PoducateMe: Practical Solutions for Podcasting in Education
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Choosing a Microphone
The microphone is one of, if not the most critical component in any podcasting setup. It is
strongly recommended that you avoid using your computers built-in microphone (all
recent Macs have one) to record your podcast. In addition to sensitivity issues and other
deficiencies, noise from your computers fan and other internal components can easily
sour your recording.
Theres a plethora of microphones available to consumers today, with prices ranging from
a few bucks to several thousand dollars. A recent influx of affordable, high quality mics
from China has served to lower the price of microphones in general, so its now possible
to produce very good recordings without breaking the bank. The most popular mics for
professional and home recording come in two flavors: Dynamic and Condenser.
Dynamic microphones are by far the most common type found on the market today.
These mics pick up sound when sound waves strike a diaphragm attached to a coil of
wire. When the coil moves within the magnetic structure of the microphone, it creates an
output voltage. This process is similar to the way a speaker operates, but in reverse.
Unlike condenser mics, dynamic microphones do not require an external power source to
operate. In addition, dynamic mics are generally cheaper and able to withstand much
more physical abuse than can condenser microphones, which are fairly delicate.
Dynamic mics are well suited for vocals (close), guitar, bass and drums, as well as other
loud instruments, such as brass. Because of their durability, dynamic microphones are
also favored for field recording, where environmental conditions are often unpredictable.
The inexpensive, plastic computer microphones available in electronics stores are
generally of the dynamic variety.
Condenser mics turn sound pressure changes into electric power when the sound waves
move the charged surface of a capacitor. Because condenser microphones output a
weak signal, the signal must be boosted by a power source. This source can be a battery
inside the microphone body or phantom power from a mixing console or audio interface.
Phantom power refers to a power supply of usually 48 volts delivered to the microphone
through the mic cable to bring the microphone signal up to line-level. Line-level was
discussed earlier, in the section on Connecting Gear to Your Computer.
Condenser mics tend to exhibit high sensitivity, bright pickup characteristics and are able
to capture a wide range of sound. These features generally provide a crisp, accurate
reproduction of the sound source and excellent transient response, which refers to a