Music and Podcasting Tech

Five Awesome Microphones For Beginner Podcasters – Explained and Reviewed

I remember listening to the Joe Rogan podcast back in the early days of the UFC craze, circa 2008, where it was largely Joe talking complete nonsense with Eddie Bravo. Now, Joe has somehow snowballed his relaxed, conversational style into talking nonsense with the biggest and most relevant celebrities and politicians of the day. The message is clear: people are tired of neatly packaged, overly friendly, heavily formatted radio styled interviews, and instead, are piping for a less formal, longer form, more genuine interview style. Everybody has something to say, and everybody is podcasting. The article below is written by an industry expert, Rose T, who works as a sound engineer for one of the biggest radio stations in England.

Quick disclaimer, I’ve included a link to some of the products Rose mentions, which will go to Amazon, where we may receive a small cut of any qualifying purchases; however this has not influenced the content of the article. See our About section for more info. Okay, take it away Rose!

Intro

For a podcast to be successful not only does it have to have relevant and interesting content, but also a decent microphone. For anyone who is new to sound technology this may be a daunting task. This article is here to help make your search for the perfect podcasting microphone easier. I’ve chosen microphones which vary in price ranges and accessibility. All the microphones in this list will be more than capable of making your podcast sound crisp and clear, it’s down to you to choose the one that will best fit your podcast setup.

The Basics

If you already know roughly what you are looking for, or have some knowledge about microphones, then please do skip this next section. However, if you are new to this game please read on. It’s important to understand a few basics of what microphones can offer, to know what will work best for you. Here are three of the basic things you will want to consider before purchasing.

#1 Do I even need a microphone? Can I not just use the built-in microphone of my phone or computer?

In short, yes you do need a microphone. Modern computers and mobile devices have sophisticated microphones built into them, which will give you a clear recording of your voice. However, if you want your listener to feel as though they are with you and to connect with them, then a professional microphone is essential. It will make you sound crisper and cleaner and thus much more professional. Also, less editing! For example, built in microphones tend to be omni-directional, meaning it will pick up sound that is all around you. Therefore, unless you have great sound proofing, it will pick up any noise that is in the room or out of the room. For a podcast you will want a professional microphone that is Cardioid, so only picks up audio that is front facing, i.e you, or consider a figure of 8 or shotgun – if you have a guest and don’t want to splash out for two microphones.

Here is an image showing and explaining the different polar patterns for microphones (what area of sound they pick up):

#2 I bought a microphone, but it came with a connection that I couldn’t use, what is this thing with the three pins?


A common mistake people will make when buying a microphone is that they buy one that has an XLR end to it.

Without an external audio device (such as the Scarlett 2i2 my personal favourite) or mixing desk, you will not be able to use XLR. Another common mistake is buying a USB microphone which they can use on a computer, but not able to connect it to that a pricey mixing desk or audio device. Therefore, make sure you check what type of connection it has before buying.

An XLR connection is far better and is more commonly used but, as mentioned above you do need to have additional kit to use it with. However, once you have this additional kit you will have the freedom to use any type of microphone, so it is worth the investment. (It is sort of like an automatic or manual driving license. With an automatic license you are only able to buy and drive one type of car, however with a manual you have the option to drive both).

If you are on a budget for now, a USB microphone will be best. They are less expensive, and you can plug them direct into your computer without any hassle.

#3 I bought a condenser microphone, but it won’t work, what am I doing wrong?

Similar to microphones having different polar patterns, microphones are also built in two different ways due to a microphone being a form of a transducer (converting energy from, say, acoustic to electrical). They are therefore, either built as a condenser or a dynamic microphone.

This is what the two types of microphones look like inside:

A condenser microphone vibrates the conductive diaphragm against the charged backplate thus converting acoustic energy to electrical. They are brilliant for the voice and are more sensitive than the dynamic microphone an therefore, able to record much more detailed audio. However, be warned, a condenser microphone requires extra power known as “Phantom Power” to work. Therefore, if you buy one you must make sure your mixing desk or external audio device has this button, otherwise it won’t work.

A dynamic microphone suspends a coil of wire that is connected to a diaphragm inside a magnetic field. When sound passes the diaphragm, the vibrations produce the electrical signal. This type of microphone is also great for voice and due to the way they are built they don’t pick up as much background noise. Dynamic microphones do not need any additional power, unlike a condenser microphone, therefore, are much more popular as they can be used with any mixer or external audio device.

Top 5 podcasting microphones

Now we have the basics of what to look for, here is a top list of the best microphones to use for podcasting.

#1 ATR2100x-USB

Available on Amazon

Specs:

Output ConnectorXLR and USB
Polar PatternCardioid
Type of MicrophoneDynamic

The ATR is from a well-known audio brand, audio-technica. It is a basic dynamic microphone which is best suited for those who are on a budget or just starting out.

It is primarily designed for podcasting and voiceovers and comes with the best of both in terms of output connection. Allowing you to connect to your computer directly or to a mixer or audio device.

This microphone gives high quality audio, having a cardioid pick up reducing unwanted noise. The ATR also has a direct monitoring of sound with a headphone jack and level control on the microphone itself. This will allow you to be able to listen to the sound that is being captured without any delay.

#2 AT2035

Available on Amazon

Specs:

Output ConnectorXLR
Polar PatternCardioid
Type of MicrophoneCondenser

Also, from audio-technica, the AT2035 is ideal for podcasting with creating a smooth and natural sound. This microphone can deliver exceptional detail and low noise, equipped with a switchable 80Hz high-pass filter and 10dB pad. This microphone is best suited for someone who has a mixer or audio device with phantom power. This is a great first microphone for a podcaster.

#3 Snowball ICE

Available on Amazon

Specs:

Output ConnectorUSB
Polar PatternCardioid or Omnidirectional
Type of MicrophoneCondenser

The Snowball by Blue is what some may call the best microphone for starting out in podcasting. It is fantastic value for money and captures studio quality audio.

The Snowball outer shell is futuristic looking. however is made from plastic, and unlike other USB microphones, the Snowball doesn’t include any built-in monitoring. This is all made up for, however, by most of the budget from this microphone being spent on the unique condenser capsule inside which, surprisingly, doesn’t need you to have a button to turn phantom power on for, however, you will need to ensure your recording environment is well sound proofed. This is due to the sensitivity of its capture.

Another bonus point towards the Snowball is the ability to choose between polar patterns. This microphone gives the flexibility for three polar patterns, cardioid, omni and cardioid with -10dB pad, to accommodate any recording situation.

#4 Yeti

Available on Amazon

Specs:

Output ConnectorUSB
Polar PatternCardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional
Type of MicrophoneCondenser

If you have a bit more budget and like the look of the Snowball then consider the Yeti, also made by Blue. With the unique Blue tri-capsule technology, Yeti produces pristine, studio quality recordings with ease. Unlike with its sibling the Snowball, the Yeti features headphone volume control.

The Yeti has four different polar patterns which gives you fantastic flexibility when it comes to the content you can offer for your podcasts without the worry of needing multiple microphones.

Note, like the Snowball this is a special type of condenser microphone that won’t need phantom power to work, however, you will need to ensure your recording environment is well sound proofed. This is due to the sensitivity of its capture.

#5 SM7B

Available on Amazon

Specs:

Output ConnectorXLR
Polar PatternCardioid
Type of MicrophoneDynamic

From the Shure family, the SM7B is one of the most popular podcasting microphones. The SM7B has a wide-range frequency response which is perfect for clear and deep voice recording.


The SM7B features technology that shields against electromagnetic hums that are generated by computers and other electrical devices. Along with this, it has one polar pattern which is cardioid, so if you are a multi-presenter podcast you will need to purchase a microphone per speaker.

This microphone offers an extremely polished recording of voice and gives a warm and smooth recording which will connect you with your listener. However, this microphone is more on the expensive side.

Conclusion

You should be reaching the end of this article with the knowledge and confidence about microphones and what to look for. However, to summarise the thoughts of this article, if you are starting out in the podcasting world and don’t want to invest too much money in a microphone. Then the ATR2100x-USB or the Snowball ICE is most suited for you. They will give you good quality audio whilst you test the waters and in particular, the Snowball will give you the luxury of a Condenser microphone and ability to record with guests without the need to buy a second mic.

If you are already podcasting and are looking for an upgrade then, either the Yeti or the SM7B should be your next step. Both deliver fantastic crisp audio which should enable you to connect more with your listeners.

Now, you are set, go and grab that microphone and start podcasting. If you do have a podcast or have found this article useful please do drop a comment.

Rose T

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