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The best microphone for streaming, gaming and podcasting

The best microphone for streaming, gaming and podcasting
Sound your best with the best microphones for streaming. (Image credit: Rode, Samson, Blue)

If you're a serious streamer, there's nothing worse than not being heard during your broadcast. Your microphone tends to be the unsung hero in your entire streaming arsenal.  When choosing the best microphone for streaming, there's one thing we look for above all else. Can you be heard loudly and clearly? Imagine spending the money for one of the best webcams money can buy only to sound like you're speaking through a tin can. 

Whether you're looking to start a podcast with your buddy when you rank MCU movies or going a retro games stream, as USB microphones become more and more popular, we went ahead and picked our favorites, all geared for different use cases.

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Figuring out which mic is best for you comes down to how you're planning on using it. XLR mics offer the best studio-quality sound but are very pricey. USB mics, on the other hand, are easier to set-up, are a lot cheaper, and play well with most audio software. Also, note the microphone's polar patterns; this is the easiest way to figure out what the best use is. 

Here are the most commonly used polar patterns below.

Cardioid: Records in front of the microphone. Perfect for voice-over, vocals, 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 round-table interviews.
Stereo: Perfect for ASMR recordings. YouTube 'ASMR' if you want the best example because I couldn't do it just justice.

Now you're almost ready to get started. Want to make your stream a little bit more personal and approachable? A good webcam can completely change your stream. Don't miss our guide to the best webcams on PC.

Best microphones

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1. Blue Yeti X

The best microphone for streaming

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: Blue Vo!ce, zero-latency monitoring, Smart knob controls

Best sounding Blue microphone
LED front panel
Blue Vo!ce software offers great flexiblity
MicroUSB 
Buttons too noisy

There's a reason Blue microphones tend to show up in a lot of 'best' guides. The Blue Yeti X is a hybrid model of the Nano and the original Yeti. The sturdy microphone now has an LED-lit front panel that usefully monitors your volume levels at a glance. The sound quality remains top-notch—you can see why this is the mic of choice of a lot of professional podcasters and streamers. If you're choosing between this and the original Yeti, the Yeti X has four condenser mic capsules as opposed to the original's three. The Yeti X also offers a wider array of customization options and on the fly adjustments, you can make with the new smart knob. 

The biggest and perhaps most useful change comes in the form of Yeti X's Blue Voice software via G Hub. Here you can add preset (or customize your own) filters to your voice to make yourself sound a chatty AM host or something crisper and modern-sounding. It's even got a toggle for noise reduction in case your recordings are plagued with the sound of an air conditioner. A good feature since the Yeti X picks up every nearby clack- click and distant radiator sound. The Yeti X is the best non-XLR microphone you can pick up for under $200.

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2. HyperX Quadcast

The best microphone for game streaming.

Specs: Power: 5V | Polar patterns: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo | Connectivity: USB | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: Built-in Shockmount

Easy to set use
Touch-sensitive mute button
Built-in Shockmount
Best sound requires adjustments

HyperX's gamer-centric Quadcast is an excellent value for the streamer looking for an easy-to-use clear sounding microphone. While it doesn't quite match up to the Yeti X in sound quality, the Quadcast makes up in design and feature-set.

The built-in shock mount alone is reason enough to pick up this thing. Decent shock mounts usually go for around $50, which helps prevent the microphone from picking up any accidental bumps and thuds during streaming. Another nice touch is the er, touch-sensitive mute button at the top of the microphone. Often, mute buttons and switches make a loud click when trying to record, and this is a thoughtful solution for that common issue. The Quadcast hits the sweet spot of price, sound, and features if you're looking to add something to your live stream.

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3. 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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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 Red Bull, 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-canceling from Razer given their trumpeted super-cardioid polar pattern. Still, the fundamental recording quality is there, as is the quality of finish.

If you want to add a little pizzaz to your stream. The Sieren Emote allows for emoticons to be displayed on the microphone via an 8-bit LEDs on the face of the mic. It's essentially a Seiren X with an exception for LED display and the interchangeable gooseneck stand. 

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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. Samson G-Track Pro

The best microphone for podcasting

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

In the crowded world of USB microphones, Samson's G-Track Pro outpaces most of its competition. A side-address condenser mic with multiple polar patterns, a shallow noise floor, sturdy build, and exceptional sound quality, this is a superb choice for anyone wanting to get into streaming, podcasting, or music. We'd say it's one of our favorite USB microphones to date, even if it did come out last year. As observed by our 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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9. 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

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 live streaming 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 what’s in front of the mic and is the setting you will be using 99% of the time when gaming and live streaming. 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 a mic must 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 reliable 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 the 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 the price is an essential factor when looking at how good a particular 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 vital in comparing what one option can offer over another. 

Jorge Jimenez is a Hardware Writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, you can find Jorge streaming bad games with his dog or binge-watching an irresponsible amount of Law & Order: SVU.