Have your friends ever told you your microphone has too much static or background noise? Well, you probably considered buying a new one, but you don’t know where to start. There are so many different types of microphones, but you’re not sure what will work best for your voice or your setup. Do you even know what you want? Here’s a guide that’ll help you out and will hopefully allow you to make the best investment for your audio setup.
Identify what you want to use
Are you more comfortable with using a gaming headset but are willing to live with its drawbacks in microphone quality? Are you going to be better off with a cardioid condenser mic, but will you be able to deal with the amount of space it takes up on your desk?
Take a glance at the different types of microphones and decide what you think would make the most sense for your needs:
Headset microphones – these sound decent but are usually more sensitive, picking up sound from your environment. They have smaller capsules, which make louder tones clip. They’re usually the most comfortable to use since you don’t have to move around to get your sound into it. Rather, it moves around with you.
Condenser microphones – these are the best-sounding but most costly microphones. Distance from the microphone isn’t too much of a concern since they’re sensitive enough. They can be put onto stands and arms, but their movability is very limited. Many times, an external 48V Phantom Power adapter is required for acceptable audio volume. (That will be explained later.)
Dynamic microphones – they’re the ones that you see people using on stages. The sound quality is great, but you need to keep the microphone very close to your mouth to give it its full quality.
Shotgun microphones – shotgun mics are for very specific usage scenarios since they only grab audio from the direction they are pointing at (hence the name shotgun). They don’t require Phantom Power and aren’t too costly, but are mostly used for camera and studio setups – not for your desktop.
There are also webcam microphones, on-camera mics, and many other options. Webcam microphones are not an upgrade to your (most likely) current scenario, and they’re mostly terrible. On-camera mics are good for if you’re using a setup with a camera or other gear. If you’re using a laptop, a clip-on microphonemay be a good choice. Take a look at what else is out there! Maybe you’ll find something off this article that will suit you better.
After you know what type of microphone you want to buy, you should go online (or in-store) to take a look at the different microphones that are available to you. There is a breadth of choices from each category listed (and more), so don’t worry about not finding
your perfect match – it’ll be there! Just know your budget and make sure it’s realistic. For example: you can’t expect to find a pro-quality $20 condenser microphone. You can find a quality $20 dynamic microphone, but you’ll have to deal with its drawbacks. Make sure it’s balanced.
There are many 3rd party options as well (the party number relates to the categories of microphones given). If you already have a great headset and you don’t want to spend money on gaming gear, you can buy a microphone attachment. Or, if you already have a good microphone, you can invest in a better audio interface to improve your audio quality.
Speaking of audio interfaces, I haven’t yet mentioned the amount of other extra material it is good to understand when picking a microphone. The first thing you should keep in mind is its capsule size. Are you a loud speaker? Is your voice more on the bass-y side? The capsule (the actual thingy that vibrates in the microphone when you speak) can be large or small depending on the model of microphone that you get. This can be a compliment or detriment to your voice type. I, for example, like to scream a lot in CS:GO (big surprise), so I picked a large-diaphragm microphone that suits those needs. I can keep it around 2 feet away from my mouth to minimize its distracting demeanor, and the audio quality does not diminish.
Another thing you should look at is the polar pattern of the microphone. Instead of getting technical (which you can do on your own), I’ll be basic. There are some microphones which capture the sound all around it (omnidirectional), some that capture two sides (bidirectional), and some that capture only from a certain angle (cardioid). There are many more patterns than just those, but the ones I listed are the most common. You can probably guess that omnidirectional microphones are best for capturing the audio of a large area or outdoors, bidirectional is perfect for two-man podcasts, and cardioid is best for on-stage, vocal, or instrumental audio.
Audio interfaces are great for microphones that require extra power to operate. That large-diaphragm microphone that suits my needs which I mentioned before is an example of this. Although you’re paying for the microphone itself (and hopefully it comes with your needed XLR cable – the grounded
microphone cable which carries higher-quality audio and electrical signals), you’ll also have to pay for an audio interface – a bypass system which you plug your XLR cable into (giving power to your microphone) and from there a USB or audio jack cable feeds into your PC. Many times there will be a power cord required for this, but those such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 don’t need it (and it, IMO, is the best way). The better your audio interface, the better your microphone will sound. However, there is a line of diminishing returns. Be wary of this.
Pick your poison
Poison’s bad for you. Don’t take that literally. What I mean (and you probably already got it) is that you should go out and pick a couple microphones and decide on what you want most. If you’ve found something with limitations you’re willing to deal with at a good price point and minimal space required, good for you. If you’ve found a great condenser microphone, a quality audio interface, and a rigid stand to support it and you’re willing to invest $300+, (also) good for you.
Just make sure you’ve done all your research. And remember that if you don’t like it, you can always return it! Find an online audio forum to talk about your experience if you wish, and get opinions and tips from experts more experienced than you and me on this topic.
Let me know in the comments section below what you ended up choosing! If this article was useful to you, be sure to check out the rest of the website where we have many great tutorials, reviews, and more. Also be sure to check out our social media pages (which you can find on the top of this page). Thanks for reading!