Shop to the Top part 1: Microphones
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
In this series, we’re sharing some of our favorite, affordable equipment we recommend using to make high-quality videos. We consider low price (<$50), medium price ($50 - 100), and high price (>$100) products. There’s an overwhelming number of amazing products on the market and by no means can we cover them all. We just want to give you a brief introduction into the world of video equipment so you can navigate it with confidence.
In this series we will cover:
Cases & Tripods
Are there any gadgets you absolutely love? We want to hear about it! Share it with us by commenting below and let us know what is so awesome about it.
In a rush?
We feel you. Find a summary of the products discussed below.
AirPods or comparable in-ear headphones: Good for recording when moving around, easy to use with phone and laptop, medium audio quality, high price, very versatile.
Samson Go Mic Mobile Professional Lavalier Wireless System: Good for recording when moving around, meant to be used when recording with a phone, high price, high audio quality.
Samson USB Digital Wireless Mic System: Good for recording when moving around, meant to be used when recording with a laptop (need an adapter, e.g. iOS adapter to connect with a phone), high audio quality, high price.
Blink lavalier: Good for recording when moving around, meant to be used when recording with a camera or mobile device, high audio quality, high price.
The Rode VideoMic or Rodeo VideoMic Go: Good for recording voice-overs or stable shots in front of the mic, meant to be used when recording with a camera or any mobile device, high audio quality, medium to high price.
The Blue Yeti USB microphone: Good for recording voice-overs or stable shots in front of the mic, meant to be used when recording with a laptop, high price, high audio quality.
Types of mics
We advise always using a microphone when filming videos with a phone or laptop. The best microphone for the situation is dependent on your room, your movement, and the intended video content.
The two main categories of microphones are condensers and dynamics. The difference is the science behind it (for more on the science, click here or here), resulting in a different internal build and sound capture method. Dynamic microphones are not as good at picking up high frequencies, making the audio sound less vivid and lively. Condenser microphones tend to be more sensitive, pick up more details, are better quality, but are also more expensive and power dependent. In general, condensers are less forgiving to background noises, echos, vibrations (e.g. when touching the mic or mic stand), and other disturbances. Condenser microphones have another important advantage over dynamic microphones, namely that they can be made much smaller and lighter. So generally speaking, small microphones - including headphones, lavaliers, and shotguns - are all condensers.
Both condenser and dynamic microphones generally come in three patterns. Patterns are the directions a microphone picks up audio from. An omnidirectional microphone, as the word suggests, picks up audio from 360 degrees around it. A bi-directional microphone picks up audio from two directions. A cardioid microphone picks up audio at a range of only 100 to 150 degrees.
What does this mean for you? If you are recording while moving in a room with background noise, your best option is an omnidirectional mic. If you are recording behind your desk, you could opt for a cardioid condenser microphone.
Let’s have a closer look at some different options within these different categories.
Filming on the move
AirPods or comparable in-ear headphones are the most versatile condenser mics for recording audio. They provide reasonably good quality audio and allow you to move around. They are not cheap, but can be used in daily life and might be worth the investment. If you want to move around a lot, but don’t like the look or feel of in-ear headphones or want better audio quality, your best alternative option is most likely a lavalier mic.
A lavalier microphone is a small hands-free microphone, also known as a lapel or body mic. Most lavaliers are attached with a small clip to the collar of your shirt. The wireless lavalier mic is great for people moving around and teaching a class. We recommend this Samson Go Mic Mobile Professional Lavalier Wireless System, which is good quality and relatively affordable in comparison to other wireless lavalier mics (this is the one we use). This mic is designed for smartphone recording and can easily be attached to your device. Be aware that you need to buy the system and not just an individual transmitter. If you record with your laptop or just audio, you could also consider Samson USB Digital Wireless Mic System. This is a wireless headset with a USB stick that can directly be connected to your laptop. It is possible to connect it to your mobile device such as a phone, but you will need an additional adapter for that (e.g. iOS adapter). A more expensive, but smaller and lighter lavalier option is this Blink lavalier. Because there is no need to run cables, all these mics are pretty easy and quick to set up, also for a layperson. The downsides are that they are generally quite pricey, and have some movement restrictions since you should avoid touching or hitting the mic while moving (this can be harder than you might think - just imagine yourself in a Cobra or Revolved Angle Pose).
Filming in one spot
If you only need to move minimally and can stay in front of the mic, a shotgun mic is a good option for you. This mic, true to name, looks like the barrel of a shotgun. A shotgun mic is great when you will be speaking directly into it. A shotgun mic is a type of cardioid condenser microphone. Their sound pickup is best when the source is right in front of the mic. The source does not have to be close to the mic, as long as it is in front, the audio quality will be high. They are can pick up sounds from the sides and rear, but the quality will be less. The advantage is that if your room is noisy, but speak directly into the mic, it will focus on your sound and filter out the unwanted background noise. This mic is used often for talks, speeches, or lectures. The Rode VideoMic or it’s smaller sister Rodeo VideoMic Go is a basic, but effective mic that can easily be mounted onto your camera.
If you only need a mic for voice-over, we recommend the Blue Yeti USB microphone. This USB microphone is often used by podcasters and is also a cardioid condenser. This microphone is great when you are not moving around, and can talk right into the mic. When used correctly it can produce professional-quality audio for a very reasonable price. The USB connects directly to your laptop or mobile device (with an additional plug).
We'd love to hear about your favorite products! So let us know by commenting below. Also if you've got any questions or suggestions.
Note: We aren’t getting paid for these recommendations - we just like these products!
To read more in the series, navigate the links below: Part 2: Lighting