What mic do I need to start recording audio books?
If you are interested in narrating audio books you are going to need a few different things. The obvious one is a mic. There is a lot of different advice surrounding mics out there. But audio book narration and voice-over is a very specific niche with very specific audio requirements for audio.
The type of mic you want get for audio book and voice over, is an “XLR, Cardioid, Condenser Mic”
Let’s break down what that is and why.
This just refers to the way you plug the mic in. USB mics use a USB cable. XLR mics, use an XLR cable. USB mics can only be so good, and that is not good enough. The reason is XLR carries phantom power, which is a 48v supply to give you mic all that electron goodness it needs to grab great audio. USB however only carries 5v, which will leave you mic hungry, and when mics are hungry their stomachs growl. Microphone stomach growls in your recording are not good.
This is called a mic’s “Self-Noise” it is the noise a mic makes just being on. A good USB mic will capture your voice great, but also a lot of white noise. Which is no good for your recordings.
Do not get me wrong though, there is plenty of garbage XLR mics out there, so check before you buy. Check Facebook group for audio book narration there is plenty of friendly folk out there ready to hand down advise.
Now for the Cardioid bit.
This refers to the microphone pattern. This just means which direction does it pick up sound from.
Some mics pick up sound from all around. Cardioid mics pic up more sound from the front and “reject” sound from the back and sides. They still pick up some sound from the back and sides but far less. This is important, because as you speak your voice will reverb of off surfaces and back into the mic. Now a cardioid mic is not a suitable replacement for a well sound treated recording space, but it helps.
This is describing the inner workings of a mic. There are a couple of different types. Ribbon mics, are proper ye-olde mics, used by enthusiasts but not really suitable for most modern applications.
Then there is dynamic mics. These sound great, they really do. But are not ideal and especially not as a first mic. A good dynamic mic will cost the same or more than a condenser, and to get a clean signal from it you will need a pretty beefy pre-amp of some description which is going to add at least $100 to you budget. Dynamic mics also have a tendency to be a little more “Flat” than the average condenser. Some mics like the Sure SM7b have build in eq’s but most dynamics will require a little more post work to get a good sound.
Then you have condenser mics. Unlike dynamic mics they require phantom power, so make sure the interface you get with it has that ability. Most do, but double check. As the mic is powered its output signal is much higher than a dynamic mic. Meaning no preamp required in addition to your interface (normally). This also means less noise being amplified with the signal which means less post work. They are also more sensitive and tend to have a much “warmer” or “sharper” sound than dynamics.
And that is why you should go for a Cardioid condenser for you first mic.
A good price range would be $100-$200. You don’t need to spend any more, and I would not spend any less.
A great go-to first mic is the Rode NT1-a. It offers great performance for the price. It has a very bright crisp sound and has fairly good side and rear noise rejection. It is well known in the industry as being one of the quietest mics you can buy at any budget (meaning it has very little self noise.) It also has a more than sufficient signal output level to work with most interfaces.
It was my first mic and I still use it for certain projects.