• Tom Kelly

Make Your Podcast Sound Better WITHOUT Buying New Gear by Experimenting with Microphone Technique!

When podcasters think of upgrading their sound, the first thought that goes through their mind is “new microphone”. While buying new gear is always fun, it’s not always necessary to achieve a better sounding podcast.

First of all, your sound is more than JUST your microphone. I’ve mentioned this SO many times in the past, but the grand majority of your audio quality relies on your room/environment and your performance (and yes, podcasts are performances). The other huge factor is microphone technique. What does this mean? Are you talking into your microphone from 2 feet away or 2 inches away. Are you turning your head back and forth, only intermittently addressing the diaphragm of your microphone directly, are you speaking directly into the microphone or is it rotated 30 degrees off axis? 25 degrees off axis? 23.5 degrees off axis? Does this even matter. YES IT MATTERS! It all matters, all the time.

Watch the video where I demo several different mic techniques and hear how different they all sound!

When we know that all of these stupid little things matter, now we can try to get 100 different sounds out of 1 microphone, and maybe you like one of those sounds so much that you decide you want to keep the microphone and invest rather in a better interface that offers better signal conversion or cleaner pre amps, or perhaps it’s finally time to rip those 1” foam panels off the wall and put something up that’s going to help your sound rather than hurt it. (This should always be step number 1)

In order to understand why microphone technique matter, we need to understand the inverse square law. The inverse square law states that “the intensity of an effect such as illumination or gravitational force changes in inverse proportion to the square of the distance from the source.” What the hell does that mean? First of all, this is a phenomenon that applies to light, sound, and other forms of energy.

The simplest explanation:

As you move closer to the microphone, you signal increases in intensity, meaning your output is louder.

As you move farther away from the microphone, your signal decreases in intensity, meaning your output is quieter.

There’s math involved, but we’ll keep it super simple. As you double your distance from the microphone, your amplitude intensity is now a quarter of what it once was. When we move further away from our microphone, our signal is much softer, the frequency response of the microphone changes, AND we allow more noise to come through into the signal. Leaving out the proximity effect (a phenomenon where the bass response of your signal is increased as you get very close to certain microphones) the tone of your voice will change dramatically as you increase or reduce distance from the microphone.

2 other factors that we play with in this video is rotating your microphone slightly off axis as well as moving the microphone away from the source at 90 degrees, meaning moving it to the left or the right. This plays an important role in the tone of your signal the rotation reduces the amount of pressure on the diaphragm without increasing distance, and moving the microphone away to the left or right increases distance from the source, but along a different axis.

All of these subtle changes dramatically change the sound of your recordings, and once you know how crucial microphone technique is to your podcast, you can experiment with it in order to find a sound you think is better with the equipment that you have.

One last thing to mention, whatever distance and angle you choose to speak into your microphone, do your best to stay there! The biggest nuisance in recording is having to compensate for a sound that is ever-changing. Make sure to position yourself in a comfortable position and stay there. If you lean back in your chair to take a breath while your guest or cohost is speaking, do your best to return fully to your microphone before beginning to speak. You don’t want to give the effect of a passing car as you start your sentence from 3 feet away and gradually get closer to the microphone. And if you must move your head to address someone else in the room or you need to look away to think for a second, rather than move your head back and forth, pivot it around the diaphragm of the microphone so you can still move left and right, but you keep your mouth centered so there’s no noticeable effect of amplitude and frequency loss as you move around the mic.

This tiny bit of knowledge and pieces of proper microphone etiquette will greatly increase the quality of your podcast WITHOUT spending a dime.

Check out the podcast on mic technique!

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