I have the necessity of a youtube channel for this website, that's why I ended up looking for microphones that work well while recording or streaming, I have summarized what I learned in an easy way to digest.
A decent level of audio quality is really important for streamers.
In case playing is not exciting enough, services like Twitch or YouTube have popularized the experience of telling how your game is developing or just, you know, showing your sick plays. Here the limit is bandwidth, but there is no doubt that a good streaming microphone is key to sound being captured properly.
In this guide for buying microphones for streamers you will find what you need to consider and featured models in a wide range of prices.
Aspects to choose the best microphone for streaming
When choosing a microphone we will find very different models in the market in terms of types, polar patterns or acoustic specifications, so before listing how a good microphone should be for streaming I will explain to you what to consider.
This feature refers to the range of sound that is capable of picking up a microphone. It is measured in Hz and displayed from low to high frequencies. For a streamer this specification is not as important as for a vocalist, but better to look for those microphones that offer a wide range of frequencies.
The impedance is the opposition to the alternating current that the microphone provides at the output of the microphone and it is usual that according to the type of microphone, they are divided into low impedance (50-1000 ohms), medium (5000-15,000 ohms) and high (more than 20,000 ohms). In addition, the longer the cable, the more impedance there will be.
If we are looking for a microphone to record videos, stream or podcast quality, better consider those that have up to 600 ohms.
The polar pattern or the direction (or directions) in which the microphone picks up the sound is key when choosing a microphone for streaming. The main classification refers to:
Types of microphones:
Each type of microphone has different characteristics, so they are more or less suitable for streaming, podcasts, music, etc. A good grouping of the types of microphones and their main characteristics is:
Important factors in a mic for streaming
Compactibility: Streamers usually have to travel when they reach some success or often are students and/or have jobs besides streaming. Versatility and compatibility is a factor that we are going to talk about in the microphones listed at the end of this article.
Price: We understand not everyone has the means to buy expensive microphones or sometimes technology is more expensive depending on your location. Nevertheless we really can't recommend microphones for less than 60 usd yet. It is better to stick with your headset that includes a mic and save up to get something better in the future. The microphones listed below in this article are in the 60 to 180 usd price range.
Recording quality: This is the obvious factor to take into consideration while evaluating microphones. If you start a video and hear a lot of ambient noise and really bad audio quality, you tend to discard that video despite the content being good or not. It's simply too much of a bottleneck, for the majority of us good audio quality is needed in order to grow an audience.
Which type of microphone should an aspirant streamer choose?
After reviewing the types of microphones, it is clear that when choosing a microphone to record voice we will be between the USB microphones or a dynamic or condenser microphone with an audio card and an XLR cable.
We have already advanced that the most common type of streaming microphone will be the USB type, since it offers a combination of functionality and simplicity: just connect it to the computer to make it operational. In this sense, we save on additional elements, something that affects both the price and the simplicity of handling.
... yes, at the cost of losing quality, since they do not reach the level of the XLR alternative. However, within this usage scenario the result of a good USB microphone is very suitable.
Another point to consider is the latency, which means, the delay between the recording of the sound and the reproduction, something that generates an undesirable sensation of echo. However, some USB microphones include software to minimize this effect - among other features - and monitor it through a jack output.
If you're looking for something below the 60 usd price mark it is recommended that you stick with a headset mic for the time being and save up for a better quality mic.
Microphone options (low price to high price)
Price: Arround 60 USD.
Presentations: The Marantz is available in different designs, ports and bases.
Frequency response: 20Hz - 17kHz
Polar Patern: Cardioid
Description: This mic is specially designed for streaming and podcasting at an affordable price while still providing good results. It includes a desktop stand, pop filter and an attenuation pad. The Marantz is easy to install and use.
Razer Seiren X
Price: Arround 70 USD.
Presentations: Comes in pink, white and black. In includes a robust stand and a 3.5mm jack to minimize latency.
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Polar Patern: Supercardioid
Description: The Razer Seiren X is a compact and portable mic for streaming that has good quality audio. It's polar patern is supercardioud and thus it is particularly sensible to keyboard sounds. Most of the times this is not what streamers want, keep the mic as far from your keyboard as possible. It's good for PS4 too.
Price: Arround 90 USD.
Presentations: Comes in black. In includes a 3.5mm jack to minimize latency.
Description: The Audio-Technica AT2020USB is not particularly designed for gaming, but we have to take it in consideration for it's realibility, versatility and clarity. Easy to use and good quality for it's price.
Samson Meteor mic
Presentations/extras: Folding legs, includes a bag, adjustable height and works with iPhone/iPad with an adapter.
Description: The Samson Meteor is a great microphone to carry arround. It's compactness and bag included are useful for traveling streamers. Very affordable for it's quality.
Price: Arround 100 USD.
Presentations/extras: Includes jack to reduce latency.
Price: Around 115 USD.
Presentations/extras: Includes 3.5mm jack, iPhone/iPad adapter, an app in the appstore and a support.
Description: This mic is extremely versatile while still boosting a high quality sound. It has three voice presets and flat response to instruments. While being great in the aspects mentioned it's also very easy to carry arround.
Price: Around 150 USD.
Presentations/extras: Includes 3.5mm jack, noise reduction filter, tripod and a 6 meter wire.
Connectivity: Sound personalization software, 2m USB C to USB A cable and a US to EU Stand adapter.
Polar Patern: Front, Front and back, Tight Stereo and Wide Stereo.
Description: Retro design and very different sound. This is what you should get if you're looking to podcast and have a personalized kind of sound.
Samson G-Track Pro
Price: Around 160 USD.
Presentations/extras: Includes desk stand, headphone level control and an additional analog input.
Connectivity: USB and analog input.
Polar Patern: Cardioid, Omnidirectional and bidirectional.
Description: Still in an affordable price range the Samson G-Track Pro offers really clear sound. It's premium design makes it very comfortable and easy to manipulate. With this microphone you can toggle between various polar paterns.
Rode NT USB
Presentations/extras: Includes 3.5mm jack, noise reduction filter, tripod and a 6 meter wire.
Description: Very professional looking microphone with high quality audio.
Considerations after buying your microphone: Accesories
There are accesories to improve audio quality even further after buying a streaming microphone. Some come included in the mics and others you have to buy apart.
Who need them the most: All streamers benefit from Pop Filters, but they are particularly useful for singers and podcasters.
What are Pop Filters for: Have you noticed when people talk in microphones the consonants sounds more or maybe too much. Think about that "p" sound in a microphone, it's called a 'plosive' and it's only useful in rare situations (beatboxing), but more often than not it is an undesirable sound. Pop filters to the rescue.
As you can see in the image above, it's just a filter mounted in between the microphone and the streamer. It functions by protecting the microphone from the additional influx of air caused by the pronunciation of the letters "p" or "b". After buying a Pop Filter recordings will be much cleaner. One of the microphones models recommended above comes with Pop Filter included.
But how much does it cost? You can find Pop Filters ranging from 8 USD all the way up to 100 USD.
When we talk Acoustic Foam we are entering the professional reign of audio quality. This is by no means necessary or convenient if you're new to streaming. It requires a mini studio set up in your house that is intended to isolate a room acoustically.
Who need them the most: People that live in noisy places and/or singers.
How does Acoustic Foam works: It should be attached to the walls of the room you want to soundproof. This will absorb noises and unwanted echoes. Additionally the sound comming from the 'studio room' will be minimal or almost non existent, which is really good for college students or people with family.
But is it expensive though? Soundproofing a room with Acoustic Foam can cost from 40 USD to 100 USD. Besides the manual labor and extra room needed it's not that expensive.
All microphones mentioned in this article don't really need an stand or come with a desktop one. For professional singers -who need to stand up for reasons- there are options ranging from 10 usd to 40 usd.
General considerations: Microphone Maintenance
Microphones are more fragile than other electronic devices like mouses or phones. You should be careful of not dropping them as they are easy to break even they do not look like it. If treated well a microphone should last at the very least 3 years.
To ensure long live for the microphone you should have it under certain conditions. Most important being low humidity and not close to heat. The diaphragm is easy to damage, and even if you don't notice nothing wrong in the outside, sound quality will drop.
Make sure to keep microphones away from kids or pets and in a place that is hard for it to be dropped. Again, microphones look sturdier than they are, in reality they are very easy to break.
There are tricks to fix electronics with spilled water, like leaving them in rice overnight. This doesn't work with microphones as various parts can dislodge. Once a microphone stops working it will need costly reparations or to be replaced. There are no cheap fixes.
General considerations: While recording
Don't blow directly into the microphone unless you really intend to make a wind noise, and even then, know that you are damaging the microphone's diaphragm. This is attenuated by Pop Filters, but not completely gone.
I know it's funny to make a "sound test" by knocking the microphone, but this is a bad practice too and can damage it. This explains sudden drops in the gain of the microphone. You can make sounds by other means than knocking the microphone, for example, talking or snapping your fingers.
This is extremely important if you share your microphone with more people (stream guests probably). As we now know about infectious diseases and how they easily transmit. To clean your microphone take the grill off and rinse it with water, then make sure of getting it well dried before putting it back in.
Some microphones have non-removable grills. In this case use a piece of cloth or a wet wipe to clean it. You can also use a brush if there are stains in the mic.
Turning the microphone upside down might be a tempting approach, but don't do it as it can seriously damage the diaphragm. Instead follow the advice above.
Use an electronics desinfectant. This won't damage the microphone and are not expensive at all. It might actually be cheaper than the risk of breaking the diaphragm.
If you use a stand for your microphone, make sure that the legs are well screwed to avoid accidents. Fasten all the screws once in a while. Clean the microphone with a damp cloth.
Think about making good content as a streamer or youtuber, and then failing to grow your channel because of bad audio. Sounds like a really stupid problem. While there are cases of successful streamers using only headphones sets, a good microphone is an investment, something your public will be thankful for.
All the microphones shown in this article are good enough for streaming and have a very good performance/price ratio. If you are starting and intend to have better audio quality, the $60 USD option is very good for you, otherwise, if you're in a more advanced point, the $160 options are excellent.