The Gear Files Part 1: Can You Hear Me Now?

One of the biggest barriers to new people getting into content production is not knowing where to start with gear. So, in this new series, we’re going to discuss the basics you need to start, and where to go with upgrades, specifically with regards to audio, video, lighting, and game capture. Today, we’re gonna take a look at sound.

When we think about the bare bones of what someone needs to make content; from an audio perspective, they just need a way to hear your voice. One of the easiest, not to mention cheapest ways to get started here is by using a simple headset with mic or headphones with a mic built in. You can easily find some basic earbuds with mic for about $10, and I’ve seen discount gaming headsets with mic for as low as $20 in stores. While buying more expensive headsets can be a nominal upgrade, they still tend to follow the same problems inherent in headset mics; that being, with the microphone so close to your face, it’s hard to prevent breath and mouth noises. With the earbud mics, they will often pick up cable noise, be unreliable on picking up your voice, and may pick up way more environmental sound than you’d like. Still, either are a viable option to get you started. Just don’t spend too much on this purchase, as the next upgrade isn’t much more expensive than a nice headset.

A great mid tier option (and what Joe uses to record the podcast on) is a good-quality USB microphone. Now, to make any of these upgrades from here on out work, you will most likely need to be streaming through a computer; meaning console players will need to use a capture card (guide on that coming soon). USB microphones have one fantastic feature over the headsets, and that you can distance yourself from the mic, so you can use proper mic etiquette. It is also easier to add things like pop filters. One great, budget friendly option here is the Blue Snowball. These retail for just north of $50, and you can pick up a basic pop filter for about $10 to help ward off breath noise and hard consonants. An even better upgrade, if you’ve got a little more cash lying around, is the Blue Yeti. You can usually find them for a little over $100, and they provide great features like onboard headphone ports and gain control (gain helps you control how far out from the microphone it will pick up). Absolutely worth it for the money, but if you’re not trying to spend a ton of cash, the Snowball will get by just fine. Now there are other brands out there, some are solid, some are not. Take a look at reviews before you buy any microphone you can’t try in person.

If you are wanting the ultimate sound experience with precision and control, nothing is better than an analog mic, but we need a way to convert that to a digital experience. You can use a basic analog-to-digital preamp, but a full on digital mixer is much more versatile, and can give you far better control of your audio mix. Sennheiser makes some great, affordable mixers in their Xenyx Q series, with a 12-input-channel Q1202USB mixer currently going for just above $100. From there, you can directly wire in analog audio from multiple sources, including multiple mics or audio outs from devices. Speaking of microphones, the sky is the limit when it comes to analog audio quality. Be warned, though. That microphone quality is going to cost you. You can easily drop several hundred dollars on a studio quality mic, so if you are going to make that level of investment, make sure you are shopping in person, where you can hear the quality of the mic for yourself. Most music stores, such as Guitar Center, will let you hear the quality of the high end mics before you buy. The good news here is that analog mics are easy to upgrade, so you can start with more affordable mics, and build towards the higher quality as you earn that sweet, sweet internet money.

Dealing with equipment can be intimidating, but it’s not insurmountable. In this article, we discussed mic setups, from basic to advanced. Have questions about mics? Need help figuring things out? Ask for help in the #streaming-tips channel in our Discord! Not already a member? Grab the links to our communities at NerdsBelongHere.com! And as always, stay tuned to this blog for more great tips and tricks!

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