Whether you discovered your inner podcaster over lockdown or always had an affinity for live streaming, you likely know that a host's setup never stops upgrading. After all, it's the quality of your audio and video, apart from the content, that turns a casual viewer into a subscriber. No streamer, be it a gamer or a talk-show host, would be satisfied with a tinny sound reaching their audience. In this case, a professional microphone can make all the difference.
Our existing built-in mics in laptops, smartphones, cameras and headphones do little to filter out any ambient noise. It's why, with the explosive growth of podcast listeners in recent years, content creators have been looking for mics used by pros, says Barry Kassab, an electronics and audio engineer, who's also the owner of Barry Electronics and Audio Works in Dubai.
XLR or USB: Which microphone is for you?
Your favourite prolific streamer on Twitch or Discord probably uses an analogue microphone that has an XLR cable, which stands for 'external line return'. This three-pin connector plugs the mic into an audio interface and gives streamers seamless access to all the devices in a home studio, from cameras to speakers and other mics.
"An XLR interface can be complicated for the casual streamer, since it requires technical knowledge, but it's great for accommodating guests (more than one speaker) on your show," said Kassab.
With an XLR mic and an audio interface, you also enjoy more control over the equaliser and the compressor, he adds, which are two main tools every streamer needs. For example, this is where you can tweak your voice to sound thinner or richer and limit sudden upticks in volume, such as from laughter, to a pleasant listening experience.
Those looking for a quick plug-and-play option will be drawn to USB mics. Unlike XLR mics, these connect to the computer directly, thanks to the USB cable, without the need for any processor. That being said, you might not be able to edit your sound as extensively as with XLR mics.
Instead, USB mics take care of most common anomalies on their own, if they come with built-in DSP (digital signal processing), says Kassab. By nature of their design, these portable, all-in-one mics are great for beginners and anyone who wants to upgrade from an on-device mic.
Which features should I look for in a microphone?
Have a look at your recording booth or home setup - what are the acoustics like?
"Many people prefer a minimalistic style of interior design, which gets a lot of echo or reverberation. A room that's not treated for acoustics will need a dynamic mic, as opposed to condenser mics, to reject such reflections," explained Barry.
A dynamic mic has, as its name suggests, a wide dynamic range, making it great for live settings. This means it's less sensitive to a noisy environment and eliminates any background clatter in an 'untreated room'. Low sensitivity to ambient noise is the way to go, especially for those who stream live gaming sessions and want to filter out mouse and keyboard clicks.
Consider peripheral accessories for the perfect setup. A mesh pop filter for your mic will muffle any sighing, blowing and other unpleasant sounds for the listener. Another fantastic addition would be a mic stand to free your hands.
We've rounded up the best streaming mics below from Amazon, starting with our expert's pick. Shop with a Prime membership to get free, fast delivery.
1. Best Overall: Shure MV7
- Features dual USB and XLR outputs
- Dynamic mic with voice isolation technology
- Automatically edits voice as you stream
- Offers manual control with compressor and EQ
- Touch panel for mute controls
- XLR cable has to be bought separately
Inspired by Shure's iconic SM7B model that has an XLR cable, the simpler MV7 was designed for users looking for a less complicated setup, says Kassab. Meant to be 'podcast-ready', the dynamic microphone features both USB and XLR outputs at the back, so it's an excellent buy, if you're on the fence regarding digital and analogue recording. Is your room yet to be soundproofed? No worries, the MV7 solely focuses on your voice and filters out any unwanted commotion in the background, with its isolation technology. If you do decide to connect via USB, you can edit your voice as you create, thanks to the Auto Level Mode on the ShurePlus Motiv app. This feature adjusts your volume in real time, once you've selected your preferred voice tone and distance from the mic. Manual Mode gives you access to the EQ and compressor. Reviewers have received positive feedback from their streaming audience, noting that their voice sounds natural.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh83.25 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a two-year warranty.
2. Best for Gaming: HyperX QuadCast S
- RGB lighting to match your setup
- Certified by Discord and TeamSpeak
- Tap to mute quickly
- Dial controls for polar patterns and gain
- Condenser mic will need good acoustics in the room
If you're a gamer, then HyperX is a familiar manufacturer to you. Known for making some of the best headphones used by e-sports professionals, the brand also engineers mics for the gamer who streams. The QuadCast S is a sleek RGB mic with a USB interface, and is mounted on an anti-vibration shock stand for the explosive player. You don't need a separate pop filter since the mic comes with its own built-in one. Tap the top of the mic to mute and unmute mid-broadcast, and relax knowing you can't be heard when the lights turn off. Other on-device controls include adjustable polar patterns to focus on sounds coming from a particular direction, and gain control for mic sensitivity. The latter will come in handy because the QuadCast S is a condenser mic, meaning it's sensitive to lower frequencies. Still, gamers leave five stars in the reviews for its stunning appearance, mount, ease of use and durability.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh43.42 for 12 months with select banks.
3. Best Dynamic for Gaming: Razer Seiren Elite USB Streaming Microphone
- Dynamic mic cuts out unwanted background noise
- Has a vocal limiter
- Control volume and gain directly from the mic
- No RGB lighting for a clean look
- Complicated setup with Mac operating software
Another mic to consider from a gaming industry leader is the Razer Seiren Elite; it's a dynamic microphone with a USB connection. Its professional-grade dynamic capsule delivers a richer and warmer tone to your live audience, by keeping low-frequency interferences to a minimum. You also get access to a digital/analogue limiter, which works a lot like a compressor to tune out sudden loud noises. Unlike our QuadCast S option, the Seiren Elite has volume and gain dials on the body, along with a mute button. Reviews say even without the filter on for low-frequency sounds, the audio is of high quality. Mac users do note trouble with setting up the mic, while PC users report no issue.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh55.50 for 12 months with select banks.
4. Best Portable Mic: Rode NT-USB Mini
- Compact design at just 141mm tall
- Volume dial on the body
- Built-in DSP
- Works perfectly with smartphones and tablets
- Condenser mic will be sensitive to ambient sounds
If you're looking to level up to a studio-grade mic for web conferences and calls, you might prefer the less flashy, compact but powerful Rode NT-USB Mini. This is a condenser mic that features a single dial on its body for volume control. To access more controls, you'll need to install the Rode Connect software, which is going to be your gateway to the mic's digital signal processing (DSP) for compression, noise gate and much more. Much like our HyperX pick, the mic comes with an in-built pop filter to dull vocal plosives. The best part is the desk stand that has a magnetic base for fuss-free mounting. Reviewers have connected the mini mic to their smartphones and laptops, whether Windows or Mac. They report back effective echo cancellation, adding that it's just the mic for on-the-go. Some advise turning down the volume dial to desensitise the condenser capsule, if your room isn't treated for acoustics.
5. Best Versatile Mic: Blue Yeti X Professional USB Condenser Microphone
- Great for Twitch, podcast recording and YouTube productions
- Control volume, gain and polar pattern on mic
- Blue Voice software lets you add vocal effects in real time
- Customisable LED lighting
- Needs a pop filter
- Condenser mics will need to be used at a lower volume
The Blue Yeti X by Logitech G might look outdated in terms of design, but it's made to work with all the latest platforms - from Twitch to Discord. The condenser USB mic has a single on-body dial for volume, mute, gain and polar pattern control. It suggests directional patterns for every kind of streamer, with the bidirectional mode being perfect for a two-person interview and stereo mode for ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos. Using the Blue Voice software, you'll get to add on-stream vocal effects with a pitch shifter, chorus, echo and more, while tweaking your sound with the EQ and limiter. You will, however, have to invest in a separate pop filter. Its versatility is noted by buyers, who've put it to use for streaming and personal recordings.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh59.97 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a two-year warranty.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.