First things first, what type of microphone do we need? That’s a big question, but in this section I’m going to go through the basics. That means looking at the microphones you’re most likely to have lying around already, and how to get them working.
When looking at mics, there’s a huge range to choose from, and the quality can be really varied across the board. In the beginning, though, all we need is something quick and easy. Your best bet in the first 10 episodes is to simply start recording and improve your presenting technique as you go. That’s more effective in creating great content than to spend hundreds on a great mic straight away. Most people would rather listen to a great presenter on an average mic, than an average presenter on a great mic.
Don’t worry, if you’re interested, you can find out all about the top quality kit in my kit guides on The Podcast Host, and we’ll look at more advanced mics in the next Unit too. The types of microphones listed below, though, are perfect for starting out.
My Stand-By Microphone
First off, here’s what I still record a lot of my podcasts on, simply because it’s portable, cheap and always around: The Microsoft Lifechat Headset.
Even though I said just to start recording, some headsets can be almost a little too bad in terms of quality. The Lifechat is great though, and is great value for the price.
The headset is USB as well which makes it very easy to install. You don’t have to worry about sound cards, or getting the right jacks on your PC – you just plug and play. You can spot a USB microphone by the connection shown here.
If you already have a different USB microphone lying around, then that’s also great. Just plug it in and it should do the trick, very similar to the Lifechat headset above. Try a recording and see what the quality is like before you bother to think about upgrading.
If, on the other hand, you have a headset or a microphone with normal earphone plugs (commonly called a 3.5mm jack) they’ll do the job just fine too. You can spot this by the dual plugs that will look quite similar to the ones pictured below.
For plugging these in, your computer will normally have an earphone output and a microphone input socket, side by side. On a desktop computer they’ll often be found on the front of the unit, and you’ll find another pair of sockets on the back. You can use either one on most computers.
A 3.5mm microphone jack
On a laptop, you’ll normally just find one pair of sockets, most often on the side of the computer. Some modern laptops come with integrated jacks, which means there’s just one input for both microphone and headset, and that’s a bit annoying as it requires a different bit of kit.
It is possible to get a splitter which allows you to plug in both plugs on a normal 3.5mm headset, but that obviously requires an extra bit of kit, so it may be worth moving to a USB headset if this is the case.
If you are using the dual jacks, make sure to get them the right way round, with the microphone in the mic socket and the earphones in the other. There’s usually a little icon on each to help you out.