Which Microphone Should I Use to Record my Audiobook?
A great-sounding audiobook starts with a great recording – and for that, you need the right microphone. With so many mics on the market, those new to the narration game often wonder what type of microphone will best suit their needs. Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to mic selection. Everyone has a unique budget, recording location, voice type, and narration style. These various factors all play a role in determining which mic is right for a particular project.
Before you even begin comparing different brands and products, however, you must first understand the differences between the two main types of mic you’ll encounter: condenser microphones and dynamic microphones. In this article, we’ll break down how each of these mic types is designed, the different sound profiles they offer, and when they’re best deployed for a specific self-narration situation.
Generally speaking, condenser mics (also called “capacitor mics”) produce more accurate and detailed audio. This superior sound quality mainly derives from the charged metal plate that rests behind the mic’s diaphragm. When you speak into a condenser microphone, the resultant sound waves bounce between the diaphragm and the metal backplate and produce a weak electrical signal. This signal must then be boosted by an external power source (i.e., phantom power).
Put simply, condenser mics are quite sensitive, which has its pros and cons. On the one hand, a more sensitive mic captures a more accurate representation of your voice with all its unique qualities. On the other hand, you might not want to capture every little sound that comes out of your mouth, especially knowing how long and arduous the editing and mixing process can be. Moreover, a more sensitive microphone also picks up more unwanted external sounds, including echoes, electrical buzzing, movements, and more.
There’s a reason condenser mics are often used in professional studios and not typically recommended for home studio setups and self-narration. In a well-treated recording environment, these mics capture and yield the best sound – in an untreated space, they can become unwieldy (especially cheaper models like the Blue Yeti). Price is another factor, of course. Neumann models remain the gold standard for condenser mics, but the cheapest model, the TLM102, comes to just under 500 GBP (~650 USD). The Rode NT1A is a more affordable alternative at around 150 GBP, but an audio interface will also be necessary to use it.
If you’re new to recording and aren’t recording in a well-treated studio space, dynamic microphones are recommended. Though the term “dynamic” seems to indicate a more responsive mic, dynamic mics are actually less sensitive than condenser mics. In this context, “dynamic” actually refers to the movement of an electrical current – these mics are also dynamic in the sense that they’re useful in a wider range of recording environments. The more subdued nature of these mics is a major advantage in rooms that aren’t soundproofed as they won’t pick up nearly as much background noise (check out our previous article on the 5 best ways to step up your recording game).
You won’t get as much of a nuanced recording when using a dynamic mic compared to a condenser mic. That said, there are countless high-quality dynamic mics on the market that work just fine for audiobook narration. Many models offer USB input as well, which means you won’t need to invest in an audio interface to get started (these mics don’t require external power, either).
Dynamic microphones tend to cost a bit less than condensers, too. The Shure MV7, for instance (one of the best USB dynamic mics out there) comes in at around 200 GBP (~250 USD). And if you want to step up your setup even further, the Shure SM7b falls around 300 GBP (you’ll need to get an audio interface with XLR inputs, too).
You can achieve a great-sounding audiobook with either a condenser or dynamic microphone. Your mic choice should be informed by your budget and recording setup. If you’re recording in an untreated space and can’t afford to dish out on a pricey mic or interface, consider a worthy dynamic mic like the Shure MV7 or something comparable. If you’re looking to invest in a better self-narration setup and plan on recording in a treated space, look into the condenser mics that Neumann, Rode, AKG, and Shure have to offer.
If you need additional information or help with audiobook mic selection, please get in touch!
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