Day 23 of my 31 Day Podcast Challenge
If you’re a new podcaster, and you aren’t utilizing a recording or production studio, you’re probably looking for a microphone that’s affordable and easy to use.
It can be intimidating.
And usually throwing the question into a podcast Facebook group will leave you even more bewildered with all the “I love this one” options.
If you’re an experienced podcaster, you’re probably looking up to level up your sound quality. You’re ready to spend a few dollars on a better product to boost the production value of your show.
You may be looking to buy other podcast equipment that will sonically enhance your show.
No matter where you are in your podcasting career, here is some help.
I have a 30 plus year career in broadcasting prior to coming into the podcasting industry full time. So I’ve seen and heard a few microphones over the years.
I’ve put together a list of USB microphones and XLR microphones to consider for podcasting.
It’s important to understand the difference between these two categories.
First things first—let’s define what XLR means. It’s a pretty simple abbreviation for X Connector, Locking Connector, Rubber Boot. In short, XLR is the go-to standard for high-quality audio inputs. This is because they send a balanced signal that isolates noise.
Most professional audio equipment is designed for XLR microphones which gives you a ton of flexibility to upgrade pieces of your audio stack over time.
Most importantly, they also produce better sound quality than USB microphones.
Keep in mind, you can’t use an XLR microphone on its own. You also need a mixer, field recorder, or an audio interface. That is an expense a new podcaster has to budget in.
A USB Microphone is an easy way of making quality recordings on your computer or tablet in a snap. USB Mics are highly portable and work on PC, Mac, iPad. It is literally a microphone which contains all the wiring necessary to simply connect to a USB port and start recording.
USB microphones have the same capsules and condenser elements as XLR mics. There is no additional gear required, so they’re easier to set up and affordable for new podcasters.
Keep in mind, USB microphones make it harder to record multiple tracks. Recording software often struggles to distinguish between different mics.
Plus, there aren’t many good USB mic options. Most are designed toward beginners.
XLR Microphone Choices
Under $150: Rode PodMic Podcasting Microphone
The PodMic is a broadcast-quality dynamic microphone optimized for podcasting. It has a rich, balanced sound, with an internal pop filter to minimize plosives and internal shock mounting to reduce vibration. It has a cardioid pickup signal to reduce room or studio noise pickup.
Under $250: Shure SM86-LC
Shure SM86 has everything the SM line of Shure microphones has stood for for all these years — durability, quality performance, and reliability. Tailor-made for vocals, this condenser microphone brings studio quality to your recordings.
They sound warm and clear due to a brightened midrange and bass rolloff, while their metal windscreen and cardioid pickup pattern work together to eliminate background noises.
Under $300: Electro-Voice RE320 Cardioid Dynamic Broadcast Microphone
The Electro Voice RE320 Dynamic Microphone is a professional quality mic designed specifically for recording and sound reinforcement applications requiring extremely low noise and the highest level of predictable tonal and transient response.
Under $400: Shure SM7B
The SM7B dynamic cardioid microphone has a smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response appropriate for speech in all professional audio applications. It features excellent shielding against electromagnetic hum generated by computer monitors, neon lights, and other electrical devices.
Best USB Microphone
USB microphones are growing in popularity, mostly because of they are easy to use, and are travel-friendly. You can easily swap them around devices and use them with any recording application, like Zoom, Squadcast, or Zencastr.
Many of the heritage microphone manufacturers have released USB mics, so there are solid microphone manufacturers backing them up.
Under $100: Audio Technica ATR2100
The ATR2100-USB is a rugged handheld dynamic microphone that offers two outputs, USB output for digital recording, and an XLR output that connects with a sound system’s conventional microphone input for use in live recording.
I would recommend this microphone for podcasters who aren’t ready to commit to spending a lot of money. Additionally you should consider buying an XLR to USB cable. The USB output on the back of USB microphones can become loose and disconnect within the microphone.
Audio Technica has a gracious return / exchange policy – but, you are without a microphone during that period. Also, if you are a Mac user, consider a USB to USB-C connector as well. You know how precious USB ports are on a Mac!
Under $300: Rode Podcaster USB Microphone
The RØDE Podcaster is a dynamic, end-address USB microphone that combines broadcast-quality audio with the simplicity of USB connectivity, allowing recording direct to a computer without the need for an additional digital interface.
It has a built in windscreen, headphone jack, and that it’s designed specifically for broadcast applications. A headphone output on the microphone body provides zero-latency monitoring, so the user can hear exactly what is being recorded, free of delay or echo.
Any USB microphone that you are looking to spend more than the Rode Podcaster USB Microphone, I would suggest you start moving into an XLR microphone. Spending that kind of money on a USB microphone is just not going to up your podcast audio sound quality compared to moving into an XLR.
USB microphones and XLR microphones have benefits and drawbacks, but there are plenty of options.
Recorded in Studio C at Channel 511, in the Brewery District, downtown Columbus, OH.
Brett Johnson is the owner and lead consultant at Circle270Media Podcast Consultants. With over 35+ years of experience in Marketing, Content Creation, Audio Production/Recording and Broadcasting, the podcast consultants at Circle270Media strategically bring these strengths together for their business Podcast clients.
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