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Podcast Microphone Survey

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 | by


What is podcasting?

It’s broadcasting, isn’t it?

It seems to me anyone looking for a great podcasting mic need look no farther than the microphones used in radio for the last 30 years.

So, I got all these mics into the studio and recorded a sample with each. You can hear them below. And then you can vote for your favorite, and I’ll buy whichever mic wins.

Come back in two weeks to find out which one of these is my new podcasting mic. Update: find the survey results, and more audio files, in the Ultimate Podcasting Mic Shootout.

Broadcasting microphones

Zen and the art of MixingThe audio sample is an excerpt from Mixerman’s awesome book, Zen and the Art of Mixing.

I recorded all these tracks in the same space and position, because sensitivity to ambient noise is one of the factors by which these mics can be judged. I set the preamp gain so the input levels in Pro Tools were within 1dB from mic to mic; this means some mics used more preamp gain than others. The session was set to 24 bit, 44.1 kHz. The final tracks were gain-matched in Pro Tools (fine-tuning only) and converted to MP3 (320kbps mono) via Lame.

Cloudlifter CL-1Every mic was routed through a Cloudlifter CL-1 to ensure that the preamp received a strong, clean signal. Preamp gain was moderate — 12:00–1:00 on the dial in most cases, on my BLA-modded Digi 002R. I spoke from a distance of about 3 inches, and I used a metal-mesh pop filter.

01: 01.mp3
02: 02.mp3
03: 03.mp3
04: 04.mp3
05: 05.mp3
06: 06.mp3
07: 07.mp3
08: 08.mp3
09: 09.mp3
10: 10.mp3
11: 11.mp3
12: 12.mp3

There were 10 mics, but more than 10 samples because a couple of the mics had different EQ settings that were worth exploring. At least for the purposes of voting, please don’t spend time trying to figure out which mic is which — the more useful question to answer is “which one sounds better?”

I’m not a professional VO, so you can disregard occasional popping as user error.

Some of these sound fairly similar, so you can pick three. Whichever one gets the most votes, I’ll buy.

poll results

I’m quite sure some of you can identify several of these mics, even if you’re not familiar with my voice. After you’ve voted, feel free to record your guesses in the comments area below.

Campaigning for your favorite in the comments section is also OK, if you post what you liked or disliked about the various tracks.

Finally: Pick me something nice, eh?

Posted in Microphones, Shootouts, voiceover | 23 Comments »




23 Responses to “Podcast Microphone Survey”

  1. Jan Park Holm

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:19 am

    I wrongly voted for no6 due to an error in my feedreader. Put me up for another vote on no7. That said, I would take an Microtech Gefell M930 over any of these.

  2. matthew mcglynn

    May 19th, 2011 at 6:23 am

    @Jan, I’ve corrected your votes as requested.

    If you like the M930, be sure to swing by the Mic-a-Month giveaway in August, because we’re giving away the new M930 Ts (the transformer-coupled version of the M930).

  3. Frank Adrian

    May 19th, 2011 at 7:42 am

    It was a close call between #5 and #7 but, in the end I chose #5 because it seemed just a bit smoother. #3 was another contender, but sounded just a bit too sibilant. All the rest of the samples seemed to have really exaggerated high-end bumps that pushed sibilance into the realm of unpleasantness. A couple of them seemed to have a lot of self-noise, too. Maybe if you were doing the “Crazy Matt!!!” show live from the Morning Zoo, they might work, but if I was going to do spoken voice work (say for reading a fine literary work – such as “Zen and the Art of Mixing”), #5 would be my choice. I also wonder, though, if this is more an issue of choosing a mike that sounds good for you, as opposed to sounding good generally.

  4. Matthias

    May 19th, 2011 at 10:15 am

    #7 is very smooth,
    #12 is quite similar in the lower frequencies with a lot more presence,
    #8 sounds even brighter and somehow saturated, but i seem to like it!

    (#9 and #5 sound ok on my monitors; all the others seem rather unbalanced on your voice – which doesn’t neccesarily make them bad microphones, as we all know..)

    very nice survey, matthew,
    i’m looking forward to the revelation!

  5. Sacha Muller

    May 19th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Very interesting! After much listening I was torn between 3 of the 12 samples. Two of them – #5 and #7 – being relatively similar, and #11 which didn’t sound like either of those two at all. #5 and #7 deal the best with P and B pops and siblance from S’s the best by far. The “F”s stick out a little unpleasantly in #7, especially on the word “fail”. But #11 has this tone and grit that I LOVE and that to me has a very classic vibe to it. Could it be an RE20? It also has no audible noise floor, while #5 and #7 do.

    #11 pops the P’s and B’s, and would benefit from a HPF, if only slight, whereas #5 and #7 have no problems at all in that regard. Ultimately I’d pick #5 over #7, but I between it and #11 I’m very undecisive. Like previously mentioned, #11 would need some processing (although I’d probably add a tiny low shelf on #5), but it has a great tone and texture that I love.

    For the vote I picked #5, because it sounds the best by itself to me. When I’m tracking, that’s what I always aim for when selecting mics; I want the best sound I can get before starting the mixdown. #11 is a close second and #7 would be my third choice.

    In other notes, I’d guess #2 is the 635a, #3 is the M380 and #9 is the 57. I’m also guessing that I’ll get some of those wrong, but it’s fun to guess.

  6. Carlos

    May 19th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    The best in my opinion:
    # 8 sounds hot and saturated but well clear in many speakers with YOUR VOICE. Needless to preamp, sounds ready. Saves time.
    # 12 also saturated, but more fat and sibilant.
    # 11 hot, but more nasal.
    # 5 and # 7 sounds clear, but a little fat. Need more presence to stand out in a mix.

    The worst in my opinion:
    # 3 sounds fat and stuffy and continues sibilant. FFFFFFFFail … (Fibilant) the worst in my opinion.
    # 6 medium and nasal. Very hard.
    # 2 looks like a phone …

    I liked # 8 because it sounds hot and ready with your voice, do not waste time on EQ and filters. It sounded well on multiple monitors.

    My vote was for # 8, # 11 and # 12. I like the hottest.

  7. Daniel Worth

    May 19th, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I wrongly voted for 6 as well, you can +1 for 7. I went by the file names.

  8. matthew mcglynn

    May 19th, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    @Daniel, I moved your vote from #6 to #7.

  9. Peter

    May 21st, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Hey Matt. Don’t forget that what you say is probably more important than how it sounds.
    Creamy

  10. Steve Faul

    May 22nd, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Great survey. This gives me a chance to blind test some of these mics, including the 3 Amigos of radio (RE20, SM7B, MD421) without dragging along my strong preconceived notions. So I’m very curious to see who wins and who I voted for.

    Number 10 gets my highest vote for its nice color on your voice. It’s a clean sound, but with a musical quality. Kinda NPR. Numbers 7 and 12 get winning votes for their nice midrange clarity and full sound. Since it’s leading the votes, looks like you’re buying #7. Number 4 ranked high with me as well; a condenser-like clarity.

    I’m guessing #2 was the SM7B with the mid-boost and roll-off on. Number 3 was way too dark for me. The noise floor was audible on #8. And #9 caught a lot of the room almost as if it were an omni dropped in among the cardioid bunch. Might that be the 635A?

  11. M. Keilty

    May 25th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Even after voting, I find I’m still torn between 5, 7, and 10. Number 7 just seemed most suitable for your voice by my ears. Several of these mics are in my sights right now and this blind test will really help clear some things up for me. Thank you for both performing this test, and for posting it for all to see. Based on these comparative samples I might have to find a 10 to try for my voice. I’m curious to find out what it is I seek.

  12. DirrGoldenschlaggwer

    May 25th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I guess I am the odd man out. I was astounded at the boost of low end somw of the other contestants liked Upon first listen 5 seemed a little muted. My first choice was mic #1. I listen to alot of new rock. it sounded scooped but very smooth. Low sibilance and non brittle in the highs. I think 5 was extremely crisp and 10 was also noticeably brighter and somehow more present than the others in the field.

    Great opportunity to do the science with you Matt……

  13. william

    May 26th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    hello,

    i voted for 10.

    i feel like i could easily enjoy working with 10,8,7 even 2 and 4 but for special fx purpose.

    i woudn’t like to work with 1,3 and 9

    and i really dont know wich is wich, i do own a re20…

    great stuff here

  14. James

    May 26th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Hey Matt great idea!

    I started listening to each clip all the way through, but then I switched to rapid-fire in: just listening to the first 2-3 seconds. I felt this gave the contrast better; and I just waited for one mic to really grab me.

    7 did really grab me; and was all set to vote for 7. But 10 sounded similar, or at least similarly pleasing. I went back and forth between them a few more times; but 10 won out.

    I guess in the end, they all sound fine/good. But in contrast, 10 & 7 sound better than the rest. Isn’t that what a shootout is all about?

    I’m getting inspired.

  15. Danny

    May 26th, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I preferred no. 7 as well, it seemed most neutral and really can’t take overly bright or dark voices on podcasts, it might work for some songs, but for podcasts, i like it when it sounds like you are in the room.

    I was a bit unsure about no. 10, it was a close call to get the vote as well as no. 12.

    No. 3 seem really weird and dark to me.

  16. Raul

    May 26th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Hello

    I am the martian that vote on this poll (after reading the mains preferences) :)

    I liked #9 and #1

  17. Chris

    May 27th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I like #5 and #7, with #1 a third-place finisher.

  18. Big Dave

    May 28th, 2011 at 6:03 am

    I really liked #1 as a VO mic. Smooth, balanced, could listen to for a long time. Some VO mics have so much bass, or so much bass is added in processing that you can’t really understand what the person is saying. I can’t wait to hear what Matt picked and what people voted on. I have the ’57 and the SM7b. It cill be cool to see what is what when the blindolds are taken off.

  19. Big Dave

    May 28th, 2011 at 6:05 am

    I was really thinking that ” It _WILL_ be cool to see what is what when the blindolds are taken off.”

  20. Jay Walsh

    May 29th, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Man, this was a great test. I just realized I’ve spent 45 minutes going back and forth amongst all the clips.

    So, let me put it this way, for a big radio sound I’d vote for #9 (#10 was just a tad too boomy)

    For good narration or documentary readings I’d go with either #5 or #7 (maybe leaning just a tad towards number 5.

    But who’d I vote for here? #4 – great bottom end punch and a lot of presence to cut through. Yeah, it may sound a tad shrill in headphones, but I’m guessing it would sound pretty good in my car driving to work… where I listen to 75% of my podcasts.

  21. Paris Amerikanos

    May 31st, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I liked #10, #1 and #7 in that order. I chose #10 because it sounded just a bit smoother than the rest. Also, found it a bit bottom-heavy, but you can treat that easily. Mind you, I’m on earphones.

    I almost liked #8 but I think it has a high noise floor.
    Of course, I might be totally wrong.

  22. Olaf Malachowski

    May 31st, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Listening on Sennheiser HD 280 pro’s. I also dug 5, 7, 10, and came back to 1 for a moment before deciding that I’d vote for 10. Honestly, I mostly did this because it forced a tie between 7 and 10 when I looked at the results, and I think it’ll be funny if this shootout ends with a tie and Matt has to make a decision anyway. Sorry that I did that, and now I’m also sorry that I outed myself as a cheating scofflaw.

    Many of these would be good choices though, only 3 and 12 sounded notably unpleasant to my ears.

    Just do what I do, and pick the prettiest one, the one that turns you on when you look at it. You’re going to be seeing it a lot when you podcast.

    -Olaf
    psspoilers.com
    (Now actually recording on an H4n from Zoom. Before it was a Macbook mic.)

  23. Sergio Mallorga

    June 5th, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    No.5: Flat and natural.
    No.9: Warm and full-bodied
    No.10: Robust and detailed

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