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Microphones and Getting Your Voice Heard

Last Of The Mohicans

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Joined:  Sep 20, 2022
ULTIMATE TL;DR:
  • Unless you sound like some kid on Xbox Live screaming at his mom about wanting chocolate milk, use the headset you already have, don't bother spending money, it's better to work on your charisma, vocal delivery, and getting over your streaming nerves early on than worry about audio quality. Your viewers will tell you when they want to hear you better.
  • Once you have money to spend, the best bang for buck mic starter kit for streamers is:
  • Once you've moved beyond this and want to start chasing higher audio quality you've left tl;dr land and it's time to do research motherfucker.
Now that that's out of the way


I want to stream, but I'm afraid my voice sounds like shit, what do?
Subjects Covered:
  • Microphone Types​
    • Dynamic​
    • Condenser​
  • Microphone Interfaces​
    • USB​
    • XLR​
  • Microphone Pre-Processing​
    • Interface​
    • Pre-Amp​
    • Mixer​
  • OBS Audio Plugins​
    • Noise Gate​
    • Compressor​
    • EQ​
  • Avoiding causing viewers ear pain​

[WORK IN PROGRESS PLEASE EXCUSE THE SHIT WHILE I'M UNLEASHING MY AUTISM]

So you want to start streaming, but hey, you need to be able to have people hear your voice during your stream right? So clearly you need to go out and get a $600 Shure SM7b, mount it to a $100 Elgato boom arm, plug it into a $150 Cloudlifter Pre-Amp, and finally get your computer to get the audio signal by using a $600 GoXLR? FUCK no. You got options, there's a whole mid market and starter market to worry about.

However, I feel a need to place this disclaimer, and this disclaimer will likely appear in every single streaming guide I write.

Streaming is free, signing up for YouTube and Twitch is free, OBS is free, using GIMP to modify your favorite Yugioh character's hair color so you have your own personal completely original avatar that you should tell people to not steal is free, you probably already have a headset you use to talk to pedo furries on Discord that you can use for free, avoid spending money before you've decided you enjoy streaming.

Microphone Types​

Unless you have a fully treated studio booth to stream from, use a dynamic mic.

Without boring you with the nitty gritty, there are several core mechanisms that a microphone could use to turn your screams about tendies into electricity. You, as a freshly hatched 0-view, care about two of them, Dynamic and Condenser.

Dynamic​

Dynamic mics are usually built for "stage" performances that need to reject a lot of unintended noise, it's why you see them very often at concerts. They can handle higher frequencies and louder noises as well, but can sometimes sound slightly muffled.

The biggest problem that many dynamic mics have is a need for proximity. It gets harder to pick up noises you are making as you get further away. This is why you see podcast guests who aren't familiar with good mic technique often get told to get closer to their mics, and why you see someone like Joe Rogan often have nearly half his face obscured by his SM7b. It's not a paid shill promotion it's just that you really have to deep throat these things often. If I see you streaming with a good dynamic mic, I wanna see it so close to your mouth that you're going to be shitting it out your ass tomorrow.

You can feed the mic more "gain" (input volume) to be able to sit back further from it, but you then start to lose the benefits of background noise rejection. A delicate balance there you will need to find on your own.
Good candidates for starter Dynamic mics are:
  • Samson Q2U (USB + XLR) (~$70)
  • Shure SM58 (XLR, needs interface or mixer) (~$100)
  • Rode Podmic (XLR, needs interface or mixer) (~$100)

Condenser​

Condenser mics are usually built for "studio" performances that need to capture every single bit of noise with the most clarity you can achieve. This becomes a problem for a lot of streamers because since they're built to capture EVERYTHING, they're also going to capture your mom yelling at you to do the laundry from upstairs, they will also pick up your PC fans, your nasty Taco Bell farts you think you can sneak in, and that fancy mechanical keyboard the cult managed to convince you to buy into. Condenser mics are even sensitive enough that they just might catch the screams from a woman being stabbed to death in the next door apartment. These mics are not for noise rejection.

With that said, if you have any singing/musical aspirations and want to put out your own cover of KING by Kanaria like all vtubers do, condenser mics will be your go to for recording vocals, but you will need to set up a treated audio space to do so. This is why you might have heard stories of Kanata and Noel streaming from hot booths, they almost certainly use condensers to stream as well as do ASMR and music recording. If you want to use a Condenser mic for regular streaming, then you need to take noise into consideration. Consider the option of audio treating your room with audio foam, get a rug if you have a hardwood floor, etc.

A second problem many condensers have will be a need for "phantom power". Without boring you with the details, many condensers need to get fed their own electricity supply in order to properly hear you. You will need to research whether your condenser mic of choice requires "phantom power" and then find out whether your mixer or interface can supply that.
Good candidates for starter Condenser mics are:
  • Audio Technica AT2020 (XLR, phantom power needed) ($100)
  • Blue Yeti (USB, no phantom power needed) ($100)
  • Blue Snowball (USB, no phantom power needed) ($40)
 
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Last Of The Mohicans

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Joined:  Sep 20, 2022

Microphone Interfaces​

USB mics used to be considered universally bad, but this is no longer the case.

Now it just means USB mics don't need an Interface or Mixer, since they have all that hardware inside the mic already.

XLR mics give you more options on pre-processing, since you can choose your pre-processor hardware, but USB mics allow you to only buy one piece of hardware.
This'll be a short section mostly.

So all microphones have a capsule to turn your farts into electricity, but your computer still doesn't actually speak raw electricity, it needs to be turned into 1's and 0's.

Your computer in all likelihood will only have USB ports that your devices can speak into, but a good microphone can have any number of ways to send signals. The two you care about are USB and XLR. 3.5mm interface also exists, but isn't really used for high-end gear, but you'll see it on headsets all the time.

If your microphone has an XLR interface, that just means it only outputs raw analog signal, which your computer can't understand. It will need something to do the conversion from Analog to Digital. All kinds of fancy electronics including Analog-to-Digital-Conversion (ADC) chips, capacitors, resistors, etc. Most of the time that will be a dedicated box, an Interface or a Mixer, but that's for the next section below.

"USB Mics" are basically a convenience factor where all the ADC conversion electronics are placed inside the microphone itself, and thus do not need a dedicated ADC box. The big meme circa 7 years ago among streamers was that USB mics were just universally bad, but 7 years ago streamers thought "Condenser" meant "good" so take that for what you will.

All that being said you probably do want to keep in mind that a lot of audio vendors are putting out mics targeting the streaming market, and putting out USB mics that are surprisingly good, but they also tend to be on the more expensive side (seriously, everything in the past 3 years I've seen has been upwards of $150 USD), and will rely on software installed to your PC for any signal processing. If you stream from Windows with a powerful PC this is fine, but if you stream from a Mac or Linux machine you might be shit out of luck.

So the takeaway is that you don't really need to mind all that much about whether you get a USB or XLR mic, but you do need to keep the fact in mind so you know whether you need to get an ADC box or not. If your mic is USB, all you need is a mic. If your mic is XLR, well, that's what the next section is for...
 
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Last Of The Mohicans

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Joined:  Sep 20, 2022

Microphone Pre-processing​

  • An Interface is just that, it takes an XLR mic and allows it to plug into another kind of port, mostly a USB on your PC.
  • A pre-amp is a separate piece of hardware that introduces extra gain to a mic, because some dynamic mics can be kinda quiet.
  • A mixer is an interface with extra toys, Equalizer, L/R Balancing, Volume Control
  • Sometimes a mixer or interface will have a pre-amp inside, hard to tell if these are good or not. Look up reviews.
  • If your mic of choice is USB, nothing in this section is relevant to you, feel free to ignore.

Alright, so you've decided you want the control of kit that an XLR mic allows, but now that means you need extra hardware so your mic can speak to your PC? Time to look into pre-processing!

From here, there's all kinds of shit you could buy, but really for streaming on YouTube or Twitch with a vocal mic you care about two questions:
  • Do you want an Interface vs. Mixer?
  • Do you want a pre-amp?
Let me start by describing for the purposes of a YouTuber what a Interface vs. Mixer is.

Interface​

For the most part an Interface does very little other than take your microphone's analog signal, and convert it to USB. If you have a Condenser XLR mic, your interface will also need to provide the aforementioned phantom power, so be sure to look into whether your mic needs it and whether the interface can provide it. It's likely that an interface will also include a Gain (volume) knob. Just a little amplifier before the signal reaches the computer, but be warned if your gain is too high you can introduce a lot of noise into the signal.
Good starter interfaces I recommend:
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 ($70 on Amazon, provides phantom power, includes variable pre-amp)
  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo ($120 on Amazon, provides phantom power)

Mixer​

Now, what makes a mixer actually different from an interface is mostly the amount of toys you get to play with. Almost all interfaces will have a Gain control, but mixers might include some EQ, Compression, Reverb, Cough Button, and I've even heard some can give you a scrotum massage but I've never seen one with that functionality, you'll have to find it.

For your purposes think of a mixer as an interface with more options to fuck with your sound with effects before it reaches the computer.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say I don't recommend a mixer at all if you're starting out. Mostly because I looked around on Amazon and the bare-minimum featureset over a good interface was $140. Fuck that. That said it was the Yamaha MG02, but it only has a 2-band EQ to work with.

PreAmp​

Some dynamic mics are notable for being quite quiet on their own, and even the interface might have some trouble making you legible. This is where a Pre-Amp comes in, you just plug in your mic to the preamp before you plug the preamp into the interface, and your audio signal should have a big chunk of "clean" (no noise or hiss) gain that your interface can play with. These are expensive though.

I don't really recommend Preamps for starter mics, but the only ones really relevant for streamers would be the Triton Fethead for $70 on Amazon or the Cloudlifter CL-1 for $150.

It is worth noting that sometimes an interface will even include it's own preamp as well as the main gain amp, so take that into account as well.
 
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Last Of The Mohicans

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Joined:  Sep 20, 2022

OBS Audio Plugins/Filters​

  • Noise Gate is for making sure the mic is only "hot" when you're speaking, therefore your audience can't hear your keyboard when you're being quiet.
  • Compressor turns your volume down when you get loud automatically, it's good for preventing peaking
  • EQ is a thing you can do, and can make your voice sound "cleaner" or "muddier" or any number of terms, but the science, art, and technique behind it can't really be TL;DR'd. Look up youtube videos.
 
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Last Of The Mohicans

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Joined:  Sep 20, 2022

Mic Technique​

OR: How not to cause physical pain to the people listening to you​


  • Don't scream into your mic without having a good compressor, this will prevent peaking.
  • Plosives are little booms that happen when you blow into the mic, like mini-peaks.
    • There is special Pop Filter hardware you can buy, but instead just follow this rule for mic technique
    • Point the mic at your mouth, but don't point your mouth at the mic.
  • Echo/Reverb is when noise bounces off flat and smooth surfaces. The bigger and emptier the room, the worse the echo/reverb.
    • Consider a dynamic mic, a rug for hardwood floors, maybe thumbtacking some blankets to your walls.
 
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Azehara

Well-known member
!!Foot Dox Confirmed!!
Early Adopter
Joined:  Sep 11, 2022
You can edit posts. That said, shit, very nice.

I dont know shit about Audio but I found this video the other day. Simple settings for OBS
 

Murrayしないで

Just go live!
Joined:  Nov 18, 2022
You can edit posts. That said, shit, very nice.

I dont know shit about Audio but I found this video the other day. Simple settings for OBS

This video is great. I've generally followed everything this video told me and I'm pretty happy with the results. I don't have a boom arm yet but that will likely be among my next purchases once I've got my tax stuff worked out.
 

Fucking YTs

I just want to annoy people in peace.
Early Adopter
Joined:  Sep 11, 2022
I use a specific VST plugin called Speachy, which has replaced my VO hardware/VSTs. I have made presets for all the people I record, and it works very well. While it can be used with OBS, without ASIO support, you won't always get good low latency output, so it's not perfect for streaming. Also, it's not free, but it's a one-time purchase, and you can use it on unlimited computers. I asked them if it was just a 3-computer license, and they replied with 'unlimited'.

Link for anyone interested: https://www.neverdieaudio.com/

Here is a video on setting it up with OBS:


I personally use it for corporate talking head videos and it works quite well as an all-in-one suite for $39 bucks.
 

Lesbian Solid Snake

Pettan Hag Supremacy
Joined:  Sep 19, 2022
Not really related to streaming but if you're on zoom calls all day and are having trouble with noise I would recommend nvidia broadcast for noise removal. I think you need to have a nvidia gpu to use it though.
 

UberSoldat

Well-known member
Joined:  Oct 19, 2022
Not really related to streaming but if you're on zoom calls all day and are having trouble with noise I would recommend nvidia broadcast for noise removal. I think you need to have a nvidia gpu to use it though.

Highly recommend this for Nvidia GPU owners, with this I've foregone the noise gate entirely
 

Godzilla1984

Well-known member
Early Adopter
Joined:  Sep 12, 2022
You can edit posts. That said, shit, very nice.

I dont know shit about Audio but I found this video the other day. Simple settings for OBS

My audio shit the bed today for no god damn reason.
Between Voicemeeter and the OBS filters from the video, I seem to be back up and running.
Screenshot_2.png
 
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