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Audio Tips for Recording Better Sounding Interviews

How a handheld interview microphone helps you achieve great audio


By Sam Mallary

A critical tool that is sometimes overlooked when recording interviews is a specialized handheld interview microphone. Many unique features built into these microphones allow you to capture the best sound quality possible. Though they may be somewhat familiar-looking in appearance, these handheld microphones are very different from microphones used in other applications, such as the kind of microphone used on stage with a live sound system. The microphones featured in this article are designed from the ground up for optimal performance during spoken interviews.

Shure SM63L
The Shure SM63L is a good example of an interview microphone. Its body is long to make room for accessories more reach, its appearance is elegant for the camera, and its pick-up pattern is omni-directional for consistent sound.

A handheld interview mic is the classic "reporter on the street's" tool of choice. While the act of sticking a microphone in someone's face may not be the most inconspicuous method for capturing the sound of their voice, it's still a great tool because against adverse circumstances, handheld interview mics still attain better audio than other types of mics in this situation. The reason for this is that they tend to get closest to the sound source. Proximity plays a huge role in audio, and the closer your microphone is to the person's voice, the better it will sound.

The optimal position for a handheld interview microphone is a couple of inches below and in front of the speaker's chin, pointing up at their mouth.

There are many similarities that handheld interview microphones share such as having low handling noise, internal shockmount systems and pop filters, some have long non-tapered handles to accommodate accessories. The most common thread among them is having an omni-directional pick up pattern. People often find this feature confusing. Omni-directional does not mean omnipotent-directional. An omni microphone will pick up the sound around it evenly in a small sphere.

It's natural to assume that one would prefer to use a microphone that's designed to reject ambient noise, like a microphone with a cardioid pick up pattern, as opposed to an omni. People often find themselves conducting interviews in noisy environments, so the less background noise the better, right? This is not the case with interview microphones. Omni-directional microphones are preferred because they deliver a more consistent sound. When you're holding a microphone up to an interviewee's chin, there is always a good chance that the interviewee may turn their head suddenly as they speak, and your hand that's holding the mic may have to sway to follow them. When using an omni in this situation, the microphone isn't trying to cancel out ambient noise from the sides, so the sound is going to maintain a more consistent level. If you are using a cardioid and the interviewee moves their head suddenly, you will get a dip in your audio level and likely miss what they are saying. Omni microphones just handle the normal motions of an interview more smoothly. It's common to swing an interview mic back and forth between two people, and omnis just sound more consistent. Plus, by design omni microphones just have less handling noise than cardioids.

A great accessory often used with a handheld interview microphone is a "mic flag." These are the little boxes inserted over the body of the microphone that you see on the evening news displaying a station's logo. B&H sells a variety of mic flags in different shapes and sizes. The mic flags are sold blank without graphics.

Mic Flags
Mic Flags are an easy way to promote your production

The wired handheld interview microphones described in this article can also be used wirelessly! The equipment you need to run a wired handheld mic wirelessly is a plug-on transmitter wireless system. Those systems are discussed and explained in full in this B&H how-to article.

We've created a table below with some of the popular handheld interview mics sold at B&H.

Model BH #

Size and Weight

Frequency Response Price Special Feature

Shure VP64A

# SHVP64A

7.9 x 1.5"

5.6 oz

50Hz – 12kHz

$77.95

Inexpensive omni mic

 Shure VP64AL

# SHVP64AL

9.9 x 1.5"

6.33 oz

50Hz – 12kHz

$89.95

Longer handle version of the VP64

Audio Technica AT804

# AUAT804

5.94 x 1.42"

7.5 oz

50Hz – 15kHz
$89.95

Compact size

Electro-Voice 635A

# EL635A

5.9 x 1.4"

6 oz

80Hz – 13kHz

$109.95

Built like a tank

Also available in black

 

Electro-Voice 635N/DB

# EL635NDB

5.9 x 1.4"

6 oz

80Hz – 13kHz

$129.95

Classic 635A toughness with neodymium

Shure SM63

# SHSM63

9.2 x 1.25"

3.5 oz

80Hz – 20kHz $118.95 Rugged variflex grill will last

Shure SM63L

# SHSM63L

9.2 x 1.25"

4.3 oz

80Hz – 20kHz $132.95

Longer handle version of the SM63

Also available in black

Sony F112

# SOF112

7.5 x 1.5"

6 oz

60Hz – 17kHz $159.95 Longer handle for interviews

AKG D230

# AKD230

8.6 x 2"

7.9 oz

40Hz – 20kHz Click here for lower price

Hum coil

Reduces noise, matte finish reduces glare

Electro Voice RE50/B

# ELRE50B

7.75 x 1.94"

9.5 oz

80Hz – 13kHz $159.95 The industry standard

Electro Voice RE50N/D-B

# ELRE50NDB

7.75 x 1.94"

9.5 oz

80Hz – 13kHz $179.95

An RE50 with a neodymium

magnet

Sennheiser MD46

# SEMD46

9.84 x 1.92"

12.7 oz

40Hz – 18kHz $164.95 Cardioid, not omni, for high noise environment

Sennheiser MD42

# SEMD42

9.84 x 1.93"

12.69 oz

40Hz – 18kHz $179.95 Omni version of the MD46

Beyerdynamic

M58

# BEM58

10.2 x 1.57"

9.03 oz

40Hz – 20kHz $239.00 Slim, weight balanced design

Beyerdynamic

MCE58

# BEMCE58

10.24 x 1.77"

7.05 oz

40Hz – 20kHz $349.00 Good for studio voiceovers or interviewing in the field.

Most professional microphones connect through 3-pin XLR inputs. If you're unsure if your video camera or recording device has compatible XLR inputs, check out this B&H educational article and web video to find out what you can do.

Also be sure to check out these other B&H articles about How to Record Telephone Interviews, a Guide to Clip-on Lavalier Microphones, and this guide that explains all of the equipment that comes in B&H's Electronic News Gathering kits.

If you have any more questions about interviewing equipment, or need any help with audio, we encourage you to contact us on the phone, online, or in person at our SuperStore in New York City. 1-800-947-9923

For a list of all products mentioned in this article, click here

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