If you’ve ever watched a video on YouTube with someone talking about a particular subject or streaming live while playing a video game, you’ve noticed that those persons usually have a rather large microphone in front of them.
That’s the good, old streaming microphone, a device designed to provide high-quality audio. Obviously, you cannot become a huge YouTuber if you stream with the microphone your headphones are equipped with.
If it so happens that you’re here because you’ve got plans of starting a streaming or podcasting channel and you still need some in-depth info on the streaming microphone, we’ll break it down for you.
How Does A Streaming Microphone Work?
The streaming microphone basically works just like any other given microphone, in the sense that it picks up sounds and amplifies them. However, they can differ in terms of efficiency (among other aspects, of course).
Some of them require lengthier set-ups, while others only need to be plugged in. A condenser microphone, for instance, isn’t the same with a dynamic microphone, but we’ll get to that shortly.
It doesn’t apply to all the streaming microphones in the world, but some of them are much more sensitive to sound than your regular mics. This is the main reason why they’re fit for podcasting and gaming live.
The efficiency of a streaming microphone depends on the environment you’re recording your clips in. This way, you shouldn’t think of it as a magical tool that makes every bit of noise audible.
Why Do You Need An HD Microphone For Streaming?
There are plenty of vloggers that make the mistake of using the microphones on their headsets. Take a look at how many subscribers they have: why do you think they’ve got like maximum 100?
Audio quality is everything when you stream. If people can’t hear you, you can be convinced they’ll hit “x” on the tab faster than you can say that letter. Headset microphones aren’t built to pick up on all the frequencies in one’s voice.
The result? Cracks and pops and a muffled voice. When you stream, you have to be loud and clear, lest people won’t care about your videos. Also, you shouldn’t work with a cheap microphone if you’re interviewing people.
If you’re podcasting, you’ll certainly interview somebody, possibly multiple persons at the same time. We don’t know about you, but we think it would be super uncomfortable to have them around your headset and whisper their answers into the microphone.
You cannot become a successful streamer unless you’ve got the proper tools to do the job. An HD streaming microphone can cost quite a lot, but it’s an investment you should be willing to make without any second thoughts whatsoever.
What Kind Of Microphones Are Used For Streaming?
There are two main types of microphones used for streaming online: the condenser and the dynamic. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types and see what it has to offer.
A condenser streaming microphone is designed for use in a studio or a room whose walls have been treated acoustically. It picks the sound waves and then converts them into electrical energy through a capacitor.
This is why you can find them under the name “capacitor microphones”. Many vloggers nowadays use this type of microphone, because it’s better (in a studio environment) than a dynamic one.
Pretty much all the condenser microphones you can find on the market now require Phantom power of approximately 48 volts. They won’t work without external power and of course, the vital XLR cable connector that allows you to plug your microphone into the phantom power supply.
Unlike the condenser, which converts sound waves into electrical energy through a capacitor, the dynamic one converts sound into electrical energy through electromagnetism.
The dynamic microphone is the most common type of microphone and you see it pretty much everywhere: concerts, rehearsal rooms, television etc. As you might expect, dynamic microphones are not as sensitive to sound as the condenser ones.
This is the main reason why so many people use the former instead of the latter, even if they have a good studio put together. Also, they are cheaper. If you have no use for a condenser microphone, a dynamic one will do just fine.
How Do They Record Sound And Why Is That Important?
Not all microphones are built in the same fashion. Even though there are plenty of different aspects to speak about at leisure, we’ll tackle a microphone’s capability of recording sound from a certain direction in this section.
There are 4 main types of microphones when it comes to this: omnidirectional, cardioid, bi-directional and shotgun. Obviously, each of these comes with its own set of perks and pitfalls.
You should assess your real needs before you purchase a microphone that falls into any of the 4 categories we’re about to delve into for a while. This way, you won’t need to return the product (if possible) and pay more money for another one.
An omnidirectional streaming microphone will pick up on all sounds, regardless of the direction or side they are coming from. A unidirectional mic, for example, records sound only when you speak in front of it.
If you use an omnidirectional one, though, you can speak on the left, right or even in the back of it and you’ll still get your voice recorded with the exact same gain.
This is both a blessing and a curse, since having a microphone that amplifies every sound from every direction can be wildly counterproductive and annoying. If you speak directly in front of it, you might get a better sound quality.
Soundproofing the room is a good idea, as well, if you plan on using an omnidirectional microphone.
The cardioid microphone is by far the most common type of unidirectional microphone. Many people have trouble understanding why such a device is called “cardioid”, so here’s the explanation:
It picks up on sounds in a heart-shaped pattern. Imagine that there’s a heart right in front of the microphone – a heart you can’t see with the naked eye, but which is definitely there – that’s the span of the microphone’s sensitivity to sound.
To put it like this, the microphone will record the sound within the heart pattern. This type is primarily used in conferences and generally at gatherings of people where speeches are delivered because they only amplify one’s voice.
This could be a good purchase for streaming, but if you plan on recording other things besides your own voice, you might want to opt for an omnidirectional microphone.
The concept behind the bi-directional microphone is easy to understand, but you’d be surprised at how many people still mess it up. Yes, it does record sounds from 2 directions, but those aren’t the sides of the microphone.
The bi-directional microphone records sound from the front and the back. Imagine you are talking to an audience: you speak in the front and people from the audience ask you questions. Those questions will be recorded by the back of the microphone.
There is no recording from the sides whatsoever. Again, like the cardioid microphone, this one, too, is extensively used in conferences where the speaker engages the audience.
This type isn’t that recommended for live-streaming because you don’t need to record from both the front and the back. The vast majority of them look cool, that’s true, but that shouldn’t be a reason to waste your money on something you have no use for.
There’s a protest going on and the journalists are blazing there to listen to what people have to say, in order for that clip to make it to the 5 P.M. news. All of a sudden, a long, somewhat outlandish microphone that’s attached to a boom pole hovers over the people: that’s a shotgun microphone.
This is mainly used in film-making and journalism, but seldom in vlogging. There are cameras that are equipped with shotgun microphones, as well. Even though you might think that such a microphone picks up on sounds from all directions, it does not.
In fact, its sensitivity pattern is a “supercardioid” or even a “hypercardioid”. This means it’s going to record sounds just from the front while it annuls the background sounds that come from the sides. It is an extremely sensitive type of microphone that can pick even the slightest whispers.
That’s why it’s extensively used in film-making. If you want to record sounds from a distance, a shotgun microphone is definitely the way to go.
However, this is really not recommended for streaming because it won’t be very efficient, especially when you’re podcasting.
Accessories For Improving The Quality Of The Sound
You can purchase a $1,000 streaming microphone, but you’ll still need a few things to make the best out of it. Singers, for instance, don’t just go in the recording booth with a microphone and start singing: they’ll install a pop filter on the microphone first.
One can easily tweak a microphone in order to get the best audio quality with 3 little things: pop filters, stands, and acoustic foam. For a better understanding of their function, we have to give some brief explanations.
When you sing in a microphone or even when you speak, it has a tendency of amplifying consonants, especially the “p”, which will never be more “explosive”, so to speak, than when rendered through a microphone.
The result is awful and you’ll have to spend a lot of time doing audio cleaning; in certain cases, this might not even help, so you’ll have to record everything again and focus all your neurons in not making that “p” so plosive.
A pop filter is the most important piece of equipment for people who are using microphones on a regular basis, no matter if they sing or speak. What is a pop filter, though?
It’s basically a circular filter that’s mounted in front of the microphone. The additional influx of air caused by letters like “b” and “p” is removed by the pop filter; subsequently, the recording will be cleaner.
Evidently, this is not meant to be used only in recording booths. It will come very handy when you’ll be streaming. Those who listen to you in their headphones won’t shake their heads every time you say words with harsh consonants in them.
Pop filters are usually made out of layers of nylon stacked on top of each other and displayed in a circular pattern. They’re crucial pieces of equipment and the fact that they’re very cheap should be enough of a reason for you to get them.
Not having a streaming microphone stand when you desperately need one can be so annoying that you’ll consider giving up on everything. You can hold the mic in your hand for as long as you’re shooting the clip, but it’s simply unnecessary for you to do so.
A stand allows you to use the microphone hands-free. Can you play a video game while you hold the microphone? No, you certainly cannot. The stand is as important as the pop filter.
If your microphone doesn’t come with a stand, make sure that you purchase one that’s suitable for the type of streaming microphone you have. It shouldn’t be too long or too short.
Acoustic foam is vital if you want to get the highest audio quality possible. If you’re recording your podcasts or streams in your house, you should have a mini-studio set up. This means you should get a room and isolate it acoustically.
The acoustic foam should be attached to the walls. Soundproofing your studio is a must because the acoustic foam will absorb noises and unwanted echoes.
Plus, the noise that will be heard outside of the studio will be minimal or, if the soundproofing was done right, next to inexistent. Here’s some valuable advice: you don’t actually need to soundproof the entire studio.
Sure, if your budget allows you to do it, it would be ideal. However, you can just surround your streaming microphone with foam and you’ll immediately get a clearer sound.
Couple this insulation with a proper pop filter and you’re ready to stream in HD. If you’re new to microphones and audio recording in general, you should know that a streaming microphone needs cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis.
In the last section of this guide, we’ll shed some light on how to take care of your microphone, so it lasts you for years without needing any repairs.
Microphones are fragile devices and need as much care as any other electronic piece of equipment. Thinking like “It’s sturdy, what can happen to it?” won’t get you very far and you’ll need to reinvest in a new microphone sooner than later.
A microphone should be kept in certain conditions that ensure it will function well for years on end. For instance, you shouldn’t keep it in a hot room or leave it on a heat dispenser.
This can damage the wires and the diaphragm and needless to say, your streaming microphone will start to malfunction. High humidity, too, can be very damaging to a microphone.
Keep it in a place where there’s no risk that it will be knocked down. Many people seem to think microphones are virtually indestructible and they’re throwing them about as if they were made of concrete.
Make sure you won’t spill anything on it, either. In this case, you can bid it farewell. Clean it with a dry cloth once in a while to prevent dust and debris sediments. Keep the chord someplace safe, so you don’t trip on it.
This can dislodge various parts of the microphone and it will lead to some costly reparations. On the other hand, if it works with batteries, don’t let them rust in there. You can change the batteries once every month.
There are a couple of things you can do when streaming that will keep your microphone safe and sound. For starters, don’t blow directly into it, even if it’s equipped with a pop filter.
A microphone’s diaphragm is extremely sensitive to sound; blowing right in front of the mic can damage it beyond repair. Also, try to refrain from testing whether the microphone works or not by knocking on it.
This is a practice that needs to go away, as it’s been destroying microphones for years now. I confess I had my fair share of destroyed equipment by doing this.
This, too, can cause internal damage. The diaphragm should be cleaned if there’s a sudden drop in the gain of the microphone. We recommend you take it to somebody who knows his way around this.
There’s no scientist that could appraise the total amount of bacteria that can be found on the head of a microphone, especially if it’s used by multiple persons. Take the grill off the microphone and rinse it with water.
If there is debris lodged in it, you can use a soft brush to remove it. The dishwasher can be used, but it’s seldom necessary. If you need the microphone quickly, use a blow-drier to get it dry quickly and safely.
There are certain microphones with non-removable grills. In this case, use a piece of cloth or a wet wipe to clean it. You can use a brush in this case, too, if there are any sediments on it.
Do not shake the microphone! Some people just turn the microphones upside down and shake them to get the dirt out. There’s a strong chance you’ll damage the diaphragm if you do this, so be very careful.
Consider purchasing a disinfectant that has been created specifically for microphones. You can go here for such a product. This won’t damage the microphone in the least.
The stand of a microphone can be cleaned with a damp cloth. Make sure its legs are screwed in properly. One of the arch enemies of a microphone is being smashed unto the floor when the stand doesn’t have the legs set-up properly.
Fasten all the screws once in a while, just in case.
A streaming microphone is absolutely indispensable if you want to create some high-quality content online. Any other type of microphone won’t do. So, you should assess what kind of mic you need before you order.
For example, an omnidirectional streaming microphone would be suitable for those who are into podcasting and will have to interview people. If you’re live-streaming a video game, a cardioid one is recommended.
Due to the fact that there’s an almost endless supply of microphones all over the Internet, the chances are that you’ll have a lot of difficulties in choosing one that won’t fail you, even after years of more or less continuous use.
We have the solution to your problem: our buying guide will focus on providing advice regarding the features you should look for in a streaming microphone. On top of that, we’ll present you 5 products that are worth your attention.
Each of these will be reviewed quickly but thoroughly, so you get a sense of why they are the highest-rated on the market. This is where our guide comes to an end but stay on the line for the next one to get even more information.