Choosing The Perfect Mic
YouTube and vlogging continues to grow in popularity, with many newcomers ready to thrown down for a nice camera and get in on the fun and potential income. However, many soon-to-be YouTube stars focus almost entirely on the quality of the optics, and completely forget about sound.
It’s important to have a quality microphone, as those built into most cameras are quite inferior. You might not see it in their videos, but most top YouTube stars supplement with camera with a great microphone. But just like choosing a camera, determining the microphone for you can be a real headache, with endless options and features. Here, we narrow down the top microphones on the market so you can get focused on your bourgeoning YouTube fame.
How To Choose A Microphone for Recording YouTube Videos
There are several key considerations to contemplate when choosing the best microphone for you, and they will depend on your unique situation.
First of all, you should consider your budget. Quality recording equipment is notoriously expensive and cost-prohibitive, but there are plenty of low-cost options that still sound very good. It might be wise to get passable quality audio that still makes you look professional, and invest your leftover funds in other equipment or marketing for your YouTube channel.
Secondly, you should consider whether you need a USB connection. USB is easier, but a classic XLR connection provides better quality sound. If you choose XLR, you will also need to purchase an XLR cable, which is cheap, and an audio interface or preamp, which is not.
This leads into the third and final consideration: what kind of versatility do you need? A USB microphone will require a computer (or at least some USB device), whereas an XLR is a sort of audio standard. Generally, XLR microphones and the use of audio interfaces introduces a range of options that can go far beyond recording YouTube videos. If you would prefer a mic that can record music, excels in a range of recording setups, and so on, then an XLR is probably the best choice.
FAQs about Microphones
Why are polarity patterns important?
If you’re not coming from a music background, you might be confused about polarity. Put simply, more polarity patterns means more recording options, as each pattern allows the microphone to pick up sound from different directions. For example, a stereo pattern picks up sound separately on the left and right side of the microphone, so that when you listen to your recording, you can hear where the sound is coming from. Other polarity patterns are a variation of this basic idea.
If you are only going to sit in front of a mic by yourself and talk into it, you can safely ignore polarity. However, if you intend to talk with groups, even if it’s one other person, polarity options can ensure that one person isn’t quieter or more muffled than another. For more advanced applications where you’ll need to determine where all noise is spatially, it’s a must.
Do I need a preamp?
If you get a USB microphone, you won’t need a preamp. A preamp powers the signal, whereas a USB connection does it for you. If you get an XLR microphone, you will need a preamp or an audio interface with a preamp built in.
Do I need an audio interface?
As with a preamp, you probably won’t need an audio interface with a USB microphone, as the main purpose is powering the signal. However, audio interfaces do much more than that, and can help you separate signals and control gain. So, if you intend to record more than one thing at once or gain control of your signal chain, an audio interface would still be a wise investment.
On the other hand, if you’ve purchased an XLR microphone, you’ll need at least a preamp to power the signal. You’ll probably want an audio interface, too (or better yet, an audio interface with a preamp built in, which most do offer), because you’ll want some way to get that signal to another external source, probably your computer. You technically don’t need an audio interface, but unless you intend to record your audio to old analog tape rather than a computer, you should get one.
The 10 Top-Rated Microphones for Recording YouTube Videos
Chances are, you’ve already heard of the Blue Yeti. Yeti produces quality, popular microphones, and the Blue Yeti made a huge splash upon its recent debut. While Yeti doesn’t make the cheapest microphones, they’re substantially cheaper than typical studio-quality microphones, and provide excellent sound for the price.
Equipped with 16-bit/48 kHz resolution and four polar patterns (stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, or bi-directional), the Blue Yeti is a powerful little mic with great versatility. The four patterns will allow you to record yourself solo, or with a group in various configurations without the need for additional microphones.
Additionally, Yeti has included a built-in headphone amplifier so you can monitor recordings without latency. Mute and gain controls are easily accessible on the front of the microphone itself. Lastly, it comes with a convenient microphone stand.
The Blue Yeti is a solid microphone that has earned a reputation for a good reason—it has great sound quality, excellent features, and comes at a great price point for what you get.
Whereas Yeti has built its reputation on the current generation of social media vloggers and podcasters, Apogee has a decades-old reputation with studio recording professionals in the music industry. Indeed, while this is not designed to be a studio mic for recording vocals, it has been known to occasionally appear in the recording engineer’s toolkit.
Not only does it provide a nowadays-standard USB connection, but also a 3.5mm connection, for easy integration with just about any device. It utilizes a standard cardioid polar pattern and up to 96 kHz/24-bit HD recording via a proprietary “PureDIGITAL connection,” which is beyond excellent quality for YouTube videos.
Additionally, it includes the microphone, a microphone preamp, and a handy A/D converter in a single device. The construction is not as solid as studio microphones, but it is very ruggedly made nonetheless and designed to work reliably for years for novices while still carrying the weight of the Apogee name.