Headsets and Microphones - What should we purchase?

Oct 18, 2013

Looking to purchase a headset or stand alone microphone for recording audio.  What products have you found to be the best?

26 Replies
Tim Slade

HI Shari,

I've never had much luck with headset microphones - so I don't care to use them. I use my Blue Snowball USB Microphone and love it. I've used it to record audio narration for eLearning courses (which you can see here) and I also use it to record my audio for my videos I create (which you can see here).

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Bruce Graham

Hi Shari and welcome to the Heroes community.

As the Search appears to be broken here at the moment (!), if you Google Articulate microphones you will see a variety of threads referred to.

Saying that - Blue Snowball comes up quite a lot!

Hope that helps, and once again a warm welcome to the Articulate Heroes community.


Bob S

Hi Shari,

Some good advice her so far. Here are couple more things to think about....

1) Digital vs Analogue

USB mics are an awesome bang for the buck. But know that they will forever be a single mic solution (ie you can't record two actors at once with dedicated mics). Traditional (analogue) mics offer this option through a mixer and more mic choices. That being said, the aforementioned Blue Snowball is great, as is this Samson  kit we use that comes with a deskstand and case.... http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/492450-REG/Samson_SAC01UPK_C01U_Recording_Pak.html

2) Headphones

Buy for comfort first. Yes sound quality matters (and I'm an old-school audio snob, trust me!), but if you can't stand the feel on your head after a while, the best sounding cans in th world are useless to you. Again, in the bang for the buck category, these Yamahas are simply terrific and perform well beyond their price point...


3) The "other" Stuff

For sure, you are going to want a pop filter (cheap is fine) that mounts to the mic stand. And you may want a floor mic stand as most actors sound better standing up (less diaphragm crunch).  And you probably want to consider either treating the room to eliminate noice and echo, or placing your mic in a "porta booth" type set up. Here is the big dog version, but you can make your own for sure...


Hope this helps and good luck. It's a lot of fun!

Bob S

Hi Carmen,

As you might imagine, video is a whole other kettle of fish. Partially because of the technology but, honestly, mostly because people tend to have higher "standards" when it comes to visual quality. That's because of the perception; we trust our eyes but don't feel like we have an "expert" ear to hear differences. Anyways...

Tripod -

For sure you need one. Full stop. Don't even consider shooting video without one. On a related note, if your tripod does not come with a level, then purchase one for $10. There are lots of them that are made specifically for cameras (slide into the shoe) but a small generic Home Depot one can work too. One of the biggest rookie mistakes is shooting video "askew". Leveling your camera on a solid tripod will elimate that issue.  Note: If your camera is light, and you do not plan on pannning (ie mostly static shots) you can get away with a less expensive, but solidly made, tripod.

Lighting -

Video lighting is literally an artform. That being said, there are lots of how-to videos on YouTube and the like that will teach you the basics. For most folks, unless you are doing "green screen", a simple 3-point light set up (key, fill, hair) works really really well. If your budget allows, I reccommend the newer generation flourescent of LED light kits. They are greener in terms of energy use, but beyond that they are safer and far far far more comfortable to work around because of the cool running temps. (traditional video lighting is HOT!!!). One more thing....  for beginners, I would say to typically go with the "softest" light you can.

The easy explanation of "softer" vs "harder" lighting is to think of the size of the light compared to the subject. The physically larger the light source, the less likely you are to get had shadows on the face or backgrounds. The SUN is an incredibly "soft" source since it tends to light everything. A small narrow beam is the hardest, anything outside the beam will be shadowed. That's why you often see big soft boxes/reflectors around lights. While longer to set up, it's easier to get decent results with larger soft boxes. Decent 3-point  flouroscent or led light kits with soft boxes can be had for a $400 - $800.

Editing -

The other "half" of videography happens after the shoot...  You are going to want to invest in some video editing software and make sure your computer is ready to handle the load. This can be one of the more demanding things you ever ask of your PC, so have lots of RAM and a decent video card. For the software itself, the Sony Home Movie Studio tops the bang-for-buck list here for around $120. Easy to use and super powerful. Same engine as the award-winning pro-level editor Sony Vegas, but at a far lower cost.  

Hope some of this helps and good luck with video!

Tim Slade

Hi Carmen,

Just to add a comment to Bob's suggestion regarding lighting...

I purchased this three point lighting kit from Amazon for $40 and it's been great. Right now, I'm only using it for simple video blog posts (like this) - but it was a good cheap option.

On the other hand, if you're looking to do more intricate video shoots, you may need a more advanced lighting system.

Steve Flowers

That's a fantastic kit for $40. 

One microphone you might not expect to be great for e-learning stuff may be sitting on your desk or in your purse or laptop bag. The microphones that ship with iPhones and other devices are really pretty good. Recording directly into your phone using it as a "lapel" microphone can provide some fantastic results if your environment is right. I use the Twisted Wave app to record into iPhone or iPad.

These are even great for video if you add a clip and cut off the headphone parts. A portable "unwired" audio source for video that can be clipped just off camera will provide better results than most onboard camera microphones.

Laura Rainey

This is a wonderful discussion!

We use the Blue Yeti Pro in our office. Three of us share the microphone. Surprisingly we each get different quality levels!  We like it and it does the trick. Does anyone know why we would get different results?

Tim Slade: Thank you for sharing the lighting setup you use. Did you use a special background fabric or wall? 

This community is always so helpful!

Angel Tessier

Hi Shari,

I frequently use a headset mic....and not an expensive one either. I usually use a LogiTech brand (USB) in the $25 range. It provides good quality audio for the training modules I build. No...it isn't a quality that professional singers would use. BUT, for my purposes it works great. And I've received a lot of compliments for my voiceovers....all done using this headset.

Now, a bit of advice. Be sure to go into the control panel and modify your sound settings. If you leave your computer's mic enabled, you will hear a lot of snow in your recordings. I make sure the headset is the only enabled device on my computer.

As for preventing the "pops" from being recorded, I do adjust the placement of my mic so that it doesn't pick up as many pops. And I'm careful with my speaking to eliminate pops, while still enunciating clearly.  I also go into the audio file and clean out the pops. It isn't too bad a job once you get the hang of it.

I hope that helps!


T. Travis

Hi Shari,

Since I often "hang out" with professional audio people in Hollywood, and I make my living by speaking into microphones, I might be able to offer some "expertise", here.  Some observations:

-  Many media professionals have inadequate understanding of the importance of quality audio in multimedia. The following was produced for a film producer who was having trouble getting an adequate budget for audio, but the principles apply to instructional media as well: http://youtu.be/ZpZzhuL0KdA .

- More important than the choice of microphone is the recording environment.  A noisy or reflective (echoy) "studio" will be more destructive to your sound than a poor microphone.

- Choosing a microphone is similar to choosing a musical instrument.  They all sound different.  One musician will prefer a Martin acoustic guitar, and another wouldn't consider anything but a Fender electric - One type of microphone will work best for one particular voice, while another individual will sound best on another microphone. -And some microphones are better suited to particular studio environments.

- Even "Good" headset microphones (Those that are $500.00 and up) still sound like headset microphones.  That's because the microphone is too close to the speaker - so it makes everyone sound like they have a cold.  TV stations use equalizers and compressors to make the headsets sound more "normal".

USB microphones have their place, but it's generally better to use an analog microphone and an external preamp/mixer/converter.


Tim Slade

You bring up a lot of great points Travis! Especially regarding the recording environment. Sometimes it can be hard to get a good recording, especially if you don't have a room with acoustic foam on the walls. 

At my office, we often times use this Porta-Booth if we're just recording audio narration. It works wonders for sound quality.

Steve Flowers

Ha! A small step up from standing waves. I built a DIY booth last weekend for around $50. It's not the best treatment but it's a step up from the previous environment. Ended up building a frame from PVC, getting a few clamps and building walls of moderate absorption using moving blankets. It works well. It's not pro-booth deadening but it's better than an open room and for the audience, it'll do the trick.

I always prefer to use a pro when I can. The gear they use is only part of the equation. The voice skills are 80% of why I think a pro is a super value and an easy way to add a quality edge if you can swing it. In this case, my voice work was what we could afford. Took me a bit more than an hour to record and cut for a moderate length module. Sounds OK. 

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