Three Nice Microphones

A couple of people have recently mentioned they like the quality of the sound in my videos, and have asked what microphones I use for videos and screencasts. Here’s what I’m using right now:

Audio-Technica ATR3350 lavalier

I usually plug this lavalier mic into my Sanyo Xacti videocamera. It’s cheap, it sounds fine, and it allows me to improve the sound of my videos. Did I mention it’s cheap (like $20 or so)? And for my Xacti anyway, it’s very easy to use – I just plug it into the viceocamera’s external mic input and forget about it – nothing else to mess with.

Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser and the Blue Snowball

When I’m making a screencast, I usually plug one of these two mics into my laptop via a USB cable. I like the Samson better – it sounds better to my ears. Also, the Blue Snowball had an issue with Windows Vista (as in it didn’t work for me), so it hasn’t gotten as much use at work (my work laptop has Windows Vista loaded). I have used it without a hitch on my Mac laptop – it sounds great, and has a couple of different mic signal patterns that you’d use for different micing situations.

RØDE VideoMic

We have a semi-pro videocamera at work (the Canon GL 2). It has an ok mic built into it, but the RØDE mic is a fine shotgun mic. Plug it in, aim it at someone, and they’ll sound like they’re talking into the mic, even if you’re 10 feet away from them.

Tips on using these mics:

  • If you plan to plug the mic into your computer, buy a USB powered mic. Otherwise, you will also need to buy some type of soundboard or analog/digital signal converter to boost the audio signal up loud enough to play with. You might like doing that – if so, great! You’re sorta like me. But even though I happen to have some of that type of recording equipment, for a quick Jing screencast, nothing beats plugging the Samson USB mic into my laptop. One step and I’m done.
  • Batteries (the lavalier mic I use needs them) – buy two at a time. Because you WILL sit down, all ready to record, and find out that the battery’s dead … because you didn’t turn the mic off last time you used it. Been there, done that.
  • While we’re talking about on/off switches – if the mic has one (the lavalier and the RØDE Videomic do, doublecheck that you flipped it “on” before recording. I had to do some fancy editing on a video because part way through recording, I realized the mic was off (one of my more watched videos, too).
  • The really long cable (20′) on the lavalier mic will get frustrating. It gets tangled easily. But then, it only costs $20, so I can put up with that. I guess.
  • Michael Sauers

    For the record, we use a Snowball at the Nebraska Library Commission on our Vista computers all the time and haven't has a single problem.

  • davidleeking

    Cool – good to know!

  • Michael Schiffer

    Do you (or does anyone) have recommendations for an inexpensive omnidirectional mike that works with an Xacti camera? At our library, we have a camera for student mediation exercises, and the built-in mike is insufficient.

    (For now, I've got it set up with a mike I used with my webcam at home back in the 90s, which works surprisingly well. But I'd kind of like to upgrade it to something that a) belongs to the library, not me personally and b) isn't a decade-plus old. :-) )

  • davidleeking

    Well, the lavalier mic mentioned in the post is an omni, and it plugs into my xacti…

    Or do you need a handheld mic? A cheap shure mic (sm58, about $100, or one of their cheaper models) with an adapter would work fine.

  • Aspen Walker

    I love my snowball/mac combo. Wish my camcorder had a mic port (note to self… look for that next time you buy a camcorder).

  • Aspen Walker

    I love my snowball/mac combo. Wish my camcorder had a mic port (note to self… look for that next time you buy a camcorder).

  • newbatterycharger

    they are really very nice.