If you’re new to podcasting or technical producing in general, you know that there is no shortage of equipment to choose from. You’ve probably noticed that there can be a little bit of a heated debate over what equipment is the best, too. You’re probably overwhelmed and wondering where to even start. That’s why we’re here. Depending on where you’re recording, how many guests you’ll be including on your podcast, and whether or not you plan on integrating it with other soundbytes, your answer to this question may vary. We’ll walk you through some of our top picks and why they’re our favorites!
Before we dive into the options to choose from, let’s talk about why a good microphone is important. The reality is, you could have the most amazing content, story, or guest on your show, but if it’s hard to hear or difficult to understand because of poor sound quality, all of your hard work is wasted. It’s the mic that captures your voice, your emotions, and your story. There are 3 different categories we’re going to focus on in order to cater to all levels of podcasters: Beginner, Intermediate, and Pro. If you’re just starting out and need something quick and easy, we’ve got a recommendation for you. If you’ve been producing content for a while and you’re looking to take your content to the next level, we’ve got a recommendation for that too.
- Beginner Level Microphones
Just because we’re calling these“beginner” microphones doesn’t mean it’s a low quality piece of equipment. We’re calling these good for beginners due to their low cost and easy set up.
- Samson Q2U
This bad boy is incredibly versatile because it has both an XLR (External Line Return) output and a USB (Universal Serial Bus) output. This means you can plug it directly into your computer and record via GarageBand (or a similar program) or use the mic to conduct an interview on Skype or Zoom. Then, when you’re ready to get your feet when with a mixer or a digital recorder, you can use the XLR output. An XLR cable is required for most audio equipment.
PRO TIP: When recording a session, run both cables at the same time so you can record two copies at once just in case a device crashes or malfunctions. That way, you don’t lose all of your hard work.
This is an alternative to the Samson Q2U but there’s not too much of a difference. Ultimately, the Samson Q2U is typically cheaper. What makes this model stand out is that it’s great for capturing live interviews due to being extremely lightweight and small, making it easy to pack and carry with you if needed.
When you’re ready to take your podcast to the next level, upgrading your microphone is the first step. If your subscriber count is crossing the 100,000 threshold, then you need to start thinking about upgrading your equipment so you can continue to entice new listeners with high-quality content.
- The Rode Procaster
This is an extremely dynamic podcast mic. Most mid-level (and even some high-level) podcast producers use this microphone. It’s certainly up there in price compared to the previous models we recommended, but you’ll be able to see a significant difference in the quality of sound when you compare the two.
The Procaster is an XLR microphone (like the Samson Q2U we mentioned earlier). The biggest selling point about this microphone is that it’s a dynamic mic. Dynamic microphones are a better choice if you’re not typically recording within a studio. They pick up less background noise and tend to be more forgiving in large, open spaces (like your office or study). Another pro to dynamic mics is that they don’t need phantom power, so you can plug it into a ¼” jack just like an XLR. If you’ve been in the podcasting game long enough, you probably know what phantom power is, but in case you don’t, it means that you can provide power directly to the microphone via an internal battery. Not all microphones need phantom power (like the dynamic mic we’re talking about right now).
What’s great about this mic is that it has a version called the Rode Podcaster that doesn’t require a mixer or a digital recorder. It’s very, very similar to the Procaster kit but it’s a high-quality USB microphone instead.
- The Blue Yeti
The next in this group is a USB condenser microphone, one of the most popular podcast microphones in the world! From a price perspective, it’s not hard to understand why, given that it’s only $100.
This mic offers a great quality audio thanks to its condenser capsules and its amazingly easy-to-use plug and play USB connection. One of its biggest advantages is its range of recording patterns. It offers settings for solo recording, face-to-face recording, and group recording. It’s flexible and able to adapt to just about any situation. The only downside (and it’s barely a real downside), is that you’ll need to be close to the mic to pick up a thorough sound so group recordings can get a little cozy.
One thing to note is that this mic comes with its own stand, so it’s a great first step if you want to jump in at the high-end and not have to worry about accessories. When it comes to quality though, it might not hold a candle to the MXL990 or the Rode but the ease of use and the fact that it’s standalone makes it a serious contender.
- The MXL990
Now that you’re experimenting and getting your feet wet with condenser microphones, this microphone is the next step. It’s a great value and worth every penny at the time. Even though it’s a condenser, it’s fairly decent in a normal office-sized room and doesn’t pick up too much of the background noise. If you have a reasonably quiet space and are looking for a rich sound, this puppy is perfect for you!
Before you run off to buy this microphone, keep in mind that you’ll need a nixer and/or a top-end digital recorder. You’re probably wondering where to start with mixers, but we’ll cross that bridge together another day.
- Shure SM58
If you’re in need of a microphone that is that is high-quality mic that is more mobile. This mic is typically spotted at music festivals or events because it’s a durable handheld mic. They can withstand some tough conditions like being dropped, stepped on, splash, and so much more. If you need technology that can be out and about more than it’s in a recording space, this is it.
This is a very versatile microphone because of its ease of transportation so if you’re planning on taking your show on the road, but still want to be able to record voice overs or commentary, this mic will work well for both aspects of your show. It’ll work just as well in the studio, mounted on a stand.
- AKG Lyra
Released later in 2019, this microphone is a strong competitor to the rest but has very similar features, from polar patterns to a built-in stand. Some people say it sounds a little better than the Yeti, but that’s entirely up to each individual listener. If you’re willing to shell out a couple extra dollars, this might be a good choice for you.
At this level, you’re looking at some serious cash. These fancy pieces of equipment wouldn’t look out of place in a professional recording studio at all. The microphones we discussed at the intermediate level can provide everything you truly need. There’s nothing that says you’re not a pro until you’re recording with one of these babies. That’s certainly not the case. If you can get the job done for a fraction of the cost without sacrificing quality, do it.
Ultimately, jumping to this level depends on your voice. These microphones are each designed with specific styles and pitches of voice in mind. If you’re ready to treat yourself, keep on reading.
- Rode NT1-A
This is a super low-noise XLR microphone with a surprisingly rich sound. You’re getting a great bang for your buck at $220 because it comes with a shock mount and a pop filter, so you just need a mic stand and a recording system to get started! If you’re ready to really go pro and you’ve got a mixer/interface to hook it up to, this an awesome starting point.
- Electro-Voice R20
There’s a saying among the podcast community, “if you know an Electro-Voice fan- you’ll know!”. This microphone has a very loyal following, and for a good reason! They’re certainly among the contenders for best microphones in podcasting and the audio industry in general. We imagine the following is due to the rich tones, depth, and resonance this gorgeous piece of technology produces. There’s just something about it that produces a memorable recording. Now, these microphones aren’t cheap by any means but they’re world class and you’ll be able to justify the cost in no time.
Dynamic Microphones vs Condenser Microphones for Podcasting
So we’ve talked a lot about dynamic microphones and condenser microphones versus so what’s the difference?
If you want the extra level of depth to your podcast, it’s definitely worth focusing on a condenser microphone. There are certain situations where a condenser microphone is appropriate and some situations where it’s more trouble than it’s worth. They introduce a higher level of quality to your recordings, but you have to use them in the right context. Because of their sensitivity, condenser microphones tend to pick up a lot of background noise, meaning that you need a quiet recording environment. Typically, they tend to be more on the fragile side, so transporting them in a bag on a regular basis isn’t the best option. Condenser microphones need external power, too. This normally comes through a phantom power supply like a mixing desk, a digital recorder, or a battery in the microphone. Investing in a mixing desk or digital recorder is definitely the right move if you’re trying to take your podcast set up to the next level, but it’s not necessary for when you’re at the beginner or intermediate level.
The alternative is a Dynamic Microphone. They are essentially the opposite of a condenser microphone. They record a narrower range of frequencies, so sometimes they can sound a little less rich. They pick up less surrounding noise so you have to be close to the mic. Because of these features, they’re great in not-so-great recording environments like live events or noisy areas.
The two factors that determine what microphone you should go for are: your recording environment and your budget. If you’re trying to take your podcast to the next level but you’re not sure where to start, give us a call at The AD Leaf ® at 321-255-0900. We’re here to help you grow.