I was watching Mike And Mike recently (with a guest host in this case, I think), and paying attention to the microphones they were using. At some point in watching them, I noticed how incredibly close they were to their mics so I snapped a couple of photos from my phone. There’s a few interesting things you can learn from watching these guys talk, to help you learn better mic position for yourself, among other things.
Eat The Mic
The first thing you’ll notice is that they are basically eating the mic, the entire time. They keep the mic right next to their mouth the entire time that they are talking, and even when they are not talking.
This is an important point to make. Keeping your mouth close to the mic gives you the best possible audio quality for your individual voice. It will pick up the high end and low end better than if you were further away, and it will also allow you to keep the room noise to a minimum.
When you have the mic close to your mouth, you need to keep the input level low, so you don’t get distortion. Keeping the input level low means the mic will pick up less noise from the room. Even if you’re in a room full of echo, you can reduce this by eating the mic.
On Not Eating The Mic
In a previous post / podcast episode, I talked about keeping the mic around 4 inches away from my mouth. This is what I tend to do, as it’s what I learned in my audio engineering courses in college. I’ve seen more and more people getting the mic right up to their mouth, over the years, though.
Bringing your mouth up to the mic like this can have some drawbacks, such as excessive mouth noises. I tend to have a problem with this, personally, but not everyone does. Do some tests. Practice a bit. See if this type of positioning works for you.
Chew With Your Molars
There’s an important aspect of mic position, when keeping the mic close to your face. These hosts are not putting mic directly in front of their mouth. Rather, they are almost always putting the mic off to the side of their mouth, with the mic diaphragm pointing in to their mouth.
Doing this keep the pops from your P and T sounds down to a minimum. When you say words with strong P and T sounds, there is a small burst of air that comes out of your mouth. If that burst of air hits the diaphragm directly, you will get a loud booming sound or pop in the audio. This is incredibly distracting, at minimum, and worse if the audio distorts because of it. Keeping the mic to the side of your mouth cuts this down incredibly.
Where’s The Pop Screen?
Most recording studios use a pop screen to cut down the pops from P and T sounds, but there isn’t one on these mic sets. There is either a pop screen built in to the mic, or they are using external audio equipment to squash the pops when they do happen.
In this case, they are using a Electro Voice RE-20 Cardioid Microphone which does have a pop filter built in to it.
Movement Doesn’t Decrease Quality
If you watch a video of the hosts, you’ll notice that they do move around a bit when they get excited or passionate about something. Yet when they do this, the quality of audio – including the volume – does not diminish. This is the result of a few things:
- Audio Compression
- Not moving more than a few inches away
Audio compression, as I’ve talked about before, is an important aspect of audio quality. Keeping the high volume and low volume portions of your podcast relatively close in volume is going to improve the over-all perception of quality in your audio. Listeners won’t be turning the volume up to hear things, and then blowing their ear drums out when it gets loud again.
But even the best audio compression can’t correct you moving too far away from the mic. You need to stay within a small distance of the mic, even when you do get animated. Staying within a small range of your mic, no matter your average distance, is important. It allows you to add a reasonable amount of compression to your audio, and not destroy the quality of the audio.
During the portions of the broadcast where the camera is pulled away from the hosts, you can often see the hosts banging their hands on the desk – but you will never hear those bangs in the audio. A good shock mount, which you can clearly see the micrphones mounted in, will cut the desk and arm noise from your audio. You’ll be able to bang on the desk or mic stand a bit, and you won’t have that noise transferring through the mic stand in to the mic itself.
Learn From The Pros
Paying attenting to your favorite broadcasters can yield some great tips on how to improve your own mic position and audio quality. The more you watch others, the more you’ll be able to pick out the techniques and tips from body position and mic position and mount. It’s more difficult to know what the back-end electronics look like, of course, but there certainly are plenty of places where you can find this info – it’s usually just a few clicks away on your favorite search egine.