Which podcast microphone is best for beginners? Our top 5 picks (2021 edition)

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Choosing your podcast microphone is probably the first major purchase you’ll make as a podcaster.

In fact, I’d argue that buying the right microphone is the single smartest investment you can make in your podcast. 

It’s not hiring Michelle Obama’s podcast editor or finding the right theme music. And it’s not having the perfect podcast graphic, or even landing your dream podcast guest. (Although all of those matter, too.)

It’s the microphone.

Audio quality is your podcast’s first impression on listeners, and if it sounds like it’s been cheaply produced, you’ll immediately come across as unprofessional or inexperienced. (And we can’t have that.)

But here’s the good news. Getting great audio quality on your podcast isn’t as expensive as you’d think, and it all comes down to choosing the right microphone.

In this post, we’ll share why great audio matters, how we researched our top recommendations, and why our top USB microphone for podcasters is the fan-favorite Blue Yeti.

This blog post may contain affiliate links. These links do not add additional cost to your purchase, but I may receive a small payment if you choose one of these products. Please read our disclosure if you’d like more information. (Your trust matters to us, so we promise to only recommend products we love!)


PS: Prefer to listen instead of read?

This blog post became so popular that I created a full podcast episode about microphones. Plus, there’s a bonus section at the end where I share the top mistake I see podcasters making with their new microphones.

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Why does a great podcast microphone matter?

Even though your audience isn’t full of audio production experts (probably), they’re all listening experts. In fact, you’re probably a listening expert yourself!

Think about how often we’re exposed to professional-quality audio:

We listen to Sara Bareilles on Spotify. (On repeat…) 

We watch bakers stare down their ovens on the Great British Bakeoff. 

We gasp when something happens in Harry Potter that I’d never dream of spoiling.

And in every movie, TV show, or song we hear, we’re listening to high-budget high-quality audio perfection.

On the other hand, we also know exactly what bad audio sounds like. 

Have you ever been on a conference call with someone across the country, and all you hear is, “Thanks, Mandy for sh—-ing—– {static static fizzle fizzle}.”

And then you lose ‘em.

Those grainy, staticky conference calls are what your podcast will sound like if you don’t invest in the right microphone. 

And since we can’t afford to lose your listeners based on something as fundamental as audio quality, we need to get the right microphone in your hands ASAP.

How different could the best podcast microphone possibly be? (I’ve got audio samples!)

I really want you to hear the difference for yourself. 

So here are two audio clips I recorded: one with my computer microphone and one with my Blue Yeti.

I didn’t move between recordings, so everything is the same except the microphone. (I didn’t even get up to get my second cup of coffee, even though it is definitely time for another round.)

Also, these are raw audio clips, which means I have made zero edits or adjustments.

Here’s round one. This is what a recording sounds like using my computer microphone:

Doesn’t it sound like I’m far away? I’m literally sitting at my computer, but it’s very echo-y, which distracts me from the content.

Compare that to round two. Here’s what a recording sounds like using my Blue Yeti microphone:

Can you hear how much clearer it sounds? Instead of feeling like I’m halfway across the room, now it feels like we’re in a room together.

And that’s what I want you to sound like. 

Quick Note: I’ve been shocked to realize how many new podcasters don’t invest in the right microphone. So when you choose one of our favorites from the list below, it’s one more big way your podcast will stand out from the pack.

[cboxarea id=”cbox-QvakhPns7XpU8U91″]

Criteria for the best podcast microphone

If you’ve done any microphone research on your own, you may have noticed that there are about a thousand microphones out there. A zillion, probably.

Some are better for podcasters. Others are better for musicians or gamers.

And lots of microphones are very complicated and very expensive.

Before we share our top microphones for new podcasters, I want to talk about the criteria we used to make our recommendations. That way you won’t just feel confident about which microphone to choose, but also why you chose it.

But if you want to jump ahead to our #1 podcast recommendation for beginners, please feel free!

Here’s what you should look for in a microphone:

1. Unless you love gear, choose a universal USB microphone.

Here’s the first eye-opener; not all microphones connect to a computer right out of the box.

Many microphones were created with musicians in mind, and musicians aren’t typically plugging microphones into laptops the way we are. 

But in the last 5 years, USB microphone quality has come a long way. And it’s largely based on the demand from both podcasters and gamers. (Good news for us!)

Without getting too technical, there are two broad microphone connector types:

  • USB Microphones: These microphones come with a cord that connects the microphone to a USB outlet on your computer. No additional equipment needed.
  • XLR Microphones: I can tell I lost a few of you already with this new acronym. Unlike USBs, XLR microphones do not plug directly into a computer. Instead, they plug into what’s called an Audio Interface,  aka a snazzy little rectangle that sits on your desk and accepts cords from different places. 

I’ve used both types, and the USB experience is so much simpler.

And it’s true that audio professionals and big podcast production companies use XLR microphones in-studio since they’re considered the gold standard, or “most professional.”

But I’m here to reassure you that a USB microphone is the perfect choice for new podcasters. 

In my experience, the difference in audio quality between USB and XLR microphones is too slight for the average listener to notice.  

So unless you have incredibly ambitious and complicated audio dreams – btw, maybe simplify? – then the USB mic is the right choice.

Note: Not all USB microphones work on both Macs and PCs, so if you go with your own choice, make sure to double-check the fine print. Typically “universal USB” means that it will work with all computers and does not require advanced setup. All of our picks below are universal and compatible with both operating systems, so booyah.

2. Condenser vs dynamic microphones for podcasters

If USB vs XLR answers, “How does this microphone connect to my other technology?” then this difference tells you, “How is the microphone itself built?”

I’m going to keep this answer high-level because this is a technology rabbit hole that I don’t think most podcasters need to stress about.

Condenser microphones are like a magnifying glass for all audio. They’re very sensitive, and they pick up sound in a very detailed and accurate way.

That’s why our top microphones for new podcasters are mostly condenser mics. Your microphone should ideally focus on just your voice and then capture your beautiful words as precisely as possible.

But the problem with condenser microphones can be background noise. 

Because they’re so sensitive, they’ll pick up on a lot of background noise if you’re in a loud room. But if you’re recording in a quiet place – which is what we recommend! – then a condenser mic is right for you.

Dynamic microphones are typically used to record loud sounds and a narrower range of frequencies, so if you talk right into the microphone, they can be better for recording if you’re in a loud place because they won’t catch as much of the background noise as a condenser microphone would.

That said, you’ll lose a little bit of richness in your tone with a dynamic microphone. So unless you’re concerned about background noise, we tend to recommend condenser microphones for at-home podcasters.

The other noteworthy consideration is the power source. Because of the way condenser microphones are built, they always have a cord that connects to an external power source (like your computer). 

On the other hand, dynamic microphones can be self-powered, which means you could take one on the go and record with the microphone alone. 

3. We want the best podcast microphone under $200.

We know you’re budget savvy, and that’s why all of our microphones are in a reasonable price range. As you grow your podcast and audience, you might want to upgrade your microphone to one of the $400+ options.

But truthfully, most six-figure podcasters are using one of our recommended mics below. They get the job done and they don’t break the bank. (You don’t need that $500 Rode mic for a while. I promise.)

Our #1 microphone for podcasters: Blue Yeti USB Microphone

The Blue Yeti has been the top-recommended podcast microphone for years, and it’s still the #1 choice in almost every article I read. (It’s also what I use personally for many recordings of Wit & Wire‘s podcast.)

It’s a USB condenser microphone at a reasonable price point with great audio quality. As soon as you take it out of the box, you can plug the USB into your computer and start recording.

No software. No complicated setup. So easy.

One of the biggest reasons why people choose the Blue Yeti over similar microphones is the option to change your sound recording pattern. There are settings for solo recording (cardioid), two-person recording (bi-directional), and even group recordings (omnidirectional).

[Quick note: I’d still recommend two separate microphones for a co-hosted show. You’d have to sit veryyy close together to share a Blue Yeti, so your audio quality will be significantly better if you each have your own microphone.]

The Yeti comes with a few basic controls right on the microphone:

  • Mute button (when it blinks, it’s muted)
  • 4 pattern choices (you’ll want cardioid, the little lima bean shape)
  • Gain setting
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, with volume control

The Yeti also comes on a stand, which means you won’t need to buy one separately. That said, buying a separate stand does improve the Yeti’s audio quality slightly, so it’s definitely worth considering.

You have your choice of so many colors, and it’s typically priced around $115-$120.

Note: Currently, I would expect a small shipping delay due to demand. If the Amazon wait time is too long, you can try Best Buy or another local electronics store.

Amazon: Blue Yeti USB Microphone

Other great podcast microphones

The Blue Yeti is my personal favorite and the one I’ve recommended to all new podcasters for the last three years. But as a generalization, my favorite brands (for almost any microphone) are Rode, Shure, and Blue. Their mics all have different uses, but they’re all high-quality brands trusted by countless podcasters and radio broadcast professionals.

Here are a few additional microphones at different price points from my top brands, plus a few that are well-loved by many podcasters:

Also Great: Audio-Technica AT2020USB Plus Condenser Microphone

Audio-Technica AT2020 USB

When you factor in the pop filter and carrying case, this microphone is priced comparably to the Blue Yeti and is from another excellent brand (Audio-Technica).

This microphone is slightly more portable than the Yeti because it comes with a carrying case, and the stand is a folding tripod. But other than the aesthetics and stand type, the AT2020+ and the Blue Yeti will offer very similar sound quality. It’s another great choice.

Learn More: Audio-Technica AT2020USB Plus Condenser Microphone (Amazon)

Also Great: Rode NT-USB Versatile Studio-Quality USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone

As I mentioned earlier, Rode is one of the brands I’d trust with almost any microphone. But the NT-USB is the one I’d personally choose for most podcasters.

The NT-USB is a highly versatile side-address microphone ideal for recording any kind of vocals with all mainstream recording applications. The body features a zero-latency 3.5mm headphone jack to monitor microphone input. A premium pop-filter is included, which fits onto the base of the mic, positioning the filter the ideal distance from the capsule to minimize plosives during singing or speech. Also provided is a stand mount with 3/8″ thread, a desktop tripod stand, and a pouch for storage.

Learn More: Rode NT-USB Versatile Studio-Quality USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone (Amazon)

Budget: CAD U37 USB Studio

Similar to my recommendations above, the CAD U37 is a universal USB condenser microphone that works on both Macs and PCs. But the biggest difference is the price point.

At $59-$69, this budget choice still includes a stand and a USB cable. (Like the Blue Yeti, you’ll need to buy a pop filter separately.) From yet another solid audio brand, this is a great value-packed microphone if you’re on a budget.

You won’t get as many basic controls or sound recording patterns as you do with the Blue Yeti, and audio professionals would notice a difference in sound quality. But it’s very slight.

Learn More: CAD U37 USB Studio (Amazon)

SPLURGE: Shure MV7 USB Podcast Microphone

Any microphone from Shure is going to be excellent. At $249, the MV7 is their most affordable option, but the SM7B is often considered the gold standard microphone for podcasters. (I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t *need* it.)

That said, the MV7 has really nice, clear audio, and if you want to treat yo’ self and splurge on a nice (but not insane) podcast microphone, anything by Shure is top-of-the line.

Learn More: Shure MV7 USB Podcast Microphone

What about the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB Microphone?

This microphone is often recommended as a great choice for beginner podcasters.

Fans of the ATR2100 love that it focuses on the podcaster’s voice and doesn’t pick up much background noise.  It’s also fairly portable since it’s smaller and lighter than the Blue Yeti. 

Note: During the pandemic, the pricing has changed. This microphone is now usually sold closer to $100, and at that price, I’d choose the Blue Yeti instead. But I’m keeping this one on the list primarily because I’m asked about it often, and if you own it, it’s a solid pick.

Learn More: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB Microphone (Amazon)

Podcast microphone accessories

In addition to your USB microphone, you’ll need a few additional tools to complete your in-home podcast studio setup:

Pop Filter

A pop filter is an inexpensive sound muffler that will make “p” sounds less harsh. (They won’t “pop” as much.) For under $20, this is a must-have accessory, no matter which microphone you choose.

Here are a few options I recommend:

(Note: The Aokeo is cheaper than the first choice, but I think the arm is slightly harder to attach to your microphone.)

Audio Interface & Cables

Unless you’ve purchased an XLR microphone, you won’t need an audio interface. (It looks like this.)

The audio interface is what musicians and podcasting studios use to connect their XLR microphones to an editing device (like a computer). USB microphones like the Blue Yeti are a newer technology, and have really improved tech-wise since the podcasting and gaming boom.

As I mentioned previously, I don’t recommend an XLR microphone for beginners since the USB mics are easier and sound just as good to the average listener. And if you go the USB route, you don’t need an audio interface.

That said, there are many amazing XLR microphones out there, so if you already have one, or think you’d prefer it, it’s a great choice. (Don’t let me stop you!)

Have you left a review for Wit & Wire?

You may have heard me say that podcast reviews are crucial for all podcasters. They help offer social proof that people are enjoying your show, plus they factor into Apple’s algorithms. So if you’re enjoying Wit & Wire, I’d love to ask for your review:

  1. Head to witandwire.com/apple, ideally on your phone.
  2. Scroll down and click the 5-star rating.
  3. For bonus points – and the chance for a shoutout on our podcast! – add a quick sentence about what you enjoy about the show. Feel free to include your podcast name.

A huge thank you in advance!

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