Microphones are stupid: Podcasting Advice: Part 1

This is Part 1 to many other opinion pieces to come!  I love discussing software, hardware and equipment and since I have amassed quite the collection of stuff – I feel my professional opinion is helpful to many!

I frequently get emails and questions about the mics, software, etc I use to record the podcasts that I produce, I am always flattered but also put in a bit of a pickle because as an audiophile, I am quite picky about gear. The microphones I use, the hardware I use them with and the miscellaneous stuff I have connected aren’t always very affordable to someone who just wants to start out. I have collected and bought gear for about 25 years so it isn’t an easy question to answer.  I have owned and used the most expensive and the cheapest stuff and currently use a Dr. Frankenstein approach but a full studio upgrade coming late 2019 thanks to my supporters!

Recently, a friend approached me because she is launching a podcast with a friend about her profession, Psychiatry and wants to have a good clean recording but stick to a budget (don’t we all?).  She was using the microphone and headset included with her iPhone (which sounds much better than the mics that most of the podcasts out there have, to be honest) and her co-host has a Shure SM-58 (a GREAT singing mic but it my opinion, not good for spoken word, or anything else non musical) connected to a preamp and rigged into the input of her sound card but wanted an upgrade.  It’s a smart move.  Getting away from these types microphones is the best thing you can do for your overall production. 

I have a philosophy: 

you can start with a crappy sounding guitar and once we set it up with the proper settings and effects it will sound great but what if you started with a great sounding guitar to begin with? 

The same goes for microphones. 

I will just guess you want to start out with good equipment but not spend a fortune just to sound good.  Any of the choices here will improve your sound ten-fold.  They are all capable of professional sounding recordings and are easy to use. That being said, these are JUST microphones and a lot more goes into recording audio than just recording a microphone. For my recordings I use (while recording) a limiter (to keep from clipping), noise gate (which eliminates all sounds from a certain threshold, like birds tweeting or wind noise) and compression (levels out your voice).  If you have a quiet room and speak evenly then you will be set with just adding a microphone.  Eventually you may want to add the other stuff. Connecting a microphone to an iPhone is not something I recommend but it can be done.  The same should work with an Android phone but instead of a Lightning to USB you will need a USB-C to USB adapter. YMMV. 

you may want to add in a powered USB Hub if the iPhone isn’t putting out enough power for the mic. 

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Port-USB-Power-Adapter/dp/B00DQFGJR4/ref=sxin_2_pb?keywords=powered+USB+Hub&pd_rd_i=B00DQFGJR4&pd_rd_r=75974382-7fbf-4b64-97a5-58f5eecb0ba9&pd_rd_w=bUoFK&pd_rd_wg=0otBI&pf_rd_p=9ef0c97a-254b-445c-822b-c948e2d94ddd&pf_rd_r=J328MX2NZPCRX5CN2PPE&qid=1560268280&s=gateway

You will NEED a Lighting to USB adapter or a USB-C to USB adapter.

https://www.amazon.com/Apple-MD821AM-Lightning-Camera-Adapter/dp/B014VGHG0U/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=lightning+to+usb+adapter&qid=1560268341&s=gateway&sr=8-3

Microphones, all USB

I own each one of these but record with an analog microphone – I just prefer the overall sound.

Blue Yeti – this is an excellent microphone and is made very well. The favorite of too many podcasters

https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Yeti-USB-Microphone-Blackout/dp/B00N1YPXW2/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=blue+yeti+usb+mic&qid=1560042021&s=gateway&sr=8-3

AmazonBasics Yeti Copy – This is Amazon’s copy of the blue yeti – I like this one more and it has touch controls which will eventually break.  It is about $30-40 less than the Blue and to be honest, sounds identical.

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Professional-USB-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B076ZXYG17/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=amazon+basics+usb+mic&qid=1560041997&refinements=p_85%3A2470955011&rnid=2470954011&rps=1&s=gateway&sr=8-3

Blue Snowball – I love this mic and at less than $45 it’s the cheapest mic I have ever considered to be just as good as ones twice the price. You can’t go wrong with this mic.

https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Snowball-Condenser-Microphone-Cardioid/dp/B014PYGTUQ/ref=sr_1_10?keywords=amazon+basics+usb+mic&qid=1560041971&s=gateway&sr=8-10

Additional

Windscreens – DO NOT use those foam windscreen that look like clown noses, they don’t work, they are stupid and useless – throw them away!  These are used to minimize the voice when you say your B’s and P’s (The Boys were Pitching with Peter’s BaseBall) nothing worse than those ‘explosions’  These are $5-$200.  I use one made of metal mesh with a screen in the middle and it was $20.  I like it because it is small and lightweight.  This is $8

https://www.amazon.com/Professional-Microphone-Stabilizing-Recordings-Broadcasting/dp/B01N21H9WY/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=pop+screen&qid=1560043361&s=gateway&sr=8-3

If I were starting today I would without a doubt buy one of these microphones as my main device.  If I had to choose I would use the AmazonBasics before the Blue mics….no particular reason minus that fact that I like the way the device looks and feels. 

There are tons and tons of microphones out there and you don’t need to be limited to just these but it is my opinion to steer clear of generic labelled microphones – they are poorly constructed, have issues with noise and are simply made to look good.  I would be happy to look over any mic you find and give you an opinion.
mark@walnutgrovecast.com

PS – I posted this to help people – not to debate – I know what works for me and what works well – if you disagree with any of the stuff I wrote please feel free to write it all down in a letter and then burn the letter.

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