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Of all the gear needed for a podcasting setup, the microphone you choose is THE most important one, for the simple reason that it's responsible for how your voice sounds.
(Yes, you can always edit your voice after you've recorded, but the old saying rings true - trash in, trash out).
To be considered the best podcasting mic, it needs to meet this criteria:
Easy to use - This means going with a USB mic, whose "plug and play" nature makes it super easy to get going.
Sounds great - This one's obvious. Next to actually having an entertaining podcast, getting good quality sound from your mic is key.
Affordable - Different person to person, but the budget shouldn't put your podcasting dreams on hold.
So, after testing 20 microphones (and counting), we’ve found the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB is the best podcast microphone for most people. If you're recording multiple speakers and thus need multiple XLR mics, our top recommendation is the Rode PodMic.
You might be thinking that sound quality is the most important thing. And yes, while that's supremely important, rest assured every microphone we recommend here sounds great and will allow you to get your podcast up and running.
While some might sound "warmer" or emphasize different frequencies or capture more nuance, these days mic technology is so good that a mic that costs $400 does not necessarily sound 4 times better than a $100 mic, at least for podcasting purposes.
So, aside from how much money you are able to spend, what's the most important choice to make?
USB vs. XLR
A microphone will connect to your computer, tablet, or phone one of two ways: USB or XLR. Most people are familiar with USB, and when it comes to ease of use it's by far the simpler option - you plug the mic into your computer's USB port, and you're pretty much good to go. Its biggest limitation is that only one USB mic can be plugged into a computer at once without causing headaches. So if you're the lone speaker, it'll work perfectly.
XLR is an industry standard for mics in the pro audio world. It's a circular connector with three pins. If your podcast requires two or more people to each have their own mic, you'll need microphones with XLR connections. You'll then need some kind of mixer or audio interface with as many XLR inputs and mic preamps as you need to accomodate.
USB Microphone Pros & Cons:
Easiest solo podcast setup.
Direct connection to computer/smartphone/tablet.
Plug and play - most computers auto-recognize that a USB mic has been plugged in, and you can start record.
Requires little knowledge of gear or audio technology.
Best if you're the only person talking. Multiple USB mics going into the same device don't play well together.
Analog to digital conversion is done within the mic. This "all in one" approach can mean the sound quality isn't as good.
XLR Microphone Pros & Cons:
Sound quality tends to be better.
For multiple speakers, you can hook up multiple XLR mics into a mixer or interface.
A mixer or audio interface is needed to plug into.
The Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB is quite easy to name as the top choice for most podcasters' needs. It's on the lower end of what most podcasting microphones cost, delivers audio quality that's more than adequate for podcasting needs, and is one of the only mics out there with both a USB and XLR connection option!
This is a dynamic mic with a cardioid polar pattern, so it's great for speaking directly into, making your voice sound nice and punchy while minimizing background noise from your environment.
One minor knock against it is that it looks more like a stage vocal mic and not very "broadcast/podcast"-y, but it looks good regardless and feels like a quality piece of gear with solid metal construction.
Where it truly shines is versatility. As a solo podcaster you can plug in and record directly via USB (USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables both included), or XLR if you want to plug into a mixer as a multi-mic setup.
It even has a built-in 3.5mm headphone jack (with volume dial) so you can hear yourself directly from the microphone.
It comes with a tripod desk stand, but be warned - its build quality is flimsy, and it's rather short which requires you to hunch over to speak into it.
The bottom line is that this is a fantastic podcasting microphone for the price. Whether you're the solo speaker and just want to plug in via USB and record, or need multiple of these mics to plug into a mixer, you're covered with an XLR option. The only slight annoyance is you'll probably need to toss the included tripod stand and invest in a better one. Aside from that, the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB will have you podcasting effortlessly.
When we researched the best USB microphones, the Blue Yeti was one of our top choices. It makes sense to include it as one of the smartest purchase you could make if your intention is to podcast, stream on Twitch, YouTube, vlog, or do voiceover work.
The Blue Yeti is as popular as it is because it's simply a great "can't go wrong" microphone geared towards content creators. You can be recording within 5 minutes of unboxing it thanks to the USB connection.
For starters it looks gorgeous; you won't mind leaving it out on your desk, and you can even buy it in different colors. It's quite large and hefty (about 3.5 lbs between the mic and stand) - definitely not the most travel-friendly mic.
One of the Yeti's coolest features are the 4 pattern modes:
Choose Cardioid mode to record what's in front of the mic.
Stereo and Omnidirectional will capture more of the room's sound, great for ASMR recordings.
Bidirectional mode is for recording two people speaking on either side of the microphone.
It also has a headphone jack with volume knob, and a mute button.
Keep in mind it's a condenser mic, so it'll be more sensitive to the ambient noise around you. It's also not going to knock anyone's socks off in terms of the sound quality; it's a jack of all trades, but master of none. It's without question, however, good enough sound quality for your podcast.
For podcasters, the Blue Yeti USB mic just makes a lot of sense. If you're in a noisy environment it might not be the best choice for you, but for the price it's one of the very best "I just want to plug it in and start podcasting" microphones out there.
There are a few Blue Yeti models around, here's a quick rundown:
Yeti Pro - Same as the Yeti, with an added XLR connection option. Substanially pricier.
Yeti X - Same as the Yeti, slightly pricier with added features like an LED meter, smart knob, and customizable lighting.
Let's get the basics out of the way. The Rode NT-USB is a condenser USB mic, and it's pretty darn sensitive; it can pick up sounds in the distance with surprising clarity. As such, if you're an absolute beginner who records at a regular desk, we advise you to look into a less-sensitive dynamic microphone, or at least look into some level of sound proofing or isolation.
Its design is beautiful and arguably more modern looking than the Blue Yeti. It feels high-end, and comes with a cheap but functional stand and a pop filter.
So, here's where we draw the line between the Blue Yeti and the Rode NT-USB. The Yeti has the four pickup patterns you can choose from, which make it a little more versatile. Like the Yeti the Rode NT-USB is a side-address microphone (meaning you speak into it from the side), but it only has a cardioid pattern so it'll emphesize the voice directly in front.
That said, the sound quality of the Rode NT-USB is better. It's still not quite as good as a non-USB Rode mic, but it gets close.
In the end, you decide. If you'll be the only speaker on your podcast and have no interest in recording multiple speakers or ambient noise, the Rode NT-USB should be your choice. Otherwise, the Blue Yeti is a little more flexible.
As a beginner, you might not be able to spend as much on a microphone, but you also don't want your podcast to sound like it was recorded with the inbuilt microphone on your laptop!
Enter the The Blue Snowball. In terms of value-for-the-money it's off the charts, making it one of the best - and least expensive - beginner podcast microphones out there.
The more expensive Blue Yeti is known for its versatility, and the Snowball offers a slightly diminished yet worthy level of functionality. It has three recording patterns to choose from, namely cardioid, omni, and cardioid with -10db pad in case you're dealing with a loud voice or instrument.
The sound quality may not be at the level of some of the more expensive USB microphones, but if your sole intent is to use it for podcasts then this microphone is more than up to the task. The build quality also takes a bit of a hit but as long as you handle it carefully, it should last for a decently long time.
The Blue Snowball - and its slightly cheaper little brother the Snowball Ice - are definitely geared towards beginners who don't want to drop a lot of cash. The sound quality you can get out of this microphone is more than good enough for podcasting or streaming, and it can be a great launching pad for aspiring podcasters.
While there are countless options when it comes to podcasting microphones, choices diminish substantially once you start looking for a portable podcast microphone under $50. Fortunately, the Samson Go Mic hits that sweet spot and is perfect for content creators on the go.
Arguably the coolest thing about the Go is that, apart from traditional mounting options, it can clip onto a laptop screen with ease.
For this price, it seems almost criminal to expect a rugged build-quality, but luckily the Samson Go is built pretty solidly and will be able to live up to the rigors of a life on the move.
Feature-wise, this is a USB condenser microphone and comes with switchable cardioid and omnidirectional pickup patterns, which add to its versatility. There's a headphone output for monitoring, and an LED indicator which helps you avoid clipping the signal.
Obviously, the Samson Go does not offer the same level of audio fidelity as a full-sized microphone. It's the compromise you make for such a small form factor. That said, it's certainly good enough for podcasts and non-musical streaming.
If podcasting on the road is what you intend on doing, then we can't recommend the Go Mic enough. Being able to easily clip it to your computer and begin recording is a pleasure. If you're mostly podcasting at a desk and don't want to spend a lot of money, we would advise looking at something like the Blue Snowball or Snowball Ice instead.
When it comes to broadcast-quality mics for podcasting, the Rode PodMic is a pound-for-pound winner, drawing many comparisons to the much pricier Shure SM7B for a fraction of the price.
It's got "Pod" in the name, so Rode is pretty clearly going after the podcasting crowd here, and it shows. The build quality is amazing; it's heavy and feels like an expensive piece of gear. The PodMic will look great wherever your setup resides. No stand is included, but it attaches to most standard boom arms.
In terms of specs, this is a dynamic mic with a cardioid polar pattern. Sound quality wise, it outperforms most USB mics we tried, and comes very close to the warmth and clarity of the much pricier Shure SM7B. If your goal is to start a podcast, believe us, you wouldn't be able to tell.
The only knock on the Rode PodMic is the XLR connection, which means that if you're a solo podcaster who's getting started, you'll need some kind of interface or mixer to ultimately plug into your computer/tablet/smartphone.
If however you need several mics for two or more speakers, a few Rode PodMics plugging into an interface like the RODECaster Pro will be a professional-level setup you won't soon outgrow.
Honestly, it's astounding that Rode doesn't charge more for this mic. Until Rode comes to their senses and raises the price, snag one or two of these for your podcasting setup. You won't regret it.
A step up from the Rode PodMic is the Rode Procaster. It's roughly 2 times the price, but this is definitely a step towards the pros.
This is a dynamic microphone with a tight polar pattern, and it'll perform its best when you get up close and personal with it. It is remarkably good at ignoring background noise around you.
If the Shure SM7B is widely considered to be king of the podcast microphones in terms of pure sound quality, the Rode Procaster is a close second. In our tests we detected little difference, though the Procaster did seem flatter (i.e. more reflective of the way your voice actually sounds).
The built in pop filter works well. It's a beautiful mic, with all-metal construction and significant heft, so make sure your mount or boom arm isn't flimsy.
It's hard to do a review of the Shure SM7B without rehashing what has already been said time and time again. This is a fantastic mic, and arguably the best podcast mic around... provided your budget is hefty.
This mic's a legend; it was used to record Michael Jackson's vocals for thriller. In the podcasting world, look no further than The Joe Rogan Experience podcast to see the SM7B featured as the mic of choice for both Rogan and his guests.
The SM7B is a cardioid dynamic mic with an XLR connection. It does it's best work if you speak into it quite closely. It's got a great low-end response, and picks up nuances in your voice beautifully. On the mic are two switches for bass roll-off and a midrange enhancer, both of which you should play with.
Here's the rub: Unless you have a lot of money to blow and want to spend time optimizing the setup for this mic, it's probably not the best choice for beginners.
For the price, you could pick up 3 or 4 other mics that will sound 70% as good as the SM7B.
Furthermore, the SM7B is known for a low output level, which means something like a CL-1 Cloudlifter is recommended to boost the mic's signal going into the preamp (this unfortunately means more $$$).
The SM7B looks sleek and professional, and matches those looks with a great build quality. It offers several mounting options, of which hanging upside down on a boom stand seems to be its default state.
So should you buy a Shure SM7B as your podcasting microphone? The answer is yes if nothing but the best will do, and you can afford it. Just make sure you don't mind putting in the time and money to optimizing your results with it.
Dynamic vs. Condenser - Does It Matter for Podcasting?
You'll often see microphones categorized as either dynamic or condenser. If you're wondering what this means, and if it matters specifically for podcasting, read on.
In practical terms, dynamic mics are great for capturing what's right in front of them. Loud vocals from a singer on stage or a drum hit, for example.
Condenser mics are more sensitive, and thus better suited for capturing more detail and softer sounds, like an acoustic guitar recording in a studio.
For podcasting, neither dynamic nor condenser microphones are necessarily better than the other. It really depends on the style of podcast you have.
If it's just you and a guest or two having a normal or animated conversation speaking directly into mics, dynamic makes a little more sense. Dynamic mics focus more on what's right in front of them and ignore the background room noise like air conditioning, squeaky chairs, etc.
If you speak quietly, or there is some detail in your voice that you feel like is extra special, or you desire to capture sound from the room around you, a condenser mic might be better.
Keep in mind condenser microphones are more delicate, provide a higher output level, and require +48V of phantom power from wherever they are plugged into.
What Software Do Podcasters Use?
After you've purchased a microphone and hooked it up to your computer, tablet, or smartphone, the only other thing needed to get started recording your podcast is some kind of software or app.
We'll keep this simple and point you to 2 free options:
Audacity is super popular because it's open source and 100% free. It's available for Windows, macOS, and GNU/Linux.
If you happen to use an Apple device, you can use GarageBand which is included with macOS and free to download on iOS.
Both Audacity and GarageBand are full fledged music and podcast creation programs, and will allow you to get started recording and editing your audio.
If you're just starting out, there's no need to pay for expensive software to record your podcast. It should be a while before you bump into the limitations of these two apps.
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more