The Best Podcast Microphones

The Best Podcast Microphones

Why is a Good Podcast Microphone Important?

It might seem obvious, but it’s a question worth asking – Why bother investing in a good podcast microphone at all?

However you record, there’s no denying that a podcast recorded on a decent-quality microphone is massively more professional than someone blabbering away on a tinny headset mic.

After all, it’s the mic that captures your voice and translates it from physical sound waves into digital bits and bytes.

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Should I Choose an XLR or USB Microphone?

XLR and USB simply refer to the type of cable a mic plugs in with. XLR mics are considered to be the more professional, but many USB mics are good enough to go toe-to-toe with them these days. If you buy an XLR mic you’ll need some additional kit (like a USB Audio Interface, Mixer, or Podcast Recorder) to run it into, whilst USB mics work right out of the box. Some podcast microphones actually do both, though, so you can have the best of both worlds!

Should I Choose a Dynamic or Condenser Mic?

The terms “Condenser” and “Dynamic” refer to two different ways microphones are built, and function. Both types of mic have their potential pros and cons. Dynamic mics are often more durable and can handle high volumes without distortion. Condenser mics, on the other hand, are often capable of recording a more crisp and detailed sound. These are broad generalisations though, and there are always exceptions. Here’s our full guide to Condenser Vs Dynamic Mics in Podcasting for a deeper dive on the subject.

Best Podcast Microphones for All Budgets & Prices

We’ve organised this Best Podcast Mics roundup by cost to make your choice as easy as possible.

Budget Mics (Sub $100)

  1. Samson Q2U
  2. ATR2100
  3. Rode Smartlav+
  4. MXL990
  5. Shure SM58

Premium Mics ($200+)

  1. Shure SM7b
  2. Heil PR40
  3. Electro-Voice RE20

Mid-Range Mics ($100-$200)

  1. Rode Podcaster
  2. Blue Yeti
  3. AKG Lyra
  4. PreSonus PX-1
  5. Samson Q9U
  6. Rode NT1-A

Budget Level Podcast Microphones for Under $100

A good podcast microphone can cost hundreds of dollars, but luckily there are a lot of much more affordable options.

Don’t let the term “Budget Level” put you off – I only recommend good quality kit! These are relatively cheap, though, and very easy to set up, so they’re well-suited for beginners. But, I know many a veteran podcaster that still uses this kit, even years down the road.

1. Samson Q2U

  • Average Cost: $70 (check prices on Amazon)
  • Connection: XLR & USB
  • Function: Dynamic
  • 👍 Pros: Our favourite podcast mic of all time
  • 👎Cons: Can be difficult to buy in certain regions

2. ATR2100

  • Average Cost: $80 (check prices on Amazon)
  • Connection: XLR & USB
  • Function: Dynamic
  • 👍 Pros: Almost identical to the Samson Q2U
  • 👎Cons: Similarly, availability can vary depending on your region

3. Rode Smartlav+

  • Average Cost: $53 (check prices on Amazon)
  • Connection: 3.5mm
  • Function: Condenser
  • 👍 Pros: Super portable, fits in your pocket
  • 👎Cons: Sound quality isn’t as good as most XLR or USB mics

4. The MXL990

  • Average Cost: $70 (check prices on Amazon)
  • Connection: XLR
  • Function: Condenser
  • 👍 Pros: Great audio quality at a very low cost
  • 👎Cons: Quite fragile, and needs a boom arm to mount it

5. The Shure SM58

  • Average Cost: $99 (check prices on Amazon)
  • Connection: XLR
  • Function: Dynamic
  • 👍 Pros: Almost indestructible
  • 👎Cons: If you’re bothered about aesthetics, this looks more like a “musician’s mic” (predominantly, it is!)

Strengthen Your Setup: Headphones, Audio Interfaces, & Microphone Stands

Podcast microphones don’t work in isolation, and you can use various bits of kit and gear to power, support, or enhance them.

Headphones are a must for any podcaster. Use them for monitoring recordings so that you can hear exactly what’s being recorded, as it’s being recorded. Then, use them to edit and produce your audio, too. Check out our guide to the best podcast headphones for more on this.

If you’re using a digital mic, you’ll need a computer to plug your USB cable into. There’s every chance you already have a computer, but bookmark our best computer for podcasting and best laptop for podcasting guides should you ever need to upgrade.

If it’s an XLR mic you plan to use, then you can’t plug an XLR cable directly into your computer. Instead, you can buy a USB audio interface to link it all together, giving you greater control, flexibility, and a wider range of options. Depending on the model, you can plug two or more mics into your interface, making them ideal for recording local co-hosts or guests. Some will even include a separate headphone jack for each participant.

Most podcast microphones mentioned here will also be optimal when mounted on a stand or boom arm. Check out our guide to the best boom arms, which offer the most flexible and professional-looking setups for mic mounting and podcast presentation.

Podcast Microphone Polar Patterns

Mic polar patterns are also known as pickup patterns. These are settings which determine the areas a microphone “hears” sound. For example, a cardioid polar pattern will focus mainly on the front of the mic whilst rejecting some sound from around the back. This makes the cardioid pickup pattern ideal for voice recordings, and almost every mic mentioned here either has it by default or makes it available in its range of settings. Check out our full guide to microphone polar patterns to learn more.

Background Noise, Mic Technique, & Sound Quality

It’s not purely about which mic you buy – it’s about where and how you use it. Though there’s nothing wrong with ambient noise, you want to avoid distracting background noise in your podcast, which means optimising your recording space. Make a habit of using your mute button, too, whether that’s built into the mic, or in your recording software. We can edit out and clean up after the fact, but many disturbances don’t need to make it into your recording in the first place.

Mic technique is also pivotal to your audio quality. You want to maintain an appropriate distance, avoid handling or hitting the desk, and use a pop filter if you love to record in close proximity.