Recording great sound

Sound matters

Whether you’re making a live presentation over Zoom, recording a presentation at home or narrating a podcast, capturing the best possible audio quality is critical to the success of your production.

Sound environment

A professional video always starts with good audio, and good audio starts with your physical environment. Sit in the room you’re planning to record in for 20 seconds with your eyes closed and try and identify ambient sound sources. Try and minimise any sounds within your control by closing doors and windows and switching off fans or air conditioners. Constant noise sources are generally less distracting than transient interruptions like traffic or crowd noise, so you should also plan your recording for a time when the house is generally quiet.

Apple wired earbuds with microphone
Apple wired earbuds with microphone

Microphones

Most laptop and desktop computers do include a tiny built-in microphone, but it’s often terrible quality and located right next to the fan. The ideal microphone will depend on your use case, but in order from cheapest to most expensive.

Earbuds with microphone

Earbuds with a mic are provided with most phones these days, you can try using your earbuds with on-cable microphone. Recommended if you don’t have any other option. Popular models include the original white iPhone headphones, or the headphones provided with Samsung phones.

USB headset
USB headset

USB headset

Available to order through iProc in Themis, a USB headset will improve your audio quality when using web conferencing tools like Zoom, and can also improve your audio quality if recording a narrated video. Popular models include the Logitech H540 USB Headset.

Desktop USB microphones

Sometimes referred to as a podcasting mic, a desktop USB condenser microphone will make your narrations sound great, and can be less visually obtrusive than a headset when recording presentations using your web camera. Popular models include the Rode NT-USB and the Blue Yeti.

Desktop USB microphones
Desktop USB microphones
Lapel microphone connected to a phone
Lapel microphone connected to a phone

Lapel microphone

Just like the clip-on microphones used in lecture theatres, a lapel (lavaliere) microphone is great for situations where a bit more mobility is required. The built-in microphone in your smart phone is tuned to work best over very short distances, so if you are planning on filming yourself or a collaborator with a phone or mobile device, then you can greatly improve your audio with a lapel mic. They come in two varieties, wired and wireless.Our team have tested and can recommend the Rode SmartLav+ and the Rode Wireless GO. Depending on the model of phone you have, you might need an adaptor, so check the compatibility with your specific phone before ordering.

Watch a demonstration of some common microphones

Record a soundcheck

Before you start your recording, take a couple of short test recordings and play them back with headphones to verify that you’re capturing good audio. This is especially important when using an external microphone like a USB desktop mic or a set of earbuds, as depending on your operating system, the sound source settings can change from application to application. This is also a good chance to familiarise yourself with the recording software you’ve chosen. Practice starting, pausing and stopping a recording, and find out where the files are saved and how large they are to avoid trouble down the track.

How to manage microphone settings using Windows.

How to change the sound input settings using Mac.