Reviewed: The Electro-Voice RE20, The Samson Q2U and the Plantronics Blackwire C225.
Today I’m going to be reviewing three different microphones: The Electro-Voice RE20, The Samson Q2U and the Plantronics Blackwire C225. I’d like some comments from you as well to get some kind of an indication as to what kind of quality of audio you think is coming from the different devices.
What I want to do, first of all though, is just go through the three different microphones that I’m going to be talking through today.
The Electro-Voice RE20
The microphone that I’m talking through at the moment is an Electro-Voice RE20 microphone. It’s called an Electro-Voice RE20 microphone and that’s the microphone that I normally use to record most podcasts.
This microphone goes through what’s called a Voice Channel, an ART Voice Channel, and that’s a cool piece of kit that adds things called a compressor. It adds a De-Esser, it adds an expander gate, and also adds somewhere where you can actually change all your treble, your bass, an equaliser basically.
There’s lots of different elements to that ART channel, but this microphone, the RE20, is a great studio microphone.
It’s not a cheap setup. But it’s not ridiculously expensive. The RE20 itself is probably about £400. And then the voice channel was another £400 or £500 as well, so it’s the best part of about £1000 worth of kit.
The Samson Q2U
But I’d like to talk through a couple of other microphones. Let’s quickly switch to the Samson Q2U. The Samson Q2U is an incredible budget, dynamic microphone. It is a really, really good first microphone to get. You’ll probably find that it’s slightly more muffled than the RE20 that you heard earlier on. And it doesn’t have quite so much high end. But it is wonderful, wonderful starter microphone.
If you search for Samson Q2U on Amazon, then you’ll actually see it for about £60 at the moment. If you get the Samson Q2U microphone plus the boom arm, plus the windscreen, which is always good to stop what’s called plosives (big bursts of air going into the microphone, and hurting peoples’ ears when you say Ps and Bs). So that’s always a good thing to get.
The Samson Q2U is absolutely wonderful, it’s got two connections. It’s got an XLR, and a USB connection. I’m using the USB directly into the computer. So, let me know if you’re listening and you’ve heard a big difference between the Samson Q2U and the RE20.
Dynamic microphones vs condenser microphones
Let me turn the Samson Q2U off, and the RE20 back on. So this is me back into the RE20 microphone again. And this is generally a higher end studio microphone. It’s still what you call a dynamic microphone. Now, the two main types of microphones that you get are dynamic microphones, and condenser microphones.
The key thing about a dynamic microphone, is it has what’s called a small sweet spot. You have to be relatively close to the microphone to get a decent sound out of it. It doesn’t mean right on top of the microphone. It means about three or four inches away from the microphone is the ideal place to go.
If you’re too far away from the microphone then it’s not really going to pick you up. Now because of the additional compressor that I’ve got hooked up to the RE20, a bit higher end, it’s not going to make quite so much difference, me going away from the microphone.
Really, for a dynamic microphone you should get into the habit of speaking around the microphone, of being about 3 or 4 inches away from the microphone. Paul, good to see you. Paul Lovell in the chat there. Paul’s saying the RE20 sounds better to me. Hopefully it does, it should do, it should sound better.
It’s a lovely, lovely microphone. And it’s a nice setup with this Voice Channel compressor that I’ve got attached to it. However, the Samson Q2U is a lovely, lovely microphone as well.
Let’s go back to the Samson Q2U again. We’ve got David saying, in the chat, saying, Audio-Technica AT2030 USB works for me for voiceover and vocal production. I’m not overly familiar with that one. That’s possibly a condenser microphone. Let me know in the chat, David, if that’s condenser microphone or a dynamic microphone.
The ATR 2100 is very similar to, and that’s an Audio-Technica microphone as well, is very similar to the Samson Q2U in that it’s a dynamic microphone, it’s got two connections, it’s got the XLR and USB connection there as well.
I tend to suggest people starting off with a dynamic microphone because most people start off from a home office. It’s not an ideal working situation. There’s different noises going on in the house. And ideally you don’t want to have a condenser microphone picking up more background noise than you would, generally, with a dynamic microphone.
There’s one other microphone that I have on me, and that’s this headset here. And I just wanted to let you hear that headset as well. So let’s switch that one on. Okay, this is me talking through the Plantronics headset…
The Plantronics Blackwire C225
The Plantronics Blackwire C225 headset is, there’s less bass there, there’s less a lot of, there isn’t a great deal of frequency that comes through. It’s a set part of my voice that comes through this particular headset. You can hear me okay. But you can definitely hear a distinct reduction in quality when I’m moving to the headset.
This is the minimum that I’d recommend when joining as a podcast guest. It’s adequate when joining as a podcast guest because what it tends to do is just focus on your voice. The headset’s right next to your mouth.
You don’t have to worry about moving about too much. It’s in a fixed position in front of your mouth. And it’s also quite close to your mouth. and it generally means that it does quite a good job of not picking up noise from the rest of your room.
John is saying surprisingly good, but lack of depth. I presume that that’s the headset that you’re referring to, John. Yeah look, the headset is reasonable. I don’t, I wouldn’t recommend it as a podcast host. I think you’ve got to go towards using something like the Samson Q2U as a podcast host. But I think the headset’s fine, acceptable if you’re a podcast guest.
One thing that really, I really don’t like as a podcast guest is you joining me or other people without having a headset. You’re relying on the microphone that’s in built to your laptop, or whatever device you’ve got. I think it picks up too much from other places, it’s too muffled, you tend to go in and out. So it’s not that good quality. So this is what I would recommend as the absolute minimum audio requirements.
Back to the RE20
Let’s switch the headset off, and go back to the RE20. And here we are back in the RE20. You will have heard a big difference between the RE20 and the headset there, but not maybe quite so much between the RE20 and the Samson Q2U, which we’ll go back to just now. Okay, so that’s me back in the Samson Q2U microphone.
This is the Samson Q2U microphone using the USB. Remember it has the XLR that you can take into a mixer, into some kind of device that will improve its quality slightly, add compression, or whatever you want to do with it.
The great thing about the Samson Q2U, or ATR 2100, similar kind of microphone, is that you can upgrade. Because it’s got the USB and the XLR connections. You can use the USB connection to begin with, and then you can move on to the XLR.
You don’t have to throw the microphone away when you actually end up upgrading your kit. Martin’s saying the RE20 is definitely warmer.
“Q2U good but a bit soft”, says Martin. See, it’s great feedback. Let’s go back to the RE20 again. Okay, so this is me back in the RE20. The RE20 does a better job of, first of all, hearing every frequency coming out of my voice.
Everything from bass right to the top of treble.
You should find that the RE20 does a little bit better at the high end. It’s a bit crisper at the high end. And the tone is certainly more natural, because it covers that whole frequency. Now, you may not feel that it sounds completely natural because I’ve added a little bit of compression to it, through my ART Voice Channel that I use to do that.
What is audio compression?
Just in case you’ve got that question. Compression, if you imagine that you’ve got your audio wave. You’ve probably seen audio waves in different pieces of software. Now what a compressor does is it pushes down that audio wave, so it pushes down all the peaks and the troughs of that audio wave.
It’s a bit more squashed if you like. And once it becomes squashed, what you can do, is you can amplify that whole audio wave, and then the whole track becomes perceivably louder. It lets you do things like talk quietly into the microphone. But actually, the perceived volume is quite similar, compared with when you’re talking fairly loudly. That’s quite a useful thing for compression.
Compression is quite a useful thing when someone’s listening not in the most ideal environment. If they’re listening in a car, or in a place where there’s lots of background noise. It’s the kind of thing that you move into, once you get comfortable with using different microphones, and I guess once you experiment with different microphones to begin with.
As part of this livestream, all I wanted to do as part of this call was simply say – you’ve got different options with regards to microphone. In terms of starting out, I would highly recommend that you start off with the Samson Q2U, moving back to this microphone.
Martin’s saying very useful, thanks for sharing. Thanks for commenting Martin, appreciate you being on here. I would highly, highly recommend that any podcaster, or someone who wants to be a decent podcast guest gets a microphone like the Samson Q2U. It could be the ATR 2100, or something like that. Essentially a dynamic microphone with two connections, XLR and USB. You can start off by using the USB connection.
It’s so, so easy to get started, and up and running like that. It’s really decent sound quality. It’s not the best but it’s a big leap forward from a headset. Let’s go back to the headset. There we go, that’s me talking through the headset again. Remember the headset’s okay, a bit treble, and quite acceptable to be a podcast guest. But I don’t think it’s acceptable to use this and be a podcast host.
Finally, back to the RE20 again. And here’s my full voice, in terms of the fuller frequency, more treble, more rounded in the bass. And of course, I’ve got the compression in here as well. So there we go, that is all I wanted to share as part of the livestream today.
I really appreciate the interaction there, people giving their thoughts as well. Thank you everyone for being on. I’m going to quit the live stream now, and have this video up live and running on CastingCred.com, which is the new website that I’ve got for my podcast agency for B2B brands.
Paul Lovell was just saying, towards the end, “are these directional mics to help reduce background noise, hence people working from home?” Paul, they’re not directional mics, no. But they are mics that you need to speak in a certain place, specifically about three or four inches away from the microphone.
If you move too far away from the microphone, then you’re not really going to get any decent levels going into the microphone. And in terms of how you speak into the microphone, when you’re speaking fairly close into a microphone it’s important not to speak directly into it, but actually speak over it.
So you’ve got the air going over the microphone, so it’s limiting the amount of plosives, and sudden bursts of air that are going into the microphone. So as long as you speak to the microphone that kind of distance away, and you speak over the microphone, then you’re probably going to get the best sound out of it that you can get.
There we go, the three microphones, RE20, Samson Q2U, and this Plantronics headset.
Quick summary: Use the Samson Q2U as your first podcast host microphone, or if you want to be a decent podcast guest. If you want to be a podcast guest, please at a very minimum, get a headset. And if you’re serious about your audio quality then, after 20 episodes, after 40 episodes of your podcast, then you can think about upping your audio quality, and starting to use something like an Electro-Voice RE20, and an additional bit of hardware that will compress your audio, and make sure that you’re at fairly consistent levels, and just add that additional little bit of sparkle.