What Podcasting Microphone Should You Get to Start Out With?

Visit any Podcasting Facebook Group and this question will come up on a weekly basis, and especially around the holidays. It's one of the first steps to starting your podcast and one that probably gets a lot more weight put on it than necessary. The easiest and more basic answer is get a microphone that fits your environment and voice, but where to start?

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If you happen to live in an area with a music store, you might be able to test out different microphones and see which one sounds best with your voice. Some even let you rent equipment to test it out with your setup. But if that's not an option and you want a microphone today, there are a few options I recommend right off the bat.

If you noticed, the title for this post is What Podcasting Microphone Should You Get to START OUT WITH. That's because my recommendations are for those just getting started in podcasting and don't want to spend a lot of money upfront, in case it's not something they want to pursue. There are plenty of expensive microphones available that are wonderful for podcasting (Heil PR 40, Electro-Voice RE320, Shure SM7B, for example), but if you're just looking for a good mic for under $100, here is my personal favorite:

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

This is my all time favorite microphone and the one I use for my podcast. This, as well as the other microphones I recommend, come with USB and XLR capabilities, meaning you can connect them to your computer with just a USB cord and go -- very plug and play!

If you are thinking you might want to upgrade to a mixer or audio interface at some point, if also supports XLR connectivity, which (in my opinion) offers a slightly cleaner sound.

One thing that stands out about this particular microphone is that it comes with a Lifetime Guarantee.  I've had mine for more than two years and haven't had to return mine, but I've heard from other podcasters that Audio Technica was really good about honoring that guarantee.

Other Similar Microphones

I've always used my ATR2100 (in fact, I have two in case I have a cohost), but three other microphones are similar and if you're doing some price comparison, any of these are a good choice. For a better comparison, check out what the hosts of Better Podcasting have to say, since they've done plenty of tests on all of them.

What Else Do You Need?

All of these microphones come with stands that are easy enough, but depending on your space, it might not be at the best level for your recording. To get good sound from your microphone, a good recommendation is to put keep the microphone only a few inches from your mouth. 

That's why a boom arm would be a good investment and many can be find for under $20 that would suit these microphones. 

Another consideration to improve your sound is a pop filter to help minimize the plosives (the popping sounds that come from sounds like "P" or "B"). These are relatively cheap.

If you're planning on taking your microphone out for on-the-go recordings, a pop filter wouldn't be an ideal accessory to bring along, but you can get a cheap windscreen to help reduce plosives, as well.

Final Notes

Hopefully, this will give you a good place to start when getting ready for your podcast. One thing you might see recommended for podcasters is the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. While it can produce great sound and has lots of configurations, it takes some tweaking to get great sound from it. One downside is it's USB only, meaning if you wanted to upgrade to a mixer or audio interface that takes XLR-only inputs, you would have to get a new microphone.

There are different audio settings on the microphone and one of the reasons so many podcasters buy this microphone is one of the settings includes picking up sound from all around it, so some podcasters buy just this microphone, place it in the middle of a table, and have everyone record around it. However, this can produce an echo in the recording or makes it sound like they're recording in a tunnel.

It's also possible to have it on the wrong setting and pick up louder room noise, meaning more noise reduction in the editing phase, which may distort the speaking voice. Unfortunately, it's sometimes very difficult for editors to fix, even with the most advanced software.

I generally steer people to one of the dynamic mics above instead, since it produces a much better, more manageable sound, but if you already have a Blue Yeti or another microphone not listed, don't dispair and run out and buy a new microphone just because some blog post told you to. Read the instruction manual, record your voice using different settings and find settings that sound the best. 

You might just have to tweak your recording space, as well, to accommodate different microphones. A lot of podcasters are known for recording in their closets because the clothes act as a good way of reducing room noise and absorbing sound.

When you hire a podcast editor, you can ask them questions about how to improve your sound or recommendations for equipment that might sound the best.