The “Hat Mic”

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This is a trick I learned from NPR’s Tony Kahn.

Microphones scare people and are hard to use properly. Anyone who has ever tried to get someone to talk into one knows this first hand.

The “Hat Mic” is a novel solution to both of these problems. To construct one, take a small, high quality microphone (anything from a Giant Squid Audio Lab Podcasting Omni Stereo Microphone to a Neumann miniature microphone) and clip it to the brim of a baseball cap. Small binder clips work well with my Giant Squids.

That’s it.

Why would you want to clip a microphone to a hat? For a number of reasons:

  1. While almost nobody knows how to use a microphone, everyone know how to wear a hat.
  2. The microphone will stay in position as the person moves their head. This is both easier and more natural, meaning that you’ll get a more consistent, genuine-sounding recording.
  3. The microphone will be out of the way of most unwanted sounds (“popping P” and “hissing S”). You may have a bit of a problem with F sounds if you don’t get the placement quite right.
  4. The brim of the hat forms a bit of a mini sound booth, blocking some outside sounds and enhancing the voice a bit.

All of this, wrapped up in one funny hat!
Hat Mics

Listen here for how it sounds:

icon for podpress  Hat Mic Sample [0:24m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Here’s a sample and review/explanation recorded with the Azden SGM-2X Shotgun microphone in a noisy environment. You can see the bike handgrip I added in the picture. It cuts down on noise due to holding the mic, and it makes it more comfortable, too!

icon for podpress  Azden SGM-2X Sample File [3:33m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Many businesses, conference organizers, and educational institutions see podcasting as a way to distribute recordings of their lectures and classes online. This has its uses and its problems, and I’d like to take a look at a few of them.

Before I lay out my views on the subject, I want you to take a minute and think about what it is like to sit in an auditorium listening to a lecture. Do you have a good feeling about it? For many people, the answer to that question is no.

Now, think about listening to the same lecture without the “live” component of the experience. This live component is very important, so think about it carefully. A “pros and cons” question arises right here: a good lectures is made far better by being there, but an average lecture could benefit from a pause or fast-forward button.

I have been to many lectures, most of them mediocre ones, and there is only one that I would have enjoyed as much in a recording as I did in person (it is luckily available as a download).

The main point is one that I’m sure I’ll make many times on the site: not every recording makes a good podcast. If a lecture has been recorded, by all means post it online! It is important to open up access to these resources and expand their reach beyond the “one room, one time” audience (this is the premise of the popular site IT Conversations). Ideally, this recording will be edited slightly to clean up mentions of PowerPoint glitches and pauses for sips of water – just this small amount of work will improve the listening experience tremendously.

However, if you truly want to engage your audience, I would advocate podcasting an interview or edited “audio profile” of the speaker to give your listeners a good feel for the content. If you have also posted the complete lecture, invite them to download it from your site if they want more information on the topic. This way, you entertain and invigorate your audience with well-produced content, then drive the most interested group of them to your site for the full story.

It takes extra work to do this, but that work could make the difference between a podcast with a few casual listeners and one with a large number of loyal fans. Not only are you producing a podcast series that people will actually want to subscribe to, but you are also serving the smaller number of people who do want to hear recorded lectures by making them available as well.

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© 2010 Adam Weiss: Podcast Consultant