So you want to take your podcast to the next level. You plan a budget to get only the best gear – mixer, cables, and of course, the microphone. However, some of these microphone prices can cost more than the rest of the rig. It can become very confusing – should you get something expensive, or a lower-cost alternative?
I am going to show you a few microphones that could break the bank. I’ll explain why it’s so pricey, and ultimately, should you buy for podcasting.
USB Microphone: MXL UR-1 $499.99
Let’s start with one of the most expensive USB Microphones out there. This is the MXL UR-1 Ribbon microphone. At $500, this Bi-directional mic with a 89db signal-to-noise ratio will look good in front of an audience – especially if you record a video podcast. The 1.9-micron aluminum ribbon is the key to this microphones cost. A piece of aluminum is placed in-between the oles of a magnet. The ribbon basically vibrates when sound is introduced. It’s a very sensitive microphone, so it will pick up high-frequency detail. These microphones used to be fragile, but over the years, construction of the mic has greatly improved to the point they are used in high-noise areas, like recording rock bands. This is perfect if you want to record a room of people, or maybe a group of musicians on a single mic.
Boundary microphones are great for stages. If you are podcasting from a platform, or recording a play or other event, this mic can be used. A great example – you are at a keynote or other meeting where the speaker is on the stage. Since this microphone is wireless, you can place it on the edge of the stage to pick up the speakers voice, rather than an echo chamber sound you sometimes get from a room mic. The microphone is a condenser mic with a Semi-cardiod polar pattern. It’s signal-to-noise ratio is 80db. It’s a wireless microphone, so to use it, you will need to purchase the quad receiver as well, which will cost an additional $2000. Usually, you buy 2-4 of these microphones to cover a whole stage. Boundary microphones can start at around $50.
Just like with the MXL USB microphone, the Royer Labs SF-24 is a ribbon mic. This is a phantom power microphone, which means you will need an external power source that can push electricity into the microphone. What this is perfect for is an overhead microphone for a 2-3 person interview. It’s also great for recording an acoustic band, choir or orchestra and getting a stereo sound to it.
You might be thinking – WOW! That’s an expensive microphone. But believe me, it’s all about that vacuum tube in the microphone that makes the difference. Just like a guitarist who prefers a tube amp over a conventional amplifier, the Telefunken ELA brings a warm sound to the voice. Since the vacuum tube is like a lightbulb, it will need a little bit of time to warm up, and the microphone will get warm after a while. Eventually, the tube will start to go bad or even blow. Replacement tubes are pretty inexpensive (around $50), so have a few spares at the ready just in case. Just to compare, the lowest priced Tube microphone is around $200-$250.
This microphone looks more like a Star Trek phaser than anything. This is one of the most versatile dynamic microphones, it can record a full room without blinking. You might see this microphone over a drum set to record the cymbals, or a church to record a choir. It’s visual aspect can put it on a desk to record a host – guest. It boasts an excellent feedback rejection – which means you won’t get squealing when using this mic. The microphone is on a spring capsule, so it’s a highly sensitive-to-sound microphone.
Neumann SKM100-MS Stereo Microphone at $3,399
This is a great microphone for a screen caster, or a podium. The Georg Neumann GmbH SKM100-MS microphone is small, so it can be placed almost anywhere. Overhead, on a table, or wherever you want to capture sound. This phantom microphone requires an external power source, but might be better than the lavalier microphone in the cases of switching presenters. It’s signal-to-noise ration is around 68 db, depending on how it’s set up.
You might see this type of microphone on a sportscaster or news reporter when they are on location. It’s like a lavalier micrphone, except the mic is a lot closer to the mouth. The advantage is you can close the apature with a attenuator or compressor/gate and keep a lot of the external noise out. You can also add a windscreen and a “Hush sleeve”, which can add a bit of comfort to the wearer of this headset. The mic can be detached from the headset frame and used like a conventional lavalier (if needed).
A shotgun mic is a microphone you place just directly above the host/guest heads. It captures the sound around a small area. If you watch a reality show, it includes a boom operator to record nothing but sound. A shotgun microphone can also be placed in a studio to record sound. With a boom mic, you normally have a windscreen attached and a boom stick to place the microphone above the people’s heads.
Are These the Best Microphones for Podcasts?
Here is the kicker. All of these microphones will put out high-quality sound. In the end, you are compressing for the web at 128 kbps or less (For example, I record my show Geek Smack! and encode at 64 kbps because of the size). The type of microphone will still help, and it all depends on what you want to stare at for the 5, 20, 40 or whatever minutes you record shows with. If you turn on a video podcast, most likely the only microphone you may see is the headset mic or the USB mic. Besides aesthetics, all other microphones are pretty much overkill. Of course, it’s really about what you feel comfortable talking into, and how much money you have in your wallet…