Victoria FennerPodCamp Toronto played host to a number of interesting and relevant sessions for audio producers, including this presentation given by former CBC producer Victoria Fenner, owner of Sound Out Media based in Hamilton, Canada.

Join me now as we delve into Victoria Fenner’s Hi Fi for Wi Fi and discover what the differences are between dynamic, condenser and USB microphones.
Is there truly one mic to rule them all? Find out!

Getting Great Sound

What is Hi Fi? If you’re a fan of John Cusack, you’ve likely seen a little movie called High Fidelity. High Fidelity, or Hi Fi as it is sometimes called, means that the signal to noise ratio yields for a louder signal and a quieter noise level.
As an audio producer, creative integrator of music, voices and so on, Victoria has done more than one microphone shootout over her career and easily lectured on how to get great sound, highlighting the elements of sound production and three common microphones in use today.

Elements of Sound Production

๏ Equipment (microphones, recorders)
๏ Microphone technique (it’s not just the equipment, it’s how you use it)
๏ Acoustic ambiance – what does the rest of the world around you sound like?
๏ Production techniques

3 Basic Types of Microphones

๏ Doesn’t operate using electricity; so long as you have a cable and you can hook it up, you don’t need any other power source
๏ Operates through electromagnetic field
๏ Robust, low cost, resistant to moisture
๏ Doesn’t generate as strong as a signal
Condenser (also called electret)
๏ Has an external power source
๏ Powered by electricity or a battery
๏ Higher output to your recording device ( i.e. louder sound)
๏ More sensitive than dynamic mics
USB Microphones
๏ Powered by your computer
๏ There are many different types with different pickup patterns and quality

Types of Microphones (Defined by Pickup Patterns)

๏ Omni-directional: picks up in 3 directions (think Floodlight)
๏ Uni-directional (also called cardioid): picks up in a heart shape directly in front of the microphone (like an accent lamp)
๏ Hypercardioid (shotgun microphone), very narrow pickup pattern (like a flashlight beam)
Note that when you are interviewing someone, their chief resonators are located on the upper chest below the neck. Mics should be pointed there for live interviews, not directly at the interviewees’ mouth.

3 Interesting Facts:

1. There is no ultimate microphone that will suit everyone. Experiment and find your preference.
2. Former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, had a preferred microphone for press opportunities that came with him wherever he and his opinion were sought.
3. Don’t ever believe anyone who says there is such as thing as a zoom microphone! Although you can zoom in and out with cameras, sound doesn’t operate that way.

What’s Your Go-To Microphone?

Looking forward to hearing what you use for what and why!
Best wishes,

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. I use a Neumann TLM 103. It’s an upgrade from my first microphone, which was an Audio Technica AT 4040.
    The AT was a lot of mic for the money (about £250 / $400 when new) and very detailed and “crisp”, but it had a high end that was a bit too clinical and enthusiastic, and it tended to make any sibilance in my voice much more noticeable. I’ve heard others criticise this range of mics for the same thing.
    The Neumann is also a lot of mic, but for a lot more money – about three times as much as the AT, in fact. But unless you’re listening to a “blind” comparison it’s hard to tell the difference between the TLM 103 and the legendary U87 (which costs more than twice as much).
    The 103 is warm and makes me sound great (IMHO) and engineers have commented on the improvement, even down an ISDN line. Any sibilance has gone away, and – rightly or otherwise – the reputation of the Neumann name makes me feel like this is something I’m doing seriously after a couple of years of testing the water with my home studio.

  2. I have two microphones – A Rode NT1-A Condenser mic and a Shure SM-58. I use the Rode for recordings and the SM-58 for live work (I sing in a band)
    The Rode connects via XLR to a PreSonus Inspire preamp, which then connects to the computer via Firewire.
    The Rode is very sensitive and I do have to be careful – it will pick up a bus outside the house, but a little bit of Noise Gate on Cubase sorts that out.
    The SM-58 isn’t as clear as the Rode, but is my ideal mic when I am singing. It’s very tough and I wouldn’t use anything else when on stage.
    Mark Steele 🙂

  3. As a newbie, I’m very interested in the various mics and eager to read all your comments. I’m using an ADK A-1 MK5.1 cordioid condenser mic, which picks up every mouth noise and lots of sibilance. When I recorded on a friend’s dynamic mic, I sounded much fuller, less essing. But I don’t know what would be a good mic in a low-mod price range (I’m not earning anything yet!) to try.
    Any specific suggestions are welcome!

  4. My go to microphone is my Sennheiser Shotgun. It’s the “standard” in Hollywood recording studios. It is perfectly eq’d – according to all my engineer friends and has a very tight direct pattern. Perfect to get on up on. I also take it on the road when I travel. My back up – back up is a Neumann TLM 103 – which I love…nice and warm…like taking a bath in beautiful, crystal clear sound.

  5. I currently have 3 mics: My most used is the Neumann TLM193, which is right between the TLM 103 and the U87. It makes me sound, “warmer” I also use a Rode NT1A…a real work horse, which sounds, “brighter” with my voice. I keep my convenient USB (Samsom C01U) around also, but don’t use much unless I’m out on the road, for quick auditions.
    All the Best to You & All,
    Bobbin Beam, Voice Actress

  6. In order to choose the best mic, you’ve got to know what your voice sounds like, and what different mics do. Some mics are boosted on the top and bottom – which is good if you have a midrangey voice, not good if you’ve got a pillowy soft instrument. Other mics, like the stock U87A are mid-prominent.
    Here is another reason to get work in commercial recording studios – they have a variety of mics and can experiment (time permitting) to find types that fit your voice better. Alternatively you can hire a studio to do a mic shootout for you.
    I have to clear up some confusion in the article: an “electret” is not a synonym for “condenser.” A studio-grade condenser mic will run on 48 volt “phantom power” (the DC power goes through the same wires as the audio). Electret mics are powered differently, and are not generally considered studio-grade.
    In my opinion, if you’ve got decent preamplification, the main difference between a dynamic and a condenser (from the talent’s point of view) is that the condenser is usually brighter.
    Here are some of the “go-to” mics in my studio and what they do:
    Sennheiser 416 shotgun: This is a very peaky mic, so it will hit some voices “perfectly” and others awfully. I find it best on medium-weight voices. If you get this in a very small room, like a closet or one of those pre-fab vocal booths, look out – you may have too much sound coming in the sides.
    Microtech Gefell m930: This is in the same price range as the Neumann TLM 103, and I like it a lot better. It’s very bright, but still has some body to it. Boomy male voices are complemented by this mic, although it works on girls too if they don’t have sibilance issues.
    If you do have sibilance trouble, a dynamic mic might be worth a try – the Electrovoice RE-20 was the radio standard for years.
    BLUE Baby Bottle: Great, great mic for the price. A “forward” sound, generally at least OK on everyone.
    My main mic is a Neumann U87A that was modified by the late Stephen Paul.
    Another thing worth mentioning is that whatever comes *after* the mic will color the sound as well. If you have a vintage tube preamp, it may sound big, fat and dull. If you have a cheap modern pre, it can sound thin and sterile. Your mic cable can make you sound more open, or more pinched… we use Monster and Canare here at Colors Audio.
    I’ve worked with a lot of mics and voices over the years. If anyone wants to chat with me about the subject, you’re welcome to email

  7. I have a new Rode NTK and ironically it is picking up too much noise, which my previous very basic USB didn’t. I know the sound is better, but I have created a problem with a better mic and not a better studio!! I did several jobs with the first one, but actually just lost one recently because of a very slight amount of traffic noise…that the recording engineer could hear with everything turned up in the studio, (leaving me with the option of recording around 3 a.m., when there is no traffic…) Yikes! Always wondered if one type of mic made your voice sound better or warmer, etc., but is it better for those of use who do not have the perfect home studio, yet…

  8. I drool over the Neumann TLM103 but don’t have one yet. I have used an Electro-Voice ND-27 for about 7 years now (saving up for that Neumann), but it is a fantastic microphone for MY voice. One of the studios I used to record in had one and it made me sound much better than I actually was, which made me go out and buy it as soon as I set up my studio. Back in 2001 it cost $500, and I’m not sure if it’s even made anymore. But if you can’t afford a GREAT microphone like the TLM103, spend your money on a really, really GOOD microphone. This is NOT the place to cut corners. It helps sell you to potential clients. Sometimes you can try them out (the mics, not the clients!) Guitar Center is really good about letting you test their mics, as is BSW, and many audio supply catalogues let you test them for free for just the shipping, and you can send them back after you’ve used them if you find one you like better and they’ll buy them back (IF you buy the better microphone from them as well). I also use a processor, but with the great software and EQ features on the computer, you probably don’t need one right away.

  9. I have the TLM 193, and use it as my starting point. If I need another pattern I go with the AKG C414 B-XLS. if all else fails, SM57!

  10. My go to is the Sennheiser 416. The main reason I “go to it” is most of the stuff I do is promo in nature. For a warm commercial or narrative project I will usually break out the Rode K2 Tube mic>

  11. The TLM-103 works well for me too. Actually a Marshall MXL2003 (a friend gave to me)….has worked well, too. And it’s a lot cheaper. Need to save up for the shotgun, though. 🙂

  12. Miscellaneous thoughts provoked by the above comments:
    Mike Elmore brings up an excellent point that the ‘best’ mic may be different for different styles of reading. There’s nothing funnier than a half-hour narration done with the hyped “movie trailer” sonics. Long-form storytelling requires a more neutral sound so the listener doesn’t get fatigued.
    “The 103 is the little brother of the U87” – well, it has the same Neumann badge. Other than that, the family resemblence isn’t that apparent. The 87 uses an output transformer, which few new mic models do. (“TLM” stands for “Transformerless Microphone”). That makes a huge difference. The 87 has two diaphragms and multiple patterns – the 103 only one. The U87’s frequency curve was designed to fit the restrictions of German radio broadcasting in the 1960’s. The 103’s basket is so small that the diaphragm has to be angled to fit inside….
    An excellent spot to get Neumann information is their forum:
    The 193 is the mic used on all the voices on “The Family Guy” – low end rolloff engaged.

  13. Yeah, I think you’re right abut the 193 on “Family Guy”. I also know that it was the primary mic used for the main actors on “Afro Samurai” (the original, not sure about the sequel, but by the sound of it, probably).
    193 is my favorite of the TLM series of mics.
    As for the comment made earlier that the rest of the chain is as important as the mic, that’s not totally accurate. The room and talent are the most important aspects of the recording chain, then your microphone. From there the preamp, outboard processing, and AD/DA conversion (usually in that order of importance). As VO folks, we have a tendency to over-fixate on the microphone, but after the room and talent issues are settled, it does play the largest role in the chain (usually IME). Put another way, I noticed less of a difference between running my U87 through a John Hardy M1 preamp compared to using it with a DBX286 than I did when I used the same preamps with an ElectroVoice RE-27. While there was a definite difference when the preamps were swapped, the real difference was noticed when the microphones were changed.
    For the record: all combos sounded nice.


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