A professional recording relies on a number of factors relating to the quality of your equipment and how you use it. This post looks at the first stage of the equipment chain – the microphone.
Largely speaking, microphone technology has not changed much in decades whereas the number of manufacturers and choice is now vast. You can pay as little as a few pounds or up to thousands for your microphone and choosing can be a minefield for the uninitiated.
As this post is aimed at podcast recording, I will not give a comprehensive guide to microphone types but will cover the most relevant aspects you need to consider, what you should avoid and my personal recommendations. This should help you when shopping around for a decent podcasting microphone.
Headset / PC microphones
Relatively speaking, these microphones are inexpensive and there is an abundance of options.
The headset I use on skype is a Packard bell and cost me 19.95 GBP. It is great for skype; however, as my focus is on professional recording I would never use this to make a podcast recording.
I understand that there are probably higher quality microphones available on headsets, but I would not encourage anyone to use a headset for professional recording for two main reasons. I am yet to hear one that competes with a dedicated microphone and the flexibility is limited as it is designed to be worn on your head. You can’t exactly interview somebody on the street or in a coffee bar wearing a headset.
Dynamic Vocal microphones
Many times I have heard people say that dynamic vocal microphones are good for recording voice-overs. This is a misconception as dynamic microphones are suited for use on stage. I would not recommend this for podcast recording for two reasons. Firstly, they are most effective at capturing high-pressure sound levels such as a singer or instrumentalist and are not the best for capturing speech on to your PC. Secondly, for this type of microphone to work well you need to use a mixing desk or microphone preamp.
A dynamic microphone may suffice if you are only capturing your own closely mic’d voice recordings, move the microphone only 6 inches and your recording will hiss like a snake! (You can hear this in the microphones I tested below)
Condenser microphones are supremely better at capturing clear sound at greater distances, which means recording you and your guest is possible without your listeners thinking you have a gas leak.
Condenser / Electret microphones
This is my recommended type of microphone for recording speech and voice-over. It captures a level of clarity that far surpasses the types I have already mentioned.
There is one point to note about these microphones, they require 48v phantom power to operate. This is not so much a problem, just make sure you purchase one that is able to operate from a battery as many of us will just want to plug it straight in to the recorder. If it is not battery operated you will need a mixing desk or microphone preamp, which will make it more difficult for recording on the move.
Testing and Reviewing
If you can, it is always good to research & test a microphone before committing to it financially. As part of this blog series, I am going to start podcasting about podcast production. I will be using / testing a number of microphones during one of the podcasts. I will then give you a critique of each microphone and you will be able to hear the result for yourself.
This will take me out of my comfort zone, as I am more accustomed to recording rather than being recorded 🙂
Reading about microphones is one thing but hearing them takes it to the next level.
In the near future, I will record and review the following microphones: –
· Packard bell headset – Cost £19.95GBP
· Dynamic Microphone e815S – Cost £39.95GBP
· Multimedia Desk Top Microphone – Cost £3.99GBP
· Dual Impedance Condenser Microphone – Cost £19.99GBP
· AKG C 1000 S – Cost £94.99GBP
· Rode NT1-A Condenser – Cost £119.00 GBP
Update: I have done some comparison test recordings – Click here >
Please feel free to comment, suggest an area for me to cover and ask any questions.