Mic Check! Upgrade Your Microphone for Better Audio

Mic Check! Upgrade Your Microphone for Better Audio

Are you ready to upgrade your microphone but aren’t sure where to start in the complex world of audio equipment and microphones?

You’re in luck. This episode of The Visual Lounge is all about audio – how to pick the best equipment, how to use it correctly, mistakes to watch out for, and much more.

Host Matt Pierce shares some helpful need-to-know tips and even tests some of the most popular microphones on the market.

You can check out our full list of microphones and audio equipment mentioned in this episode here.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

Why audio is so important to your videos

When people start creating videos, naturally, a lot of their focus goes into the visuals. Visuals are important, no doubt about that. But don’t overlook audio.

When we did our Video Viewer Study 2021 with Dr. Jane Bozarth, we talked about video viewer preferences. The number one thing we found was the most important aspect of a video was audio quality.

If you’re not making videos with good audio, there’s a good chance you’ll lose your audience.

Bad audio makes it harder to watch, harder to take in information, and your audience is less likely to share it with others. That’s why out of everything, it’s worth learning about audio and your microphone so you can master that skill first.

Shopping for your mic

When you're picking your microphone, remember to pick one that's going to work for your environment.

With so many microphones on the market, it’s hard to know which one’s right for you.

If you don’t already have one, your best first step is to just get one. Don’t worry too much about what mic it is. You don’t have to be picky and blow hundreds of dollars on your first one. A budget one is a great starting point, and you’ll be able to learn a lot if you play around with it.

A good rule of thumb for a decent microphone that won’t cost a fortune is to shop in the $75 to $150 range. But you can just as easily pick up a mic that’s cheaper.

A great example of a good all-round affordable microphone is the Blue Yeti. It can be around $100 on sale, and it’s a great pick for most purposes.

USB versus XRL mics

One key part of shopping for a microphone is deciding between a USB and an XLR mic. Most budget mics are USB and plug right into your computer.

The great thing about this is it’s plug and play, you don’t need to buy anything extra to get it set up. Good examples of USB mics are Audio Technica mics and the Blue Yeti.

USB microphones are great for most people, but the other type to know about are microphones with an XLR cable.

The main difference is that an XLR cable is not going to plug directly into your computer. You will need to get some kind of mixer to plug it into, which makes it a more expensive option. The good news is that a mixer will give you more control over your audio, so you might prefer that anyway.

Are you talking into your mic correctly?

The next most important thing to think about with microphones is your environment. Where will the mic be in relation to you?

A common mistake people make with microphones, especially the Blue Yeti, is they set it up all wrong so they’re talking into the top of it. In the case of the Blue Yeti, you should actually talk into the side because this is where the polar pattern is.

The polar pattern is a fancy term for how the microphone is picking up your voice. Every microphone has a pickup point where the sound is going to come into, which is key to recording the best quality audio.

That’s why one of the first steps you should take when using a microphone is to get to know where its polar pattern is.

Play around with the gain

Buying the best microphone won’t help your videos alone. You need to know how to wield this equipment correctly, and part of that is getting to know your microphone settings.

All mics will likely have different ways to alter settings. Some will require you to hook up a mixer, others will have little dials on the mic itself.

The Blue Yeti has a dial for gain which lets you adjust how loud it is. So, if you’re sitting further away from your desk, you might want to dial it up to pick up your voice better.

But, if your gain is too high, you might end up picking up sounds you don’t want, like your laptop fan or traffic outside. It’s a delicate balancing act that you might have to experiment with.

Unless you've got some super high-end software that's like magic, distorted audio is super hard to clear up.

One thing to watch out for if you’re using USB mics is that your computer will have some gain controls as well. So, you’ll need to balance them out with whatever dials are on your microphone. The last thing you want is to set everything too loud and introduce distortion to your audio.

Distortion is super hard to clean up, even with the best editing software out there. So it’s best to try and avoid it by being careful with the gain.

Do you really need a big expensive mic?

A few years ago, we set out on a mission to review different microphones at TechSmith, and we found our number one choice was the sE2200. Popular with musicians, this one is on the pricey side but produces fantastic audio.

But do you really need a mic like this?

That depends on your needs, budget, environment, and style of mic you want. While it’s great for audio quality, one downside to a big, heavy mic like this is that it’s hard to hide it out of your shot.

If you don’t want a giant mic in front of your face on videos, you might want to opt for a shotgun mic or lapel mic instead.

That’s why when shopping for any microphone, you should consider your own needs and environment above all else. What works for one person won’t be a good fit for another. So, don’t feel like you need a big expensive mic to make your videos great.

Test out your mic before recording

Before you go to record a once-in-a-lifetime event or conference only to realize you didn’t record audio, there’s a simple way to avoid this.

Test out your audio before you hit record. Get to know what it sounds like, check everything’s working first, and then you won’t end up in a tricky position when you come to edit.

If you are unfamiliar with your mic, then it’s even more important to test it out first. You’ll want to know exactly how your microphone works in terms of settings before you go recording anything important.

Overall, the takeaway tip from this episode is to consider your own needs first, test everything out, and get to know your equipment well.

For more audio tips, check out TechSmith Academy for more resources just like this.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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