USB microphones are all the rage at the moment, offering a step up in quality from gaming headsets not only for livestreaming but video calls and podcasts too.
Essentially, if you’re looking to upgrade your current recording setup, a microphone is a relatively easy area to improve – the only problem is choosing which is best for your needs in a market filled with microphones of all shapes and sizes for all skill levels.
There’s not only the type of microphone to consider, but polar recording patterns, connectivity, compatibility with software and hardware and more, and it can be daunting for those new to the topic.
That’s where we at Tech Advisor come in; we’ve listed the best microphones for streaming and podcasting available in 2021, along with buying advice outlining the key things to consider when buying a microphone right now.
Best microphones for streaming and podcasting in 2021
Blue Yeti X – Best overall
- Multiple polar patterns
- Premium design
- Blue VO!CE software is well-built
- Large dimensions
- No Mac software
The Blue Yeti X is our top choice right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Aside from sporting a premium design that wouldn’t look out of place on a livestream, the Blue Yeti X is a versatile bit of kit, sporting a four-capsule condenser array and a variety of polar patterns including cardioid, stereo and omnidirectional to handle any recording situation with ease.
Admittedly, it doesn’t feature the 1/4in audio input of the Samson G-Track Pro, but where the Yeti X truly excels is in the software department. Blue’s VO!CE software is built directly into Logitech G Hub, allowing you to not only select a range of preset audio settings to get your voice to sound more broadcast-ready, but you can tweak advanced settings like noise gate, compression and more.
There’s also the World of Warcraft Edition that offers a bunch of WoW-focused features including a voice modulator that makes you sound like classic WoW characters, and a bunch of HD sound samples to use in your streams too.
Read our full Blue Yeti X review
Shure MV7 – Best high-end microphone
- Dual XLR & USB recording
- Multi-platform support (inc. smartphones)
- Great audio capture
- Fiddly touch controls
- Single polar pattern
If you want to get the absolute most for your money and have a bit to splash, the Shure MV7 is a great high-end option with impressive platform support and futureproofing.
The highlight of the dynamic microphone is that it offers both XLR and USB connectivity, allowing you to start with the easier USB setup before graduating to a more complex XLR system further down the line without buying a new mic - and it also allows for simultaneous recording across both, much like taking a photo in JPG and RAW.
There's also the bonus that the Shure MV7 works with PC, Mac and even iPhone, iPad and Android, with a dedicated app on each platform to tweak the output depending on what you're after. The auto mode works exceptionally well, automatically adjusting settings like gain on the fly, and there's a fully manual mode too.
The only potential downsides, aside from the high starting price, is the inclusion of a touch control panel in place of physical knobs, and the fact you don't get a stand in the entry-level kit - you'll need to pay an additional £20/$20 for that pleasure. If you can look over that, the Shure MV7 is an impressively capable mic.
Read our full Shure MV7 review
Samson G-Track Pro – Best for musicians
- Range of polar patterns
- 1/4in input for instruments
- Extensive on-device controls
- Large and heavy
The Samson G-Track Pro is a solid option for musicians that want to record both vocals and instruments, featuring not only a range of polar patterns to suit podcasting, streaming and live performances, but also a 1/4in audio input. That means you can essentially plug in an additional mic, second audio source or even an instrument without having to invest in an audio mixer.
Most of the controls are on the microphone itself, allowing you to adjust levels on-the-fly, but that also means that there’s no dedicated software available for the G-Track Pro. If you want to further customise the audio, you’ll have to use software like Audacity or filters within your OBS software.
The only real downside is the cost, as it's one of the most expensive mics in our chart. Still, if you’re going to get the use out of the additional audio input, it’s well worth the price.
Read our full Samson G-Track Pro review
Trust Fyru GXT 256 – A fun option for streamers
- Fun RGB lighting
- Multiple polar patterns
- Plug-and-play support
- On the quiet side
- No companion app
Trust Gaming may not be as well established as Blue or Samson, but the company produces a great selection of gaming accessories, including most recently, the Fyru GTX 256. The USB microphone may not have the catchiest name around, but it does have built-in LEDs to make up for it. This won’t make much difference if you’re a podcaster, admittedly, but it could be a great addition to a budding livestreamer’s setup. The more LEDs the better, right?
Visuals aside, the Fyru GTX 256 offers solid audio recording capabilities, with four polar patterns to choose from, and the quality of the audio is solid too, although it may be a little on the quiet side for some.
Blue Yeti Nano – Best budget option
- Small dimensions
- Multiple recording modes
- Lack of on-device controls
- No Blue VO!CE compatibility
The Blue Yeti Nano is, as the name suggests, the smallest USB microphone in our chart, making it the perfect option for those without desk space to spare. It’s not quite as capable as the Yeti X, featuring a two-capsule condenser array, and it doesn’t offer quite as many polar patterns either (sticking to Cardioid and Bidirectional) but it is the cheapest of the range and it performs well when recording a single speaker.
The only real downside is that the Yeti Nano isn’t compatible with the Blue VO!CE software for PC, limiting what you can do with the microphone without post-production editing.
Read our full Blue Yeti Nano review
It can be complicated working out what microphone is best suited to your needs, especially if you’re just starting out, so let us explain some of the key features to consider when on the hunt for a great microphone.
The biggest feature to consider when buying a microphone is the available polar pattern. If you’re only looking to stream or record a single person, a microphone with a Cardioid polar pattern should suffice, but those wanting to record live musical performances or two-person podcasts require an option with multiple polar patterns, ideally Bidirectional and Omnidirectional.
The next thing to consider is how you want to hook the microphone up. The two main choices are USB and XLR. We focus on USB-connected microphones in this chart as they offer plug-and-play compatibility with most operating systems and software, making them ideal for beginners, but XLR has benefits like offering compatibility with physical audio mixing boards.
If you’re looking to expand your audio setup in future, XLR may be the way to go – it’s rare to find physical audio equipment compatible with USB microphones.
You’ll also have to decide on the type of microphone to go for; condenser or dynamic. Most USB mics are condenser mics, as these allow for multiple polar patterns, offer excellent capture quality and they’re sensitive enough to pick up the smallest of sounds too. Condenser microphones are certainly the more versatile of the two.
Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, offer superior noise rejection (most microphones used by musicians in concerts are dynamic) and they generally sound warmer than condenser mics too. The downside is that USB dynamic microphones are rare – although not unheard of – with most requiring XLR connectivity to function.
Also, as with most tech, we’d recommend staying away from the cheapest microphones you’ll no doubt find online. With the rise in popularity of streaming and podcasting in recent years, some are looking to cash in on the interest with poor quality microphones that promise the world and deliver very little. You won’t find any of those in our chart, thankfully!