15 Best Podcast Microphones in 2020 for Superior Audio Clarity
Almost everyone but Donald Trump is doing podcasts these days. It’s a great way to advertise, have fun, meet exciting new people, and of course, gain popularity. But without using one of the best podcast microphones, it can be difficult to engage an audience, even with interesting guests.
One of the most difficult things you’ll have to deal with as an aspiring podcaster is getting the right equipment. Let’s start with the centerpiece – the microphone.
The Best Podcast Microphones to Keep Your Listeners Happy
Table of Contents
- The Best Podcast Microphones to Keep Your Listeners Happy
- 1. Blue Yeti USB Mic
- 2. Audio Technica AT-2020 USB+
- 3. Rode SmartLav+
- 4. Rode NT-USB
- 5. Shure SM7B
- 6. Audio Technica ATR-2500X USB
- 7. Samson Go Portable Condenser Microphone
- 8. Rode Procaster Dynamic Vocal Microphone
- 9. Shure MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone
- 10. MXL Mics 770
- 11. Sony ECMCS3
- 12. HEiL PR-40
- 13. HyperX QuadCast
- 14. Fifine USB Podcast Condenser Microphone
- 15. Apogee Hype Mic
- Why Are So Many People Fascinated with Plug-and-Play Mics?
- Important Built-in or External Components
- The Most Important Polar Pattern In Your Arsenal
- How Much Production Value Is the Microphone Responsible for?
- Condenser vs Dynamic Podcast Microphones
- Differences Between Lapel Mics and Regular Mounted Microphones
The Blue Yeti USB mic is one of the most popular podcast mics on the market. Gaming enthusiasts, streamers, professional podcasters, and many others who need superior recording quality use this mic.
The mic features three condenser capsules and four switchable pickup patterns. Therefore, you can use the Blue Yeti as a simple cardioid, stereo, bidirectional, and omnidirectional mic. With the pickup patterns well-calibrated for talking to guests and a frequency response range of 20Hz to 20kHz, the audio quality is quite impressive.
What I like most about the Blue Yeti is the fact that it’s optimized for vocals. Not only that, but it also has some strong filters which help block out even more ambient noise.
If a simple control interface is what you’re after, the Blue Yeti has that too. The mic features a mute button and the gain knob. While this doesn’t exactly scream customization, it’s still something. I should also point out that using the headphone jack will allow you to listen in zero-latency conditions.
The microphone comes with a decent stand too. However, you have to be quite close if you want the optimal pickup volume.
The AT-2020 USB+ is a condenser mic. It’s a plug-and-play device optimized for digital vocal recordings. One of the reasons it performs so well is the high-end AD converter, which is responsible for giving the mic a 16-bit 44.1/48kHz sampling rate and a very clear audio pickup.
If you’re a beginner, buying a single podcast microphone may not be enough. In most cases, you’ll need a more reliable setup. That’s where the accessories come in and where the AT-2020 shines. You can also get this mic in a complete streaming/podcasting pack, along with a studio boom arm and headphones. The boom arm is quite high-end for this price range. It’s well-stabilized, capable of 360 degrees rotation, and very sturdy.
Of course, the mic and boom arm aren’t the only two professional-grade components in this pack. The bundle contains a pair of ATH M20x headphones too. These provide good sound isolation and enhance the midrange vocals so that you can hear each guest in great detail.
There’s no reason you can’t keep things simple when hosting a podcast. If you’re low on money and you don’t need the highest production value, you can get away with some pretty small and affordable lavalier microphones.
The Rode SmartLav+ is one of my favorite omnidirectional lavalier microphones to combine with smartphones. If you don’t have a studio, then I recommend the SmartLav+ to get you started on your podcasts.
Guests will love its lightweight design and comfortable feel. The mic also provides plenty of freedom and doesn’t require anyone to lean in or stand in a certain way to ensure a clear audio pickup.
In terms of performance, the SmartLav+ is rated as a broadcast-quality microphone. That means that it’s more than suitable for taking interviews and even hosting an amateur-level podcast out in the open.
Still, I recommend it more for indoor use. Because of its omnidirectional condenser capsule, it can’t cancel out ambient noise all that well. The cable, although it looks slim and underwhelming, is Kevlar reinforced and pretty durable.
4. Rode NT-USB
Though much cheaper than most of its competition, the Rode NT-USB is a very interesting studio-quality podcast microphone. It comes with loads of features and accessories that can help you boost the quality of your podcasts and take things to the next level.
Rode includes a tripod desk stand, a ring mount, and an effective pop shield. The latter is a very nice addition at this price point, as it has a dramatic impact on the recording quality.
The 20’ USB cable comes in handy too, as it won’t limit your studio arrangement options. Zero-latency monitoring is also an option as you can use any pair of headphones with a standard 3.5mm jack with the microphone.
You may also appreciate the individual control knobs for the mic and headphones, conveniently located on the right side of the mic, under the pop filter.
The 16-bit resolution is a standard at this price point. You’re unlikely to need more even if you plan on being the next YouTube sensation. You can easily compensate with your recording software if you’re not pleased with the standard audio definition of the Rode NT-USB.
5. Shure SM7B
The Shure SM7B is a dynamic cardioids microphone that features bass roll-off and wide frequency response. It’s optimized for instruments and vocals, making it a very good choice for any podcast that involves some live acoustic music too.
If you’re most worried about mechanical noise, know that the SM7B features an internal air suspension design, something that Shure often uses in tandem with pop filters. I like the idea of a built-in pop filter since it eliminates the need to buy any new accessories.
The SM7B does a terrific job against plosives. This quality makes it suitable not just for podcasts but also voice-over work, narration, and even vocals recordings.
One thing that slightly raises this mic’s value is the A7WS windscreen. It wasn’t available in previous iterations of the SM7B, but it quickly became a standard. The windscreen is detachable too, so if you don’t like it, you can take it off.
Now, you may be concerned a bit about the price. If you want high-end quality, you’ll have to pay a bit more. That said, the SM7B is not just good, but it also comes with a replacement Shure RPM106 cartridge as well as highly durable construction and superior magnetic shielding.
Here’s one of the more affordable Audio Technica podcast microphones. The USB mic features a cardioid polar pattern and shows impressive off-axis sound rejection qualities. I find it a suitable option for podcasting, voice-overs, and all sorts of studio recording applications.
The ATR-2500X has a sturdy metal construction and should be compatible with most standard desk mounts. What makes it stand out, though, is its low-mass diaphragm. This design allows for a wider and more accurate frequency response, which ultimately translates into clearer vocals.
Its AD converter is good but won’t give you more than a 16-bit/48kHz sampling rate. That’s pretty much the industry standard.
Although it has pretty standard dimensions, excluding the diaphragm, the ATR-2500X comes with an adjustable desktop stand. That means that you can angle it, I recommend slightly upwards, but also consider your guest’s height.
Smaller than most desk mics but larger than a lapel mic, the Samson Go Portable Condenser Microphone is an interesting in-between alternative. It’s an affordable compact microphone with USB connectivity and a foldable design.
Surprisingly enough, the microphone features two pickup patterns, cardioid and omnidirectional, which is very impressive at such a low price point.
It even has a headphone amp, which provides a decent boost and enough clarity. The lack of built-in volume control can be inconvenient for some users.
The pickup clarity is quite good, provided, of course, that you don’t stand too far away from the Go Mic. I should also point out that Samson didn’t go all out on pop filters and shock protection, so you will have to get crafty with its positioning.
The Rode Procaster dynamic microphone sits between intermediate and premium classes. It’s rated as a highly capable broadcast microphone, which I think makes it an ideal choice for a podcaster too. It boasts a tight polar pattern, optimized for capturing the vocal midrange in high definition and clarity.
The microphone has good ambient noise cancelation properties, and it also features a built-in pop filter. It can help minimize plosives and improve overall recording quality.
A stand mount with a 3/8” adapter is also included, as is a small zip pouch for transport or storage purposes. What’s interesting is that the shock mount is internal. That means that the Rode Procaster is less bulky than other podcast microphones yet still capable of dealing with low handling noise.
The mic is also heavy. It may not be the best thing in the world, but the reason for the extra weight is the very sturdy all-metal construction and multiple built-in features.
Shure’s MV5 is one of the weirdest yet coolest looking condenser/ribbon microphones you can use for your podcast. That’s because it looks a bit like Darth Vader’s Death Star, and it even has that black and red pattern to go with it.
It’s also one of the few Apple MFI condenser mics that I recommend. This mic features three preset modes, for instruments, flat recordings, and vocal recordings.
I like that it applies gain on its own, but only because it does it well. All EQ settings are adaptable and automatically applied depending on the chosen preset, the ambient noise, and other external factors.
The mic has a low profile and an optimum orientation for capturing dialogue with minimal ambient noise.
Of course, it does suffer some flaws, mainly user adjustability. But I suppose this is not uncommon for a device made primarily for Apple.
All things considered, if you want something that looks different, sounds great, and is optimized for use with Apple devices, you won’t go wrong with the Shure MV5.
10. MXL Mics 770
The MXL 770 Midnight condenser microphone is an affordable podcast mic. It boasts a decent frequency response, slightly lacking in the lower register, but still optimized to emphasize the vocal midrange.
Its accuracy is impressive, but it is not what defines it. This model has strong bass output, as well as a high-end boost. That gives richness to the vocals and captures more detail.
Another thing that I appreciate is the addition of a carrying case. The 770 Midnight comes in a hardshell carrying case with thick interior padding and a shock mount. If you don’t have a dedicated studio setup, this can come in very handy for safe storage purposes.
The overall build quality is not impressive. The diaphragm seems easy to dent, so it’s best you use it with care. However, at least when not in use, the MXL 770 Midnight should be well-protected.
11. Sony ECMCS3
Not every podcaster can afford top-of-the-line microphones, but this shouldn’t stop you from trying to build your show. You can start small and with very little investment if you choose something like the Sony ECMCS3 clip-style stereo microphone.
This mic is small, lightweight, and, most importantly – ideal for hands-free recording. The omnidirectional polar pattern allows a lot of flexibility. And, even though the overall build quality may not seem too impressive, the microphone still boasts a decent 50Hz to 15kHz frequency response.
I find this enough to provide some clarity and prevent the voice from getting sounding artificial. It also doesn’t sound hollow like most lapel microphones.
What is most interesting is the forgiving nature of the ECMCS3. It suffers very little, if at all, from the placement changes between the lapel and collar. Although this also means that there’s little way to improve the overall audio quality, it also means that you can wear it any way you want.
Even though it picks up more ambient noise than other mics in its class, the Sony ECMCS3 remains one of the most convenient podcast microphones for people on a tight budget. As long as there’s no music involved, it can record good quality interviews without needing an advanced studio configuration.
12. HEiL PR-40
If you’re looking for a mic capable of very loud output and superior shielding, then the HEiL PR-40 studio microphone may be able to accommodate your wishes.
The PR-40 has a steel body and a die-cast zinc bottom ring for superior reliability and longevity. Its frequency response of 28Hz to 18kHz does a good job of ignoring some of the lower and higher frequency sounds that can produce unwanted distortion and mess with the vocal clarity.
This mic is rated at 600 Ohm impedance. Because of this, it’s not the best choice for an amateur podcast studio setup. You’ll need professional gear to get the most out of it.
But, if you do plan on getting serious about your interviews, this is one of the few mics capable of this level of natural voice articulation.
What’s even more impressive is the extended bass response, which is almost impossible to find in similar dynamic studio mics. Pair that with the minimal EQ adjustments required, and it’s pretty obvious that for serious podcasts, the PR-40 is worth the money.
13. HyperX QuadCast
The HyperX QuadCast condenser microphone may look like a gaming microphone, but it’s so much more. Looking past the LED indicator, flashy graphics, and sporty design, you’ll notice one of the best shock mount designs and consistent mic performances.
I recommend the QuadCast if you don’t mind its flashy appearance because it’s quite adaptable to various podcast conditions. The mic features four polar pickup patterns, including cardioid and bidirectional patterns.
Another cool thing is the tap-to-mute feature. You can tap the top of the microphone to mute it and unmute it, and you’ll also see the LED indicator light up, meaning that it’s hard to make any mistakes when you’re doing a live show.
Although a boom arm is not included, the HyperX QuadCast comes with a versatile mount adapter. It should fit perfectly onto 5/8” and 3/8” threaded setups.
The mic also has gain control, but it is a bottom dial. It’s almost the same diameter as the mic, which means that it’s not uncommon to slightly move the mic when working the dial. It looks great, but I don’t find it as efficient in the long run.
Available in both black and rose red, the Fifine USB condenser mic could be the ideal choice for any podcast host. It’s a simple-looking mic but one that’s quite adaptable to various studio conditions. Its only requirement is an external phantom power source of 48V.
That means that the device won’t be compatible with smartphones and gaming consoles out of the box. But, since most people use their Macs or PCs for all their podcasting needs, this shouldn’t be an issue.
The metal casing gives the microphone extended longevity and durability. The package also features a tripod desk stand that offers good vibration damping.
As most good podcast microphones, the Fifine condenser mic also features a cardioid polar pattern to achieve clearer recordings. The mic is sensitive but not over the top. It won’t require you to be too close to pick up dialogue.
The mic also features a standard volume control knob, meaning you won’t have to keep one hand on the mixer or your eyes constantly on the recording software interface.
15. Apogee Hype Mic
The Apogee Hype mic is a USB condenser microphone with analog compression. It’s a popular choice for podcasts, streaming, and even recording vocals and instruments with high accuracy.
The well-designed cardioid polar pattern ensures commendable production quality. But this is not something you haven’t seen before. So here’s what separates the Apogee Hype from the rest of the herd.
Unlike most podcast microphones, this one offers a superior recording clarity due to its ability to record in 24-bit/96kHz resolution. That’s some next-level stuff for serious podcasters that want their listeners to enjoy not just the best discussions but also flawless audio.
I should also point out that the Apogee Hype comes with a pop filter, carry case, and a desk tripod for quick and easy mounting.
Why Are So Many People Fascinated with Plug-and-Play Mics?
Too many podcasts are all about the topic discussion. Me being a bit of an audio geek myself, I like to think of podcasts as being 50/50 when it comes to discussion and guests and production value.
I don’t think anyone likes to listen to buzzing in the background, equipment fidgeting, and all sorts of other ambient noises. But, having a high production value involves not just having some of the best equipment but also people working in the background, retouching things in real-time.
Here’s where the beauty of plug-and-play mics comes in. Since few people can afford tons of audio equipment, hired help, and keeping their hands and eyes constantly on the EQ and mixer, USB mics are the best alternative.
Most come with built-in volume control knobs and don’t require to be passed through mixers and amps to capture high-resolution audio. These are time-savers and sometimes money-savers too.
Important Built-in or External Components
A podcast microphone is designed to capture voices. Sure many of them can do a lot more, but that’s the main goal - to capture one or more people talking in great detail and with minimal interference.
However, recording conversations is not the easiest thing to record in high quality. One of the main reasons is known as plosives. More specifically, the P and B consonants have an explosive-like quality when they leave the mouth.
To eliminate the popping and thumping, podcast microphones often have pop shields or filters. These can be internal components, in the case of many dynamic mics, or external shields in the case of most condenser mics.
I find the pop shield to be one of the most important accessories. But, not all of them are equally effective, which is why making comparisons is required.
The shock mount is perhaps the next most important thing. That’s the component that protects against mechanically transmitted noise, whether it’s desk vibrations, mic handling, or boom arm handling. The shock mount is a very useful component to have whenever you need to minimize ambient noise.
The Most Important Polar Pattern In Your Arsenal
You’ve probably noticed by now that most of the microphones I prefer to recommend are cardioid polar pattern microphones. Now, if you’re still unclear as to why, let me explain.
The cardioid polar pattern is the ideal solution for vocal recordings, whether they’re voiceovers, interviews, songs, etc.
That’s a directional polar pattern with a high sensitivity to the sounds that come directly from in front of the microphone as opposed to other angles. It’s the opposite of an omnidirectional microphone, which doesn’t have what you might call off-axis shielding and tends to capture pretty much all background noise.
Of course, the cardioid polar pattern is not infallible either. While it may have zero sensitivity to sounds coming from behind it, it only has reduced sensitivity to side projecting sounds. That’s why not all cardioid polar pattern capsules are created equal. The engineering has a lot to do with reducing those sensitivities even further.
How Much Production Value Is the Microphone Responsible for?
Here’s the thing. The microphone is just one aspect of creating a podcast. You’ll also need good recording software, preferably a dedicated audio interface too, and don’t even get me started on room acoustics.
That said, there’s no denying that the microphone is the centerpiece of your podcast’s production value. Having the right polar pattern for your studio setup, be it cardioid when using one mic per guest or a bidirectional polar pattern when you’re talking to someone face to face, the engineering quality of that component, as well as all others (filters, shields, mounts, compression, etc.), will greatly impact the recording quality.
Condenser vs Dynamic Podcast Microphones
Condenser microphones are almost always recommended for studio use. Whether we’re talking about the best podcast mics or the best microphone to record a new album or an audiobook, condenser mikes are usually the first choice.
The reason behind this is that condenser microphones are known to respond better to higher frequencies. That translates to a more detailed and crisper sound if you will.
And yet, in some situations, more sensitivity and louder output are not ideal. Dynamic microphones aren’t as susceptible to catching all the hissing ambient noises. Hence the reason why dynamic microphones rarely need a windscreen, whereas some condensers can’t work well without one.
Finally, choosing between the two involves understanding some basics of room acoustics and knowing your surroundings. If you don’t have a podcast studio all set up just yet, picking between a condenser and dynamic microphone may be a bit challenging, or at least a lengthier process.
Differences Between Lapel Mics and Regular Mounted Microphones
Using a lapel mic is a budget-way of approaching an interview. Sure it’s comfortable since you and your guest can sit however you want and wherever you want, within the cable’s range. But you won’t get high-end vocal recordings.
The reason is quite simple. There are no cardioid pattern lapel mics that are worth the money anyway. A lapel mic will always capture plenty of ambient noise. There’s also an upside, of course. Because it’s not placed directly in front of the speaker’s mouth, it’s unlikely to capture as many plosives too.
But, regular condenser and dynamic microphones, the ones that sit on desks, stands or boom arms, have plenty of ways to protect against plosives, breathing, mechanical distortion, all the while also canceling out background noise.
Start Your Podcast the Right Way, According to Your Budget
As you can see, whether you have money or not, there are plenty of ways to get your hands on the most important piece of your studio equipment – the podcast microphone. If you want to find one of the best mics for podcasting, keep an open mind, do a recap of the essential design features, and remember that every price range has a “best of” model.