Our top picks for podcasting, praise sound, presentations and more.
If the voice is an instrument, then the mic is its pickup—and you choose a mic based on what you want to pick up. Lectern at a house of worship? Rock screamer on stage? Conference call in the main office? On-the-scene podcasting? Presidential press conference? Guitar amp stacks and drums? Symphony orchestras? Theater productions? You need the right tool for the right job…and fortunately, that right tool may cost a lot less than you think. So grab an XLR cable, turn up your mic preamp, and let’s ask the age-old question: “Is this thing on?”
Talk About a Midnight Special…
Calling all podcasters! Can’t afford an RE20? The MXL BCD-1 Midnight limited edition dynamic mic comes really close at a fraction of the cost, and the half-retro, half-futuristic look is fantastic for on-camera interviews. But the BCD-1-Midnight isn’t just a pretty face. It has the bright, articulated sound you need for broadcasting and podcasting, as well as excellent side rejection to save your audio in noisy environments. Besides…with that kind of unique look and distinctive performance, you know you want it.
Some Mics Have No Boundaries…But Fortunately, Some Do
Boundary mics are the go-to choice for podiums, houses of worship, theater productions, courtrooms, conference calls, and sometimes even for studio recording—try putting one on the inside of a grand piano cover when it’s open, or against a wall to record room sound. Audio-Technica’s PRO44 low-profile design makes it unobtrusive in public-facing applications, and the half-cardioid polar pattern (a hemisphere pattern above the mounting surface) picks up the sound you want, and rejects the rest. It runs off phantom power from 9 to 52 Volts, and is a sweet combination of sensitivity, fidelity, and affordability.
Buy Your Own Backup Singers
Since we’re on the subject of vocals, how would you like to have backup singers doing harmonies for you? The TC Helicon VoiceTone H1 has two backup singers who live in a little box—even better, they have no ego, and always show up on time. But maybe the best feature is that you can grab a split from a rhythm guitar, and the H1 senses the guitar chords to make sure the voices generate musically correct harmonies. (If there’s no guitar player, a selector switch can dial in different harmony options.) What’s more, the H1 has a metal case, and handles pro-level XLR dynamic mics. Why sing solo when you can have backup?
Two Patterns for the Price of One
It never hurts to have a condenser pencil mic sitting around, especially when miking drums and other instruments. But the Behringer B-5 goes one better with two interchangeable capsules, for cardioid and omni patterns. When you want to zero in on, for example, the hi-hat or snare, use the cardioid. But if you want to set up overheads, switch to omni. The B-5 has other attributes too, like a low-noise, transformerless FET amp, a -10 dB pad for high-volume signal sources, and a low-cut filter to reduce room rumble. And at this price, you can afford two for stereo—which is ideal for overhead miking.
The Living Legend of Microphones
Some microphones have endured because of their price, some because of their performance, and some because of both. Shure’s SM57 is one of the best-selling dynamics mics of all time because it’s rugged for the stage, versatile for the studio, is close to indestructible, handles anything from orchestral instruments to guitar amps, laughs at high sound pressure levels, and won’t quit under pressure. Not only that, but as the chosen lectern microphone of the White House Communications Agency, this is the most non-partisan microphone you’ll ever find—every president since Lyndon Johnson has talked through an SM57. If you don’t have an SM57 in your mic collection, now’s the time to discover why this living legend has been the go-to instrument (and vocal) mic for over half a century.