Thursday, January 18, 2018

Types of Microphones: Picking The Right Tool (Mic) For The Job

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Equipment, Video Production

I’m obsessive about getting good audio on a shoot. To me, poor audio can spoil even the best looking video, so I always fret about what type of microphone to use and how to use it to get the best results.

When we’re interviewing people at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in April, there will be a tremendous amount of background noise. It’s basically a constant roar, which makes it a challenge to get a good, clear voice above the din even with an external mic.

Last year we used an inexpensive dynamic (not requiring a power supply) mic that I’ve had for probably 14 years. It’s great at eliminating background noise but you have to practically stick it in the interviewee’s face to hear them; in fact it almost looks rude to shove the mic so close to them. I didn’t like the look of that and it requires real concentration from the person doing the interview to switch the mic back and forth and get it positioned correctly. It’s great for stage singers who will be very close to the mic but it was the wrong mic for this application.

So, I’m shopping for what is alternately called an ENG (electronic news gathering), interview or a reporter’s mic. Last year I bought the venerable Electro-Voice 635 ENG mic, which many people rave about, but was totally underwhelmed by it. I sold it on eBay and am shopping again.

I’ve noticed that when our local weatherman does live remote broadcasts (I’ve been his subject several times) he doesn’t have to get the mic right in front of a person’s mouth to get good audio levels and it picks up just enough background audio to make it sound like you are there. That’s what I want.

The mic I choose will most likely be a cardioid mic, meaning it rejects much of the off-axis sound, picking up more in the 120 degees in front of it. It will have a longer handle than that tiny EV 635, both for comfort and because I want to put a mic flag on it. It will reject handling noise well and be very sturdy.

Right now I’m looking at the Sennheiser MD46 and the Electro-Voice RE50/B. If you have used these mics or have other suggestions, please share your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll let you know what I decide.


10 Responses to “Types of Microphones: Picking The Right Tool (Mic) For The Job”
  1. Bill Mecca says:

    I have several RE50’s hard as nails and great sound. As a dynamic they do need a good pre-amp but work great. I’ve also used the 635’s in years past and never had an issue with them.

  2. Bob Mantell says:

    Hi Rick,

    We’ve used an AT897 short shotgun with good results for interviews in noisy situations as well as using it mounted on the camera.

  3. Steve Falter says:

    I think you’re missing part of the “quality audio equation”, a compact mixer. The electronics in video cameras, even pro-grade ones are every rudimentary, when it comes to audio. In fact many will create additional problems when you plug a powered condenser mic in, even when you can select line vs. mic.

    Let me pose a two part question. You wouldn’t record your video without being able to make adjustments on your camera or your subject, would you? So, why are you willing to just feed any microphone directly into your camera?

    These days, you can use a small, inexpensive mixer to adjust gain (how sensitive your mic is to pick up sound), EQ, level/volume (how much signal is sent to the camera. This goes a long way in improving your audio quality.

    In fact, you can plug a lavalier, for you, into one channel and your handheld mic, for your subject, into a second channel AND have one, hi quality balanced audio signal going to your camera.

    This baby is compact, inexpensive, has every feature you need and can USB to your PC/Mac–BEHQ802USB. Yes, you need power for it. Perhaps a battery pack could be used, since it uses a wall wart.

    Me, I’ve been doing live and studio sound for about 40 years and video since Beta and VHS. I hope you find this helpful.

    • Kim R Miller says:

      Thank you Steve for that thoughtful comment.Yes a mixer would add a lot of functionality. I do have a Behringer mixer, but at NAB we’ll be running around from booth to booth doing spontaneous stand-up interviews and carrying along that mixer would be too awkward. I also have a couple of simple BeachTek 2-channel under-camera mixers that I can use to bring in two audio sources and balance the levels, but no EQ.

      I really like the compact size of the mixer you provided a link to and at that price may want to add one of those to my arsenal for future shoots. It is smaller than the one I currently own and could be very useful.

      Thanks again!


  4. Ken Wilson says:

    Might I suggest using a condenser microphone (requires phantom power) with a super-cardiod polar pattern. As you’ve experienced, dynamic mics necessitate a very close miking technique to be most effective in capturing audio. Condenser mics (shotgun mics are condensers) can be held a less-intrusive distance from your interviewee while still acquiring quality audio with good off-axis rejection. Be sure to use a good foam ‘pop filter’ as condenser mics are more sensitive to vocal ’plosives (“P’s,” “T’s,” “Wh’s,” while recording.

    I’d suggest a hand-held condenser such as the AUDIX VX-5. $249.

    Or the BLUE enCore 300. $199.

    There are a number of other microphone manufacturers who also produce quality hand-held condenser mics. Neumann, Sennheiser, Shure, RØDE, CAD & Electro-Voice (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

    I would also suggest testing several of these mics from various manufacturers prior to purchasing. Either check with a local audio rental facility or walk into your nearest Guitar Center (or the equivalent) and explain your needs to the salesperson.

    While there is no perfect solution, there is a mic that can resolve your audio issues. Good luck and I look forward to an upcoming article showcasing your choice.

    Me; Another 40+ year veteran of the audio/video trenches.

  5. Larry Vaughn says:

    I have an RE50/B which has an Omni pattern. It’s the choice of many, including an ESPN shooter I’ve known for 5 years. When Erin Andrews does her stand-ups when she works with him, that is what she is holding. Usually it’s connected to a radio transmitter which fits on the bottom. This goes to a receiver which is connected to a Sound Devices mixer.

    You can get a MM-1 which is for just one mic, and others for more than one mic. It’s hard to get professional sound with the inexpensive gear. You can buy it used as I did.

    If you don’t want to buy a pre-amp, get a hotter mic like a mid range Sennheiser ME-64, which has an internal battery and is know for providing a very strong signal. You can also remove the battery and use phantom power. The EV RE50 N/D is more sensitive also, but I haven’t tried it.

    • Kim R Miller says:

      Thanks, Larry. I did in fact purchase an RE50/B on eBay. It appears to be in excellent condition and I will be using it with a Sennheiser transmitter. I’ll know more about it when I get more time to experiment.


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  1. […] an interview should not only look good, it also needs to sound good too! This is where investing in and picking the best microphone will pay off for […]


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