One of the most important factors to making a good podcast or voiceover is proper audio recording. That means that you will want to be able to capture the sound of your voice well with as little noise as possible. In this post I limit my reviews to desktop USB microphones.
Mics Being Reviewed
- Apple MacBook Pro 2011 Internal Mic
- Samson Meteorite USB Condenser Microphone (~$40)
- Blue Microphones NESSIE Adaptive USB Condenser Microphone, Cardioid (~$80)
- Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone (Brushed Aluminum) (~$64)
- Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Silver (~$110)
Criteria Being Reviewed
Sound Quality at a Distance
I’m not interested in mics that have to be very close to my mouth to get a good recording. I want to be free when recording to move my head around. (I am not reviewing headset mics here).
As a beginner I’m not really interested in transforming my office into a studio, so the mic I use has to be good in ignoring regular background noise.
I have to be conscious of how much benefit I am gaining for the price.
Methodology of Testing
I tried to be as fair as possible with these mics, which meant that I had to standardize the following:
- Different mics will record at different volumes. I standardized the recording volume by playing a recording of my voice into the mic at relatively constant distance and adjusting the volume till I reached the standardized range.
- The distance between mouth and mic: I set a distance of about 40 cm from my mouth to the highest point on the mic. When speaking I faced the mic.
- I read the same quote in all tests.
- The environment was relatively stable in the testing (meaning there was no observed unintentional change in background noice)
I conducted three comparison test
- A quiet room test, where the room was quiet.
- A noisy room test, where an empty dryer just outside the door was running and the door left open.
- A noise reduction comparison, where I used Audacity’s noise reduction effect to reduce the noise in the recordings from the quiet room test.
Quiet Room Comparison
If you are not listening with headphones the difference may not be very clear. If you put on headphones you will be able to tell the difference better, but really I felt the difference was not that significant. Notice that the internal mic with the real-time noise reduction has the least noise, but the voice sounds a bit more muffled. I felt the snowball had a hint of an echo in it. It felt as if I was speaking from inside the snowball. The meteorite sounded a bit distant. I liked the Nessie the most. The Yeti sounded OK. All in all I didn’t feel the difference in quality was all that great.
Noisy Room Comparison
Obviously the intermal mic with the real time noise reduction had the least noise, but sounded just a bit muffled. The meteorite and Nessie seemed a bit distant. The Snowball’s background noise sounded loud, but surprisingly the voice sounded OK.
Noise Reduction Comparison
The internal mic as usual sounded a bit muffled. The meteorite still sounded a bit distant. Finally it was very difficult telling the difference between the Nessie, Snowball and Yeti.
If you are looking for something to use in realtime application, like Skype or conferencing, then the internal mic with real time noise reduction is the best bet because of the noise reduction. It may be a tiny bit more muffled but the noise reduction is worth it.
If you are going to be processing your audio in something like audacity and doing noise reduction, or you don’t mind having some faint noise in the background then one of the blue mics is a better deal. Based on the price I would say the Nessie was the best pick.