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Episode 002 - Comparing Podcast Microphones

Your microphone just might be the heart of your podcast, right after the passion you hold for your topic, that is. The type of microphone you use to record your podcasts has a significant effect on the sound and quality of your recorded voice. In this episode, we listen to the sound recorded by different microphones in the same room:

  • Built-in laptop microphone
  • Webcam/mic
  • USB headset/mic
  • Condenser microphone
  • Dynamic microphone

This is not an exhaustive study, or even a scientific one. But listen and you'll hear the different characteristics of these mics. Maybe that will help guide you a little when it comes to selecting or upgrading your podcast microphone.

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Reader Comments (8)

Hi Max, I found your blog from a tweet by another podcaster @mediacastguy and so I knew this would be interesting for me. This is just what I needed to hear because I'm having issues with feedback from my usb condenser mic and now I understand why. Thanks so much are taking the time to share these comparisons.

July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIleane

I'm really glad you found this helpful! I only wish I had more mics to compare. I did recently pick up a Sennheiser e835 mic. Maybe I can do an "addendum" and include that as well. It's similar to the Shure SM58 in that it's a dynamic cardioid XLR mic available for around $100 (here in the U.S.)

July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMax

I'll try not to be too technical (as an engineer and soundman, so that might be hard), but there are a few clarifications needed in the discussion on mics. I'll also try to keep it short, but this can be a fairly detailed subject.

First, I'd note that it is much less a matter of condenser vs. dynamic as much as. It is the design of the mic *and* using it properly. In particular, you need to pay attention to the pickup pattern of the mic. Even though a mic is "directional," some mics are more directional than others. Your Heil PR40 is a good example.  It's outstanding off-axis rejection is not a matter of condenser/dynamic, but design. Those vents along the side allow excellent noise cancellation. It's a design that takes it roots back to the legendary Electro-Voice RE20, which costs quite a bit more (~$500, these days). Both of these mics are professsional mics designed for broadcast and VO work. 

Another point to mention is that while condensers are more sensitive than dymanic mics, that can (and should) be mitigated by proper gain structure. Outside studio recording, I've used condenser mics in a wide variety of venues: outdoor swing and concert bands, outdoor weddings and even rock bands on a loud stage.  All without feedback no more ambient noise than a dynamic. It's all a matter of selecting the right mic and how you set it up. In the case of your Marantz, you have a stereo pair *designed* to pick up a wide field with fairly high sensitivity. However, one could use an AKG C1000 with the hypercardioid attachment and proper gain structure (a topic all its own) and have no problems. Just remember that it typically takes much less gain to drive a dynamic mic. 

To clarify on the issue of interfacing to the computer, the biggest issue today is the quality of t he A/D converters. Your Marantz or a pro mixer will have better A/D's, the mic- in on the PC will have the worst and USB mics can Abe all over the middle. A good USB or FireWire dedicated interface will probably have the best (and can be found cheaper than you'd think). Again, that a topic entirely of it's own. 

And finally, if there's an interest, I could provide some additional samples for comparison. My mic locker includes a Blue Snowflake and Snowball, Shure SM-57's, AKG C1000s' and C-414's and a Superlux Pro-238. I can also use a variety of pre-ampsYamaha, TASCAM, Focusrite (on my Mbox) and an ART tube pre. 

Thanks for opening the discussion and best regards,
Raul Ybarrra

July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRaul Ybarra

Thanks Raul for the great feedback and insights! I particularly like your comments on using a mic properly. I think a lot of us get a mic and figure out our own way to use it, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're using it in the best way for that situation. Getting the most out of a particular mic takes some skill and knowledge, as does knowing what mic to use for a certain situation.

I'd be interested in hearing other mic comparisons if you have or can create some. Or if anyone has links to other mic comparisons."

On A/D converters, that's something I've been thinking about. I use this little Behringer UCA200 to interface my analog mixer to the USB port on my computer. Now, since I'm not recording in the PC (instead using a digital recorder fed from the mixer) I guess that interface is fine since it's only feeding Skype. But I do wonder about the quality of A/D converters in general. Probably I should focus on other things that make a bigger difference, however.

One more thing: You said "much less gain to drive a dynamic mic." Is that what you meant? I was under the impression that most dynamic mics need more gain than a condenser. Have I got it wrong?

Anyway, again thanks for contributing your expertise to the conversation!


July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMax


Obviously you are absolutely correct. The whole context of what I was writing in that section was condenser mics and that is what I should have said.

No excuse but a total brain fart...


July 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRaul Ybarra

Thanks Raul and Max. I'm learning Podcasting 101 from you guys! I was chatting on Skype with @MediaCastGuy this weekend too, so I should be heading for the store to get some gear soon. I'm comparing prices online first though, and leaning towards getting the Rode Podcaster. I have a Samson C03U that will do for now.

I'd love for you guys to give me some feedback on what I've done so far. I recorded using Audacity and uploaded the MP3 files into AudioBoo. Here's the link

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIleane

Ileane: I listened to your "Looking for an Alternative to Blog Talk Radio" and think you're off to a great start! Your voice has a pleasant quality that's really nice to listen to. So don't hold back on releasing podcast episodes - you're on your way!

I haven't used a Rode Podcaster myself, but from what I've heard it should be a good choice. On pricing, I've found that local shops like Guitar Center and Sam Ash seem to pretty much match what you find online, but it may be different where you live.

So, go Ileane!


July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Max, you are too kind!

My first stop will be Sam Ash, even though I didn't see the Rode on their website. I love that place and since my friend is a musician, we visit them regularly.

Now that you gave me that nice complement, I see no need to rush out and buy a new mic just yet. I'll concentrate on mastering some features of Audacity and keep looking for product reviews and tutorials.

You made my day :)

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIleane

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