(Pocket-lint) - When playing with friends, streaming for your audience or creating content for YouTube or any other platform, you need to ensure you're heard loudly and clearly. Gaming headsets often pack a built-in microphone, but they're not always great and certainly not as good as a dedicated microphone. 

If you've been thinking about adding a dedicated mic to your setup, but aren't sure what to buy then we've got you covered. 

We've put together a list of the very best USB microphones, most of which are easy-to-use plug and play affairs with incredible audio capabilities. These are great looking and capable microphones that won't break your bank account.

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Elgato Wave:3

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  • 24-bit/96Khz sample rate
  • 70 - 20000 Hz frequency response
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Capacitative mute button
  • Intelligent audio routing software

The Elgato Wave:3 is an addition to Elgato's line-up of products that are aimed at streamers and content creators. It might not be much to look at, but this microphone is packed full of interesting tech and features to help you really shine online. 

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It's a compact condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern that's designed to pick up your voice, but not much else. It has an internal pop filter and an intelligent Clipguard technology that's designed to stop your audio peaking, even if you get a bit over-enthusiastic (or shouty) while capturing audio.

It also delivers impressive audio capture with a 24-bit/96Khz sample rate. As standard, the audio from this microphone is rich and impressive, but it also continues to please in other areas. The simple interface on the mic itself, for example, allows you to not only easily adjust mic gain, but also adjust the monitoring if you have a headset plugged into it. A capacitive mute button, means you can silence your mic with just a light touch. 

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The highlights of this microphone come when you pop it on a boom arm and dive into the Elgato Wave Link software. This is a free software that comes with the microphone and allows you to do some really clever things with your audio. It's essentially an audio routing system. So you can add sources of audio to it - for example, Spotify, the microphone, game audio, Discord chat and more - then adjust each of them individually and also adjust levels not just for yourself, but for what your audience will hear. 

Adrian Willings · Elgato Wave 3

We love this microphone for that software alone, as it means you can not only customise the listening experience, but you can also easily monitor what your audience is going to hear (or is hearing) when you go live on Twitch, Mixer or YouTube. It's this functionality that makes the Elgato Wave:3 a killer bit of streaming kit

As if that wasn't enough, it's also compatible with Elgato's Stream Deck, giving you easy touch controls for your audio and on-the-fly tweaks too.

For the money, you're getting a great bit of kit here and you can also make it even better with a boom arm and shock mount too. 

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Shure SM7B dynamic microphone

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  • Dynamic microphone with Cardioid polar pattern
  • 50Hz-20kHz frequency response
  • 150 ohms output impendace
  • XLR connection

The Shure SM7B if an entirely different creature from every other microphone on this list and not just because of its price tag. It's a studio-quality microphone that's renowned worldwide for its capture capabilities, rich sound and capable background removal. 

Its 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 give you all manner of other controls and customisation options for your audio too. 

The Shure SM7B might not be the best looking microphone on this list, but it's almost certainly the best sounding. If you're serious about voice capture and having only the very best quality, then this is the microphone you need.

We've used it for streaming and for 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. 

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The mic itself doesn't have much in the way of hardware settings. On the rear, it has a bass rolloff switch and presence boost adjuster but otherwise, the setup is controlled by your pre-amp.

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It can be fiddly to get the sound right, especially when tweaking things like compressor, de-esser, noise gate and more, but the end result is undeniable. 

Adrian Willings · Shure SM7B

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 mind. 

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Blue Yeti Nano

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  • 24bit / 48khz recording sampling rates
  • Omnidirectional and Cardioid modes
  • 20Hz - 20kHz frequency response

The Yeti Nano is a tiny premium USB microphone that packs some serious punch. This is a perfect addition to your desk or gaming area if you're looking to upgrade your mic and want fantastic sound quality without taking up too much room. 

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Despite its size, the Yeti Nano delivers impressive results with support for high-quality 24-bit/48kHz recording that sounds great whatever you're doing. If you're planning on streaming your gameplay, creating video content for YouTube or just chatting with your friends as you game, then this is the microphone for you. 

It's a USB microphone that features a simple plug and play functionality. Out of the box, it will work with everything from Discord to Twitch, Audacity, Skype, XSplit, OBS and much more besides.

You can also download the Blue Sherpa software to tweak the settings within Windows so you don't have to fiddle with any knobs while you're recording. This means you can easily update firmware, adjust mic gain or change between polar patterns with the simple click of your mouse. 

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The Yeti Nano features Cardioid and Omnidirectional modes so it can be used in different settings. Cardioid is great for streamers, VOIP calls and voice-overs as it only picks up sound coming from in front of the mic. While Omnidirectional picks up all surrounding sound and can be used for conference calls and situations where multiple people are involved in the recording process. 

This mic comes with its own stand, but also has standard threading for mounting on a boom arm and shock mount if you want to reduce background noise and unwanted sounds. 

These little microphones are also nifty and clever. You can even set your PC up so you can use two of them at the same time - for podcasting, interviews or whatever else you wish.

Another highlight to these mics is the range of colours available. Choose one to suit your personal preference rather than being stuck with the same colour as everyone else.  

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Razer Seiren Emote

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  • 8-bit Emoticon LED Display with stream reactive emoticons
  • Hypercardioid condenser microphone with built-in shock mount
  • Interchangeable gooseneck
  • 48kHz/16bit sample rate
  • 100Hz–20kHz frequency response 
  • 100dB signal-to-noise ratio

If you think standard microphones are a bit too dull and the idea of just capturing your voice and doing nothing else is a tad plain then Razer has the solution for you. 

The Razer Seiren Emote is a microphone with its very own built-in LED display that's emoticon friendly. The idea is simple enough, if you're a streamer then you can set this mic up in front of your webcam and use the display to entertain your audience in various ways. 

You can use it to connect to Twitch or Stream Labs OBS and then display different visuals under certain circumstances.

It can, for example, show one emoticon when someone follows you, another for a new subscriber, another for a new chat message and so on. There are over 100 animated and static emoticons to choose from, giving you plenty of options to play around with. 

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You can set a standard background Emote or RGB effect or custom display to be on all the time and then various others to react when your audience does. It might sound a little gimmicky but it's actually pretty cool and certainly unusual. So if you're looking for something to stand out from all the other streamers out there, then this mic can help you do it. 

All the customisation is done via the Streamer Companion App and there is plenty of power in that simple interface too. 

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Elsewhere the Razer Seiren Emote is interesting in other ways too. It comes with two different height gooseneck stands, a fairly heavy padded base and a built-in shock mount. It's also plug and play and dead easy to use too. 

All in all, this mic is certainly interesting and well worth considering. It doesn't quite ooze the same design and build quality as other microphones on this list, but the LED display does certainly make it stand out.  

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Samson G-Track Pro USB microphone

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  • Cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional modes
  • Dual back electret condenser
  • 50Hz–20kHz frequency response with +6dB FS/PA sensitivity
  • 16 or 24-bit with a sample rate of up to 96kHz
  • Built-in headphone output and instrument input
  • USB compatible with PC or Mac

If you want a microphone with a lot more presence and plenty of class, then the Samson G-Track Pro may well be it. This is a thoroughly imposing, heavy-duty microphone that's not pulling any punches. It stands head and shoulders above the Blue Yeti Nano - at least in terms of height - and may raise an eyebrow or two when you see what it can do. 

This is an all-signing, all-dancing microphone that's not only great for gamers, but can also be used with instruments too. That's right - there's an input for a guitar on this mic, so you can entertain your Twitch audience while you stream if that's your bag. 

The G-Track Pro offers "professional grade" recording capabilities in a compact and aesthetically pleasing frame. We were struck immediately by the size, weight and build quality of this microphone. There's no messing about here, you can immediately tell you're getting what you're paying for. 

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There are plenty of options too, without the need for faffing about in any software. Buttons on the mic itself allow you to switch between the three pick-up patterns - cardioid, fig 8 or omnidirectional with ease. You can also opt to record in mono or stereo tracks, tweak recording volumes and even mix the levels of attached instruments and the mic as well. Zero-latency monitoring is also possible with the built-in stereo headphone output, so there are plenty of content creation options here. 

This is an incredibly flexible microphone. Whether you're planning on podcasting with multiple people in the room, jammin' out or simply capturing a voice over for a gaming video, this mic is more than capable. 

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We're also fans of the hefty padded base which appears to act nicely as an alternative to a shock mount to prevent most noise from your desk getting into the recordings. Of course, the Samson G-Track Pro is also boom arm friendly, so it's easy to get even more serious with this mic if you feel the urge. 

You do need plenty of space on your desk for this professional mic though. One minor highlight for us is the small monitoring light on the front. It's green as standard when the mic is turned on, but if your recording levels hit the peak it turns red to let you know things are too loud. It's small clever features like this that make all the difference. 

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HyperX Quadcast condenser microphone

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  • 16bit / 48khz recording sampling rates
  • Stereo, Omnidirectional, Cardioid and Bidirectional polar patterns
  • 20Hz–20kHz frequency response

The HyperX Quadcast is an interesting alternative and one that really raises some eyebrows, not just because of the snazzy design, but also due to the number of features it packs into its small frame.

The HyperX Quadcast is immediately appealing thanks to the numerous design features that you'd normally have to pay extra for. It comes with a shock mount built into its frame, a pop shield housed within its body and a nice solid stand to keep it planted on your desk. 

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This mic also comes with four polar patterns, making it useful for streaming, voice-overs, podcasting or whatever other recording use you can think of. The recording quality is excellent and the anti-vibration shock mount combined with the built-in pop shield keeps most unnecessary noise at bay. 

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Every aspect of this microphone has been cleverly thought out too. An easy access, quiet functioning, gain control wheel and tap-to-mute button make it simple to adjust sound without ruining your recording or stream with thumps, clicks and knocks. 

The HyperX Quadcast's stylish design stands out even more at night. The red honeycomb mesh is backlit by an internal LED when powered on as a bright beacon to let you know it's active. This is a nifty little design aesthetic that only goes to make the Quadcast even more appealing. 

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Like the others, this USB microphone also comes with the ability to mount on a boom arm and has an adapter that fits both 3/8inch and 5/8-inch thread sizes. 

The Quadcast is the complete package and available at a great price too, though the design might not be to everyone's taste. 

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Blue Yeti X

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  • 48 kHz/24-bit sample rate
  • 4 Blue-proprietary 14mm condenser capsules
  • Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Bidirectional, Stereo polar patterns
  • High-res LED meter with multi-function knob and customisation options
  • Blue VO!CE broadcast vocal effects
  • Logitech G HUB integration

The Blue Yeti X is another fantastic USB microphone from Blue. As well as being an imposing figure on your desk with a high-quality design this mic has some interesting features that make it intriguing. 

Not only does it have all the normal features you'd expect from a high-quality, plug and play USB microphone, but it also has some really neat additions that you don't see elsewhere and are fantastically useful. 

The first of these is a simple LED metering system which acts as a colourful visual warning system on the front of the mic to let you know how much audio the mic is picking up and if you're in danger of hitting the ceiling and ruining your recording. This LED lighting can be adjusted within the Logitech G-Hub software so you can tweak it to display whatever colours you like, but the default traffic light system is enough to give you the warnings you need during recordings or live stream sessions. 

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The other draw of the Yeti X is the software. This mic works with both the Blue Sherpa software and Logitech G-Hub. It's the latter software that then gives you access to the Blue VO!CE broadcast vocal effects technology. This system allows for live tweaks to your audio to give it a much more broadcast quality feel.

Obviously content creators have the ability to edit voice-overs in post and do things like noise reduction and normalisation, but this software does those things live. This is clearly a bonus for streamers who want the best audio for their viewers. 

From the software, you can adjust high-pass filter, noise reduction, expander, de-esser, compression, limiter settings and more. There are also numerous presets to choose from, the ability to tweak and save your own and you can even download other peoples too. Although a system like this is never going to be perfect, we did actually find that the software made quite a difference to background noise and the quality of recordings. 

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The design of this mic also includes a sturdy stand and the ability to mount it on any standard sized boom arm. It fits nicely on the company's compass boom arm and works with the shock mount too. 

The result is a capable microphone with a lot of different features going for it, alongside the excellent quality that we've come to expect from Blue. It's a lot larger than other microphones, so the Yeti Nano might be a better fit if you only have a small desk, but otherwise, the Yeti X is a brilliant bit of kit. 

Writing by Adrian Willings.