When you are new to vlogging, you think all you need to create amazing videos is a good camera. And yes, cameras are important. However, you must know that image quality it’s not the only thing you should be concerned about. Sound is also very significant.
Just imagine yourself watching a video that you can’t hear well. Would you want to watch it till the end? Probably not.
You have to invest in a good microphone so you can get clean audio for your videos. Especially if you do voice-overs. Pretty obvious, right?
So, to help you get the best audio quality to charm your audience with the beautiful sound of your voice, here's a quick guide to everything you need to know about different types of microphones and which ones are the best for voice-overs.
Table of Contents
- Our Top 3 Picks
- Dynamic vs. Condenser
- XLR vs. USB mics: which one is for you?
- What is a preamp?
- Best Dynamic Mic for Voice-Overs
- Best Condenser Mic for Voice-Overs
- Best Shotgun Mic for Voice-Over
- Best USB Microphones for Voice-Over
- Best Budget USB Microphone
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Our Top 3 Picks
Dynamic vs. Condenser
All right, let’s start with the main two types of microphones you’ll see out there: dynamic and condenser mics.
Any of these two options can provide excellent sound quality for voice overs but they differ from each other in the way they’re constructed. They work in a different way, with different elements, so they record sound differently as well.
I won’t go too technical explaining how do they receive sound and transform it into electric energy. I’ll just say, in a very simple way, which one is more useful for a specific situation so you know what to look for according to your needs.
Dynamic microphones have a simpler construction, which makes them rugged and low-priced compared to condensers.
They are great for recording loud sounds so there’s almost no chance you overload one of these mics.
Another positive thing about them is that they reject background noise very well, which makes them extremely useful if you’re working in a noisy environment and you don’t want distracting sounds in your videos. This is also the reason why they are the best option for voice recording in live events.
Nevertheless, they have low sensitivity so the output level is lower. This should be no problem when the signal you’re recording is already pretty strong or if you’re very close to the mic. But, when you’re far away from the microphone, you’ll notice that the sound is lighter.
On the other hand, condenser microphones are more complex in their construction and, therefore, more sensitive and expensive.
Thanks to their higher sensitivity, condensers record a wider range of frequencies and can pick up delicate sounds that a dynamic mic can’t reach.
They also produce a smooth natural sound and have a much higher output level. This is great if you want to record subtle sounds and amplify them.
Additionally, these devices are a great option to use in very controlled environments, like a studio.
However, given their internal structure, they might be more fragile and can be easily overloaded with high noises, so you need to be careful when you use them.
XLR vs. USB mics: which one is for you?
Now we know about the main two types of microphones and everything sounds great so far but I haven’t mentioned anything about connections so… how do you use a mic? Do you just plug it into your computer and that’s it?
Well… not exactly.
Traditional microphones might be a little bit difficult to understand for beginners.
In the world of professional audio you’ll see XLR connections, preamps, and a lot of weird stuff that seems pretty scary at first.
But don’t worry! We will get there.
Before anything else, you need to know about the basic audio signal chain.
To record any sound, you’ll need three key elements: a microphone, a preamp, and an analog-to-digital (A-to-D) converter. Btw, pay attention to the preamp because we will talk more about it later.
Depending on the equipment you have and how many sounds you want to record, there might be a lot more elements, but let’s just stay with these three.
Basically, the sound that is picked up by the microphone will travel through a cable to a preamp and then to an A-to-D converter that transforms that signal into an audible digital sound that you can listen to in your computer.
Of course, the whole process is more complicated than that but I wanted to keep everything simple for this article.
Having said that, if you’re going to use a traditional microphone you’ll need an XLR cable and an audio interface that can do all that job to get the audio for your videos.
And an audio interface is…?
If you didn’t know, an audio interface is a device that usually comes with an integrated preamp and A-to-D converter so you can connect your microphone to it and then to your computer.
All this means is that you have to spend a little more money and have some technical knowledge to master your equipment.
But, there’s another option… did you already guess it? That’s right: USB microphones.
USB microphones are super easy to set up because they have these three essential elements we just talked about included in one single device.
And in this case, yes, the only thing you need to do is to plug it in your computer and that’s it.
But let’s see the pros and cons of each type of mic:
They are the favorite option among professionals because they are more customizable and you can always upgrade them by investing in different components.
Remember that when you use XLR mics you need to connect them to an audio interface and then to your computer. So, you can replace any of these elements at any time to adapt your microphone and do a lot more things with it.
However, XLR mics are much more expensive than USB mics and they require technical knowledge that many new vloggers don’t have.
So, this type of mic is more recommended for those who want to record audio professionally and want something more advanced than a USB mic.
As I said before, these mics are way much easier to use because you connect them directly to your computer via a USB port.
They are the best option for beginners and for those who have a limited budget for their equipment.
With a USB microphone you don’t need additional devices, so you end up with a portable and inexpensive audio setup. Awesome, right?
But, on the downside, they are very limited because you can’t replace any separate component of the audio signal chain (preamps, cables, A-to-D converters, etc.). Therefore, if you want to upgrade your audio system, you’ll need to replace the whole mic.
Now, before we get to the short list of recommended microphones for voice-overs, I’d like to talk briefly about preamps, because you’ll see them a lot when you start looking for audio equipment and there are some things you should know about them, so I hope you haven’t forgotten about these little guys!
What is a preamp?
You already know that a preamp is a very important element in the process of audio recording, but what does it do exactly?
A preamp (or preamplifier) is a device that increases the microphone signal. Why? Because, believe it or not, microphones have an almost imperceptible and very low output. This is when a preamp comes in and does its magic: it transforms that mic signal into an audible signal (called line level signal).
Sometimes you won’t need to buy a preamp because your audio interface has one installed inside. Yet, in some other cases, you will need to buy one separately or even add an external preamp to your audio setup.
Do you need a mic preamp?
Preamps are essential for recording. They will always be necessary when you’re using a microphone. I think the real question here is do you need an external preamp?
For the USB mics listed here, you don't need a mic preamp. Just plug them into your computer and you're set.
If you get an XLR mic, and your audio interface already has a preamp, you won’t need to buy an external one unless you want to record audio professionally and you understand exactly what you’re looking for and how you want to upgrade your mic.
Keep in mind that an audio interface is not a preamp. They are different things so there’s a chance that the integrated preamp inside the interface is not enough for your needs.
Mic preamps are great tools to improve audio quality and get the best out of any microphone. They not only make the sound louder and clearer but they can modify the tone of the sound.
This means you can achieve different results with the same mic and different preamps. That’s why you should care about them if you’re planning to become a pro in audio recording.
Now, are you ready to buy a mic? Take a look at the best options in the market:
Best Dynamic Mic for Voice-Overs
1. Shure SM7B
This is a great choice for podcasters because it handles background noise extremely well. It has a cardioid polar pattern, which means it will only pick up sounds that are in front of it.
It’s perfect if you’re trying to achieve a classic broadcast sound with no distractions at all.
If you’re interested in a preamp for this mic, I recommend this one:
Best Shure SM7B preamp: Cloudlifter CL-1
It’s also a great tool if you want to get the best out of a cheap microphone.
It works amazingly well with the Shure SM7B microphone. So, if you want to invest a little bit more money on audio equipment, this is a power couple you might want to add to your list.
This is another dynamic cardioid microphone that will fit you well for recording voice-overs and it costs practically the same.
It’s been in the market for many years and it’s widely used by broadcasters all over the world.
Best Condenser Mic for Voice-Overs
This one is a condenser cardioid microphone that, surprisingly, is cheaper than the two previous options but provides excellent audio quality.
Best Shotgun Mic for Voice-Over
Shotgun mics are mostly used in movies and TV or to record videos when people are far away from the camera. They are unidirectional and reduce ambient noise so they are another option for you if you want to record different kinds of videos using the same mic.
You can mount them on your camera hot shoe and record audio easily in outdoor or indoor locations.
Sennheiser MKH 416 is a great choice if you want to invest in a professional mic that you can use for other purposes besides voice-overs.
Best USB Microphones for Voice-Over
This is a USB condenser cardioid microphone and it’s an amazing option to achieve superb audio quality for voice recording at a low price. It’s fantastic for podcasts.
It comes with a desktop microphone stand, a rotating stand mount for 5/8"-27 threaded stands, a 5/8"-27 to 3/8"-16 threaded adapter and a soft protective bag.
This should be a great choice for you if you are a beginner and want an easy-to-use device but are looking for professional audio quality.
Now, notice this is the Audiotechnica AT2020 USB+, so you need to be careful to not get confused with the XLR version of this microphone, which is the AT2020. Remember: USB+!
6. Blue Yeti
This is one of the most popular USB microphones out there and it’s useful for podcasters, streamers, and even musicians.
Best Budget USB Microphone
This is another great product by Blue. It’s a USB condenser cardioid microphone that offers high quality for a very low price.
If you are on a budget and don’t have any technical knowledge about audio equipment, this microphone might be right for you.
I know the giant microphone universe might be overwhelming at the beginning. There are many different options and there’s a lot of information that you need to know so you can be sure of what you need for your videos.
But, hey, take it easy. Nobody starts a career being an expert!
Now that you know about the benefits of each type of microphone, you are prepared to pick a great choice that fits your needs… and your wallet.
Do you have any questions or suggestions?
Leave a comment below!