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One of the most common questions new podcasters ask is

What Microphone should I use?

cardioid pickup patternOften times podcasters will jump in to big long soliloquy of why this microphone is far superior to that microphone or you will have some old Radio personality or internet marketer who has spent the last 5 hours researching how to podcast and talks about the Blue snowball. There are several different types of microphones out on the market. There are Carbon mics, Electret Microphone, Ribbon Microphones, and Crystal Microphones the the most common microphones for podcasters are Dynamic, and Condensers.

What is the difference in microphones?

Condenser microphones are designed so that the diaphragm acts as a capacitor and changes the electrical frequencies sent to the mic. Because of how the microphone is set up it is very sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, and this is great for picking up the warm natural tones of a humans voice. Many ill informed Podcast Gurus, or Internet marketeers who have just quickly read up on podcasting, will suggest a condenser microphone due to this fact without taking into consideration the environment of MOST podcasters, and the environment of the podcast listeners. The common podcaster is recording at best in a closet and at worst in a bedroom with the kiddos playing in the next room. The podcaster will have 1 – 3 electronic devices around them and these will have hard drive noises, fan noises. Throw in the squeaky chairs and the family pet walking on hard wood floors. This environment is not conducive to quite recording using condenser microphones. Because they are sensitive. I often joke that they can pick up a mouse farting down the hall. Granted they are not as sensitive as a laser microphone, but in the realms of podcasting it is not far off. Condenser microphones, also typically have to have some sort of external power often called phantom power to be able to work. This will come in the means of having to have a mixer or from your USB plug. So it can be a challenge to have condensor microphones in a mobile setup.

Dynamic microphones are set in a little different style in that there is a type electromagnet in use. Basically when you speak into a dynamic microphone your voice or other sound creates the electrical current that is sent to the recording equipment. This type of microphone isn’t AS sensitive to outside noises like the Condenser microphone, and is a little more forgiving to the noises that a typical family house makes. Yes, there is a loss of frequency that are picked up but when you throw in where most people listen to podcasts, for instance in their car, on a walk or while mowing the lawn, then only the true hard core audiophiles will notice.

One part of microphone discussions that I don’t hear very much about is, the Pickup pattern or Polar Pattern. From what I see there are about 4 to 6 different Polar patters in microphones. These influence also what is picked up on your microphone. A Polar pattern is also known as directionality as in Omni directional or Shotgun.

The omnidirectional microphone pickup

Omnidirectional pickup

Omnidirectional

As the name suggests this is all around pickup. You can be infront of the mic and it will pick up your voice. you can be beside the mic and it will still pickup your voice. You can even be behind the microphone and it will pick up your voice. Not the best solution for a podcaster. Due to the fact aht many podcasters podcast in a room that has walls. The walls and other flat objects reflect the sound back and the microphone will pick it up. So you will get this reverb or in other words you will sound like you are recording in a well. Many omnidirectional microphones are condensers

Polar_pattern_figure_eight

Bidirectional Pickup

Bi directional

You have two areas that will pick up sound equally that is in front and in back. Ribbon Microphones will often have this Polar pattern. Great if you have two hosts and only one mic. Just make sure you have a breath mint.

Polar_pattern_cardioid

See the heart shape of the Cardioid Microphone

Cardioid

As the name sounds this polar pattern is heart shaped, and is one of the best patterns for a microphone to pick up a person talking into it without having the rest of the outside world working in to the recording. Great example of a cardioid dynamic microphone is the Audio Technica ATR-2100 and ATR-2005

With Super and Hyper sub sets

These are some subset of the polar pattern that have a little more pickup behind the microphone. So super and even hyper is not that cool in the world of podcasting.

Polar_pattern_directional

picks up most from the front with a Shotgun mic

Shotgun

Almost all of the pickup is in front of the microphone while there are little zones that are at the sides this is normaly used by television and movies to pick up a mic that is over head. So if you have a video podcast this could be a good solution.

So what type of Microphone?

The one you like the most. Yeah I might cringe a bit when I hear someone bought a Blue Snowball but if they like the sound it produces then my opinion doesn’t matter. If you are able to test out different microphones then I would suggest you do so. Each microphone brand has its own particular brand of sound. Heil PR-40 does a better job of picking up the higher frequencies than a Shure Microphone. So test and listen.

Links mentioned

SnoopDoggs GGN podcast RSS feed and his Libsyn Page

If you ever come across a podcast that has an iTunes page but you can find the RSS feed use this site. Feed Flipper

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