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Best Microphones For Podcasting (And The Worst Ones, Too)
I am going to share with you some information that, as a podcaster, you’ll be very interested in, whether you’re a new podcaster, considering starting one or you already are a podcaster. I’ve got a lot of valuable information here. I ordered many different microphones, about nine or ten of them. I bought them, have done unboxing them, experienced them as any user would right out of the box, reviewed them and tested them. This is the episode that’s a companion to a lot of different little videos. I’ve done a separate unboxing video for each microphone. I did pretty comprehensive videos. I had three different cameras too focused on the unboxing, one focused on me and from different angles. There are some pretty dynamic unboxing videos so you can see the ins and outs of each of these microphones.
I’ve got some detailed information to share with you here in this episode. I’ve got different audio tracks of each different microphone recording the same audio. I said, “This is Tom Hazzard of Feed Your Brand on the,” and the name of the microphone, so you can hear the raw recording quality of each of these microphones for yourself. I’m going to give you my opinion on each of these microphones. I’m also going to leave it up to you to be able to decide. Don’t just take my word for it. You can go and listen to each of these raw unedited audio tracks and compare these different microphones side by side.
You might be wondering how I decided what microphones to purchase. I purchased microphones in quite a range of prices. I decided I wanted to have a few of them on the very low end of the price scale, in case you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a new podcaster. You’re maybe starting on a budget. You don’t want to spend a whole lot of money. You don’t want to break the bank until you’re sure you’re going to stick with this podcasting thing. A lot of the microphones are USB microphones. Some of them are only USB microphones. That’s the only way you can use them is to connect them to a USB device. In most cases, that’s going to be a computer. I also have some microphones that have the ability to connect via XLR cable, which is the more conventional way. Most microphones, in the history of microphones, have connected to other equipment. Whether that’s as simple as going to a digital audio recorder or it’s going to a mixing board if you are getting into some advanced premixing of audio before recording it. I’ve got a range of those. I’ve got a good range of the most common choices that people make in terms of microphones or the common ones people are considering buying. How do you know which one is good?
I started podcasting a few years ago. The choices that were available then are not the same as there was now. I went and viewed other people’s reviews of microphones back then to make my decision of what I bought at the time. Technology has changed. There are some new entrants in the market. I felt like the choices available now are better and broader than they were back then. Some of the microphones that reviewers told me were the microphone you want to have are not the best available anymore from my review. I’m going to share that with you. I decided that the only fair way to go through these microphones that weren’t going to be somehow arbitrary or me stacking the deck as to which microphone to talk about first and last is to go in price order. I decided I’m going to go start here in this episode with the least expensive microphone, regardless of whether it’s USB or not, and go through based on price point. You’ll notice most of them are going to have USB capabilities and some do not. Some have both USB and XLR capability, meaning you could connect to a computer or to another audio interface, mixing board or digital audio recorder. Some are only one or the other.
The first microphone in my review is the Shure PGA48. This is the least expensive microphone that I thought was worth testing. It retails. You can find that on Amazon retails for $39. It is a cardioid dynamic microphone. It is an XLR cable connection only, meaning this is not a USB microphone. That’s part of why it’s only $39 in reality. In order to connect to a computer, you’ve got to have some more electronics in there, some different chipsets. You’ve got to have software on the microphone so that when it plugs into a USB on your Apple or your Windows computer, it’s going to recognize it without having to install any drivers. Software is involved. The other thing is it did not come in the box with a stand. You’re not paying for the incremental expense of a stand. It’s meant to be held either into your hand or in a boom mount only.
Shure PGA48 USB Test Audio
The other interesting thing about this microphone is that it’s rather simple. There’s not a lot to go wrong with it as a result. It is intended more for handheld use because it’s the only one that I tested that has a tapered handle that feels more natural holding it in your hand. That’s pretty common when you see a lot of microphones used on stage. They have little mounts at the top of a floor-mounted stand. That mount has to accept a tapered handle. There are adapters that will do that for a boom mount if you want to use that. I prefer a boom mount for any microphone that I use. If you go look at any of the unboxing videos, you’ll see my set up and how I do that. If you’re on a budget and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a microphone, $39 is probably going to be your cheapest option.
Shute PGA48 XLR Test Audio
The caveat to that, because it’s not a USB microphone, is you’ve got to plug it into some other device in order to record. You’re going to have some interface, either to a digital audio recorder or to convert it to USB into a computer. In most cases, that interface is going to raise the total price of all the equipment you need to buy in order to record to more than the least expensive USB microphone that I’m going to talk about in this review. Consider that. It’s a microphone for $39, but you’re going to need more equipment that’s going to cost you more in order to use it. That’s the tradeoff. If you’re just singing from the stage, you have a band and you’re not worried about recording, this mic could be your cheapest option that I found that was reasonable on Amazon. I found the sound quality to be decent. $39 is only going to get you so much. For the money, I thought the sound quality was pretty decent for an XLR-only microphone, a non-USB microphone.
We’re moving on to the second microphone in my review, the Samson Q2U. That’s not to be confused with Samsung. It is not the same people that make televisions and cell phones. Samson is an interesting brand name choice. Maybe they’re trying to trick people into thinking that it is by Samsung and maybe trying to get people to think it’s better quality because of it. That is not the case here. As purchased, it was $59.95. They call it the Samson Q2U Podcasting Pack. It’s in a retail package that is trying to market itself to podcasters. That’s part of why I chose this one. It also is both a USB and an XLR-capable microphone. It has a dual function. That’s important to understand because this microphone, having that dual function, being for podcasters, gives you all the options, the best of both worlds.
Samson Q2U USB Test Audio
It comes with a stand. It uses the same stand that I found in some of the other microphones I tested like the Audio-Technica microphones. The only difference is this stand had a little extender to raise the microphone higher up off the table, which I did not think was a very helpful thing. This particular stand is very lightweight. The microphone, because it’s got both XLR and USB capability, it’s got a lot of electronics in it. When you put it in this stand, it’s pretty tall sitting on your desk or table. It makes the whole assembly very top-heavy. If you’re anything like Tracy, when you talk with your hands, even with our boom mounts, she’ll hit the mic as she’s sometimes talking. It drives our editors crazy. If you’re anything like that and you move your hands a lot when you’re recording a podcast, you may end up running into a problem knocking this one over a lot. The extender on this stand that makes it taller threads together. You can remove it. I would recommend not using the extender if you’re going to use that stand. At least it comes with a stand.
This is another cardioid dynamic microphone, which you’re going to hear that technology a lot. Most of the microphones that I’m reviewing are cardioid dynamic microphones, which speak to the quality of the electronics, the sensitivity and the technology that it’s using. Generally, that’s a good thing. In the box, it comes with an XLR cord and a USB cord. Most of the microphones do, but there are surprisingly some that don’t come with cords. Even at $59.95, it comes with your USB cord and your XLR cord. It has a volume control for a headphone jack that’s built into the mic. That’s so you can listen to yourself and to a guest if you’re hooked in USB through the computer directly through the microphone. That’s a good way to listen. It makes sure that your microphone is properly connected to your computer if you’re hearing your guest listening through the microphone. I tend to do that.
Samson Q2U XLR Test Audio
It’s got a nice weight to it. It’s a quality microphone. I found the USB quality to be among the top qualities of any of the USB microphones in this review. The XLR quality was even better. You’re going to find that’s a pretty common thing when you have a microphone plugged into the USB port of your computer and you’re using the software on your computer to record your voice. There are limitations in the USB interface of your computer. Your voice that’s recorded is only going to be so good. Is it perfectly acceptable to use USB recording for all your podcast episodes? I believe it is. You can get a fabulous recording of excellent quality that your listeners will be very happy with. Will it be the best possible recording quality? It’s probably not. USB, generally, will not sound as good as if you recorded with an XLR cable to a digital audio recorder through some interface. The other option is you can go XLR through an interface into the computer and still record in the computer. That might have a little bit different quality.
It’s a very good quality microphone for only $59.95. It comes with a lot of the different accessories that you need a stand and both your cords. One distinction, it also came with a little windscreen, the little foam ball that goes over the top of the microphone. It’s the only microphone that I tested that’s of a USB-capable microphone that came with that windscreen. That can save you some money on purchasing a pop filter. That provides a lot of the same function, even if that’s not the primary intent of a windscreen. I tend to use a windscreen instead of a pop filter because it’s less all in my face and in my line of sight for whatever I’m looking at. Overall, it’s a good value microphone. It’s something to consider.
ATR2100 And AT2005
ATR2100 USB Test Audio
I’m going to talk about a combination. I’m combining two different microphones from one manufacturer into this next section because they’re essentially the same microphone. One’s a retail version and one is a commercial version. There are a couple of differences in what comes in the box and a slight difference in price, but they’re very similar microphones. The first one is called the ATR2100. The AT is for Audio-Technica, who is the manufacturer or more of the importer of this. It’s a company out of Massachusetts, although these are made in China. They import them. The ATR2100, the last time I checked the price on Amazon was $69.99. It’s $10 more expensive than the last microphone I was talking about. Similarly, it’s a cardioid dynamic microphone. It’s silver in color. The retail packaging is very plasticky as though it is meant to hang on a rack in the aisles at Target or Best Buy or something. It has that little metal piece sticking out from the pegboard that you’re going to hang these on. It’s that type of packaging. The plastic packaging is cheap. It may be part of the reason why it’s a little less expensive than the commercial version, which is in different packaging.
ATR2100 XLR Test Audio
The ATR2100 is a very good quality microphone. It has a silver handle and retail packaging. It’s got a headphone jack with volume control similar to the Samson microphone. It also has the same stand as the Samson microphone. I suspect the previous microphone and this one may be made in the same factory over in China, although they’re not the exact same microphone. There are some differences, but enough similarities that they may be made at the same place. It has the same stand as the Samson, but without the extender that raised it up higher and made it even more top-heavy. I still find this tabletop stand with the ATR2100 or the commercial version to be still top-heavy even if you use it without the extender. The good thing about that stand is it collapses. It’s good for travel. If I were going to use it every day, I probably wouldn’t use that stand. I’d buy an aftermarket stand that had maybe a flat disk base and little more weight to it so that if you hit it, it’s not going to fall over.
AT2005 USB Test Audio
All in all, ATR2100 is very good quality. Its companion, the commercial version, is AT2005. This is a microphone that I’ve purchased in bulk and stocked. I provided them to my done-for-you podcasting setup customers. It’s a little more sophisticated-looking with a charcoal black finish instead of the typical shiny silver that may look a little cheaper. Instead of a rounded, very top-ball of the mesh mic like the ATR2100 has, this has a flat top. It’s got a nice surface finish. It feels like a higher quality microphone. It’s $79.99, $10 more than retail when you buy it. It still has the headphone jack and volume control. It is a very high-quality microphone. The commercial version, AT2005, and the retail version, ATR2100, is so similar. It’s hard to distinguish the quality difference between the two of them. I did still record separate recordings. In the previous microphone and these from Audio-Technica, I’ve recorded two different audio tracks, one via USB and one to a digital audio recorder via XLR. You can hear the difference in audio quality in recording from the two different cables and two different interfaces you can use this microphone for.
AT2005 XLR Test Audio
These are very good microphones. I started my podcasting career with the ATR2100. I’m recording this episode on the AT2005. I tend to like that one a little better. That’s my personal go-to. That doesn’t mean you should buy it. It doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Everybody has different situations and different needs for a microphone. You need to find the one that’s right for your situation. The other nice thing that distinguishes the AT2005, besides its finish, its color and the shape of the very top that you speak into, the packaging was a little nicer quality, not that that matters a lot. It also does come with a little travel pouch for your cables and your stand. You could even fit the microphone into it if you want to. I tend to not do that because of the little foam windscreen that I put on my microphone. I do store the cables and the stand in it. It makes it easy to throw in your either computer bag or your suitcase when you’re going to travel. That’s another nice little feature that this commercial version comes with. It’s why I’ve stocked it in and provided it to my customers as well.
We’re climbing up in price a little bit. We’re getting to a microphone that I never purchased for myself to try out until this whole series of microphones to review. It’s been a very popular microphone over the years, even before I started podcasting. I still find it’s pretty popular now. A lot of people buy it because it has gotten a reputation as being a default podcaster microphone. It is by a company called Blue. It’s called the Blue Yeti. It’s a very popular microphone. It is $99 on Amazon. There are some other colors available that are a little more expensive. I purchased the standard Blue Yeti silver version, which is the least expensive. There’s a big difference in this microphone from any of the others that I’ve discussed so far. The big difference is it is a USB-only microphone. You cannot connect this directly to a digital audio recorder, mixing board or any other interface where you’re combining multiple microphones. This is meant to be a single microphone used plugged into your computer via USB.
Blue Yeti USB Test Audio
When I opened this out of the box, I was shocked at how incredibly heavy it is. When I looked at it more carefully, and you can see this in the unboxing video, it’s all in the stand. It’s meant to be a tabletop microphone-only. If you want to unscrew, there are two thumbscrews on either side of the stand that holds the microphone to the stand. If you want to unscrew them and you have a boom mount and the right adapter, because it does take a thread adapter, like a nut, you can mount this microphone on a boom mount if you want to. That’s really not what it’s intended to do. If you’re going to use a microphone on a boom mount, there are better, less expensive ones that you can choose. Some of the ones I’ve already talked about would be good candidates. The reason I say that is this stand is made of some incredibly thick and heavy steel. I have quite a bit of manufacturing background in my history in my career, most of the cost of this microphone is in that stand because of the material. It’s quarter-inch thick steel that’s bent. Manipulating that material to create that stand takes a lot of money and a lot of labor.You don't want to spend a whole lot of money on equipment if you're not going to stick through it. Click To Tweet
The good thing about that is if you want a USB-only mic and you want a table tabletop mount only, you could hit this thing with your hands and you’re not knocking it over. You’d have to seriously do something very intentional or accidental to knock it over. It’s not just going to tip over easily. It is not at all top-heavy. That’s one of its good points. This base from a cost and a user perspective is overbuilt. That’s maybe part of its style, part of its appeal and part of what they’re trying to market about it. USB-only, it’s very large in diameter so it’s pretty big. All in all, this microphone is not very portable. If you’re going to go on the road, this is probably not one that you’re going to want to pack into your computer bag or your suitcase. Not only will it make it much heavier, but it’s bulky. It’s going to take up a lot more space. It’s not ideal in that regard.
You can adjust the angle of the microphone in the stand with these two knobs on either side, which go through the stand and into the microphone. I would figure out the angle I wanted it to be at, tighten the threads and leave it there. It also does come with the USB cable. It looks like and is the same USB cable that comes with USB printers, where it got that square connector on one end. It goes to the microphone. The normal flat USB connector goes into your computer on the other end. That’s fine. I don’t think that matters from a capability perspective. To paint the mental picture, it’s the connector it has.
What I found when I recorded is that the audio quality of the Blue Yeti was the poorest of all the USB mics that I tested. I was not very impressed with it. I wasn’t very surprised. I’ve spoken to other people and interviewed them over Zoom or Skype. I’ve used one at an event I went to once. My impression was it was not the highest quality microphone, which surprises me why it’s so popular. When I opened it out of the box, I could see they’ve created a pretty nice design of a microphone. The stand, and when you hold the box, you feel the weight of it. You think, “This must be a quality piece of equipment because it’s so heavy.” Unfortunately, that’s an association a lot of us have, at least in the United States, that weight is equivalent to quality a lot of the time. That doesn’t translate through to the audio quality. Go and listen to it for yourself and see what you think.
I’m moving on to another USB-only microphone. This one’s called the RØDE Podcaster. This is a microphone that is marketing itself specifically to podcasters. Opening up this microphone out of the box, the packaging was of a very nice quality. I like how well it was done. It was a nice quality box, outside and in. It all communicated quality. There’s not much in the box because this one doesn’t come with a tabletop stand. It doesn’t come with an XLR cable because it’s a USB microphone only. It only had a USB microphone, the USB cable and a small adapter for a boom mount, which is very lightweight. There are not a lot of things in here, yet this box was heavy. When I picked it up, I said to myself, “This thing is stinking heavy.” I couldn’t believe how heavy it was. The metal casting that this microphone is built in is darn heavy.
RØDE Podcaster Test Audio
I was surprised at the weight of it because I do not believe the weight adds any quality or functionality to its ability to record your voice. I’m like, “Why would someone do that?” It’s just appealing to at least in America. In America, we tend to regard things that are heavier by the pound are more valuable. I don’t think it’s true. In this case, it’s ironic because this microphone is not meant to be used on a tabletop stand. You would need a strong tabletop stand to keep it from falling over. This microphone is more than three times the weight of some of the others I’ve already talked about in this review, the Audio-Technica microphones and the Samson microphone. It’s three times the weight at over one pound and eight ounces for the microphone.
When I mounted this to my boom mount, I had to really go and tighten up. They give you a couple of different knobs to turn some of the joints on your boom mount in order to counterbalance the weight so that when you put something, you get those knobs set properly and you can move your boom mount around. Depending on where you’re sitting or standing, you can stretch it out to where you are and it’s going to stay there. It’s got these springs on the boom mount that counterbalances the weight of the microphone. Most boom mounts that spring force on them do not have enough strength to balance the weight of this microphone. That’s one of the things that are not so good about it. You’ve got to tighten those joints so tight that instead of the spring force holding up the microphone. It’s the fact that you’ve tightened these joints so that it’ll hold it. If you’re going to move that microphone back and forth from a use position to a storage position pretty often, it’s how I use mine on a daily basis. I’m recording and/or using Zoom whether I’m having a business meeting or recording a podcast. I move my microphone around like that daily and a lot of times, many times a day. If I were using this RØDE Podcaster, I’d be constantly retightening those knobs. Eventually, they would wear out.
I’m not a big fan of this microphone for that reason for the weight alone. It is also a USB-only microphone. It does have a headphone jack and a volume dial for that headphone jack, which is great. Another unique thing about this microphone is it’s made in Australia. I found that very unusual. Most of the microphones that we see now on the market are made in China. There’s nothing wrong with making it in Australia. It’s great that they’re manufacturing things like this in Australia. It’s probably one reason why this is one of the more expensive microphones in our review list. It’s not the most expensive. There are a couple more that are more expensive. It’s $229 for this microphone. It’s not the cheapest one you could choose or purchase. If you’re a budget-minded podcaster or are you’re just trying it out and you’re not sure you’re going to stick with it, it’s probably not the best choice for you. You don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on equipment if you’re not going to stick through it. I would recommend that there may be other microphones if you’re a starter podcaster.
If you want a microphone that’s going to look cool on video and you’re planning to record your episodes as videos, the look of this microphone, the design of it is pretty cool. It’s painted white, which is a very clean look. It’s going to be noticeable on video as, “It’s a piece of equipment.” It’s got a look to it and it’s got a weight to it. That look and that weight don’t translate to quality audio. If you look at my unboxing videos, you’ll see that I’ve mounted a shock mount at the end of my boom mount. The microphone is on these rubberized springs or netting or webbing of elastic material. That means vibrations that go to the table don’t translate through the microphone. That’s a useful thing. I like the shock mount. The RØDE Podcaster will not fit in a standard shock mount. It’s not even made to attach that way. It’s got a special little adapter that screws onto the end of pretty much any shock mount. That connection is universal. It will work with pretty much any boom mount that you can buy out there. It’s a hard connection. Any vibrations are going to come through to the microphone. Bear that in mind.
For the audio quality, I recorded the same line I did with all of them. I was not a big fan of the audio quality. I found there’s quite a bit of noise and a little bit of static at times. For $229, I felt that the audio quality didn’t live up to the impression, the price and the weight of this product might lead you to believe that it is worthy. At the end of the day, no matter how a microphone looks or feels or its packaging, if it doesn’t have the goods under the hood, meaning in the audio, in your computer or in your digital audio recorder, if it’s not giving you the quality audio you want. What’s the point?
We’re moving on to our next to the last and second most expensive microphone. This is a microphone that’s regarded as an incredibly high-quality microphone. After testing it, I agree. It is a very high-quality microphone for $327 on Amazon. It is the Heil PR40. This is an XLR connection microphone only. You will need to use an XLR cable to connect it to an interface that will take the XLR cable and output a USB cable to your computer. To get the best quality audio, you’re going to want to go through the XLR cable, either directly to a digital audio recorder or to a mixing board out to a digital audio recorder. You can, a lot of times, get an interface that goes USB from your mixing board into your computer. In order to record the best quality audio from this microphone, you’d definitely want to go either into a mixing board to a digital audio recorder or directly into a digital audio recorder for those that have an XLR port. I was impressed with the quality of not only the microphone but also the packaging. It comes with a very nice case. It’s got heavy duty foam in this. If you’re going to travel with this mic, it’s going to be very well-protected. You don’t have to worry about what TSA is going to do to your luggage. It’s not that I would put it in my checked luggage. I probably would put it in my carry on. Nonetheless, it’s a very high-quality case.
Heil PR40 Pro XLR Test Audio
There’s one thing that did surprise me about this microphone. It has a reputation. It’s very well regarded. It’s high-quality audio. This microphone has very high-quality audio. I was very impressed. I was very surprised that for $327 in a very high-quality microphone, they do not include an XLR cable with it. I found that almost amusing and a little disappointing at the same time. I reviewed in this episode a $59 combination of USB and XLR microphone that’s pretty decent quality, not only physically but sound quality. It comes with an XLR cable. Both the Audio-Technica microphones come with an XLR cable. Why can’t the Heil PR40 microphone come with an XLR cable? It doesn’t make any sense to me. They also haven’t provided room for it in their case. Another irony of it is while it comes with a very nice case, it’s not as practical to travel with an XLR microphone because you’ve also got to travel with either a digital audio recorder or an interface that takes the XLR cable. That’s more equipment you’ve got to travel with.
Heil PR40 USB Test Audio
It’s a little surprising. This nice travel case makes a great impression and has heavy-duty foam that’s going to protect it. The reality is you’re going to have to travel with other things that won’t fit in that case. That’s a little odd, but it’s a very good microphone. It’s small from what I was expecting. If you’re going to use it in your own little recording area, whether you have a home office, work office or you’ve created a real studio area, you may want to buy its own boom mount that fits the microphone perfectly. I probably would recommend that. That’s a more expensive boom mount. You’re going to increase your budget a little more using that mic.At the end of the day, no matter how a microphone looks or feels, if it doesn't have the goods under the hood, then what's the point? Click To Tweet
The other thing about this microphone is it states it on a removable label when you pull it out of the box, it’s wrapped around the microphone, this is what they call an end-fire microphone. You need to speak directly into the end of it. You don’t want to have your mouth off to the side of it. You want to think about that when you’re mounting it. However you’re going to mount it, you want to speak into the end of it. Not all microphones are that way. Most of the ones that I’ve talked about are not that way and don’t mention it because it’s not critical to do that. The Heil PR40 is an end-fire microphone. You need to speak at the end of it. There is no headphone jack and no volume control because an XLR microphone, by its nature, needs to be connected to another device in order to record it. That’s where you would plug your headphone in to listen to, whether that’s a mixing board or a digital audio recorder.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
There’s another thing I want to mention that’s a device you may want to consider when using a microphone like the Heil. It’s also something you may want to consider when using a microphone like the next one I’m going to review after the Heil, the most expensive microphone in this review. The old school way was you’d buy a mixing board. When I started podcasting, I bought a mixing board because I wanted to be able to have more control over the equalizer. I was going to plug two microphones into it, one for me and one for Tracy. Her voice is a little louder than mine, so I can lower the level of her microphone relative to mine on the mixing board. I can do the equalizer a little bit because we have different tones in our voices. Mine’s a little more low and resonant. Hers is a little higher. The other thing is I wanted to do a mix-minus. We were using Skype to record at the time through the computer. I hooked the mixing board up to a USB interface. I was recording to a digital audio recorder. I wasn’t using the computer to record. I was using the computer to communicate with my guest and bring their audio through the computer, out to the mixing board and into my digital audio recorder. I also was sending our voices to the mixing board out to the computer so our guest could hear us. I was recording very high-quality audio for Tracy and me. The guest was limited by the computer, Skype and USB.
You bring their sound into the mixing board and to the digital audio recorder, but you don’t want to send their sound back out to the computer. It would create a feedback loop and a bit of echo. That’s old school recording. These days, a lot of the programs people use to record are Zoom, SquadCast and others. There’s a way to separate what your guest is hearing from what you’re hearing and from what’s being recorded. You don’t need the mix-minus in most situations anymore. Mixing boards are old school, but there may be reasons why you still want to do it. In most cases, if you hook up more than one microphone and be able to adjust different levels for like my voice and Tracy’s, there’s another kind of USB interface that would apply to the Heil and the next microphone. I’ve come to know these devices. I have set up clients with these a couple of times. It works very well. It’s a device by a company called Focusrite. It’s their Scarlett series of interfaces.
The most common one I set people up with when they have the need is called the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8. That allows up to three microphones to be connected and export it into one USB cable to go into a computer to communicate via Zoom, SquadCast or whatever you’re going to do. The only way you’re going to be able to hook up more than one microphone, if you’ve got two or three of you in a room and you’re going to connect with somebody else over Zoom or across the internet, is to have a device like the Scarlett 18i8 by Focusrite or a mixing board. That’s where you would still need that either older school equipment if it’s a mixing board or newer school with the Focusrite devices. I’m going to do a separate review on the Focusrite device. You’re going to want to look for that and check that out if you have the need to have individual microphones locally and still connect to a computer. That’s the main reason you’d want to use that type of device.
The Heil is one of those microphones that can be used that way and connect right up to that device. That’s all I have to say about the Heil PR40. The audio quality is excellent, recorded over XLR to a digital audio recorder. It’s very high-quality. $327 is not cheap. You may need to buy an accessory to use it properly, so that’s not going to be your total budget. It’s not something I would buy now. Some of the other microphones, especially the Audio-Technica ones, are so close in quality. When you listen to those tracks and compare to the Heil, technically the Heil beats them quality-wise if you’re recording through XLR or whatever microphone to a digital audio recorder but not by much. At some point, you may need to make a decision, “How much money am I willing to spend to get a little bit higher quality recording? Is it worth the money?”
The other thing to consider is the reality of us as podcasters. The distribution method for podcasting requires that all recordings are reduced down to an MP3 file format. MP3 is limited in its audio quality. I’m not saying it’s bad. I love listening to podcasts. You get excellent quality podcasts over MP3. The Heil microphone and most digital audio recorders would be recording a file that’s a WAV format usually or some other high-quality format. You don’t distribute podcasts in WAV file format. The files would be too large. You end up converting them or your podcast producer converts them to MP3. If you’re going to be distributing your audio as MP3, you may not be getting all the quality benefit of such a high-quality microphone like the Heil PR40. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s nothing wrong with using the Heil PR40. It’s a great microphone, excellent high quality. If that’s what you want and the budget is not a big deal for you, use it. It’s fantastic. For a lot of us, when you consider the cost versus the benefit and the cost versus the end result quality, you may consider whether that’s the right fit for you.
The last microphone, the most expensive microphone in this review series, is another one by the manufacturer named Shure. We had a Shure microphone earlier in this series that was less expensive. This is called the Shure SM7B “Legendary” Vocal Microphone. It’s $399, the most expensive microphone. It’s a very large microphone. It’s XLR-only, so not USB. It comes with a few extras. It comes with a very big windscreen that, if you’re going to use indoors in a studio setting to record, is not necessary. If you’re going to use this thing outdoors, maybe for recording video in movies, television or something in a little windy environment, you might need that big windscreen it comes with. You’re probably not going to need it. It’s got enough of a windscreen built into the microphone. It’s probably no big deal. It is very heavy. I joked about it when I did the unboxing. I could use this thing for a boat anchor if I needed to keep my boat from going anywhere in a relatively small lake.
Shure SM7B XLR Audio Test
This thing is almost two pounds. It’s the single heaviest microphone out of all of them that I tested that is meant to be mounted on a boom mount. This one is a boom mount microphone. It does not come with a tabletop stand, nor would it be one you could practically use with a tabletop stand. I’m going to call this a boom-mount-only microphone. It does come with all of the necessary threaded adapters for the two different sizes of threads than any boom mount you would buy would come with. It will fit any boom. If you don’t have a heavy-duty boom mount that’s got some heavy-duty springs, you’re going to have the same problem with this one that I mentioned with the RØDE Podcaster. The common $30 boom mount is probably not going to be adequate for this microphone. You could do it, but you’re probably going to wear out the boom mount pretty quick. You may as well buy a better quality boom mount for a bit more money that has the spring-loaded capacity to counterbalance this almost two-pound microphone.
Shure SM7B USB Audio Test
I do want to give some credit to this microphone for its design, how it mounts to the boom mount and where it puts the XLR connector. Most of them just stick that XLR connector on the very back end of the microphone. Think of it as a cylinder and at the back end would be a mount. This microphone doesn’t do that. It’s got a separately wired and upward-facing port for that XLR cable. What it does is it keeps the cable out of your way on the boom mount. We do show some video on how you connect the cable. It’s pretty clever. I thought it was nice. It’s a nice feature of how that’s mounted. This is an XLR-only microphone. There’s no headphone jack and no volume control because you wouldn’t need it. You’re going to hook up to a digital audio recorder through some interface. You could use a mixing board. You could use the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 or an equivalent interface if you needed to hook it up to either USB or connect more than one mic.
Mounting it was not that difficult. Setting it up and using it is not that difficult. The XLR quality recording was very good for this microphone. Connecting it through an interface to USB, I didn’t find the quality to be all that great. That’s probably not why most people would buy this microphone anyway. Using it through XLR is much better. As the most expensive microphone that we’ve tested, you want to question whether you’re going to use the full capability of this microphone. It has some other fancy settings, depending on if you’re going to record a voice like this or music. It’s got the capability on a very technical side of things, not for the average user that you can change some switches on the back of it and configure it for different ranges of sound. It’s great if you need that capability.
For most people, it’s overkill in the podcasting space. There may be a reason why some of you might choose that. If a $400 microphone is going to give you that much better quality and something you would want, go for it. All in all, that’s a whole lot. I’m downloading a lot of information for you. It may be a little information overload, but I wanted to give an honest, impartial review to a range of microphones. I approach them from a price perspective. I use one of the Audio-Technica mics. For most people, they’re right on. They provide everything you need. It’s high quality and provides a nice amount of accessories. It’s very portable, whether you’re going to travel with them or not. It’s a very good quality mic but may not be for everybody. Maybe you want a USB-only microphone. Maybe you have a different reason for needing something a little different. Everybody’s situation is not the same. I completely respect why someone would buy a Heil PR40 and why someone would buy a Samson that’s a little cheaper. To each his own.
I’m trying to put all this information out there for you to decide, for you to be able to test out. Listen to it for yourself and decide what you think is right for you. As some other microphones come on the market, I may make an addendum to this episode and add that to it. There may be some reasons why another microphone is worthy of a review and of putting it out there to all of you. I’m committed to continuing to do that to offer all the information out there for you to check out. I hope you found this valuable. If you have any feedback on this, let us know what you think, especially on social media on Facebook at Feed Your Brand. We’d love to hear about what you have to think about any of these microphones or this episode. Any comments, we’ll be happy to reply to you. Thanks for reading.
- Shure PGA48
- Samson Q2U
- Blue Yeti
- RØDE Podcaster
- Heil PR40
- Focusrite Scarlett 18i8
- Shure SM7B
- Feed Your Brand – Facebook
- Unboxing videos – Playlist
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