One of the most common mistakes beginning video producers make is to overlook audio. Little do these beginners know that audiences are quicker to stop watching a video because of lousy sound quality than they are for poor video. Sound in your videos is the kind of thing that when done well, no one notices. If it’s done poorly, it’s all anyone thinks about. To ensure you’re getting quality audio, you need a quality microphone. Even if your camera has an onboard mic, the chances are that it isn’t that great. Luckily there are plenty of external mics to get the job done. So, what is the best microphone for YouTube?
Well, it depends on your needs. The purpose of this article is to help give you an idea of what’s on the market and what features you may want to prioritize in finding the right mic for your next project.
When you’re looking for a microphone, you’ll want to take into account if it’s dynamic or a condenser mic, as that will determine if it needs external power or not. The polar pattern refers to where the mic best picks up sound, and where it rejects sound from. Most directional mics here use a cardioid pattern, which picks up sound in front of the mic while minimizing anything from the sides and back.
There’s plenty more to consider, but what it will come down to is what your needs are versus your budget. Luckily, there are great options at every price point when looking for the best microphone for YouTube.
Best camera-top/vlogging mic
Sennheiser MKE 200
The Sennheiser MKE 200 might just be the ultimate mic for vloggers and mobile journalists. Only 2.7’’ long and weighing in at 1.69oz, the MKE 200’s tiny form factor packs quite a punch, making it perfect for small setups and highly portable for ‘run-and-gun’ style production. The short length keeps this mounted mic out of frame, even in your widest shots.
The MKE 200 is a directional mic with a super-cardioid polar pattern. It is a mono mic, so if you absolutely need stereo sound you should look elsewhere, but mono sound should be fine for most vlogging applications.
This versatile mic has two 3.5mm audio cables, one with a TRS plug for connecting to cameras and audio recorders, and the other a TRRS plug for direct connection to a smartphone or tablet. You won’t have to worry about running out of batteries, because the MKE 200 powers through the plugs and is completely battery-free.
It has a built-in camera shoe mount for simple attachment to your rig and offers internal suspension and shock protection to minimize vibrations and noise created in handling your camera or audio rig.
Run-and-gun videographers have to deal with a wide variety of conditions, and when we’re talking audio, that often means wind. The Sennheiser MKE 200 has integral wind protection, which limits unwanted noises from air rushing past, whether it be wind, fans or air conditioning. Sennheiser went the extra mile by including a separate furry “dead cat” windscreen with the mic. While this helps with gentle breezes, shooters shouldn’t expect it to cut out all wind sounds.
One drawback is that this mic doesn’t offer any kind of onboard level or gain control. But beyond that, it’s hard to beat the Sennheiser MKE 200 as the best microphone for YouTube at a price point under a hundred dollars, US.
Best USB mic
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is Videomaker’s pick for the best USB mic, thanks in large part to its 16bit / 48 kHz sample rate and resolution; the AT2020USB+ provides broadcast-quality media suitable for playback in any format. This is one of the world’s top audio-gear manufacturers bringing quality sound to the USB space, and we’re here for it.
The AT2020USB+ has a directional cardioid polar pattern, meaning that it’s most sensitive to sound coming from directly in front of the mic and inherently minimizes off-axis sound, another feature making this a great choice of a microphone for streamers or vloggers.
But don’t fret if the technical stuff isn’t your specialty. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB is user-friendly. It’s pretty much plug-and-play straight out of the box. The packaging includes a USB cable, tabletop tripod stand and mic mount. And don’t worry about what kind of computer setup you’re using for your stream, this mic operates with both Mac and Windows. When you’re done using it, the AT2020USB+ comes with its own bag for storage.
This mic earns a place in your setup with the built-in 3.5mm jack for its high-quality headphone amp, with volume dial, which allows them to monitor and adjust sound while recording, so livestreams are clean, crisp and audible. With a little bit of dialing it in, for shooting pre-recorded clips you shouldn’t have to spend as much time fixing sound in post.
With its ease of use and high-quality sound reproduction, it’s easy to see why the Audio-Technica makes our list as the best USB mic.
Best budget mic
There are only a few certainties in life: death, taxes and the Shure SM58. This is an easy choice for the best microphone for YouTube.
This is the microphone most people think of when they picture live performances, but its usefulness goes far beyond the stage.
The Shure Studio Microphone-58 (along with the SM57) is the best-selling microphone in the world. Since it was developed in 1966, it has become the industry standard, to this day, over 50 years later. Rappers, rock stars, Stand-ups, Presidents and Popes have all used this classic microphone. It’s used by astronauts on the International Space Station. It has inspired special edition versions with The Who and streetwear brand, Supreme. All this is for good reason: it’s a great mic.
One of the key features of the SM58 is the internal pneumatic shock mount. The capsule is encased in a soft rubber balloon to provide excellent isolation from the noise of handling the mic. It is a dynamic microphone so it doesn’t require phantom power, and picks up sound with a cardioid polar pattern.
Another distinguishing feature is the meshed ball grill on top. While iconic, there’s more to it than looks. The ball grille functions as a P-pop filter, incredibly important for vocal applications. This ball grill is what makes the SM58 different from the SM57. With the P-pop filter, the SM58 is for voice recording, the SM57 on the other hand is for recording instruments, which don’t have a problem with P-pop.
The SM58 provides clear sound without distortion up to the 150-180db range (that’s about as loud as a space shuttle launch). So it’s unlikely you’ll have to be worried about distortion during normal filming operations. It uses XLR connections to provide balanced audio to cameras or audio recorders and has both wired and wireless variants.
Known as a robust, nearly indestructible mic, the SM58 is widely used for live performances, but it was originally designed for in-studio broadcasts. Together, this means that it’s a great choice for vloggers, whether they’re in the studio, or shooting out in the world.
Best for video podcasters
Many videographers are familiar with Rode for their high-quality on-camera microphones, so it’s no surprise the company also makes top-notch gear in the studio. The Rode Procaster is a great dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, made especially with streaming and podcasting in mind. It’s clearly the best microphone for YouTube when it comes to podcasting.
When you get the Procaster in hand, you’ll notice its robust. all-metal body. Hiding within, the capsule favors voice frequency response in the 75 Hz to 18 kHz range and mounts with internal shock mounting to keep handling noise to a minimum. It uses a cardioid polar pattern to cut down on unwanted noise. An internal pop filter to reduce plosives — hard bursts of air that come from saying certain letters like P. This all comes together to create a rich, professional-quality sound recording.
In studio, this broadcast-quality mic provides excellent sound with a balanced output. It’s easy to work with and can be set up quickly out of the box. The XLR output means it requires a preamp to control gain, but it’s quick to dial in and works in a wide range of setups.
Rode has a 10-year warranty, ensuring your microphone stays protected. It comes with a stand mount, 3/8 in the adapter and zip pouch. However, the included mount leaves something to be desired, and your setup will definitely benefit from using an after-market shock mount. Luckily, the standard size of the body means you’ll be able to find lots of mounts that will fit it.
All in all, the Rode Procaster fits nicely into most any podcast studio setup without breaking the bank. It provides rich, pleasant sound and brings your production level to the next level.
Best for the pros
Shure’s SM7B is a top-of-the-line studio mic suitable for livestreams, vlogs, ADR, voiceover and more. It provides professional broadcast quality sound while working with today’s work environments with robust, solid build quality.
The SM7B has a flat, smooth, wide range of frequency response modes to give a clean and natural rendition of music and voice. It even offers a graphic illustration of the effects while they’re running. It uses a cardioid polar pattern that rejects ambient and unintentional, off-axis sounds.
To capture clean, high-quality sound, the SM7B utilizes internal air suspension shock isolation. The capsule keeps noise to a bare minimum. A yoke mount with a captive stand nut ensures a smooth mounting while giving the user total control in how the mic is set and positioned.
Vloggers and podcasters will especially appreciate the care that Shure has put into the SM7B, rejecting electromagnetic hum from neon lights, computer monitors and other devices. The microphone also shields against broadband interference.
The SM7B has its own pop filter to protect against explosive breath and fricatives even during close-up vocals, and it comes with an additional A7WS windscreen that further reduces plosives and provides a warm tone for vocals that are up close. All this adds up to excellent sounding voice reproduction and a fantastic piece of gear. It has a hefty price tag, but based on performance and build, you’re getting your money’s worth.
Wrapping it up
Like any other piece of film gear, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution for vlogging microphones. Potential buyers need to balance their needs and their budget to find the best microphone for YouTube that best fits their setup. What works for one user, might not be quite right for another.
Between on-camera mics, studio mics and more, there’s something out there for just about any situation. Hopefully, this article helped point you in the right direction by sharing a few of our choices for the best microphone for YouTube on the market today and what features make them our favorites.
To learn more about what to consider when purchasing a microphone, check out Best microphone for video production.