What is a shotgun microphone?


What is a shotgun microphone

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A shotgun microphone, as you can probably expect, has nothing to do with an actual shotgun apart from appearance. This microphone style gets its name from the overall shape, closely resembling a shotgun barrel. The shotgun microphone is designed to be pointed directly at the source of sound to ensure proper recording. By using unidirectional microphones, a shotgun microphone greatly reduces the accidental recording of ambient noises. 

If you’re reading this then you likely are interested in creating a podcast, and while researching you likely ran into the term “shotgun microphone”. Shotgun microphones are popular in the podcasting world because they cancel ambient noises by design — allowing the overall quality of the podcast recording to increase significantly. They cancel out the types of noises continuing in the background of life that you stop noticing due to their consistency and low-decibel nature. 

How does a shotgun microphone work?

Grey Shotgun Microphone

A shotgun microphone works by using only unidirectional microphones to achieve a laser-like beam of concentration. This results in a highly-directional microphone that only accepts input from a narrow band of space. Unidirectional microphones are simply microphones that only pick up sound with a high gain from a specific side or direction of the microphone. 

Do I need a shotgun microphone?

The simplest answer is no, it is not required to get started as a podcaster. That being said, all of the most popular podcasts use shotgun microphones to record their episodes. If you’re just starting and do not have the available capital to invest in a shotgun microphone, you can just use your available microphone on your laptop or tablet. If you can afford it, however, I would definitely recommend searching for a starter shotgun mic on Amazon. It will increase the quality of your podcast dramatically and your listeners will thank you for it.

What is the difference between a boom mic and a shotgun mic?

Person Holding Black Shotgun Mic

A boom mic is simply a microphone attached to a boom arm. A boom is an extendible and adjustable arm that can attach a microphone to the end of it. Boom mics are generally used in film and scenarios in which the microphone should be near the source of sound but out of the frame of a camera recording. Sometimes shotgun mics are attached to a boom depending on the situation. For example, if a videographer is attempting to film in a noisy location, they could potentially use a shotgun mic attached to a boom to ensure they capture the highest quality of sound from a very narrow band of input.

Is a shotgun mic a condenser mic?

Shotgun mics generally are also condenser mics, but there are exceptions to this. A condenser microphone is generally the type of microphone that you would picture in a recording studio and is a much more broad type of microphone than a shotgun mic. Condenser mics offer unparalleled audio quality due to using an extremely low-mass diaphragm. The extremely small mass allows the diaphragm to more closely follow the sound waves and ultimately produces a better sound. A shotgun mic is a type of condenser mic, but not always vice versa.

How do you record with a shotgun mic?

Recording with a shotgun microphone is very simple. First, you’ll need a way to secure the microphone, so either a stand or a boom of some sort. Secondly, you’ll need an input device. You can use several types of devices to capture audio through a shotgun microphone like a laptop, tablet, or even your phone! Surprisingly some awesome results can be achieved using a shotgun mic on an iPhone. Once everything is connected, adjust the microphone so that it is pointed directly at the source of the sound you want to capture. For a podcaster, this would mean to ensure that the microphone is pointed directly at your mouth before attempting to record. It is recommended that you attempt multiple small recordings and listen to the playback to ensure that the microphone is calibrated correctly and you are capturing high-quality audio without any issues.

What is the range of a shotgun microphone?

Black DSLR Camera and Shotgun Microphone

Each shotgun microphone inevitably has a slightly different range depending on the quality and length. Generally speaking, the range of a shotgun microphone is 4 feet minimum all the way up to 10 feet if the source of the audio isn’t moving. For example, if your shotgun mic is calibrated to an audio source 10 feet away, the audio source would only have to move an inch or two before it caused a disruption in the recording. 

Do shotgun mics need phantom power?

Do you remember where we discussed shotgun microphones often being condenser microphones but that not being always true? That is relevant here while discussing phantom power. Phantom power is usually only reserved for condenser mics. So if you get a shotgun mic that is also a condenser mic, you’ll likely need phantom power, or at least have the option available. If you get a dynamic shotgun mic, you will not need phantom power. 

Are shotgun mics dynamic?

Much like with the last question, the answer is two-pronged. Simply put, shotgun mics can either be dynamic or condenser mics. To make this easy to understand, I’ll break it down into some visuals. If you picture the microphone that might be used by the lead singer at a rock concert you are picturing a dynamic shotgun microphone. If you picture the microphone that might be used by a judge in a courtroom, that is a condenser shotgun microphone. 

Is a shotgun mic for me?

Black Dynamic Shotgun Mic

We have answered the question, “What is a shotgun microphone?” But it is up to you to decide if this is the right microphone for you and your podcast. If you’re lacking the capital, stick with your onboard recording devices but be warned — you’ll let the quality of your production suffer. If you cannot afford the best, like the Sennheiser shotgun microphoneOpens in a new tab., that’s okay too. There are several more budget items out there, such as the Shure shotgun microphoneOpens in a new tab. that would give you a significant quality increase in your recorded audio. 

If you decide that a shotgun microphone is not what you’d like to use for your podcast at all, be sure to at least check out other condenser microphones. The condenser microphone is the undisputed best for recording dialogue.

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