What is the best microphone setup for virtual entertainers?

Best microphone for virtual entertainers

The Importance of Audio for your broadcast or Zoom Meeting

If you are starting on your virtual journey, you have probably realized that audio is very important, probably more than your camera.

Think about this, if people cannot hear what you say during a video conference or a show, they will tune out. A click on "leave meeting"  and you’ve lost them. That’s why I’m here to help you find what is the right microphone for virtual entertainers and content creators.

Even if you have a good laptop, the built-in mic might work just fine for your first couple of gigs, but eventually, you’ll need to step up your game and invest in a high-quality microphone to make your content even better. The more people spend time working or studying remotely, the least forgiving they will be when it comes to bad audio. 

Spare me the "Mumbo jumbo" please

In this article I will be comparing different sound set ups for Virtual Speakers of Entertainers without going into technical details, basically this is an article designed for non techie people that don't need to hear terms like Omnidirectional, decibels, and would prefer a practical approach from a fellow entertainer and speaker that has done over 100 virtual gigs in the past 14 months. Basically this is a shortcut to a long learning curve. Obviously, what works for me will not necessarily work for you but it will give you a good outcome oriented point of view, that I believe will help you get started on your virtual journey. 

What you need to know before buying a microphone?

The first thing you have to do before even thinking about buying a microphone is to look at your overall setup; do you stand or sit? do you move during your presentation? Do you mind if the microphone shows up on the stream or you like it to be out of sight? Do you sing or just talk?

There are many options for microphones for virtual entertainers available in the market, but you should look for the one that better suits you and your needs as a creator. 

Each speaker and entertainer has different needs, therefore, there are different microphones styles available for virtual entertainers.

You will get it wrong before it's just right and it's ok. 

Practice and experience on live shows or virtual performances will help you determine what you need to make your shows stand out. If possible do your first virtual gig (for free if needed) to better understand your needs. Waiting to have the perfect set up will take you nowhere and will lead to procrastination. For more on this, check out my video: How To Get Your First Virtual Gig - Getting Started as a Virtual Entertainer.

Now, think about your setup. Do you need to be standing all the time or move around in your shows? Perhaps you only need to sit by your desk. (for more on this check out this video

This is key to figure out if you’ll need a standing microphone or a headset, or maybe both.

Microphone options for standing setups 

I personally prefer to stand up. But there are very different dynamics for each performance, so I use different mics depending on the situation, just to be clear, I don't really recommend having different microphones, the only reason I do it is because I have them available and I like to experiment but for most people, one mic would do. 

For my shows, I’m always standing, but I like to move around and need to get props from the background. To do so without losing quality in the sound, I use a lapel mic, as it's name, this is a microphone that is attached to the lapel of your shirt. Most news anchors use those mics. I already had a Shure Wireless Microphone System, for my live in-person shows. 


Shure Wireless Microphone System

Shure Store

This system comes with a microphone pack that can go into your pocket or belt, a receiver, and a headset, as you can see in the picture below.

The headset has a great grip on your head, but it’s quite big for me. Though, I would recommend it for trainers, dance teachers, and people who need to move a lot during their presentations and don’t mind the headset showing.

However, if you are looking for a discrete microphone, like the one I use in my virtual shows, I would recommend you consider the CVL Centraverse Clip-On Lavalier Condenser Microphone from Shure.

CVL Centraverse Clip-On Lavalier Condenser Microphone

Shure Store

Countryman E6OW5T2SL Springy E6 Omnidirectional Earset

Countryman

For live in-person performances, I also recommend the Countryman E6OW5T2SL Springy E6 Omnidirectional Earset plus the Shure mic.

*I would not recommend it for virtual performances unless you already own it. 

Remember the ongoing pandemic isn’t going to last forever, so think of this as an investment for your career in the long run, especially if you are planning on going back to the stage anytime soon.

Now, bear in mind that these type of microphone can NOT be connected to your computer directly! You will need either a USB mixer or an Audio interface to use any microphone that uses analog connection (Normally XLR or 1/4 inch). More on that below. 

Microphone options for sitting setups

When thinking about microphones for virtual entertainers who are usually sitting in their videos or conferences, like speakers or teachers, these options will work perfectly.

In this case, and if you don’t already own any piece of the equipment I previously recommended, you may want to consider a USB microphone. USB microphones will give you excellent sound quality, and they don't require any additional interfaces to connect them to your computer. The key to have better quality with a USB mic is to have it as close as possible to your mouth.  

USB Mics are very affordable and would be perfect to anyone that doesn't sing, can stay (seated or standing) in the same spot and be close to the mic. Think more like a set up that a Radio host or podcaster would have (It's the same look but their microphones are not USB, They look the same but it's not the same mic, I wont get into this because if you are reading this article is because you are not there yet).  

Most of these mics come with a small built in stand designed to put on a desk. You can always upgrade your set up by adding a microphone arm that is attached to your desk. This gives you flexibility for standing or seating and can solve audio problems for those that type or bang their desk while presenting. 

Here are some USB mics to consider: 

Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Condenser Microphone

Samson Technologies Store

 Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Condenser Microphone. $65.00

This one allows you to connect a headset to monitor your audio directly with zero latency. That is a great feature not many USB microphones have.

Blue Yeti USB Mic - $99.99

The most popular mic for beginners

But, do you actually need a USB Microphone?

The answer is no. You don’t need a USB microphone to start on your virtual journey. You can do great shows using the equipment you already have.

Use that same equipment if you used to perform live! What you need is a USB mixer or an audio interface connected to your computer. Your XLR (or 1/4 inch) mic will connect to the mixer and the sound will be converted to a digital signal that will go into your computer.

So if you already own a good quality Microphone that you would like to connect to your computer and use for your zoom meetings or stream to any platform, you can connect them to a USB mixer or audio interface. 

Here The one I use is the Behringer Xenyx Q502USB.

Behringer Xenyx Q502USB

Behringer Store

 Behringer Xenyx Q502USB.

Great mixer to get started. You can connect one microphone and two additional devices like a Guitar and keyboard. You control everything with the knobs. 


Focusrite Store

This is the most popular device and the one I'm currently using. If you hold both (the Behringer and the Scarlett) in your hand, you can feel the difference in quality just from the weight, material and how the knobs move and feel. This model allows you to connect two microphones (or devices) either XLR or 1/4 inch. If you need to fine tune the sound, it comes with a program you install in your computer, I personally had no need to use it. This model would be perfect for any musician that plays one instrument, if you just talk, you can get the "Solo" model, it's basically the same but one less channel. 


If you already own a regular mixer (not USB) and a mic, all you need to buy is a USB interface.  This will allow you to connect the mixer you own and used to, to the computer through USB.

Conclusion

Before you buy any microphone, keep in mind the answer to the question “Which is the best microphone for virtual entertainers?” depends on your personal needs. Think of what your setup is. Will you be moving a lot or just standing or sitting? Are you planning to go back on the stage anytime soon? What do you have at home?

The bottom line is:

1. If you are just starting and you only speak (not sing) and you don't play any instrument, get yourself a good USB mic. It's a simple plug and play solution to elevate the quality of the sound and get that nice crisp deep radio voice you never knew you had. 

2. If you are an entertainer that sings and plays an instrument, you probably already own the microphone/s you used on your "in-person" performances, just get an audio interface like the Scarlett Focusrite 2i2.

Finish reading this post, go check my video, and then decide for yourself on what kind of sound set up works best for your needs.

Let me know in the comments what has worked for you! 

Keep up the good thoughts,

Alan Chamo

Entertainer, Mentalist & Keynote Speaker

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