Summer is here, so why not start a vlog indoors, comfortably shielded from the sun and all its unpleasant warmth? Obviously, you’ll need something to capture video, be it a camcorder, camera, smartphone, or tablet. What about the sound, though? Often overlooked by newcomers, the vlog’s audio quality really does matter and it makes a difference to your audience, even if they don’t know why some content sounds better than others. Thankfully, you need not attend an expensive masterclass to get clean, quality audio for your productions, because companies like RØDE, Sennheiser, and Saramonic are making solutions tailored specifically for people like you.
Just Getting Started
If you’re the type who isn’t ready to cannonball into the deep waters of sound equipment, an all-in-one bundle is probably the way to go. One example is Sennheiser’s MKE 400 Mobile Kit, which can be used with cameras equipped with mini-jack mic inputs or mobile devices that have headphone ports. This bundle features a tabletop tripod (collapsible for handheld video), smartphone clamp, and, most importantly, the MKE 400 shotgun microphone. Snag the separately available CL 35 USB-C cable if you intend to connect the mic straight to a smartphone or tablet with USB Type-C.
Whether you mount the mic on the supplied stand or your own camera, you’re assured the same benefit of clear, focused audio pickup and far less background noise than your camera’s built-in mic. The mic has integral shock absorption to inhibit handling noise, a three-stage gain control that makes it easy to get a good recording level, and a low-cut filter to rid your signal of rumbly tones such as air conditioner noise. Since you need to hear the signal to know if it sounds good, Sennheiser included a convenient headphone jack on the mic for precisely that purpose.
Similarly, RØDE offers a series of Vlogger Kits containing mini tripods, smartphone clamps, and small shotgun mics designed for shooting with a smartphone and monitoring with headphones. Plus, they come with a nifty little bonus, an on-camera light with a diffuser and eight colored filters to allow the kits to enhance video, as well as improve audio. These bundles are available in three variants—one with Lightning connectivity for iPhones, one with USB Type-C for Android smartphones, and one with 3.5mm TRRS for mobile devices with headphone jacks. So, no matter what type of smartphone you wield, there’s a compatible RØDE Vlogger Kit.
Exploring Your Space
The aforementioned offerings from Sennheiser and RØDE are designed for the same style of production; the mic sits on your camera/smartphone and goes wherever it goes (or stays wherever it stays). That’s perfectly fine if you plan to be relatively stationary, perhaps lounging in a smoking jacket on a luxurious leather recliner or rigidly posed at your desk. However, individuals who prance about the kitchen in an apron or pace across every square inch of floor space may be better served by a rig that isn’t anchored to the shooting device. What could do that? A wireless microphone system!
Although wireless mic systems are traditionally quite complicated for audio newbies, there are pleasant exceptions boasting incredibly easy out-of-the-box readiness. Back to Sennheiser is a solid solution for camera shooters, the XSW-D PORTABLE LAVALIER SET. Rather than utilizing a shotgun mic on a camera, this set opts for a lavalier (lapel) mic attached to you; such a mic can yield consistently intelligible voice capture whether you stand, sit, turn around, or walk away. Since the mic would be attached to you, components are included to get the signal wirelessly to your camera.
There’s a tiny transmitter that connects to the mic and clips to your belt, pantaloons, or other preferred garment, and an equally tiny receiver that connects to your camera’s mic input and mounts to its shoe. Worry not, the system requires nothing in the way of synchronizing, scanning, or channel selection. Just connect the pieces, power them on, and you’re ready.
Another like-minded wireless microphone system is the Saramonic Blink 500 Pro. It adheres to the same philosophy of “connect, power, and go,” but offers single- and two-person systems to accommodate additional users, like when you vlog with a roommate, life partner, or human version of your spirit animal. Yes, it comes with a lapel mic, but the ultracompact transmitter itself has a built-in mic. This allows you to simply clip the transmitter on yourself when you don’t have the time or energy to wire up the lapel mic.
The transmitter sends signal wirelessly to the identically sized receiver, which can connect to your camera or any smartphone, depending on the Blink 500 Pro model you choose. Like the RØDE Vlogger Kits, there are variants made for connecting to camera mini-jack inputs, Lightning-equipped iOS devices, and mobile devices with USB Type-C ports.
Always Get the Audio
A healthy fear for any content creator, vloggers included, is the worry of losing the recording due to a technical glitch. There’s no denying that the wonders of technology are fabulous, but I’m sure everyone has experienced burning frustration brought about by an unfortunate glitch in the system. No big deal when you’re just surfing the ’Net, but truly tragic when it affects your work.
Due to some unexpected power under its hood, the RØDE Wireless GO II is capable of functioning as not only a user-friendly wireless microphone system for two people, but also as its own audio recorder. As a wireless mic system, it sports two miniature clip-on transmitters, each outfitted with an onboard lavalier capsule to eliminate the need for an external mic, and a miniature camera-mount receiver that can connect to your camera’s mic input with the included 3.5mm TRS cable or to the headphone jack of a smartphone with RØDE’s SC7 adapter cable (available separately).
Thanks to RØDE Central (the company’s free companion app), you can activate the transmitter’s ability to record directly to itself. So, whether or not the receiver is being recorded by your camera, each transmitter can capture its mic signal and record it in one of two formats—uncompressed industry-standard 24-bit / 48 kHz WAV to maintain the highest quality or a special compressed format for extended recording time. That’s a backup you can count on, and it means you won’t have to fret over the possibility of potentially losing your precious audio.
Make Your Voice Heard
Don’t let poor sonic quality prevent your voice from reaching the ears of listeners around the world. A small investment in the right audio equipment can ensure that your vlogs sound crisp and professional, putting you on a competitive level and turning visitors into subscribers.
Remember, the B&H SuperStore and website are at your service to help sift through the options and pick the best gear for you. If you’re an experienced vlogger, drop a comment below to tell us about your setup.