Considering a Blue Microphones Snowflake for Podcasting

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I’m planning to launch an audio podcast about ice hockey officiating this September, so I’m looking at hardware and software I’ll need to produce a podcast. One thing I want to buy for myself is a compact USB microphone because I’m sure that the built-in microphone on my MacBook Pro will not be adequate.

A couple of weeks ago on MacBreak Weekly Episode 90, Leo Laporte recommended the Blue Microphones Snowflake. This is a compact USB microphone that can sit on a desk or be mounted on the top of the screen of a notebook computer. It’s PC and Mac compatible and requires no special USB driver.

MacBreak 118, which was recorded at MacWorld, featured the Snowflake microphone:

The video is a good illustration of several possible configurations.

Getting back to MacBreak Weekly Episode 90, I realized that I was way out of my league in terms of objectively choosing a microphone on my own when Leo Laporte started talking about the “headroom” on the Snowflake versus another more expensive model from Blue called the Snowball. Leo likes the Snowflake because he says it has more headroom and is more likely to perform well if you overdrive it than the Snowball will.

I had to Google around a bit to find an article called Headroom – What is it? Why do you need it?. According to the article:

Headroom is the difference in decibels between the highest level a system can take without distortion, and the highest level the engineer expects to use.

Listening back through the product picks section of MacBreak Weekly Episode 90, I understand what Laporte is saying. He thinks that recordings from the Snowball are more likely to sound clipped if the source (the speaker, a singer, or a musician) is louder than expected when the microphone is first positioned. The Snowflake is better in this respect. That’s good to know.

The key thing for me is that I need a small portable microphone that I can use to record my sections of the podcast, that I can use for iChat and Skype sessions, and occasionally use for voiceovers in GarageBand and iMovie ’08. Laporte’s comments on the Snowflake make me think that this microphone is a good choice because I’ll have some margin for error until I become really familiar with how it works.

Someone like me with virtually no audio production experience needs to pick a microphone on the basis of reviews I can understand. Once I’ve produced several podcast episodes, I’m sure I will know what I do and don’t like in a microphone. The $60 I’ll spend on the Snowflake microphone will be a good investment from a practical education perspective.