I do a lot of research on mics to test and find the best ones. I buy, try and sell a lot of models. I also do a nationally syndicated radio show, the Freedom Feens. We’re on 31 stations nationwide, and have 17 rotating hosts, 2 or 3 per night, all in different locations.
So I have a vested interest in knowing the best, least expensive mic that can be used by people who are not technically sophisticated. I need my hosts to be able to get a very good and very consistent sound using no other gear than a computer, mic stand, headphones and our free software, FeenPhone.
Over the years I’ve recommended 3 very similar USB dynamic cardioid pattern mics for talk radio and podcasting. They’ve ranged in price from 60 bucks to 100 bucks.
But I finally found one that’s even less expensive and sounds about the same.
The Knox Cardioid USB/XLR Microphone (no model number even given!) is currently $39 on Amazon. It’s a clone of the Audio-Technica AT2005 USB/XLR microphone which costs much more. The AT2005 is the mic most Freedom Feens hosts have used for years. This Knox mic costs half as much and is nearly identical physically, electrically and from an audio standpoint.
The Knox is such a clone of the Audio-Technica AT2005 that in drop-down menus of software it’s connected to, it sometimes even comes up as AT2005!
I used this mic on half of DJ Dean’s vocals on this (free) app Pocket Alibi, and used on MWD’s voice on this whole episode of the Freedom Feens. The other two hosts on that episode are using the Audio-Technica AT2005 USB mics that cost twice as much.
The Knox is a solid mic. It has a great sound, great pickup pattern, good rejection of off-mic noise, has a headphone jack (in the bottom of the mic) for latency-free monitoring.
Throw away the cheesy desktop tripod stand that comes with this mic You need to have the mic close to your mouth, like between 2 and 4 inches. And turn off all background noise, fans, AC, etc. before you go live.
You’ll need a mic stand, get this one. and some foam windscreens, get these. If you don’t have a pair of headphones, they need to be closed ear (to prevent echo) to use FeenPhone. Headphones should be closed ear even for Skype, and must be for any recording. Here are my recommendations:
- Sony MDRZX100 ($19)
- Sennheiser HD 202 ($25)
- Sony MDRZX300 ($30)
- Sony MDR-7502 ($50.)
- Sony MDR-7506 Only $80.
Stick the bulky XLR cable that comes with the Knox in a drawer in case you ever get a mixer. This mic will work via XLR with a mixer, or without a mixer via USB. Keep the thin USB cable, you’ll need that.
The only downside with the Knox mic, as with all of these Chinese USB mics for some reason, is that when you first get it the speaking end of the mic smells like oil.
Unscrew the metal windscreen and remove the foam inside and throw it away. That’s what smells. Screw the windscreen back on and let it sit for a day or two. Then just put a cheap foam windscreen over it to prevent pops and sibilance.
If you have 80 dollars to spend, get the Audio-Technica AT2005USB. (Since it’s stood the test of time). But if you’re on a budget, spend 39 dollars and get the Knox. All in all it’s a kick-ass mic, very inexpensive and perfect for low-budget spoken audio. Get it! Get it! Get it!
If you hear any hum when using it, move it a few feet away from electrical appliances like refrigerators in the next room.
–Michael W. Dean, Freedom Feens radio show.
>>>>PRO TIP: Check out my video, “Freedom Feens guide to podcasting and radio.”
>>>>PRO TIP: Check out my short post, 20-Min Audio School