The landscape of podcasting has exploded in recent years, with everyone from dedicated longtime podcasters reaching the mainstream spotlight, to traditional media personalities moving from TV, radio, and newspapers to grab a slice of the listening pie. The good news is that the barrier to entry is relatively low, so even if you're not a celebrity or media luminary, you can still get your voice out there by starting a podcast.
There are several tools and tricks that you'll need to learn about to give your podcast the best shot at success, but first things first, you need a decent microphone. Nothing turns off a listener faster than bad audio. The following are three of the best microphone options depending on your budget and experience.
Blue Yeti USB Mic
The Blue Yeti USB mic is one of the most no-nonsense, easy to use, and easy to set up podcast mics you can find. If you're not looking to become an audio nerd, and just want to get your show out there with some decent sound quality, the Blue Yeti USB mic, which you can buy now for $129, is the way to go.
You're probably used to using your laptop's built-in microphone or the mic on your headphones/earbuds (mainly because you've seen some video podcast guests use them), but trust us, that is the road to ruin.
Given that starting point, $129 might sound pricey, but in the realm of quality audio, that's a great price. For that cost, you'll get a mic that you can plug directly into your Mac OS X or Windows computer, delivering 16-bit/48kHz quality recording right on your desktop or laptop and equipped with a built-in headphone monitoring input.
Our favorite design-meets-functionality aspect of the Blue Yeti is its design. Turn the mic around back and you'll find the easy to adjust sound controls for the mic, which allows you to adjust how the mic receives and processes sound.
The primary mode you'll use is called Cardioid Mode, which more effectively records sounds directly in front of the mic. But you also have the options of Stereo Mode (good for live music recording), Omnidirectional Model (great for recording large gatherings), and Bidirectional Mode (suitable for a two-person podcast if you only have one mic).
The mic also comes in a range of colors, including its classic silver, black, red, and several other color combinations. If you're a total podcast newbie, you can't go wrong with the Blue Yeti.
Audio-Technica ATR2100x USB Mic
Previously, our next pick would have been the ATR2100-USB mic, but the company recently unveiled a new version of that mic called ATR2100x-USB, which delivers better analog/digital conversion (24-bit, and up to 192kHz sampling rate) and supports USB-C. In addition to the USB-C connection, the mic also supports more experienced audio engineers by including an XLR analog output.
The ATR2100x-USB mic, which you can buy now for $99 is a dedicated cardioid dynamic microphone, which means it's specifically designed to pick the sound in front of it and diminish the sounds coming from other sources. This feature can be particularly useful if you're recording your podcast in a noisy environment, like in an apartment with roommates or various city and office environments where you don't have much control over the sound conditions around you.
Another thing that's great about the ATR2100x is that it has a traditional microphone casing. If you'd like, you can mount it to a mic stand or just hold it in your hand for spoken word or singing performances — it will transition seamlessly from podcast tool to performance device. Like the Blue Yeti, the ATR2100x also has a built-in headphone input, as well as an on-mic volume control. For complete beginners, the look of the ATR2100x may be slightly intimidating, but if you're not put off by its slick look, it's a great mic that produces high-quality sound.
Shure SM7B Mic
If you have a favorite big-name podcaster, there's a 50/50 chance they're using the Shure SM7B microphone. It is the mic podcaster Marc Maron used in his Los Angeles garage studio to interview President Barack Obama and the mic Joe Rogan used to interview SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk.
If you're still learning about the podcast landscape, and those podcast hosts' names don't ring a bell, just know that this is also the latest version of the mic (the original Shure SM7) that Michael Jackson used to record his angelic singing voice on the legendary album Thriller.
There's a reason this mic is so popular — it makes nearly any voice sound warm and resonant, even if your audio engineering skills are less than perfect. However, that quality isn't for penny pinchers. If you're ready to step up your quality and have the extra cash, you can buy the Shure SM7B mic now for $399. And don't waste time waiting for that price to come down, it won't, it's that popular.
In addition to that base price, if you're looking to use this to record directly to your computer, there are unassociated tools you'll also want to pick up, namely the Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator, which you can buy now for $148.98. The Cloudlifter provides +25dB of gain, which gives you an overall better sound.
And, assuming you don't already have the necessary connection set up, you may also want to grab the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which you can buy now for $159.99. The Scarlett 2i2 is a simple two-input/output USB recording interface, making getting your high-end audio into your computer a breeze. Of course, if you're not already an audio geek, you'll also need to pick up an XLR male-to-female microphone cable, which you can buy now for just $7.19 for a six-foot length cord.
We can also suggest snagging a pair of Sony MDR7506 headphones, which you can buy now for $99.99, to get some of the best cans on the market to accurately monitor your audio output.
The software, computer, and other tools you use to create, audio sweeten, and distribute your podcast will vary widely, but if you at least start with one of these mics, you can't go wrong.
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