Getting your foot in the podcasting door and trying to answer the first question that most people starting a podcast have -- What microphone should I use for podcasting?
Well, let’s get right into figuring out what the best microphone is for you.
There are many types of microphones out there and the best way to find the best microphones for you is a two-step process:
- Understand how you plan to use the microphone
- Understand the basics of podcast microphones
Step One is to understand how you plan to use the mic, because different situations will need different types of mics. Our focus is on finding the best podcasting microphone for you to start with. There are different mics for home and studio setups. Defining how and where you’re going to use the microphone will help lead the next step.
Step Two is to understand the basics of podcast microphones. That includes the technology of how mics pick up sound, like polar patterns, as well as cable connectors. Do you want to get a USB microphone or an XLR microphone? Condenser or Dynamic?
Before we get into it, if you’re looking for the easy breakdown table of the best podcasting microphones, features, criteria, and your setup, go down to the table now.
Otherwise, read on!
Condenser vs Dynamic Microphone
These are the two main types of microphones when you’re looking at what type of mic to get. This concerns more of how you plan to use the mic and where you’re going to record your podcast.
Dynamic and Condenser refer to the internal technology inside the microphones and how they record and transfer your voice to a readable format by computers. Condenser mics have condenser capsules that turn sound to electrical energy and that’s where the term came. These type of mics also utilize phantom power to power them.
Dynamic mics are more flexible and forgiving when recording at home because it’s less likely to pick up background noises. If you have co-hosts or guests recording nearby you where your voices can crossover with each other, dynamic mics are the better way to go because you’re not picking up as much of their voices. If you’re recording with an audience, you should also consider a dynamic microphone. If you’re going to have two mics, consider two dynamic microphones.
Condenser mics are usually used in professional, recording studio setups where the environment can be highly controlled. Condenser microphones are the opposite of dynamics in that condensers are good if you’re recording a solo podcast in a quiet setup. As condenser capsules are more sensitive to sounds, you may want to get a pop filter, similar to this pop filter on Amazon.
Check out the Dynamic vs. Condenser mic article if you’re looking for more details and a list of other mics.
Dynamic mics are also usually cheaper than condenser mics. For those on a smaller budget, go with dynamic microphones like the easy to use Audio-Technica ATR2100x Dynamic Microphone that comes with both a USB cable and an XLR cable, the next feature to consider.
USB vs. XLR Microphone
The next microphone feature to consider is whether you want to get a USB or an XLR mic, which refers to the cable that you’ll use to connect from the mic to your computer or an intermediary like an audio interface or mixer.
USB microphones are great for beginners and those on a budget because you’re able to connect the microphone directly to your computer’s USB output port. USB mics are able to connect directly into computers because of the preamp and converter built directly into the mic that allows for the conversion of the sound into digital data that your DAW software can read for recording and editing.
XLR microphones are analog, so they don’t have a preamp nor converter built-in. XLR cables are the thicker cables with circular ends you’ll often see in settings with professional audio setups. You’ll need an audio interface or mixer if you have an XLR mic, so it will be another cost if you’re on a budget.
Most professional recording studios use XLR mics because the audio quality is better, but USB mics aren’t far behind in terms of sound quality. Unless you have a professional recording studio I’d go with a USB mic nowadays because of its flexibility and portability with connecting straight into your computer.
A popular USB condenser podcasting mic is the Blue Yeti for its flexibility, which allows you to also select multiple patterns for directionality: cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo.
Directionality refers to the direction a microphone picks up sound. Directionality is also known as polar patterns. Here’s a look at what the patterns look like and how sound is picked up:
The main patterns to consider for a podcast mic: cardioid, bidirectional (Figure 8 in image), and omnidirectional.
The cardioid polar pattern is the most popular pattern for podcasting as it’s picking up voices in one direction, from the front of the mic, which is where you should be situated when recording. It’s not picking up as much sound from the sides and back of the microphone, thus reducing background noise.
The bidirectional polar pattern, as you can see in the Figure-8 polar pattern image is recording from opposite sides of the mic. Microphones with that polar pattern are great if you have two people talking across from each other.
The omnidirectional polar pattern picks up sound from all directions equally. If you’re in the middle of an event and want to find a way to immerse your listeners audibly, this would be the pattern to go with.
If you’re just starting your podcast and not completely sure of how you’ll be recording your podcast, a mic with a multi-pattern selection like the Yeti is recommended. This offers you the most flexibility because you can record solo and with guests by turning a knob.
If you’re going solo and/or on a budget, you can get the Samson Q2U as that’s a cardioid polar pattern. For the Samson go check it out here.
You can also check out this YouTube video with live testing of different patterns:
Other Technical Specifications
Condenser or Dynamic and USB or XLR are the two main decisions when it comes to choosing a microphone for podcast hosts just starting their podcasts.
As podcasters become more experienced and podcast production budgets increase, podcasting goes to the next level and a lot more of the technical specs come into play when assessing a quality microphone for the studio. But the first step of understanding how you plan to use the microphone to record a podcast doesn’t change.
You’ll be looking at more specs and not a simple question of Should I buy a dynamic or condenser microphone.
Frequency response is usually given as a frequency range, eg., a mic lists their frequency response as 20Hz -- 20kHz. What the range signifies is that the microphone will pick up all frequencies above 20Hz and below 20kHz.
Frequency response isn’t a major consideration for podcasting because “the voiced speech of a typical adult male will have a fundamental frequency from 85 to 180 Hz, and that of a typical adult female from 165 to 255 Hz” (source).
There’s no concern for podcasting as the majority of podcasts won’t be going to the extremes of the range.
Diaphragms are what pick up sounds in the microphone. Diaphragm sizes are important for mics, but again, not necessarily as important for a podcast microphone. Essentially, large-diaphragm microphones are more versatile and pick up the largest range of frequencies. Small-diaphragm microphones are better suited for sharp, short sounds, eg. acoustic guitar, hi-hats, and drum overheads.
When it comes to podcasting, if you get any of the recommended microphones for podcasting, you’re good to go.
Audio latency is the short time delay between the time an audio sound takes to reach the microphone diaphragm and the time that sound takes to be converted from analog to digital signal. So when you’re listening to the playback and you find that your recorded voice is not in sync with the music track, that’s audio latency.
Latency is usually an issue with the analog-to-digital converter connection and/or a computer-side issue with the digital audio workstation (daw). If you’re always using the same equipment and setup, then the best way to fix a latency issue is to do set a latency compensation in your daw software. For example, read Audacity’s tutorial.
This isn’t a microphone issue, so it shouldn’t affect your choice of a microphone.
Impedance level is the measurement of the AC current of sound and measured in ohms. Most professional microphones have an output impedance of 150-250 ohms. So it’s not a big factor in choosing a podcasting microphone.
Choosing The Best Podcast Microphone
The money question!
Choosing a podcast microphone can be a difficult decision, especially when a microphone’s price point can range from $70 to $500+. We’ll break it down based on the different microphone types, features, criteria, and the best situations on when you’d use them in this easy to use table:
- USB or XLR -- Whether the microphone has a USB or XLR connector.
- Dynamic or Condenser -- Whether the microphone is a Dynamic or Condenser microphone.
- Polar Pattern -- What polar pattern the microphone has: cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, or multi-pattern.
- Best for Home -- Recording at home and without a specific room to reduce background noise.
- Best for Studio -- Recording in a home or professional studio or at home in a separate room where background sounds can be controlled
I hope that this list gives you a good idea of where to start with how to look for podcast microphones and what you need to know to get the best sound quality with your setup.
There are other microphone accessories that you’ll need and you can check the How to Start a Podcast section on equipment and things needed for podcasting article. That’ll get you started on accessories like a mic stand, pop filter, shock mount, and more.
The pop filter, shock mount, and mic stand are will be one accessory that you’ll definitely want to get started with. Especially the pop filter as we often make the plosive sounds when we say our P’s that we’ll want to filter out. Each accessory will work together to give you a much better recording quality overall.
One last thing is if you plan to record on the go and record video, you can consider a lavalier microphone.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Best USB Mic for Podcasting?
The best overall USB mic is the Blue Yeti. The value is best as it will last you longer as your podcast grows. If you're able to control the noise level around you at home or in a studio, you'll get the best sound quality from the the mic.
The best USB microphone for beginners recording at home and on a budget is the Audio-Technica ATR2100X that's usually under $100. If you have an even tighter budget, you can go with the Samson Q2U.
- What is the Best Condenser Mic for Podcasting?
The Blue Yeti is the best condenser mic overall for podcasting. It's at a great price point and the value is definitely there. But as with all condenser mics, you'll need to control your environment for background sounds when voice recording.
As an added bonus, it has a multi-pattern selection feature. You're able to adjust the way the mic records, so it offers flexibility when recording to give you the best podcast possible.
- What is the Best Dynamic Mic for Podcasting?
The best dynamic podcasting mic is the Shure SM7B. It's used by professional podcasters for the excellent sound quality output with vocals. As with most professional-level podcasting mics, it's an XLR mic, so you'll need to invest in an audio interface or mixer as well.