Old school tin can microphone

Which microphone do I need to record a podcast?

When you record a podcast, you are, technically speaking, digitizing sound.  You do this through an audio interface. The most essential piece of equipment, though, is a microphone, which you will always require. Which microphone should you choose for your podcast?

There are two main types of microphones:

  • condenser microphones
  • dynamic microphones

They operate in completely different ways. A condenser microphone has a very thin membrane that is supported by a plate. When you talk, a voltage field is created between the membrane and that plate. These currents are amplified and converted into a sound signal. A condenser microphone requires extra power, such as batteries or your audio interface or mixing console. This is referred to as phantom power.

A dynamic microphone has some kind of a dynamo in the form of a copper coil surrounded by a magnetic field. By moving that coil relative to the magnet, you generate current by means of sound. As a result, dynamic microphones do not require an external power supply. They do require a little more power from the microphone preamp: the gain should be boosted a bit more.

A condenser microphone is highly sensitive. This implies that you can record minute details in sound. Voice emotions, for example. That's an interesting feature for podcasts since the voices in your podcast are literally in your listeners' ears, and small nuances may sometimes be significant.  But the devil is, indeed, in the details!  At the same time, the fact that you hear more details is also the problem of a condenser microphone.  A microphone of this type also picks up things that you actually don't want to hear. If the wind blows through it, all you can hear is a deep and nasty rumbling.  Also inside there are quite a few background noises that you don't want to record.

Our brains are capable of filtering out irrelevant noises, at least when we are present in the room. The sound of cars in the distance or the faint hum of your refrigerator, the acoustics in your living room, where the walls reflect the sound slightly: you don't notice these noises because your brain filters them out. A microphone does not provide that filtering function for you, which can be highly annoying. Because when you listen back to such a recording, all those background noises are suddenly there.  As a result, condenser microphones are almost exclusively useful in studio settings, where it is nice and quiet and has dampened acoustics. But then it may also be used to produce amazing recordings!

Dynamic microphones are slightly less sensitive. They pick up just a little less details –which is a disadvantage in itself – but also less noise and less room acoustics – and that's a big plus! When you're not in a studio, you will want to use them. You can also take dynamic microphones with you on location.

Another benefit is that they break less quickly. There's not much to it if you drop them once. If you drop a condenser microphone, you can probably throw it away straight away.

At Headline we use 2 AKG C3000 High-performance large-diaphragm condenser microphones. Please contact us if you would like to record in our podcast recording studio.