Picking a microphone for your podcast sounds like a small task, and in retrospect, it is; choosing a piece of equipment for something that you are going to be working on is just one piece of the puzzle. One part of the entire recipe. You have everything else figured out–content, demographics, art, hosts and co-hosts–all the preparatory things. Once all of that is planned out and figured out, then you can start thinking about your equipment. So let’s start by talking about how to pick a microphone for a podcast.
A lot of your equipment is going to be based on what exactly you are doing for your podcast. Maybe not necessarily the topic, but the environmental aspect of your podcast. Where are you recording it? How many people are hosting? Will you be roaming around and traveling, or will you be stationary? Are you going to be inside your house or apartment, or are you going to be outside in a different kind of environment? Do you want something easy that plugs right into your computer or do you want to have something that plugs into a mixer, a little more professional? Do you want something handheld or hands-free?
Even ask yourself some questions that you might not know the answer to. What kind of polar pattern do you think it should be? What kind of response are you looking for from your equipment? How much power do you need? And maybe one of the most important ones: how much are you willing to spend? How much you are willing to spend is going to determine a lot of the factors mentioned above, as the price will determine the production quality of the microphone itself. However, there are some really great microphones to get for deals, as we have discussed them here before. So let’s talk about some other things that you want to consider when picking a microphone for your podcast.
Types of Microphones
Knowing the the type of microphone that you would want is very important when choosing a podcast microphone. While there is a large range of subcategories, the two most common types of microphones are dynamic and condenser mics. Dynamic microphones are usually very sturdy, have a good receptive range for sound, are usually inexpensive and do not need an added power supply. Dynamic microphones are good for simple, big things and recording larger frequencies. Condenser microphones are typically a little more delicate and need a power supply called phantom power. They pick up a great range of frequencies and react to more subtle sounds, as they are more sensitive. Dynamic microphones are usually great for speaking and talking, and condenser microphones pick up lots of details. In picking a type of podcast microphone, it’s honestly all about your personal research and preference.
The polar pattern of a microphone describes its directionality. The most common types of polar patterns are cardioid, bi-directional (figure 8), omnidirectional and shotgun. They are all named for the type of pick up that they have. A cardioid mic will pick up a wide area in front of the microphone, with little pick up on the sides and none from the back. A bi-directional microphone picks up largely in front and behind, with little pick up on the sides. An omnidirectional microphone picks up in all directions, and a shotgun picks up a narrow, straight ahead area in front, with little on the sides and behind. While there are a few ‘fancier’ polar patterns, these are a few of the most common. If you are confused about the areas of pick up, you can check out the graph below so you can visualize the pick up areas of the microphones.
Polar patterns are an important thing to consider when you are looking for your podcast microphone. Think about how you’ll be talking and using the microphone for your podcast. (How many times have you actually thought about how you speak?) Think about which polar pattern would be better in the environment that you will be recording in.
If you’re just getting something that you will be talking straight into, a cardioid microphone will probably be best for you. They are one of the most common microphones used for speaking and singing and allow for a wide range of frequencies. It might take you a minute to research and test them out, but once you find the qualities that you like, the decision will be easy.
USB or XLR?
Do you have any other equipment besides your computer? What are you going to plug your podcast microphone into? While USB ports are easily portable and simple to use, they might not give the best quality sound because of the electrical transfer. XLRs are more professional and can be used in a range of other situations, as they get plugged into mixers, DIs and wall outlets.
In the end…
Picking a microphone for your podcast seems like an easy task in retrospect, and it is, as it’s only one piece of the entire puzzle. Just one hurdle that you have to jump over to get started on your podcast. But as you start to think about all of these things and you find your own answers, you’ll start to see what you need and what you want out of your podcast microphone. There are plenty of reliable brands and names out there that you are aware of already, and now it’s just about finding out what you like best. So don’t be afraid! Do your research, test out some options, and find out what’s best for you and what you need. You’ll thank yourself later.
Keep on listening and keep creating,