Now that you have your fancy new USB microphone and you’ve been doing conferences via Zoom, Skype, Teams or any other of the popular streaming apps, has anyone ever said, “Wow, you sound great!” after your first words? If not, you may not be getting everything from the mic that you can, but the fix can be easier than you think.
Placement is Everything
Regardless of what type or style of microphone you’re using (apart from the built-in one on your laptop), it’s only going to pick up the sounds that surround it. If you’re further away from it, it will pick up more of your room, its ambiance, and any other distracting noises like air conditioning. The further away you are from the mic, the louder these noises will be in relation to your voice. It may pick those noises up in excellent fidelity, but that’s not what you want.
If we’re working from home, then that usually means that you’re forced into an office or unoccupied room for teleconferences. That can mean your somewhat quiet spaces can also be acoustic nightmares, combating the advantages of the groovy new microphone you’re using.
The solution? Simple. Move the mic closer to you.
The Voice of Authority
Many people have an aversion to getting close to a microphone. Maybe it’s because they don’t like the sound of their voices; maybe it’s because they’re afraid of overloading the mic and causing distortion, or it’s because they’re uncomfortable with something so close to their face.
Here’s the thing – close miking is the sound of authority! Don’t believe me? Think about this.
If you’ve ever listened to the radio, you’ve heard the DJ, news reporter, or weatherman right on top of the mic. How about a sports broadcast? The announcers are right on the mic. Listen to music much? If it’s anything headed for the radio, that singer’s right on top of the mic.
If you want an intimate, next-to-you sound, you need to be close. If you want to decrease the ambiances and noises from your room, you need to be close. If you want to take command of a meeting…you guessed it.
When Less Distance is a Requirement
Room conditions can dictate that the mic be closer to you so your conference participants won’t be distracted by some of the noises of your room that you probably don’t even notice.
Before you even begin, sit in your chair and clap your hands. Do you hear a slight echo, or any echo at all? Is there a boing sound?
Now as a comparison, walk into a closet filled with clothing and do that same clap. I bet there are no echoes and boings, and that’s more of what you’re aiming for. The point is, if you’re hearing any sound after the clap no matter how small, you have to move the mic closer to diminish its level for those that are listening to you.
How about air conditioning in the background? Or a heater, or gardeners? Those can still remain a problem during your broadcast, but much less so if you get the mic closer to you.
Control is Required
What does “closer” actually mean? If you’re using a microphone with a built-in stand like a Blue Yeti, Rode NT-USB, or Audio Technica AT2020USB, then move it towards you to the point where if you extend your hand from anywhere on your body, you’re touching it. Ideally this would mean that you’re about one hand-width away from your mouth to the mic, but sometimes it sits lower on the desk, so then use your chest as the reference point and then just point the mic up at your mouth.
If you’re lucky enough to have a mic that’s on a table stand, adjust it so it’s at mouth-height, but don’t place it directly in front of you. The ideal position is actually at about a 45 degree angle off to the side pointed at your mouth (see the graphic).
This will ensure that you won’t be sending any plosives or undesirable mouth noise to your conference participants while keeping your voice sounding big and strong.
Keep in mind that when you move the mic closer to you, you will have to adjust the level since you’re now a much louder sound source, but a quick tweak should do it. Just continue to watch the level indicator wherever you can to make sure that you’re not going into the red “overload” area at any time and you’re good to go.
We all want a big, commanding sound from our voice broadcasts, but even more we want the best, distraction-free sound for our audiences. This simple move can make all the difference, and it won’t cost a thing.
Producer/engineer Bobby Owsinski is one of the best-selling authors in the music industry with 24 books that are now staples in audio recording, music, and music business programs in schools around the world. Visit Bobby’s website at bobbyowsinski.com.