Crowd/House mics are essential if you are streaming or you are using In Ear Monitors. If you are streaming, you will use these mics to help build your online listening room. If you are using custom fitted In Ear Monitors, it will help you interact/feed off the live audience. If you have never experienced this, it is a total rush!
So, what are the best mics to use for Crowd/House mics? It’s impossible for me to tell you that as I am not in your recording/live streaming environment. There is never a wrong mic to use if it gets the results, you are looking for.
I do have some recommendations but I want to dispel a few myths about Crowd/House mics. First off, the number one myth is that shotgun mics are the best choice for this application. That simple is not true and even the shotgun mic manufactures will tell you the basically same thing. As with any mic choice, what you should always do is check out the specs of that mic!
The second myth is that you should be using a dynamic mic for this situation. I can not tell you that by using a dynamic mic you will not get the results you are look for, what I will say is that you may get much better results using a condenser mic, so it picks up more of what the audience is reacting to, while using less gain.
A dynamic mic will never be able to pick up what a condenser mic can pickup from the audience. Even if you run your input gain just before it clips, it simple can not do what it was not designed for. Dynamic mics are made to be placed within 1 inch from the sound source as where condenser mics are designed to pick up a much wider field from a much greater distance. And that’s the key word of this article, DISTANCE.
Lets talk about three mics. The Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic offers state-of-the-art performance that’s tailor-made for film, radio, and television applications — especially location shooting. This compact shotgun microphone boasts a pressure-gradient receiver with a short interference tube, offering laser-precise directivity, with a hypercardioid pattern at low and medium frequencies and a lobar pattern above 2kHz. TheSennheiser MKH 416 exhibits low noise, excellent feedback rejection, and no-compromise sound quality, making it a terrific choice for pro-level projects.
This mic starts around $999.00 and Sennheiser goes out of their way to tell you what situations you would want to use this mic. As stated from Sweetwater, “The Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic is tailor-made for film, radio, and television — especially outdoor applications”. These mics work great for live productions where you want to capture several people in a group, while keeping the mic out of camera view. The best positioning is around 2 to 3 feet above the people speaking.
You will often see shotgun mics on boom poles hovering just above people in a audience. This is what these mics were designed to do. They are great for picking up sound directly in front of the mic while rejecting sound coming from any off-axis direction. But the two major drawbacks with this type of mic are distance and location.
Even high-end shotgun mics are limited to around 10 to 15 feet and they do not like being used indoors. These mics have a very hard time doing their job in a closed location due to sound reflections. It is something that simply can not be avoided. So, when it comes to house mics, being limited to 10 feet from their position and dealing with reflective surfaces for close to a thousand dollars, suggest that this is not the right mic for the job, but I would never say that this mic would not work for certain situations.
The second mic is an Audio-Technica AT875R and cost around $170. It is a super-compact shotgun condenser that’s custom-made for video and broadcast. This microphone mounts effortlessly on a DV camcorder without weighing it down. It also pairs well with compact digital cameras. The AT875R supplies the narrow acceptance angle that’s necessary for long-distance sound pickup. It also offers a smooth, natural-sounding on-axis response and impressive off-axis rejection.
Again, this mic is being described as a great mic for getting better audio then your built-in camera mic can produce. So, what do they consider “long distance”? Well, they don’t come right out and say it but their distance in my honest opinion, would not exceed the same distance from the $1,000 mic we just talked about. The two things these mics have in common is what their manufactures is suggesting they be used for, video and live broadcasting.
Shotgun mics are great for capturing audio 5 to 10 feet away while at the same time rejecting off-axis audio, which is the exact opposite of what crowd mics are used for. You want your crowd mics to pick up as much of the room ambiance as you can get. Again, all of this is dependent of your room size and how many crowd mics you will be using. With that being said, now that we know what shotgun mics ARE NOT designed for, we can quickly shift our attention to what mic we do need.
We know that the best choice will be to use a condenser mic designed to pick up a large area. There are many condenser mics we can choose from but without knowing your room dimensions, it is impossible for me to tell you what type would work best for your situation. I can however suggest a set of stereo condenser mics that I use all the time for crowd mics.
I own several sets of the Behringer C-2s and they do a fantastic job for picking up the audience. The two most important things you need to understand about setting up crowd mics is “Location & Distance”. You want the location to be as far from the mains as possible and you want the distance to be as close to the people as possible.
If you have a very small space, you may not need them at all except if you will be live streaming. Crowd mics help build your on-line listening environment and if you are live recording, then you certainly would want to use them regardless of the room size. The C-2s are very affordable and do a great job at around $59.00.
One of the features that Behringer says about the C-2s is “it’s ideal as main and support microphones for studio and live applications”. It’s the live application that we will be looking at. Unlike the shotgun mics mentioned above, you don’t need to worry as much about reflective surfaces or pinpointing your audio source.
As mentioned earlier, you want your crowd mics to pickup as much as the crowd as possible. Depending on your room size, you may want to run 4 or even 6 crowd mics. This will help you get the mics as close to the sound source as possible, without running your mics so hot you can’t avoid clipping.
In closing, this article is simple to help explain how you can make an educated decision when it comes to selecting crowd mics. Always remember, that regardless of what mic you choose, if you are happy with the results, then you picked the right mic for your particular situation. Dana.