The next type of equipment you'll need for your podcasts is a microphone. Depending on the type of show you're doing, you might only need one microphone, or, if you plan on doing things like interviews or if your show will have more than one host, you'll need a couple of microphones.
- [Voiceover] All right, let's talk about microphones. Depending on the type of show you're doing, you might only need one microphone, or if you plan on doing things like interviews or if your show will have more than one host, you'll need a couple of microphones. The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of microphone best suits your need and budget. Keep in mind that your mic is probably the most important piece of equipment in determining how your voice is going to sound. So you don't want to skimp in this area. That doesn't mean you need to go overboard and take out a loan for a $5,000 microphone, but you'll probably want to avoid using your Mac's built-in microphone.
If you're still on the fence about whether you're going to follow through with this whole podcasting thing, a good type of mic to start out with is USB headset mic. Plantronics makes some fairly decent-sounding headset mics for under $70. USB headset mics usually have a noise-cancellation feature, which means that they automatically filter out background noise. Only when the audio level reaches above a certain point, like when you're actually talking, does the headset let the audio through to the computer. Noise cancellation is a nice feature to have if you're recording in, say, an outdoor environment, or if you have your recording set up in a less than soundproof area where you might be able to hear things like street noise or an air conditioner humming.
So for under $70, a USB headset mic is a good choice for someone just starting out with podcasting. Even if you've been podcasting for a while, it might be nice to have one of these on hand for guests to your show, or if you decide to go on location with a laptop to record a remote show. But if you're serious about podcasting, you're gonna want to spend a little bit more. Generally between $100 to $200 for a decent non-headset type microphone. There are tons of microphones in this price range, but before we get to specific models, I want to give you a very basic rundown of microphone types.
First of all, nearly all microphones can be categorized into two main types, dynamic and condenser mics. These two terms refer to the way in which the microphone picks up and transmits the audio it hears. Dynamic microphones use a coiled wire and a magnet to produce the audio signal. Basically, a small diaphragm is attached to the coil, and when sound waves hit this diaphragm, they move the coil back and forth across the magnet. This generates an electric current that travels down the mic cable into your computer or whatever device the mic is plugged into. Condenser mics, on the other hand, use two plates inside a small capacitor to pick up the vibration of the mic's diaphragm.
Sound waves hitting the diaphragm cause the plates to vibrate, which in turn creates a variation in the charge between them. This variation in current is then interpreted as sound waves by the computer or whatever device the mic is plugged into. Unlike dynamic mics, condenser mics need an external power source to work since they need to charge across the capacitor. The power is usually supplied by either a battery inside the microphone, or by an external power source referred to as phantom power. Now, that's not as ominous as it sounds. Phantom power is basically a direct electrical current, usually between 12 and 48 volts.
48 volts is the most common, and most of the time the mixer you plug your condenser mic into can supply the phantom power. But that also means that you usually can't plug a condenser microphone directly into your computer, because computers are rarely, if ever, set up to supply phantom power. To use a condenser mic for your podcast, you'll need an audio input device that can provide phantom power. So what should you get, a dynamic mic or a condenser mic? Well, for the most part, dynamic mics are more rugged and durable. They can be thrown into a box and banged around, and they'll usually still sound just as good.
Plus they don't need external power. But condenser mics, for the most part, have a much greater dynamic range and are more responsive than dynamic mics. My recommendation is to get a dynamic mic for on-site or remote recording work, and to get a good condenser mic for your home or in-studio recordings. A condenser mic is gonna do a much better job of picking up the subtle characteristics of your speaking voice. All those DJs you hear on the radio, you're listening to them through condenser mics, expensive condenser mics. But again, you don't have to spend a lot of money for a podcasting microphone.
Between $100 to $200 should be fine for nearly all of your needs. After all, you're ultimately going to be compressing the audio of your podcast to reduce its size before you put it online anyway, so you don't need to go all out. Now, I haven't tried anywhere near all the mics out there, but here's just a small sampling of mics that I like if you're looking for some recommendations. A popular mic with podcasters, especially those just starting out, is the Blue Yeti. Currently retailing for around $130, it's a condenser mic with a USB connector, meaning that instead of requiring a standard XLR cable to connect it to your audio input device, you can plug it directly into your Mac's USB port.
And although as a condenser mic it requires phantom power, it gets the power through your computer's USB port. USB mics are probably the easiest to set up, but it can be a little more difficult to work with them when you want to record more than one mic at a time, for example, if you're recording an interview with two or more people for your podcast. In those cases, it's often easier to work with mics that use XLR cables to connect to an audio input device, which in turn connects to your computer via USB. I'll be talking more about input devices later, though. Another good starter mic is the Audio Technica AT2020. At the time of this recording it was retailing for under $100.
It's a good all-around condenser mic for voice work. Being a condenser mic, it does require phantom power, but there's also a USB version of this mic available, which again means it plugs directly into your computer's USB port. If you're looking for a dynamic microphone in the same price range, something more rugged for remote recordings or even in the studio, you absolutely cannot go wrong with the Shure SM58. This is the classic of dynamic microphones, and it generally goes for around $100. Again, you'll get more dynamic range out of a condenser mic, but the SM58 does a pretty great job for the money. Another microphone worth mentioning is the Audio-Technica ATR2100.
This is a dynamic microphone that has both a USB and an XLR connector, so you can use it with any computer and with any sound system without a need for any sort of adapters or other devices. It goes for around $80 and sounds pretty great as long as you're speaking close to it. One of my favorite microphones for its sound quality and its incredibly reasonable price is from a company called Monoprice. This is their Large Diaphragm Condenser mic. It provides a rich, warm sound, and it connects only by XLR, which means you will need an audio input device and phantom power, but it only costs a little under $80.
If you have a little more of a budget to work with, a microphone that gets a lot of hype from the podcasting community is the RODE Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Mic. It's known for doing a great job at reducing ambient noise and giving vocals a smooth sound. You can pick one up for around $230, and there is a USB version called the Podcaster available as well. For the most part, though, if you have the time, it's not a bad idea to get a couple of microphones to try them out and see how they are with your voice. Some microphones are gonna sound better for your voice and not as good for other people's voices, and vice versa.
If you have a music store in your area where you can try out microphones, it's worth stopping in to do so, or find an online store with a good return policy. Keep in mind, though, that for podcasting, you don't have to go too much higher than $200 to $300 for your microphone, and in most cases you can stay in the $100 to $150 range. If you are shopping for a mic that you are planning on using to record audio for a CD or an album, then yes, the sky is the limit for those microphones. Get the best sounding mic you can afford. But again, for podcasting, you're gonna end up compressing the audio anyway, so there's no need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a mic.
If you have that much to spend on your podcasting gear, get two of the mics mentioned here, and spend the rest of your money on upgrading your computer or improving the soundproofing of your recording area. One last thing you should pick up for your microphone is a pop filter. A pop filter is a thin nylon screen or a piece of foam that you place in front of or on your microphone to disperse the force of air caused by saying words with the letter P in them, also known as plosives. P can be pretty punishing to your audio recording. For that matter, so can B or T, or any other sound that requires you to emit a sharp burst of air from your mouth.
That popping sound is pretty horrible in any recording, but a pop filter does the trick nicely in dispersing that air. You can purchase pop filters like this on the right that clamp to your microphone stand with a gooseneck so you can position the filter directly between your mouth and the mic, or you can get the kind, sometimes called a windscreen on the left, that fits directly over your microphone. Oh, and speaking of mic stands, you'll need one of those too. Since you'll most likely be sitting when recording your podcast, I recommend getting either a tabletop mic stand, or better yet, something with an articulating arm so you can find the optimal position for your mic.
Once the mic and pop filter are in place, you will have to experiment with mic placement. Generally you don't want to have your mouth right in front of the microphone or have the mic directly in front of you. A little off to the side at an angle pointing at your mouth is generally a better position, but the only way to find out what position sounds best is to make a recording where you move the mic around and try out different locations. All right, so I hope that gives you some useful information on microphones. Next let's talk about what you're going to plug the microphone into.
- Developing your show's format
- Outlining vs. scripting
- Selecting equipment and a recording location
- Recording your podcast
- Adding music
- Mixing tracks
- Publishing your podcast