Microphones (WIP)

Let me tell you which microphones to start with .

I own over 20 microphones
So I have strong and nuanced opinions
I know that isn't helpful when you're starting your podcast or livestream,
So I've limited it to four

I've chosen these four on their ability to build up to the next system

I haven't been able to finish the detail sections of my recommendation
So, if you don't trust me, you'll have to wait

COVID CAVEAT

Many of these items have limited stock or prices have been inflated
I've added B&H product links because they provide stock notifications
Heads up: Amazon links are affiliate links


For \$60: Samson Q2u

Buy at: Amazon, B&H

Why it works

  • It sounds good
  • It rejects background sounds really well
  • It inludes all the accessories you need to start
  • It supports USB so you don't need additional hardware
  • It supports XLR so you can upgrade it with a better interface

Meh

  • It's not a great looking mic
  • You'll outgrow the included accessories pretty quickly

Suitable and similar alternatives

I used the AT2100USB to record the 2016-2018 episodes of Bird Call Review
The two mics above are newer versions of that mic

These are very similar to the Samson Q2u but don't include the same useful accessories
They also sound "thinner" to my ears and they have a blinding, blue "on" LED

But, pretty close if you can't find stock of the Samson Q2u

Why this works

  • USB plug-n-play but "upgradeable" to
  • Beginner accessories included
  • Better isolation from background sounds that popular USB mics (Blue Yeti, et al.)

Why you might need to upgrade

  • Multi-personal, local recording
  • Need better source files (24-bit vs 16-bit)
  • Electro-magnetic interferance from nearby monitor

For \$150: Beringer XM8500 mic + Beringer U-PHORIA UMC22 interface

Buy the mic: Amazon, B&H
Buy the interface: Amazon, B&H

What you get for the extra money

  • Better audio (more editable with high 24-bit recording)
  • The ability to explore better (non-USB) mics
  • Ability to easily record more than one personal locally

Why this works

  • The Behringer is cheap with a decent mic preamp
  • The Behringer is cheap, sound good, and has decent output gain
  • Good isolation from background sounds
  • A dedicated interface will give you access to 24-bit recording and multi-track capabilities

Why you might need to upgrade

  • Recording low-volume sources (a quiet voice or far from the mic)
  • Electro-magnetic interferance from nearby monitor

(Details coming later...)

For \$300: Rode M2 + Behringer U-PHORIA UMC22 interface

Buy the mic: B&H (Rode doesn't provide warrantees to Amazon customers)
Buy the interface: Amazon, B&H

What you get for the extra money

  • More natural tone
  • Better isolation from background noise

Why this works

  • The Rode M2 is a "stage condensor" with excellent isolation from background sounds and a high signal-before-noise output
  • The has good enough preamps to drive easily drive this mic for most any voice, even at a distance
  • Superiour rejection of electromagnetic interferance from monitors

Why you might need to upgrade

  • Looks

(Details coming later...)

For \$650: Shure SM7B + MOTU M4

Buy the mic: Amazon, B&H
Buy the interface: B&H

What you get for the extra money

  • The SM7B is extremely photogenic with integrated shock obsorber and pop filter
  • Loop-back functionality (this allows you to record one remote guest to an isolated track)

Why this works

  • The SM7B looks good if you're recording video
  • The SM7B requires fewer appandages, with internal shock obsorber and pop filter
  • The MOTU M4 is the only prosumer interface that can drive SM7B without noticable noise

Meh

  • The SM7B captures more background sounds than the Rode M2

Why you might need to upgrade

  • Live recording and/or streaming
  • On-site recording
  • A local sound mixer
  • Hardware limiters (for yelling)

Don't I need a Cloud Lifter or FetHead for the SM7B?

No
Those are for interfaces with worse preamps
The MOTU has preamps with a higher EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) than the Cloud Lifter and FetHead

(Details coming later...)

For \$1100: Shure SM7B + Sound Device MixPre-3 (my setup)

Buy the mic: Amazon, B&H
Buy the interface: Amazon, B&H

What you get for the extra money

  • Looks good on stream
  • Laptop free multi-track recording
  • Local mixing
  • Mix-minus recording (isolated guest tracks)
  • Hardware limiters for sudden loud sounds
  • Pre-fader high-pass filter

Why this works

  • Sound Devices makes rock solid on-site recording hardware
  • The preamps are second to none
  • Record in-person at conferences without my laptop
  • Analog limiters mean no unintended distortion during streams

Meh

  • The SM7B captures more background sounds than the Rode M2

Why you might need to upgrade

You don't
You have everything you need
Rent the rest if/when you need it

Don't I need a Cloud Lifter or FetHead for the SM7B?

No
Those are for interfaces with worse preamps

(Details coming later...)


This doc is a work in progress
The recommendations aren't likely to change any time soon
But I'll flesh out the decision-making nuances a bit

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