Whether you’re producing podcasts or music tracks, GarageBand is a popular platform that allows you to edit and mix sounds to create high-quality recordings. In order to compose the best quality sound, you’ll also want to add a good microphone to the mix. When choosing your microphone, you’ll be picking between a wide assortment of mics. These include condenser microphones and dynamic microphones, as well as microphones that plug into your computer or mixer via USB or XLR cable. Choosing the right microphone is all dependent on what you’re recording and the best optimization you can provide based on the type of microphone you’ll be using.
Condenser microphones consist of a condenser capsule inside the hardware that helps to capture the smallest of sounds. They are typically the chosen types of microphones for high-quality podcasts as they pick up subtle sounds without capturing a lot of lower noise. However, they are not as plug-and-play as some other microphone options. They require what’s known as phantom power, which is carried through an XLR cable to provide electricity to condenser microphones. As they have active electric circuitry, condenser microphones need phantom power to work.
Rode NT1 and Audio Technica AT2020
Brands like Audio Technica and Rode produce good quality condenser microphones that often come with additional attachments like a pop filter and shock mount. Pop filters are pieces of foam or nylon mesh that are placed in front of the microphones to keep unwanted sounds. They help with reducing pops and clicks that diminish clarity and can be distracting when listening to a recording. A shock mount helps to position a microphone away from a speaker to the distance needed to still capture sound but keep unwanted bumps from a person’s hand or face from ruining a recording. If such a mistake does occur, these shock mounts absorb the sounds created and produce instead a low-frequency rumble, which is called structure-borne noise.
The Rode NT1 and the Audio Technica AT2020 are both good condenser microphone options, though the Audio Technica is less expensive. The Rode NT1 produces generally better and cleaner sound than the Audio Technica. The Audio Technica, however, handles low frequency sound sources well and offers a high pass filter which keeps out background noise. Both microphones offer clear, directional sound. This comes from the cardioid polar patterns installed in each of them. The Audio Technica is about $100 less expensive than the Rode, but the Rode responds better to low self-noise, flat frequencies, and rugged construction.
Related: Best Microphone Arms For Rode NT-USB
The Samson CO1 is one of the best microphones you can buy. It has a hyper-cardioid-focused sound that keeps out unwanted noise from the back of the microphone which is an excellent choice for podcasters, but can be less sensitive than other condenser microphones because of it.
USB microphones are plug-and-play options that are inexpensive but can produce decent sound for things like podcasts. GarageBand recognizes these immediately once you plug the USB cord into the computer. The best USB microphones offer noise reduction features and typically consist of a cardioid or unidirectional polar pattern. These are typically USB condenser microphones. Many offer headphone jacks built into them, which most other microphone setups do not provide.
Unlike other digital mics, USB microphones process and digitize the audio they capture through the microphone itself. The editing performed afterwards on the computer will enhance the audio that is already digitally processed, the USB being basically its own analog-to-digital converter. This is different with other microphones where the XLR cable merely sends an audio signal through to the console.
Blue Yeti microphone
The Blue Yeti microphone is a high-quality microphone that allows for you to record interviews and podcasts without too much noise interference. It is a popular option among podcasters and comes with Blue VO!CE software which provides built-in noise suppression, as well as noise modification abilities to adjust low frequency sounds. It also has an impressive feature where you can select from four different polar patterns: flexible cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo. This allows you to be flexible in how and where you record. It is among the best USB microphones, if not the absolute best.
One inexpensive option is the Fifine K670, a cardioid condenser microphone with USB set up that offers plug-and-play ability. It offers an inexpensive, quality option for the price tag to create recordings for live streaming and podcasts. The microphone’s USB cable connects to the computer, and produces a frequency response of 20 to 20 kHz. The package offers a table tripod which can fasten into most microphone stands. The USB cord is 2 meters long and can connect to desktops, tablets, and laptops. Keep in mind that the cable doesn’t detach when buying. The design of the microphone is all metal with a tilted tripod capability.
Unfortunately, you can often only record one microphone at a time when using USB microphones. The workaround here is that there is recording software available to help produce the best sound. You can also choose to use an XLR microphone which will require an XLR cable. These types of microphones produce the best sound and require phantom power, as mentioned above. If you want to produce a multitrack recording, using USB microphones may not be the best move.
When deciding on a microphone, you’ll also want to consider the polar pattern of each type of microphone. Polar pattern refers to the directional nature of the sound you’re capturing. The three most common polar patterns are unidirectional, bidirectional, and omnidirectional. While omnidirectional picks up sounds within a full 360 degrees of the microphone, unidirectional mics pick up sound coming from one specific direction. Bidirectional microphones pick up sounds from both the front and the back. Ask yourself what you’ll be using the mic for? Is it an interview where two people are involved, with one in front of the mic and one at the back? A bidirectional microphone would suit what you’re recording. Or do you want to just record yourself? Unidirectional is the way to go.
XLR microphones are microphones that connect via XLR cable, which helps to produce a more robust, clearer sound than a USB microphone. Though USB microphones are plug-and-play, XLR mics require you to use an audio interface when connecting your XLR cable to the computer. Audio interfaces process audio signals and turn them into data for your computer to translate into sound. Using these devices helps to keep sound from distorting. With an XLR cable, you’d connect it to a USB sound card then to the computer. An XLR-USB cable plugs straight into your USB port.
A great XLR microphone is the Samson Q2U, which has both USB and XLR outputs. This means that if you want a simple USB connection or would like to upgrade now and then to an audio interface for a clearer sound, the Q2U provides. The Q2U is great for recording podcasts and picks up sound from the front of the mic and rejects noises coming from the back. It comes with both XLR and USB cables, a boom arm with mic table stand, and a pair of stereo headphones. Additionally, it comes with a pop filter and foam windshield, which both help to filter out “p” sounds and unwanted background noise. The microphone is relatively inexpensive – at around $70 – that will assist you in recording a variety of things.
Another option is the Behringer XM8500, which is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern and XLR connection. The main selling point of the XM8500 is its price. At around $20, the quality of the mic is astounding. It does everything from resist high feedback to shield against electrical interference and background noise. The quality of the mic in its durability and sturdiness is also quite unique to microphones at this price point. The XM8500 package comes with a shock mount system and a double pop filter. The XM8500 features a high volume output to make sure you capture the sound sources you want in a loud space and also record any subtleties in speaking or singing.
Dynamic microphones are a good option if you’re concerned with getting rid of background noise. The microphones pick up sound from the front and reject noise from the back, and are termed as cardioid microphones, meaning they pick up sound directly in front of the microphone capsule. This is different from condenser mics that are more sensitive and pick up surrounding sounds. They have a unidirectional polar pattern.
The Shure SM58 is the leading industry standard for microphones, known for its durability and steel mesh grille. It can be used in both live recordings and studio recordings to produce great quality sound. The Shure SM58 might be considered more expensive for something simple that you want to record. But the durability and noise reduction qualities of the mic keep it at the top of everyone’s list.
The Behringer XM1800S is a great dynamic microphone option. It is resistant to moisture and achieves “high gain before feedback.” As the pickup pattern captures source signals, it shuts out off-axis sound sources. This results in high quality sound which doesn’t dull vocal quality, but keeps out any unwanted noise. For people who don’t have a soundproof studio, the XM1800S is directional, allowing it to pick up just the sounds you want. The mic comes within and off switches, a pop filter, and presence settings. When moving or handling mics, the XM1800S may not be for you, but it will help most podcasters produce a great quality recording.
The Sennheiser E385 is another great option because of its sound quality. The E835 produces a bright layer of sound that is unusual for most dynamic microphones. It holds an XLR connection and has a boosted high-end that adds that brightness you may want to add to your recording. It is a great mic for recording in a loud environment and offers high amounts of feedback rejection. This is a great mic for those who haven’t yet soundproofed their recording environment, as it has great feedback response capabilities.
Sound Quality in Audio Recording
When considering microphones and other recording equipment, you’ll want to think about the environment you’re recording in and what sounds you want the microphone to pick up. If you’re wanting to cut out background noise, going with a unidirectional or cardioid pattern microphone will help you to only pick up the sound in front of the microphone. If you want to capture noise based on the proximity – or closeness – to the microphone, and pick up sounds from all sides of the microphone, then going with an omnidirectional or bidirectional microphone will support that.
As condenser microphones are more sensitive and pick up more sound details, they are more appropriate for soundproofed rooms and quieter spaces where lots of sound will disrupt or distort recordings. Dynamic microphones are less sensitive than condenser microphones and will pick up less background noise. If you are recording in noisy environments or haven’t yet soundproofed your recording environment, dynamic microphones are a better choice.
After you purchase a microphone and are ready to begin recording, understanding how to speak into the microphone is another important step. Placing your microphone slightly off-axis from your mouth will limit breathing noise and plosive sounds that enhance the sound of your tongue and saliva. You want to keep your mouth above the microphone or slightly to the side or below it while you speak. Also adjusting the volume on the microphone while recording will help to stamp out unwanted breathing noises. Drinking plenty of water beforehand will reduce dry mouth, and breathing through your nose instead of your mouth will reduce the sounds of breathing. Though pop filters and shock mounts do help to reduce unwanted sound sources, minimizing these yourself will make a great deal of difference.
Picking a microphone that does the job you need without costing you an arm and a leg is the goal for most podcasters. Pricing for microphones all depends on the audio quality of the recordings they create. While some microphones can be as cheap as $20, others can be as expensive as several hundreds if not thousands of dollars. A simple desktop microphone is going to cost much less than a professional studio microphone with attachments and features that add to its price.