Excellent audio is irreplaceable. Not everyone will notice when a production has truly excellent sound, but they will notice when it doesn’t. With these picks for the best microphones for streaming, you’ll have the tools to create crisp sound quality at the best price point for you.
Streaming comes with lots of different needs. A gamer live streaming their Rocket League goal reactions needs a different microphone than someone hosting a weekly front porch banjo-duel or their nephew who’s conducting one-on-one interviews with haunted house survivors. Whatever your programming, there’s a microphone for you, and many of the mics on this list offer enough features to serve multiple functions.
Today, USB microphones make it easier than ever to bring a truly excellent sounding microphone into your home studio. However, some of the highest quality microphones out there aren’t USB-compatible — but the issue can be easily circumvented with an audio interface. USB audio interfaces allow you to pair an XLR microphone with your digital audio interface, or streaming software, and usually also feature some mixing capabilities. Some USB microphones also double as an audio interface, offering features like an extra ¼-inch audio jack or integrated mixing software. We’ll walk you through some great streaming microphones that use of both USB and XLR connections, and guide you toward the right microphone for your needs, whether you’re looking for airy heights, aspiring for musical versatility, or stumping for authoritative vocal bass.
— Best Overall: Samson Technologies Samson G-Track Pro
— Best Budget: Blue Snowball iCE Plug ‘n Play USB Microphone
— Best XLR: Shure SM7B
— Best High-End: Neumann TLM 103-MT Large Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone
— Best With Built In Mixer: Elgato Wave:3
How We Picked the Best Microphones for Streaming
In finding the best microphone for streaming, there will alway be the wooliness of personal preference and production needs. However, certain features and capabilities distinguish themselves from the herd as fundamental hallmarks of any pick. In narrowing down this list, I used my own experience using and reviewing microphones: I researched numerous microphone models from many makers, read about the standards of microphone usage and recording techniques used in radio studios, and factored all my findings together to determine the best microphones for streaming. These choices are broken out by specific use cases.
Polar Patterns: A microphone’s polar pattern determines the direction from which it picks up a signal, as well as the “shape” of sound it registers. A few microphones on this list come with multiple polar pattern modes. Frequently these include a classic cardioid pattern that’s good for front-facing uni-directional vocals, an omni-directional mode that picks up sound from all around the microphone, a bi-directional mode that’s good for picking up sound directly in front of and behind the microphone, and sometimes a stereo mode that picks up signal from the left, right, and front of the microphone. While microphones that feature multiple polar patterns are often the best bet for those who want a multi-purpose tool, sometimes a specialized microphone with a single polar pattern can do a better job. That said, a cardioid pattern is the standard for most streamers, as this is the best pattern for controlled vocals from one vocal source. I prioritized cardioid polar pattern mics on this list, while also including some microphones with multiple patterns.
Radio Vocals vs. Musicality: Not every strong vocal microphone will be an excellent choice for dry radio vocals as well as singing and instrumentals. Most microphones on this list have a certain musicality to them, but some will work better than others if you want a mic that can record your scream when you get an in-game headshot and also do a good job with a string quartet.
USB vs. XLR (and Price): For anyone putting together a home studio, choosing between USB and XLR can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars. With a USB microphone, you just have to plug in and go (at the most, you might have to download a driver). Some USB microphones even come with complementary mixing software that helps you tune your audio to sound great. XLR, however, requires the purchase of a separate audio interface to function with most computers, meaning that an XLR option immediately costs more. Another added cost with XLR microphones is the stand, as most don’t come with one. That’s why I prioritized USB mics for average streamers. As such, the USB mics constitute all of the more budget-friendly options on this list, because they both cost less than good XLRs and take less effort to incorporate into your setup.
Bit Depth: Bit depth determines the sample size your device records at. Since most streaming isn’t extremely high-quality, bit depth is less important for streaming than recording. However, it’s still a factor.
While XLR microphones don’t have a bit depth, the audio interface they may use does. That’s why it’s important to remember that if you get a truly premium microphone, it’s probably a good idea to get a premium audio interface as well. 16-bit depth is the level of detail that CDs use. The common Blue Yeti microphone records at 16-bit depth. The common Focusrite Scarlett audio interface records at 24-bit depth. I prioritized USB microphones that have higher than 16-bit depth for this list, though I have used a Blue Yeti for years and love it. It’s also important to note that for very high bit depth recordings, the ceiling also depends on the type of USB slot you use. For the purpose of the USB microphones on this list, most laptop connections will do fine.
We further explain how we test audio gear here.
Best Microphones for Streaming: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Samson Technologies Samson G-Track Pro
Why It Made The Cut: With three polar patterns, a high bit depth, a ¼-inch plug in the back, and a versatile, naturally musical profile, this microphone is a true crowd pleaser.
— Type: Condenser
— Polar Patterns: Cardioid, omni-directional, bi-directional
— Connection: USB
— Bit Depth: 24-bit
— Versatile with three polar patterns
— Good high-definition sound
— Can plug an instrument or a ¼-inch microphone directly into the back for multi-track recording
— Nice-sounding vocals with solid presence
— Also sounds good with instruments
— While appealing, high boost reduces overall versatility compared to competitors with a flatter signature
The Samson G-Track Pro is a versatile streamers microphone that takes on the household name giant of USB microphones (the Blue Yeti) and seems to win. With a slick black body and a wedged microphone head, the Samson looks powerful and pricier than it is. It’s an impressive design that looks like classic, quality mic gear with none of the flashing LEDs you’ll find on some of its competitors (the HyperX Quadcast with its built-in pop-filter is a fantastic option if you are after LEDs).
Like the Yeti, the Samson is a USB microphone that features multiple polar patterns. Unlike the Yeti, it features a 24-bit resolution, which means it’s ready for high-definition recording. Audiophiles will notice the difference. It also features a ¼-inch instrument jack on the back with a separate volume knob, meaning this device doesn’t need a separate audio interface if you want to slap some Seinfeld bass riffs in between your vocal takes.
The Samson’s sonic profile features somewhat elevated highs that make it shine for crisp radio-style vocals with the bass rolled-off, while also making it a rather musical option that does an impressive job with instruments as well as spoken vocals. If you are looking for supremely flat vocals the Blue Yeti may be a better option, and the Yetis fourth polar pattern can come in handy. However, with its high definition sound, extra ¼-inch jack, and great sounding profile, the Samson G-Track Pro beats out the Yeti’s specs at around the same price point to be the best microphone for streaming for most users.
Best Budget: Blue Snowball iCE Plug ‘n Play USB Microphone
Why It Made The Cut: This tiny cardioid condenser microphone from Blue still delivers the goods, and for less.
— Type: Condenser
— Polar Patterns: Cardioid
— Connection: USB
— Bit Depth: 16-bit
— Excellent sound for such a cheap microphone
— Budget price
— Lightweight and compact
— Only one polar pattern
— 16-bit resolution
A budget microphone for the times. The Blue Snowball iCE is a plug and play microphone with a price tag that just feels too good to be true. It plugs right into your computer’s USB port and offers crisp, clear sound. It’s a great gift for gamers who are interested in streaming. If you’re upgrading to a USB microphone from your computer mic, you’ll notice the difference right away. The microphone offers a single capsule condenser that delivers 16-bit sound. There aren’t extra polar patterns available or an extra ⅛-inch jack and mixer. But if you’re looking for the rudiments done right for a price you can afford, the Snowball has it.
While the snowball is capable as a musical vocal mic, it shines for radio or podcast style narration. The cardioid pattern puts the focus on you, and for most streamers, that’s what’s important. The Blue Yeti is one of the most ubiquitous USB microphones out there. The Snowball does most of the important bits that the Yeti can do with a similar sonic profile to the Yeti’s cardioid mode, only sacrificing some of the features. If you’re not ready to pay about twice as much for the Yeti or one of its similarly priced competitors, the Blue Snowball iCE does a great job for most.
Best XLR: Shure SM7B
Why It Made The Cut: A spectacularly smooth and capable dynamic microphone that’s trusted by recording pros all over the world.
— Type: Dynamic
— Polar Patterns: Cardioid
— Connection: XLR
— Bit Depth: N/A
— Crystal clear sound
— Highly musical while also working great for radio vocals
— Cuts down on background noise
— Relatively pricey
— Will need an audio interface for computer integration
Who would have thought that one of the industry leading mid-range microphones worldwide would do just as well in your streaming recording rig as it does for the pros? The microphone that Michael Jackson used to record “Thriller” is also a stellar at-home streaming microphone. If you’re looking to take streaming seriously, the Shure SM7B is the mid-range XLR choice. It’s a dynamic microphone that does just as wonderful of a job for spoken vocals as it does for singing, guitars, or didgeridoos. So if you want one microphone that will do an excellent job for your YouTube video voice-over recordings but will also track your cousin’s five-piece ambient flute set, this model is the one.
It’s worth noting that around the same price point, the Electro-Voice RE20 is a real competitor to the SM7B. The RE20 is one of the most ubiquitous radio microphones in newsrooms all over the world. It also makes a truly superb streaming microphone. With a crisper tone than the SM7B and more inherent bass, the RE20 does authoritative narration right. Its bass roll-off switch (also found on the SM7B) delivers the airy profile found in local NPR stations all over the country (NPR HQ primarily uses the Neumann U87). It’s powerful and crisp, but it’s also airy enough that it floats over the background noise that surrounds your car or headphones. That said, the Shure SM7B is still our pick at this price point for its malleable and flat vocal tone with less of a bass-y natural profile, and for its more musical nature that gives it the versatility to also play well with instruments and singing.
Best High-End: Neumann TLM 103-MT Large Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone
Why It Made The Cut: A (slightly) more affordable version of Neumann’s legendary U87 that still packs the magic of Neumann’s large diaphragm cardioid for so much less.
— Type: Large Diaphragm Condenser
— Polar Patterns: Cardioid
— Connection: XLR
— Bit Depth: N/A
— The large diaphragm condenser uses a capsule based on the classic U87
— Excellent sensitivity
— One of the best general purpose microphones
— No bass roll-off built in
— Omnidirectional cardioid doesn’t have the options the U87 is known for
This is truly a premium microphone. If you’ve got the budget and you want to deliver streaming vocals and performance that can compete with the big leagues, the Neumann TLM 103-MT is it. NPR’s national headquarters use the Neumann U87 for their radio broadcasting. At a third of the classic U87’s price, the 103-MT uses a large-diaphragm capsule design based on the U87’s to deliver the same warm full vocal tone. However, the price drop comes with a few sacrifices in flexibility. The 103-MT doesn’t have the multipattern polar positions found in the U87, which does diminish it somewhat from its legendary cousin. However, it does retain the wide diaphragm sensitivity that makes the Neumann name famous. It’s the best condenser microphone you could ask for at the price point.
Part of what makes that national broadcasting tone so special is the shimmery bass roll-off that the U87’s built-in high-pass filter provides. The high pass filter (that trims bass frequency out) is an important part of NPR’s sound. With so much NPR broadcast programming meant for the car or mobile earphone use, radio sound designers aim for a particular airy high mid tone. While the TLM 103-MT has the sensitivity you need to get that absolute premium tone, if you want NPR newsroom tone then you will need to leverage a separate filter to cut out some of the bassier tones this will pick up. If you’re looking for a versatile microphone that will get you top quality radio vocals, and will also work for recording groups of musicians, drums, or musical soloists, the Neumann TLM 103-MT has it all. As a true premium pick, this microphone is suitable for streamers who really want to create the best product they can, and can afford the right tool for the job.
Best With Built-In Mixer: Elgato Wave:3
Why It Made The Cut: The included digital mixing software provides maximum control.
— Type: Condenser
— Polar Patterns: Cardioid unidirectional
— Connection: USB-C
— Bit Depth: 24-bit
— Included mixing software is excellent for streaming
— Wonderful vocal tone with natural bass roll-off
— Excellent loudness response without clipping
— Inherent high pass filter means you can’t get authoritative bass tone
— Plastic stand doesn’t feel the sturdiest ever
If you’re looking for a USB streaming microphone and don’t care about multiple cardioid patterns or the ability to record instruments, the Elgato Wave:3 might beat out our best overall pick of the Samson G-Track Pro. The Wave:3 is an excellent spoken vocal microphone. It won’t clip when you start screaming after getting that TF2 headshot and winning the match, it’s responsive, and it’s got the bit resolution for excellent audio quality.
However, the thing that really makes this microphone stand out is its included digital mixing software. The software makes this a truly superb streaming microphone for the price. The suite allows you to mix up to five sonic channels with multiple outputs. Control the volume of your game, add a layered musical element to the mix, and ensure your vocals sit on top — all in a software package that’s native to your microphone. With this software, you can hear what your stream sounds like live. The included software package makes the Elgato Wave:3 a killer bundle buy that delivers excellent sound and the tools to use it for a price that’s competitive with the Blue Yeti. For anyone who prioritizes narration with gaming or video and doesn’t care so much about recording musicality, this is the ideal choice.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Microphone for Streaming
The first thing you should do when shopping for a microphone for streaming is strategize what you plan to do with it. Are you looking for a mic for one dedicated purpose? If you’re planning on using your microphone for spoken vocal narration while you’re streaming a game or video, you can likely get away with the Blue Snowball iCE to do a decent job for cheap, or snag the Elgato Wave:3 for a more premium option that also comes with intuitive mixing software that’s designed for live streaming. If you want high end audio or musical additions, look for something that does a better job at recording musical sources like the Shure SM7B. If you’ll be conducting interviews it could be worth it to get a microphone with a bi-directional polar pattern, like the Samson G-Track Pro. The G-Track is also an ideal choice for a YouTuber streaming instrument lessons, as you can plug your instrument right into the mic.
If you get a USB microphone, you’ll usually be ready to go with most computers right out of the box. However, XLR microphones require an audio interface to function. A good audio interface will have a bit resolution of at least 24 bits. The Focusrite Scarlett is a solid and very common entry level device. The Behringer um2 will save you some money and do a decent job if you’re okay with 16-bit resolution.
Q: What are the types of microphones?
While there are many types of microphones, the two most basic families are dynamic and condenser microphones. Dynamic microphones use a diaphragm and magnet that convert sound waves into an electrical signal. Dynamic microphones can be plugged in and will work without the addition of phantom power boosting. Condenser microphones use an electrically charged diaphragm with a metal pad behind it to create a capacitor. As the diaphragm is moved an electrical signal is generated. Usually that signal then needs to be boosted with phantom power.
Q: How much does a streaming microphone cost?
Most basic streaming microphones cost between $50 and $200. However, the ceiling on microphone pricing is very high. The most expensive microphone featured on this list is around $1,000.
Q: What do the different audio patterns mean?
Different audio patterns determine where a microphone picks up a signal. Most microphones are calibrated to pick up sound from one position while canceling sound from other angles. Think of it like ears — a unidirectional cardioid microphone has one ear that faces directly in front of it. It does a great job hearing any noise coming from that position, but doesn’t hear well from the other direction or the sides. A bi-directional microphone has two ears that pick up sound from two sides. Unlike human ears, a bi-directional pattern will cancel sound picked up from the other two angles. Think of it like being good at hearing North and South, but bad at hearing East and West. An omni-directional microphone picks up sound from all around it, making it a solid room microphone.
Other polar patterns can have different effects. Shotgun microphones are good at picking up one spot of sound while canceling everything else. This quality makes these good for interviewing someone on a busy street or picking out vocals in a sonically chaotic environment.
Q: Is dynamic or condenser better for streaming?
Most vocal microphones are condenser microphones. The Neumann TLM 103-MT, like the U87, is a large diaphragm condenser. The U87 is an industry leading vocal microphone that does some of the best vocal work you’ll ever hear (along with treating instruments beautifully). However, the Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone. The SM7B proves that a dynamic microphone can be an industry leading vocal microphone as well. At the end of the day, for most streamers who are looking to produce straight ahead live-stream content, a condenser microphone will seem like the natural pick.
Final Thoughts on Microphones for Streaming
The best microphone for your streaming needs depends on your programming. The beauty of creative tools is that there’s usually an option for every niche — even if your platform runs on meditative narration with live harp plucks over videos of dolphins. With its ¼-inch jack, multiple polar patterns, built in mixing, and excellent sound, the Samson G-Track Pro is our pick for the best all around streaming microphone. This will treat a guitarist live streaming finger-picking techniques on YouTube just as well as it will treat a gamer live streaming their Valorant kills.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.