“Which podcasting mic should I buy?” is one of the most common questions I see from people starting their first podcast. It is a good question. And while there can be many answers, especially depending on your needs, here are what I think are the best podcasting microphones.

Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

Hear this episode with different mics

I recorded this episode with all of the following mics, all with the same settings, and processed the same except for any amplification difference necessary to reach my target of -19 LUFS. The main podcast release of this episode switches between mics for each section, but you can each the entire episode from each mic below.

iPhone 12 Pro:

Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB via XLR:

Shure MV7 via XLR:

Shure SM7B:

Electro-Voice RE320:

4. Any mic when used properly and effectively

The Blue Yeti gets a lot of hate from experienced and professional podcasters. Why? Because it's the most overpriced, overhyped, oversized, confused, misused, and abused microphone in podcasting—that's all!

But you can actually get great audio from Blue Yeti!

You can also get good audio from earbuds, your smartphone's built-in mic, and even the internal mic on your laptop.

It's all in how you use the microphone and what you expect from it!

I teach that the two most important things to record good audio are environment and technique—actually more important than the microphone itself!

Environment: Microphones aren't magical. If you're in a noisy or reverb-heavy environment, you will get noisy and reverb-heavy audio. A bad mic in a quiet and acoustically treated room will probably always be more listenable than a fancy mic in a noisy echo chamber.

Technique: You can actually mitigate some of the noise and reverb with proper mic technique. This is usually about where you position and point the mic, and where you position and point your voice.

Consider the Blue Yeti, for example. Point the front (not the top) toward you, switch it to cardioid mode, and keep it close to you (about 4–6 inches or 10–15 cm away) and at a 45º pivot away from the front of your mouth.

Yes, processing algorithms in Auphonic, Descript, Adobe Podcast (listen to my episode about best audio-editing apps for podcasting), and other tools are getting much better and smarter, especially in putting artificial intelligence (AI) to good use. But you'll always get better quality if you start with better quality.

3. Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB ($80)

This is my most-recommended microphone for starting out because it produces great quality, it's very affordable (it's been as low as $59), and it offers both USB and XLR connections. You can even connect the mic to a tablet or smartphone with the proper USB adapter! So your podcast gear could be as simple as the ATR2100x-USB, a pair of headphones, and your “computing” device (computer or mobile).

Having XLR means that if you ever need to upgrade to something like a Focusrite Vocaster Two, Zoom Podtrak P4, or RØDECaster Pro II, you don't have to throw away your microphone because you can simply switch to using the XLR cable instead! (USB-only microphones lack this ability to grow with your podcast needs.)

I know of many highly successful podcasters still using an ATR2100x-USB or models like it (the old ATR2100-USB, AT2005USB, or Samson Q2U).

While this microphone might seem mostly the same as my previous favorite, the Samson Q2U, I now recommend the Q2U only if you're on a really tight budget—the Q2U has been as low as $35! But I think the ATR2100x-USB (specifically the newer “x” model) is worth the extra cost because of several seemingly small but greatly appreciated improvements:

  • Zero latency headphone monitoring on the ATR2100x-USB, but the Q2U has just enough latency to make yourself sound weird, cause headaches, or stuff your ears.
  • Consistent self-monitoring via headphones on the ATR2100x-USB so you can hear yourself no matter how you adjust the input or output volume on your USB-connected device, but the Q2U headphones output is affected by the input and output volume on your USB-connected device.
  • The ATR2100x-USB was roughly 10 dB louder than the Q2U in my tests, making it about 13 dB louder than the old ATR2100-USB.
  • The ATR2100x-USB offers a lifetime warranty! The Q2U offers only a 1-year warranty.
  • Both mic kits include plastic stands that won't last long. So even though the Q2U includes a handy 3-inch (7.5 cm) riser, the plastic contacts will lose their grip.
  • The ATR2100x-USB has a USB-C port, which I think should last longer than the old ATR2100-USB (non-“x” model) because USB-C plugs don't have upsides or downsides.

The main complication you might run into when recording over USB is that the mic does not loop back USB audio. So your guest's audio will not be recorded with your ATR2100x-USB unless you add a little only-moderately-complicated input-mixing on your computer.

2. Shure MV7 ($249)

Imagine all that versatility and future-proofing of the ATR2100x-USB, some built-in processing and effects, and packaged in a more professional, even higher quality mic. That's the Shure MV7!

The MV7 works best when paired with the ShurePlus MOTIV app so you can control the microphone's built-in EQ, limiter, and compressor. You can also use the app to adjust how the headphone monitoring is mixed between how much of the mic and how much of your device audio you hear (if you have the MV7 connected to something via USB for additional audio).

The one feature I dislike about the MV7 compared to the ATR2100x-USB is that the MV7's headphone monitoring is subject to your USB-connected device's output volume. So if you're connected to a PC and you turn down the PC's volume, you'll hear your own voice less through the MV7's headphones output. But the ATR2100x-USB maintains your self-monitoring level no matter the input or output volumes of the USB-connected device.

Also, while the MV7 has a somewhat similar physical design to the Shure SM7B, it has the XLR plug on the back of the microphone instead of vertically from the top.

Like the ATR2100x-USB, the main complication you might run into when recording over USB is that the mic does not loop back USB audio. So your guest's audio will not be recorded with your MV7 unless you add a little only-moderately-complicated input-mixing on your computer.

Honorable mention: Shure SM7B ($399)

I love the quality, sound, and physical design of the Shure SM7B. I love how it has built-in shock-protection and its XLR plug is vertical instead of horizontal, so it helps with cable management and concealment. The main thing I don't like about the SM7B is how much gain it needs in order to avoid background hiss in your recordings. You need a really good preamp for the SM7B, so that means either additional hardware or upgrading your gear.

The latest generations of interfaces and recorders—like the Focusrite Vocaster, Zoom Podtrack P4, and RØDE RØDECaster Pro II—do finally provide enough gain without needing an additional preamp. But if you're on anything older, you might have to deal with background hiss until you upgrade.

Honorable mention: the mic that suits your unique needs

I usually recommend what are generally called “studio microphones” because the best place to record a microphone is usually in some kind of “studio” setting—whether that's a closet in your basement or a fancy recording studio. Just like you can be the “CEO of your cubicle,” any dedicated place you record your podcast can be your “studio.”

Many microphones serve the unconventional needs of being away from a studio. For example, a handheld microphone for “man on the street” interviews, a micro headset mic for active movement or public presentations, a mic and headphones combo headset for noisy environments (like at a sports game), a wireless mic for videos or crowded spaces, a hidden or unobtrusive mic for natural-looking videos, and more! Your unique needs might be better served by something that is not a studio dynamic microphone!

1. Electro-Voice RE320 ($299)

Now we come to my favorite mic of all time: the Electro-Voice RE320.

I like this microphone because, in my experience, it's the most natural-sounding and complimentary for all voices. Plus, its strong neodymium magnets make this mic need less gain than most other dynamic mics popular for podcasters, so the RE320 is much friendlier for whatever recorder or interface you're using.

I originally bought into the hype of the Heil PR40 when I bought my first good microphone. And it is indeed a good microphone! But I started hearing it too much in all the podcasts I listened to, and I started noticing all those podcasts emphasized the same frequencies that sounded more “radio booming” instead of natural and relatable. And the more I heard my own voice on the PR40 (even though I didn't use the same multiband compression settings many other PR40 podcasters used), I was regularly annoyed with some audio artifacts. So when I heard Dave Jackson, from School of Podcasting, switch to a RE320 and his voice suddenly sounded so much clearer and more natural, I knew I wanted that microphone!

Electro-Voice was so kind to send me the RE320 (review), RE20 (review), and RE27N/D for testing and review (but I couldn't keep them). Even though I had more highly praised the RE20 in my original reviews, the more I watched my own videos and listened to myself on the RE320, the more I loved its natural sound. Then, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Rick Belt, the creator of the RE320, at NAB Show 2015. He had already loved the reviews I had made, and when I told him that I was “coveting” the RE320 as I was using my PR40, and I planned to someday switch, he pulled one from a cabinet and gave it to me! So in full disclosure, I have not paid for the RE320 I use, but I would have switched anyway when I could afford it and I wish I had always used the RE320 instead of the Heil PR40!

Should you switch podcasting microphones?

Maybe, like I was, you're now “coveting” a different microphone. But I encourage you to consider whether you really need to upgrade to a better microphone.

If you're using a Blue Yeti or a similar microphone that's cumbersome, difficult to work with, or requires you to balance like a TV antenna from the old days just to get some good audio, you should probably upgrade. I remember that it was such a wonderful upgrade for me when I bought my first lav mic for recording videos because I didn't have to have a big studio mic in the shot or frame my shots close to my face! And then when I upgraded to a wireless system, I saved a lot of time and frustration from trying to align my separately recorded audio and video!

If you're already using one of the specific mics I recommend and it's meeting your needs, then you have to consider whether the maybe 5–10% boost in quality is worth spending an additional $300—or more if you need additional connecting gear! In other words, your podcast might have 99 problems, but is your microphone really one of them? You might do better to invest that money elsewhere to fix your audio issues or grow your podcast.

I'm available to help you podcast!

If you need one-on-one help or you haven't launched your podcast, yet, click here to request a personal coaching and consulting session with me and I'd love the opportunity to help you podcast better!

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Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
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Danny Brown
11 months ago

Great collection of mics! I would say the MV7 XLR isn’t great, and for anyone wanting that mic as XLR to go with the MV7x instead. and the RE320 is a superstar of a mic, for sure.

I’m hoping to try the Earthworks ETHOS some day, as I’ve heard great things about it, and the Lauten LS-208 with its condenser approach but dynamic-style features.

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