The Rapid Elearning Blog

best mics for audio narration

While I’ve covered audio recording tips and tricks in the past, one of the most frequent questions I’m still asked is about microphones. So today, I’ll show you the different mics I use and demo how they sound.

I’ll have to admit, I’m no audio pro and I’m also a bit less dogmatic about audio quality than some elearning developers. My main goal is to get decent sounding audio without a lot of post-production.

The reality is that most end users are hearing the audio through cheap headsets or small device speakers where everything sounds hollow. Also, if you record tutorial videos or do webinars, the audio compression mitigates some of the distinctions you hear in different qualities of audio.

With that said, here are a few thoughts and some recommendations based on the mics I use.

Simple Audio Recording Tips

Here are a few simple ground rules. You learn more by clicking on the links below.

  • You want to record the best audio quality you can initially. There are some things you can do to clean up the audio, but you can’t make bad audio good. If you can only do one thing, get crisp audio.
  • Try to eliminate background noise like air conditioners. Sometimes if I can’t get rid of the noise, I will play some music softly in the background–not Eminem, but something a little softer.
  • Don’t worry about being perfect. You can spend a lot of time finagling your audio only to have you end user listen to it through cheap headphones or speakers where everything sounds muffled and tinny.
  • You should learn a little about audio and some basic editing. You don’t need to be an audio engineer, but learning some recording techniques, how mics work, and how to do some post-editing will really come in handy.

Microphone Recommendations

There are a lot of good microphones out there and they’re not that expensive. I’d plan on spending from $100-$200 on a microphone. You should also invest in a pop screen, a stand, and perhaps some sort of barrier. Here are some of the microphones I use.

I created a quick demo in our new Rise application to show the different mics in use. You can view the link on your mobile devices and compare how they sound versus how they sound on a desktop. I noticed that my iPad which has one speaker masked the issues that I could hear on my desktop. I also noticed that with my iPhone, the ambient audio was more evident that elsewhere.

rise-course-microphones

Click here to view the microphone demo.

Desktop Microphones

  • Blue Yeti Pro. This is what I have in my home office. I like it because I can control the gain and the pickup pattern. This is a big plus. The pickup pattern helps eliminate unwanted sound entering the mic. The Pro costs about $230. But you can buy the Blue Yeti (which is also a good mic) for about $120 and it comes in a bunch of colors to placate the needs of easily distracted millennials.
  • Blue Raspberry. I’ll be doing a lot more recording on the road so I wanted to upgrade my microphone. I just purchased this microphone and will do an update after a few road trips.
  • Samson C03U and Samson C01U. I’ve used both of these mics and think they’re great a great value. Both mics are in the $80 range but for about $120, you get the microphone, a pop filter, and shock mount. Not a bad deal. I’d choose the C0U3 because it has better pick up patterns. I quit using the mics when I received the Blue Yeti Pro. If you’re on a budget the Samson mics are worth it.
  • Samson Go Mic. I love this little mic. At $40, it’s a great price and sounds good. The build quality is really solid and I’ve gotten lots of use out of it over the past few years.

Headset Microphones

I’m not a fan of headset microphones for recording narration because they tend to pick up a lot of breath sounds. However, they are relatively inexpensive and decent enough in output. But because they’re headset microphones you don’t get a lot of control over the pickup.

I do like to use headset microphones for recording tutorials and doing webinars because it allows me to operate hands free and not worry about moving around and away from the microphone. I also prefer wireless headsets over wired ones.

ModMic: I haven’t used this mic but I really like the idea. You attached the microphone to your headphones. Many of the headphone mics are uncomfortable so you can use your own headphone and attach the ModMic with a magnet (which means you can remove it).

modmic

Here are the three headset microphones I currently use:

  • Plantronics Audio 995. It’s wireless which gives me some range of motion. I don’t like having a bunch of cables running over my desk when I record. Having the wireless mic is nice if I have to record some audio narration from my subject matter experts.
  • Plantronics 478. This is similar to the one above but it has a USB cord. Both of those microphones have noise canceling features. Usually that means there’s one mic that records your audio and another smaller one that records ambient sound and cancels it out.
  • Logitech H800. I just got this one. I like it because it’s wireless and has a built in charger. I also like it’s portability for traveling.

One question you may ask is why I have so many microphones, especially headset mics. I travel a lot so I want good portable options and I like the choice of desktop and headset microphones. I do recommend getting a few extra headset mics, one for you and the others to share if you do recording with subject matter experts.

Previous Posts on Using Audio for Narration

Again, I’m not an audio pro and recording in a controlled recording environment. Instead I’m a one-man recording studio, in a home office, with a limited budget. I want good quality audio at an affordable price. From my experience most rapid elearning course authors are in the same boat.

Which microphones do you use and why? Feel free to share in the comments.


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11 responses to “My Favorite Microphones for Recording Audio Narration”

After owning/using a half-dozen mics, my vote goes to the Apogee Mic. Not inexpensive, but stellar. Small and compact and top-tier build quality too. Offers direct connection to iOS devices so you can easily record in a quiet space with no worries about computer fan noise or hard drive clatter.

November 22nd, 2016

I’m partial to the Shure SM58 with a foam windscreen added for desktop recording and Shure SM7B and Shure KSM32 for studio recording.

November 22nd, 2016

@Chris: the Apogee is a nice mic and the price isn’t bad for a good mic.

November 22nd, 2016

@Peter: thanks for the mic recs. Do you do a lot of studio recording? I think most elearning folks are kind of stuck in make shift closets and meeting rooms.

November 22nd, 2016

You didn’t mention digital voice recorders, which I found were much better than the 3 mics that I used on my last project. The Sony that I purchased has 4 different mic recording modes and improved that sound quality greatly.

Meeting: To record in a variety of situations, such as recording in a conference room.
Voice Notes: To record dictation with a microphone in front of your mouth.
Interview: To record human voice at a distance of 1 to 2 meters (40 in. to 80 in.).
Lecture: To record a wide range of sound, such as a lecture in a classroom or a chorus lesson.

Any experience with these?

Thanks, Tom, for this. Pleasantly surprised that the raspberry mic sounded almost as good as the Yeti. And way more portable.

November 28th, 2016

@Daniel: yeah, I really like the sound of the raspberry.

November 28th, 2016

@Tom M: I haven’t used digital voice recorders for courses, but seems they should work fine if you like the sound quality and you can extract the file to insert into your course.

December 2nd, 2016

I’ve used the Rode NTG-2 shotgun condenser mic on a boom for six years as my v/o mic. It’s highly directional, as all shotgun mics are, and the condenser gives a close, warm tone. It’s not cheap at close to $300, but I’ve used the heck out of it with excellent results.

The biggest thing that affects any “hollow” or “echoy” sound is to try to get your space as “dead” as possible. I work in a walk-in closet that has foam on the walls as well as directly behind and on the sides of the mic, forming an open box. That keeps sound from bouncing back into the mic.

December 5th, 2016

Good tip on the mic and the room recording. At a previous place, I built a quiet area out of old cubicle walls. At home, I use a heavy blanket that hangs from an Idea clothes rack. I can roll it around and it works well for the simple things I have to do.