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The best microphone for streaming, gaming and podcasting

best microphone for streaming
(Image credit: Rode, Samson, Blue)

Even though it seems obvious, the best microphone for streaming, podcasting, and gaming depends on what you want it to do. Will you be presenting on Twitch or chatting with your friends during multiplayer? Are you going to run a YouTube channel or dabble in music? Mics are usually designed for specific tasks, so you'll need the right kind for the job. To get you started, we've pulled together a list of our favorite microphones. You'll also find a deal or two to go with them.

More gear for streaming

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Once you've found the right microphone, grab a capture card to complete your streaming setup.

No matter what you need it to do, the best microphone for streaming, gaming, and podcasting will probably run on USB. While good XLR mics can offer studio-quality sound, USB equivalents are often cheaper, more user-friendly, and easier to use with audio-editing software. This makes them ideal for both veterans and newcomers. Just remember to check the microphone's polar pattern. That dictates where it picks up sound. As a result, the polar pattern will tell you what that mic is built for. For example, cardioid mics record audio directly in front of them. That makes them perfect for voiceover and music. 

The most commonly used polar patterns can be found below.

Cardioid: Records directly in front of the mic. For voiceover, music, and streaming.

Bidirectional: Captures audio in front of and behind the mic. Ideal for one-on-one interviews. 

Omnidirectional: Picks up sound from every direction. Perfect for multi-guest podcasts.

Now you're almost ready to get started. Want to put the finishing touch to your streaming setup? Don't miss our guide to the best webcams on PC.

Best microphones

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1. Samson G-Track Pro

The best microphone for streaming and gaming.

Specs: Voltage: 100 | Polar patterns: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 50Hz-20,000Hz | Features: Dual track recording, instrument input, zero-latency monitoring, gain, mute, and headphone volume controls

Excellent sound quality
Rock-solid build
Doubles as an audio interface
Minor issues during setup

Although the USB microphone market is crowded, Samson's G-Track Pro outpaces its competition. A side-address condenser mic with multiple polar patterns, a very low noise floor, sturdy build, and exceptional sound quality, this is a superb choice for anyone wanting to get into streaming, podcasting, or music. In fact, we'd say it's our favorite USB microphone to date; it outperforms almost everything else on this list. As observed by our own Alan Bradley in his review, this is a "strong new competitor for desktop mics and could even replace higher priced studio microphones for home audio recording. At around $100, it's impossible to find a better value".

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2. Blue Yeti Nano

The best microphone for beginners.

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Cardioid, Omnidirectional | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz | Features: 48kHz sample rate, zero-latency monitoring, mute & headphone volume controls

Very small and light
Easy to use
Great sound-quality
Not as many polar patterns as old Yeti

This miniature version of the classic Blue Yeti is perfect for those just starting out with streaming, recording, or podcasting; it has great sound-quality for a product under $100, while its diminutive size and lightweight metal build make it easy to transport (this is at least 40 percent smaller than its cousin).

The difference its 24bit / 48khz recording sample rates make is noticeable, too; putting audio from the Nano and original Yeti side by side reveals that the former is superior by quite a margin. It’s only got two polar patterns, sure (cardioid and omnidirectional), but the Yeti Nano more than makes up for it with everything else.

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3. Zalman ZM-Mic1

The best budget microphone.

Specs: Power: 2V | Polar patterns: Cardioid | Connectivity: 3.5mm | Frequency response: 100Hz-16,000Hz | Features: three mini-clips, lightweight, low power requirement

Ridiculously cheap
An upgrade from most headset mics
Quiet
Picks up ambient noise

The ZM-Mic1 doesn’t have top-of-the-line fidelity, but we’re willing to bet it’s significantly better than whatever you’re using now with your gaming headset. This mic’s 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 can be rather quiet and is prone to picking up background noise, but in the right environment and with the right volume setting, the actual voice quality is impressive. There’s none of the static from breathing or loud ‘S’s that you might get from a typical headset-mounted mic. It's nowhere near studio quality, but you could use this mic for a podcast and it would only sound out of place if compared side-by-side with a better option. It’s not the best microphone, but it is amazing considering the cost.

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4. Rode NT USB

The best premium microphone.

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Cardioid | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz | Features: Side-address, on-mic mix control, pop shield, tripod, zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring

Fantastic audio
Free pop filter
Only one polar pattern
Unsteady tripod

Rode’s NT USB screams ‘professional’. Mimicking the look of studio microphones while maintaining a reasonable cost, this is a good choice for users who want to take their hobby further. Its sound quality goes above and beyond the competition (Blue’s Yeti, for instance), and the inclusion of a free pop shield is greatly appreciated. It may only have one polar patterncardioidand a few odd design choices like smooth knobs, but this remains a brilliant option for those who want to specialise in voiceover and streaming. As mentioned in our review, "NT-USB claims to offer “studio-quality sound” without studio-quality prices... and the developers might just have managed it." 

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5. Blue Yeti USB microphone

The best microphone for those who want options.

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: four color choices, zero-latency monitoring, gain, mute & headphone volume controls

Very adaptable
Multiple polar patterns
Foam base padding ineffective
Will pick up keyboard and mouse clicks

The quintessential microphone for streaming and amateur recording, the Yeti more than earns its success. Affordable, versatile, and easy to set up, this has become something of a gold standard by which every other mic is judged. That’s because the Yeti excels in almost every way. It has clear, high-quality audio. Straightforward controls ensure that it’s easy to adjust in the heat of the moment. A streamlined, sturdy design makes it likely to survive a fall/bump/nuclear apocalypse. Four polar patterns mean it’s adaptable. In other words, this is the microphone you want.

Even though the foam padding doesn’t do much to soften desk vibrations (and yes, there are competitors with better sound on offer), nothing can beat the Yeti for price or versatility.

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6. Razer Seiren X

The best compact and portable microphone.

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Super-Cardioid | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: built-in shock mount, mute button, zero-latency 3.5 mm headphone monitoring port

Portable
Great clarity
Just one polar pattern
Picks up some background noise

50 percent smaller than the original Seiren mic design and packing just as much audio quality, the Seiren X is designed with portability in mind. It stands on your desk like a can of soda, such are its unassuming dimensions. The built-in shock mount works well to absorb unwanted spikes from desk kicks and the like, while a single volume control and mute button make up the only controls so that the Seiren X can retain its slick aesthetic. 

There are a couple of minor downsides, inevitably. Like the Blue Yeti we found that this mic picks up a noticeable amount of ambient noise like the dreaded mechanical keyboard clatter. It’s not so much as to prevent it from being a feasible streaming mic, but we’d hoped for better noise-cancelling from Razer given their trumpeted super-cardioid polar pattern. Still, the fundamental recording quality is there, as is the quality of finish.

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7. AntLion ModMic

The best attachment mic

Specs: Power: 10V | Polar patterns: Unidirectional | Connectivity: 3.5mm, USB (adapter) | Frequency response: 100Hz-10,000Hz | Features: modular and toggle mute switches, adhesive pads, carrying case, 1m and 2m cables

Very convenient to use
Affordable 
Not as good as a standing mic
Requires you to use 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 we’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.

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8. Focusrite Scarlett CM25 MkII

The best microphone for studio-quality sound.

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Cardioid | Connectivity: XLR, audio jack | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: mic stand adapter, cable included

Versatile
Crystal clear
No mount provided
Requires an audio interface/preamp

A bit of a curveball, but one well worth checking out if gaming, streaming and music production overlap on the Venn diagram of your interests. The Scarlett CM25 Mk II’s large diaphragm cardioid design make it great at picking up both soft and loud speech, so when you’re instinctively whispering from your PUBG hidey-hole and then shrieking in terror when an enemy closes in, it’s got your back. In general, sound quality’s up there with the best in this list. 

However, this isn’t a bespoke ‘gaming’ mic and thus doesn’t feature an easy USB or 3.5mm connection. You’ll need to run this through a preamp via XLR to get it working, and while that might be a bridge too far for some, Focusrite does sell a Scarlett Studio bundle including the mic, headphones, and audio interface for under $200. That’s tempting for any budding music producer or podcaster who’s also serious about gaming and streaming broadcast quality.

How we test 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:

Recording quality

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.

Adaptability

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.

Form factor

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.

Price

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. 

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