Why You Need A Good Microphone
Audio is a powerful medium. It's a powerful medium on its own, but also an integral part of video. For many of us that's where the conversation about audio ends. We feel like it's someone else's responsibility because they record the voice overs, or they record the sound. But things have changed. It's easier than ever to engage with others via the internet using audio and video. And so you need to know how to sound good. We have systems like Skype, and Facetime that allow us to communicate with others via audio/video. And it's important that you sound good.
If you are a corporate training producer then you need a good microphone. You can wait on truly understanding how audio works, but you don't need to wait on knowing what microphone to buy.
As with most tech products you get what you pay for. But if you don't know anything about audio you can get lost in Amazon trying to find something that will work for you. I've organized by thoughts here based on what you are trying to do, and based on my experience over the years with many different setups.
Headset with Microphone
USB headsets with builtin microphones are the easiest solution. If you have nothing at all then you should start here. You can use the headset for many different audio related projects, meetings, webinars, recordings, and streaming. I recommend a wired USB connection instead of wireless bluetooth for 2 reasons: 1) Quality 2) Ease of use. In the world of audio anything connected via wires is easier to work with and generally of a higher sound quality.
I recommend the Plantronics 655 USB headset mic. You can find it on Amazon for around $35. I still use it's predecessor the 510 which was around $80 a few years ago. My 510 still sounds great and I'm sure the 655 sounds even better. So don't be afraid of the cheap price.
While you are shopping on Amazon you may also see the 355 for $16. It looks just like the 655 but don't be fooled. Spend the extra dollars for the 655.
USB Desktop Microphone
If you are an eLearning developer or a subject matter expert needing to share knowledge via audio on it's own or as part of a video, then you will want to invest in a good USB desktop microphone. Again, a USB connection is best because it just works. It's a computer standard and not an original audio standard. So plugging directly into your computer saves you the headache of adaptors and other audio witchcraft.
I recommend the Blue Yeti to everyone I meet that needs a desktop microphone. It's a little over $100 on amazon but well worth the price. Unless you have money to burn I'd avoid the Yeti Pro. It's built for professionals, and this blog post is not for professionals. So the standard Yeti will be great for your needs.
Remember that as you step up from a headset/mic to a desktop mic you also need to consider your environment more carefully. Better microphones are better because they are more sensitive and can pick up very subtle sounds. Making your recording sound really good may require some room modifications or at the very least a sound isolation box. There are many DIY solutions on youtube. This is a good one. Or you can just buy one like this.
Handheld + Mixer
When you're ready to step up your audio there are many directions you could go. But most likely if you need to be at this point you will find many other experts offering their advice. But here is my take on it...if you're interested. One of the reasons you will step up to a setup with a mic + mixer setup is that you've found the other 2 options to be limiting in some way. For most eLearning developers and SMEs, just recording decent audio, the first 2 options are best.
But if you've been turned on by podcasting, vlogging, or LiveCasting then I recommend this little audio rig: Sennheiser e835 w/ Alesis Multimix4 You will also want a desktop mic stand or swing arm as well. You can certainly do podcasting, vlogging, and LiveCasting with the yeti or the plantronics 655, but I'm assuming that you know that, but are at the point where you'd like to do more.
You'll notice that I haven't provided any audio comparison clips or charts in this blog post. There really is no reason for me to duplicate what the internet has already provided. Jump on YouTube, search for it, and you will find it. I've put in a lot of hours over the years reading blog posts, watching YouTube videos, and testing gear. I am by no means an expert, but love to tinker in audio/video stuff. Are there other good products? Absolutely! However, I'm also a bit of a cheap bugger so I'm pretty sure these options will get you the best results per dollar spent.
But, as usual, If I've forgotten something please share it with me. @litmos