Choosing a Microphone for Podcasting

Choosing a Microphone for Podcasting

Listeners often judge a podcast by its sound quality. Regardless how compelling the format or topic of your podcast can be, listeners are comparing your audio quality against what they hear on radio and other podcasts produced by major broadcast organisations

As a podcast content creator, it is a given that you should be creating content that is interesting, however, if your podcast’s audio quality is bad, it is very likely you won’t have much of a listening base. Such is the irony, that your primary goal is to first make your podcast sound so good that no one notices how it sounds. The reason is simple, if people notice how bad your podcast sounds, they will most likely not continue listening to it. Fortunately, the equipment and techniques needed to produce a professional-sounding podcast are affordable and available. A big budget is not necessary to attain professional sound, but you do need a good recording microphone and a good room here in Singapore.


Optimising Your Space for Recording

For most DIY podcasters here in Singapore who don't have access to a professional recording studio, the room is a sonic hurdle, as they record their podcasts via a recording microphone in their living space or workspace. In such spaces that are generally not soundproofed, background noise from air vents, appliances, computer fans, and other sources are inevitable and will be audible in a recording. Our ears normally tune out these sounds when we're in the room, but they will be noticeable on a recording. Even in a quiet room, reflection from the walls, ceiling, and floor (if it's not carpeted) can cause your voice to sound hollow. You will sound like you're in a box because rooms in Singapore are built like boxes. Moving the recording microphone closer to you (within two to 12 inches) helps, because it makes your voice sound louder in relation to the noise and reflection.


Choosing Between a Dynamic and Condenser Microphone

When it comes to microphones, you will often hear people debating which is better: a Dynamic microphone or a Condenser microphone. The terms “condenser” and “dynamic” refer to two technical characteristics of the microphones, and how they are built. Dynamic microphones are usually more durable in build, and can handle high volumes without distortion, while Condenser microphones are more sensitive and are capable of recording sounds that are crisp and detailed. In addition, Condenser microphones provide a higher output level than Dynamic microphones. A higher output level is useful because the signal does not require as much amplification by the mixer. Amplification adds hiss, and lower range mixers generate more of it.

For Condenser microphones, the ability to pick up higher frequencies is also a double-edged sword. Although it gives condenser microphones that crisp, detailed sound as mentioned earlier; it might be a problem for podcasters who do their recordings at home. When you use a condenser microphone, you risk picking up too much background noise such as whooshing sounds from the aircon vent or unwanted sounds made by your lips and tongue. Dynamic microphones on the other hand are not as sensitive and thus will help mitigate the recording of such noise just like how a soft-focus filter on a camera hides one’s blemishes.


The 4 Characteristics of a Good Podcast Microphone

The microphone the most important tool that connects you and your audience. But what makes one recording microphone more appropriate for podcasting than another? It boils down to these four things:

  • A cardioid pickup pattern to reduce noise. Cardioid microphones are less sensitive to surrounding sound from the sides and back, thus the pickup of room noise and reflections is reduced. Those with tighter pickup patterns such as Supercardioid or Shotgun microphones can reject even more noise, but they require your voice projection to be focused on a much smaller area to avoid noticeable variations in level. This is difficult for most people.
  • A pop filter to prevent popping Ps. This can be a layer of acoustically transparent foam inside the recording microphone or an external Popper Stopper™ between you and the microphone. Nothing makes you sound like an amateur more than a pop when you say professional.
  • A shock mount that can filter out low-frequency vibrations. These vibrations can come from touching the table or typing on the keyboard when the microphone is live. Some recording microphones have internal rubber isolation mounts around the element, while others rely on an external suspension mount that cradles the microphone in elastic straps or bands. A high-pass filter switch on the microphone or the mixer adds a second layer of protection from unwanted thumps and bumps and reduces low-frequency room noise.
  • The ability to customise the sound of the microphone. Let's face it: some people have a good radio voice, and some don't. Some of us in Singapore record our podcasts in dedicated studio spaces, while others must do it in the dining room. If your voice or your recording location leaves something to be desired, being able to adjust the microphone to enhance your voice and de-emphasise room noise can be advantageous. Some microphones have switches that reduce low-frequency bass pickup, which is good for reducing room rumble or a boomy sound when you work with the microphone really close to you or boost the upper midrange to enhance the clarity of duller voices. Digital recording microphones can go even further, with an internal equaliser that lets you shape the frequency response of the microphone to reduce room noise and a compressor that smoothens out variations in speech volume levels so that your listeners aren't constantly reaching for the volume control.


Shure’s Podcasting Range

Wonder where you can buy top quality recording microphones here in Singapore? Here are four Shure tools that will make great podcasting partners. There are three microphones and an audio interface that can help expand your options with your existing recording microphone.

MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone 

Best For: People who want a simple, cost-effective solution and who record directly to a laptop, tablet or smartphone

The MV5 is an all-in-one USB microphone for plug-and-play podcasting. It can be directly connected to your Mac, PC, or iOS/Android smart device. It has a high-quality condenser microphone element with a cardioid pattern for great sound quality and noise rejection. The built-in foam windscreen reduces popping, and an internal shock mount filters out vibrations. The onboard Vocals Preset adds a little EQ for clarity and fullness, a little compression to keep your level more consistent, and a de-esser to reduce harsh sibilance on words with an S. The companion ShurePlus™ MOTIV™ App gives you access to an equaliser so you can reduce room noise, and the chosen settings stay in the microphone even when it's not connected to the app. There's also a built-in headphone jack with volume control that allows you to hear yourself and the audio playback from the computer at the same time. The MV5 comes with a short desk stand as well as USB and Lightning cables.


Best For: People who already have a mic or want the flexibility of using an XLR mic for other purposes

Inspired by the legendary SM7B, the MV7 is a dynamic microphone with both USB and XLR outputs for use with computers and professional interfaces alike. Connect via USB and explore additional set-up features and Auto Level Mode within our ShurePlus™ MOTIV™ App, to control your vocal tone, and distance from the microphone. With the Auto Level Mode, you can let the microphone do the work for you.

SM7B Dynamic Vocal Microphone 

Best For: People who want the same microphone that professional announcers and big-name podcasters use and have professional level gear to complement it.

The SM7B has been a legend in radio stations around the world for decades and was even used to record tracks for Michael Jackson's Thriller album. It has that warm, mellow sound that large dynamic microphones are known for, and it's designed for working up close and personal – you’ll need to be within two or three inches of its recording radius. However, this means that it has a fairly low output level, so you'll need a good mixer or microphone pre-amp to get the best out of it without hearing any hisses. Not one but two foam windscreens are included to keep P-popping under control, and low-cut and high-boost switches on the back of the microphone let you tailor the sound to your voice and room.

MVi Digital Audio Interface 

Best For: People who already have a mic or want the flexibility of using an XLR mic for other purposes

Already have a microphone that you want to use, but wonder how to connect it to your laptop or tablet? The MVi connects any standard XLR microphone (or even an electric guitar, bass, or keyboard) to your Mac, PC, iOS or Android smart device. It has five preset modes to optimise performance when paired with speech, singing, or musical instruments, and a convenient input level adjustment right on the front panel. A built-in headphone jack with its own volume control lets you record yourself doing a podcast interview or singing/playing along with a pre-recorded track. It even provides phantom power for condenser microphones.

Please visit our collection to find our full range of podcast and recording microphone here in Singapore.