It’s true, you don’t need anything fancy for a mic. The honest truth is that you probably have what you need, already: a phone with a recording app, a portable audio note-taker, a laptop with a built-in mic. Having “the right equipment” is more a matter of recognizing what you already have vs buying something new.
At some point, though, you may want to invest in a better mic – “better” being a very subjective term, though. What’s “better” – a mic that costs a lot of money, or one that fits on your head? The answer to that depends on what you currently have, what you need, and whether or not you have the money to spend on something fancy.
To that end, I’ve compiled my favorite list of mics, from cheapest to most expensive, so you can see what “better” may be in your situation. Better yet – I’m making comparisons to motor vehicles with these mic recommendations. Even if you don’t agree with my taste in vehicles, having a comparison such as this will at least provide opportunity for more understanding of the “fancy” vs “functional” aspect of these mics.
A Skateboard: Your Current Mic
The mic you already have is the most basic mode of recording that you need. Whether it’s a mic built in to your laptop, or a dictation device that produces .mp3 files, you don’t have to spend any money to get started. This is a good option for some people – especially those that aren’t sure if they really want to stick with podcasting.
The Vespa (Moped): Logitech ClearChat
If your laptop mic is a skateboard – enough to get buy for a while – then the Logitech ClearChat headsets are the Vespa motor-scooter. They’re a significant upgrade, but they’re not going to get as far as some other mics. If you’re looking for something better than your laptop mic, but you need to keep it on the low end still, this is a great option.
You’re going to get dual use out of this headset, too – chat on Skype and Google+ and record your podcasts.
The Honda Civic: Audio Technica AT2005USB / ATR2100-USB
If you want flexibility, rock solid performance, but without the fancy options and high-end shine of other mics, you can’t go wrong with the AT2005USB or ATR2100-USB mics from Audio Technica. These mics won’t quit, and will gives you the flexibility of using them as a USB mic or an XLR mic when you want to upgrade your rig, later.
The AT2005USB is my backup mic, and it really does perform well. I take it with me when I travel, so I don’t have to haul my larger, more expensive mic around. The audio quality is great for the price, and the durability means it will go wherever you need to go.
Either of these mics will prove worthy of your podcast, and neither of them has any distinct advantage over the other. If you’re going to buy one, get whichever is cheaper at the moment.
The Toyota Camry: Blue Yeti
A larger, fancier mic with more options and better input quality than the AT2005USB: The Blue Yeti. This mic has multiple input patterns to help you get the best possible sound in your room. It also features a larger diaphragm for audio input and will produce better over-all sound quality than a smaller or cheaper mic.
I’ve listened to a great number of podcasts recorded with this mic, and it is highly recommended if you want closer to broadcast quality sound, without the broadcast quality cost. You should know, however, that this mic is a beast – nearly the size of an American football! It is not something that will travel with you very easily, but it will be worth the money for recording in your office and/or at home.
The Lexus: Rode Podcaster
This is *THE* standard in podcast microphones. It is broadcast quality, solidly built, and will give you the most amazingly lush sound in a USB mic. You won’t need anything other than the mic, although I highly recommend the use of the swivel arm and shock mount to reduce bump noises.
This is my primary microphone setup. I have recorded hundreds of hours of material on this mic, with no issues. It is a very well built mic and I highly recommend it for anyone that wants broadcast quality sound with the convenience of a USB mic.
The Teslas Model-S: Heil PR-40
Lastly, you may find yourself in a situation where a USB mic just won’t cut it anymore. If you’re in this boat, you should be looking at getting out of USB and moving toward XLR and mixer bases configurations. To start with, pick up the AT2005USB that I mentioned above. It provides both USB and XLR output, and will get you down the path of an XLR based setup with little cost.
Beyond the basics, though, XLR microphones can run $300 to $3,000+ for just the mic. It all depends on what you want / need in your mic. For the podcasting world, though, the gold standard of mics for broadcast quality, professional setup with an XLR mic, mixer and other sound engineering equipment, is the Heil PR-40.
It is nearly impossible to produce low quality sound from this mic – it takes near deliberate effort to do so. But be aware – the $300+ price tag is only for the mic! You will need an XLR sound board (mixer), a way of recording the audio output from the mixer, and most likely some other equipment such as a compressor in your setup.
This mic is not for the feint of cash, or podcast experimenter. This is the top of the line, professional quality mic that will make you sound like a professional radio personality.
More Than Just A Mic
In spite of it’s importance, a podcast is far more than just the mic and other equipment that you have. Without an RSS feed and file hosting setup, you won’t be able to deliver your podcast to your potential subscribers. If you’re looking to get started and want to know more about what it takes to host a podcast, check out this post on why you need podcast hosting and take a look at what SignalLeaf offers for podcasters.