Podcast Production Tip: Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones

Singing Dog with Microphone

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, speaking 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.

Try out the Shure SM7, Electro-Voice RE-20 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 are wanting to pay, but the expense will be worth it.  Or, use eBay to find one used at a more reasonable price.

A USB converter such as the Blue ICICLE can connect these mics to your computer if you don’t already have a recording set-up, so don’t settle for an inferior mic just because it’s got USB built-in.  After all, it is the one piece of equipment that connects you to the listener.

What do you think about the condenser vs. dynamic debate for recording a speaking voice?


  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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