We're not sure about you, but one thing we've realized during the pandemic haze that was 2020 is that literally everyone has a podcast. And, not only that, but everyone is listening to one.
According to Nielsen TV Ratings and Podcast Insights, at least 50% of homes in America are podcast listeners, and there are over one million active podcasts to choose from. Imagine your grandparents or great grandparents sitting around the radio in the 1930s with over a million radio shows to choose from. That's basically what we've got in 2020.
So if you've ever thought about starting your own podcast, now is the time to take the plunge. With just a computer and a microphone, you could be on your way to becoming an official podcaster and posting your first episode in no time.
We figure you've probably already got the computer covered, so we're taking a deeper look into the best microphones for starting a podcast.
An Intro to Podcasting
If you find yourself wondering what exactly I'm talking about, let us hit you with a little podcast 101.
What is a podcast?
A podcast is a sequence of spoken word audio recordings centered around a common theme. These recordings usually come in the format of episodes and are commonly streamed from your smartphone. Episodes vary in length, somewhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
Unlike Talk Radio, listeners subscribe to podcasts through an app or website and receive new content notification. Some of the content is behind a paywall, but most are available for free with advertisements throughout.
How do you start a podcast?
While there are many guides available for starting your own podcast, here is the nitty-gritty:
- Choose a theme. What do you want to say?
- Decide on your format. Will you do interviews? Write a scripted story? Will you have a co-host?
- Gather or purchase your equipment. While you could technically do everything from just your smartphone, you're likely going to need a podcasting microphone, your laptop, a way to record and mixing/editing software.
- Record your first episode. It will be rough; this is what editing is for.
- Mix and edit your episode. Many beginners get stuck at this stage, not wanting to put anything out until it's perfect. While a quality podcast will garner more listeners, it is important to remember that everyone started out with a few rough first episodes before they found their flow.
- Upload your episode and submit your podcast listing to the major directories like Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
The 11 Best Microphones to Start Your Podcast
While many beginning podcasters are using their laptop or iPhone microphone and recording on something like Skype, you will quickly learn that the audio quality isn't that great. You want a microphone that will enhance your vocals and help cut out background noise.
Before we jump into the actual microphones we think you should check out, here's what you need to know about microphones and the types that are available.
Condenser Microphone vs. Dynamic Microphone
When shopping for a microphone, you are going to run into two words in every product description--condenser and dynamic.
A dynamic microphone is awesome for capturing loud sounds like drums and live events but can miss some subtle, softer sounds or quiet vocals. The construction is fairly simplistic, making it one of the cheaper and more durable options. Because of the technology and way it functions, these mics don't require an additional power source.
This microphone works by capturing sound waves hitting a plastic or polyester diaphragm that moves and makes a small AC current, mimicking the waves themselves.
A condenser microphone is great for capturing complex vocal sounds and is perfect for voice-over work and, you guessed it, podcasting. Anytime you won't be capturing a loud sound-- this is your mic. They tend to be expensive and more fragile than their dynamic counterparts and may be overkill for a beginning podcaster.
Much like dynamic mics, condenser microphones work by capturing the movement of sound waves on a diaphragm. However, condenser microphones are made from metal and have another plate behind them. Electricity is applied to the plate, giving a little static charge. When the sound waves hit this diaphragm, they make a little vibration and a small current that produces sound.
These microphones require power from batteries, the use of a phantom power source or your power from your audio interface.
USB and AUX and XLR, Oh My…
There are three basic connection types for microphones. What you choose will depend on the software you are using and the connection types your hardware can accept.
USB microphones plug into any device with a USB port and usually contain their own drivers and software. A mic with an AUX connection or an analog microphone will connect to older recording devices through what looks like a headphone jack and is solely at the mercy of your device's software for audio quality. The newer XLR connection is mainly seen in pro-set-ups, recording studios, and stage shows. The three-pin connector gives you crystal clear audio quality.
Now onto the microphones.
Budget Mics (Mics Under $100)
You don't need to invest a ton of money into a mic to get started, but since the audio quality is a crucial part of any successful podcast, we lined up three options for less than $100 bucks that will get you started and holding your own against the masses.
First up is the Audio-Technica ATGM2 Detachable Boom Microphone, which runs $73 on Amazon. This small and sleek mic connects to any headphones you already have, giving you the full pop star treatment. This condenser mic has a mute button and a hyper-cardioid element that eliminates background and ambient noise.
Going in an entirely different direction visually is the Blue Snowball USB Mic that runs $99 on Amazon. This mic has dual condenser capsules and three modes for recording vocals: Cardioid Mode, Cardioid Mode with -10 dB PAD and Omnidirectional Mode for recording in any direction.
Our lowest price option, the TONOR USB Mic, will set you back only $46 on Amazon and is another USB condenser microphone that comes with a stand and pop filter. Basically, the podcaster starter pack. The mic included in this set has a cardioid pickup pattern to pick up perfect sound from the front of the mic and keep background noise at bay.
Another mic set that is a complete steal on Amazon at only $89 is the Samson C01 Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Set. This set comes with a boom arm, swivel stand mount, pop filter, cables and a case. The XLR Microphone has a hyper-cardioid polar pattern to capture noise only from where you want it and not where you don't. If you've got the extra $40 bucks and can use an XLR connector, check this set out.
Mid Level Mics (Mics under $250)
If you want to jump in and spend some dough getting your perfect podcast setting and gear before you take the plunge into recording, we've got mics that definitely don't qualify as entry-level.
From Audio-Technica comes the AT2005USB Handheld Cardioid Dynamic Mic on Amazon for $140. This is a great choice of mic if you ever think you'll take your podcast on the road or try live interviews thanks to its handheld versatility. Use the USB cable for voice recordings in your home studio and the XLR cable for live performances or with a conventional sound system.
Also coming in at $140 on Amazon is the HyperX QuadCast. This mic works great for gaming as well as podcasting thanks to the anti-vibration shock mount for accidental bumps and four selectable polar patterns, Bidirectional Cardioid, Omnidirectional and Stereo. This mic gives you the recording type you want without sacrificing sound quality.
The Blue Yeti X Professional Condenser USB Microphone takes it up a notch on Amazon for $170. This microphone was designed with podcasting in mind thanks to the onboard LED vocal meter to instantly let you know if your voice level is too high.
And it is great for travel. Co-Founder of Vloguide, Farhan Sheikh adds, “I can carry it in my laptop’s backpack and easily set it up in a hotel during vacations.”
Download the Logitech G HUB or Blue Sherpa app to access a suite of tools for broadcast recording.
The Rode Procaster Broadcast Vocal Dynamic Microphone comes in at $249, the top of our mid-level price point. The internal pop shield reduces plosives without any extra equipment needed and comes with a stand adapter and carrying bag.
Pro Level Mics
If you've never been one to half-ass anything and have been accused of going all-in on something before you've tested the waters, high-quality podcast mics are for you.
Starting with arguably one of the most recognized microphones in podcasting thanks to the YouTube streaming of his podcast, the "Joe Rogan Mic" or the Shure SM7B is available on Amazon for $399. Love it or hate it, the Joe Rogan Experience is known for high-quality audio, and the ShureSM7B is considered to be one of the best podcasting microphones on the market, which is why it is also recommended by Chris Chan, editor at Podcast Pursuit.
You can also purchase a bundle that comes with the Cardioid Dynamic Microphone boom stand, pop filter and XLR cable for $460.
Electro-Voice RE20 Broadcast is available on Amazon for $449 with a shock mount available for another $99. With voice-tailored frequency response and heavy-duty interior pop filter, this mic is perfect for high-quality vocal recordings. This microphone will fit into any standard mic stand, although it isn't recommended for tabletop use by reviewers.
Last but certainly not least is the HEiL PR 40 Dynamic Studio Microphone available on Amazon for $329. You can also opt for a bundle, including a shock mount, broadcasting arm and cables available for only $400. The HEiL PR 40 gives you the widest frequency range available in a high-end dynamic microphone and claims to perform better than most condenser mics.
We Hear You Loud and Clear
It can seem daunting to select your first podcast recording microphone, especially if you are a newbie. It's easy to immediately want to start with what your favorite pros are using, but that might not be the right fit for your recording situation. If you're working from an iPad or your phone, a complete set up with a professional mic and boom arm may not be practical or possible due to connectivity.
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The 11 Best Podcasting Microphones:
- Audio-Technica ATGM2 Detachable Boom Microphone
- Blue Snowball USB Mic
- TONOR USB Mic
- Samson C01 Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Set
- AT2005USB Handheld Cardioid Dynamic Mic
- HyperX QuadCast
- Blue Yeti X Professional Condenser USB Microphone
- Rode Procaster Broadcast Vocal Dynamic Microphone
- Shure SM7B
- Electro-Voice RE20 Broadcast
- HEiL PR 40 Dynamic Studio Microphone