With the COVID-19 outbreak in the air (literally), we now, if possible, have to rely heavily on technology to make up for the fact that we can't go outside for things that aren't deemed as "necessities". You've probably heard of Zoom, right? If not, probably Discord, Skype, or Facetime. These are examples of popular video conferencing software. I know that this blog is focussed a lot on computers, keyboards, etc... but the most important part of any call or online conference is the audio. Sure, it's great to be able to see people clearly and their cool "virtual" backgrounds, but if you can't tell what they're saying or if their words are slurred, then the whole experience sort of gets messed up. This is why now, especially now, microphones are key. You can have a really nice computer or a really nice PC, but no $420
RGB mousepad or other pieces of graphics technology is going to change the fact that if you don't have a good microphone, you're not going to sound good online, to anyone.
The other great part about microphones is that you can make really nice recordings with them. Are you interested in being a Guild Wars 2 let's play Youtuber? Do you want to make TikTok dances like Addison Rae? Do you want to produce quality "rage screams" like Skeppy in Minecraft? To do all of this, as I said above, you're going to need a microphone. Having a good mic means that whenever you're recording or streaming, the output is that much closer to mimicking your real life.
Most computers, if not all, have a built-in mini microphone, but most of the mics are very basic and are only designed for speech and simple talk. Sure, they still pick up most sounds, but when faced with higher dB SPL or high pitched notes, their outputs won't be as good as the outputs of a separate microphone.
My suggestion for you?
For a quality price of $169 USD, you can buy the RODE NT USB microphone. It's easy to use, self-intuitive and works very well. I put it maybe a good 1-2 feet from my mouth and everything still picks up fine. To start off, I'll give you the specs. The RODE NT USB is a condenser microphone, which means that it's more fragile and less durable than dynamic microphones, but produce much higher quality sound. It has a maximum SPL of 110dBSPL and a 16-bit resolution. Unless you plan on doing something crazy with your mic, this product should pick up everything just fine. This product is also very flexible and maneuverable. It sits on a 360 degree mount with about 90 degrees of vertical tilt as well. It can be unplugged very easily to be used on others' devices and does not require internal software to function. It has a Tri-Pod stand that gives it a strong base (it won't tip over unless you want it to) and two knobs: one controls input volume and the other controls the volume of (optional) headphones/earbuds that can be plugged in at a jack on the side. The cool thing about the RODE NT USB microphone is that if you use headphones/earbuds with it, you can hear yourself a lot more clearly. Anything that goes through it gets sent both to the listeners on the other side and yourself. It kind of gives you the option to "amplify" your own voice to yourself. Lastly, the RODE NT USB microphone comes with a quality premium pop filter that will, if you position it to do so, bar the microphone from picking up any "pop" noises or loud sounds such as fast-moving air. For you IOS fans out there, this mic is compatible with Apple iPads as well (you might need an adapter). This may sound silly, but having a separate piece of hardware strictly for managing sound on your computer can really be a big relief. Normally you would half to go into your computer settings and do all that, but a physical mic makes everything so much easier. It's just a lot more reliable, boasting a nice range of 20Hz-20kHz. That should be enough to pick up singing voices, basically all musical instruments, and other wild sounds. It's a very sensitive mic, which can be controlled if you want, but it's kind of neat to have a lot of power over your audio (you can lean in a couple of inches and there's a noticeable difference).
You can also get the RODE NT USB mini microphone if you'd like to not spend as much. I personally haven't tried it, but I can say that its sound quality will still be a lot better than your computer's default mic (or most headset mic's).
Even though these products might not directly relate to computers, you should also check out other RODE products as they may suit you better if you use a phone more often, or if you're an aspiring videographer that uses a camera or something like that.
Again, I encourage you to buy this if you're interested in mic or need a replacement. Just as Justin Heyes said in a post on SLR Lounge, "Microphones aren't sexy" but they will take your recordings and audio output to a whole new level, which can make a big difference during the time of "shelter in place" and throughout your entire life's interaction with audio/technology. Its quality is unmatched and should serve you well for many years (if you don't bass boosted abuse it though). Who can resist pure, raw, uncontested value?
Stay safe and have a nice week!
Sun Tzu (Guest Writer)