Which specs to look for when buying a microphone to record audio

Feb 27, 2014

Hi,  do you have any recommendations on what to look for when buying a microphone to record audio with?  I don't have any idea where to start!  Thank you

7 Replies
T. Travis

Hi Adene,

If you could provide a bit more information about your needs, it would help us to give you a better answer.  Microphones are designed for different uses.  It's like asking "I need a vehicle, what do you recommend?"

Do you have a good quiet location to record in?  Do you need a microphone that can withstand physical abuse, or one that may be higher-quality but more fragile? Do you want the best microphone regardless of cost, or do you have a tight budget.  Do you need to plug the microphone directly into your computer? Or do you have a professional mixing console?

Cam Bennett

Hi Adene,

I work as a voice actor part-time, and perform all the narrations at my training company. The microphone is only one aspect of a good recording.

There are many websites that talk about equipping a home voice-over studio. They range from very inexpensive to very expensive and differ depending on your need.

There are 2 main, equal factors in good recordings: room treatment and microphone. Without good room treatment, the best microphone won't do you any good.

The first thing is treating your room. Surround your recording area with soft surfaces (a walk-in closet is good - hang blankets around the area to dampen the reveb). You can buy heavy sound insulating blankets for under $100, but even clothes and quilts can be adequate. Also, position your mic so the surrounding surfaces are at angles. You want as little of your own sound reflected back to the microphone as possible.

Isolate your computer (which has a fan that comes on at intervals) and other noise from your microphone. A noisy space won't work. If you don't have a quiet place, you will have to insulate the area from outside noise. Many websites offer advice on this, but it will take some money and effort.

You can use software (ProTools, Adobe Audition, Audacity) to remove some hum and hiss. Prepare to learn about audio editing.

The second thing is to buy a preamp. You can get one for around 50-100 dollars. I don't recommend using a USB microphone. The pre-amp boosts the gain of your mic to your computer and introduces little additional noise. You want the desired recording to be much louder than the noise so you can filter out the noise more easily. I use an M-Audio preamp. It was $75.

The last thing is the microphone. A condenser mic is the best choice for your voice, but the tradeoff is that it will pick up every little noise. That is why you want a properly treated room. I use the Neumann TLM-103. It is a spectacular microphone, but costs over $1000. I agree with the AT4040. It is a good microphone, I also have one of those. It costs around $300-$400.

Ensure you have a pop filter as advised by Cromerty York. The shock mount should come with your microphone unless you've bought it second hand.

There are many other things to learn about good voice recording, you'll have to do the research. But try to get the cleanest recording first, because fixing a bad recording is often impossible.

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