Podcasts have never been more popular and technically anyone has the ability to make one. But many enthusiasts and newcomers fail at the first hurdle – the sound quality. This is where having the right microphone is vital.

The right mic for your podcast depends on what and where you’re recording. For example, is it a musical instrument or a voice recording in your own home or an interview conducted outdoors?

Mics differ mainly in three properties: directivity (from which directions sound waves can be best detected), construction and general sensitivity.

“For voice recordings, microphones with the so-called cardioid or supercardioid characteristics are recommended,” says Ulrich Hilgefort, a tech reporter from c’t magazine. These microphones focus primarily on audio signals coming from the front and can weaken or suppress those coming from the side or behind.

He doesn’t recommend condenser mics for podcasts as they’re designed primarily for recording vocals and instruments such as guitars.


And what about the classic headset, a combination of headphones and microphone? They’re cheap and popular for live commentary such as when live streaming video games.

“Above all, the headset has the advantage over the standing microphone that the volume of the speaker does not change in recording,” Hilgefort says.

That’s a consideration if you’re going to be moving around a lot, thereby changing the distance between your mouth and the mic.

However, if you do want to work with different voice volumes, a mic on a stand is best.

The downside of headsets is that the mic is much closer to the mouth which can lead to breathing sounds and other noise that make a recording either unusable or hard to clean up.

If you’re recording several people talking in a room, a mixer is essential, says freelance journalist and professional podcaster Manuel Fritsch.

If a podcaster is going to carry out all their conversations online he recommends the Zencastr program. It’s free and can be used without external software.

If you have the right microphone and maybe even a mixer, you still need the right environment. Here room acoustics come into play.

“Many voice recordings made in a normal room sound hollow or echoey,” says Hilgefort. This is because of sound reflecting off the walls, windows, desk top and so on.

The solution is a semicircular acoustic screen coated with sound-absorbing material. One of them costs around US$60 (RM239).

“The room should of course be quiet and – most importantly – not have an echo,” Fritsch says.

Ideally the mic should hang suspended so as not to pick up knocking sounds such a coffee cup being placed on the desk. A pop shield will also prevent noises by wind created when a person speaks into the mic. — dpa


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