2 Things You Must Know About Your Podcasting Microphone

Recently a friend of mine said she had trouble with her new microphone and wanted to take it back. I asked her to show me how she used it and pretty much right away I knew what the problem was – she was talking into the wrong end!

Now to be honest unless you’re a sound professional, this type of mistake can be easy to make. Microphones come in all shapes and sizes so it pays to know how to use yours properly.

So let’s get started with the two things you must know about your microphone.

Pickup Patterns

Each microphone has it’s own pick up pattern. A pick up pattern is the area around the microphone that picks up sound. And there’s really only two pick up patterns you need to understand.

Omni directional Pickup Pattern

This means that you can talk into the microphone at any angle (omni) and it will pick up your voice. Picture a circle and put the microphone in the middle of it, that is how the pick up pattern looks. (so it will pick up noise from all directions – see below).

Now this isn’t the best pick up pattern for a single voice podcast because as well as picking up your voice it will pick up ALL of the room ambience. The only time I’ve seen an Omni directional mic used well is with a panel of guests and it did an ok job of picking up everyone in the room.

Cardioid Pickup Pattern

Now let me explain the name. It’s called cardioid because of the heart shaped pick up pattern (not cause it sends your heart a flutter when you sit in front of it).

This is the most common type of pick up pattern used in podcasting (see below and sorry about my drawing ability!).

Your voice is mainly picked up when you talk into the front of the microphone. It still can be picked up a little on the sides, and the least sensitive area is behind the microphone. The good thing about a cardioid pattern is that it cuts out excess noise. So if you’re computer fan is whirring away in the background, unless it’s in the pick up pattern chances are the mic won’t detect it. But beware cause using this type of mic means you might go “off mic” pretty easy. What I mean is if you move your head around as you talk you could move out of the pick up area (the cardioid) that captures the sound. But this is why we wear headphones, to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Where do I Talk?

So once you figure out what pick up pattern your microphone has you then need to know where to talk so you get the best sound out of your microphone.

This is pretty simple cause with most mics you either talk into the front of them or the side.

I use a Blue Yeti microphone and it picks up from the side. Which means it’s kind of like Larry Kings old desk microphone, he just talked into the side of it.

The other way a microphone picks up is from the front. This is the way you see every singer handle a microphone – they sing right down the barrel of it.

So learn from my friend – it’s not worth spending loads of money on a great microphone only to talk into the wrong end of it. Look on the package that came with the mic. All this information should be in the instruction manual, and if it’s not just research it online. Cause the key to getting the best sound out of your microphone is to know what type of microphone it is.

If you’ve got any microphone tips, please leave a comment below.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcela Konetchy April 17, 2011 at 6:24 am

Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

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Dan April 18, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Thanks for your kind words Marcela. I’m looking forward to covering the Royal Wedding – should be a blast! Let me know if I can help with anything. Take care – Dan

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Joe Magnotti | AdSenseFlippers.com October 31, 2011 at 10:43 am

Dan,

My business partner, Justin Cooke, and I are fellow Dynamite Circle members who have just started a podcast of our own and have incorporated many of your tips.

The microphone article brings up a good question though — what do you think the best setup is for co-hosts? We want to be in the same room for chemistry reasons, but don’t feel like investing in studio time or an expensive setup. Would a Blue Yeti mic on a table between us recorded in Audacity/Audition work?

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Dan October 31, 2011 at 11:15 am

Hey Joe – nice to hear from you and it’s great you’re stepping into the exciting world of podcasting.
By all means The Blue Yeti can record more than one person so long as they are in the same room. There is a switch on the microphone itself that sets it to a ‘room’ mode. I haven’t tried it myself but Paul Colligan told me he’s had much success recording an entire panel like this. Bear in mind though using room mode on a microphone means it will pick up a bunch of extraneous noise (due to the sensitivity of the mic being increased). So be sure to turn off fans, heaters and anything else that might be buzzing or whirring in the background otherwise it could be a really noisy recording! Let me know how it goes – Cheers Dan

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Peter Langevin December 13, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Good stuff Dan !

Refering to Joe’s question about having one mic for the host and co-host,
Would two mics be the BEST option?

Good on YA!

Reply

Dan December 13, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Hey Peter,

Two microphones is almost always going to be a better option — but if both hosts are in the same room and the room is relatively quiet and dead (no reverb) then one mic with a good pick up pattern does the trick fine.

It really depends on what type of mic we are talking about. Can you give me specifics?

Thanks for stopping by – Dan 🙂

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