Audio Gear for Podcasting and Screencasting – Follow-up

[UPDATE – 7/30/2014: Wanted to share some feedback from one of my brothers, who purchased a Nessie mic for doing some screencast work. Apparently, he’s had some issues with low signal and lots of noise, and inconsistencies in operation depending on where he plugged it in. I took a look at the Nessie page on Blue’s website, and it lacks a support link, which is a pity in a product that seems to be designed for folks who are new to computer audio recording. Given that, I’d recommend that folks who aren’t comfortable with troubleshooting audio and USB issues look elsewhere.]

Last week I posted my thoughts about recording better quality audio for podcasts and screencasts, and shared the gear I use to record my various projects. I recently ran across a couple of things that made me want to follow up briefly on that topic.


One thing I didn’t do, albeit deliberately, was make specific recommendations about what mics to look at when you start shopping for better audio gear. On reflection, leaving folks to dig on their own was shortsighted, so I wanted to point to Blue Microphones as a good starting point for those looking for USB mic options. While there are plenty of other folks (including Samson, who make the mic I use) making USB mics, Blue has done a great job of creating unique and interesting mics like the Yeti (with multiple selectable pickup patterns), Yeti Pro (provides both USB and XLR outputs in a single mic), and Tiki and Snowflake portable USB mics.

For folks who want a standard audio mic, Blue makes an adapter/pre-amp called the Icicle (which I own). It connects any XLR microphone to your PC or Mac via USB, and provides both a preamp with adjustable gain as well as 48V phantom power, in case you want to use a condenser mic.

nessie_2But another reason I’m mentioning Blue is that they recently released another clever option for those just getting started with PC-based audio recording, called Nessie. What’s unique and cool about Nessie is that it has on-board real-time audio processing, designed to make it very easy for the beginner to get a finished sound without a lot of post-processing. For example, you can switch it to voice mode, which enhances spoken word, or instrument mode, for capturing more detail from musical instruments. And if you want the flexibility of manual post-processing, you can switch it to raw mode. It also has both built-in shockmount and pop filter, so you don’t need to supply these items separately (also means the mic takes up less space).

My only real gripe with this mic is that it does not appear to have the ability to be mounted on a boom, which means leaving it sit on your desk. That, and the fact that it’s only available from Apple stores at the moment (sigh). Although I’m very happy with my G-Track, I might just pick one of these up once they’re available from Amazon.

What About You?

I’d also be interested in hearing from my readers who podcast or screencast. What gear is your favorite? Any tips to share on how to get the best sound? Sound off in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Audio Gear for Podcasting and Screencasting – Follow-up”

  1. I really enjoyed your first article. But this follow up is strange … its like the marketing guys from Blue read the article then phoned you up and said hey, how come you are talking about screencasting without including our sales pitch!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the original article.

      To be clear, had I received any contact from a company providing stuff that I recommend, I would disclose that prominently.

      But I find the suggestion kind of funny, as I don’t own any gear made by Blue beyond the Icicle, which I use less frequently since having purchased a Zoom R24 multitrack digital recorder, which has XLR inputs. So for on the road podcasting, I just use standard vocal mics (I have a couple of Shure SM58s, and a Sennheiser mic, which I don’t recall the model number offhand).

      I called out Blue because they offer interesting and innovative products in this space. My co-host on the Community Megaphone Podcast used and liked the Snowball, and the organizers of CodeStock used Blue mics to record audio from presentations one year. The switchable patterns on the Yeti and Nessie provide flexibility, for example, being able to use the Yeti for a two-person podcast with just one mic.

      No shenanigans involved. And even now, a year later, I don’t have any additional Blue gear in my office/studio. Just haven’t had the need to replace my G-Track, which serves my needs well.

      Long-ish answer, but thought I’d share it.

  2. I know this is late but i enjoyed your original article, was wondering if you had thoughts on screencasting gear in terms of headsets with or without built in mics? Thanks!

    1. Hi Liam,

      Ultimately, mic or no mic depends on your preference. If you’re just recording the occasional screencast casually, I think one of the Microsoft LifeChat headsets ( would probably be just fine. Headsets like these are also great if you have to record on the road and don’t want to hassle with carrying a bunch of extra gear (some of the USB mics can be heavy…my G-Track is a beast, even without a stand).

      If you really want the best quality, though, you will want to have a separate mic. A headset is a must in general so that you don’t pick up extraneous noise on your mic, particularly if you’re recording with others.
      Hope that helps, and thanks for stopping by!

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