With more independent creators making music, YouTube videos and podcasts at home than ever before, microphones are a hot topic these days. But, while there is a wealth of information about microphones available to the public, there’s also a fair amount of misinformation. To clear things up for everyone, we’re taking a look at six common myths and misconceptions about microphones.
1. USB Microphones are Inferior to XLR Mics
Because they’re so convenient and affordable, USB microphones are often seen as inferior to traditional XLR mics. However, USB and XLR mics use many of the same components and both are capable of capturing professional-sounding audio—the main difference comes down to connectivity.
XLR microphones are named after the standard XLR cable connector they use, which produces an analog audio signal that requires external equipment to amplify and record—typically an audio interface. Additionally, some larger XLR mics require a separate power supply. USB mics, on the other hand, are self-contained devices that plug straight into your computer and contain an internal audio interface that allows you to record and play back sound.
If you just want to get great sound with minimal setup, USB mics are the clear winners. And if you know your way around audio equipment and need the flexibility to record with multiple microphones, XLR is the way to go. Blue offers a large range of USB and XLR mics designed to suit a variety of needs, so you can choose your own adventure.
2. Your Built-in Computer Mic is “Good Enough”
While they may be handy for getting ideas down in a pinch, built-in computer microphones just aren’t up to snuff for producing professional-sounding content. In order to fit into today’s ever-shrinking devices, onboard mics sacrifice quality for convenience, resulting in sonic and logistical challenges when using them for serious work.
These sacrifices in circuit design and component quality mean that onboard mics have a more limited frequency response and higher noise floor than external microphones. In order to capture multiple voices from a few feet away, onboard mics have a characteristically wide polar pattern that often picks up extra background noises.
Luckily, there’s an easy and affordable way to upgrade from your computer microphone. USB mics like Yeti Nano and Snowball plug right into your computer, overriding your onboard mic and offering a big step up in quality and flexibility. Not only will a USB mic sound better, you’ll be able to position it freely and fine-tune your sound with specific settings.
3. Good Microphones are Always Expensive
When shopping for gear, it’s easy to subconsciously equate price with quality. But microphone technology has come such a long way in recent years that even today’s reasonably-priced mics outclass many older models that used to cost a small fortune.
While you can absolutely get great results with an inexpensive microphone, that doesn’t mean there’s no value in spending more. But rather than vast improvements in sound quality, mics at higher price points often feature a unique sound signature or useful features like pads, filters and multiple pickup patterns. So, instead of looking for the most expensive microphone you can afford, think about the sonic character you want and the features you need.
Need something super simple yet great-sounding to record your podcast with? Pick up Yeti or Yeti X. Want a little more flexibility for a pro sound? Try Blackout Spark SL. How about a super flexible system to capture all kinds of different sounds? Invest in a mic with interchangeable capsules like the Bottle or Bottle Rocket Stage One.
Yeti X professional USB microphone for gaming, streaming and podcasting.
4. Your Mic Needs to be as Close as Possible
While it makes sense on the surface, getting right up close on your microphone is not always the best way to get a clean sound. Vocals recorded too closely may suffer from excessive bass buildup or harsh “S” and “T” sounds, while certain instruments can sound unnatural up close and have a hard time fitting into a mix. So don’t “eat” the mic!
To capture clean recordings without distorting your source, try experimenting with mic placement to find the best distance for what you’re recording. Start with your microphone around 6-12 inches away—this is typically the ideal range for recording the human voice. If you’re recording music, increasing the distance can bring out the acoustics of a room in a pleasing way.
Of course, sometimes close-mic’ing is the right choice. If you have a naturally quiet voice, closer mic placement can help you sound more “full” and increase intelligibility. When you must record up close, use a pop filter to deflect breath noises from “P” and “B” sounds.
5. Cardioid Is the Only Pickup Pattern Worth Using
Cardioid refers to microphones that capture sound primarily from the front, and it is by far the most common of several different “pickup patterns” available. While cardioid mics are the standard for recording single sources up close, many mics offer multiple pickup patterns such as omnidirectional, bidirectional and stereo.
Each pickup pattern lends itself to certain situations. The omnidirectional pattern is equally sensitive to sound coming from all directions, making it great for capturing groups of people and recording ambient content. The bidirectional pattern is sensitive toward the front and back but rejects sound from the sides, which is helpful for recording one-on-one interviews or duets with a single mic. Some microphones can even record in stereo, capturing individual left and right channels for a wide, lifelike soundstage, which is great for recording acoustic instruments.
Blue offers several multipattern microphones that can be adapted to different recording situations. Yeti Nano and Snowball feature cardioid and omni modes, while Yeti X, Yeti and Yeti Pro feature all four pickup patterns mentioned above for ultimate versatility. Blue also makes a large-diaphragm XLR condenser mic with variable pickup patterns, called Kiwi.
6. If Your Sound Isn’t Clear, You Need a Better Microphone
When excess noise or inconsistent quality creep into your sound, it’s easy to blame your microphone. However, many common sound issues have more to do with microphone placement and settings than the microphone itself. Before you start spending more money on a new microphone, see if you can solve your problems at the source.
For example, if your microphone is picking up too much background noise, try reducing the gain and moving closer to it. If you’re getting annoying popping sounds on “P” and “B” syllables, put a pop filter in front of your mic. If you’re hearing any low-end rumbling from your desk or outside traffic, get a microphone with a high-pass filter, such as Bluebird SL.
To make achieving a pro sound even easier, Yeti X comes with Blue VO!CE software, a suite of broadcast vocal effects that makes it easy to get the sound you want. Using Logitech G HUB or the Blue Sherpa app to access Blue VO!CE, you can fine-tune your sound with tools like EQ, compression and noise reduction, or use presets created by pro audio engineers and streamers.
Now You Know
We hope this guide has cleared up some common misconceptions about microphones.Now that you’re in the know, browse our mics and find the best fit for your application.