Computers can do a lot on their own, but let’s face it, they don’t always create the cleanest audio. If you’re getting into podcasting, vlogging or webinars—or simply want to sound as clear as possible on a conference call, you need a microphone that won’t make you crackle like an AM radio station on an old transistor radio. The quality of the cable will also affect sound, and USB connections are more convenient than three-pronged XLR ones.
A built-in volume knob allows for easy control or silencing. FIFINE
Many professional musicians use XLR connections, but they require extra equipment for recording. USB mics, on the other hand, are plug-and-play, so you don’t need to be an audio wizard to make them work. The only downside is that it’s difficult to record with more than one USB mic at a time—computers can have a hard time separating them. But if you’re recording by yourself, or each person attaches their own microphone on their own device, you’ll be good to go.
A cardioid pick-up pattern to capture clear, crisp audio, and a noise shield to clean out unwanted sounds. TONOR
Look for a mic with a pop filter that reduces the annoying whooshing produced by fast-moving air blowing over the device. It diminishes the popping sound we produce when we say words that begin with P and B and cuts down the hissing effect of the letter S. It also helps keep moisture off the device, ensuring a drier, longer life.
Extra features allow you to switch the device to silent mode and also block out unwanted sounds in the background. CMTECK
A noise canceller puts the focus on your voice so that pesky extra sounds are eliminated from the output. A noise cancelling mic is ideal for outdoor use, or if you live in a house with other people. You just have to be sure not to speak too far from the device or it may not be able to tell the difference between your voice and what’s going on in the background.
A quartet of sound-detection patterns—cardioid, omni, bidirectional and stereo—allows more than one person to use it at a time. Blue
Microphones can record in different directions, depending on what’s called the pick-up pattern. Most mics for podcasting are cardioid; cardioid patterns look like a heart—they record mostly one direction and pick up just a little bit behind. Some models let you switch the pickup pattern though. There’s omnidirectional, which records in every direction, and figure 8, which records on either side of a microphone. Make sure your device has the pattern that you’re looking for.