The Best Microphones for Recording & Streaming (Review & Comparison) Of 2020– Our Top Picks Reviewed
If you want to record or stream voice audio, you’ll need a microphone. There are no two ways about it. However, there is a lot of choice out there, and a lot of that depends on what you need a microphone for. Whether you’re streaming, commenting over audio or recording your own singing vocals, here’s our guide to the best of the best.
We have broken down and covered Best Microphones for Recording & Streaming in 2020.
The Products We Reviewed – Click to go
3 Microphones You Must See – Our Winning Picks
The Best Microphones for Recording & Streaming
1. Shure SM58-LC (#1 Top Microphone)
Size: 10.3 x 4.9 x 3.3 inches – Weight: 1.54 lbs – Polar Pattern – Cardioid
You’re probably going to come across Shure a lot if you’re shopping for microphones online. The SM58-LC is a dynamic mic working on a cardioid pattern. You can buy it with or without cables, and even with an XLR to USB adaptor for ease of connectivity. Many people performing on stage will appreciate the pop filter and high frequency range, given that you get between 50 Hz and 15,000 Hz. It’s ideal for vocals, but that doesn’t mean recorders and mixers can’t get good use out of it.
What we like about this Shure mic is that it appears ready for anything. The most active of performers and recording artists might benefit from its sturdy design and build. However, the sound design is also worth looking at, as it automatically filters out a lot of background noise and buzz. This might appeal to recording artists and vocal artists as much as performers on stage. It’s a good all-rounder and one of the best microphones to start with.
Here are some more top features:
- Frequency response tailored for vocals, with brightened midrange and bass rolloff
- Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source and minimizes background noise
- Pneumatic shock-mount system cuts down handling noise
- Effective, built-in spherical wind and pop filter
- Supplied with break-resistant stand adapter which rotates 180 degrees
- Legendary Shure quality, ruggedness and reliability
- Cardioid (unidirectional) dynamic
- Frequency response: 50 to 15,000 Hz
2. BLUE Yeti Blackout (#1 Best Value Microphone)
Size: 4.9 x 4.7 x 11.6 inches – Weight: 3.5 lbs – Polar Pattern – Cardioid/Omni/Figure-8/Stereo
BLUE generally offers microphones for home artists and mixers, and this USB model appears to be one of the easiest to get to grips with. It’s aimed towards gaming streamers and podcasters, but as a condenser mic, it might offer plenty of qualities recording artists and performers are looking for from a new investment. What might appeal to studioheads, however, is the fact that you can pick from a set of patterns.
You can choose from omnidirectional, bidirectional and cardioid patterns, which means it’s a microphone that might work out well for people who record lots of different things. It could be a good purchase for home users particularly as it’s built for use with PC and Mac. It might also be a good choice if you’re going to use your mic for chatting online or conference calls.
Here are some more great features:
- Tri-capsule array – 3 condenser capsules can record almost any situation.
- Multiple pattern selection – cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional & stereo.Frequency Response- 20Hz – 20kHz
- Gain control, mute button, zero-latency headphone output. Power output (RMS): 130mW
- Perfect for vocals, musical instruments, podcasting, voiceovers, interviews, field recordings, conference calls.
- Compatible with Windows 10, Windows 8 (including 8.1), Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP (Home and Professional), and Mac OS X (10.4.11 or higher), and requires a minimum of 64 MB of RAM(remove existing and upload).
3. Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 (#1 Premium Pick Microphone)
Size: 7.5 x 7.5 x 9.8 inches – Weight: 1.1 lbs – Pick-up pattern: Super-Cardioid/lobar
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but Sennheiser is a name you can trust. This interesting-looking microphone may interest users who need to record out in the field a lot, particularly as it’s built for use in intense temperatures and weather conditions. It offers a super-cardioid pattern, hence the name, and low impedance at 25 ohm. Anyone looking for a reasonably sensitive, low-noise mic that is portable and suitable for field use might find this mic a reasonable purchase.
The marketing states that it works on an ‘interference tube principle’ in order to create greater directivity. This may or may not make your mouth water, but what it might do is convince you that it is surprisingly capable for such a slimline model. It is rare that you see recording mics referred to as ‘rugged’, which we think could be more reason for you to take a closer look.
A few more top features:
- Pick-up pattern: super-cardioid/lobar
- Sensitivity in free field, no load (1kHz): 25 mV/Pa +- 1 dB
- Nominal impedance: 25 Ohm
- Min. terminating impedance: 800 Ohm
- Equivalent noise level: 13 dB
- Equivalent noise level weighted as per CCIR 468-3: 24 dB
- Voltage: Phantom 48 +- 12 V
- Current consumption: 2 mA
4. Fifine K699B
Size: 4.9 x 2.6 x 7.3 inches – Weight: 14.1 ounces – Polar Pattern – Cardioid
The FIFINE K699B is a popular mic for plenty of reasons. It’s another microphone that aims directly at the home PC market, however, it might have more than a few tricks up its sleeves to appeal to recorders and performers in a studio environment. It’s a condenser mic, which of course means that it is very adaptable by design. It works to a cardioid pattern, which makes it suitable for multi-host podcasting, and it might even be worthwhile investing if you want to record a small band.
This is another mic which might also be appealing to gamers. However, it doesn’t appear to work fluently on certain consoles or phones. However, where it might help is through streaming, such as via Twitch, where the mic will retain crispness in audio. This is ideal if you’re looking for something to really carry your voice. Again, it’s a multi-faceted mic which may well appeal to users who want to do lots of different things, or those who are looking for a good all-round option.
Some more features:
- Condenser microphone with USB output for digital recording.
- Plug and play youtube usb microphone has a cardioid pick up pattern, this usb mic is really great at picking up vocals and leaving background noise out of the recorded audio.
- Recording microphone with volume control allows you to adjust the voice input.
- Smooth, extended frequency response pc microphone usb ideally suited for podcasting, home studio recording, field recording and voiceover use.
- Studio microphone Compatible with Windows, Vista, XP, 2000 and Mac OS X.
- Microphone for mac for multipurpose itself feels really durable as it is constructed out of metal, and it comes with Tripod desk stand for secure and easily portable tabletop use.
- Computer microphone is best suited for: podcasting, voice acting, recording Let’s Plays, recording voice-overs over a mix/podcast.
5. Audio-Technica AT2020
Size: 9.6 x 9.6 x 2.6 inches – Weight: 1.32 lbs – Polar Pattern – Cardioid
Audio-Technica is a brand we seem to celebrate a lot, and for good reason. The 2020 is a solid mic which might be best suited for home use rather than in the studio, but as a condenser mic with a sleek design, we’d hardly blame you if you wanted to slide this into your studio rig. Built for podcasting, this mic works to a cardioid model, which means it should be ideal for anyone looking to cut out those annoying sounds from left and right.
The mic offers 100 ohms in impedance and has a solid dynamic range, meaning that anyone looking to push for high quality streaming and/or capture shouldn’t go away too disappointed. Compatible with a flexible arm, it could look the part in any professional setup, even if it is marketing towards home users and game streamers. Regardless, it’s another mic which should work well for you regardless of your streaming and recording needs.
Some more of the great features:
- The price/performance standard in side address studio condenser microphone technology
- Ideal for project/home studio applications; The noise level is 20 dB SPL
- High SPL handling and wide dynamic range provide unmatched versatility
- Custom engineered low mass diaphragm provides extended frequency response and superior transient response
- Cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source.OUTPUT CONNECTOR:Integral 3 pin XLRM type
- Black speckles on the mic is the finish of the item.AUDIO TECHNICA CASE STYLE:R7
6. Behringer Ultravoice XM1800S
Size: 12.2 x 8.7 x 2.8 inches – Weight: 1.76 lbs – Polar Pattern – Cardioid
Behringer is another brand we like to see appear while shopping. Their Ultravoice XM1800S range should appeal to anyone looking for a wireless mic that works well with different instruments, as well as different voices. It’s clearly perfect for music recording, however, there is nothing to say that it won’t work well for podcasting or streaming. As a handheld mic, however, you might feel a little like you’re taking on some karaoke rather than recording anything professional.
But looks aside, the XM1800S has a very interesting frequency response, which means it should pick up most of what you have to throw at it. If you do want to change where you use it, whether on stage or in the studio, you can simply flick a switch to change modes. This should be convenient for most people. High output also makes these mics somewhat ideal for vocal recording and relay.
Here are some other features:
- Dynamic vocal and instrument microphone with on/off switch for excellent studio and live performance
- Ultra-wide frequency response for brilliant and transparent sound
- Extremely high signal output lets your voice cut through
- Cardioid characteristic minimizes background noise and feedback
- Convenient on/off switch to mute during breaks
- Integrated spherical wind and pop noise filter
- Microphone stand adapter and impact-resistant carrying case included
- Designed and engineered in Germany
7. AKG Project Studio P220
Size: 14.17 x 3.74 x 16.53 in – Weight: 7.7 lbs – Polar Pattern – Cardioid
AKG’s chunky studio mic is a condenser system which operates through XLR, and which has a handy pop filter built in. Mic users who want to stream and record sound from various areas might like the dB range here, as well as the filter on-board, which is fairly low-cut. It is one of the more straightforward mics on our list, however, it might still be one of the more technically impressive to a lot of people.
This mic may well appeal to people who are streaming and recording from home. It is clear that it is a desk mic, however, there is nothing to say you can’t record some basic vocals and acoustic music. The look of the device lends itself to podcasting and broadcasting, however, so we will let your own tastes lead you on this one. Again, it can be a good all-rounder.
Some more specs:
- 1″ True Condenser Capsule
- Cardioid Polar Pattern
- -20 dB Pad
- Low-Cut Filter at 300 Hz
- 155 dB Maximum SPL
8. Shure SM-57
Size: 6.6 x 3.2 x 1.6 inches – Weight: 15.2 ounces – Polar Pattern: Unidirectional (cardioid)
Shure’s dynamic instrument microphone, the SM-57, is a wireless mic. As an instrument microphone, this model supposedly works best at picking up music played at a short distance. However, it does have a very reasonable frequency response between 40 and 15,000 Hz, which means you might get away with being more than a little flexible. It is a cardioid system, which means it will work well if you are recording or streaming instruments to the front and rear.
Many people will likely enjoy the amplification this mic offers to percussive instruments and bass. As a dynamic mic, it should offer plenty of resonance as well as good support for vocals. In fact, Shure has gone to some lengths to list which instruments work best with the SM-57, and it’s a veritable orchestra. You might find this mic a good buy if you have a small band and want to perform online.
Some more great features:
- Contoured frequency response for clean, instrumental reproduction and rich vocal pickup
- Professional-quality reproduction for drum, percussion, and instrument amplifier miking
- Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source while reducing background noise
- Pneumatic shock-mount system cuts down handling noise
- Extremely durable under the heaviest use
- Frequency response: 40 to 15,000 Hz
- Replacement cartridge: R57
- Type: Dynamic
- Frequency Response: 40 to 15,000 Hz
- Polar Pattern Unidirectional (cardioid), rotationally symmetrical about microphone axis, uniform with frequency
- Applications: Bass Amp, Guitar Amp, Harmonica, Acoustic String Instruments, Brass/Woodwinds, Drums/Percussion
- Microphone Type: Dynamic
How We Chose The Right Microphones On Our List
The microphones we chose for this guide all offer great all-around functionality. We mainly leant towards condenser mics for overall quality, but we wanted to show you the best microphones supporting various patterns. Most of the mic you’ll see on this list offer incredible flexibility for music, singing, podcasting, streaming and more. Therefore, we feel they should all be good investments if you want to diversify your recording.
Microphone Buying Guide
There are lots of microphones on the market today, that is why we put together this buying guide to help you make the correct decision when purchasing your microphone.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Microphone?
In this buying guide, we’re going to mainly look at microphones which are perfect for studio use. But what should you be looking for in a good microphone, regardless of what you intend to do with it? There are a few basics you should consider.
- The type. We’ll look at this in a little more detail below, but you should ideally look to pick between dynamic and condenser microphones.
- Connectivity. Some microphones connect via jack, others via USB. Look at your current studio setup and think about what works best for you.
- Frequency. Always look for how large a microphone’s frequency range is. For example, if a mic offers a frequency range of between 50Hz and 20kHz, then it’s going to pick up a lot of sound.
- Attenuation. This refers to how loud your microphone gets when in use. Some models allow you to switch attenuation down, which means you essentially make it quieter.
- Impedance. Shopping around, you may find some mics measure in ohms. The more ohms a microphone has, the lower quality your sound may be at a distance. Look for a low impedance microphone for the best quality audio.
- Patterns and directions. Again, we’ll explain this a little more below, but microphones can differ in terms of the direction they capture sound from.
- Sensitivity. In simplest terms, the higher the sensitivity, the more likely a microphone will pick up quiet sounds and noises. This can be a blessing and a curse.
What Are the Main Types of Microphone?
Generally, you can split microphones into two main types, condenser mics and dynamic mics.
- Condenser mics will give you the ‘raw’ audio. This means it’s most likely to offer a lot of sensitivity. If capturing all the sound in your booth is important to you, choose a condenser. However, they are perhaps better suited to studio and home use than taking on the road.
- Dynamic microphones are more of a touring option. This means that they are a little more resistant to external noise and factors such as moisture. Performers tend to prefer dynamic microphones for their overall durability.
What Type of Microphone Should I Use?
This is where things can get tricky. Both condenser and dynamic microphones have their benefits. If you are recording or performing music, a dynamic microphone is going to be great at delivering deep, resonant sounds. Condenser mics, meanwhile, tend to be a little more complex and more sensitive. Therefore, if crisp, clear audio is something you desperately need, the choice is clear.
However, do also think about complexity of setup, and durability. The reason why so many people prefer dynamic microphones is that they are generally more affordable, however, that doesn’t make them any more robust. Some condenser mics are built solidly to protect their many working parts. However, they can be a little more complex to set up. Therefore, it’s always worth shopping around to compare various features.
What are Polar Patterns?
A polar pattern is the space that a microphone derives sound from. For example, some patterns are better at picking up noise directly in front of them, while others offer an all-around approach. Depending on what you want to do with your microphone, your ideal choice may vary. Here are some of the main patterns you can expect to buy:
- Omnidirectional patterns capture sound from every angle. This is perfect if you want to record something with a little bit of atmosphere, as you will be right in the eye of the storm.
- Cardioid patterns are very popular with performers and musicians who want their vocals to be front and centre. These patterns capture what is in front of the microphone, and none of what is behind it.
- Bidirectional patterns offer a bit of a middle ground. Shaped like a figure-eight, these patterns take audio from the front and the rear of the microphone, while blocking the sides. It’s a good way to isolate specific sounds while removing others.
Is It Worth Paying More for a Microphone?
We’d generally say yes. While there’s no reason why you can’t find a bargain or two out there, if you’re serious about recording, mixing or streaming, be willing to shop with the bigger brands, and to compare serious investments. Most come with lengthy warranties, so you’re protected.
We won’t be comparing prices in this guide. Rather, we’ll be lining up microphones that we think offer the best value in terms of long-term investment. We don’t see the point in you spending a handful of money to get a poor-quality mic for a few months.
There is a world of different mics out there, and many of them do many different things. We think you should be looking for a diverse, robust mic. Not all microphones are marketed for the same purposes, but you might find that some labelled ‘podcasting microphones’ work just as well when recording and performing music. Trust the specs, not the marketing blurb!