If you are considering being serious about producing a quality stream or podcast you need more than your headset microphone. A headset mic simply does not produce the quality sound that a well-produced stream requires.
When searching for an upgraded microphone solution there are two routes you should go to. Either get an XLR setup or a high-quality USB microphone. But which should you choose?
In this post, I want to help you explore the best option for a USB microphone setup. I also want to explain why this is the preferred route until you become an established streamer or podcaster.
My Top USB Microphone Picks
Will your headset mic work for streaming and podcasting?
Headset based microphones are great for gaming with your buddies, but they are seriously sub-par when used as a microphone during a stream.
I remember when I got my first Blue Microphone, I played a game of overwatch and a person asked me if I was a streamer because my mic sounded great.
To understand why a headset microphone is not a good choice for a serious streamer, you need to understand how a microphone converts your analog voice into a digital pattern.
HOW A MICROPHONE TRANSMITS YOUR VOICE
Microphones operate off of three mechanisms. If any of those mechanisms is sub-par then the entire system will be dragged down. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
First, you have the capsule, this converts your voice into an electronic signal. After that, it goes to the preamp, because your voice signal is inaudible.
The preamp does exactly what it sounds like it does. It amplifies your voice into a recognizable pattern. Lastly, the signal is sent through an analog to digital converter.
Once in the converter, it changes your analog voice signal into a digital string of 1's and 0's that your computer can understand.
Your headset microphone has to have all of these devices crammed into it and be cheap enough to attract customers or it relies on your motherboard's devices and these are not designed for maximum quality.
Think about this, you do not see musicians recording their songs from a headset.
What are the different types of microphones?
Chances are, if you are reading this article then you already know that you want a quality mic to boost your production. As mentioned before, you can choose to go to the XLR route or the USB microphone route.
Let's dive into the big difference between the two. Simply put, an XLR setup will be superior to a USB mic. Which do you think is going to have a better quality microphone?
The 100 dollar USB mic that houses the mic, preamp, and converter inside it? Or the 100 XLR Mic connected to a 200 dollar mixer panel that houses a 100 dollar preamp and 100 dollar converter?
WHAT IS XLR?
XLR is the industry standard for professional recording. You have a microphone, that is plugged into a mixer board. This mixer board houses the preamp and converter as well as controls to fine-tune the sound.
You can control every aspect of the sound output from this mixer board. Want to tweak the bass? There is a knob for that. Voice changer? XLR's got ya! An XLR setup is exactly that. A setup. It can be complex, but once you learn what you're doing your audio will be amazing.
HOW DO XLR MICS COMPARE TO USB MICS?
XLR microphone setup is superior to a USB Mic. But, with an XLR setup, you will be dishing out a lot of upfront money. USB microphones are cheaper, all-inclusive, and plug and play.
Generally, with a USB mic, you plug it in, install drivers, adjust volume, and you are good to go. USB mics also produce a good quality sound. A 100 dollar USB mic is going to be a major upgrade over a 100 headset with a microphone. Headsets are constructed for audio output quality and not input quality.
Higher-end USB mics can even approach the levels of an XLR set up, and even have controls where you can adjust how a mic listens. But, if you want effects and voice changers, and the ability to tweak your audio, you will need the help of external software like Voicemeter.
It can be done, but XLR won't drain your system, and you can change it on the fly without having to adjust something on your computer and alt-tabbing out.
WHICH TYPE OF MICROPHONE DO YOU NEED?
This depends on what stage you are in your streaming and podcasting endeavor. I would recommend that once you are established, upgrade to XLR. Until then, a high-quality USB microphone will work just fine.
The Top 5 Best USB Microphones for Streaming and Podcasting
The Samson G-Track Pro is the all in one USB option. It is robust, looks professional, and can more than handle any style of recording you need to accomplish.
Live streaming on Twitch? This mic can be mounted to shock mounts and boom arms with ease. Samson has plenty of options to accomplish this, and for less money than its Blue counterparts.
Recording music? This mic features 2 separate audio tracks. You can plug and instrument in to its audio jack and control the volume of your recorded voice and the instrument.
Are you a Podcaster? The G-Track has three pickup patterns. Cardioid for picking up whats in front of it, Omnidirectional for recording group conversations, and figure eight perfect for a two person broadcast conversation.
The construction of this mic is heavy duty. It is constructed of a full metal housing and the included stand is equally durable.
As far as streaming goes, this mic has a lot of options that you simply wont use. Unless you are streaming music production, you will almost never use its second audio track.
This is a solid choice for anyone that wants to get serious about their podcast or stream and will last until they feel they are in a place where they can look at a truly professional audio set up.
The HyperX Quadcast is not only a beautiful microphone but it is also a high-quality option that any streamer or podcaster should consider.
This mic comes with a built-in shock mount and has a handsome LED red glow. It is easy to mount on a boom arm and all of its controls are integrated.
This microphone even features an internal pop filter.
You don't have any knobs and even the mute button is hidden. Simply tap the top and the mic mutes, the lights shut off, and when you tap the top again it all turns back on.
This is a streamer's mic and is designed to appear on camera. It has fantastic sound quality, with the only drawback being a slightly tinny sound at the higher gain settings.
With the Quadcast, you get 4 selectable polar patterns. Stereo for vocals and instruments. Omnidirectional, perfect for multi-person podcasts. Cardioid for streamers, one person podcasts. The mic also features a bidirectional setting for face to face interviews.
However, it is barely noticeable and if you have your mic setup correctly you won't even notice it.
This is the most expensive USB mic on the list, but in terms of quality, looks, and features it is worth the price. Having a built-in shock mount and pop filter means this is ready to go out of the box.
The only thing holding this mic back is the price. For the price of a HyperX, you can get a Yeticaster (see below), which has a high-quality mic, shock mount, and boom arm.
The Yeticaster is an amazing value. With the Yeticaster package, you get the original model Yeti. This is the microphone that made Blue Yeti a mainstream microphone.
The package also includes the Yeti boom arm and shock mount. It is ready to go out of the box. Simply clamp it to your desk, adjust your mic placement and you are ready to go.
The boom arm has integrated cable management so you do not have to worry about using ties to keep the cord neat. The Blue Radius III shock mount looks like one you would see in a recording studio and fits most microphones.
My only issue with the boom arm is that it may require pliers to properly tighten depending on where you mount it and how you bend the arm.
Now, let's talk about the mic. 3 condenser capsules, 4 patterns (Cardioid/Omni/figure-8/stereo), gain control, mute button, headphone output with volume control.
This is one of the first studio-quality USB mics that gained mainstream traction and for a good reason. No software needed, all your controls in one place, and it has one of the best sounds on the market.
The Yeti Nano is the little brother to the full-featured Yeti. But don't let that stop you from looking at this mic. This is a handsome little mic with the great sound you would expect from Blue.
This mic is under 100 dollars has 2 patterns (Omni and cardioid), has 2 condensers, and the bit depth and sample rate of a Yeti Pro. You have all the controls of the bigger Yeti.
Mute, headphone out with volume and gain control. This mic does require software to run. This is both an advantage and a drawback.
You can fine-tune your sound almost like an XLR but software means it uses CPU resources, and software of any type has a chance to crash.
This is the best sounding mic for under 100 dollars you will find.
The Fifine Podcast Microphone is the best option for budget-minded or starting streamers. You can pick one up for around 60 dollars or so and it is a vast upgrade over a headset.
This microphone is barebones. It only has a Cardioid pattern and comes with a height-adjustable stand. There is a headphone jack and volume control.
However, the only way to control the gain is through your PC settings. The Fifine is also lacking a mute button on the mic.
If you are concerned about your budget and you are looking for an easy way to upgrade your stream quality then this microphone is one that you should look at.
My personal pick
The Yeticaster. This is what I use during my streams. For 200 dollars I got a good condenser mic, a boom arm, and a shock mount. The sound quality is slighter better than the HyperX Quad cast in my opinion and I got a complete set up for what I would pay for just the Quadcast.
The Samson G-Track Pro is also a strong choice, but you will need a boom arm and a shock mount, that are purchased separately. In terms of Microphone quality, this is the best on the list.