Choosing a microphone is one of the toughest choices for any streamer who doesn’t deal with high-end audio equipment regularly. I’d like to simplify this process a little bit and offer you some insight into 3 microphones that I feel are some of the best bang-for-the-buck options out there.
These microphones will essentially be around the same price point but will cover different streaming experiences. For example, a Yoga Streamer won’t benefit from a static, desk mounted solution. Instead, you would choose a microphone that can attach to your clothes, I/E, a lavalier microphone instead of a Studio Condenser microphone. Choosing the correct microphone type for what you are doing is essential to getting great quality audio.
I’ll list some examples of streaming content along with the microphone overviews to help point you in the right direction. If you are unsure about anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me on discord, or through the contact form about a question you have. I’ll do my best to answer to the best of my ability, or point you in the direction of someone who might be able to assist you further.
One thing to keep in mind: There is no such thing as a perfect microphone. Each design type has it’s own compromises, and as such, depending on your particular situation, the best mic for you will be different.
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Samson Q2U, The Best microphone for brand new streamers
Just starting out? You may be drowning yourself in research as to what microphone you can buy, and this is good! You should always get multiple viewpoints when looking into buying something.
However, I urge caution; While your research of microphones may state that studio condenser-style microphones may produce the best possible sound (and they’d be technically correct), most reviewers don’t mention something important:
- Studio Condenser microphones only sound really good if your room’s acoustics are properly treated.
What this means, in practice, is that a Studio Dynamic-style microphone, like this Samson Q2U, is actually a better choice if you don’t have that in place. Barring edge cases of those of you who have good, natural room acoustics. IE, your room has a lot of absorbing materials in it, or a lot of stuff in it to diffuse the sound, eliminating reverb.
This microphone here has a very good sound, especially considering the price it is at. However, the best feature of the Samson Q2U is the inclusion of both a USB and XLR connection. What this means, is that it can be used on a PC, Via USB, or connect to a more professional Audio interface/Mixer. This provides a solid upgrade path to you, so you don’t need to heavily invest up-front.
Here is a review by EposVox that goes over the sound of this mic.
- Fantastic audio quality for the price
- Both USB and XLR connections available
- Built-in monitoring port for headphones
- Kit comes with a mini-tripod mount, a foam pad to help against the wind from a fan/outside, and all the wires that it needs to connect to things.
- The alternate kit comes with a boom arm and small pop filter
- Powered by PC, no need for batteries
- Decent option for moving around while talking, if you are okay with holding the microphone like a singer.
- Considered to be “ugly” on stream in comparison to other, more fancy looking mics.
- You need to be 1-6 inches away from the microphone for it to sound really good
- You can’t really keep the microphone out of the camera frame and expect it to sound good
- Fairly large microphone design, due to the internal ADC for the USB connection
- The included Mini-tripod takes up a fair amount of desk real-estate
- The alternate kit uses a very cheap boom arm, expect it to break within a year or so.
The Best Microphones for streamers who move around a lot
If you are doing a work-out stream, or have some sort of need for high mobility, then the best option for you would be either a wireless headset or a lavalier microphone connected to a wireless transmitter. While the first option is a possibility, you will likely have better audio – for cheaper – using a dedicated lavalier/lapel microphone wireless system.
The Winner here is the Movo WMX-1, a 2.4 GHz wireless lavalier microphone system. You can hear the microphone in action here.
- Max of 200 feet audio range, allowing you to easily use your phone as the webcam for a stream while streaming something like tennis
- Uses 3.5mm cables to connect, making it compatible with phones if you stream IRL
- Audio is clear and easy to understand
- Audio Quality is Fairly good
- The wireless transmitter can be clipped to your clothes, mounted to a tripod, or stuffed in your pocket
- Built-in headphone monitoring jack
- The mic can be hidden out of view
- Not the cheapest wireless system available (But also not nearly the most expensive one.)
- Completely plastic design
- Careful with the attachable clips, if you pull on it, potential to break the clip.
- No built-in battery
- Max of 6-hour battery life using two Alkaline AAA batteries for transmitter. Rechargeable will vary based on mAh.
- May pick up clothing rubbing on mic diaphragm
- Susceptible to radio interefence
This is one of the most helpful systems for any streamer who can’t sit in one place. Like a headset microphone, this style of a microphone is one that will always remain a good distance from your mouth. Unfortunately, most of the cost of this system is in the actual wireless aspect, the transmitter, and the receiver. If this is beyond what you can afford, then if you can deal with a long wire, this lav mic by MAONO may be an option for you.
The Best Microphone for streamers without a hardware mixer
The addition of an Audio Mixer gives you an incredible amount of control over your audio. However, Mixers tend to cost a lot of money, and until recently, were really the only solution outside of programming a MIDI device to do something similar. Enter the Elgato Wave: 1. This microphone, and its bigger cousin, the Wave: 3, do something that no other microphone does. It allows you to create a virtual mixer, and create sources that a real mixer can latch onto and control.
Windows 10 does have a built-in Software Mixer, but it relies on having either real physical devices to create sources or for another program to create the sources for it, like Virtual Audio Cable. Check out this video by EposVox to see how it works in action.
Note: You don’t need an audio mixer in order to stream. Having one just makes your life easier, and make your stream feel more professional when you are able to fade out audio sources whenever you like.
- Very good audio quality (Capsule made by Lewitt)
- USB connection into PC
- Built-in virtual Mixer functionality, removing the need for Virtual Audio Cable entirely
- Able to create additional virtual sources that you can control with other equipment
- It looks very good on stream.
- The controls aren’t separate from the mic, resulting in mic handling noise when using it
- Its proprietary design means that it isn’t compatible with standard mounts, and shock mounts.
- The casing is made entirely from plastic and feels cheap/lightweight
- Boom arms designed for heavier mics will not stay in the position you set it to.
- Wave 1 can only adjust the volume to the headphone jack for monitoring
- Wave 3 can do that, the gain, and the balance between real-time monitoring and any sound being output to it via USB (Credit to EposVox for clarifying this in that video)
My thoughts on choosing the best Microphone for you
For any microphone setup intended for the purpose of live streaming, you are looking to spend around $100. Even using the cheapest XLR/USB microphone on the market, there are always extra accessories you will find yourself wishing you had.
If this is beyond your budget range, then I suggest saving up until you can afford this investment. Lower cost options are out there, but there is a noticeable improvement going from a $40 mic to a $100 mic. This is about the minimum entry point, where you can safely not need to upgrade anything for the foreseeable future. The next big jump in quality comes around the $200 price point, and in my opinion, that is too much to spend on a microphone for live streaming.
Your audience will not judge you for having a cheaper microphone if your voice is clear and easy to understand. Heck, the difference isn’t really even noticeable to them if they are using earbuds, or some cheap laptop speakers to begin with.
I didn’t include any Pure-XLR style microphones, like my Tonor mic that I use as a daily driver, which is a very good sounding microphone for around $40, because it requires investing in an audio interface (The one that I have) in addition to the microphone. This ruins any savings you get from the cheap, large-diaphragm condenser style microphone. Additionally, these kinds of microphones are extremely sensitive to background noise and require some form of room acoustics treatment in place.
I mean sure, It is ideal to have an interface or Mixer, but even some of the lowest end mixers are fairly expensive, and the lowest end Audio interfaces tend to sound pretty poor.
And I suppose you could make the argument that you can plug into a phantom power box, and covert XLR to 3.5mm into the pink port of your pc…but, that will result in some noisy signals. Ideally, you don’t want to do something like that unless you have no other choice.
I hope that this article has been helpful to you in choosing your microphone for streaming. Thank you for reading, and I wish you luck in your streaming endeavors!