Can A £20 Microphone Compare to the Blue Yeti?

Podcasting February 28th, 2014

I decided to keep a blog of my experience on the way to becoming a professional podcaster and screencaster. So you can call this Podcasting 101. Like anything in life, you have to start somewhere. So why not right at the beginning?

I decided to keep a blog of my experience on the way to becoming a professional podcaster and screencaster. So you can call this Podcasting 101. Like anything in life, you have to start somewhere. So why not right at the beginning?

Perhaps this is a little too honest, but why not be upfront about it. Then, when I’m more proficient, I can look back and see how far I’ve come, and what I’ve learned.

I’ve dabbled with recording podcasts and screencasts for some time now. But I’ve always been frustrated by the low audio quality, which often contained the raw sound of typing, breathing, and other background noises.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to start recording screencasts for Learnable and knew that this had to change.

So I invested in the Blue Yeti USB microphone to make sure I have the best audio hardware I can afford, and really turn my recording quality around.

It turned up yesterday, so I decided to make a few recordings where you can hear the differences in recording quality of where I was, compared to where I’m going.

Microphones

The microphones used in the recordings are:

  • The built-in microphone on my Macbook Pro
  • A £20 USB microphone, bought from Maplin in London
  • The €110 Blue Yeti, condenser, microphone

To keep it fair, I made three 12 second recordings, saying roughly the same thing in each. These were all recorded in GarageBand, using only the Male Vocals preset effect.

Clearly, the built-in microphone on the Mac is the worst of the three, something reserved only for casual chats with friends. I’m sure you’ll agree, if you want to make professional recordings, it’s not something you’d use.

What surprised me though, was that the Maplin microphone and the Blue Yeti sounded nearly identical. I admit I’m no audiophile, but I’d thought there’d be a more noticeable difference.

The Maplin microphone is a noticeable improvement on the built-in. But for me at least, the Blue Yeti’s still the clear winner, providing a more professional sound.

In each of these recordings, you can hear a soft background hum. So the first thing I have to learn is how to remove, leaving only the vocal recording.

I have no air-conditioning, nor hardware with high-powered fans. So I assume it’s some background noise, potentially the Mac or external drive, which is being picked up.

How To Fix It?

From follow up reading, I should be able to remove the hum with an audio gate, which is available by default in GarageBand. If you’re not familiar with the term, an audio gate removes sound below a predefined decibel level.

For example, say I sat too close to the microphone and it was picking up my breathing or I had a PC with a strong fan. By setting the gate level above the level of either, it would remove it from the recording.

I know that from these brief recordings, it’s likely hard to see a brilliant podcaster in the making. But I’ll be making more over the coming weeks, as I get to learn all the ins and outs of podcasting, audio recording, microphones and my recording software of choice, GarageBand.

As I continue to learn, I’ll be blogging more about what I learned, along with sample recordings.

Quick Question

Are you a beginner podcaster or screencaster, too? I’d love to chat more and share experiences. If you are, email me. Let’s do this together.


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