Passionate debates can frequently be seen on techie forums about which microphone people should buy for their podcast studio.
Some people recommend very expensive microphones – some costing thousands – all without knowing too much about the person’s needs or their studio set up/location.
I think it essential that nobody is put off following their passion to record podcasts just because they may not have the gear some people say they need. I say, use what you have and do it anyway – or buy modest equipment to get going.
In my view the environment plays a large part when it comes to deciding on the ideal microphone for you.
Now, back to the ‘heated debates’. When someone asks for advice on microphones, it is – on one level – an impossible question to answer. Partly because people’s voices can sound better with one microphone over another, and only by trying quite a few can you settle on the one that’s best for your voice.
The best microphone is also the one that suits the environment in which it is used. And let’s face it – many people record shows at home. Because hosting a podcast once a week simply doesn’t warrant the expense of a dedicated professional studio.
Unless you have a soundproofed room fitted with acoustic tiles, then using a very sensitive condenser microphone will cause you lot of problems.
In an un-soundproofed room, a good condenser mic will pick up the sound of birds tweeting outside, passing traffic, planes flying over, next door’s lawnmower and barking dog – as well as all the reverb of your voice in the room.
One way to reduce room reverb is to use heavy curtains to cover any hard surfaces and/or lay mattresses against walls.
People who have to record in less than ideal situations might consider using a dynamic microphone which is less likely to pick up unwanted noise.
Using a dynamic microphone may mean you need to speak louder than you’d like – which could lead to an unnatural sounding performance.
A noise gate / compressor may help keep unwanted noise at bay and enhance your voice, but they can sometimes introduce a whole set of other problems. They need to be set up correctly so they do just enough to help (less is more).
I do recommend using a noise gate (the Composer Pro – XL is a fine starting point) as they can raise the audio floor level above the natural hum and rumble of your apparent silent room.
Some people swear by the Shure SM57, it’s a fine microphone. But if you can find one I really recommend the old Audio-Technica PRO 4H for its high output and crisp performance. If you get really serious; stump up for the RE27 N/D.
Apart from having the mic that’s best suited to your voice, the mic you buy will likely depend more on your studio environment than your voice or budget.
If you do have a soundproofed room that also has acoustic tiles to deaden room reverb, then you can buy your dream condenser microphone.
But in my view, when it comes to selecting a microphone, your choice is simple. Use the mic that best suits your environment, and don’t place a Roll Royce engine in a Skoda.
Need to have, rather than nice to have.
But the bottom line is; start podcasting with what you have. If you are still podcasting after ten shows then you may be on to something and need to up your gear a little.
My book Podcasting Made Easy is full of pro tips to get you started.