Our best microphones buying guide will help you achieve better audio quality across all kinds of applications. Whether it's on voice calls to colleagues, adding voice overs to videos, or live streaming events, this guide looks at the finest models for sound recording across different applications.
We’ve tested music mics, shotgun mics to attach to a video camera and plenty of easy-to-use USB mics, so you can be sure that every model listed below will be right for your application. If you just need a plug-and-play microphone for video chats and working from home, we’d recommend a simple USB microphone — but being simple doesn’t need to mean features have been sacrificed for easy desktop setup. Often, they’ll offer extra functionality that makes these easy-to-use models ideal for recording podcasts or streaming.
Don't forget, you'll find lots more info in our in-depth standalone reviews, covering ease of use, configuration and sound quality across all kinds of media. Just follow the link at the end of each product summary or tap the product name next to the star rating to discover everything you need to know about the best wireless earbuds available to buy today.
To find out which of these microphones will meet your needs, read our roundup of the best microphones you can buy right now.
The best microphones you can buy right now
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Most versatile microphone overall
At the time of updating, this model was discounted to $99 at Amazon.
The Blue Yeti has been on the market for more than a decade, and it hasn’t changed very much since its introduction. To be fair, nothing about one of the best microphones really needed changing. It’s a smart, versatile peripheral that doesn’t cost that much money, and provides everything that amateur and semi-pro audiophiles need to record their own material. The Blue Yeti is a high-quality condenser mic with a built-in stand, a USB connection and — this is the clincher — four different pattern modes.
With a Blue Yeti, you can record audio in cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional or bidirectional modes. Very few microphones offer multiple audio patterns, and even fewer of them do a good job switching among them. But thanks to the Blue Yeti’s variety of audio patterns, you can record anything from a podcast, to an interview, to a musical performance, to a whole roundtable discussion.
Read our full Blue Yeti review.
Best value microphone
At the time of updating, this model was discounted to $49 at Walmart.
The JLab Talk is jointly the first-ever USB mic from headphones specialists JLab, but you wouldn't guess. The Talk's recording quality, features and ease of use all make it more than a match for the perennially popular Blue Yeti family.
With an MSRP of $99 (and the benefit of numerous price drops since launch) this is just as affordable as the Blue Yeti Nano, yet it matches pricier models like the standard Yeti and the EPOS B20 in providing four distinct recording patterns. The bidirectional mode isn't as consistent as omnidirectional mode, but you can use the latter for the same purpose, and the Talk's cardioid and stereo modes are both seriously impressive.
Read our full JLab Talk review.
Best microphone for podcasters
The Rode PodMic is one of the best podcasting microphones and prides itself on its studio credentials, right down to using an XLR connector instead of USB. But it’s not overly complicated either — if anything, one of our favorite things about the PodMic is that you don’t need to spend much time tweaking to get great sound.
The internal pop filter helps keep recordings controlled, and the sturdy build helps shrug off unwanted noises should you accidentally knock the table or need to quickly adjust positioning. Again, it’s not an ideal beginner’s mic, partly because it doesn’t include a stand. But here’s another good thing about the PodMic: it’s so cheap that you can easily afford extra accessories. It's no more expensive than the Rode NT-USB Mini, a more generalist USB mic.
Read our full Rode PodMic review.
Best USB mic package
The basic edition of the Sennheiser Profile USB microphone comes with an adequate table top/desk stand. We recommend opting for the $199 Streaming Set though, which comes with a boom arm, and transforms a cluttered desk into a studio ready for podcasting or streaming in 5 minutes.
Put together, the mic and boom arm are a match made in heaven. The boom arm has three points of motion for varying levels of access, and the mic screws in easily to provide quality sound. Both the mic and boom arm are sturdy. Plug the USB-C cable into your computer, and you're good to go.
While the externals of the mic and the boom arm are important, what really counts is on the inside. Sennheiser’s trademark German engineering shows up in the form of a cardioid condenser capsule that provides a great sound and keeps out the stuff we don’t want. The sound quality might change a bit with a desk stand, but one of the great advantages that comes with a boom arm is that the tapping on a desk or inadvertent bumps don’t show up nearly as much in the editing process. Although there's no pop filter supplied, this is a great-sounding USB mic streaming package at an honest price.
Read our full Sennheiser Profile review.
Best low-cost microphone
The HyperX SoloCast’s recording quality is a whole lot better than it should be for a $59 USB microphone. Its cardioid-pattern recording can compete with the category’s top performers, delivering rich, full vocals. You’ll notice less of an audible reverb effect when recording, as well as minimal background interference; noises like mouse clicks and mechanical keys aren’t as intrusive. We also love its compactness and adjustable stand to position the mic at different angles. There’s even an onboard mute button to prevent any incidental sounds from being picked up.
This mic comes plug-and-play ready and will meet the simplest accommodations such as basic controls and a single recording pattern, which is one of the very few features available. Still, this doesn’t take away from the SoloCast’s overall value.
Read our full HyperX SoloCast review.
Best for podcast beginners
At $79, the Sterling SP150SMK is a reputable beginner mic for aspiring podcasters who want quality presentation at a low price. The mic is beautifully constructed, offering a nice look and feel that should have newbies feeling confident before uttering their intro lines. Additional accessories like a shock mount, hard mount option, and carrying case have you fully equipped to take your show on the road. Most importantly, the sound quality is top notch, picking up vocals with such precision that you’ll rarely have to perform any post-production adjustments.
Without high-pass filters, the SP150SMK has a tendency of picking up extraneous noises, such as an elbow rubbing against some fabric.
Read our full Sterling SP150SMK review.
Best shotgun microphone for content creation
Both beginner and amateur videographers should check out the Sennheiser MKE 400. This shotgun mic uses a highly directional supercardioid recording pattern to pick up clear speech, even when shooting in places with a lot of background noise.
What makes the MKE 400 particularly suitable for DIY content creation is how easy it is to use. While you can simply attach it to your camera's hot shoe and plug it in via 3.5mm cable, the MKE 400 offers this same plug-and-play simplicity for smartphones too. Simply connect via your handset's headphone jack and you can shoot great-sounding clips even without a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Read out full Sennheiser MKE 400 review.
Best value gaming mic
Yes, it's yet another Blue microphone, but the Yeti Nano is another top-quality USB microphone. It's basically a more compact, slightly stripped-back version of the flagship Blue Yeti, at an even better price.
That means you get very similar recording quality in its cardioid and omnidirectional patterns, plus mature looks and a tough metal build. For $99 the JLab Talk is an even bigger bargain, especially as it has a stereo mode, but the smaller Blue Yeti Nano still deserves a place on this list.
Read our full Blue Yeti Nano review.
The Movo UM700 is essentially a more affordable take on the Blue Yeti formula, albeit with a taller profile than the Blue Yeti Nano. We’ve chosen it here for its capable sound quality, excellent ease of use and relatively low price — its MSRP is $30 less than that of the Blue Yeti, in fact.
Although the UM700’s more famous rival edges it on general recording prowess — worth remembering if you want to start a professional-sounding podcast — it’s more than up to the task for gaming, meetings and casual chats. Simply connect the USB cable, up the gain a little, and the UM700 is good to go.
Read our full Movo UM700 review.
You can save some money by buying the standard HyperX Quadcast detailed above, but if you've got an RGB-heavy gaming PC and want a microphone to match, the more colourful QuadCast S is worth a look.
Naturally, it's not just the customizable lighting that makes this one of the best microphones. The detail-rich recording quality is safeguarded by a built-in pop filter and shock mount, and it can easily be attached to your own stand if you'd prefer. Like the Blue Yeti and JLab Talk, is also provides four distinct recording modes, so you can tailor the settings for solo or group recording.
Read our full HyperX QuadCast S review.
As stated in our review, the Rode NT-USB Mini is a “competent mic” that gets the job done for under $100. It produces compelling recordings with decent audio that is better than what you’ll get out of your smartphone mic. We appreciate the aux jack to connect headphones and hear your voice, along with the USB-C port that makes connecting to a desktop or laptop much simpler. Build quality is also surprisingly good for the price; the plastic and metal construction gives it a professional look.
The Rode NT-USB does have a gain issue, and adjusting it inside software won’t do much, but it can still be a serviceable product for newbie podcasters and streamers.
Read our full Rode NT-USB Mini review.
Things to consider when choosing a microphone
Setup: The best microphone depends almost entirely on your setup. This list gives a brief overview of all-purpose mics, podcasting mics, music mics and so forth. Basically, determine what you most need a microphone for, then find the appropriate one for your needs. As with most other gadgets, cheaper microphones tend to be more generalized, whereas more expensive ones tend to be more specialized. This doesn’t mean that cheaper microphones are inherently worse. But if you want semi-professional quality, you’ll have to pay semi-professional prices.
Research: Visit manufacturer websites, and learn about what each mic does best. The official website will usually give you a good idea as to whether the mic excels in podcasting, gaming, music or some other application. Failing that, remember that cardioid is generally the most useful audio pattern if you’re going to be recording by yourself in a home environment. Other patterns are good to have, but they’re useful only when you bring in more people or sound sources.
Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best microphones. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will typically command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a microphone the greater the chance that performance and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if the sound quality is poor.
As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now many of our favorite models are being discounted at online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less. Remember to bookmark our best tech deals page for all the latest savings.
What do the different audio patterns mean?
Some of the mics on this list offer different options for audio patterns: Bidirectional, cardioid, omnidirectional and stereo. Others offer only cardioid. Here's a brief explanation of each pattern, to help you decide which one to use:
Cardioid: This pattern picks up audio coming from one direction. This is ideal for a single source speaking directly into the mic, like in meetings or recording voiceovers.
Bidirectional: The pattern picks up audio coming from two directions only. This is ideal for two speakers sitting directly across from one another.
Omnidirectional: This pattern picks up audio from all around the mic. This is ideal for a whole group of people surrounding the microphone.
Stereo: This pattern picks up audio in front of the mic, as well as off to the sides. This is ideal for a musical group, or a panel of speakers facing the same direction.
Contributions from: James Archer, Ken Makin