, aka the Podcast Answer Man, because it will help improve the quality of your podcast.
Other features, via Amazon, include:
- Generating element: Copper-wound dynamic with neodymium magnet structure
- Body: Steel body with zinc die-cast bottom ring
- Frequency response: 28Hz to 18kHz
- Impedance: 600 ohms balanced
- Output level: -53.9dB @ 1,000 Hz
2. Samson Meteor
- Type: Condenser, USB
- Cost: $49.99 (Amazon)
- Website: http://www.samsontech.com/samson/products/microphones/usb-microphones/meteormic/
For the price you can’t beat this nifty portable and durable mic. Even if you don’t take your podcast on the road – which again, is no problem because the legs fold-up-, the Samson Meteor is a great option if space is limited wherever you conduct your podcast. Another great feature with this mic is that since it plugs directly into devices like an iPad, which means that using Garageband to record and edit your podcast has never been easier.
3. Audio-Technica AT2020
- Type: Condenser, USB
- Cost: $129 (Amazon)
- Web: www.audio-technica.com/cms/wired_mics/c75c5918ed57a8d0
This is another interesting mic that it’s incredibly easy to use and is perfect for entry level or moderate podcasters. In fact, you pretty much just unpack the mic and plug it into your computer. From there, the AT2020 works with almost any recording software for both Mac and PC users. Other key features include a custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm -which extends frequency response and superior transient response – and a Cardioid polar pattern that isolates sound.
4. Blue Microphones Yeti
There are several reasons why this mic is a top seller on Amazon. For starters, it has a stylish retro-look. Even if it didn’t look so awesome, the features alone make this a serious consideration for podcasters. It’s both bidirectional (used for interviews) and omnidirectional (used for conference calls) and is ready to use right out of the box. One of the most unique features, however, is that you can also plug your headphones into the mic because it also has an audio output built-in.
5. Blue Microphones Snowball
For around $50 you can’t beat the quality and stylish design of Blue Microphones Snowball model. Besides being available in eight different colors, this mic has a dual capsule design (omnidirectional and cardioid) and -10dB Pad: A -10dB pad switch to help eliminate noise. It’s also compatible for Mac and PC.
The first thing that you’ll notice about the MXL990 is the neat vintage style appearance. On top of that, this mic comes equipped with a FET preamp – which will help with a balanced output – and a large diaphragm for superior and professional sound quality. Just remember that this mic requires a XLR cable which means that you’ll need either XLR-to-USB converter or USB mixer.
7. Audio-Technica ATR2100
- Type: Dynamic, USB/XLR
- Cost: $59.95 (Amazon)
- Web: www.audio-technica.com/cms/wired_mics/b8dd84773f83092c
Unlike the other suggested mics on this list, this handheld option is both a USB and XLR. In fact, you can use both at the same time (the USB output is used for digital recording, the XLR output is used for live performances). Other features include a built-in headphone jack, extended frequency response and a Cardioid polar pattern.
8. CAD U37
This sharp-looking option contains a large condenser microphone element which will ensure that your podcast will have a rich sound. Other features include a -10dB overload-protection switch – used to reduce distortion – and a bass-reduction switch reduces room noise. Overall, this a rather solid selection if you’re just starting out or are one a limited budget.
9. Samson Go Mic
- Type: Condenser, USB
- Cost: $34.07 (Amazon)
- Website: http://www.samsontech.com/samson/products/microphones/usb-microphones/gomic/
You can’t be help but love the price for this portable condenser mic. In fact, the compact design is one of the more enticing features on this mic since it can be clipped to objects like a desk. However, it’s also compatible for both Macs and PCs, has switchable cardiod or omnidirectional pickup patterns and comes with Cakewalk® Music Creator recording software.While most seasoned podcasters may look elsewhere, this is the perfect company if you’re traveling or attending an event or conference.
10. Rode Podcaster
Last, but certainly not least, is the the Rode Podcaster. This is probably one of the best mics a podcaster can use – which explains the hefty price. But, the features that come equipped with the Podcaster more than justify the cost, such as the Internal capsule shock mounting, a 3.5mm stereo headphone output (with volume control built-in) and the ability to isolate your voice. In other words, it’s worth every penny.
When selecting a mic for your podcast there are several things to consider. The price of the microphone is perhaps the most important factor. It doesn’t exactly make sense to purchase a $500 mic if you’re just starting out.
Another consideration will be the environment that you’ll be recording in. If you have a professional studio, then a condenser mic is a great option. However, if you’re taking your show on the road or are recording in a noisier environment, then you should probably purchase a dynamic microphone.
If you’re a podcaster, what’s your microphone of choice?
Featured Image: Clubhouse Studio/Flickr