Podcasting seems to have exploded in the past few years, even Google’s cashed in by developing its own podcasting app. The accessibility of the format is what draws so many listeners and creators to it. If you’re aspiring to be the latter, picking out your debut podcasting microphone can be daunting, which is why we’ve made this list to find the best podcasting microphone for you.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on January 24, 2020, to include Shure SM7B frequency response measurements.
Related: Best USB Microphones
The best podcasting microphone is the Shure SM7B
For its compact design, the Shure SM7B is an insanely powerful microphone. Much like Nebraska, the Shure’s frequency response is flat and wide. The frequency response of this dynamic mic ranges from 50-20kHz with an impedance of 150Ω. By nature of its dynamic classification, the Shure SM7B doesn’t require external power to function. However, if you’re not a fan of cranking your audio mixer’s gain, you may want to pick up something like the CL-1 Cloudlifter. The cardioid polar pattern grants uniform recording, and its internals are no slouch either.
It sports a new cartridge shock mount which prevents small movements from showing up in your recordings, so feel free to build a mote of laptops, lights, and monitors around this thing. It proves that professional design doesn’t have to mean inconvenient. The yoke mounting makes for simple mounting and dismounting along with precision control of the placement within your workspace. There are also optional accessories, windscreens, and replacement cartridges to ensure optimal recording quality. The included pop filter helps to mitigate plosives, and protects the mic from any rogue spit.
The back of the microphone features two toggles that allow you to alternate between three frequency response modes: flat, bass rolloff, and presence boost. Flat mode is extremely versatile and reproduced natural raw recordings; bass rolloff, on the other hand, is a great choice for engineers who don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time editing out the proximity effect. What’s more, presence boost mode is ideal for those who want a bit more oomph to vocals while retaining the same benefits afforded by bass rolloff.
Shure SM7B flat response demo:
The SM7B is well-built, making it ideal for podcasters who are committed to the longevity of their product.
Vagabond podcasters should get the Samson Go Mic
When looking for a microphone, it’s hard to decide what’s necessary and what’s overkill. Well, Samson Technologies is renowned for its audio equipment and doesn’t overwhelm users with frivolous features in the Samson Go mic. It’s a great plug-and-play option for people and is a low-risk option to consider.
The USB condenser style podcasting microphone allows for complete ease of recording: just plug it into your computer and record. The frequency response is more than enough, ranging from 20Hz-18kHz at 16-bit resolution. The Go mic also offers a cardioid recording option which is ideal for podcasting. And, it can record directly into whatever editing program you’re using. However, for better quality audio, prepare to shell out.
The best value podcasting microphone is the Blue Yeti
Blue Yeti’s mission is to make your recording experience as efficient and streamlined as possible with their USB microphones. Specifically, the Yeti Pro offers “tri-capsule technology” which allows for quality a cut above your average USB mic for only a little more. You may adjust the gain, and headphone output volume via the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Additionally, there are four pattern modes with this mic allowing you to choose which one best suits your given situation. Cardioid is ideal for podcasts, as it allows you to record sound which is immediately in front of the mic. Stereo mode acts as one would expect: recording sound from the left and right channels simultaneously to provide a better illusion the listener is in the room with you. Omnidirectional mode will record 360-degree sound, and bidirectional will record sound from the front and rear regions of the microphone.
If you’re looking for a more professional sound, we recommend saving up the pennies for the Yeti X, but it’s right at the cusp of the territory where you’d be better off getting a more dedicated mic with an interface instead. The Yeti X’s main draw is that it makes some of the tougher parts of recording easier, but at the risk of the user doing too much and throwing hard-t-fix wrenches in the works anyway. However, with all the display and mode options available, we don’t think that’ll happen too often.
The HyperX Quadcast is an excellent USB mic that’s affordable, too
As is the case with nearly all USB microphones, the HyperX Quadcast requires minimal setup or know-how. It’s elevated by a tilting stand paired with a dual-shock mount to mitigate vibration. Near the bottom of the capsule is again dial, and the back knob lets you alternate between pickup patterns.
On the top of the microphone is a dedicated mute touchpad, which allows you to mute at the drop of a hat. This is great if you live with others and don’t want unpredictable sounds to bleed into your recording. It’s also easy to tell when the mic is on or off via the lighting behind the grill.
This unique podcasting microphone doesn’t require a pop filter because it uses a foam-like material just behind the grill. Said material does a good job at combating plosive sounds (p, pf, etc). Another great feature is that it’s compatible with an array of systems by nature of it being a USB mic. You can use it with an Xbox, PS3, PC, or Mac system.
While there are a few recording patterns to choose from, podcasters should stick with the cardioid pattern: it performs well at recording directly ahead while minimizing echoes. Above is a clip recorded with the HyperX Quadcast; for less than $150, it’s not too bad.
For a versatile XLR podcasting microphone, get the Blue Ember
The Blue Ember is a spartan XLR microphone in the sense that it provides few—if any—frivolous features. This doesn’t detract from the Ember’s value, however; in fact, it’s likely why it’s such a great mic for the $100 price. The side-address design means you speak directly into the front, not the top, of the microphone. That coupled with the slim form factor make this a great option for content creators working in tight spaces or for those who don’t want to worry about obscuring a microphone from view in videos.
Despite the Ember’s slim design, it packs a substantial heft at 380 grams which adds a premium feel to the microphone. The XLR input at the base requires a dedicated XLR cable, rather than an adapted instrument cable. What’s more, you’ll need a recording interface with +48V phantom power to operate the microphone. Fortunately, there are plenty of USB interfaces out there to get you started. The cardioid recording pattern bodes well for voice recording and effectively rejects off-axis noises.
Additionally, this podcasting microphone is great for instrumental recordings as it doesn’t place an excessive amount of emphasis on any particular frequency range. As you can hear in the example below, the sliding of my fingers up and down the fretboard of a guitar is audible without sounding too exaggerated. If you want to hear an example of vocal recordings, be sure to play that clip too.
Blue Ember guitar demo
Blue Ember voice demo
How we chose
While we typically subject headphones and earbuds to our in-house, objective testing, a podcasting microphone is no different. Over the past couple years, we’ve had the opportunity to kick the tires on a bunch of high-end microphones, and we were able to test the ones we found in the entry-level a bit more to find the diamonds in the rough. Our charts bear this out.
We made sure to do plenty of research on third-party forms and by scouring reviews on popular retailers. What’s more, we accounted for the reality of podcasting: it can be done from virtually anywhere. We wanted to respect the format’s versatility by picking out a wide array of options for readers to choose from.
- Audio-Technica ATR2500: Sound quality is excellent for a sub-$100 microphone. It’s easy to use since it’s a USB interface, too.
- Blue Snowball: This is a great alternative to the Blue Yeti microphone. It’s even easier to use and features a smaller, albeit more spherical, form factor. This USB microphone is available for ~$50.
- Beyerdynamic Fox USB Mic: If you want a versatile USB microphone that’s appropriate for gamers, podcasters, and musicians alike, the Beyerdynamic Fox USB Mic is a great option. It’s a bit pricey but users pay for the convenience, versatility, and slick design.
- Rode NT-USB: The NT-USB is much like Beyerdynamic Fox: both are USB microphones designed to perform well in a variety of situations. Rode’s version is slightly more expensive but it really comes down to personal preference.
- Shure 55SH Series II: The iconic Elvis microphone is about more than just shiny and chrome looks. It’s tuned to emphasize vocal frequencies and has excellent off-axis rejection. The die-cast metal construction is durable and attractive. Even though the mic is rather large, it can be adjusted easily thanks to the tension swivel.
What you should know about finding the best podcasting microphone
Different microphone types
There are four major microphone categories: dynamic, condenser, ribbon, and tube. The first two versions are the most popular, while the latter have garnered a loyal following. Most of the microphones you’ll happen across in the consumer space are dynamic. These are great for general purpose and vocal recordings because they don’t require external phantom power and are durable. If you could only choose one type of microphone, chances are the dynamic variant will serve you best in most instances.
Look for a cardioid recording pattern
When it comes to picking out a podcasting microphone there’s a vast expanse of options to choose from. While style and size are important, you need to have a basic understanding of polar patterns. We happen to have an in-depth article on this matter, but if you’re in a rush, here’s the down-low.
There are five recording patterns that you’ll see on microphone packaging from enthusiast to professional-targeted products: omnidirectional, bidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid, and supercardioid. Each pattern has its place in the world of production, but we’re focusing on cardioid microphones.
Cardioid. The word looks a bit like “cardio” and the pattern is fairly heart-shaped. This is best for recording sound directly in front of the element and allows for some leeway when placing the microphone. Cardioid mics boast effective reject off-axis noise, resulting in a clear, unencumbered recording.
Generally, a consumer podcasting microphone won’t require a dedicated interface
For the most part, the best podcasting microphone for a given consumer won’t usually require a dedicated recording interface. This is great as it saves space and money. If you feel the need to invest in an interface anyway (or your mic has an XLR connector), we recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. It’s effective and a great value with two XLR inputs, 48V phantom power, and a handful of other practical features. In fact, this is what we used for the Blue Ember mic.
That said, you will need some kind of audio interface to process the recording. One of the most popular options is Audacity, which also happens to be free. Otherwise, if you’re beholden to Adobe products, Audition may be more your speed. Regardless, there are many ways to edit your voice, depending on the style you’re going for. That said, we have a few tips to get you started.
Why you should trust us
Individually, each member of the SoundGuys team has accrued multiple years of keeping their thumbs on the pulse of the audio industry. When it comes to the best podcasting mics, we understand that users podcast in vastly different environments from a hotel bedroom to a full-fledged studio. Thus, we wanted to account for that diversity in our picks.
None of our writers benefit from recommending one product over another; as a matter of fact, they’ll never know if a link was ever clicked. Collectively, we want you to be happy with your purchase and, in the case of podcasting mics, we want it to be easy to use and increase the quality of your end product. If you have the time, we encourage our readers to learn more about our ethics policy.
Related: How to edit your voice