TPS 071 – USB Dynamic Podcasting Microphones with Matt McGlynn

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Microphones! Matt McGlynn from Recording Hacks joins me “in Studio” to talk all about microphones (a passion and hobby of his) and specifically those mics that work best for most podcasters.Recording Hacks

Matt’s site, Recording Hacks, is dedicated to “making audio gear accessible and useful to people.” Recently he has written a couple of great articles aimed specifically at podcasting. One of his most recent articles on the subject, “USB Dynamic Podcasting Mic Shootout” led me to bring him on the show for this interview.

On this episode we talk to Matt about his interest in microphones, audio production and gear. We focus on podcasting and the special requirements the average podcaster needs to produce a high quality recording.

The discussion isn’t only about microphones. We discuss other gear such as audio interfaces, mixer (pre-amps), and pre-amp boosters such as the Cloudlifter which provide extra (clean) gain.

Finally we wrap up with the results from Matt’s USB mic shootout. I’m happy that the mic I recommend here (ATR2100) for beginners and experts alike has a good showing.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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About Ray Ortega

Host of The Podcasters' Studio, Podcast Quick Tips and Podcasters' Roundtable.
I'm a hobbyist podcaster turned professional. I produce podcasts full time for a large non-profit and teach others how to podcast in my spare time. Living the dream.

Comments

  1. In this episode you spoke a bit about video screencapture software. For the PC I've been using screencast-o-matic – and online service that you can subscribe to for $15 a year! I've found it to be very functional and powerful. In fact, there's little I need that I haven't been able to do. So… FYI – http://www.screencast-o-matic.com

    • Yep I've used the free version of screencast-o-matic and it did the job. Screencast has a pretty amazing editor with it and that's why I love it so much but there are plenty of free, online options if you just need to capture some video of your screen. Thanks for listening!

  2. A. Nonymous says:

    Hmmm… in this interview the guest's sound quality is far richer than the host's PR-40. The PR sounds kind of honky or something and a bit raspy near the top end, but not what I'd call sibilant. Scratchy? Or maybe I hear some gurgly low end and that raspiness. Hard to say, but I've heard it in a number of podcasts from folks who obviously are coming from the Cliff Ravenscraft school. (And anyone else jumping when Leo Laporte says to.) At least it doesn't sound as bogus and pumped as Cliff Ravenscraft's multiband compressed output which just sounds ridiculously flabby at the bottom end for no reason. But here it sounds like Ray is off mic a few inches too many and since he's talking to a mic expert here, the guest actually sounds better than the host.

    I know the PR40 has become the darling of podcasting but really, I haven't heard anything that would make me run out and shed a few hundred bucks if I already have the mics I have on hand. I just don't think it sounds very good. I certainly get that a dynamic will be more resistant to background noise than a condenser mic, but there are plenty of other models out there. I'd reach for my Sennheiser 421 first, at close to the same price, and with a bit of sonic flexibility in the rolloff switch it has. I'd even reach for an SM-57 before the PR-40. No shit.

    (Play Jeopardy theme here)

    Just went and put on some Leo TWiT for a check. Yup, his sound is irritatingly raspy up top and with some odd bump in the lower areas (kind of at that real low point where mic stand/table rumble would be, somewhere in the <80 hz space), and what seems to be a hole in the lower mids. Even his panel of two other men and a woman sounded like that. It's not "just the voice." Ick.

    Monitoring with Mackie HR 824s at a fairly low level.

  3. A. Nonymous says:

    Hmmm… in this interview the guest's sound quality is far richer than the host's PR-40. The PR sounds kind of honky or something and a bit raspy near the top end, but not what I'd call sibilant. Scratchy? Or maybe I hear some gurgly low end and that raspiness. Hard to say, but I've heard it in a number of podcasts from folks who obviously are coming from the Cliff Ravenscraft school. (And anyone else jumping when Leo Laporte says to.) At least it doesn't sound as bogus and pumped as Cliff Ravenscraft's multiband compressed output which just sounds ridiculously flabby at the bottom end for no reason. But here it sounds like Ray is off mic a few inches too many and since he's talking to a mic expert here, the guest actually sounds better than the host.

    • Thanks for listening. The raspy noise you hear is probably in my voice;) I've always heard that in my own voice lol. But I would 100% expect Matt's audio to be better. He's a pro. I also try not to process my mic too much so that if you met me in person you'd actually recognize my voice. I hear many podcasters putting too much low end in their PR40's.

      Matt's M99 is an amazing mic from what I've heard and of course now I'd love to try one. But I'm happy with my TWiT mic for now;)

  4. That was a fascinating podcast. It would be great to get Matt to review USB headsets. So often, podcasters have to interview people via Skype. So many great interviews are ruined because the guest is talking into a laptop mike, in a reverberant noisy area, or has a crappy headset. It would be great to discover if there are any dynamic USB headsets to recommend or supply guests on a loan basis for the interview.

    • Thanks Jamie. I think there are a few headsets that are acceptable for mailing to guests if necessary and to avoid having them using their on-board mic. However, it still wouldn't be a suggested type of microphone at least I'm guessing it wouldn't be something that Matt would review. But it's possible.

      Also, any headset mic that is going to sound as good or better than the ATR2100 is going to be more expensive then the ATR. Something like what sports broadcasters would use I imagine. You can pick up an ATR for approx. $35 on my gear page. Send your guest that mic, have them plug in any standard iPod like earbuds, plug into USB and they are good to go (it comes with a stand).

      At work, we have sent plenty of the Plantronics headsets out and they work fine for interviewees. So take a look on Amazon (via my banner if you don't mind;)) and check out some of the options from Plantronics in the $30-40 dollar range. Thanks for listening.

  5. Just listened to this episode, Ray. This one should be up for some awards come that time of year. Excellent information and a great introduction to someone whose site I'll definitely bookmark and check in on. Also glad to hear his experience with the Cloudlifter matches my own. I love it.

  6. Ray, Great podcast! I really appreciate the podcasts you produce that get into some of the things we can do to improve our sound and this is one of your best. Matt does great work. I picked up a cloudlifter and am now working on incorporating it (when I plugged it in everything changed)

  7. Hi Ray,

    That has to rate as one of the best podcast episodes that I have ever listened to and kept me transfixed throughout. Matt's explanations were detailed and informative and his enthusiasm for the subject was palpable. His voice with his microphone, even via Skype, was sublime for a podcast.

    While you use the Heil PR-40 as most podcasters in the USA seem to do I must congratulate you on not swallowing the microphone as so many of your compatriots seem to do in an effort to get the article bass boost from a cardioid's proximity effect. And as for the muliband compressor technique of a certain other podcaster that your previous commenter mentioned, I find it incredibly unnatural and very tiring on the ears. Perhaps I'm just used to a different style being from the UK and being brought up on the BBC…

    I also agree with your previous commenter about the humble SM57. This microphone is VERY similar to the radio stalwart SM7B (as also used for Michael Jackson's vocals on Thriller) yet is one fifth the price at about $100! Even the SM58 (using the identical capsule as the SM57) is very difficult to tell apart from the SM7B to the untrained ear; try for yourself at: http://www.homestudiocorner.com/shure-sm7b-vs-sm5

    Anyway, excellent podcast, keep up the good work.

    Regards,

    Richard

    • Richard. That's an amazing compliment. Thanks so much. One thing that wasn't clear in this episode is that Matt and I did a double-ender interview which means you didn't hear the quality of the Skype recording. He recorded his own and I synced them in post. I do this with many of my interviews as it produces the best quality. You can listen to my episode about how to do this if you didn't get to it yet: http://thepodcastersstudio.com/tps-ep-47-recordin

      Thanks for liking my audio quality. I do some post processing but I've worked on trying to not overdo it while still enhancing it. I talk really close to the mic but I don't over process it plus I usually remove some of the low end. You can use a multi-band compressor without going too far as you've referenced;) I do think some go too far but most people don't notice cause they are used to hearing it here on American radio.

      Before the ATR2100 I would recommend the SM58 for a solid, affordable podcasting mic. But the ATR is half the price, sounds as good and works via USB. It's perfect for the starter podcaster. Also check out this part of an episode where I plug in the ATR right alongside my PR40 and almost nobody (minus audiophiles) would know the difference. Go to about -18:30 in the audio http://thepodcastersstudio.com/tps-ep-064-the-fut….

      Thanks again for the great feedback!

      Ray

      • Ah, that explains the quality of your co-hosts audio.

        I'll check out your post regarding the ATR2100 vs PR40. I couldn't agree more with your comments, I think the sound quality you can get out of a reasonably priced microphone with good microphone technique and judicious post processing can be amazing, while on the flip side you could have a phenomenal microphone and absolutely butcher the sound with poor microphone technique and over zealous post production!

        Richard

  8. Ray, Thanks for a great episode! I really enjoyed the interview … it was full of great info. Right now I use a Mackie ONYX 820i (through firewire) for my podcast right now, but the volume on my mic (at the moment a SM-58) is painfully low. I have to crack both the level and the gain and I just hate doing that, so I've been thinking of purchasing a fairly clean/quiet preamp. But, after listening to this episode and learning about the Cloudlifter (and Fethead) I have began to wonder if those wouldn't be a better option.

    What do you think … preamp (ART, Presonus, etc.) or Cloudlifter/Fethead? I would love to hear your thoughts!

    • Thanks Ethan. I haven't tried either of those devices myself. It may just come down to budget. The CL and Fethead are probably more affordable options and should produce a nice boost in your audio. See if you can try one and be able to return it if it doesn't work for you.

      I'm surprised that nice mixer isn't working well. I think it's a firewire issue. I've had issues with other firewire mixers and know someone who has a ONYX mixer that also have issues with gain going into the computer.

      I do know that one of my hosts records at pretty low levels which I then boost in post processing and it sounds great. Also if you have an audio recorder you might want to try recording into that. You'll get much better levels once you aren't going in firewire. You can even try taking the main outs of the mixer and going into the analog 1/8 connection of you computer.

      I hope that's a start. Thanks for listening.

      • Ethan Book says:

        Ray, I think you are right it is a firewire issue. From doing a little research it seems like that is just the way it is with that particular mixer. I do record with my Zoom H4N, but usually just as a back up to my computer recording and it does produce better levels. I may try going out of the recorder and into the computer … thanks for the suggestion.

  9. I own or have owned the following mics:
    PR40
    MXL USB.009
    Audio Technica ATR2100
    Shure SM57 and Sure Beta 57
    Shure SM58 and Sure Beta 58
    Shure SM7B

    They all have their pros and cons – but in the end as someone who was born with a normal-guy-voice and zero interest in post-producing said voice – the Heil PR40 is the best mic I've used by far (for my particular voice/tone/inflection)

    Heil PR40 >>> R-05 >>> auphonic.com (Balance & noise) >>> Libsyn/Soundcloud >>> The Wild
    or
    MXL USB.009 >>> Skype >>> ecamm + R-05 >>> auphonic >>> Libsyn/Soundcloud >>> The Wild

    Note: If I was travelling around and/or handing the mic from person to person live – I'd take a Shure or Sennheiser mic over any other mic – any day of the week!!!

    @joshuacliston
    Australian Musician | Marketing Coach | Podcaster

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