Getting better sound recordings - will a new mic help?

I recently received an email from someone asking me how I got the voice recording in my videos to sound so clear and strong. The answer to that question is much more complex than I'll deal with here, but that person asked me mostly about the microphone I used, and if that could make a big difference in getting better recordings. Here's what I replied:

I currently use an EV RE320 in a shock mount.

EV RE320 in Shockmount

I have it plugged into a Behringer U-Phoria audio interface, and I've actually modified my setup recently. I used to use a Cathedral Pipes Durham pre-amp, but I have since switched to using a full 'Voice Processor' from Symetrix (the 528E), which is most often used for podcasting or radio studio settings.

Anyways, the main thing you have to keep in mind is that microphones pick up the sound in the environment, and there are three ways to combat the problem of 'picking up sound in the environment' vs. 'picking up your voice':

  1. Get the source of the sound (your mouth) closer to the microphone (so it is louder than other background sounds, improving the 'signal to noise' ratio and making it so you don't have to boost your microphone signal so much you hear background noises). There's a reason podcasters and radio personalities have the mic on a boom arm—so they can get it close!
  2. Get your room as quiet as possible (there are ways to do this cheap, and there are ways you can do it really well/expensive)—that's not always that practical though.
  3. Make sure you use a 'directional' mic. The RE320 is designed for voice, and has a 'cardioid' pattern that picks up more sound in front of the mic than the back. Some mics (like shotgun microphones) have 'supercardioid' that is even more targeted and that's why they use those on movie sets and TV where the mic is further from those speaking.

I'll probably end up doing a video on my current studio setup soon.


Did you try a Shure SM57? In my rock band days, that was always the go to microphone for difficult scenarios. I was always impressed with the high quality sound. We used them for instruments, vocals, and as it turns out, they’re still heavily used, commonly available, and cheap!

I have a PG58 and SM58 in my bag 'o mics, and used SM57s for a lot of things back in the day (mostly for instruments like guitar amps and drums L/R). The SM57 and SM58 are tanks, those things could be driven over, used as hammers, etc., and still keep sounding great.

They're not necessarily 'studio' mics, though. They have different characteristics that make them a little more suitable for use in the field.

> reducing the 'signal to noise' ratio
I am sure you meant improving :-)
Thanks for the great articles