The days of telephone interviews or making the interviewee travel miles for a formal interaction or meeting are long gone. There is an emerging trend wherein Skype has become the tool of choice for interviews – be it a job interview or even when interacting with a guest for a podcast. Though Skype has been around for quite some time, people have started to use it to its fullest potential only in the recent past. There are multiple ways you can use Skype to your benefit – podcasting is a major use-case. If you see yourself interviewing people through Skype or conducting podcasts, you should know that your computer’s built-in mic is just not cutting it.
Without a proper podcast mic, you could come across as unprofessional – let alone the functional issues the lack of a proper mic would bring along. If you’re already aware of how important a proper microphone is and are looking to buy the best microphone for Skype interview, you’ve come to the right place. In this exhaustive piece, we’ll cover everything there is to know about Skype podcasting microphones and the choices you have in different price brackets. We’ll also answer some common queries or doubts most people have in relation to this topic.
Why Mix Podcasting with Skype?
Podcasting and Skype pretty much go hand-in-hand. The VoIP-based communication software makes collaborating with each other and creating solid content pretty seamless and straightforward. Skype podcasts are now being used not just to interview an individual sitting on the other side of the planet but also for interviews with people who are only a few miles away.
Skype isn’t the only VoIP service, but it is preferred over other services because it works. The quality, in fact, is pretty much on par with a dedicated ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network). Though Skype is not foolproof and has its share of issues, it stumbles a lot less than its close competitors do.
There are several other built-in functionalities that make Skype handy and even superior to similar services. The features include call recording, the ability to snap pictures of the guest, add more people to the podcast, and even send the podcast file to the interviewee right from within Skype. The list just goes on.
Why Invest in a Real Microphone for Skype?
The built-in microphone on your laptop computer is just plain trash, just like the integrated camera. Skype conversations with your computer microphone would not just sound muddy and distorted, but there will be volume issues too. The person on the other side would invariably find it difficult to hear you out – let alone engaging in a proper and real conversation with you.
For proper Skype correspondence, you would need a real microphone. You need not buy the latest and greatest microphone out there. Even the dedicated microphones that plug into the USB port or 3.5mm headphone jack would suffice. Just stay away from the over-the-heads. They distract and may even annoy the other person, besides looking outright bad.
How to Choose the Right Podcasting Microphone?
Your budget, microphone connectivity standard, the device you use (laptop or desktop), additional accessories you might need, etc. have a say in the microphone you choose. There is no dearth of quality microphones and a good amount of them are also within reach of most buyers. Under $100, there are options galore. But it’s not just the price that should drive your purchase. Other factors need to be considered too – the most important of them being:
Polar (Pick-Up) Pattern
Not all microphones pickup sound the same way. A microphone’s polar pattern determines how sensitive the mic is to sound coming at an angle or from different directions. A microphone’s pickup pattern could be omnidirectional, bidirectional, and/or unidirectional. An omnidirectional mic would pick up sound from all sides. A unidirectional pattern denotes the mic is sensitive to sound coming from a particular direction. Compared to an omnidirectional mic, unidirectional mics pick up little ambient noise.
Cardioid, subcardioid, super-cardioid, and hyper-cardioid polar patterns come under the omnidirectional wing. A bidirectional polar pattern – which is at times referred to as figure-of-eight – is equally and highly sensitive to sounds approaching the mic from its front and rear. It doesn’t pick up sounds much when they come from the sides. For Skype interviews or one-person podcasts, cardioid microphones are ideal. But if you opt for a mic with any of the other pickup patterns, then that’s fine as well.
USB microphones or conventional XLR condenser mics are your two primary choices in this regard. USB mics are more convenient and also cost-friendly. You just need to plug the USB microphone into your PC or Mac and the recording would reflect in your audio software. XLR condenser mics, on the other hand, need some setting up – thanks to the accompanying equipment requirements. For instance, you would need an external power source, such as an audio interface or a microphone preamp. If you don’t mind all the hassle and effort, be ready for some “professional-level” recording quality. You can even adjust the mic’s gain and several other settings using the interface or preamp.
Besides your microphone, computer, and recording software, you would also require a mic stand, shock mount, popper stopper, etc. to complete the setup. Microphones usually do not come with stands. However, some microphone product bundles comprise all these peripherals so that you need not buy them separately. Even if you were to buy the accessories separately, they shouldn’t be too expensive.
Kindly note, the right microphone or recording equipment is only half the picture. The person using the tool also determines how well the podcasts end up. Even the best microphones would sound average when used by an amateur podcaster. And the less-than-$100 mics may sound extremely high-end if handled by a podcasting guru.
Microphones We Recommend
Let us make this clear right off the bat – there is no perfect or best microphone for Skype podcasting. For different people, scenarios, and ancillary equipment, the actual microphone that would best suit the purpose may vary. However, there are certain microphones that do well overall and come in different price points. Even if you are on a budget, you need not put up with the crappy microphone of your computer.
Kindly note the prices mentioned for all these mics are list prices. Unlike luxury watches, microphones do not increase in or keep their values. Therefore, expect to find these microphones for a much lesser price whenever you set out to buy them. And if you’re going the used route, you may find them for an even more inexpensive price.
Now that we’ve addressed the price fluctuation part, let’s get rolling with the best microphones for a Skype interview.
Low-Cost, Decent Quality
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
The Blue Snowball is a microphone that gets you started on a “quality” note without making you splurge. Usually selling for around $50, the Snowball is a USB microphone that lets you alternate between cardioid pickup pattern and 360-degree omnidirectional with a switch-flip. It’s plug-n-play and doesn’t require any software or driver installation. It also comes with its stand which, though a bit short, is adequate for most purposes.
For the price, the Snowball is a solid value. Besides offering you the option to choose between different pickup patterns, the metal stand can also be adjusted to different heights. The mic comes in six unique colors so that you could pick up a hue that matches your setup the best. If you’re on the lookout for a plug-and-play microphone made by a renowned manufacturer, with great sound, easy functionality, and a great price, the Blue Snowball it is.
Samson Go Mic
At around $30, the Samson Go Mic is pretty inexpensive. But do not let the price fool you. In the budget-friendly microphone category, the Go Mic is up there with the best. It, in fact, gives the very popular and affordable CAD Audio U37 a run for its money. Compared to the U37, however, the Go Mic costs slightly more.
The Go Mic is great for people who frequently travel and do multiple podcasts on the go. The microphone is extremely compact. It easily folds into any carry case. In fact, when all folded and encased, it would not be any bigger than an average men’s wallet. This means you can fit the thing into your pocket too. As far as audio quality goes, you are being offered 44.1 kHz, 16-bit – which is pretty much on par with mics that sell for double the price. In layman terms, the Go Mic’s audio is better than a typical CD’s audio quality.
Samson Meteor USB Microphone
The Samson Meteor often gets likened to the Blue Yeti not just for its looks, but also its performance. However, compared to the Yeti, this USB-powered Samson microphone is cheaper at around $50. The quality is not completely on par with the Yeti. It’s a marginal step down. However, the significantly lesser price makes the Meteor a solid value proposition. If you like the Yeti but don’t have the budget for it, the Samson Meteor is a solid alternative. Like the Yeti, the Meteor also comes with a small desk stand and the rubber feet. As far as the buttons and ports go, there is a USB port and headphone out in the rear along with the very convenient mic mute or headphone volume switch.
Pyle PDMIKT100 Desktop Mic
The Pyle PDMIKT100 desktop microphone is a solid USB mic for its $50 price tag. It employs the straightforward ‘plug-and-play’ operation so that it could easily connect to your device for hassle-free audio control. Besides podcasts, the microphone can be used for gaming, recording, streaming, and audio editing. The microphone comes with all things you would need to set it up and use – which include a mic shock mount, pop filter, desktop mic stand, USB cable, and a travel/storage case. This cardioid microphone uses USB 2.0 and has an 18-21kHz frequency response. Not to mention, the mic has been laboratory-tested for studio and stage quality performance.
TKGOU’s USB Microphone
The TKGOU is yet another extremely affordable USB mic that manages to pack in a slew of features despite the price. The microphone is well-built and should work with different USB devices, including gaming consoles and computers. The affordable price (around $20) and the plug-and-play functionality make the mic quite popular within its target market.
Fifine K668 USB Mic
The Fifine K668 is a budget-friendly USB mic that is compatible with both PC and Mac. Despite the price, which is a very low $25, the mic is built fairly well. A lot of the credit for that goes to the metal construction. In the box, you’ll get the microphone, USB cable, microphone mount, desktop mic stand, and some documentation. The polar pattern is wide cardioid. The mic picks up audio pretty well from around its sides and front. If your budget is extremely limited and you’re looking for a no-nonsense microphone, the K668 is a good choice.
Tonor TN562BU USB Microphone
The Tonor TN562BU is a well-built, inexpensive microphone that bundles in the peripherals that most microphones in its $50 price category do. Its diaphragm capsule is gold-plated, and the circuitry control is fully electronic. The polar pattern is cardioid, which means the mic can record minor sound details while keeping background or surrounding noise to the minimum. Not to mention, the mic is quite versatile. It could be used for group gatherings and home recordings, and also radio broadcasting and professional recordings. This condenser mic comes with a USB cable. Therefore, hooking it to your Mac or Windows computer shouldn’t be a problem.
Mid-Tier Pricing, Greater Quality
Jabra Speak 410
Jabra is a renowned name in the headphones and wireless speakers market. However, not many know that the company makes microphones too. The Jabra Speak is one such microphone. A Skype-certified microphone, the Jabra Speak 410 is a fairly compact mic with a flying saucer-like design. It could be used for conference calls, besides as a standalone PC microphone or a handy speaker.
This $100 mic connects to your computer through USB, which makes it convenient to use and widely compatible. Since the product was originally released in 2011 and newer versions of it are now available, you should not have trouble getting it for much lesser than its $100 introductory price. Despite the presence of the fresher and updated models, the Speak 410 certainly holds its own. Therefore, if you choose to buy this one over its successors, you would have still made a great purchase.
Selling for around $130, the Blue Yeti is arguably the most popular podcasting microphone out there and for good reason. Blue Yeti scores highly in the performance, looks, and build departments. Despite being around for more than a decade (launched in November 2009), it’s still dominating its niche. There are comparable mics, but none truly topple the Blue Yeti. The mic comes with four unique settings: cardioid, stereo, bidirectional, and omnidirectional. For your Skype interview, set the mic to cardioid.
Compared to Blue’s very own Snowball, the Yeti delivers a slight improvement in quality and performance. It, therefore, is priced higher than the Snowball. Though the average human ear may not be able to discern the difference in quality, a radio or TV professional would certainly notice the difference. Also, the Blue Yeti is better than the Snowball in the build and durability department too.
The Yeti also offers a host of buttons and knobs. Among them are the dials that let you control volume entering your headphones; besides the sound volume that your microphone transmits to other Skype users. If the person on the other side says you sound a bit too loud, the gain dial can be turned down on the mic itself. If you need to cough, make use of the mute button on the mic. And most importantly, the Blue Yeti is capable of delivering ISDN-quality interview if all other things are set right.
The Audio-Technica ATR2100X-USB (quite a mouthful) is a solid entry-level PC microphone for $99. You may use it with either XLR or USB connections, offering you room for expansion and increased flexibility. The USB connectivity helps with a direct and easy connection to a computer. The XLR functionality, on the other hand, lets you pair the microphone with an audio interface or mixer. The ATR2100x-USB is also ‘dynamic’ in nature, which means it will not pick up on background or ambient noise. Since you may use this mic handheld or on the included stand, it functions well as a podcasting or vlogging mic, besides serving several other purposes.
Truly High-End, Better than Mid-Tier Quality
The Rode brand resides in the upper echelons of audio equipment manufacturers, and the NT-USB does absolute justice to the company’s premium standing. In fact, the NT-USB is one of the most popular offerings from the brand. Among the several positives, one truly worth mentioning is the accompanying app. If you pair this mic with an Apple device, you would be in for a treat (you’ll, however, require a connection kit).
With an iOS device and the kit, you could play with a bunch of things, such as equalizing your tracks, tweaking some FX, etc. The product bundle also comprises a level and mixing control, headphone monitor jack, desktop stand, a pop shield, a pretty long 20” USB cable, and a zip case. At $169, the Rode NT-USB is certainly on the pricier side, only for people who are not familiar with the capabilities of this microphone. If you could cough up the money, the Rode NT-USB will be a solid purchase.
Like the Yeti, the Audix USB12 has an audio jack in its rear so that you could easily hook it up to your headphones. It also comes with a microphone button that lets you turn on and off the functionality at will. Selling at around $140, the USB12 offers the audio quality and performance you would come to expect from a microphone in its price range. It’s certainly better than the Snowball and similarly priced mics of the world. Not to mention, the microphone is compatible with both the Mac and PC.
The Shure MV5 is a solid computer microphone that comes with both the USB cable and Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable. It features a 3.5mm headphone jack for seamless monitoring and three preset DSP modes. It’s fairly compact, which means carrying it around shouldn’t be a problem. The MV5 can be fixed to a stand for use on a table or desk. You may detach it from the stand and still use it resting on a table or desk, which makes it even more convenient. Sold for around $150, the mic does justify its asking price.
The AT2020USB+ from Audio-Technica sounds warmer, fuller, and closer. It’s a cardioid microphone and is almost tailor-made for Skype interviews and podcasting. It sounds very close to any ISDN on radio or satellite on TV. You are sure to impress your TV and radio partners with your Skype audio if you happen to use this microphone. If the podcast has two people opposite each other, a couple of these would do the job. It’s available both as analog and USB.
Besides its features and function, one of the other major reasons why this microphone shines is its solid build. The wide frequency response, built-in stand, etc. are other things worth mentioning. The sample audio rate is 16-bit/44 kHz, which puts it very much in the category of some truly heavy-hitting options from companies such as Rode. If you like what this mic has to offer, you can grab it for around $150.
If you would like to spend more on a microphone, you may very well do that. There are more than a handful of ultra-high-end microphones vying for money. However, they would be an overkill and a waste of money too if you were to use them for Skype. Just to give you an idea, these ultra-premium microphones could cost anywhere between $2,000 to $10,000 or more.
- Should you use a headset during a Skype interview?
Using a headset during a Skype interview is recommended for multiple reasons. It does not just help you listen to the interviewer clearly, but you may also use the headphones’ built-in mic – in case you don’t have a dedicated microphone around. In fact, most employers and interviewers ask their interviewees or guests to have earbuds or headphones on for the interview.
- What are the do’s and don’ts of Skype interviews?
Besides getting the right headphones and microphones, it’s also important to dress the part. Maintain eye contact during the interview. If possible, the space around you should be clean and distraction-free. Lighting should be on point too. It should not originate from your back since the interviewer would then not be able to see your face clearly.
- Is it okay to use phone for a Skype interview?
A phone can be used for a Skype interview only if a desktop or laptop computer is not around. The problem with using a phone for a Skype interview is that you cannot see the interviewer clearly on the small screen of your phone. Also, most dedicated mics cannot be plugged into a phone. Most importantly, a Skype interview via a phone would come across as unprofessional.
- Are expensive microphones truly better?
Generally, the more money you spend on a microphone, the better the audio quality would be. In other words, a $150 mic would certainly sound better than a $30 or $50 microphone. However, beyond a certain level, the difference in sound quality won’t always justify the price. For instance, a $1000 mic may be better than a $200 microphone, but the increase in quality would not always be discernible to the untrained ear. Also, if you do not have the right audio environment in your house, even a $10,000 tube condenser wouldn’t necessarily sound noticeably better than a $100 dynamic microphone.
You need not spend too much on a solid podcasting microphone or to nail the Skype interview. All you need is to know more about the microphones that are available and match them to your specific requirements. The more expensive podcasting microphones certainly have their place, but you definitely do not need them for a Skype interview. Those mics are for professional singers, voice recording artists, or people who want nothing but the absolute best in audio quality.
And while you are on the lookout for the best microphone for Skype interview, make sure you do not overlook microphone durability. If the audio equipment is not built well, it’s just not worth the money. This is one of the major reasons why the biggest audio equipment makers focus a great deal on the build of their mics, even if those mics fall in the budget category.
The aforementioned list is no complete or exhaustive list. In the sea of quality microphones, there is only so much we could accommodate. Also, do not take our word for granted. Often times, there is a lot of trial and error involved in testing and buying microphones. If you do not like what everybody likes, it’s still fine. Just ensure you do not adopt the herd mentality. Buy only that fits your budget and requirements.