Choosing a Microphone
The AT875R microphone should be high on your short list of first shotgun mics to buy. Depending on your applications for recording your audio, it may also be your last shotgun purchase. In this article, I won’t go into the technical specs. If you desire those, you can get them here.
Let’s recall the reasons to buy a shotgun mic.
First off, it picks up audio at a distance from the presenter that can’t be achieved with a condenser microphone, though you still want to use it within 36 inches of your subject for best results. For slightly longer throws, you would want a longer shotgun such as the Sennheiser MKE600 or Sennheiser ME66. Secondly, it can be kept out of frame of a camera shot without having to affix a lapel mic to your presenter. Unlike a lapel mic, you don’t have to worry about picking up noise from the lapel mic rubbing against articles of rough clothing. Shotgun mics can be mounted on a mic stand to mic presenters and interviewees, but can also be mounted on top of a DSLR or video camera, so in that way they are very versatile. They can also be affixed to a boom pole for off camera ENG work, as well as hand-held options for stand up reporting type shoots. Some higher end shotguns, and mid range models, can also be used as desktop voiceover mics, such as the industry standard Sennheiser 416. Shotgun mics are also durable and can take the bumps and bruises of traveling with your equipment.
Lastly, let’s not forget about a shotgun mic’s ability to resist noise from the sides and behind the microphone. Its directional pick up qualities make it a great choice if you are not in a treated environment that is built for sound rejection and noise handling, though I would suggest you consider those options before thinking a low to mid priced shotgun mic can solve all of your room problems. It can’t.
There are of course some risks and down sides.
Like with any shotgun mic with a linear pick up pattern, you have to find the “sweet spot” when working the mic. If you or the presenter move your head too far off axis, you will hear the drop in resonance and find yourself doing a lot of post processing to match up your sounds. If you stay “on mic”, with good technique, the AT875R can produce some excellent sounds.
At under $200, this may arguably be your most versatile value priced mic in your arsenal.
The AT2035 is a large diaphragm condenser microphone that is very well suited for all of your voiceover and podcasting needs. This article is not a technical specs review. If you are looking for those, you can get them here.
The 2035 by Audio Technica, like all large diaphragm condensers, is designed to pick up the full dynamic range of voice that narration and VO artists require. This means your audio is going to sound more “full” from low base responses to higher pitched details. For this reason, condenser mics are the standard for “voice actors” who are often creating character voices that require a broad range of sounds.
Some of the higher end condenser mics would be the Neumann TLM 103 and the Neumann U87, which brings me to the down side of using a condenser mic. Ironically, but true, if your recording area is not treated for sound then the “less costly” condenser mic would be a better option than one of the above. That’s because of the high sensitivity that all condensers have.
The down side to a condenser is their pick up pattern is much wider than a shotgun mic, or a dynamic mic such as the Electro Voice RE320, so any background noise will be easily noticeable in your recording, as will reflections off of hard surfaces around you. That’s why many podcasters, trainers and radio stations prefer to use dynamic mics. They are less expensive to implement, and provide very present sounding audio where articulation and variance are not the key factors.
PRO TIP: If you are using a condenser mic in a non treated room, work it about a fist’s distance from your mouth, but at a 45-50 degree angle so that you are talking “past” the mic, and not directly into the condenser.
If your room is well treated, the standard technique is to work about 5 inches “below” the mic, and about 6-9 inches away from your mouth. You will see this technique used in the professional Hollywood studios where the talent is at a fair distance, sometimes up to 12 inches. Rule of thumb is, the more expensive condenser mic you buy, the better room you need to use it effectively. If you are an aspiring voice actor, this is really the style of microphone you need to be able to use effectively.
Ahhh, the AT2100 USB / XLR combination mic.
First off, the AT2100 is a dynamic microphone. It’s rugged. Just pick it up and feel the build quality. You could truly hurt someone with it.
The price? An incredible $69 US.
As far as dynamic mics go, it’s not going to replace my EV-RE320 anytime soon as a workhorse mic for eLearning and podcasting type applications, although the rich sound this little guy can produce is way beyond its sticker price. But its main selling point is that it can be plugged directly into a laptop via USB, or can be used with a professional recorder or audio interface via XLR connection.
My favorite use for it is in the photo above. With a simple Apple Camera Adapter, I use this mic to record directly to my iPhone when I need professional “insert” audio on the go. Sometimes a client will need a quick line of audio added to a course, and I need to replicate the sound of the RE320, so I will record to Twisted Wave on my iPhone and email myself the file. A quick post EQ and Normalization later, and I am bringing it directly into my ELearning course in minutes! The thunderbolt cable provides a better recording experience than even USB.
The other application is plugging it into my Zoom H4N via XLR, for a good street reporter microphone that eliminates background noise and holds up to a rugged pounding. If my workflow was a lot of ENG type audio work with stand up, my obvious choice would be the Electro Voice RE-50N.
With all that this guy has going for it; ruggedness, rich sound, versatility and price point, it does hand out “pops” and “plosives” with no apology. Mic placement really needs to be below your mouth, but within 3-4 inches. For that reason, I don’t have much use for the little tripod stand it comes with. You’d want to hand hold this mic in the field, or make sure you have it on a well positioned boom arm if you are going to podcast or record eLearning with it.
All in all, I could not pass up its remote versatility for only $69. If you are on a tight budget, and need a travel ready and podcast ready solution, the AT2100 may just be your mic.
So you have made the decision that you are going to create the latest and greatest media based training for your You Tube channel, or perhaps your company’s training program. And then it hits you. What microphone should I use? And you begin to sweat. Well, choosing the correct microphone for your video or ELearning project is actually a lot easier than you would think. The main thing is don’t overthink it, and have a few pieces of key information in your pocket about why you are choosing one type of microphone over another.