Professional Podcasting #1: The Microphone Matters. This should come as no surprise, but your mic(s) are not a place to skimp. When recording audio or video everything starts with the mic. Microphones sound different and you certainly “get what you pay for” in the quality department. However, that doesn’t mean you need to spend an arm and a leg on microphones. The key is to ensure that you purchase microphones appropriate for their intended task. Obviously, the MP3 compression process will degrade your audio, this is why you want the best source file possible. Compression will only exacerbate issues if the source is poorly recorded. With an audio podcast, the quality of your audio is the main determinant of the listener’s first impression. Here is what we use:
Studio Mic: Electro-Voice RE20. This mic is standard equipment in almost every broadcast studio you might visit. It is a dynamic cardioid microphone with an internal pop filter and is a consistent performer. It works well off-axis and is an all around champ. We use these both in my home studio and at our GrapeRadio.com studios. I also have a number of clients who have installed these in their offices. Engineers who spend all day focusing on their station’s broadcast audio keep installing RE20s. There is a reason, trust them. You might also consider the RE-27N/D. If the cost of the Electro-Voice mics is a bit high, take a look at the Shure SM7B. [Podcast Academy article on the SM7B]
Stick Mic: Sennheiser MD-46. For man-on-the-street style interviews, the MD-46 is my go-to microphone. Originally designed for NBC reporters at the Olympics, this unidirectional dynamic microphone breaks all the rules and ends up being an extremely effective mic for avoiding “plosives” and “handling noise.” I like that it is longer than many other mics making it easy to accommodate a mic flag with plenty of room to spare. These are the mics we have used for the last 3 years to produce the official Disneyland Resort Podcast. At Disneyland there is a lot of background noise from the park’s attractions and guests, the MD-46 lets just the right amount of ambient atmosphere sound in while maintaing solid recording of the interview subject(s). We have also used these mics successfully table mounted for roundtable interviews. Another mic we occasionally use is the Electro-Voice RE-50N/D-B (a favorite of Paul Figgiani). When budget is a concern, these mics can serve double duty in your home studio.
Lavaliere Mic: Audio Technica AT-898. If you are going to do sit-down style long format interviews, covering live stage events or doing video, add some lavaliere mics to your kit. There are a lot of choices for lavaliere mics, but I’m pleased with my pair of Audio Technica AT-898s. I have connectors for my various digital recorders and wireless transmitter packs. Another mic to consider is the Countryman E6i (an over-the-ear headset model.) Leo Laporte often endorses these. While I do not own one, they always sound good and I’ve thought of picking one up to take with me to events where I am speaking. Always nice to ensure that at least you sound good.
An investment in quality mics will pay dividends. Good sound is always a plus and the mics I have suggested will deliver. Bottom line, podcasting professionals need a kit of microphones to ensure they have the proper “tool” for the project. Hiring a Podcasting Consultant? Easy test: ask them for a list of their microphones and recording equipment. [Digital recorders will be covered in a future post.]