(Pocket-lint) - If you're looking for the most professional sound capture for your streaming, recording, voice-over or content creator efforts, then an XLR microphone is the way to go.
These types of microphones offer a better sound quality than cheaper USB microphones, but they also require a pre-amp in order to power them and hook them up to your computer. This makes this a more expensive and complicated route to go down, but it also results in a far superior sound.
If you want to increase the production value of your recordings, then we've got the low down on the best XLR mics to buy.
What are the best XLR microphones?
Best XLR microphones: Our top pick
Shure SM7B dynamic microphone
- Fantastic capture quality
- Superb noise removal
- Solid build quality
- Not plug and play
The Shure SM7B is a studio-quality microphone that's renowned worldwide for its capture capabilities, rich sound and capable background removal.
It's also an XLR microphone that requires a pre-amp before it can be connected to your machine. There's no USB connection here, as with the other microphones on this list, which means you need to spend some extra cash on something to power and control the microphone.
For streamers, we'd recommend something like the GoXLR and for podcasters, there's the excellent Rodecaster Pro. These are substantial extra investments, but they do give you all manner of other controls and customisation options for your audio, too.
If you're serious about voice capture and having only the best quality, this is the microphone you need.
We've used it for streaming and voice-over work, and the results are fantastic. Because of the way the Shure SM7B picks up sound, you need to keep it close to your mouth to get the best results, so a good boom arm is a must.
The mic itself doesn't have much in the way of hardware settings, though. On the rear, it has a bass roll-off switch and presence boost adjuster but otherwise, the setup is controlled by your pre-amp.
It can be fiddly to get the sound right, as well - especially when tweaking things like compressor, de-esser, noise gate and more, but the end result is undeniable.
All told, the Shure SM7B is the best microphone we've tested, and a highly recommended piece of gear to add to your arsenal. It might have a hefty price tag, but it's well worth every penny in our view.
XLR microphones we also recommend
Although our top recommendation might be the best, it's also pretty expensive and probably not for everyone. We have tested a number of other XLR microphones that are more affordable and yet still worth considering, though.
Below are the market's other high-quality mics, offering superb sound and great build quality, too.
Neat King Bee II
- Integrated shock mount and pop filter
- Superb noise cancellation
- Excellent build quality
- Very heavy
The Neat King Bee II is a hefty, imposing and seriously impressive piece of kit. This is an XLR mic which doesn't cost the earth but captures a high-quality sound that's comparable to other, significantly more expensive mics.
We were impressed by the quality of this microphone, but also by its ability to reject noise. It's able to eliminate background noise really easily and even shrugs off knocks to boom arms too.
It's a heavy microphone, which is worth keeping in mind when shopping for a boom arm, but packs in some serious tech to help you sound your best.
This is a fantastic microphone for the money.
- Premium build quality
- Really rich sound
- A logical fit for the GoXLR interface
- Picks up some shocks from lesser mic arms
If you're a streamer, you've probably already heard of GoXLR - the interface for controlling and routing audio. This is a microphone from the same company (TC Helicon), and therefore a logical fit for the device.
This is an affordable microphone, yet one that has a solid build quality and superb sound. It's built with a multi-point adjustable mount, so you can easily position it for the best sound.
We quickly discovered that this is a capable microphone that captures audio that's nearly as rich as the Shure SM7B, and, crucially, without the hefty price tag. It is a bit susceptible to knocks and bumps, though, so a premium boom arm is essential.
- Premium build quality
- Excellent sounding capture quality
- Lacks pop filter and windshield resulting in plosive problems
The Blue Ember is a much more affordable XLR mic offering, but one that doesn't skimp on quality. This is a solidly-built mic that's both easy on the eye and great-sounding, too.
Again, you'll need to combine it with a good XLR pre-amp to get the most out of it, but it's well worth considering.
It's also fantastic sounding, as we say, with a rich capture quality that belies its more affordable price tag. However, it does suffer from plosive problems due to the lack of a pop filter and wind guard.
For best results, you'll need to mount it on a boom arm and get it close to your mouth. When you've done that you'll certainly enjoy a rich sound.
- Premium build quality with good heft
- Excellent sounding capture quality
- Comes with a shock mount as standard
- Might be too heavy for some cheap boom arms
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is another nicely accessible microphone with a reasonable price tag and impressive sound.
You get a shock mount included for your money here which is something you'd normally have to pay extra for.
The cardioid pick-up pattern on this one means it also blocks out a lot of external noise and if you get it on a good boom arm and close to your face, you're going to sound great.
How to buy an XLR microphone
Buying an XLR microphone involves more considerations than you think. We've already mentioned that you need a pre-amp or XLR interface in order to connect these mics to your PC. You also generally need both an XLR cable and a boom arm or mic stand as these microphones don't usually have a desk stand.
XLR or USB?
Are you sure you really need XLR? If you're a streamer who's looking to route different audio sources on Twitch or YouTube then there are some software options for doing the same with a USB microphone. Also, some USB microphones, like the Elgato Wave:3, are designed to allow this sort of control with more plug-and-play convenience.
XLR microphones are a touch more fiddly to get set up and get working properly. You'll need to tweak them to get them to sound good and the process can be frustrating for beginners. That said, with a little effort and research the difference is incredible.
How soundproof is your room?
Some microphones can be a bit punishing in terms of picking up environmental noise. XLR mics can often be tweaked to ignore a lot of this noise and improve the sound quality. These mics are often better at background noise elimination than USB microphones, as long as you can tweak the settings.
To make your life easier you can also use something like Elgato's Wave sound panels. These help to absorb some of the sounds that might otherwise harm recordings and ruin your audio.
How much space do you have?
As we've mentioned, many XLR microphones require a mic stand or boom arm in order to sound best. So you'll need enough space to negotiate one of these into your area.
The XLR microphones also need an XLR interface which means an extra gadget on your desk. Some of these are larger than others too, so plan out what you're getting and check you have the room before you commit.
More about this story
There are a number of factors we consider when looking at recommending products. Every XLR microphone in this list has been tested in real-life situations, such as Zoom and Teams calls, speaking to friends while playing games and also streaming. They've been used for voice-overs, as well, which saw their settings tweaked to check for real-world sounds like keyboard noises.
We've tested these in order to recommend microphones that will deliver the best quality; ones that aren't ruined by constant background noise and other problems.
In all of our buyer's guides, we aren’t interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy-to-understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.