About late September / early October each In the year I got a Slack message from Greg asking if I was interested in writing a gift guide (or two). “Sure,” I say, I never anticipate how much effort there will be in the next couple of months for hardware news/reviews. Putting together a news report like this has the crucial benefit of forgetting the pain that the whole thing can be.
I used to write “Best Gifts for Travelers” every year. Then this global pandemic happened, at which point I moved on to the “best gifts for working from home.” Appropriately, this year I have devoted myself to both, as I and the others return to the world with caution.
My process of putting these together is to get whatever potential products I can get my hands on. It’s easier said than done sometimes, but an important part of recommending products is trying them out for yourself. I know it sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised.
The past few years have been a quiet revolution for teleconferencing. Some people get perfect content with their computers’ built-in camera and microphone, whether it’s for simplicity or price. Honestly, that’s fine for 99% of people 99% of the time. I got my hands on these two for two reasons. First, I review tools for a living. Second, I’ve been hosting a podcast for less than 10 years and the pandemic has required a switch from personal to remote.
For a variety of reasons, I did not return.
I’ve written many times about setting up a portable podcast personally on these pages. It was the result of several years of refinement through trial and error. Honestly, assembling my home setup wasn’t all that different. In particular, I’ve gone through a number of different USB microphones.
If I had more money and time, I would probably have a more professional auto front with a proper XLR microphone. Instead, my level of commitment was to search for the perfect platonic USB microphone. So far, I’ve been happily recommending the Audio Technica ATR2100-USB. It’s a great-sounding joystick mic, with USB-C and XLR inputs not unlike the kind I used for face-to-face interviews.
I’m biased towards directional mics for a number of reasons, and I’ve always thought they should be the industry standard, especially for beginners. Here’s the dirty little secret in all of those: You can get pretty good sound from most $100+ USB mics (and many below), but the interface is almost on purpose difficult.
Many of these microphones feature three, four, or five directional settings. Beginners will almost invariably pick the wrong one, mistakenly turn the gain to full power and end up sounding worse than they might have with a pair of earphones or the default system mic. The ATR2100-USB fixed this with a simple out-of-the-box setup. But Shure MV7 takes things even further.
The design feels like a more compact version of the legendary studio/podcast SM7B. I wouldn’t say it sounds as good as a proper studio mic with a proper studio interface, but I will say that I doubt most people will be able to tell the difference. The MV7’s sound is rich, full, and warm – everything you want from an acoustic mic. Like the ATR2100-USB, it has an XLR and USB-C output. However, given how good the sound is, I don’t feel any need to switch to the former.
Like Audio Technica, it just works. Plug it in, make sure your software gets to it and you should be good to go. Even better, there’s a touchpad with green lights that lets you adjust the volume on the go. There is also a headphone input if you want to monitor your voice in real time through the microphone.
Some negatives. The first is the price. At $250, you can get a good microphone for half the price. This is, however, a great microphone. If sound is important to you, splurge a little. The second has more to do with vectorial design. If you shift a lot in your seat while speaking, this may not be the mic for you. I do that sometimes, and just try to force myself to be more aware of these movements.
Third, it is rather heavy. If it’s only going to live on your desk at home, don’t worry. It mounts either on a microphone stand (I have a small one that I use) or on an arm. For an additional $20, the company will throw in a mini tripod. If you’re planning on taking it on the road, it might be a bit more of a hassle, but it’s far from a deal-breaker, especially considering the small size (just remember to pack a stand).
I’ve been recording episodes of my podcast exclusively on MV7 and haven’t looked back since.
#Shure #MV7 #perfect #USB #microphone