Your Podcast Recording Sounds Terrible: Part 1

Commentary, Impressions, Music Gear

XLR, USB, unbalanced, phantom power, omni-directional, ribbon, large diaphragm, gold diaphragm, condenser, P’s and B’s, clipping, hot, saturated, modulated, etc etc etc – these are some of the words you will see/hear when shopping for a microphone.  


If you are using your smartphone (yes, even your coveted iPhone), laptop, built in mic hidden inside of a monitor than guess what?  

You sound terrible.

It’s the truth and if you know me, you know I’ll be the first and last person to tell you.  

“Why Mark, why are you so MEAN TO ME???  Why are TRYING TO HURT MY FEELINGS?!?!”

I actually deal with people like this who take great offense to my straightforward and direct line of critique, for some reason they think it is a personal attack…maybe it is, maybe I’m insulted by your carelessness.  You see, I feel people should know better, I give people the benefit of the doubt and when I hear something as important as SOUND being butchered and not given the respect it deserves, it tells me that that person needs help.  You don’t have to spend $5000 on a microphone but please don’t insult me with your Dora the Explorer Mic from Dollar Tree (which has its’ place in the recording world IMO, but more on that later)

There are too many Microphones out there for every budget, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE to sound terrible!  

I got this letter from the future,
“Hey Mark!  I only have $25 (or $40, $50, $75 or $100) to spend!  I have no choice but to sound terrible!”

There are choices….so many choices for all budgets


$40 –


$50 –

$75 –

$100 –

This same reader sent this to me

“Hey Mark – I don’t want a USB mic!!!!  I can’t afford an XLR MIC FOR $25!!!!!   Now I must go back and sound TERRIBLE!”

Actually you can…..although I don’t LOVE this style of mic for recording vocal it will work very nicely and will not require power BUT it will need to be digitized.

$20 –

For $50 you step up a lot

For large diaphragm XLR microphones you will need to power the mic, have an XLR cable and digitize to USB by using something like this which is about $50

Small Mixer which will allow to connect a variety of other audio sources

The Preamps on this are solid and I couldn’t recommend it more

At this point you should ask yourself if you really want to go through these steps and why….answering simply, “Because it sounds better” tells me you have no idea what you’re talking about and you should just grab a USB mic.

Again, from the future….

“HEY MARK!   B-B-B-B-But – Now my costs have jumped from $20 to about $80 – AND that’s with the cheapest mic!  I’m sticking to my TERRIBLE sounding built-in laptop mic – no one cares about this stuff anyway!”

Maybe you’re right!  At this point if you have found you cannot find a microphone that fits your budget than I recommend you just record with what you have.  

“Hey Mark, I’m gonna stick with my Dora the Explorer mic that I got for 2/$1 at the Dollar Tree – when can I come on your show??  I want to discuss Jodorowsky!”

I’m sorry – I only put out quality sounding shows – it doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say or share or teach me, it just means you don’t take this serious enough for me to want to put up with shrill and thin sounds with drop outs that i will need to EQ and compress in post-production.  Get back to me when you’re willing to spend $100 to make yourself sound better (literally less than $0.30 a day for a year).

As for the Dora the Explorer junkie mics – I find stuff like this is excellent for experimentation, mixing in layers of room sound, etc.  I own a couple dozen microphones that I have acquired over the years and love this one microphone which is encased in steel with 4 ‘feet’  it has an XLR connector and was meant to record audience noise….there is something about that mic which is from about 1953 that adds a lovely haunting sound to acoustic guitar or piano. I would never, ever use that mic alone but mixed with my Shure KSM32 which I almost never use because I love it so much (I paid a remarkable $200 for this $500 mic) it adds a texture which is mine….mine alone.

I have always felt I can make a terrible sounding guitar sound great with effects, eq, etc and for the most part it’s true – but why not make your guitar sound great right from the beginning?  Why not walk into the studio plug in and start from an already great tone?  If you take this hobby seriously and maybe you want to expand one day and make this your fulltime job then forget about YOUR feelings on this and realize that when you put out terrible sounding shows it reflects poorly not only on you but it’s taking advantage of the listener who will not put up with poor sound for long.  Would you listen to terrible sounding podcasts?  

  • Mark Jeacoma 3-22-17