CABV #015 Good Mics – Great Audio for Video

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Cook a Better Video Podcast

Do you know what’s worse than bad video? Bad audio.
To create an effective video, you must be seen and heard.

This has probably happened to you. You come across what appears to be an excellent video that you really want to watch… but it has terrible audio quality. Do you stay with the video and try to stick with it? You’ll probably click away.

So keep this in mind when you make your next video:

microphonesPeople will long forgive bad video quality (e.g. grainy, wobbly) but they won’t forgive bad audio. With the vast array of microphones available on the market, there’s no reason not to capture top quality audio even with your smartphone.

In this episode we explore different types of microphones for different uses. We’ve found that in general, you get what you pay for when it comes to microphones.  You may think you’re saving money, but higher end mics have better frequency response, are less prone to pops, hisses, and are reliable. That being said, we use budget friendly mics too. The key takeaway is to get a microphone that works for you and use it often.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • Why quality audio is more important than video
  • Affordable mics to get started
  • When to use what kind of mic and why
  • Why you should do additional research before purchasing a mic
  • How recording conditions can help you determine what mic to use, and more!!!

What is a Microphone?
Microphones work by converting sound waves into an electromagnetic signal (transduction) which can be amplified or recorded.  All mics aren’t created equal. They all respond differently to the sound source depending on the mic design and pick up pattern.

Without getting overly complicated, there are two types of microphones that you’ll generally encounter: dynamic and condenser mics. Dynamic mics are generally more rugged and don’t require a battery, while condenser mics are more sensitive and need a battery or amplifier to work.

The other characteristic is the pick up or polar pattern which refers to how the mic hears sound. You may see the word cardioid, omnidirectional, or bidirectional which lets you know the pick up pattern of the mic. Visit this link for more information about microphone polar patterns.

Below you’ll learn about some of the microphones that we have used and recommend.  You should know how and why you are planning to use a mic before you make a purchasing decision. Some of the links are affiliate links, so if you’re going to make a purchase we appreciate your support.

Studio /Voice Over
amani-channel-microphoneIf you ever need to record a voice over/narration you should consider investing in a USB or studio microphone.  We actually use an affordable option, though we have higher end studio mics as well.  Audio Technica makes a great hybrid mic, that has professional qualities. That being said professional narrators suggest that you research and test any mic that you may want to use for voice over purposes.  

Audio Technica AT2005USB  $50 (XLR/USB) – Amani uses this hybrid mic to record this podcast. If you’re just getting started or if you’re a pro, you can’t go wrong.
Audio Technica AT2100USB $60(XLR/USB) – Chip uses a similar AT mic. It has XLR and USB connectors and works in the field and in the studio.
Blue Yeti  $106 – This is a popular studio USB mic used by podcasters.
Heil PR-40 $327- This is a professional podcaster’s favorite.
Sure SM7B $349 – This mic and the one below are standard mics used in broadcasting. You can’t go wrong with either.
ElectroVoice RE-20 $450 – This is a popular broadcast mic. Amani uses it to record voice overs for client projects.

Here’s an example of Amani’s home studio recording set up with his Audio-Technica mic.

Field/Handheld
635A_beige-transHandheld – Handheld mics, also known as stick mics are great for run and gun situations in which the interviewer needs to control the direction where the mic is placed, and when there isn’t time to lav the speaker. Most field mics are dynamic microphones which are sturdy mics that don’t require an additional power source like a battery.

 

Audio Technica AT2005USB (XLR/USB) $50- This mic can be used in studio and in the field since it has a XLR connector.
ElectroVoice 635a $139 – This is a rugged dynamic mic  that is used for recording handheld interviews.
Senheiser MD-46 $199 – This is Chip’s handheld mic. The MD 46 is a very ‘good-natured’ microphone whose design avoids wind and handling noise problems. 

 

Shotgun
Shotgun_Short_Condenser_300615Shotgun mics are great if you need to isolate the sound, or keep the mic out of the shot. Shotgun mics are used on football field sidelines to film and TV sets, for newsgathering, and vlogging.  These mics have narrow pick up patterns (hypercardoid) and must be pointed in the direction of the sound source.

 

Audio-Technica 6550 $50 This is an entry level shotgun mic that will get it done if your recording an instrument of vocals.
RÓDE VideoMic $229 – This compact shotgun mic is used commonly with DSLRs.  It mounts on the hot/cold shoe on top of the camera.
RÓDE NTG2 $269 Chip lives by this shotgun mic. Used with a boom, it can conveniently be placed out of the shot so the mic is never seen.
(See other RODE Mics)
Senheieser ME66 $473 – Users love this mic and Senheiser’s are known for their high quality and you can’t go wrong with this one.

 

 Lavaliere

sony-ecm-77b-lavalier-microphone
Lavaliere (lav) mics are great for sit down interviews and situations where the speaker needs to be hands free. Also known as a lapel mic, lavaliere mics are inconspicuous, and ideally should be wired underneath the speakers clothing, jacket, or tie to hide the wire. Many lavaliere mics are condenser mics which means they are more sensitive and should be handled with care. Condenser mics are also powered by a battery.

 

Audio-Technica ATR3350 $29- This is a popular entry level lavaliere mic. It is affordable, battery powered, and has a 1/8 (3.5mm) connector which allows it to plug into headphone sized mic jacks.
Radio Shack 33-3013 $30 This affordable mic can be used with consumer camcorders. It is an unbalanced 1/8 connector. It is prone to interference, but does a great job capturing audio.
Sony ECM 55b $349 – The Sony ECM line of lavaliere mics are standard among professionals. They capture high quality sound, are omnidirectional and a great investment.  The 55b is a larger mic than the others. It is Amani’s first Sony lav and he uses it to this day. 
Sony ECM 77b
$390  – It’s the smallest mic in the ECM line.
Audio-Technica Pro88 Wireless $124 If you’re looking for an affordable wireless lav mic, this will get you in the door. Some users complain about hissing and interference. One of our community members says it works great for her.

Senheiser EW112P G3 Wireless $630- This is a solid wireless lavaliere mic. You can’t go wrong with a this system.

Demo of four great mics from this list:

 

Mobile
smartlavYour mobile device can be used to record high quality audio and you can attach a number of mics to it.

Mics can either be attached via the headphone jack of your smartphone, and some iOS devices use the power/lightning port.We’ve created a number of mobile video and audio resources that can help you navigate the mobile A/V world.

Download your Free Mobile Storytelling Guide here.

 

This video demos a variety of microphones and audio set ups that you can use.

What mic(s) do you use and why? Are we missing anything from this list? Leave a comment below.
About Amani Channel

Amani Channel is a former news reporter, a vlogger, an award winning video producer, and an adjunct professor. He also helps organizations and companies create visual stories through VisualEyeMedia.

Follow Amani on Twitter and circle him on Google+

  • Karmin

    Audio is key! Thanks for the great tips an I look forward to sharing them with my AV dept!

    • http://www.webvideochefs.com/about/chip Chip Dizárd

      I totally agree. Thanks for sharing! Best of luck with your audio.

  • Daniel Fortes

    Wow, great comparisons on all the different mics! I’m going to have to go out and get a budget mic here soon.