Condenser vs. Dynamic
The two main types of microphone are dynamic and condenser. To get a rich, full, ‘studio’ sound to your recordings, you’re going to want to use a condenser mic. Simply put – condenser microphones work by sound moving a diaphragm back and forth in relation to a solid back plate, changing the capacitance and producing an electrical signal. The diaphragm has a very low mass which follows the sound waves more accurately than that of a dynamic microphone, offering superior sound quality and capturing a wider range of frequencies. However, because of their sensitivity, condenser microphones tend to pick up a lot of background noise. This means you need a nice quiet recording environment to take advantage of the quality they offer. They also tend to be a lot more fragile, so they’re no good for carrying around in your bag and recording on the move.
Most condenser microphones also require phantom power – this is extra power supplied by the device they are plugged in to. If you are using a usb condenser mic, this should be taken care of, but if you choose a different set up, be sure that you can supply phantom power to the microphone.
The other type is a dynamic microphone.
Dynamic mics record a narrower range of frequencies, and don’t capture such a rich sound. They do however record less background noise, perfect for recording in a noisier environment. They also tend to be more readily available (got a Rock Band mic?) and come in at a lower price point, making them perfect for podcasters on a budget.
USB vs. XLR
As you search for microphones, you will probably see the terms “USB” and “XLR” come up quite a lot. This is referring to the type of connection that is used to connect the microphone to the recording device. It is more than likely, and recommended by us, that you use a USB microphone. Assuming that you’re using your computer to record in to, this is the simplest and cheapest way to record from a microphone to your audio program. However, there are some sacrifices in terms of sound quality to be made here. If you really want crystal clear, rich sounding audio, you can do no better than using an XLR microphone going in to a good quality audio interface, which then send the signal to your computer. That being said – modern USB microphones made by reputable audio brands offer great sound quality and are a great alternative for the purposes of podcasting.