Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Which Microphone is best for field use (Interviews etc.)?

I had a colleague at Adobe write to me today about Duane's World TV and ask the following:

"Hey Duane,

Can you tell me the specs of the microphone you use for your videos.
The shotgun mic on your camera, that is.


This is a complicated question as every interview I have done has had distinctly different conditions. Sometimes wind, rain, or background noise ruin the audio. Nevertheless, here is what I have used to date and what I think I will do in the future.

Duane's World is shot with an HDTV Canon HV20. This is a very compact, yet full featured camera. The shotgun mic I used in Milan to capture audio is a Rode model N3594 VideoMic.

While it is good, it picks up tons of background noise. Here is a background noise problem example (forward to interviews in Duane’s World Episode 2)

(and the wind problem in this episode interview)

As a fix, I started using a Beyer M58 Dynamic Omnidirectional mic

This is a professional quality broadcast mic and really good for interviews. It has a long handle, which allows you to control the interview better (when you move the mic back to you, it cuts the person off). The BBC uses these too; since they have a long handle you can interview people a meter away. For the difference see this interview in a noisy environment:

It is highly directional and picks up no background noise. The problem is it needs phantom XLR adapter (power) so you have to buy a phantom power provider like this: to plug the mic into. This uses standard 9-volt batteries (same as the Rodes mic).

For voice overs in my studio, I use the Shure SM7B, which is the ultimate studio mic:

This uses XLR connectors too so you need a midi device to interface with your computer. I use the TonePort UX2 which has tons of preset vocal tones and plugs into USB. This can allow you to record to Live, Cubase, et al.


None of these is the best solution. The better solution for an all around, small portable and perfect mic is a wireless/wired with long cable lavalier mic. I would highly recommend going with the XLR phantom power adapter plus two wired lavalier mics. They work in all situations. This is the model I am buying:

The problem is that you need one of these for every person so if you are interviewing 4 people, you need 4 mics. Since most of mine are two-people interviews, I will use the two mics but record each on a separate channel so I can control the volume in the event the interviewee speaks with a lower voice.

I'll update this blog post after I experiment with the lavaliers.


  1. Thanks Technoracle for the quick review. I was just heading out to the music store to check out a few more lav mics for interviews.

    Have you tried the mini boom mics (about the size of a pencil on a very thin boom)?
    They are quite inconspicuous and much less threatening than the other mics. Also don't need to worry about fiddling with the lav and its noise if you have guests that move around. Not sure of the brand/model (that's why I'm going back to the music store :0)

    If they have a good clean sound I'm thinking of picking up 6-8 of these and give them a go.

    Any feedback to would be great.

    Kesher Media

  2. I don't own any of these myself but I have used them extensively. Sony makes a very good one (think it has a "21" in the model) and the tiny lav mic sounds very full and picks up a pattern within 30 cm that is very close to -5 db yet no background noise cuts in outside one meter. I think the prices range a lot based on wireless vs phantom power and I prefer wired over wireless.


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