The Best Microphone For Podcasting under $500 (USB & XLR Option)
Asking a podcaster to share their opinions on “the best” microphones for podcasting is often counterproductive. This is because most podcasters arrive at their “favorites” at the same time they become competent at podcasting. The microphone they’re using when they finally feel like they’re good at podcasting is often the microphone they will posit as “the best”, period. It’s some kind of reversed form of the Fallacy of Composition, wherein someone assumes the whole is good because the individual parts are good. So it’s often not just the microphone these podcasters will have an opinion about, but the audio interface, the XLR cables, and the headphones too. The whole shebang!
I’m no exception, I was a highly opinionated and under-experienced podcaster too at one point! All successful podcasters were, some still are!
I’m telling you this up front so that you know nothing in what follows falsifies my determination of “best” as CORRECT. My opinions are true from my perspective, but they are not objectively true. The are, however, based on 10+years of experience so they’re worth taking under advisement as you search for the best microphone for you.
Before choosing the right microphone, you need to figure out two other things.
1. Dynamic Microphone or Condenser Microphone?
Dynamic and Condenser Microphones are different in many ways but the way in which they are most different, and the way which matters most to podcasters, is in their sensitivity. Condenser microphones are more sensitive than Dynamic microphones and choosing which one is right for you requires an intelligent assessment of the mic’s purpose and the environment within which it is placed.
Most podcasters work within imperfect environments and so, it is my opinion, that Dynamic Microphones are the correct choice for most podcasters. If you are in anything less than a professional recording environment, you should opt for a Dynamic Microphone.
There’s a trade off for this though. Condensor Microphones deliver a much more airy sound while Dynamic Microphones deliver that warm “broadcaster” sound. If you’re a podcast that is highly narrative, like a storytelling podcast or maybe a serial audiobook, you’re probably going to sound a lot warmer than you want to — this will be especially noticeable when your story features music under your narration. But I’m getting to specific so let me stop going in that direction.
The point is: most podcasters create their podcasts in imperfect environments and want a warmer and more present quality to their voice. For these podcasters, Dynamic Microphones, again in my opinion, are preferred over Condenser Microphones.
2. USB or XLR
Next you have to decide if you want to use USB connectivity for your microphones or XLR.
USB is a good choice for solo-podcasters who will never have guests sitting in front of them and who are not concerned with graduating into more professional equipment. This option winds up costing less money as no audio interface is needed, and there are plenty of good quality USB microphones available at the consumer and prosumer level.
Why “never have guests sitting in front of them”? It’s a technical frustration to get two USB microphones to work on the same PC. There’s software that can allow you to do it, like VB-Audio’s VoiceMeeter, but it introduces potential complications that non-tech-savvy podcasters won’t have the faculties to troubleshoot when things go wonky. Also, sharing a USB mic between you and a guest, like Blue’s Yeti Microphone set into binary mode for example, create a single track that makes any real engineering of the audio impossible.
XLR is a good choice if you have a co-host in the same room as you and you might also have guests in the same room as you. This option is more expensive because it requires the purchase of an audio interface device (like Focusrite’s Scrarlett 2i2 or similar) as well as XLR cables, and possibly more. It also requires a higher technical aptitude as it introduces additional points of failure that you will need to be able to troubleshoot quickly should things go wrong.
That said, XLR has the benefit of being compatible with all professional recording gear as XLR and TRS are connectivity standards in the recording world — USB is not.
Okay, so you’ve decided on a Dynamic USB or Dynamic XLR, which mic should you buy?
I want to stress that what follows is based on 10-years of experience, certainly, but it is also my opinion. There is no “best”, there is only what works best for you.
Dynamic USB: Rode Podcaster ($229)
Dynamic XLR: Electro-Voice RE20 ($399)
And that’s my two-cents. Hope it’s helpful.
If you’re in need of podcast consulting or professional podcast editing and engineering services, consider reaching out the The Portland Pod at 207.295.6039 to schedule a free 30-minute phone call to talk about your needs and how we might help you meet them. Thanks for reading and take care.