Best USB Microphone for Podcasting

Best USB microphone for podcasting

What is the best USB Microphone for podcasting?

Is the best USB microphone for podcasting a condenser or dynamic Mic? Is there one that sounds better than another, or do they all sound the same?

There is a disturbing trend in podcast production that I feel the need to address.  Podcasters have been sold a bill of goods that says, “record with a condenser mic, it sounds superior”.  Without knowing any better, and because 90% of USB microphones on the market are condensers, they wind up purchasing a condenser instead of the “inferior” dynamic mic.

Well, the problem is, condensers—as a general rule—pick up a lot of unwanted lip smacks, saliva and other noise from the human speaking voice.  While they tend to sound great on the singing voice, the speaking voice is a whole ‘nother matter.  Hearing the saliva roll around in someone’s mouth during a podcast is not pretty and may just encourage the listener to turn it—YOU—off.

Very few of us get to try out a microphone before buying it, but it is the only way to tell if a particular mic sounds good on YOUR voice.  Yes, for some people a condenser will sound better than a dynamic, but I would wager that the opposite is more likely.

There are two routes you can go here. Spend a little extra time and find the USB dynamic mics that are hiding among all the condensers out there. A few of the best are the Studio Projects LSM and the Audio-Technica AT2005USB.

Or, if you have a bigger budget and want to get the very best, get a dedicated broadcast dynamic microphone; they have been used for years in radio and voiceover production.

Try out the Beyerdynamic M99, Electro-Voice RE-320 or a Heil PR 40—all dynamics.  If these are good enough for NPR, Rush Limbaugh and Leo Laporte, they are good enough for you too.  They may be a bit more expensive than you originally wanted to pay, but the expense will be worth it.  Or, use eBay to find a used one at a more reasonable price.

A USB converter such as the Blue ICICLE or Centrance Micport Pro 2 can connect these broadcast mics to your computer if you don’t already have a recording interface. I know, it’s yet another piece of equipment to add to your buy-list.  But it is the one piece that connects you to the listener, so make your decision wisely.

So what is the best USB microphone for podcasting?

Well, as we discussed, it’s not that simple. Until you’ve tried one or the other on YOUR voice, the question is still open.

2 Comments

  1. J-me April 1, 2011 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    Very well said, but a condenser microphone along with a good signal chain before in hits the audio converter goes a long way. Controlling the signal with a limiter/gate processor will eliminate background noise/bleed-over and signal overages. Gees, Podcasters are dropping hundreds of dollars for hardware and software. Why not drop another $200.00 on a decent limiter/gate to couple with that already purchased condenser microphone?

    • Andy R April 1, 2011 at 11:30 pm - Reply

      I think you can always make a case for a new piece of gear. You don’t have to twist my arm very hard. But how about starting with a quiet environment to begin with, instead of trying to fix it with a processor. Auralex makes some real inexpensive foam products. Primacoustic has this $99 portable absorber called the VoxGuard. Heck, for most podcasters on a budget, this should be a no brainer.

      Here is a recipe that will make your podcast recording better than the majority out there now:
      1. Record in a quiet environment.
      2. Use one of the mics in this article–USB Blue ICICLE into PC.
      3. Primacoustic VoxGuard.
      4. Speak on axis @ about 2-6″ distance. Don’t move your head!
      5. Record without going over 0dbfs and normalize to just under 100%.

      Voila, no processor and you sound better than most who are running 2 or three processors.

      Good luck!

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