Can You Hear Me?

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What kind of microphone should you use to get the best sound for your ScreenFlow?

can you hear meAsk a group of screencasters this question, and you’ll get answers as varied as if you had asked them the name of their favorite pets. There are hundreds, if not thousands of choices in the market, but before you spend money on a microphone, you’ll want to consider your needs, your intended audience, your environment, and your delivery format.

What to consider

Generally, the higher-grade microphone you use, the more accurate and high-quality the sound will be.  But, if your plan is  to compress your recording significantly, such as for a YouTube video, this compression process will also have an effect on the audio, so perhaps you can use a lower-grade mic with similar or same results.

If you are OK with a lower-fidelity, and a likely noisier recording, you could opt for a simple lapel or headset mic. This would be fine for casual blog postings.

A step up from that would be a dynamic microphone plugged into a soundcard or external sound device. This would give you a higher-level sound.

The next step would be a professional-grade sound card with a condenser or ribbon microphone. This set-up will give you very detailed sound that is usually very accurate to the source.

Of course, depending on your environment, one of the advantages of the highest-quality set-up – the mic’s sensitivity- can also be a disadvantage. These high-quality mics will pick up every small noise from a plane flying overhead to your dog walking through the room,  so if you don’t have a good quality acoustic setting  you may end up with a recording that actually sounds worse than if you had used cheaper, less sensitive equipment. So remember to consider your recording environment when deciding what microphone fits your needs.

ScreenFlow-qualified microphones

Although we stop short of officially recommending hardware or microphones to use with our products, we do test many of them, and have found several that work especially well with ScreenFlow. So if you’re at a loss as to what to use, you might try starting  with one of these:

  • Blue Snowflake: With a USB connection, this small mic clips onto your laptop or sits on your desktop
  • Samson G-Track: A USB-connected desktop mic
  • Alesis USB Podcast Mic: A USB-connected desktop mic
snowflake
Blue Snowflake
samsonmike
Samson G-Track
alesismike
Alesis USB Podcast

We’re constantly testing and qualifying new hardware, and we’d love to hear your own experiences. What kind of microphone are YOU using with ScreenFlow?

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16 Comments

  1. Great post! Not too techie, but enough to be helpful. One thing to keep in mind is your output devices, either speakers or headphones, can color what you hear tremendously. Many people make the mistake of relying on “computer” speakers, like 2.1 setup: subwoofer and two small high frequency speakers. This is not a good way to get high quality sound, as the speakers are not designed for “reference” based listening.

    If you really want to get high quality sound, invest in some nice reference monitors, probably cost you between $150 and $300 a pair. Or, you can also go with some high quality, professional headphones like the Sennheiser Pro 280 for around $100. These are occlusive headphones, which fit over your ear and block out other noises, but have excellent frequency response.

    CNet review: http://reviews.cnet.com/headphones/sennheiser-hd280-pro/4505-7877_7-30235462.html

    • Yes, Bluemic is very popular. Right now, it’s in the lead in the poll we have currently running on the right sidebar! Thanks for the suggestion

  2. Quick tip for the Rode, if you use the GarageBand setting under Podcast “Male Narrator Noisy” it will eliminate all the background noise and give you a nice velvety bass tone as well.

  3. Warning: I’m what you call an audio geek. I don’t hold stock in any of the mentioned companies and I have tried all mics in my list.

    I use a couple of setups depending on the audience:

    I use a Røde NT1a together with a Focusrite voice strip and a Alesis IO|14 audio interface. That’s a bit overboard, but is a neat setup for broadcast quality screencast voiceovering.

    As a MacBook user (the 2009 model), I’d like to recommend the iPhone in-ear headset as an alternative to the build-in microphone, the headset’s mic is closer to your mouth and isolates audio coming from your Mac.

    For the higher quality and ‘warmer’ voiceover sound: the MXL.008 USB is pretty awesome. MXL makes great mic’s, the MXL Studio 1 USB is pretty much the same but also has a headphone interface. Make sure to close the curtains, for optimal acoustics 🙂

    For the folks that like to get their face into the mix: check out the Blue EyeBall, great mic, great camera!

    Cheers guys! ScreenFlow 2.0 looks awesome!

  4. We’ve found really good success with the following setup.

    We’re using the M-Audio Fast Track Pro module into our mac. Allows us to boost the signal to get a stronger more crisp level.

    The mic we’re using is the Rode NT3. We have nothing but great things to say about this mic. We haven’t had to worry about background noises coming through at all. Couldn’t be more happy with this setup.

    Thanks for making a great product and we’re excited for 2.0!

  5. Beyond a good mic, is adding a “voice channel” to firther process your voice. Essential components in a voice channel is a compressor, to even out the level of your voice (making it uniformly loud), a downward expander or noise gate to cut out extraneous noises when you’re not talking, a de-esser to supress siblance sounds, and perhaps equalization. I’ve been using a Focusrite VoiceMaster Pro, but have heard great things about the Aphex voice channel.

  6. I bought an MLX usb mic and, while the sound quality seems quite good the levels are very low. Because this is a straight in digital usb mic you can’t adjust the input levels. Why are they so low?

    • @Tom
      Without having more details, it’s hard to know exactly what the problem is. But it sounds like you may be using the low-end MLX USB mic. It’s about $100.00. This mic does not have the ability to increase the “gain.” The more up-scale models of the mic do have that ability. Here’s a quote from a great review of microphones on the eQuixotic blog.

      “The biggest complaint I’ve read about USB microphones is that the sound level afforded by the amount of power that can be provided via a USB connection can be low.”

      This is a common complaint. You can try to lift the gain by using the audio volume adjuster in ScreenFlow, or if you still aren’t getting enough gain…and you don’t want to export the audio into an audio software program, you can try to duplicate tracks of audio and add gain that way.

      I see that you posted this same question on our forum. For anyone who is interested, visit the forum’s USB mic thread.

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