The Best Podcast Microphones 2021: Top USB Recording Mics for Vocals - Rolling Stone
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The Best Podcast Microphones for Recording Crystal-Clear Audio

Turn any laptop into a home studio with pro-grade vocal mics that record clear, captivating audio

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As many of us are making a habit of logging more hours at home, it’s no wonder that we’re also tuning into more podcasts — or even starting our own pods. Sound like you? Whether you’re picking podcasting up as a hobby or a new venture, one thing’s for sure: Low-quality equipment could make or break even the most compelling content, as otherwise interested listeners might be too distracted by background noise. The best podcast microphones will ensure rich, clear vocals, so even if you’re a one-person show, you won’t sound like one.

What Makes a Good Podcast Microphone?

Unless you’re an analog devotee, we’re guessing that you’re using a computer or tablet (or even your smartphone) to digitally record your podcast, so you’ll need a mic that’s compatible with your operating system and recording/editing software. Here are some other things you should consider before you buy a microphone for podcasting:

USB vs. XLR connector: There are two ways to connect your microphone to your desktop or laptop computer. The most common is USB, which is ideal if you’re looking for easy plug-and-play recording and don’t plan on having guests. If you’re looking for higher quality sound or are recording more than one person and need multiple mics, then an XLR connection is what you’ll want for plugging into a sound system (just note that you need additional equipment to plug in).

Location and number of people: If you plan to record by yourself in one location (say, your acoustic-paneled home studio or living room) using your computer or tablet, then a USB mic is also going to be your best bet. But if you have a more complicated setup (such as recording other people or you have additional sound sources), then an XLR mic may be the better option.

Condenser vs. Dynamic: These are the types of microphones you should consider for recording audio. For studio-recorded podcasts, a condenser mic will capture the richness of your vocals, but know that they may pick up more background noise. If you expect a lot of ambient noise or plan on recording outdoors, then a dynamic microphone is best.

Polar Pattern: This describes the three-dimensional space where microphones best pick up sound. For podcasts, you’ll want to look for a mic with a cardioid polar pattern because it’s more sensitive at the front, less sensitive on the sides, and doesn’t pick up audio from the rear.

Accessories: That popping sound you hear when you say “pop” into a basic microphone? A pop filter (also called a windscreen or pop shield/screen) can help your production sound more professional. Other accessories to consider include a shock mount to prevent the mic from picking up movement or tapping, and a mic stand to make it easy for you to sit and record comfortably.

What Are the Best Podcast Microphones?

Now that you know how to determine which type of microphone is best for recording podcasts, you’re well on your way to becoming a pro host. Whether you’re an aspiring announcer or you’re finally upgrading from a cheap mic, keep reading below to shop our top picks.

1. Shure MV7

Shure MV7

Amazon

The MV7 is a modernized version of Shure’s SM7B, one of the most popular vocal microphones of all time. Shure took the SM7B’s iconic design, shrunk it down, and added features that makes it the new gold standard for podcast microphones.

That starts with its USB connection, which allows you to connect the mic to your computer (PC or Mac) directly. It still has an XLR input if you’d prefer to use a separate audio interface or mixer, but having a USB output streamlines the podcasting process.

Shure took this simplification a step further by making the outer rim of the microphone touch sensitive. With a single swipe you can adjust your gain (the volume of your voice on a recording), or how loud you sound when your headphones are plugged into the MV7’s headphone jack. There’s also a touch-sensitive mute button, which is useful when you cough.

The MV7 can make studio-quality recordings in just about any room, but what’s surprising is how much of the heavy lifting it does for you. The microphone works with an app (Windows and MacOS) that lets you make quick adjustments on the fly. You also have the option to switch between “near” and “far” settings, which will automatically optimize how you sound based on where your microphone is placed.

Whether you’re totally new to podcasting, or want to sound more professional the next time you record, Shure’s MV7 is a single, simple solution.

Buy: Shure MV7 at $219.00

2. 512 Audio Skylight

512 Audio Skylight

Amazon

 

If you’re a little more comfortable with audio equipment, we highly recommend stepping up to 512 Audio’s Skylght, the best condenser vocal microphone we’ve tried in 2021.

The Skylight’s hardware has been specifically tuned to optimize vocal performance, and the difference between it and most other microphones was apparent almost immediately. There’s a deep richness in its sound, and we were able to detect a lot of detail in our vocal recordings that give listeners the sensation that they’re in the same room.

We also liked the XLR microphone’s built-in pop filter, which did an admirable job keeping our recordings clean. We still recommend using a dedicated filter if possible, but it’s not absolutely necessary. While 512’s Skylight is an investment, we feel like it’s one that’s certainly worth making, and it’s honestly an excellent value given its overall performance.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of voice work in 2022, or want to seriously impress coworkers and clients on your next video call, 512 Audio’s Skylight is an obvious choice.

Buy: 512 Audio Skylight at $199.99

3. Fifine USB Condenser Microphone

Fifine Metal Condeser Mic

Amazon

If you’re not ready to make a major investment into your newfound hobby but still want professional-quality audio, then you’ll want to consider FIFINE’s USB condenser microphone. This cardioid condenser mic is great at picking up clear, crisp vocals from its front and sides without any background noise. The microphone also has a built-in volume knob and comes with a 5.9-foot USB cable and desktop tripod stand.

Buy: Fifine Metal Condeser Mic at $29.99

1. Audio-Technica ATR2100X-USB USB/XLR Microphone Bundle

If you’re serious about capturing high-quality vocals (be it for podcasting, voice-overs, and more), Audio-Technica’s handheld microphone is a great option. It’s a cardioid dynamic mic, meaning it’s great at picking up sounds from the front and sides and isolating unwanted ambient noise.

What’s great is that this podcast microphone has both USB and XLR outputs as well as an analog-to-digital converter. It also has a headphone jack so you can directly monitor sound levels. We like that it includes all of the accessories you need to start recording out of the box, including a shock mount, pop filter, and suspension boom scissor arm by Knox Gear, as well as two 6.6-foot USB cables, a 9.8-foot XLR cable, and a tripod desk stand with folding legs.

Best Podcast Microphones - Audio Technica ARS-2100X

Amazon

Buy: Audio-Technica ATR2100X-USB USB/XLR… at $94.99

2. Rode NT-USB USB Condenser Microphone Bundle

Rode’s USB condenser microphone was designed for recording vocals, singing, and musical performances, so it’s great for getting pro-quality podcasts. It comes bundled with Knox Gear’s TX-100 closed-back studio headphones, which plug into the mic’s 3.5mm jack so you can monitor your audio levels in real-time.

This podcast-friendly mic also comes with a pop filter, standard stand mount, a desktop tripod stand, and a storage pouch.

Best Podcast Microphones - Rode Condenser Microphone

Amazon

Buy: Rode NT-USB USB Condenser Microphone… at $189.99

3. FIFINE USB Condenser Microphone

If you’re not ready to make a major investment into your newfound hobby but still want professional-quality audio, then you’ll want to consider FIFINE’s USB condenser microphone. This cardioid condenser mic is great at picking up clear, crisp vocals from its front and sides without any background noise. The microphone also has a built-in volume knob and comes with a 5.9-foot USB cable and desktop tripod stand.

Best Podcast Microphones - Fifine USB Microphone

Amazon

Buy: FIFINE USB Condenser Microphone at $29.99

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