Suggest a podium microphone that is sensitive and won't pop.
October 6, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Please suggest a replacement podium microphone with two main goals in mind: Reduce or eliminate popping noise from close talkers, and increased sensitivity for picking up people not speaking directly into it.

The current podium microphone plugs directly into a socket in front of the speaker - I can get more details if necessary on what the socket looks like. It's a slender pole and can be moved a bit by hand. It's mostly metal and doesn't have a wind screen.

We'd like to solve two main problems: sensitivity and popping.

The sensitivity area is so very small that speakers cannot be heard if they look to the side slightly, or glance down at their paperwork. Because it's so picky, people often mistakenly talk too directly into it and cause annoying popping noises.

I've never shopped for a microphone before, so I would welcome some introductions to the types of things I should be on the lookout for in my searches.

Thanks!
posted by odinsdream to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get a Shure SM58, with a windscreen.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2010


In both cases, the problem isn't the microphone, but the people talking into it. (They're doing it wrong.)

Short of giving instructions to everyone who gets up to the podium, both problems can be helped immensely with an inexpensive compressor. It'll limit the volume of the pops and raise the volume of the low-talkers.

You can also reduce the popping with a really, really inexpensive windscreen (the black foam thing you slip over the top).
posted by Sys Rq at 11:45 AM on October 6, 2010


Oh, also, you'll want a cardioid (not hypercardioid or supercardioid) mic. That'll fix a lot of the sensitivity issues.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2010


PZM (surface-mounted condensor design) microphones sound* well-suited to this application; my experience with them has been limited, however, so I'd definitely corroborate with other MeFites' takes.

Disclaimer: a PZM won't work with a existing mic stand; it's mounted on a solid surface. Excellent for picking up everything on stage, however. If it's possible, you might yield the best results with a dual-mic setup; large PZM for stage pickup, and a public-speaking specialized design for the speaker at the podium. Neither one should be too expensive.

Best!

*unforgivable, sorry.
posted by alexandermatheson at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2010


A suggestion that might be a good place to start: a Crown PCC-160. It's designed for stage productions.

I'm guessing the socket you mentioned is a standard XLR microphone connector (circular, three pin). It'll work with all current microphones I can think of.
posted by alexandermatheson at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2010


One thing to keep in mind - many condenser microphones (such as the PZM type) require power to be sent through that XLR connector - Look on your mixer for a switch labeled "Phantom" or "+48v". If you don't see that switch, then you're limited to dynamic microphones (such as the Shure SM58 mentioned above). The SM-58 is a solid microphone, and one of the most widely used - will probably set you back around $100-$150. If you're not already using one (and still having problems) I'd recommend it.

If you ARE using a SM-58 already, and still having problems, then the best solution IS just to teach your speakers how to use a microphone.
posted by frwagon at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2010


Does it have to be a podium mounted mic? A wireless headset mic will be easier to use. People won't have to be glued to the podium, and will have the mic fixed at exactly the right distance from their mouths. Of course, you'll have to deal with battery issues. But a mic that's permanently fixed in one place is pretty hard to use correctly.
posted by emilyw at 12:50 PM on October 6, 2010


Thanks for the responses so far. We do have a phantom power capable mixer, a Mackie 1402.

We're definitely going to be considering mic training, but the zone that you need to be in for this mic to work is very, very small. No amount of training is going to get people to stop referring to their papers or looking up and down, which is literally all it takes to drop out of the zone where the mic hears their voice.
posted by odinsdream at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2010


A compressor is a worthy addition to your setup, but I'd start with a sub-$20 pop filter and see if that doesn't cut most of your "popping noise from close talkers" problems.
posted by xedrik at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2010


Does it have to be a podium mounted mic? A wireless headset mic will be easier to use.

There are a variety of speakers during a single event. It is going to be possible to use a lapel wireless on one speaker, but we would like to continue using the podium for most everyone else.
posted by odinsdream at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2010


Depending on your room integration, some of this may or may not apply. If you have a DSP (digital signal processor) in the mix, the threshold setting may be too high. (meaning, if they aren't right on the mic distance-wise or aimed right at it orientation-wise, you lose audio reinforcement) You may also need to boost the gain so that people feel more confident speaking into the mic from a distance. (they need to hear themselves a little or they'll hug the mic and get pops) If you do have a DSP, your integrator needs to fine tune your setup because that shouldn't be happening. However, I have to nth the foam windscreen crowd. That's a must and dead cheap.

We've gotten really good mileage out of the Shure MX418 (sub $200). You can get one that should plug right into the socket on your podium, as well as stand alone goosenecks with an xlr cable. (as Sys Rq said, you want cardioid. It's the description of the pickup pattern and the one most compatible with your described setup)

Filters, compressors, and all the rest might be useful, but honestly a good mic, screen, and proper settings are going to get you at least 90% of the way home.
posted by envygreen at 1:40 PM on October 6, 2010


Regarding the screens and foam, do I need to do both, or just one? If one, which?

It would probably be visually distracting to use any of the products that xedrik linked to - are there smaller options, or does that miss the entire point?

Regarding "talk to your sound guy/system integrator" type comments - that's me now. I'm learning as I go, so please bear with me if these questions are stupid.
posted by odinsdream at 3:29 PM on October 6, 2010


It would probably be visually distracting to use any of the products that xedrik linked to - are there smaller options, or does that miss the entire point?

Those are pop filters for studios. You don't want those. All you need is a windscreen.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:47 PM on October 6, 2010


odinsdream -- If you're the girl/guy on the spot, don't panic. No question is stupid. How else are you going to learn?

I was in your shoes a couple of years ago. Got a new job managing a lot of AV equipment that I was familiar with and a lot more that I wasn't. Ask questions. Lots of them. Don't be afraid to hire a tech for a day to ostensibly fix a problem but spend most of the time having them walk you through what they do and teach you more about your system.

If you post more details about the setup, we might be able to assist further, but a compatible Shure mic with a foam tip (windscreen) is your quick fix. (I'm not a Shure fanbboy, I just know that they are decent quality and easy to find. There are other good companies out there)

Mic -> X? -> Speakers (free standing? drop ceiling mounted?)

What happens between the mic and the speakers can be pretty crucial, so that is worth looking into for the long run.
posted by envygreen at 9:39 AM on October 7, 2010


envygreen: We have several mics plugged into a Mackie 1402 mixer. The output of this goes to an amplifier running a few wall-mounted speakers around the room. The "left-right" main output on the Mackie corresponds to "front-rear" speaker pairs.

On the stage we have the podium microphone in question and one unused SLR jack on the floor. This may be a good place to implement one of the PZM mics that alexandermatheson mentioned above. The PZM could be mounted on the surface of the podium and could be used in combination with the current gooseneck to fill in for when the speakers aren't directing their speech at the gooseneck. Thoughts?

On the left and right sides of the stage are two other microphones on stands. All of these cables go to a wiring closet where they're consolidated into a big fat multi-conductor cable. This is routed to the rear of the room where it breaks out again to feed the Mackie.

It's possible that before the mics reach the Mackie they're passing through some other equipment. I'll determine this on Saturday.
posted by odinsdream at 12:45 PM on October 7, 2010


XLR... not SLR... jack on the floor.
posted by odinsdream at 12:51 PM on October 7, 2010


Quick update for anyone still reading:

The mics go directly to the Mackie, there are no other devices.

Today I added a windscreen to the gooseneck eliminating the problem with popping. To pick up people who weren't speaking directly into the gooseneck I added the PZM mic to the podium and mixed it with the gooseneck. If they were using the gooseneck properly I didn't mix much of the PZM in at all. Other speakers needed more from this to be heard. This worked very well, except it was tedious to manage from the board.
posted by odinsdream at 11:57 AM on October 10, 2010


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