Documentation:DIY Media Microphone Suggestions

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Microphone Basics

Before you buy or borrow a microphone, make sure you can use it. The two most common ways microphones connect to computers are through audio input ports and USB ports. Audio input ports look identical to the audio output ports you plug your headphones into, but they should be marked by something similar to one of the symbols to the right. Not every computer has audio input ports: check your machine before you make any decisions about what to use or buy.

USB ports are used by a large number of microphones, and can be found on any modern computer. The main consideration to make is whether or not you have a port free: if you're using a keyboard, mouse, external hard drive, and charging your iPhone, you might have to unplug something to be able to record good audio.

Computer Microphones

Generally speaking, built-in computer microphones should be avoided. The audio quality is typically low, and they pick up on a lot of annoying noises that stand-alone microphones would miss: the rotation of your hard disk, clicking the mouse, using your keyboard, and the like. A lot of the noises produced by your computer could be too high-frequency for you to hear, but they'll be picked up by your integrated microphone all the same, and degrade the quality of any other audio you record.

If you really want to use your built-in microphone, use an external mouse and keyboard, buy or build a pop filter, and make a few test recordings to double-check that the audio quality is really what you want. Audio quality has a huge impact on the perceived professionalism of your video: any investment of time or money you make will be a worthwhile one!

Clip-on Microphones

Clip-on (also known as lapel, or lavaliere) microphones are the small microphones you've probably seen on talk shows and in lectures: they clip onto your shirt, and pick up your voice through contact with the region around your neck and via sound waves.

Lavalieres come in two varieties: wired and wireless. Wireless lavaliere microphones are typically used in lecture environments, or for interviews. They tend to be more expensive, require batteries, and have more complicated set up, compared to wired lavaliere microphones. Wired lavalieres have the disadvantage of needing to be plugged into a recording device, but generally make up for it by coming with very long cables.

We've had success with the RØDE smartLav, also available from Amazon. These microphones work great with iPads, iPhones, or any tablet that supports headphone-microphone combos. These microphones are also part of the CTLT's iPad kits.

Stand-alone Microphones

Stand-alone microphones tend to be sturdy, reliable, and one the more expensive end of things. To make full use of a stand-alone microphone, you'll need a stand and pop filter, but the quality of the sound is hard to beat.

Stand-alone microphones are great for any audio recording you can do in a controlled environment, like podcasting, or recording comments on an annotated presentation. You need desk space for them to sit on, and a pop filter to remove the popping and smacking noises that the more-sensitive microphone will pick up on.

Any of the microphones listed in this article by ezvid will be well worth the money, and serve you well in years to come.

The Samson C01U is another well-recommended stand-alone microphone. Here's a link for Amazon.ca.

Headset Microphones

Headset microphones combine headphones and microphones: typically, the microphone swings down to rest just to the side of your mouth, capturing everything you say without picking up too much background noise.

The main draws of headset microphones are the convenience and price. Headset microphones are an all-in-one package: you don't need a stand, you don't have room for a pop filter, it'll always be close to your mouth, and they tend to be fairly sensitive. Having headphones means you can switch from recording to editing very easily, and headset microphones tend to be less expensive than lavalieres or stand-alone microphones: a high-end model will go for about $70, but entry-level models go as cheap as $15.

Headset microphones aren't a great choice if you're going to be taking video of yourself while you're talking-you'll look a bit funny-but if you're going to be recording and editing in private, and don't want to spend a lot of money, this is what you're looking for.

Logitech's H390 headset microphone is used throughout the CTLT. Here's a link to purchase the headset from Logitech directly, or from Amazon. This headset uses a USB port, instead of an audio jack, so make sure you have one free.

Microphone resources
  • Choosing Microphones is a 4-minute video from lynda.com which has some helpful tips for deciding what kind of microphone will best suit your needs.
  • Wistia's Learning Centre demonstrates the quality of sound achieved with different mics in this 4.5 minute video.