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The best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting in 2021

Best headphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting
(Image credit: Blue)

The best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting take all the headaches out of building a great-sounding recording setup. Whether you just want clearer in-game communication or hope to create your own professional podcast, with these mics it’s often just a case of plugging them into your PC.

But ease of use isn’t just why these microphones are the best in the business. We’ve tested all of them for sound quality, design and features, so you can be sure they’re all a step up on overall capability — even compared to the mics on the best gaming headsets. You’ll find our rankings below, so read on to find out the best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting right now.

What are the best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting?

The Blue Yeti has been the king of affordable USB microphones for years, and it tops the list here too. Its sound quality far exceeds its pricing, and with multiple recording patterns to choose from, you can adjust the Blue Yeti for group podcasts and interviews as well as the kind of solo recording you’d perform when gaming or streaming.

The JLab Talk is another great choice. It offers rich and clear recordings, and It also has the exact same recording pattern options as the Blue Yeti, for a slightly lower price.

If you can afford to spend even more, the Blue Yeti X makes enough small upgrades to the flagship model to be worth considering, while the Blue Snowball Ice heads in the opposite direction: it’s a fine budget pick. 

The best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting you can buy today

Top Pick

(Image credit: Ken Makin)

1. Blue Yeti

The best microphone for gaming, streaming and podcasting

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Size: 11.6 x 4.9 x 4.7 inches | Connection Type: USB

Range of modes
Good price
High sound quality
Fixed mount

Blue microphones are held in high regard for their gaming and streaming performance, and you can see why from the number of them on this list. The flagship Blue Yeti is the best of the best in terms of quality and value, combining top-notch recording and a range of recording pattern options with an affordable price.

It’s not just ideal for gaming and streaming, either. The Blue Yeti’s omnidirectional and bidirectional modes also make it an excellent choice for podcasters, especially if you want to record someone multiple speakers with a single mic.

Read our full Blue Yeti review.

Best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting: JLab TalkTop Pick

(Image credit: Future)

2. JLab Talk

The best value gaming, streaming and podcasting microphone

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

Good sound quality
Excellent value for money
Can pick up background noise
Bidirectional mode not great

The JLab Talk is absolutely worth considering if you want the flexibility and recording quality of the Blue Yeti at an even lower price. Its only real drawbacks compared to its big rival are a more plasticky design and a less impressive bidirectional mode — but the former is balanced out by the Talk’s more adjustable stand, and the latter can largely be ignored if you just use omnidirectional recording instead.

Otherwise, this is a fantastic debut microphone from JLab. Voice recordings sound a little richer than the identically-priced Blue Yeti Nano, and it’s as simple to get up and running as a USB microphone can get.

Read our full JLab Talk review.

Best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting: Blue Yeti X

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Blue Yeti X

The best premium Blue microphone for gaming, streaming and podcasting

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Size: 11.4 x 4.3 x 4.8 inches | Connection Type: USB

Blue Yeti sound quality
Enhanced controls
Flexible but not overcomplicated
More expensive

This souped-up Blue Yeti spinoff adds a handful of design improvements, like a set of customizable LEDs that can give you real-time feedback on how loudly you’re speaking. The gain control also moves to the front, which is a more sensible position than the rear-mounted gain dial of the standard Blue Yeti.

Why, then, is the Blue Yeti X not at the top of this list? Considering how much more expensive it is than both the Blue Yeti and the JLab Talk, it doesn’t quite make the same value proposition, even with its various tweaks. That said, if you can afford the premium, there’s no arguing against this being the most advanced gaming, streaming and podcasting microphone of the three.

Read our full Blue Yeti X review.

(Image credit: Blue)

4. Blue Snowball Ice

The best budget microphone

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Cardioid | Size: 10.0 x 7.9 x 4.9 inches | Connection Type: USB

Easy to set up
Includes a stand
Not suited for high-end applications
No extra features

If you want a peripheral that’s better than a built-in laptop mic, but don’t have the patience (or funds) for anything fancier, you want the Blue Snowball Ice microphone. This is about the simplest, cheapest mic you can get from a major manufacturer. The Snowball Ice is a compact, somewhat stylish sphere that’s available in either black or white. You connect it to your computer via USB cable, and then you speak into it. That’s it. There are no options to for you to change, for better or for worse.

The Snowball Ice uses a cardioid pattern, making it perfect for videoconferencing or chatting with friends in games. It’s perhaps not high-end enough to record your own podcast, but if you need to appear on someone else’s on short notice, the Snowball Ice will get the job done.

(Image credit: Rode)

5. Rode Podcaster

The best microphone for podcasting

Mic Type: Dynamic | Audio Patterns: Cardioid | Size: 8.5 x 2.2 x 2.0 inches | Connection Type: USB

Superb recording quality
Built specifically for podcasts
Integrated pop filter
Needs accessories

The Rode Podcaster might not look like an amazing deal on paper — only cardioid recording and no stand, for over $200? — but in practice, few microphones are as ideal for podcast recording. Sound quality is exceptional, thanks the dynamic pickup that ensures rich voice tones even if you’re not in the best acoustic environment.

The Podcaster also has an internal pop filter and a headphone output: plug in a pair of headphones and you can monitor your own voice with zero latency. For gaming or streaming, there are cheaper and more newcomer-friendly alternatives, but if you want a professional-sounding podcast, the Rode Podcaster lives up to its name and then some.

Best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting: Blue Yeti Nano

(Image credit: Future)

6. Blue Yeti Nano

A great compact Blue Yeti microphone

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Cardioid, Omnidirectional | Size: 8.3 x 3.8 x 4.3 inches | Connection Type: USB

Great sound
Study build
Cheaper than the Blue Yeti
No stereo mode
Basic controls

Sitting somewhere between the standard Blue Yeti and the Blue Snowball Ice, the Blue Yeti Nano aims to offer to the same recording quality as namesake — but in a smaller package, and at a lower price.

Sure enough, the Blue Yeti Nano sounds great and remains enticingly affordable. The JLab Talk delivers slightly better audio, a couple of extra directional patterns and an adjustable stand, but the Nano is still a respectable alternative. Cardioid recording works well for gaming and streaming, while its omnidirectional mode caters for podcasts with multiple speakers.

Read our full Blue Yeti Nano review.

(Image credit: HyperX)

7. HyperX QuadCast

HyperX's best microphone for gaming

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Size: 9.8 x 5.1 x 4.0 inches | Connection Type: USB

Built-in stand and shock mount
Versatile recording patterns
Onboard gain control
Lighting is an acquired taste
Imperfect pop filtering

HyperX exclusive makes gaming hardware, and the QuadCast shows it: with a stark red-and-black color scheme, including heavy onboard lighting, this is a microphone that wants to be seen as well as heard. If you’re the kind of streamer that likes to show off their gear on-camera, the HyperX QuadCast certainly has the aesthetics.

Even so, it’s not just about visual flair. The QuadCast has the same diverse mix of directional recording patterns as the Blue Yeti, and its stand includes a built-in shock mount. This could reduce impact noise when you accidentally knock the microphone with your hands or mouse.

Best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting: Elgato Wave 3

(Image credit: Corsair)

8. Elgato Wave: 3

The best microphone for streaming

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Cardioid | Size: 6.0 x 2.6 x 1.6 inches | Connection Type: USB

Designed for streaming
Intuitive setup
Simple design
No standout features
Susceptible to background noise

Aspiring streamers, here’s a microphone specifically for you. The Wave: 3 is accessibly priced, uses a cardioid recording pattern that’s ideal for solo streaming, and is build to work seamlessly with the Elagto Stream Deck: a 16-button keypad that’s become a staple of many professional streaming setups.

By using the Stream Deck to control your mic’s recording properties, you can adjust the sound input using the same interface for controlling the stream itself. And the Wave:3 itself isn’t half bad either: it’s got high sound quality, easy USB connectivity and a more tasteful look than the HyperX QuadCast.

Read our full Elgato Wave: 3 review.

Best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting: HyperX Quadcast S

(Image credit: Future)

9. HyperX QuadCast S

The best gaming microphone for RGB fans

Mic Type: Condenser | Audio Patterns: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Size: 10 x 5 x 5 inches | Connection Type: USB

High sound quality
Customizable lighting
Built-in shock mount and pop filter
Standard QuadCast is cheaper

Yes, the standard QuadCast is cheaper, but if you want to add some flair to your on-screen streaming setup — or you just have a soft spot for RGB lighting — the more colorful, customizable HyperX QuadCast S is a good choice as well.

This delivers the clean, crisp recording quality you'd expect for the price, and with its integrated pop filter and shock mount, there's added protection against unwanted sounds. There's a good range of directional patterns too, though the RGB lighting really is the star of the show. You can enjoy its gently pulsing default effect or download HyperX’s NGENUITY software to choose your own colors and effects.

Read our full HyperX QuadCast S review.

How to choose the best microphone for gaming, streaming and podcasting

The qualities that make a microphone ideal for gaming also tend to make it ideal for streaming: when you’re the only person speaking into the microphone, the only directional pattern you really need is cardioid, so as long as overall sound quality is up to standard you can go without omnidirectional, bidirectional or stereo modes. You should be able to simply plug the microphone in, tilt it towards your mouth and focus on playing.

Conversely, you should choose a microphone with bidirectional and/or omnidirectional modes if you’re going to be recording podcasts by having multiple people speak into the same mic. The bidirectional patten records directly in front of and behind the microphone, while omnidirectional pattern picks up everything in a 360 degree radius. As such, bidirectional is better for one-on-one conversations like interviews, while omnidirectional is better for group chats.

Alternatively, if you can afford multiple microphones for each speaker, make sure they’re all in cardioid mode so they only pick up their respective user.

Many of the microphones on this list are capable of gaming, streaming and podcasting. You only need to spend more on a specialized device, like the Rode Podcaster, if you know you’re only going to focus on just one of these applications. Still, you should consider any features you might want outside of sound quality and supported directional patterns, like onboard controls. These can help you adjust how you sound on the fly without needing to dive into potentially confusing software.

How we test the best microphones for gaming, streaming and podcasting

We test microphones is conditions as close to their intended use cases as possible. For gaming, streaming and podcasting microphones, that naturally means trying each mic in a variety of situations.

Besides simply gaming, usually with our headset mic disabled and using the microphone on test as the input instead, we’ll also use each model in meetings and on group calls so we can solicit feedback on how each one sounds.

We’ll also record ourselves speaking, using the various directional patterns if available, and listen back to judge for ourselves. This also lets us see whether every microphone plays nicely with recording software, like you might use while streaming, though since plug-and-play simplicity is a hallmark of USB microphones there are rarely any hiccups.