Should I buy a suspension mount for my Blue Snowball microphone?
July 22, 2009 6:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to start recording an audiobook / podcast. I've settled on Blue's Snowball microphone, and thanks to previous questions here I know that a pop filter is vital. Should I also buy the Snowball's suspension mount?

I'll be recording with the microphone on my desk or possibly my kitchen table. On my desk is an external hard drive, which I'll of course be unplugging during recording, though I should point out that my desk backs up to an exterior wall. I'll also be the only speaker on the recording, if that matters.

It's not terribly expensive and there are bundles available, so I don't mind spending the extra money if it'll improve the quality of my recording. Will it?
posted by Ian A.T. to Technology (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My best guess is that the difference would be negligible.
posted by Jode at 6:37 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: It depends how much you plan to be moving around. If you're likely to walk around the room, or move around on a swivel chair say, use one. It will absorb the indetectible rumbles from these movements. If not, meh.

Little noises here and there can give a recording character. But the movement which travels up the mic stand and affects the mic, without a shock mount, comes through as boomy bassy rumble, which isn't characterful at all, it just sounds kind of unprofessional. How spick and span do you want the recording to be?
posted by greenish at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: If you're going for professional audiobook recording, you should get the suspension mount. At the same time, if you are going for a pro recording, you should probably be doing it in a sonically dead room. If you can deal with the ambient echo you're likely to get in a kitchen or study, you can probably deal with any rumble you might get from movement in the room. If you hear some in the mic, you can always re-record a passage and edit the pieces together.
posted by orville sash at 7:05 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Yeah, IMO it's not necessarily true that either a pop filter or a shock mount are critical here. As greenish points out, it's much more important to consider the environment, your movements, and mic placement.

So, for example, "deadening" your recording booth and angling the mic more toward your throat than your mouth, and being careful not to make too much noise with your chair, etc. will sound just as "professional" as using gadgets to compensate.

Good luck with your podcast though :-)
posted by Rykey at 7:09 AM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: Any recommendations for creating the best possible recording environment? Should I be in a larger roomer or a smaller room? What other tricks can I do to make it sound as good as possible?

I know that my audiobook will never sound like Jim Dale at Abbey Road, but to answer greenish's question, I'd like for it to sound as professional as it can within reason.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Some tips for a more professional sound:

Do some tests where you talk into the mic at different distances. Listen to the change in sound. When you are closer you will hear less background noise, but you will hear more of the lip smacking, breathing, etc. You will want to find the sweet spot, and that will be different for every mic in every room. The better your room sounds, the further you can get from the mic and still have it sound good.

The less reverberant the room the better. For what you are doing, try to do it in a room that has carpet and lots of soft furniture (couch, bed, etc.) DON'T put the mic on a desk if you can help it. Get a microphone stand that will raise it up to where you can stand and talk into it, or at least a stand that will hold the mic up and away from the desk. You don't want the mic to be sitting very close to a solid wall or table, otherwise sound will reflect off of that table into the mic, and will not sound good. If you have to put the mic on a table, put some sort of soft pad over the table if possible (thick blanket or something similar). This isn't ideal, but will be better.

What software are you using to record (or are you going directly into a dedicated recording device)? I don't think you need a suspension mount unless the mic stand will be on a surface with a lot of vibration. My suggestion would be to just use a low cut filter EQ in your software to get rid of everything below 80Hz, and make sure the mic stand isn't sitting on a surface that has a lot of vibration.

A pop filter works wonders, but doesn't always catch everything if you are heavy on your plosives. It may take a little practice to figure this out.

Are you going to be editing this heavily, or just recording and releasing it straight away? If you aren't planning on doing any editing than you will have to be very mindful of the silence in between phrases, and make sure not to breathe too heavily or make any noise. If you are planning on editing, you will have to be very consistent with your distance to the mic and the sound of your voice, otherwise you will have very obvious edits.
posted by markblasco at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Oh, and as for the suspension mount, I have had a home studio for years, and don't use suspension mounts for any of my microphones. I just make sure they are on a solid surface that isn't being bounced around. If you have kids who are jumping around in the next room, you may need one, but if you are just sitting in the house quietly by yourself, it won't be necessary at all. You'd be better off taking that extra $60 and putting it towards a vocal coaching session with someone who does voice work. Just one half hour session will teach you more than you might think.
posted by markblasco at 8:30 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: For an ambience-free recording, I've used these before with a good result. They minimise echo and make your sound really clean and dry. I've used them both in home recording and a full studio setup, they're not just for the amateur engineer.

Another thing I'd be watching out for to make it super pro-sounding, is the hiss between speech passages. You can fix this with a noise gate, which filters them out, either as a piece of hardware you use at the recording stage, or software, at the editing stage.

MeMail me if you want tips on noisegates, they can make an ok recording of speech sound really clean and crisp.
posted by greenish at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Pop filters are cheap and save time on re-takes. Suspension mounts are much more important for environments where things will be bouncing around or for recording drums than they are for what you're going to do.
posted by davejay at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: markblasco: Thanks for the tips about finding the sweet spot, and about not placing the mic on the desk. I'll start with putting a blanket down like you recommend, as well as a nice tall stand. If that doesn't give me the results I want, I'll invest in a mic stand (and music stand for the stuff I'll be reading.) I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I'll probably end up doing that anyway, but for now I'm going to baby step into it.

What software are you using to record?

Well, actually that's the subject of next week's AskMe question, so maybe you can give me some advice now: I was just assuming I'd use Audacity, but the thing I keep coming back to is that this is going to be something with multiple takes, so maybe there's a better solution out there?

Also, thanks for the tip about being consistent with my distances. As for voice coaching, that's a great idea. I've been a stage performer since I was 16, so I'm actually a bit worried about training my voice for this medium. My few appearances on TV and radio have taught me that a voice that's intimate and cozy in front of 75 people in a nightclub can make you sound like a carnival barker when you record it.

greenish: That Reflexion Filter is such a genius idea, thank you for pointing it out. But at a buck-fiddy, it's a bit you think I could DIY something that might work almost as good, like--I don't know--some trifold poster board with egg crate glued in it? Or is that a terrible idea?

Also, I'm absolutely interested in learning more about noise gates, but I don't even know where to begin. Hope me?

Everybody else: thank you so much for taking the time to get into this with me. I really appreciate it, and this thread has been full of great advice. Best Answers for everyone!
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:00 PM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: Also, I'll totally admit it: I was sorta hoping you guys would tell me to get the suspension makes the Snowball look so cool.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:33 PM on July 22, 2009

Also, I'll totally admit it: I was sorta hoping you guys would tell me to get the suspension makes the Snowball look so cool.

Well go for it, man! It certainly won't hurt anything, and it will make your gear that much more versatile as you record different things. And a shock mount is a cheap indulgence compared to most recording gear.
posted by Rykey at 6:38 AM on July 23, 2009

If you do buy one, get a universal one like the AKG H30. You can use it with different mics, which might come in handy, plus paying 200 bucks for a suspension mount is ridiculous, IMO.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:26 AM on July 24, 2009

Oh, now I see. $60 isn't so bad.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:27 AM on July 24, 2009

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