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The best streaming microphones in 2021

The best streaming microphones
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Whether you’re live streaming for fun or hoping to make it professionally, one of the best streaming microphones can vastly improve your production values. It might be tempting to take an all-in-one approach with one of the best gaming headsets instead, but those tiny boom mics just won’t sound as good as a dedicated desktop mic.

So which streaming mic should you choose? The rise of streaming as both a leisure activity and a potential career has produced a similar growth in microphones, and there’s no shortage of mics at a range of price points. Save yourself some effort and just consult this list of the best streaming microphones we’ve tested; unlike many of the best microphones overall, these models are particularly adept at live stream duties.

What are the best streaming microphones?

The Blue Yeti is the best streaming microphone for three key reasons: clear voice recording, excellent user-friendliness and an affordable price.

We’re also very fond of the JLab Talk, for pretty much all the same reasons. It doesn’t have the Yeti’s build quality or studio-style looks but is even cheaper, while more or less matching it on sound quality and features. The Blue Yeti X is another, higher-end alternative with improved controls, though the standard Yeti remains the best for value.

If you want a microphone that was designed from the ground up for streaming, check out the Elgato Wave:3. This smooth-sounding, good-looking desktop mic integrates with the Elgato Stream Deck, a control hub popular with streamers for how it grants quick configuration of every aspect of a broadcast. 

The best streaming microphones you can buy today

Top Pick

(Image credit: Ken Makin)

1. Blue Yeti

The best streaming microphone overall

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Size: 11.6 x 4.9 x 4.7 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant sound quality+Reasonably affordable+Range of modes
Reasons to avoid
-Basic stand

What else but the perennially beloved Blue Yeti? Combining class-leading performance with a simple, easy-to-use design, the Yeti doesn’t seem anywhere close to showing its age. It’s not too expensive either, so can serve first-time microphone owners as well as it can seasoned streamers.

In addition to the cardioid mode, which is what you should use when you’re only recording yourself, the Blue Yeti also offers bidirectional, omnidirectional and stereo recording patterns. That gives it a lot of extra flexibility if you live stream podcast recordings or interviews, rather than games or commentary.

Read our full Blue Yeti review.

Best streaming microphone for value: JLab TalkTop Pick

(Image credit: Future)

2. JLab Talk

The best streaming microphone for value

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Size: 9.9 x 7.6 x 7.6 inches (with tripod extended)
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Warm, rich sound+Cheap+Adjustable stand
Reasons to avoid
-Picks up background noise-Bidirectional mode not as impressive

When we say the JLab Talk is a cheaper Blue Yeti, we don’t mean that as a slight. Yes, the Talk is also a fairly compact USB microphone with the same four recording patterns as the Yeti, but those are good things. And its bass-rich but detailed recording quality can definitely give that touch of professionalism to your stream.

The Talk is also impressively practical, with a light-up gain indicator, 3.5mm jack for mic monitoring and an adjustable tripod stand. Even the best streaming microphones can be made better by adding a boom arm, but this little tripod can at least provide some high adjustment.

Read our full JLab Talk review.

Best premium streaming microphone: Blue Yeti X

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3. Blue Yeti X

The best premium streaming microphone

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Size: 11.4 x 4.3 x 4.8 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Blue Yeti sound quality+Enhanced controls+Flexible but not overcomplicated
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively expensive

If you’ve got a little extra cash, it can be worth stretching to the Blue Yeti X. It would make you sound drastically better than the standard Yeti, but it does at least improve on the control scheme. For instance, you can check your volume levels at a glance using the LED display, and Blue has wisely moved the gain switch to the front, so it’s more easily accessible in a pinch.

Despite the extra bells and whistles, the Yeti X never forgets about the simplicity that helped make the Yeti such an enduring microphone champion. It’s still plug-and-play with a PC-friendly USB connection; a complicated studio microphone this is not.

Read our full Blue Yeti X review.

The best streaming microphone for advanced setups: Elgato Wave: 3

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4. Elgato Wave: 3

The best streaming microphone for advanced setups

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Cardioid
Size: 6.0 x 2.6 x 1.6 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Stream Deck integration+Intuitive controls+Simple but appealing design
Reasons to avoid
-Only records in cardioid-Picks up background noise

The Wave: 3’s party trick is how it works together with the Elgato Stream Deck. Set up both together and you can control your mic input volume, mix audio between the Wave: 3 and other sources or toggle monitoring all at the push of a button. When you’re trying to focus on hosting an entertaining stream, the appeal of such a control scheme is clear.

Even without the Stream Deck, though, there’s plenty about the Wave: 3 that makes it a fine microphone. Recording quality is high, with particular resistance to pops and background noise, and you can always use the onboard controls to make adjustments as well.

Read our full Elgato Wave: 3 review.

The best RGB microphone for streaming: HyperX Quadcast S

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5. HyperX QuadCast S

The best RGB microphone for streaming

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Size: 10 x 5 x 5 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+High sound quality+Customizable lighting+Built-in shock mount and pop filter
Reasons to avoid
-Standard QuadCast is cheaper

If you’re going to appear on-camera for a stream, you can add some visual flair from an unlikely source: your microphone. The HyperX QuadCast S is covered in fully customizable RGB lighting, which makes it an especially good match for other light-up gaming peripherals and PCs.

Luckily, the QuadCast S isn’t just for showing off. Its cardioid-pattern recording sounds is clean and clear enough for serious streamers, and its built-in shock mount helps prevent awkward bumping sounds should you need to reposition it. The QuadCast S is more expensive than the RGB-less QuadCast, but in terms of illuminated options it’s one of our favorite mics.

Read our full HyperX QuadCast S review.

Best streaming microphone for beginners: Movo UM700

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6. Movo UM700

The best streaming microphone for beginners

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Size: 11.6 x 4.4 x 3.8 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Well-built+Easy to use+Respectable sound
Reasons to avoid
-Sensitive to shocks and bumps-Blue Yeti and JLab Talk are better

Not unlike the JLab Talk, Movo’s UM700 seeks to undercut the Blue Yeti. On a purely mathematical basis, it succeeds — the UM700 is significantly cheaper — and that’s without sacrificing much in the way of build quality. You get the full set of cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional and stereo recording modes as well.

Sound quality isn’t quite on the Yeti’s level, so stick with the latter if you want your stream sounding as professional as possible. But the UM700 still offers more-than-adequate clarity for casual or amateur streams, so it’s worth considering if you just want something affordable.

Read our full Movo UM700 review.

The most portable streaming microphone: Blue Yeti Nano review

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7. Blue Yeti Nano

The most portable streaming microphone

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Cardioid, Omnidirectional
Size: 8.3 x 3.8 x 4.3 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Study build+Cheaper than the Blue Yeti
Reasons to avoid
-No stereo mode-Basic controls

A Blue Yeti, but smaller? It’s a great idea, and the Blue Yeti Nano is a great streaming mic. As per usual for the Blue brand, it’s incredibly easy to set up and use, and its tight dimensions are both more considerate of your desk space and better for packing up and travelling.

The Nano is also cheaper than the standard Blue Yeti, though the JLab Talk does sound better, should you be bargain-hunting. The Blue Yeti Nano also cuts the supported recording patterns down to just cardioid and omnidirectional, though remember that you only need cardioid if you’re just recording yourself.

Read our full Blue Yeti Nano review.

Best streaming microphones: EPOS B20

(Image credit: Future)

8. EPOS B20

An effective streaming microphone with a software boost

Specifications
Mic Type: Condenser
Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Size: 9.4 x 4.1 x 4.1 inches
Connection Type: USB
Reasons to buy
+Sharp design+Sturdy metal build+Lots of controls
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No gain/volume indicators-Blue Yeti sounds better

The EPOS B20 is another mic that bills itself as a streaming aid specifically. But whereas the Elgato Wave: 3 fulfils its potential through added hardware, the B20 is at its best when paired with software: the EPOS Gaming Suite. This adds access to a host of audio settings that you can’t control from the microphone alone.

We also love the B20’s sleek aesthetic and crisp sound quality. If it were cheaper it would give the Blue Yeti a real run for its money, but even at current pricing it could be worth splurging for if you want to fine-tune your stream audio through the companion software.

Read our full EPOS B20 review.

How to choose the best streaming microphone for you

Your foremost concern when choosing any desktop-style microphone should be sound quality. A lot of potential issues, like dull looks or poorly-adjustable stands, can ignored or compensated for — but if a streaming microphone sounds weak or lacking in detail, your entire stream suffers. Be sure to read our full reviews linked above, where we’ve described how each mic sounds.

Many microphones offer different directional recording patterns: cardiod, bidirectional, omnidirectional or stereo. Bidirectional or omnidirectional modes are very useful for recording multiple speakers with a single mic, but if you’re just running a gaming stream — or any kind of stream where you’re the only one being recorded — then cardioid is all you need. This only records the space directly in front of the mic, so is perfect for minimizing background noise.

For pricing, we think you don't need to spend more than $200, and probably shouldn't spend less than about $50. Zoom calls are one thing but for a quality stream, going too cheap will likely mean you won't get sufficient recording capability in return.

We’ve also stuck with USB microphones, as these are by far the easiest to get set up on a PC or laptop. You can get some consumer-friendly mics that use a professional-grade XLR connection, but these require additional (and expensive) hardware to set up. For streaming, as opposed to podcasting, that extra budget is better spend on your computer hardware.

How we test streaming microphones

When testing any kind of microphone, we’ll use a combination of recordings and live, person-to-person feedback to find out how each mic sounds. For streaming microphones, how it sounds in what is essential VoIP (Voice over IP) conditions is particularly important, as local recordings alone might not capture how a microphone sounds when the sound is transmitted online.

Besides testing a microphone itself, we’ll also try out any recommended or bundled software, to see if it’s actually worth using in conjunction with the hardware. Ideally, a mic should work well by itself, but sometimes these apps do provide useful extras that could make your stream sound just that little bit better.

James Archer

As Audio Editor, James covers headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. His favorite musical genre is rock, despite once claiming the guitar is “too complicated” for humans to play. He plays bass instead.