Record Audio on a Budget with These Affordable Setups Under $300

Good audio isn't cheap, but there are plenty of inexpensive options to get you much of the way there without breaking the bank. Here's Caleb Pike from DSLR Video Shooter with some great budget audio options, all for under $250 each:

These are the three setups, with a full parts list over on Caleb's site (it looks like the mic stand he recommends may be out of stock, so there are some other options available that should do the job):

  1. $129.05: RØDE VideoMic GO + Extras
  2. $229.04: RØDE VideoMic GO + Zoom H1 or Tascam DR-05 + Extras 
  3. $131.26: Zoom H1 or Tascam DR-05 + Extras 

Obviously some setups will be better than others in terms of what you're trying to record. The Zoom H1's internal mic won't do very well if you've got to record from a distance — that's where you'll need the VideoMic GO. If you're recording interviews or the subject is relatively close to the camera, these setups are all going to be good if you don't have a lot of money to spend. 

If you do have a little more money to spend, moving up to a true shotgun mic like something from the RØDE NTG series and possibly an audio recorder like the H4n or H6 will give you more options and better quality. Tascam also makes some great affordable handheld recorder/mics. If you need something with a wider pickup pattern that's more configurable, RØDE also makes the Stereo VideoMic X, which will mount on your camera (though it's a pit on the pricier side compared to these other options at $800).

These more expensive options will take you into the $400-$600 range depending on what you're looking at, but if you do have a higher budget, there are some terrific recorders that will give exceptional audio from both of these companies. Unfortunately, once you move into a certain style of recorder, that will also make it more difficult to operate both camera and audio, so if you're by yourself, try one of the smaller recorders from Zoom or Tascam first, and if you have a little money to spend, springing for a better microphone will help you get better sound from a distance.     

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7 Comments

Nice overview of a some solid basic setups. Throwing in my 2-cents, for anyone looking for a great starter lav microphone, this one by Giant Squid Audio Labs has been with me on many shoots and is super durable. It has a right angle 1/8" connection (pairing nicely with the Zoom H1) and is $52 including shipping >> http://www.amazon.com/Giant-Squid-Audio-Lab-Omnidirectional/dp/B00HWMG44...

Happy shooting -George

September 5, 2015 at 5:05PM, Edited September 5, 5:06PM

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George Mihaly
Director at storyfirm.com
220

I have one small issue with this video, Caleb is not positioning the mics the way they would be used during an actual shoot. ( they're in the shot and very close to the person speaking )

Positioning the mics as they would actually be used, which is usually 2-3 feet from the person speaking ( and just out of your shooting frame ), these mics will sound different and you will realize how much audio signal they produce when used properly. Often the less expensive mics produce a weaker audio signal, so they may sound a bit noisy compared to the more expensive units.

What's also important is how sensitive they are to off-axis audio reflections when shooting indoors. Ideally you want a mic that will reject any sound that is off-axis from your mic's pick-up range. This is why I prefer the Sennheiser MKE600 over the Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic, because the MKE600 will pick-up less of the room noise when recording indoors. ( these mics are fairly close in price )

September 5, 2015 at 5:51PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33075

I'd highly advise against Tascam DR05 and non-XLR Rode mics. They are all mobile phone interference magnets even from devices over 5-10ft away. I have owned a Tascam DR40 which was awful when using internal mics (no problems when fed an XLR mic), frequently picking up interference and ruining the audio.

As for Rode, as a current owner of the Videomic and Videomic Pro, the circuitry is so poorly designed that they will pick up phones from over 5ft away, particularly if it's a rural location or where phone signal is poor (the tapping noise is a phone hunting for a cell tower I believe). I bought the Pro version hoping it would fix it - no such luck. Avoid at all costs!

The Zoom H1 though is just marvellous. Cheap, high quality and flexible (I use both standalone and fed with a cheap lapel). I've used them literally hundreds of times and apart from a couple of freezes, no issues at all (certainly no mobile interference!).

You may be lucky and not have problems with Rode Mics (Phillip Bloom said he never had an issue ever). Just this weekend alone I had interference appear on two different jobs, luckily those Zooms were there to save the day!

September 6, 2015 at 3:59AM

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I have used a Tascam DR-40 for the past 4 years and a pair of DR-07 Mk2 recorders for the past 2 years with no problems from mobile phones. Where I occasionally hear mobile interference is with my Sennheiser UHF wireless lav mics, but even this doesn't happen that often.

September 6, 2015 at 12:36PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33075

Really didn't like how close he had the mics setup to his face. Who the hell shoots video like that?

This looked more like a "How to get great audio for your podcast" than how to shoot video with these mics

September 6, 2015 at 3:49PM

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Frogy
Director / Shooter / Cutter
381

It's all about the (battery-powered) microphone preamps baby! Good preamps, some old-fashioned high pass filtering, well-shielded mics, and you will be good!

http://www.jlmaudio.com/shop/mono-kit-ver2.html

Some assembly required.

September 6, 2015 at 8:40PM, Edited September 6, 8:48PM

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Joseph Arant
Writer
436

I would definitely try all these microphones. I need to understand the importance of sound.

September 6, 2015 at 8:41PM

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Kodi Johnson
Student/Film/Novice
166