When it comes to successful podcasting, your mic is everything. The golden rule is to invest as much as you can afford in your microphone.
It took me a couple of days to realise this; when I started podcasting I bought a condensor mic but I realised almost immediately that it picked up way too much background noise so I quickly switched to a dynamic mic.
You’re Microphone is Everything
I moved over to the Electro Voice RE-20 in the Autumn of 2013 as I was looking for a high-end mic that wasn’t so strong on the “s” sounds in my voice. I found the Electro Voice RE-20 to be my favorite mic and have been using it since then.
Here’s what it sounds like:
Everything You Need to Know in 20 Seconds
If you want to record straight into your computer you can get great sound with a high-end USB mic like the Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone.
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The Røde plugs and plays with your computer with no hassles or set up and will produce awesome sound as long as you’ve got plenty of soft furnishings in the room that you use it. Carpets and heavy curtains will help cut out some of the hollow feel of sound bouncing off the walls that your sensitive microphone will pick up.
The other option is to go with an analogue dynamic microphone like the Shure SM58 or high-end Heil PR-40 if you prefer.
You need to run a dynamic mic through an analogue mixing desk and can either record directly into your computer or onto a digital recorder. If you want to use your dynamic mic with usb a great option is to use a preamp like the Focusrite 2i4.
The Very Best Podcasting Microphone in More Detail
Originally USB mics tended to be dismissed as they didn’t produce very good sound, but in the last year or so increasingly sophisticated, high end USB mics have appeared on the market offering some excellent sound quality.
For starters, you really should avoid USB headset mics. They’re intended for Skype conversations or online gamers and typically just don’t produce quality audio for recordings.
You get lots of breath sounds and lip-smacking which can distract your listener. If you do insist on using a USB head mic, make sure you position the mic just to the side of your mouth. This way you won’t create all those popping sounds when you say words beginning with “p” or “b”. This will also cut down on the sound of you breathing.
In the early days of podcasting it was generally acceptable to produce a relatively low-fi show with poor audio. Nowadays with increasingly sophisticated equipment available at a low price, it’s harder to demonstrate your professionalism if your audio is poor. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule; but I do think the entry level is getting higher.
Some experienced podcasters will warn you off USB mics flat out, arguing that they pick up too much background noise, unwanted lip smacks, the sound of your breath and just about anything else going on in your studio.
Others will encourage you to start off with a USB mic to get a feel for podcasting, perhaps suggesting you invest in something like a Blue Snowball USB Microphone. Whilst this is a great mic, USB mics are usually condenser mics and pick up an enormous amount of unwanted background sound like unwanted lip smacks, the sound of your breath and just about anything else going on in your studio. My choice of USB mic for voicing over videos is the Röde Podcaster. It’s a dynamic usb mic and is good, but tends to be very sensitive if you’ve got the input up too much.
Sound Sample Using the Røde Podcaster
Dynamic mics, typically used by audio professions for live situations on stage and for vocals, are robust and well suited to podcasters. As many are A bi-directional they only pic up sound from the front and back, but not the sides, making them ideally suited to the typical podcasting environment you’re likely to have, helping you keep background noise down.
The lower end dynamic microphone mic I recommend is a Sure SM 58, which some of my clients have used to good effect. It currently retails for between 50-100 USD depending on where you are in the world. Another option is the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic mic
Sound Sample Using the Shure SM 58
At the other end of the spectrum check out the Heil PR40, one of the most popular high end mics amongst podcasters. This is the mic I use and definitely my vote for the very best microphone for podcasting.
NB: If you want the benefit of a dynamic mic that can also double as a USB mic you might want to check out Blue ICICLE’s recently released USB converter. It allows you to connect a dynamic mic to your computer.