Do you need to record audio, but want to minimize background noise?
Using the right microphone the first time can help save you hours of editing later! Save yourself the headache of chopping out unwanted dog barks, neighborhood kids, low-flying aircraft, or traffic from your recording!
In this article, we’ll list the top microphones for recording audio in noisy places and reducing background noise.
We’ll also talk about some techniques you can use to help reduce noise on your recording.
What is the best microphone for a noisy environment?
The Best microphone for a noisy environment is the Shure SM7B. This microphone rocks thanks to its ability to record with a very low noise floor, reducing background noise extremely well.
The Shure SM7B is a cardioid microphone, which is the best polar pattern for recording a source in high quality without picking up excessive unwanted noise.
The Shure SM7B is also optimized for electronic hum reduction against interference from computer monitors or LED lights. It is also fitted with a high-quality pop filter which will help reduce explosive breath sounds (like ‘B’ and ‘P’).
Let’s go through five different microphones and their pros and cons to help you decide which one solves your problem.
Product 1: Shure SM7B Large Diaphragm directional cardioid dynamic microphone
The Shure SM7B is a large-diaphragm, cardioid dynamic microphone notorious for being able to handle loud vocals and instruments without picking up too much ambient noise.
This microphone is optimized to reject noise interference such as the electromagnetic hum from electrical equipment or lights.
The SM7B microphone is fitted with a high-quality pop filter, successfully reducing input from explosive breaths during singing or podcast narration.
Shure Microphones has a strong reputation for producing some of the most popular and high-quality mics worldwide.
The Shure SM7B is perfect for anyone looking to record a podcast or record loud rock or metal vocals and instruments. The build is sturdy and robust with chunky aluminium and steel components.
It also has pretty good frequency response – official specifications state 50hz to 20,000Hz. In reality, like most dynamic microphones, it lakes some of the sparkle in the very high end. It is one of the cleanest and clearest dynamic microphones and has been used by many popular podcasters and singers. Urban Legend reports that Michael Jackson used the SM7 on the Thriller album!
The SM7B can go a long way in terms of versatility when paired with a good external pre-amp, successfully recording softer and more intimate vocals too.
What we like about the Shure SM7B
- Sound quality: The Shure SM7B is renowned for its exceptional sound quality. Its flat, smooth frequency response captures vocals and instruments with accuracy.
- Versatility: While popular for vocals, the SM7B is also great for recording instruments, including electric guitar amps and drums.
- Background noise rejection: The SM7B’s tight cardioid polar pattern significantly reduces background noise and minimizes room reflections, ensuring clean and focused recordings.
- Durable build and aesthetics: Sturdy heavy-duty construction with a timeless and elegant appearance that has become synonymous with professional audio equipment. Its iconic design, characterized by a rounded grille and a sleek, black body
- Internal shock mount: The SM7B features an internal shock mount, reducing mechanical noise and vibrations, resulting in a cleaner audio signal.
- Built-In pop filter that helps prevent plosive sounds (“p” and “b” sounds)
Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Price: Compared to entry-level microphones, the Shure SM7B is more expensive, which could be a consideration for those on a tight budget.
- Size and Weight: The SM7B is relatively large and heavy compared to some other microphones. It is usually used with a stand.
Product 2: Rode PodMic for podcasting and vocal recording
Introducing the PodMic, a top-tier end-address microphone designed for broadcasting, podcasting and vocal recording.
Dynamic Capsule Technology: The PodMic incorporates a high-quality dynamic capsule that is specifically engineered to capture speech with exceptional clarity and precision. This advanced technology allows the microphone to focus solely on your voice, effectively minimizing surrounding noise and interference.
Noise Reduction Features: Thanks to its excellent noise rejection capabilities, the PodMic can significantly reduce the need for extensive post-production editing. This saves you valuable time and effort, allowing you to concentrate on creating compelling content.
Cardioid Polar Pattern: Its tight cardioid polar pattern is a key element in noise reduction. This unique design ensures that the PodMic primarily picks up sound from directly in front of the microphone, while significantly reducing sounds coming from the sides and rear. As a result, ambient noise, echoes, and unwanted room reverberations are dramatically attenuated, providing you with a clean and clear recording.
Whether you’re livestreaming on platforms like Twitch or creating a professional-grade podcast, this microphone is your ultimate companion.
Its exceptional performance is made possible by a high-quality dynamic capsule that faithfully captures the intricacies of your voice, bringing out its richness and depth.
What we like about the Rode PodMic
- Sound Quality: The Rode PodMic offers excellent sound quality, especially for its price range. Its dynamic capsule captures speech with clarity, warmth, and a rich tonal balance, making it well-suited for podcasting and voice recordings.
- Noise Rejection: Tight cardioid polar pattern excels at rejecting background noise and off-axis sound
- Build Quality and Appearance: Well built with durable materials, and classy looking
- Value for Money: The Rode PodMic is often praised for its affordability, offering broadcast-grade performance at a reasonable price compared to other professional-grade microphones.
- Mounting Options: It comes with an integrated shock mount that helps minimize vibrations and handling noise, contributing to improved audio quality during recordings.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Narrower frequency response compared to condenser microphones.
- No Headphone Monitoring: Unlike some USB microphones, the PodMic doesn’t have a built-in headphone output for real-time monitoring. You’ll need to set up monitoring separately through your audio interface or mixer.
- Lack of Accessories: Some users might find the included accessories insufficient. For example, a windscreen or pop filter might be necessary to further improve audio quality, especially in challenging recording environments.
Product 3: Shure SM57 dynamic microphone
Another timeless microphone from Shure comes in at number 3 on our list, the ubiquitous SM57!
The Shure SM57 is a good choice for a noisy environment being a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. This means it is very directional and picks up audio primarily from the front of the microphone while rejecting background noise from the sides and the rear.
This focused pickup pattern helps to isolate the desired sound source, such as a speaker’s voice or a musical instrument, from the surrounding noise in a noisy environment.
The SM57 is known for its robust build quality, making it durable and suitable for use in demanding conditions. It can handle high sound pressure levels without distorting, making it ideal for recording loud sources in noisy environments like live concerts or recording sessions with multiple instruments.
What we like about the Shure SM57 for Noisy Environments
- Excellent Noise Rejection: The Shure SM57’s cardioid polar pattern provides effective noise rejection from the sides and rear, allowing it to isolate the desired sound source and minimize background noise in noisy environments.
- Durable Build: The SM57 is built to withstand rough handling and challenging conditions, making it a reliable choice for live performances and recording sessions in noisy environments.
- High Sound Pressure Level Handling: The SM57 can handle high sound pressure levels without distorting, making it suitable for recording loud sources in noisy settings, such as amplifiers and drums.
- Versatility: The SM57 is a versatile microphone that can be used for a wide range of applications, including vocals, instruments, and amplifiers, making it adaptable to different situations in noisy environments.
- Affordability: The SM57 is very affordable, providing excellent value for its performance and durability.
Flaws of the Sm57 (but not dealbreakers)
- Sensitive to Plosives: Like many cardioid microphones, the SM57 can be sensitive to plosive sounds (e.g., “p” and “b” sounds). Using a pop filter or careful microphone placement can help mitigate this issue.
- Limited Ambient Sound: While the SM57 excels at isolating the desired sound source, it might not capture much of the ambient sound or room characteristics that some other microphones, like condensers, are better at capturing.
Product 4: The Electro-Voice RE20 Microphone
The Electro-Voice RE20 microphone offers several features that make it a great choice for use in noisy environments. First, it incorporates Electro-Voice’s Variable-D technology, designed to minimize the proximity effect and maintain consistent sound quality regardless of the microphone’s distance from the sound source.
This technology effectively reduces the pickup of ambient noise and unwanted low-frequency rumble, making it well-suited for noisy settings.
The RE20 is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, focused on capturing sound from the front while attenuating sound from the sides and rear. This helps reduce background noise and contributes to cleaner recordings in challenging acoustic environments.
The high sound pressure level (SPL) handling of the RE20 is a significant advantage. It can capture loud sources, such as guitar amplifiers or drums, without distorting, making it an excellent choice for recording dynamic and powerful instruments in noisy settings as well as recording vocals.
In summary, the Electro-Voice RE20’s Variable-D technology, cardioid polar pattern, internal shock mounting, robust build, and high SPL handling combine to make it a top-notch microphone for recording in noisy environments. Whether for broadcasting, live performances, or studio recording, the RE20 excels in delivering clean and professional audio even amidst challenging noise conditions.
What we like about the Electro-Voice RE20 for noisy environments
Superb Sound Quality: The Electro-Voice RE20 delivers a natural and transparent sound with a flat frequency response, making it suitable for a wide range of audio applications.
Variable-D Technology: The RE20 features Variable-D technology, reducing proximity effect and providing consistent sound quality regardless of the microphone’s distance from the sound source.
Cardioid Polar Pattern: The cardioid pickup pattern offers focused sound capture from the front while attenuating sound from the sides and rear, providing excellent off-axis noise rejection.
Internal Shock Mount: It includes an internal shock mount that reduces vibrations and handling noise, ensuring clean and undisturbed recordings.
High SPL Handling: The RE20 can handle high sound pressure levels without distortion, making it ideal for recording loud sources like guitar amplifiers and percussion instruments as well as recording vocals.
Sturdy Build Quality: The microphone’s rugged design and durable construction ensure reliability and longevity even in demanding environments.
Pop Filter and Windscreen: The RE20 comes with an integrated pop filter to reduce plosive sounds and a removable windscreen to minimize wind noise and other environmental interferences.
Potential flaws of the Electro-Voice RE20
Price: The RE20 is relatively more expensive compared to some other dynamic microphones, which may be a consideration for those on a tight budget.
Requires Good Preamp: As a dynamic microphone, the RE20 requires a preamp with enough gain to achieve optimal recording levels. Using a high-quality preamp is essential to get the best performance from the microphone.
Product 5: Plantronics Voyager 5200 BlueTooth Earpiece with Noise Cancelling
And now for something completely different…!
For those looking for a noise-canceling microphone on the go with BlueTooth capabilities, the Plantronics Voyager 5200 is an excellent choice.
A Bluetooth earpiece with noise-canceling technology like the Plantronics Voyager 5200 can make you sound like you are in a quiet office during calls instead of out on the move.
The device features four digital noise-canceling microphones to enhance voice quality and advanced voice-recognizing technology to single out the speaker’s voice and cancel out background noise for the listener.
The earpiece is designed for optimal comfort, tested on a range of ear shapes and sizes, and has an impressive range of up to 30 meters. It has a long battery life and plenty of talk time for all day use.
The headset incorporates WindSmart technology, which helps minimize wind noise during outdoor use, making it suitable for taking calls while walking or in windy conditions.
The Plantronics Voyager 5200 is perfect for anyone needing to make mobile and skype calls regularly, especially in a noisy or outside in a windy environment.
What we like about the Plantronics Voyager 5200
Noise-Canceling Technology: reduces background noise and ensures clear audio
WindSmart Technology: The headset incorporates WindSmart technology, which helps minimize wind noise
Comfort and Fit: The Voyager 5200 is designed for comfort and extended wear.
Smart Sensor Technology: The headset includes smart sensor technology that can automatically answer calls when you put the headset on your ear and redirect audio to the headset when worn, making it easy to manage calls hands-free.
Long Battery Life: The Voyager 5200 boasts a decent battery life, providing several hours of talk time on a single charge, which is beneficial for all-day usage.
What we didn’t like
Price: Compared to some other Bluetooth headsets, the Voyager 5200 can be relatively more expensive.
Fit for Everyone: While the Voyager 5200 comes with multiple ear tips and loops, the fit might not be optimal for everyone, and some users may find it uncomfortable during extended use.
Bonus Product 1: ASUS Ai Noise Canceling Adapter
If you already have a pair of headphones with a built-in mic that you love and don’t want to replace just to reduce background noise during use, then this little device is for you.
The ASUS Ai Noise-Canceling Mic Adapter is a revolutionary device that can easily fit into your pocket on the go and is compatible with computers, gaming consoles and mobiles. The bundle comes with a USB 2.0 adapter for PC and it works with any 3.5mm headset.
This adapter effectively removes background noise from your voice input with a tiny Ai chip within the device, meaning that it doesn’t need your computer to work, the technology is inside it. The chip inside the device is programmed to combat a remarkable 50 million different types of background noises!
The tiny, but mighty, ASUS Ai noise-canceling mic adapter is definitely worth the $30-$40 you pay for it, not to mention that ASUS is one of the leading motherboard and gaming brands in the world.
Things we like about the ASUS Ai Noise cancelling adapter
Noise Canceling Technology: The Ai Noise Canceling Adapter utilizes advanced noise-canceling algorithms to filter out background noise and improve the clarity of your voice during calls and recordings.
Easy Plug-and-Play: The adapter is a simple plug-and-play device, making it easy to use
Compatibility: The adapter is designed to work with a wide range of devices, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets, as long as they have a USB-C port or an adapter.
Physical Mute Button: The adapter features a physical mute button, allowing you to instantly mute or unmute your microphone during calls without having to rely on software controls.
Things we don’t like
It’s not a microphone!: You’ll still need a microphone or headset of some sort!
Audio Quality: Some users might experience a slight decrease in audio quality or loss of some low-end frequencies due to the noise-canceling processing.
Requires USB-C Port: The adapter is compatible with devices that have a USB-C port, so users with devices lacking USB-C connectivity would need an additional adapter.
Battery Drain: When using the adapter with smartphones or tablets, it may consume additional battery power, potentially impacting the device’s battery life.
Bonus Product 2: Lavalier/lapel mic
A lav mic, short for lavalier microphone, is a small and lightweight microphone designed to be worn or clipped onto a person’s clothing, typically near the collar or lapel. It is commonly used in various audio recording and broadcasting applications to capture clear and hands-free audio from the person speaking or performing.
Lavalier microphones are favored in scenarios where a traditional handheld microphone would be impractical or visually obtrusive. They provide a more discreet and unobtrusive solution for capturing audio, making them popular in interviews, public speaking engagements, theater performances, video production, and live broadcasting.
Due to their close proximity to the speaker’s mouth, lav mics prioritize the desired sound source over ambient noise, resulting in clearer and more intelligible audio recordings, even in noisy environments.
Here are a few reasons why a lav microphone is a good option for some audio situations with lots of background noise.
Proximity to Sound Source: Lavalier microphones are typically placed close to the speaker’s mouth or the desired sound source. This close proximity allows the mic to capture the sound directly from the source while reducing the pickup of ambient noise in the environment.
Hands-Free Operation: Lavalier microphones are typically worn on the speaker’s clothing or attached to their collar, providing a hands-free operation. This is particularly useful in noisy environments where the speaker needs to move around or interact with others while speaking.
Directional Wind Protection: Many lav mics come with foam windscreens or built-in wind protection to reduce wind noise caused by movement or drafts in the environment.
Flexibility and Discretion: Lavalier microphones are discreet and less visually obtrusive, making them suitable for interviews, live performances, and on-camera applications in noisy environments.
Can I use a microphone isolation shield to reduce noise?
Yes, using a microphone isolation shield can help reduce noise in certain recording scenarios. A microphone isolation shield, also known as a reflection filter or vocal booth, is a portable acoustic treatment designed to surround the microphone and create a controlled recording environment.
Using a microphone isolation shield while recording can help reduce background noise along with natural resonance and echoes that are picked up from the room.
For vocal recordings, an isolation shield can improve the vocal presence and reduce the need for excessive gain adjustments. This can lead to a cleaner signal and better signal-to-noise ratio.
How do I get rid of unwanted background noise when recording
Getting rid of unwanted background noise when recording can significantly improve the quality of your audio. Here are some tips and techniques to help you reduce or eliminate background noise:
- Choose a Quiet Location: Select a quiet space for recording to minimize background noise in the first place. Avoid areas with HVAC systems, traffic noise, or other sources of disturbance.
- Use the right Microphone: Invest in a high-quality microphone that is designed to reduce background noise. A directional or cardioid microphone is preferable, as it mainly captures sound from the front and reduces noise from the sides and rear.
- Reduce Noise at the Source: Try to identify and minimize the sources of background noise before recording. Turn off fans, appliances, or any other noise-producing devices if possible. the noise produced by these can be surprisingly loud on your audio tracks!
- Use a Pop Filter: A pop filter placed in front of the microphone can help reduce popping sounds and wind noise caused by plosive sounds (such as “p” and “b”).
- Acoustic Treatment: If you have a dedicated recording space, consider adding acoustic treatment, such as foam panels, bass traps, or diffusers. This can help reduce ambient reverb and echo. If this is not possible, a noise shield is an excellent option.
- Record in a Blanket Fort: If you’re in a pinch and don’t have access to soundproofing materials, you can create a DIY blanket fort to record inside. This can help absorb some of the background noise.
- Use Noise Reduction Software: After recording, use noise reduction software or plugins to clean up the audio. Audacity is a popular free audio editing tool that includes a noise-reduction feature. Professional tools like Adobe Audition and Izotope RX also offer more advanced noise-reduction capabilities.
- Edit and Cut: In post-production, carefully edit your audio to remove any sections with excessive background noise. Use crossfades or fade-ins/fade-outs to smooth out the edits so they sound natural.
- Consider Noise Gates: Noise gates are plugins or tools that can automatically mute or reduce audio below a certain volume threshold. They can be helpful in cutting out low-level background noise during pauses or silent moments in the recording.
Use care and a critical listening ear with a noise gate to ensure that the audio track sounds natural as the gate cuts in and out.
- Use a power conditioner to reduce background noise. A power conditioner filters out electromagnetic interference and voltage fluctuations, preventing these disturbances from affecting the audio signal and resulting in a cleaner and quieter recording or performance.
- Check your audio cables. Bad connections in audio cables cause noise due to signal interruption, impedance mismatches, and electrical interference, leading to issues such as hum, buzzing, and static.
What are the different types of microphone technology?
There are two main types of microphones, dynamic, and condenser microphones. Each one records in a different way, one is more sensitive to high frequency and the other is better at recording low frequency.
Along with the types of microphones available, different microphones can have different polar patterns, which refers to the direction of recording and areas of sensitivity in the mics head.
What is a dynamic microphone?
Dynamic microphones transform sound into an electrical signal through electromagnetism. These microphones are generally built using a small coil of wire connected to a membrane, and a magnet surrounding the coil.
When sound is played to this microphone, the sound waves vibrate the coil and membrane to the rhythm of the sound frequency. With the magnet surrounding the coil, as it vibrates, it creates a small signal voltage, converting the sound into an electrical signal.
Dynamic microphones are quite robust, and are most commonly used on stage for live events, or recording situations. They don’t require an external power source.
These mics are also preferred when recording certain instruments like drums and guitar amps because they are less likely to sustain damage from overexertion in comparison to condenser mics.
What is a condenser microphone?
Sometimes referred to as capacitor microphones, these sophisticated mics are built very similarly to capacitors with two metal disks, one a fixed metal disk and one a movable gold-plated disk.
The disks vibrate when in contact with sound waves, producing an electrical current that is translated into sound electronically. The sound is naturally very quiet in these mics as they are so sensitive but work by using a built-in amplifier.
Condenser microphones are fragile and prone to damage with overexertion or mishandling. They are much better suited to in-studio recording environments.
These mics also come in multiple polar patterns including omnidirectional, cardioid, and bidirectional. Some condenser mics even come with all of the polar patterns and they have the option to switch between each pattern as needed. These are called multi-pattern condenser mics.
Condenser microphones are very sensitive to background noise, so if you have a problem with ambient sounds in your recording area, a dynamic microphone will be a better choice.
Condenser microphones are generally higher in price range and are more sensitive to higher frequencies in comparison to dynamic microphones. This means they will pick up more of the ‘sparkle’ and ‘sizzle’ from instruments like cymbals and acoustic guitars.
What is a cardioid polar pattern?
Cardioid, or directional microphones are the best choice for their ability to record only the desired sound directly in front of the pickup. Cardiod microphones reject background noise from the sides and rear of the microphone.
A polar pattern refers to the pattern of sensitivity that a mic has. In the case of the cardioid microphone, the pattern looks heart-shaped on a 2D axis. This means that these microphones are most sensitive to sound from the front, with medium sensitivity from the sides and next to no sensitivity from the back.
Thanks to this polar pattern, cardioid microphones are favored for live recording situations or situations with background noise.
However, these microphones are good for any recording situation where background noise is an issue.
What is an omnidirectional polar pattern?
Omnidirectional microphones simply record sound from every direction equally. The polar pattern for these mics is a perfect circle around the mic head.
An omnidirectional polar pattern means that no matter which direction the sound is coming from, including in two or more directions at once, the microphone will record the sound equally. This is very useful in situations where, for example, you need to record a band and a choir simultaneously.
It may sound very useful to use one of these mics, but they do have a big downside in situations where you need to record from a single direction. For example, for a public speaker with an audience, there will be a lot of unwanted background noise and voices in the recording.
If you struggle with a lot of background noise in your recordings, a unidirectional or a cardioid microphone will serve you much better and save you a lot of time in editing.
Every producer has different needs and different recording environments to work with. If you are having trouble with unwanted background noise bleeding into your recordings or just need a mic that can handle louder recording sessions, there is something out there for you.
How do I choose a microphone for a noisy environment?
Choosing the right microphone for a noisy environment requires careful consideration of several factors to ensure optimal performance. Here are some key steps to guide you in the selection process:
- Physical size: The size of the diaphragm can make a world of difference. Bigger means more sensitive, and smaller means more high-end. Choose which one is best for you.
- Type of Technology: A dynamic microphone with a cardiod polar pattern is usually best suited for recording situations where there is background noise
- Frequency Response: Choose a microphone with a frequency response tailored to your intended use. For voice recording, a microphone with a midrange emphasis can help cut through background noise, while a flatter response might be preferred for capturing instruments in a noisy environment.
- Noise-reducing features & accessories: Pay attention to additional accessories like shock mounts and windscreens that can further help reduce handling noise and wind interference in noisy environments.
- Connectivity and compatibility: Make sure to choose a mic with the right connectivity for your equipment. Common connections are USB which will plug straight into most computres or XLR which will connect into most audio interfaces and mixers.
- Design Aesthetics: If you plan to film yourself or clients using the mic make sure that you are happy with the appearance of the mic.
- Noise Reduction in Post-Processing: Keep in mind that while the right microphone choice is crucial, post-processing techniques, such as using noise reduction software, can further improve audio quality and reduce background noise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better – A dynamic or condenser microphone for reducing background noise?
Dynamic microphones are generally more effective at reducing background noise due to their inherent design.
They have a simple construction with a moving coil attached to a diaphragm, which is less sensitive to ambient sounds. The moving coil generates a lower output voltage, making dynamic microphones less sensitive to subtle sounds in the environment.
A polar pattern helps reject background noise also.
Does a pop filter reduce background noise?
No it does not. A pop filter will reduce the loud consonant sounds like ‘p’s and ‘b’s which generate a lot of air flow from the mouth. These sounds can cause big ‘pops’ which are disproportionately loud when a vocalist is singing or speaking close to a microphone.
A pop filter won’t reduce background noise from the room or nearby.
What are the pros and cons of a condenser microphone?
Condenser microphones are a great choice depending on your needs. Below are some pros and cons to consider before buying one.
- Wide frequency range
- Good at recording high end
- Come with various polar pattern directions (cardioid, multidirectional, omnidirectional)
- Needs an external power source (phantom power source or battery)
- Sensitive to damage from overexertion
- Can be costly
When recording audio in a noisy environment, choosing the right microphone is crucial to achieving high-quality results.
Dynamic microphones with cardioid polar patterns are excellent choices for noise rejection, as they focus on capturing sound from the front while minimizing ambient noise from the sides and rear. Lavalier microphones are also effective, offering proximity to the sound source and hands-free operation.
Employing proper microphone placement and using features like shock mounts and windshields can further reduce unwanted noise.
Emphasizing close-miking techniques, investing in quality preamps, and considering noise reduction software during post-processing are essential practices to optimize audio clarity and minimize disturbances in noisy recording scenarios.