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Don’t Overlook Key Factors When Buying a Talent Mic

Producers need to ensure microphones being considered contain some “basic characteristics.”

In order for public, education and government (PEG) channel producers to select the right handheld microphone for their on-air talent to conduct interviews, the producers need to ensure microphones being considered contain some “basic characteristics,” two broadcast professionals tell Government Video.

To keep broadcast and video producers from selecting the wrong microphone for their needs, they should require it have the same “basic characteristics that I would look for in hand-held microphones,” said John Goran, the cable television coordinator for the PEG channel Brunswick (Maine) TV3. “There are a number of different things to do when buying a microphone.” The first is to ensure that a user’s hand feels comfortable holding the microphone, he said. The microphone should feel like a natural extension that the user could easily direct where needed, he added.

In addition, a hand-held microphone should offer wide dynamic response, Goran said. “I want a microphone with a frequency response designed for speech, as opposed to music,” he said. “I prefer a microphone that is extremely natural in sound, so it should have wide dynamic response.” Such a microphone should be an omni-directional microphone, because placement is less critical with such a microbuyer’s directional characteristics that require the user to point it directly at the person they want to record, Pohts said. By contrast, omni-directional microphones pick up sound in widely dispersed areas, he said.

A common problem is not placing a microphone the correct distance from the person who is being recorded or broadcast, Pohts said. All too often, a microphone is placed too far away from the speaker, and if the individual does not speak in a loud voice, or an omni-directional microphone is being used, it will pick up the sound of nearby loud speakers and create feedback, he added.

Left: Audio-Technica’s ATM510, Right: Audio-Technica’s ATM610a


Audio-Technica has recently introduced two handheld microphones that PEG channel producers might want to consider. The ATM510 Cardioid and ATM610a Hypercardioid Dynamic microphones both feature a newly designed internal shock mounting system that reduces handling and stage noise, the company says.

The ATM510 is a microphone designed for venues where a “rugged,” dynamic microphone is needed, said Dave Marsh, Audio-Technica’s director of sales and marketing for installed sound and broadcast. When a hand-held microphone is shuffled around, some of that noise can transfer through the microphone and cause some issues in the sound system, he said. The internal shock mounting system isolates the sound element from the body of the microphone, so any handling noise does not transfer, he said.

The ATM610a is an improvement over the ATM610, according to Marsh. In terms of the internal shock mounting, Audio-Technica did the same thing with the 610a that it did with the ATM510, but the 610A is a hyper-cardioid microphone. “That’s a much more focused pattern than a cardioid, it’s tighter as far as that goes, and that can come into play also in a noisy environment where a lot of stuff is going on in the background,” he said. “It helps isolate the microphone better and focus the energy towards whoever is speaking into it.”


Top: Sennheiser’s MD 42, Bottom: Sennheiser’s MD 46

Sennheiser Electronic Corp.’s most popular microphone product for on-camera use is its MD 42 and MD 46 Interviewer Microphones, says Robb Blumenreder, Sennheiser’s professional systems channel manager. “These products are preferred by engineers due to their superior audio quality and by producers for their long handle design that keeps the interviewer’s hand out of the shot,” he said.

Producers need to ask themselves where and how an individual microphone will be used, Blumenreder said. Is it going to be used in a quiet or noisy environment, and will it be used to interview a single person at a time, or a group of people? Depending on the set-up, a producer might want to choose a microphone based on its polar pattern and not on how it looks, he said. For example, the MD 42 is an omni-directional microphone, while the MD 46 is a cardioid pattern microphone, he said.

The MD 42 omni-directional microphone is ideal for interview applications occurring in a more controlled environment (i.e. less noisy), Blumenreder said. Because it is an omni-directional microphone, the MD 42 is less susceptible to wind noise as it picks up audio from nearly 360 degrees.

In contrast, a directional microphone such as the MD 46 is more sensitive in a single direction and will pick up wind noise, he said. It also will “pop” Bs and Ps. However, the MD 46 will outshine the MD 42 in a loud environment because its polar pattern is more selective.

Left: Shure’s VP64AL, Right: Shure’s SM63LB


Shure Inc. offers the VP64AL and SM63LB handheld microphones, which PEG channel producers would find useful for field interviews, said Chris Lyons, Shure’s technical & education communications manager. “The reason reporters on the street hold a hand-held mic is because it is a very flexible solution and works well if you’re a single reporter standing there looking at the camera.”

The VP64AL is an omni-directional microphone that is typically used for interviewing, Lyons said. The microphone is black, so it does not show up too much on camera, and it has a high output level, making that a “nice” feature if the microphone cannot be placed close to the interview subject, he said. “It also has a long handle, so if it is held near the bottom, the reporter has a good reach, which is important if the reporter cannot get close to the subject, or if a short person happens to be interviewing a taller person,” he said.

The SM63LB is also an omni-directional microphone, and has the same general configuration as the VP64AL, but it provides “a little bit better highfrequency response, so the sound is a little clearer and more distinct and detailed,” Lyons said. The SM63LB also has a better internal shock mount than the VP64AL, he said, adding all microphones need a rubber isolation shock mount inside so vibrations caused by the reporter are not picked up. In addition, the SM63 has a flexible nylon grill, so the top part of the microphone will not dent if dropped, unlike most metal microphones, he said. Since those microphones are often used on camera, keeping them looking pristine is important because the producers do not want viewers to be distracted by a big dent in the microphone.