How to Position Your Microphone for Streaming
No matter how professional your setup is, poor microphone technique and placement can easily let down your entire stream audio. Correctly positioning your mic is critical to capturing rich and clear sound without any background noise, and even minor adjustments can result in huge improvements.
In this article, we’ll take a look at why mic placement is important and how best to position your microphone when streaming to get the highest quality audio possible.
The Effects of Microphone Placement and Why It’s Important
There are a few different variables at play when it comes to positioning your microphone, and each factor will influence the quality of your audio in a few different ways. Let’s check out some of the more prominent impacts of mic placement.
The Proximity Effect
Simply put, the proximity effect dictates that a microphone will pick up more bass in your voice the closer it is to your mouth. This generally means that having your mic either too far away or too close can result in a thin and tinny sound or a boomy and muddy sound respectively, neither of which are ideal for clarity. We’ll cover the Goldilocks zone later on.
Gain and Background Noise
The distance between mic and mouth also impacts your voice's volume – the smaller the gap, the louder you’ll sound. If you’re too far away, your voice will be too quiet and you’ll need to turn up your microphone gain to compensate, but in doing so you may amplify unwanted background noise.
Most microphones used for streaming, like the XCM-50 and XDM-100, are directional mics. This means they’re designed to capture sound in the direction they’re aimed at while excluding sounds from the sides and rear of the mic. However, these microphones will still be susceptible to picking up background noise in your recording space, such as air conditioners or reflections from hard surfaces. Ensuring your microphone is in the optimal position will mean you can set your gain correctly to minimise background noise.
Plosives, Knocks and Bumps
There are many interferences that can cause artefacts in your audio, but when it comes to streaming, two of most common you'll come across are caused by plosives and bumps to your desk or microphone.
Plosives are sharp puffs of air produced by mouthing certain sounds (such as the ‘p’ in plosive) that can result in a brief, loud burst of sound when it hits to microphone capsule. Similarly, when a microphone moves, its highly sensitive capsule can pick up slight vibrations, creating unwanted noise in your audio. These effects can come from directly bumping the mic, but also from something as seemingly harmless as the vibrations in your desk from using your keyboard.
Best Microphone Placement for Streaming
So now we’ve had a look at how mic placement can affect your audio, let’s dive into solutions to these problems and how to optimise your setup with proper microphone technique.
Mounting and Isolation
The most flexible solution for mounting your microphone is a professional studio arm like the PSA1+. It allows you to position your mic anywhere in space, move it around quickly and silently when needed, reduces the clutter on your desk and helps to absorb knocks and bumps. Another option is to use a tripod on your desk, like the one that comes with the XCM-50 – these offer a simple and compact solution to positioning and angling your microphone.
Pairing our XDM-100 mic with the PSA1+ is an excellent way to dampen the impact of shocks as it offers three stages of protection. Any vibrations from your desk will be absorbed by the rubber contact points of the PSA1+, the PSM1 shock mount that comes with the mic, and also by the internal shock mount within the microphone itself.
If you’re using a dynamic mic like the XDM-100, ideally place the mic between 5-15cm (2-6 inches) from your mouth. Condenser microphones like the XCM-50 are more sensitive and can be placed further away, typically between 10-20cm (4-8 inches). This distance will allow you to set your gain at a level where your voice is nice and loud, without boosting unwanted background noise.
While these proximities are good starting points, it’s worth experimenting with what works best in your situation as you may have a naturally deeper voice or be more expressive during your stream – in both cases, try moving the mic a little further from your mouth. Check out our article on dynamic vs condenser microphones for more information.
Typically, dynamic mics like the XDM-100 are end-address, meaning you need to point the end of the mic at your mouth, while condensers like the XCM-50 are more commonly side-address and pick up sound from the front/side
When aiming your microphone, it can help to visualise a cone extending out from the capsule of your mic. Try to keep your voice as close to the centre of this cone as possible, while making sure that nothing that creates a distracting and unwanted sound (like your keyboard, chair, traffic or air conditioning) falls within the cone.
The simplest and most effective way to reduce the impact of plosives on your audio is to use a pop shield (or pop filter), which acts to dissipate the energy of plosive puffs of air before they hit the microphone capsule. Some mics – the XCM-50 and XDM-100 included – have pop shields built into the mic itself, and the latter comes with an external pop shield as well.
If your audio still suffers from plosives with this protection in place, you can try angling your mic so you’re not speaking squarely into it, but rather a little to the side of it. This means that the puffs of air from plosive sounds don’t go directly into the microphone capsule, lessening their impact.
Last but not least, it’s worth considering how the placement of your mic will affect the visual aesthetic of your stream. Obviously, you don’t want the mic to completely obstruct your face (or maybe you do), but having it too far away is problematic for all the reasons we’ve mentioned. As such, it’s worth experimenting with keeping it just out of, or at the edge of your shot while still being close enough to your mouth to give you rich, clear audio (a studio arm can help immensely with this positioning).
Combining all of these tips will give you crystal clear audio with a rich, broadcast-quality tone to your voice, but if you’re unable to employ all of these recommendations, implementing just a few of them will still go a long way in improving the audio quality on your stream.