Microphone audio quality is a deep rabbit hole. But the truth of the matter is, gamers and livestreamers don’t need a studio-level mic—just something better than the little plastic arm attached to your headset. Audio quality is very important, but so are ease-of-use, setup options, and price. We didn’t just look at which microphone would give you a voice made for radio. We looked at which mics were truly best for playing games with friends—or streaming those games to the world.
While some streamers will use the mic on their gaming headset to stream, having a discrete and dedicated mic will yield far better audio quality. The Yeti from Blue is still a crowd favorite after months of ranking top at the charts, and rightly so. It's the best all-around microphone for the price.
If you do use a standalone mic while gaming, check out our guide to the best headphones, which offer far better sound quality than any gaming headset.
The best microphone
- Fantastic audio quality
- Very adaptable
- Affordable for how good it sounds
- Will pick up keyboard and mouse clicks
There are a lot of things to like about the Blue Yeti. It’s easy to set up and has a comparably low price next to other microphones with this level of audio quality—and, of course, it sounds great. But its best trait for live streaming is its adaptability. Your distance from a mic and whether or not you are speaking directly towards it can have a massive impact on sound quality, but the Yeti performs well even under less-than-ideal conditions. The foam padding on the bottom of the base didn’t do much to deafen desk vibrations, but the shape and size of the Yeti meant I could generally find a suitable place for it without a hassle. And no matter where I put it, the Yeti performed fantastically.
In a perfect world, you would have your mic positioned roughly six to eight inches away from your mouth, with a pop filter cutting out any noise from breathing. Unfortunately, you can’t always play games in a perfect world. Putting a mic six inches from your mouth means it will most likely end up blocking part of your screen while sitting squarely between your hands. Getting a suspended mic stand isn’t expensive, but it’s overkill for most, and still means you’re sitting upright to speak directly into it the entire time. When you’re livestreaming or gaming for long periods of time, being able to shift, move, and relax is a necessity.
The best attachment mic
- Very convenient to use
- Surprisingly nice audio quality
- Doesnt pick up keyboard/mouse
- Not as good as a standing mic
- Requires you to wear headphones
Some of you out there might have a desk that’s...well, let’s just call it cluttered. Making room for a standing microphone without it being in an inconvenient spot may not be possible. That’s where attachable mics enter the picture, and the AntLion ModMic is the best one I’ve used. It sticks on to the side of your headphones like a built-in headset mic, but its audio quality is significantly better. Its magnetic attachment also makes it incredibly easy to setup.
Most small headset mics like the ModMic don’t have very clear audio fidelity, but that’s because they usually come attached to a pair of headphones. The sound of the headphones is prioritized over the quality of the microphone, but the ModMic doesn’t have this problem. It was designed to be a good mic and nothing else. And, as a result, it’s a really good mic. It still doesn’t sound as good as a standing mic like the Blue Yeti, but it probably sounds better than any other mic you’d find attached to a pair of headphones.
The best budget mic
- Ridiculously cheap
- An upgrade from most headset mics
- Picks up ambient noise
I wasn’t expecting to make a ‘budget’ category when I began my testing. The easiest budget answer is to just use your headset mic, even though it’s probably terrible. But then I used the Zalman ZM-Mic1, and was shocked you could get such an upgrade for only about $10 (£7). The ZM-Mic1 doesn’t have top-of-the-line fidelity, but I’m willing to bet it’s significantly better than whatever you’re using now with your gaming headset. This mic was so impressive for its price that it demanded attention on this list.
Just to be clear, there are a lot of mics with better audio quality than the ZM-Mic1. It sounds good, but since it clips to your headphone cord, my voice came in rather quiet—and the distance of the mic means it has to be more sensitive, so it picks up background noise more easily. It wasn’t picking up much of anything in my relatively peaceful house, but if you are in an environment with other people around or something loud going on, it may be audible.
How we tested, competitors, and future testing
How we tested the microphones
It’s important to understand that gamers have different standards and needs for a microphone than the hardcore audiophiles among us. So much of what we use our mics for means the sound is going to be compressed and pumped through the internet anyway, so you hit a point of diminishing returns much more quickly than if you were recording in a studio. Although fidelity is important, there’s a lot more to a great gaming and livestreaming microphone. Here are the criteria we judged our microphones by:
I say that audio quality isn’t everything, but it’s still the most important factor when testing a microphone. The point is, after all, to find a mic that makes you sound good. We tested the microphones in multiple setups and with different mic settings, although we primarily tested them with the “cardioid” recording pattern when available. This pattern is intended to record only what’s in front of the mic and is the setting you will be using 99% of the time when gaming and livestreaming. How much a mic picks up background noise or keyboard clicks is also necessary to be aware of.
Everyone’s desk and setup requirements are different, so it’s important that a mic will perform well under a handful of different scenarios. If a microphone sounds better than all the rest combined but only when it’s on a suspended mic stand with a shock mount, positioned precisely six inches away from your mouth, it’s a hard option to recommend. You need a mic that sounds great under any circumstance, and can adapt to however you need to use it so you can play your games comfortably and still sound great.
This isn’t a fashion show, but form factor is still something that matters. In the case of a standing mic, you’ll be staring at it every time you are sitting at your desk—and attachable mics need to make sure they aren’t too distracting. A mic’s form factor can also play a role in how adaptable it is, as you’ll need to make space for it. We used every mic in multiple settings with different PCs, keyboards, and monitors, getting a feel for how they looked and performed in each environment. As a streamer, your mic will also be in view for your audience, so its appearance is relevant.
And of course, PC gamers will always try to get the best they can for less. It’s easy to get lost in the deep dark woods that is the world of audio, and even easier to spend a ludicrous amount of time and money getting the best possible setup. But we don’t need studio-ready equipment, so price is an important factor when looking at how good a certain mic is. You can keep working your way up the food chain, finding better and better quality at a higher and higher price, so made sure to keep it in a gamer’s budget. Price is also key in comparing what one option can offer over another. For the best mic, I looked anywhere in the $50 to $150 (£35 to £105) price range, with the Blue Yeti being on the higher end of that but well worth it.
Competitors and future testing
We haven’t been able to test enough “high-end” streaming and gaming microphones to make a definitive choice in that category, but there are a couple good options listed below. It’s important to note how we define “high-end,” as you could be spending thousands of dollars on incredible studio quality microphones. That’s not my definition of “high-end” because pretty much nobody needs to be at that level for playing and streaming games. We tested and picked every mic with that context in mind, so we want to eventually bring you an option for those willing to spend a bit more to push their fidelity to the top. Ideally, a high-end microphone for gaming and livestreaming would still only be in the $200 (£140) to $300 (£210) dollar range, still much lower than you could potentially go.
Razer Seiren Pro
The Razer Seiren Pro is a really nice microphone, but it’s simply too expensive for its sound quality. There are other options that sound comparable for less. However, like with many of Razer’s products, it looks beautiful and there's something to be said for wanting your hardware to look as good as it functions. Razer also does provide some incredibly useful add-ons for the Seiren, including an attachable pop filter for $25 (£18), so the easy these add-ons make it easier to recommend if you plan on going all out with your setup. And the XLR inputs of the Pro version will let you plug it into a mixing board if you are using a higher-end setup.
Audio Technica ATR2500-USB
The Audio Technica ATR2500-USB isn’t a bad sounding mic and is available at a pretty reasonable price tag, but it’s got a few things going against it that make it less than ideal for gaming and livestreaming. First off, it’s very quiet when used at a distance—it’s really meant to be positioned close to your mouth. This would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact that the tripod stand it comes with takes up an inconvenient amount of space on a desk. And the LED “on” indicator light is the brightest LED I have ever had the displeasure of putting eight inches from my face. It’s like Audio Technica captured a small star and embedded it in the front of this microphone. I had to cover it with duct tape while in use to keep from squinting, and even then I could see the light shining through. So it sounds fine, but it’s not a mic I’d ever want to permanently have on my desk.
Blue Yeti Pro
Like I mentioned above, the Blue Yeti Pro definitely outperforms the Yeti in an ideal setup with your mouth six to eight inches away from the mic, but it performed slightly worse when farther away—understandable, given the Pro is more meant to be used in a studio environment. It’s a great option if you want to go for a slightly higher quality level, but it’s a large jump in price (usually around $230 (£161), but can often be found on sale) for a mic that isn’t necessarily better in all situations. The XLR inputs on the bottom, however, will be a necessity if you plan on using a mixing board of some kind.
Blue makes great mics, so the Blue Snowball is a good cheaper option, but spending more money can get you a significantly better mic in the Yeti. This is a similar issue to what I was talking about when discussing the Zalman ZM-Mic1; if you are looking to upgrade your mic quality, a budget pick isn’t always worth it. A good quality mic can make a world of difference and the Snowball, while it is nice, is in that weird middle ground where it would be a better decision to either go a tier higher or a tier lower.
I'd heard good things about the Shure PG42-USB, but Shure tells me that it's no longer on their product list, which means more likely than not it will not be easy to find soon and is therefore pointless to test or recommend.
I was also going to try out the SYBA CL-SM-001 ruled it out because I can't imagine a standing mic that cheap and small being very good, and the Zalman ZM-Mic1 is cheaper for an already impressive sound.
I took a look at the Marshall MXL AC-404 as well, but it's a microphone really meant for conferencing, so its sensitivity and akward form factor ruled it out pretty quickly.
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