Choosing Your Podcast Microphone

In Gear by Tales Untold Media

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How to choose your podcast microphone

Many of our podcasting partners are new to the art of audio production, and ask for our input in putting together their recording setup. One of the most obvious (and fun) tasks is choosing the right podcast microphone. We thought it would be helpful to share our input with the wider world, so here are our thoughts on the subject.


The world of microphones is probably more complicated than you’d like it to be. It can also be the most fun to research, depending on your penchant for these sorts of things. There are seemingly endless combinations of options among microphones, to account for just about any recording scenario imaginable: studio voiceover, on-stage vocals, instruments, omnidirectional field recording, etc.

For purposes of our discussion here, we’ll focus on factors that are relevant to a podcast microphone that is primarily used to record conversation (monologues, interviews, roundtable discussions) in a controlled environment. In other words, if you’re going to be sitting at a desk and talking into a microphone, here are the things worth considering when choosing a mic.

XLR vs. USB

This sounds like a foreign language, but all we’re talking about here is the plug at the end of the mic chord. An analog microphone has a three-pronged, male-to-female connection called XLR. A digital output microphone has a USB chord that plug right into any computer or device with a USB port.

A hardcore audiophile or more experienced producer would likely consider microphone dynamics (the way it actually sounds) before worrying about how it plugs in. But seeing as this is an introduction to microphone technology, we think it’s best to first discuss the difference between XLR and USB mics, because it will influence how simple/complicated your recording setup will be.

XLR

XRL microphone

Image Credit: Kreuzschnabel via Wikimedia Commons

Using an analog (XLR) mic allows you to plug into analog mixers, preamps, amps, recorders, etc. There are also tons of high-quality XLR mics to choose from. This gives you more versatility and options, but at the cost of complicating your setup. With an analog mic, unless you’re recording to an anolog tape recorder, you’ll need an audio interface to convert that analog signal into a digital signal, which you can then plug into your recording device via USB. Depending on the recording device you’ll be using, an XLR mic might also require you to use an audio interface that includes a preamp and/or sound card (more on that below).

USB

Blue Yeti USB microphone

Blue Yeti USB microphone

A USB mic, on the other hand, eliminates all of those complications since the preamp, sound card, etc. are all baked into it. You just plug the USB mic directly into any computer with a USB input, and you’re good to go. Much simpler.

One possible downside–and this could be a deal breaker for you–is that a USB mic will NOT plug into a portable recorder with external mic inputs. You’re limited to using it with a laptop or desktop computer with an available USB input.

There are also fewer high-quality USB podcasting microphone options, in comparison to XLR options, but there are still some great mics that only get better as time passes.

Which is Best for You?

If reading this has made you even more excited about microphones and you’re stoked to search for that perfect one that makes your voice sound just how you like it, you’ll find countless high-quality options to choose from among analog XRL microphones.

If your head is spinning already, and your priority is simplicity, a USB mic is definitely the way to go. There are some very affordable options to choose from that are perfect for spoken word podcasting, so don’t feel like you’re sacrificing quality when going with USB.

Ready to Get Started?

If you'd like more personalized info on the right podcast microphone for you, get in touch with us. We'd love to help.

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