Audio Gear Considerations (Eternal Kaz)

Eternal Kaz

Video is great, but as people say, audio is 50% of video.

There are many choices when it comes to microphones, and it can seem a bit confusing at first. Where do you start?

There’s XLR vs USB, Dynamic vs Condenser, even 3.5mm?! That’s a lot of choices.

I started my journey in 2016 as a young content creator and have added audio gear to my collection throughout the years. This meant a lot of researching and experimenting with what works for me. Let’s break it down!

USB vs. XLR vs. 3.5mm—what are those?

USB, 3.5mm, and XLR are the type of connections that the microphones have. Out of the three, XLR is the one that needs a little bit more before it gets to the computer.

USB is as simple as it gets: you plug the connection onto the mic, and then the USB goes to the PC. It’s a plug-and-play solution. You can change the “gain” or loudness of the microphone from the PC or the microphone itself if it has those knobs.

No USB to 3.5mm connectors! That will add lots of noise and make the audio recording sound horrible.

3.5mm is not usually the preferred method to use for more professional PC microphones, but it’s also plug-and-play. You’ll mainly see this type of connection in lavalier microphones (those little mics that clip on your shirt) or shotgun-style microphones that connect to a camera and your phone. There’s nothing stopping you from using it on the PC, though.

Finally, we get to XLRs, which need an extra tool before they can connect to the computer. You can’t plug an XLR straight into your PC. Yes, there are XLR to USB connectors, and they will technically get your audio from the XLR microphone to the PC—but it will be so hissy that it is unusable.

What you need to get for an XLR microphone is an audio interface. The audio interface sits between the XLR microphone and the PC. You’ll probably want a USB audio interface for simplicity, but you can also find analog outputs if you really want to, which would add even more steps.

You connect the XLR microphone to the XLR input in the audio interface and then connect the interface’s USB output to the PC. This is because XLR is analog and needs to be converted to digital before it reaches the PC. That’s the job of the audio interface, and you’ll want to adjust the “gain” or loudness of the microphone on the audio interface instead of on the PC.

People normally pick XLR microphones because there are more controls and add-ons you can customize before it reaches the computer. If you’re just starting out, USB may be the way to go, and you can consider moving to XLR later.

That covers the main points of the type of connectors, so we’ll move onto Condenser vs. Dynamic microphones.

Condenser vs. Dynamic: what’s the difference?

There are a lot of technical aspects (with pictures) that can be written about the differences between condenser and dynamic microphones, but we’ll skip all that today.

Condensers are sensitive microphones that are made for a quieter setting. They have the full spectrum of sound, and will pick up everything if you’re not careful. You can find these in studio settings for vocals, but they can also work in your home.

A quick story about my experience with condenser mics:
When I first started delving into content creation, I bought a Blue Yeti because every YouTuber had one. If I barely raised the gain and wasn’t close (3-6 inches) to the microphone, you could easily hear the cars outside or someone talking in the living room. They’re sensitive, but you’ll get a nice crisp sound out of a good condenser.

Dynamics, on the other hand, are better for live or louder settings. They have amazing noise rejection as long as you’re close to the microphone. That’s what they were built for! You see these types of mics at live concerts. They do not capture the full spectrum like condensers do (they cut off some of the very lower and higher ends) but will still sound good.

If you’re worried about background noise like traffic or birds, this may be the microphone type for you! Personally, I prefer dynamics over condensers as I don’t want to worry about potential background noises.

Choosing the right audio gear for YOU

What you choose might not be what everyone is using. Copying someone’s audio set up may not work for you because you don’t have the same room as the person you’re watching. Look at your environment and level of expertise with audio and choose what’s best for you.

When you’re just starting out and want GOOD audio, but don’t want to worry too much about what goes where, pick USB. It is the simplest platform to start with and you’ll mainly worry about making sure the microphone is not too loud where it clips (meaning it distorts the audio).

If you want more control and want to add other things later like a channel strip processor (a hardware solution that affects the audio before it even gets to the PC), then you’ll want to look at XLR.

If you like to show your hand and body movements as you speak for your video, a 3.5mm lavalier microphone or a USB/XLR shotgun microphone may fit your needs.

Both XLR and USB microphones can be about the same price, and there are also microphones that have both XLR and USB simultaneously. Things have gotten cheaper as the market has grown, and even more so if you look at the secondhand market. My previous XLR set-up only cost me $80 secondhand—$40 for both audio interface and microphone. Beware, spending thousands of dollars on audio gear is relatively easy!

No matter how much money you spend, it can’t fix THIS issue

How you position your microphone is important.

The farther away that you are, the more noise that will be introduced into your audio. There’s no way of getting around that.

While shotgun microphones do a decent job at a distance and are meant to be off-camera, it’s more of an outlier than a rule. Leaving your microphone on your desk while you’re more than 2 feet away from it will not sound as good as if you’re 3-6 inches away from it.

Not only that, but if you ever tap on the floor or table, your microphone is going to feel that vibration and it’ll be picked up in the recording. Invest in a boom arm or mic stand with a shock mount to get it comfortably close to you as well as to mitigate the potential taps here and there.

That covers the basics of types of microphones and their connection types. If you have any questions or would like me to cover more topics on audio let me know!

Eternal Kaz @eternalkaz
I’m a gamer with a passion for social media and marketing. I’ve had a taste of most of the main social media sites. Looking for a Remote job in the marketing space!
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