The autonomous sensory meridian response, commonly referred to as ASMR, is a tingling sensation that usually starts at the scalp and moves down through the neck and upper back. The phenomenon can occur spontaneously, but more often, specific sounds and visuals act as triggers. Triggers can be anything from tapping to scratching to the ever-controversial mouth sounds. It sounds weird, and we do not know why it happens, but that does not make ASMR any less popular. It is a viable niche for creators, and the key to success is an excellent microphone. Let us explore the best microphones for ASMR.
Best ASMR microphone
The Røde NT1 is a professional-grade condenser microphone with an exceptionally low self-noise rating of 4.5dBA. This low self-noise rating, along with its large 1-inch diaphragm, makes it an excellent choice for capturing the soft sounds of ASMR. The NT1 connects via XLR, so a mixer or other I/O device may be required to complete your setup. Additionally, if you want to record in stereo, you will need to buy a separate mic for each channel. If you can afford the investment, however, you will be rewarded with impressive sound quality.
Whether used alone or as a matched pair for stereo recording, the NT1 delivers clean and crisp audio with one of the lowest noise floors available.
Best stereo ASMR microphone
Blue Yeti X
The Blue Yeti line is extremely popular among streamers and ASMR creators alike, both for the quality of the microphones and their accessible price point. New to the Yeti lineup, the Blue Yeti X is a professional stereo condenser microphone that connects via USB. That means you can connect the microphone directly to your computer without any extra hardware.
The Yeti X features a four-capsule array and offers four switchable pickup patterns, including cardioid, omnidirectional, bi-directional and stereo. Plus, an integrated level meter and adjustable headphone output help ensure the mic is picking up the sound you want. Overall, the Blue Yeti X is an excellent choice for stereo ASMR recording and beyond.
Best binaural ASMR microphone
3Dio Free Space Binaural Microphone
If you are a fan of ASMR, you have likely seen this microphone in more than a few videos. Its distinctive ear-shaped microphone cups are hard to miss. But these faux-ears are about more than just aesthetics; their shape and spacing provide a more natural, realistic and immersive listening experience. Even in windy conditions, 3Dio promises warm and rich sound free from microphone overload and harsh effects caused by higher frequencies.
The 3Dio Free Space is powered by a 9V battery and connects via standard 3.5mm jack to an audio mixer or pre-amp. It comes equipped with a standard microphone mount that works with standard microphone stands.
If want to provide the ultimate immersive experience for your viewers, the 3Dio Free Space is the go-to option for binaural ASMR recording.
Look for a low noise floor
Of all the specs to check on your ASMR mic, the noise floor may be the most influential on your final results. Because isolating your trigger sound is so essential in ASMR recording, look for a microphone with a low noise floor. ASMR triggers are often quiet and subtle. That means you will need a sensitive microphone that produces very little self-noise to capture each sound’s tingle-inducing properties adequately.
Sometimes also called equivalent noise level or noise floor, self-noise refers to the sound a microphone picks up when there is no other sound source present. For ASMR, you want this number to be as low as possible — somewhere under 15dBA. You’ll be recording very soft sounds, and a high noise floor could interfere or drown them out entirely.
Self-noise is related to the signal to noise ratio, but they are not the same thing. The SNR of a microphone describes the relationship between a microphone’s self-noise and the true signal coming through the microphone. A higher SNR means that you are getting relatively more of the sounds you want and less unwanted noise.
Dynamic vs condenser microphones for ASMR
As you shop for an ASMR microphone, you will likely encounter two main types of microphone construction: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are more durable and do not require external power to work, but they are usually less sensitive. They do not produce noise on their own, but the amplification process can sometimes add noise back into the signal, depending on the hardware.
Condenser mics do need a power source, and their internal amplifier can raise the noise floor. These mics are also typically more fragile. However, condenser microphones generally have higher sensitivity across a broader frequency range, making them an excellent choice for the quieter sounds of ASMR. Opt for a large condenser microphone if possible since these usually offer a better signal to noise ratio and improved low-end frequency response.
Polar pattern and directionality
Polar pattern, also known as pickup pattern, describes the directionality of a microphone. An omnidirectional mic will pick up sounds from every direction. A cardioid mic, on the other hand, will favor sounds coming into it from the front while rejecting sound originating from behind. Hypercardioid and supercardioid mic further exaggerate this effect.
Highly directional mics are useful for isolating sounds against noisy backgrounds, but they limit your ability to move side to side. Sound quality quickly drops off as you move off-axis. Cardioid mics are a better choice since they can pick up sounds from a wider area while still rejecting unwanted environmental noise.
Do you need a stereo mic setup?
Most people listen to ASMR with headphones and can appreciate the effects of recording in stereo. Alternating focus from ear to ear is common across ASMR videos, but this can only be achieved by recording separate left and right channels.
While you can make tingly videos with a single quality microphone, a stereo mic or a matched pair of mics is a good investment for any ASMR-tist.
Binaural recording: Is it worth it?
Binaural recording is the process of capturing audio to create a three dimensional sound experience. The goal is to create an immersive experience where the listener feels like the sound is happening all around them in the same space.
Binaural recording is different from traditional stereo recording in that it takes into account the space between our ears to produce a more realistic effect. In binaural recording, two microphones are placed around seven inches apart to approximate the distance between the ears on a human head. Just like the space between our eyes allows us to judge depth, the space between our ears influences our spatial perception of sound. Sometimes, the microphones are placed in ear-shaped molds to mimic the human hearing experience further.
While not perfect, binaural recording does result in a more immersive listening experience. Recording this type of experience could be more or less important, depending on the kind of ASMR content that you want to make. If you focus on simple triggers like tapping or scratching, a simple on-mic setup is good enough to get started. If you aim to do more involved role-play videos, a binaural setup will significantly enhance the listening experience.
Most people favor a USB microphone for its convenience, but if you want to use a mixing board, a mic with an XLR connection will come in handy. XLR mics are also generally geared toward professionals, meaning they have a more durable design and can usually be repaired more easily.
Beyond the microphone
In addition to an excellent ASMR microphone, you will also need a microphone stand — preferably one equipped with a shock mount. The goal is always to remove unwanted noise and distractions from your recording; a shock mount will help further isolate the microphone from unwanted noise and vibrations.
Likewise, consider adding some sound treatment to your recording area to reduce reverb and further isolate your sound source. It should already be evident that recording ASMR requires an extremely quiet environment. Still, even a blanket covering reflective surfaces like windows can cut down the reverb and external sounds that may otherwise spoil your recording.
Finally, you may also choose to add an audio mixer or separate pre-amp to give you even more control over the recording process. A mixing board will be especially helpful in multi-mic setups.
Choosing the best ASMR microphone for you
The best microphone for ASMR is the one that gives you the most clarity and the least noise. In the end, use your ears. Pick the microphone that sounds best for the ASMR triggers you want to capture.