Review: Zoom ZDM-1 Podcast Mic Pack
Another podcast pack - another Tuesday, right? Maybe not this time.
Often when looking for audio production gear, it’s easy to get lost in the glitz, the hyped-up low end, the glamour, forgetting you first set out to find tools — effective, trustworthy gizmos that bring a functional sound out of the source.
As far as sources go, the human voice is the most familiar, and recognition of this voice is so hard wired into our brains that getting it’s recording a little wrong will put us off, pull us away from the content being spoken or sung. Podcasts must have that radio sound — close miked dynamic, a little boost in the top end for clarity — otherwise we lose interest.
Zoom’s ZDM-1 microphone ticks all the important broadcast boxes. It’s end address, dynamic (rather than condenser), comes with a windshield, which reduces plosives and includes a solid, screw-on mic clip. It has a confidence-inspiring weightiness due to an all-metal chassis, and feels like a tough mic. Even the XLR connection seats with a solid ‘click’. The stand is nothing special, though, and could do with more elevation to allow users to get right up to the mic where it performs best. I used the box the mic came in.
The microphone sounds good — very good. Zoom quotes a broad boost centring around 5kHz, and a gradual roll-off from 100Hz downward, which treats my male voice very well. A little sparkle for clarity, and slight warm up in the lower-mids, but not too much. It’s articulate down low, but not linear. ‘Warm and rich broadcast sound’ is not inaccurate, especially when ran through some compression.
The mic demands quite a lot of gain to get the kind of output I’d like into a recorder. Zoom’s PodTrak products offer up to 70dB of gain, but with an audio interface sporting more like 55dB, you might be stretched if your guests are quiet and you prefer inputs hot like I do.
The headphones offer all you need to monitor your voice, and little more. Music sounds a little thin and they’re a bit gutless in the low end. But tracks sounds as they ‘should’, not miles away due to bungled tuning or a ‘lets make these for $0.30’ design philosophy. Zoom has made a budget monitoring headphone here that sounds honest, and doesn’t try to punch above its weight.
My voice sounds clear when monitoring, there is good noise isolation and reasonable comfort even from the thin earpads and non-adjustable headband. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to hand these to a podcast guests — they won’t cringe in discomfort, and will quickly be at ease.
Already own a handy recorder, audio interface or podcast recorder? This handy kit from Zoom will complete the package. The centrepiece microphone holds up very well, and all the accessories, from the headphones to the cables, are great tools that fulfil their purpose.