Think of a classic podcasting mic and the first image you see is likely to be something like a Shure SM7B or a Heil PR40. Large-diaphragm condenser and dynamic mics like this are known for their lush low-frequency response with a smoothness that can make the recorded voice sound amazing.
The reality is though that there are all sorts of different types of microphones on the market including some which can add a lot of flexibility to your arsenal of podcasting gear.
In this piece, we’re going to be looking at the workhorse of voice mics – the humble shotgun microphone. Most commonly seen inside the furry Blimp at the end of a boompole, they’re the go-to microphone for TV crews across the land. You also see consumer models like the Rode VideoMic attached to the top of many vlogging cameras.
Can they be used for podcasting though and if so, in what scenarios? Join us as we take a ride through the valley of the shotgun mic. Towards the end, we’ll also share our top picks at different price points.
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What is a Shotgun Microphone?
Shotgun microphones are a highly directional, thin, and long microphone which usually feature a supercardioid polar pattern to reject sound that isn’t directly pointed at them. They can be either condenser or dynamic, but most modern models feature a condenser capsule.
They are widely used for video work because they can be placed just out of shot and pointed just underneath the mouth of the speaker (normally towards the chin but sometimes closer to the chest if the lower frequencies are to be accentuated) to give the dialogue a pleasing sound. It’s the highly directional nature of them that allows this. If you placed a microphone with a different design and pickup pattern outside of the shot, you would pick up too much of the ambient noise relative to the voice audio, and the audio quality would suffer as a result.
Most major microphone manufacturers have at least one shotgun mic in their range with the likes of Rode having over a dozen different models at the time of writing.
As well as the supercardioid polar pattern, the design of the tube also helps to achieve the super narrow pick up window. It features a long and hollow tube called an interference tube that contains slots along its body. The main soundwaves being recorded (ie those coming from the source which the mic is pointing directly at) travel straight down the interference tube and into the diaphragm unimpeded. Off-axis sounds need to enter from the side and because of the slots, are broken up and therefore their strength at the point of hitting the diaphragm is much weaker.
Different Types of Shotgun Microphones
Shotgun mics come in various forms but the easiest way to classify them would probably be by the way they connect to the device receiving the audio signal.
The most common connections are XLR and 3.5mm jack. The vast majority of TV crews will be using professional XLR versions but there are some great sounding 3.5mm consumer models available which are primarily aimed at the DSLR video market and these are extremely popular with vloggers.
Shotgun mics come in varying lengths too. The length you choose will largely be determined by how much off-axis sound you want to try and reduce. The longer the interference tube, the more of this unwanted sound is reduced. However, the drawback is that it becomes harder to operate because the placement of it needs to be much more accurate to avoid any of the primary sounds (ie the speaker’s voice) being rejected.
A typical length for a professional level XLR shotgun mic is between 225mm and 250mm. The 3.5mm versions aimed at the vlogger market are generally shorter to make them more compact for camera mounting.
Using a Shotgun Mic to Record Your Podcast
So, now that we know what a shotgun microphone is, it’s time to explore using one to produce your podcast.
In reality, you might not use a shotgun mic as your primary podcasting microphone. If you’re recording in a room with good acoustic treatment, the wide range of microphones available to you would pose a real challenge to the humble shotgun mic.
That’s not to say that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t pick one as your primary mic – a lot of voiceover work is produced using a shotgun mic, especially when the aim is to achieve a deep, rich sound to the voice – it all depends on how well it works for your voice and how the results compare to other types of mics.
On this point, the video below offers a great explanation of using a shotgun mic for voice work.
If you choose not to use one as your primary mic but you do sometimes record interviews or features outdoors, that’s when you might want to consider investing in one as they really come into their own in those scenarios.
Handheld with a handle and suspension system, they’re great for capturing discussions and snippets from multiple people without having to mic everyone up individually. Not only would this be incredibly expensive but also a hassle if you’re recording a feature at a trade show for example and are quickly going from stand to stand, talking to different people. With a shotgun mic you can point the mic in the direction of the speaker and as long as you’re not too far away, capture nice sounding audio (plus a lot of the background noise will be rejected).
How to Choose a Shotgun Microphone
Budget will, of course, play into your decision-making process but there are also a few other things you need to consider to make sure that you get the right product for your particular needs.
- Connectivity – does your digital recorder have XLR inputs or just 3.5mm?
- Phantom power – can your digital recorder supply 48v phantom power, or do you need to look for a shotgun mic that takes a battery? If that’s the case, and you’re looking for an XLR version, take a look at the Rode NTG2 (Amazon)
- Accessories – make sure you buy something that’s well supported with accessories both from the manufacturer and from third party brands. Replacement deadcats that fit properly in case the original gets lost and replacement shock mounts are the two main ones
- Whether it’s multifunctional – do you ever intend to use it with a Blimp for example? If so, an XLR mic will be required. Want to get into vlogging? A 3.5mm shotgun mic would probably be the better option for this
What are the Best Shotgun Microphones for Podcasting?
In the list of recommended products below, we’ve detailed budget, mid-range, and premium options for both XLR and 3.5mm jack mics. Some links point to Amazon. Please note that if you use any of those links, we may earn a small commission from the retailer at no extra cost to you.
Budget – Rode NTG1
The Rode NTG1 is a great sounding budget XLR shotgun mic. It features an 80Hz high-pass filter, has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz and also a great signal to noise ratio.
The sound it produces is clean and crisp, and the signal output is fairly strong meaning that you shouldn’t need to crank up your preamps which will help to keep noise levels low.
It comes with a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty and can be found here on Amazon.
Mid-range – Rode NTG3
Another one from the Rode range, the NTG3 is the company’s professional broadcast shotgun mic, aimed at film, TV, and news crews.
Because of this, the unit is sealed to make it weatherproof which will allow for use in a more diverse range of outdoor conditions, a real plus for professional use.
In terms of the sound, it’s warm and rich, and it has a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz. The unit comes in two color options – a nickel-plated finish or a matte black.
See Rode’s website for more information.
Premium – Sennheiser MKH 416
This high-end shotgun mic is probably the industry standard for professional use. You’ll find it at the end of many boom poles and also in the studios of a lot of voice over artists who it’s also hugely popular with.
Off-axis noise rejection is superb as is the low level of self-noise. The clarity and tone of the audio is fantastic as is the build quality with its all-metal body.
The frequency response range is the same as the NTG3 at 40Hz to 20kHz. It’s worth pointing out that if you’re looking to have that warm, intimate, radio-like sound for your podcast, this mic does a great job of producing that but it’s probably more suited to those with a deeper voice. That sound will be harder to achieve with this mic if you have a higher-pitched voice.
See more information and get the latest price over at Amazon.
Budget – Takstar SGC-600
For the price, this mic delivers great performance. The build quality is good and it looks very sleek.
It has a high-pass filter, a gain switch, and is powered with a single AA battery. The frequency response is 50Hz – 16kHz and the sound it produces is clear and natural.
If you’re looking for a very low cost 3.5mm shotgun mic that will still give you a good sound, look no further. The unit is available here on Amazon.
One drawback to this mic is the lack of deadcat options available. As mentioned above, choosing a mic with a range of accessories makes sense. However, if you plan to use this mic mainly indoors then it’s still a great budget option.
Mid-range – Rode VideoMic
The VideoMic has been part of Rode’s range in various guises since 2004. Although the Pro version came around in 2010, the original VideoMic continued to be popular due to its price point being lower than that of the VideoMic Pro.
The latest iteration features a Rycote Lyre shock mount, a two-step high pass filter, and a -10dB and -20dB level PAD.
The frequency response is 40Hz to 20kHz and the unit is powered with a 9v battery.
Check out Rode’s website for the full spec.
Premium – Rode VideoMic NTG
A couple of steps up from the VideoMic is Rode’s VideoMic NTG. Launched at the back end of 2019, this is the company’s flagship 3.5mm camera mount shotgun microphone.
It uses the same acoustic design as the NTG5 shotgun mic which is of broadcast quality.
As well as the 3.5mm jack, it can also be used as a USB microphone which is great for those who record straight into their DAW and don’t want, or have a separate audio interface.
The frequency response is very flat which gives it a nice natural sound and the frequency range is good at 20Hz to 20kHz.
If you’re looking for a high performance 3.5mm shotgun mic, this is a great option and relative to some high-end XLR versions still represents great value for money.
Hopefully, you now have a good idea about what shotgun mics are and what they can add to your podcast, along with a good idea about some of the best models available.
Because of their versatility, we’d always recommend having a shotgun mic in your kit bag, even if it turns out not to be your primary podcasting microphone.