In this series of articles I'm looking at the gold standard equipment to use for recording audio, face to face. This means podcast interviews, or co-hosting a podcast in-person. We've already covered an introduction to the type of recording we might be doing, and using the zoom H5 and H6 for in-person podcast interviews, but now it's on to the all important microphones. So, what microphone is best for in person podcast interviews? Let's find out.
Dynamic or Condenser for Podcast Interviews in Person?
Before I look at the specific microphones, let's have a quick look at the bigger question of microphone type. That means the age-old dynamic vs condenser question.
For face to face recordings, particularly in the context of interviews, dynamic microphones are king. They're much better for rejecting background noise, meaning that you can record anywhere that suits you or your interviewee. The environment will have much less effect on your recording with dynamic than with condenser, giving you so much more flexiblity.
This could apply to co-hosting, or rountables, just as much as interviews, allowing you to meet up with your fellow presenters wherever suits, rather than worrying about creating the perfect recording environment.
Next, and just as important, dynamic microphones tend to be much more robust. Thinking again about that flexiblity, you want to be able to just throw a microphone in your bag last minute and head out. Or you might even want to just leave your microphones in that bag, all the time, just incase that perfect interview situation crops up unexpectedly.
Either way, you need something that can stand being kicked about, abused and generally neglected. Dynamic micropones are your choice for that, and particularly the one I'm going to recommend below.
The Shure SM58: a Microphone for Life
If you want the tried and tested, the musician's friend, the eternal choice, you've got to go for the Shure SM58. This microphone is a legendary vocal mic, both for audio quality and for toughness. It's the choice of world famous pop-stars and pro interviewers alike, and generally is mentioned whenever dynamic microphones are discussed.
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The quality of the audio these produce is great, so there's not much to cover here. The only downside is that they're very gain hungry. On less powerful devices, or ones with less than perfect pre-amps, you can introduce a bit of hiss by the time you get the levels to the right stage.
This is something I experienced, just a little, with my Zoom H4n. Nothing drastic, and not enough to stop me using it at all, but have no fear, with the updated Zoom H5 it's great. As I covered in the previous article of this series on digital recorders, the new pre-amps make the difference and the SM58 works great. Similar, of course, with the H6.
So, if you're following my recommendations and have yourself an H5, get yourself a Shure SM58 as your face to face podcasting microphone of choice.
The Alternative: Samson Q2U / AT2100
I know we're looking at gold standard here, so budget shouldn't be an issue. And I wouldn't mention this alternative if it was on budget alone. But there is one other advantage brought to the fore by my alternative choice, the Samson Q2U or the ATR2100. To explain the dual choice – these mics are essentially the same underneath but are branded differently for the US and international markets. You can't really get the ATR2100 outside of the US, and the same for the Q2U within the US, hence the double mention.
So, first off, yes, these micropones are cheaper, generally coming in around half the price of a Shure SM58. The quality is arguably not as high, hence the price difference, but, to be honest, it's marginal, and they're still amazingly good mics.
The reason I mention them is that both microphones have a dual output – XLR and USB. This just adds so much flexibility that they're worth considering for that reason alone.
It's pretty damn useful, as a podcaster, to be able to just plug a great quality mic directly into your computer and knock out a quick solo show, or carry out a Skype interview. And with the ATR2100 or the Samson Q2U, you can do just that. To do the same with the Shure SM58 you'll need a mixer or preamp interfacing with your computer.
So, for the dual benefits of quality, value for money and flexiblity, it's worth considering the ATR2100 and the Samson Q2U.
In the end the decision here is financial. If you want the best possible quality audio, then the Shure SM58 is your choice. I've talked about the added benefit of the Samson Q2U or the ATR2100 above having a USB output, but really that's a compensation for the fact it's a cheaper microphone at heart. While it's good quality, it's a still a 30 quid mic and it doesn't have the depth, the quality and the noise floor of the SM58.
If you're thinking gold standard, and we are, then the only option is a Shure SM58, and get a separate USB mic for that purpose if you so wish.
So, that's the microphones sorted. I've you've read the previous article on the Zoom h5 vs the Zoom h6 for interviews or cohosting, then you've already got one of those fine recorders. Now, add to that two Shure SM58s. These are the building blocks to a professional quality interview kit, or for recording a co-hosted podcast wherever you happen to be.
Ok, the expensive bits are done. Let's get to the little bits and pieces, and then how to set it all up.