I was recently at a conference to record a podcast. For this particular job, I used wireless lavaliers to capture the voice of lecturers giving presentations. This proved to be a peculiar podcast record for me. The presentations had to be
However, when talking to one of the lecturers after their presentation, the topic of podcasting came up and they asked me what gear I’d recommend for a podcast. We ended up deciding on the Rode Podcaster USB Microphone, but only because it was quick, efficient, and there would only be one person speaking on the podcast. By the way, the Rode Podcaster (link to check the price on Amazon) is my recommended USB Podcasting Microphone.
The first microphone I thought of when asked to recommend a mic was the Electro-Voice RE20 (link to check the price on Amazon). The Electro-Voice RE20 is, in my opinion, the best microphone out there for podcasting (yes even better than the Shure SM7B). Let’s talk about it!
What Makes A Great Podcasting Microphone?
That’s a good question with many answers. Often times, for simplicity’s sake, a USB microphone would be better for a podcaster. In the scenario I described above, lavalier microphones were the best (albeit only) choice.
However, when it comes down to the best production quality and the most versatility, the Electro-Voice RE20 takes the cake as the best podcasting microphone.
So what are the criteria that make up an ideal podcasting microphone? First, let’s look at a general podcasting set up in which we can build our framework. By “general podcast,” I mean the following:
- One or more people speaking
- Each person has their own microphone
So what specifications and characteristics would we want in these podcasting microphones?
- Directionality: Choose a microphone that will effectively pick up its intended podcaster while rejecting the others. Microphones of the cardioid variety are the best choices.
- Less Off-Axis Colouration: Picking a microphone with a consistent polar pattern will help keep a speaker’s voice consistent if they happen to move off-axis from the microphone.
- Pop Filter: Choose a microphone that either has an effective grille or a pop filter to help reduce plosives. External pop filters are often large and impede normal conversation (even if subconsciously).
- Proximity Effect: Selecting a microphone that exhibits a strong proximity can be fantastic for achieving that deep radio announcer voice. Choosing a mic with less proximity effect allows the mic and the podcaster to move around without having drastic changes in bass frequency response.
- Presence Boost: Although not crucial, it’s always a bonus to have a presence boost on vocal microphones. This frequency range between 3 kHz – 6 kHz contains a lot of information pertaining to human speech intelligibility.
- Unobstrusive: It’s always nice to set up microphones so that the talent barely notices they’re there. Choose microphones (and pop filters if need be) that do not get in the way of the podcasters’ eye contact or other means of non-verbal communication.
- Price: You’ll want to consider buying the same microphone for each host and for each guest (if it’s a conversational podcast). Budgeting is always important!
How Does The Electro-Voice RE20 Compare To The Above Criteria?
The Electro-Voice RE20 is my recommended podcasting microphone. Let me tell you way according to the criteria outlined above!
The Directionality Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The directionality of podcasting microphones is critical if everyone involved in the discussion is to have their own mic. The cardioid pattern of the RE20 makes it sensitive to sound in the direction the mic is pointing. It also rejects sound from “behind” the microphone. This is crucial for sound quality and editing purposes.
Here is the polar pattern diagram of the Electro-Voice RE20:
As we can see from the graph, the RE20 does a great job at rejecting sound from 120-degrees to 240-degrees off-axis across its entire frequency response. The RE20 has roughly 16-18 dB rejection at 180-degrees.
The polar pattern of the RE20 helps tremendously in capturing the voices of individuals during a podcast record. When positioned correctly, a cardioid mic will pick up one speaker cleanly and reject all other speakers, reducing phase and “bleed” issues. This makes for easier editing, mixing, and therefore a better podcast production!
Let’s discuss some examples of ideal RE20 position for podcasting:
- 1 person: When recording a single person, ensure they are speaking directly in front of and into the microphone. People will inevitably move around, but keeping them close to the front of their RE20 is critical for consistent sound. Note that this is how all podcasters should orientate themselves around the microphones. In the case of one person and one microphone, the positioning of the microphone is less important than the relative positions of the person and the mic.
- 2 people: Sit the 2 people directly across from each other and position two RE20 pointing in opposite directions at each of the people.
- 3 people: If possible, sit the people in a triangle with an RE20 pointed at each person. One person at 0-degrees, one at 120-degrees, and another at 240-degrees.
- 4 people: Assemble people in a rectangular schematic rather than a square formation. Have 120-degree angles between the two sets of RE20s that closest together. For the two sets of RE20s that are further from one another, a smaller angle is manageable (each voice is directed toward its own mic and not the other, plus the distance between the “long-side-of-the-rectangle” mics will dissipate the unintended voice before it reached the capsule.
- 5 or more people: A bit of d
istanceis your best friend here. You’ll inevitably have phase and bleed issues with this many microphones in a tight space. Keep the polar pattern of the RE20 in mind along with the inverse square law of sound propagation (sound pressure levels drop by 6 dB for every doubling of distance travelled)!
The Off-Axis Colouration Of The Electro-Voice RE20
Let’s take another look at the polar pattern of the Electro-Voice RE20:
Instead of discuss the rejection characteristic of the RE20, let’s talk about the consistencies.
According to the polar pattern diagram, the RE20’s sensitivity across its entire frequency response (above and below 700 Hz) is consistent within 70-degrees of its primary axis. Although the sensitivity drops by roughly 3 dB, the sonic characteristics of the sound do not change drastically.
Note that, even though a 3 dB increase is theoretically a doubling of sound pressure intensity, it is only perceived to be a change in loudness of 1.23x.
What does this mean? So long as a person remains within 70-degrees from where the RE20 is pointing, the sonic character of their voice will not change. This is a big deal since people tend to move around during conversation.
The change in level associated with moving around the microphone is less of a deal. People naturally raise and lower the loudness of their voice during normal speech.
The Grille/Pop Filter Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The RE20 is designed with a built-in windscreen/pop filter, which covers each of its acoustic openings. This “grille” does an excellent job at filtering out excessive sibilances and plosives from the voice. Furthermore, the overall design of the filter also plays a role in isolating the internal microphone capsule, reducing the amount of mechanically transmitted noise in the microphone signal!
So unlike many other vocal microphones, the RE20 doesn’t require an external pop filter to reduce the potential of plosive pops reaching the microphone capsule.
Although reducing the chance of microphone plosives is rarely a bad idea, a bulky pop filter may impede conversation between podcasters. It’s often intimidating enough speaking into a microphone. Large circular disc pop filters between conversationalists may alter the way they communicate (even if only subconsciously).
As an aside, if you decide to film the podcast, the less equipment in front of a podcaster’s face the better!
The Proximity Effect Of The Electro-Voice RE20
This is up for debate. Here’s my stance on the proximity effect:
The proximity effect is excellent for giving that deep announcer-style voice. But it’s only great if the vocalist stays positioned very close to the microphone. Because people have a tendency to move around in conversation (and podcasts tend to be conversational), I’d argue against a strong proximity effect microphone.
It’s advisable to speak closely into a microphone, but the closer we are, the most variance there will be in the bass frequency response if we do move around.
A big selling point for the RE20 is that, unlike nearly every directional microphone on the market, it exhibits no proximity effect!
Electro-Voice achieves this feat with their patented Variable-D® technology.
Variable-D or “variable distance” uses multiple ports along the microphone body. Each of these ports effectively filters the sound frequencies that pass through.
- High frequencies enter the ports closest to the diaphragm.
- Mid frequencies enter the ports midway along the microphone body.
- Low frequencies enter the ports furthest from the diaphragm.
With no proximity effect, there’s no change in bass frequency response of the RE20. This makes it an excellent choice for long-form content like podcasting!
The Presence Boost Of The Electro-Voice RE20
A presence boost between 3-7 kHz on vocals helps them to cut through a mix with clarity. Of course, podcasts are typically voice-centric and do not need vocals to “cut-through” anything. However, it’s nice to have.
Let’s take a look at the EV RE20’s frequency response. The RE20 is rated as having a frequency response between 45 Hz and 18,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph:
Note that the frequency response graph of the RE20 also shows us what it picks up at 180-degrees (the opposite direction of where the microphone is pointing).
So the RE20 actually has presence cut instead of a presence boost. Does this make it a bad vocal microphone?
Although it’s arguable that a presence boost is beneficial in a vocal mic (enough so that I’d mention it here), it’s not essential. The frequency response of the RE20 is fairly flat and so it’ll do a fine job at capturing the sound of the human voice!
The Size And Mounting Of The Electro-Voice RE20
AS mentioned before, the physical space a microphone takes up is a factor in podcasts. Although not critical, it’s important to be mindful of the space the audio equipment takes up when conducting conversational-type recordings.
For example, if the microphone is set up in a way that completely blocks eye contact between two participants, it will absolutely affect their communication.
The RE20 doesn’t require a pop filter to protect its capsule from plosives, so that’s a huge benefit in reducing its overall “size.”
The RE20 also has a built-in shock mount, so we can get away without mounting it inside a bulky external shock mount. This further reduces the overall size of the microphone set up.
The RE20 itself is kind of bulky with a length of ~81⁄2” long and ~21⁄8” at its widest diameter. However, that’s no terrible considering we’ll only be dealing with the microphone and the microphone stand.
The Price Of The Electro-Voice RE20
The price of a quality podcasting microphone is important. Chances are you’ll want several of the same microphone so the prices add up quickly. On top of that, podcasts don’t often make a ton of money in the early stages.
The Electro-Voice RE20 can be purchased for under $500 USD (as of the writing of this article). This may seem like a lot, but if you’re serious about the production quality of your podcast, this microphone is well worth the price.
Note that you’ll also need some sort of audio interface or another analog-to-digital converter to record into a computer, which is, of course, an additional cost.
Recap Of The Electro-Voice RE20
With the Electro-Voice RE20, you get a directional microphone that exhibits no off-axis colouration (within a practical range) and no proximity effect. It’s a microphone that records clean, quality audio without the need for an external pop filter or shock mount. If you’re going to buy a professional microphone for podcasting, your money is best spent on the Electro-Voice RE20!
For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.