(Pocket-lint) - When playing with friends, streaming for an 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. That's where a dedicated microphone comes in.
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And 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 tested the very best microphones available today, most of which are easy-to-use, plug-and-play affairs with incredible audio capabilities. No matter what your budget is, here are the top options to consider.
Our Top Pick
Shure SM7B dynamic microphone
- Fantastic capture quality
- Superb noise removal
- Solid build quality
- Not plug and play
The Shure SM7B is 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.
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 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 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.
The mic itself doesn't have much in the way of hardware settings. 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, 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 minds.
Other microphones we'd also recommend
There are a number of other microphones worth looking at that we've tested and approve of.
Shure MV7 podcast microphone
- Rich sound capture
- Choice of XLR or USB connections
- Great accompanying software
- No stand included
- Pricier than other options
The Shure MV7 is the company's answer for those who are looking for a studio-quality microphone that's convenient and easy to set up.
It stands head and shoulders above to competition for its simplicity, user-friendly options and superior sound capture.
This microphone takes the legendary Shure SM7B and makes it more accessible to the masses by adding USB connectivity and the ShurePlus Motive apps that work on desktop or mobile. That app is designed to work as an audio engineer, adjusting sound levels to capture your voice no matter how loudly you're speaking.
The MV7 is both desk stand and boom arm mountable, meaning you can work it into the most convenient place for you. It works best on a boom arm, close to your mouth, but we were impressed with the pick-up capabilities of this mic even when used on the desk.
A unique pick-up pattern also helps eliminate background noise and keeps the focus on your voice.
The MV7 is also interesting because, as well as the USB connection, you also have the option of using XLR. Connect it to the GoXLR Mini or the Rodecaster Pro and you've got a powerful professional microphone that you can tweak until your heart is content.
It might be pricier than other USB microphones out there, but for good reason. This is a fantastic microphone that's well worth the investment.
- Premium build quality with good heft
- Excellent sounding capture quality
- Comes with a shock mount as standard
- Lacks pop filter and windshield resulting in plosive problems
- Might be too heavy for some cheap boom arms
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a much more affordable XLR offering but one that doesn't skimp on quality. This is a solidly built, well-constructed mic that's as heavy as it is easy on the eye.
It's also fantastic sounding, 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.
You do get a shock mount included for your money as well though, which is something you'd normally have to pay extra for.
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.
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.
- Fantastic software level controls for streamers
- Simple design
- Needs some tweaking to get sounding perfect
The Elgato Wave:3 is a USB mic firmly 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.
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 from 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.
The highlights of this microphone come when you pop it on a boom arm and dive into the Elgato Wave Link software.
This is 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.
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.
Blue Yeti Nano
- Doesn't take up much room
- Plug and play convenience
- Not as rich as other mics
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.
Despite its size, the Yeti Nano delivers impressive results with support for a 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.
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. And you can get funky look windshields for it like we have too.
Other microphones we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you.
We have considered a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Some microphones we tested didn't quite make the cut despite still being fantastic. The following are still worth a look if you're hunting for a bargain.
How to choose a microphone
Buying a microphone involves more considerations than you might realise. It's important not to just buy based on price or quality but to also think about what you're going to be using your mic for, how you'll use it in your space and the end result you're trying to get.
XLR or USB?
We've included a number of different options in this guide on the best microphones to buy. Some, like the Shure SM7B, are XLR microphones that require an XLR cable and pre-amp system to run. They're not a simple plug and play microphones that you can just connect to your PC or Mac and get recording with. These microphones are often more expensive but also deliver the best sound quality and a richer sound than you'll get with a USB microphone. You will need to purchase other things too though, like a boom arm to get it up and off the desk. The SM7B needs to be close to your mouth to sound good.
USB microphones like the Yeti Nano and Elgato Wave:3 meanwhile are much easier for less tech-savvy people to use. Perfect for beginners or those who want a hassle-free plug and play setup.
What are you using it for?
What do you need your microphone for? It's important to think about that before you buy. If you just need to upgrade from your laptop mic for Zoom or Teams calls, then a USB microphone might well be sufficient.
If you're planning on streaming gameplay or other content on Twitch, Facebook Gaming or YouTube then perhaps the Wave:3 might be a better choice as it gives you loads of flexibility with its audio routing systems. While if you want the very best then the Shure mics will be a better choice, but you could start with the MV7 via a USB connection and simply upgrade to an XLR interface in future.
How much space do you have?
Many of these microphones require a mic stand or boom arm in order to sound best. The XLR microphones also need an XLR interface which means an extra gadget on your desk. If space is limited then a USB microphone might be the best choice for you.
How soundproof is your room?
If you're having troubles with background sound, ambient noise or low quality in your microphone capture then you might also like to think about your room. A good microphone won't help if you've got hard floors and an empty room with no soft furnishings that might help dampen noise and reverb.
Something like Elgato's Wave sound panels might be an easy solution to help improve the sound of your room and, in turn, your audio capture. When buying a mic, it's a good idea to consider these things.
More about this story
There are a number of factors we consider when looking at recommending products, and every microphone in this list has been tested in real-life situations.
We've used them for Zoom and Teams, we've gamed with them with friends and we've streamed with them, too. They've been used for voice-overs and had their settings tweaked while checking for real-world sounds like keyboard noises.
We've tested these so we can be sure they deliver the best quality. After all, we're only interested in great-sounding microphones that aren't ruined by constant background noise and other problems.
What we aren't interested in is 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.
We’ve been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market.
There are also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides.