Which microphone to choose for Podcasting.

There a few choices to make, starting with how much money you have to spend. There is free, as in the microphone built in to your computer, but it would be much better to buy a cheap external one for under €10 to give you a big increase in quality. Your audience will not continue to listen to your podcast if the sound is really bad, they might put up with poor video but not poor sound.

Headset microphones.

headset microphoneThere are head set microphones which have the advantage of being the right distance from your mouth, the sound source, and there are some that will give reasonable recording quality. The disadvantage of the headset is that sometimes you get sounds from the mic being touched or tapped and unless you set it right, you have the problem of popping. This is a sound that comes when you pronounce a word with a B or a P emphasised. In the studio with a good condenser mic the podcaster or DJ will use a pop filter in front of the microphone to combat this problem.

Dynamic or Condenser microphones.

The technical type of microphone is a factor, dynamic or condenser. A dynamic type is one that the recording artists will use on stage. They are less sensitive than the condenser type and can be a good choice for a podcaster. The old favourite of this type would be the Shure SM58. The condenser mic is better in a setting where it is quiet. So is better for you, if you have a studio set up and there are fewer extraneous noises around, such as a TV in a nearby room or kids playing outside, or a neighbour working in the garden. If you are subjected to a lot of ambient noise then get a dynamic mic.

A consideration with a Condenser mic is that often you will need to supply it with phantom power, usually 48 volts and you will need a mixer to be able to do that. The Samson C03U is a condenser mic but is connected by USB so doesn't need phantom or a mixer. There are other devices like the Blue Icicle product that will allow you to connect a mic that has the standard 3 pin XLR connector. The Icicle from Blue has a pre amp, 48v phantom power, is balanced and converts any XLR to USB.

Specialist Podcasting Microphones.

Blue SnowballA number of companies have created products designed for podcasters. Rode, Behringer, Blue and others, all have podcasting kits with a decent microphone in them and sometimes a desktop stand and a pop filter are included. If you have a computer that has fans whirring away and perhaps causing some vibration on the desk, then you might want to get a floor stand that has a proper microphone holder on the end. The microphone gets slotted in between elasticated cords and is isolated from the vibrations. One of the things I love about my Macs is that they are really quiet in operation

Connecting the microphone.

Behringer Microphone kitMost of the podcaster specialist microphones will have a USB connector and are very easy to use, Then there is the next stage up, the studio microphones. I have a Behringer B-2 PRO Dual-Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone and it is connected via a Xenyx mixer. The mixer was only about €50 and I bought the microphone from a musician friend. The mixer connects to the computer through the line in jack. The better mixers will connect via USB or firewire. With the firewire you can separate the sound sources. You could have 2 microphones for an interview, to go into separate tracks into the DAW - Digital Audio Workstation, or your multitrack recorder.

Overview based on how much money you have to spend.

  • No money, then go ahead and record with whatever you have, just to try out making a podcast. You can upgrade later.
  • Some money, buy a cheap external mic or head set. It will be a big improvement.
  • If you have about €50 to €100 to spend then get a USB microphone which will work great with AmadeusPro, Audacity or Garageband.
  • With approximately €200 you can get a a good condenser microphone and a proper stand and a small mixer to connect it up to your computer.
  • No limit, Buy a couple of microphones, Get a Shure SM58 to use when you are interviewing outside, or a portable option like a Zoom H2 or H4. Then have a studio set up with sound deadening material to cut out any echo, and use a good quality condenser mic like the Behringer B2 connected with a mixer. Then you could also go another step and add in a hardware noise gate audio processor, like the DBX 266XL Compressor, limiter gate.

The basics of Podcasting