Articulate 101: Microphone Selection

Written by justin — Posted in Articulate 101, Articulate Presenter

This is the 2nd post in the Articulate 101 series. It was written by Articulate Sr. Customer Support Engineer Justin Wilcox.

Recording your first, second or one hundredth presentation doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, Articulate Presenter makes it easy to get up and running with adding narration to your presentation. This is the first of two entries to help you get the most out of recording your narration.

Today I will discuss the purchase of your microphone.


Your very first consideration should be what kind of microphone should I use? We offer some recommendations for you depending on your operating system . You have the choice of a headset or desktop microphone. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Headset Microphones


  • Headset microphones are relatively inexpensive and generate acceptable quality.
  • The distance between your mouth and the microphone is usually consistent.
  • Installing a headset microphone typically requires very little effort and once you have set up the volume levels, you will most likely never need to change them again.
  • A headset microphone is a multipurpose tool. You can use your headset microphone for other applications like Skyping your grandmother, playing Halo 2, or other Internet applications.


  • The Yuck factor. Headset microphones are basically for one person. I would not ask someone else to use my headset microphone as the location of the microphone to your mouth makes for a rather unsavory environment to ask someone else to jump into (not to mention the fact that the headset will be in your hair).
  • The Pop factor. If you have ever stuck your mouth right up to a microphone and said the word “lollipop” and it sounded like “loliPPHHoPPP” then you know what I’m talking about. Headset microphones are very close to your mouth. This may cause popping, which can have an adverse impact on your overall audio quality. Headset microphones typically come with a windscreen, which does help with this issue. So if you have a headset microphone, don’t lose the windscreen!

Best for

  • Solo authors. If you plan on recording more than just yourself then I would stay away from the headset microphone.

Desktop Microphones


  • Like the headsets, desktop microphones are also relatively inexpensive and generate acceptable quality.
  • You have freedom to place your desktop microphone where you want.
  • Installing a desktop microphone typically requires very little effort.
  • Can be used by multiple authors without the Yuck factor.


  • Desktop microphones do not have a built-in mechanism to make sure you maintain a consistent distance between your mouth and the microphone.
  • Many desktop microphones do not have a windscreen, thus increasing the chances of the Pop factor.
  • Desktops microphones can also interfere with your recording session because you have to place them in front of you. If you use a laptop or have limited space, this might make it awkward to talk and control your computer.

Best for

  • Multiple authors. If you plan on recording more than one person then a desktop microphone is ideal.
  • A desktop microphone gives you the most latitude for improving your audio quality.

Once you have decided on what kind of microphone to purchase, there are a few things to consider to narrow down your decision-making process:

  • Noise Cancelling. If you purchase a microphone that has a noise-cancelling feature designed to eliminate background noises, make sure you can turn this function off. Noise cancelling, while great for Internet applications, can cause the volume of your voice to fluctuate and is therefore not desirable when recording narration.
  • Direction. There are two basic types of microphones: omnidirectional and unidirectional. Omnidirectional microphones record sound from all directions. These microphones are ideal for recording instruments when you want to pick up room acoustics or as a secondary microphone when recording the human voice for the same reason. For best results, you want to choose a unidirectional microphone for recording the human voice. A unidirectional microphone has a narrow focus that will allow you to record only your voice and not all of the background noises. It is essentially a noise-cancelling feature without processing the audio!
  • Line-in vs. USB. The last consideration you really need to make is whether you want a line-in or USB microphone. Without purchasing additional hardware, you have two places you can insert a microphone into a computer and that is the line-in input or a standard USB input. For optimal quality, I would recommend purchasing a USB microphone. I have found that USB microphones tend to be less noisy and produce better sound.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at how to record the best narration possible for your Articulate elearning courses.

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17 responses to “Articulate 101: Microphone Selection”


Can you suggest a desktop microphone that we should use?

Lesa // Posted at 9:10 pm on February 4th, 2008

The very first link “what kind of microphone should I use” takes you to a blog article with some recommendations.

justin // Posted at 10:54 am on February 5th, 2008

[…] month, Justin Wilcox has already provided us with some great tips on selecting a microphone and how to get the best recordings. Following his advice will help you get the optimal quality for […]


[…] Microphone Selection […]


I have found that you can almost eliminate pop by using a foam mic cover and have the mic coming down from a boom stand, rather than having it come up from the desk. The same mic popped quite badly until I did this.

Steve Lyne // Posted at 5:19 am on April 12th, 2008

Why does som audio have a hissing noise and other is much more clear? I recoded some narration with the feature that came on PowerPoint and it sounded like it is picking up a hissing noise in the background.

This does not seem to happen on the audio that I recorded on Articulate. Why is this?

David Klepinger // Posted at 10:03 am on August 24th, 2008

I have a USB microphone called the “Snowball”. It’s made by BLUE. It costs about $100.00 U.S. Excellent sound quality. USB connection.

Jerry Meyer // Posted at 4:45 pm on November 13th, 2008

Few thoughts on mic choice – #1 Don’t skimp on your mic – as the saying goes, you get what you pay for! I will admit I am an audio geek, but am just like everyone else – i have two ears – I just pay alot more attention to what goes into them. . . I am a musician also and run sound for my church

So, here’s a few ideas- real stuff I am doing right now – buy a studio recording mic, NOT a handheld performing mic. I am a brand new Articulate user (though a 25 year Training and Development pro). I bought Studio Pro ’09 just after the release and starting producing modules in December.

I just purchased an MXL 4000 studio recording mic / boom stand from for just $200 (free shipping). Look at the MXL line of recording mic’s – they are an excellent value for the $$$. This model – fyi is produced for and only sold by them. IT is likely another model in their line-up disguised etc. I run this analog mic into an MXL mic mate USB interface. I just recorded a CEO message lat week and the sound from this mic is very nice.

I just use the MXL mic in my office. As us sound geeks say – my signal chain is MXL 4000 mic into TC Helicon VoiceTone Correct (pre-amp / compressor box) into the MXL micmate USB interface into the computer. By using a pre-amp/compressor, I get consistent sound levels, and can completely control (read match signal strength) the sound level going into my computer.

I am considering the ultimate upgrade mic – the brand new high end MXL USB.009 Mic spectacular features – no interface boxes need and fullcontrol over signal strength
This one is $400, so a bit pricey, but it has unheard of audio quality 24bit / 96k sampling rates (that’s about double CD audio quality – fyi!)

Michael Ebaugh // Posted at 2:39 pm on February 7th, 2009

[…] Articulate 101: Microphone Selection […]


[…] As reviewed on his blog, Chris used the MXL USB.009 microphone to record the audio for the course. Picking the right microphone for your courses can make all the difference. It also helps that Chris has a fantastic speaking […]


[…] the headsets, Plantronics is probably the best choice which is highly recommended by Articulate (here <-best and here and here). Second, among the desktops, the Snowball is probably the best choice […]

Audio Recording Essentials « Engaged Training // Posted at 8:36 am on June 3rd, 2009

[…] the headsets, Plantronics is probably the best choice which is highly recommended by Articulate (here <-best and here and here). Second, among the desktops, the Snowball is probably the best choice […]

Audio Recording Essentials « HR, Training, and Leadership // Posted at 4:42 am on July 12th, 2009

There are actually a couple of other options that can make a good choice.
One is the lavalier mic. This is especially good if you are doing your presentation using video. There are some pretty good ones that are not too expensive and of course you can go all the way up to really top of the line ones. They keep the distance from the mouth to the mic pretty consistent so volume levels remain quite constant.
The other option is the shotgun mic. These are the mics that are used by remote news people and others where the talent is not mic-ed themselves. You’ve probably seen these on the end of a boom, usually covered in a big furry mitt. Sometimes they are held above the head and other times held low. They are highly directional so they reject ambient noises quite well. These can be set up in the office/studio as a permanent fixture, on a stand out of the way of the camera (if using one)or hung from the ceiling.

Paul // Posted at 8:05 pm on October 22nd, 2009

I just purchased the Yeti microphone by Blue, USB with Headphone output right on the mic, and THX Certified with Stereo, 4 patterns and Gain and Volume control on the mic also. So far, this mic is a winner, runs around 100 to 149 price wise.

Mike // Posted at 10:24 pm on June 1st, 2010

Why can’t I use the built in mic on my computer?

btw I’m using Vmware Fusion to put Windows on my Mac. Is this affecting powerpoint’s ability to detect it?


Ian // Posted at 2:26 pm on July 12th, 2010

The best in mics – update – I have been using the MXL .009 USB mic for more than a year now. It is generally my “go to” all purpose recording mic. Not cheap at a bit over $300, but if you do alot of recording, this mic does it all – direct USB interface, WITH controls on the mic body itself for: headphone mini-jack and zero latency, GAIN knob on mic body! will match any signal strength you need.

If you want the ultimate recording mic in the analog world, look at the little known, but highly acclaimed HEIL PR30 recording mic.

Michael Ebaugh // Posted at 3:45 pm on July 12th, 2010

[…] […]

Audio Recording Setup — Travis's Thoughts // Posted at 12:37 pm on November 7th, 2011

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