Many people have a common complaint about their condenser mics. They find that occasionally, their condenser microphone is too quiet. Most of us struggle with this at some point.
The most common reasons why your condenser microphone is too quiet include incorrectly set gain, lack of phantom power, issues with input, or cable, mic positioning, or incorrect direct monitoring settings. All of those can be tested in 15 minutes to diagnose the source of your problem.
When it comes to recording in a studio, top professionals, who have access to a well-soundproofed recording location, always choose condenser microphones. Condenser microphones are perfect for capturing the fine details of sound, which helps recreate your natural voice on a podcast. Their fast transient response and their higher dynamic range make condenser mic indispensable for voice artists.
It is possible for your condenser mic to become silent for a number of reasons. But it’s not a problem that you cannot fix. In this post, we will discuss all the possible reason that causes a condenser microphone to act this way, and how you can fix them before recording.
Top Reasons Why Your Condenser Microphone is Too Quiet
1. Low Input Gain is the main reason why your condenser mic is too quiet
If you are new to podcasting (or sound recording), you may not be aware that all microphones have barely audible signals. And they need an intervention to increase the audio gain.
For beginners, the gain is the level to which the audio is boosted. When the gain is low, the condenser mic is quiet. You need to increase the gain to a level where the sound is loud and clear, but there is no distortion.
And that is where the need for a preamp arises. You need a preamp for increasing the audio gain. You can find standalone preamps for your mic. But you would be glad to know that you can find mixers or audio interfaces with a built-in preamp. If you are just starting out and have yet to invest in recording equipment, this would be a good choice for you. Mixers and interfaces with a built-in preamp come with a knob that you can turn to increase the gain.
However, don’t just rotate the knob to the highest level. If you are an amateur, let me tell you how to go about it:
- You need to keep an eye on the VU meter as you gradually increase the gain.
- Raise the gain till the VU meter is green; the green color indicates that the sound is loud but not distorted.
- This process is called gain staging. If you keep increasing the gain further, the VU will turn red, showing that the sound has become distorted.
- We don’t want sound distortion, so you have to stop before we reach this point.
Occasionally, your audio interface preamp may not be powerful enough to help your condenser mic. In that situation, you should include an additional inline preamp.
The table below shows top inline preamps, but be careful, make sure that a preamp for a condenser microphone passes the phantom power. In this case, for a condenser mic, only the FetHead Phantom (check current price) will be the right choice. Both FetHead preamps are almost identical so carefully read the description before you buy it.
|Cloudlifter CL-1||FetHead Phantom||FetHead|
|Best suited for||dynamic mic||condenser mic||dynamic mic|
|Form factor||stand-alone device||direct mic plugin||direct mic plugin|
|dB gain added||+25 dB||+18 dB||+27 dB|
|Phantom power passing||no||yes||no|
|check price||check price||check price|
2. No Phanotm Power Supply
Dynamic microphones don’t need a power supply to work; just connect them to a preamp and you can get started. However, condenser microphones require a stable power supply to work. Condenser mic needs 48V of power to work; this power requirement is also called phantom power.
If there is no power supply or low voltage, the mic is going to stay quiet. You need to check if your microphone is receiving power. You can choose a mixer, preamp, or audio interface that has the option of supplying phantom power to a condenser microphone. The device will have an XLR cable to connect to the mic, and a switch labeled ‘phantom power’ or ‘48V’ that will supply the required power to the mic. Some condenser mics have internal batteries instead, in that case, check and make sure the batteries are not discharged before you go ahead with your podcast recording.
3. Not Connected to Mic Input
Sometimes people mistakenly connect the wrong wires on their hardware. This could be a possible reason for your mic being too quiet. Mixers and interfaces usually have three inputs. There is mic input that receives the signals from the mic. The instrument input is meant for receiving signals from musical instruments (like a bass guitar). And the line input receives line-level signals, which are already strong and amplified, unlike mic signals.
If you connect the mic to line input or instrument input, the equipment would not amplify the incoming signals. So if your condenser microphone is too quiet, check if all the cables have been plugged in the right inputs.
Also, make sure that the cable sits firmly in its connectors. A loose cable will not transmit the signal correctly, and may even cause an audible hum.
4. Using Wrong Audio Cable
When you connect your condenser mic to the mic input, you have to specifically use an XLR cable. XLR cable is suited for devices that need phantom power to run, because of their unique design. An XLR cable has three pins; one of them is longer while the other two are short in equal in length. When you connect the XLR cable to the source, there is no electrical shorting as the two short pins connect to the source simultaneously and the circuit gets completed.
Line and instrument inputs use a ¼” TS cable, which may or may not work with your mic. It is definitely not recommended to use a TS cable with phantom power. This is because it’s the connector here is sequential, which means each pin connects to the source at a different time. This leads to electrical shorting whenever you connect or detach the cable. Due to this shorting, the phantom power gets interrupted, and your mic cannot function properly. It can also cause permanent damage to your mic.
So be careful when you set up the recording equipment to get the desired output and to protect your recording equipment.
5. Using a Defective Audio Cable
If your condenser mic is too quiet, although you have double-checked your set-up. Perhaps the audio cable is no longer functional. It is common for audio cables to become defective after a while. If you purchase a cheap cable wire, it will last for a short while. If you bought a high-quality wire, it will last for years.
Weak or intermittent signals are the first signs of a cable wire dying a slow death. And of course, the wire may show signs of wear and tear. When you notice that, keep the replacement ready so that your podcast recording doesn’t get halted due to faulty equipment.
|LyxPro Quad||Canare L-4E6S||Mogami Gold Studio|
|Number of conductors||4||4||4|
|Strands per conductor||40||40||n/a|
|Overall evaluation||budget||mid-range||premium recommended|
|check price||check price||check price|
6. Attenuation Pad is Switched On
Some condensers come with an attenuation pad. You can also find it on some mixers and interfaces. And if the pad is turned on, your mic would stay quiet. Now you would ask, why do condensers have pads in the first place? Well, let’s figure that out.
A pad is a Passive Attenuation Device consisting of resistors that protect the circuit from getting damaged by audio signals. The pad performs the exact opposite function of an amplifier. It helps the mic handle increased sound pressure, but it results in quietening the mic. It reduces the sound by 10 to 20 dB, by bringing down the signals that enter the amplifying circuit. This might appear counterproductive, but it helps in protecting the equipment and preventing sound distortion.
However, if you can’t hear any audio, the signals might already be too weak, and you can safely turn off the attenuation pad.
7. Mic Position can make your condenser microphone too quiet
You might be overlooking the mic position or your position with respect to the mic.
Here is a huge guide with many tips on mic position, but the main two scenarios include:
Standing/ Sitting Away from the Mic – If you are a new podcaster, you might be making this mistake. You don’t have to stick your mouth to the mic, but you also don’t have to be too far away. The distance between you and your mic is more critical if you are using a condenser mic, and it should always be between 6 inches and 12 inches.
Condenser microphones have a backplate that vibrates in response to sound. It converts sound waves into audio signals, so when you are too far from the mic, the signals generated are weak. So before you hit the record button, check the sound and assess if you are satisfied with the volume of the output.
Standing/ Sitting in the Wrong Direction – Some condenser mics can receive sound from all directions. They are called uni-direction mics. If you have one, then you don’t have to stand or sit in a particular direction to record. But not all condenser mics can do this, some of them are directional. This means they can receive sound only from one direction. So you have to be particular about your relative direction to the mic when you record.
If you are recording from the wrong direction, the sound would be too low. Check the specifications of your mic before you purchase, and do a mock recording before the actual one. That would help you figure out how exactly you want to position your mic, and how you want to stand or sit for recording.
8. Your mic isn’t too quiet, you are just monitoring it incorrectly
The last tip I have for you is pretty basic but when we are in a rush we make simple mistakes. You can have all the right equipment, set up your mic correctly but still have your condenser microphone too quiet.
Always when recording you should perform this simple checkup, to avoid routine mistakes:
- your direct monitoring is on on your audio interface or mixer,
- knob for direct monitoring is not turned all the way down,
- you have enabled direct monitoring in your recording DAW,
- the output in your DAW is sending signal (fader is not all the way down).
What are the best sounding budget condenser microphones?
1. MXL 990 – the best budget condenser mic for podcasting
MXL 990 is the best budget condenser microphone for podcasting (a good alternative to Rode NT1-A; an upgraded version of MXL 770)
- It is budget-friendly. You can find it for around $80.
- It is also offered in a set for around $110. The MXL 990 set also includes a shock mount with integrated pop-filter, 20′ XLR cable, a desk swivel, and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
- It provides the flexibility of the XLR connection to use an audio interface or preamp.
- It has the necessary specs providing a quality recording (for its price point, it has a high-quality small-diaphragm and cardioid polar pattern).
- Good price to quality ratio. Balance sound.
- Consider the MXL 990 if you want a good condenser microphone, and your budget is limited.
2. Blue Yeti – popular choice for many beginner podcasters
Blue Yeti is probably the best in the Yeti mics lineup. It is much more affordable than the Pro model and delivers almost the same sound quality. The biggest advantage of the Yeti Pro is the availability of both USB and XLR connections.
- Blue Yeti provides good audio quality, is easy to use and has a unique design.
- Visually distinct, looks good if you need to record a video.
- Yeti gives us a beautiful audio resolution out of available competitive USB microphones.
- It has four adjustable pattern settings: cardioid (recommended for podcasting), omnidirectional, stereo, and bi-directional. This can be useful if you want to use this microphone for other uses as well.
3. Mackie EleMent EM-USB
Mackie is a high-quality audio gear manufacturer. The EM-USB captures precise audio. Being a condenser microphone, it requires a quiet recording location. Its solid construction and affordable price make it an awesome entry-level podcasting microphone. It comes with an ok tripod.
Recording quality is very good at this price point, while the included accessories and bundled software make for a very well-rounded package. At its price point, Mackie EM-USB offers great value for money.
Mackie produces great microphones, and if you need something a bit more powerful but still within the budget microphones category, consider more complex Mackie’s podcasting mics like:
- Mackie EleMent EM-Carbon (check current price)
- Mackie EleMent EM-Chromium (check current price)
The entire EleMent series of microphones deliver the quality and versatility you need to capture great audio.
4. AKG P120
AKG is a great, high-quality European audio brand.
The AKG P120 is a condenser microphone that offers solidly built quality, outstanding performance, and excellent value. The low-mass diaphragm delivers a clear sound with accurate detail for podcasting.
My favorite feature of this mic is the switchable bass-cut filter – allowing you to eliminate low-frequency noises and pass higher frequencies effectively. This function is usually available in higher-tier mics like the Shure SM7B.
If the AKG P120 looks nice but lacks some features for you, you can consider a small upgrade to the AKG P220 (check current price), which is a more professional mic, but still can be considered a budget microphone for podcasting.
5. HyperX QuadCast – most flashy condenser mic
HyperX is a gaming gear brand that has ventured into audio gear productions.
The HyperX QuadCast microphone sounds good, but it has gained popularity mainly due to its design, and choice of colors. While most mics are black or silver, HyperX added a lot of red accents.
That is why you will find many YouTube videos or video streams using mics that look good or interesting on camera. That is the reason behind the popularity of the red HyperX QuadCast (check current price) or their newer RGB HyperX QuadCast S (check current price) model.
They both sound actually good, but they are specifically designed to look interesting in a video.
6. Audio Technica 2020 USB+ – best condenser mic for podcasting for under $150
Audio Technica 2020 USB+ is a well-rounded mid-tier USB podcasting mic. It comes with a small tripod for a quick start (not my favorite part of it). It sounds well and provides good quality. Remember to put a pop filter on it and record in a rather quiet place. It also has accessible controls directly on the body and a mic jack for direct audio monitoring.
- It provides good, sustainable quality for home podcasting,
- It is very convenient since you don’t need any additional equipment. There is no need for a preamp. You can just plug it into a USB port and start recording without additional effort,
- You can regulate volume while recording with built-in buttons. You can also monitor volume and quality by connecting your headphones directly into the built-in jack,
- It is easy to connect and mount on a better quality stand,
- The two biggest advantages are user-friendliness and average price,
- The audio resolution will be reasonable for many podcasters,
- It might capture some background noise. Also, the tripod provided in the package is a bit unstable. When you compare the quality recorded in a soundproofed room with higher-quality mics, you will hear the difference.
7. PreSonus Revelator
PreSonus Revelator is the most powerful condenser USB mic among all the USB budget mics for podcasting. The Presonus Revelator has a “loopback” functionality built into it. It can act as a hub for your different audio streams, making the process of handling audio from different sources very simple. It has a very stable, bulky stand, which makes the overall mic appear heavier than it actually is.
Generally, it sounds great and is definitely one of the most advanced USB mics at this price point. When paired with the software, it comes with it turns into a quiet professional setup.
A condenser mic produces very fine results in studio recording, and it’s definitely the right choice for podcasting. If you have a condenser mic and you have been struggling to understand your condenser microphone is too quiet, the above reasons will help you figure out the proper set-up for their working.
Those who have just started their podcasting journey- don’t let these details dissuade you. Learning mic and equipment set-up may feel a bit overwhelming at the beginning. Initially, you might feel that it’s a drag on your time. But slowly the efforts turn into habits and help you achieve perfection in your work.