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8 best microphones for streaming: Plug in and play

Steve Hogarty
·9-min read
<p>A dedicated microphone is the one upgrade that will make the biggest difference to your stream</p> (iStock photo/The Independent )

A dedicated microphone is the one upgrade that will make the biggest difference to your stream

(iStock photo/The Independent )

The best streaming microphone is the one you don’t need to fiddle around with, while in the middle of a broadcast. For most streamers that means using a standard gaming headset, but if you’re looking for clearer vocals and a more professional-sounding feed, a dedicated microphone is the one upgrade that will make the biggest difference to your stream.

USB microphones present the best option for streamers who want the simplicity of a plug and play device, but the rich sound quality of studio-grade recording equipment. Because your voice is being compressed, broadcast over the internet, and then played back through whatever cheap earphones your viewers might be using, you can be less concerned about trying to attain that perfect sound fidelity.

Instead, the best streaming microphones include features like onboard gain controls, built-in pop shields, high-pass filters and clipping alerts.

Some streaming microphones come with stands included, but many don’t and are designed to be mounted on standard boom arms. A boom arm suspends your microphone somewhere near your face, preventing the mic from picking up the sound of key presses and mouse clicks and helping it to more efficiently focus on your voice. It’s the ideal setup for most streamers, but a well-constructed desk stand with shock absorption can eliminate a lot of clattering while taking up way less space.

We’ve chosen eight of the best microphones for streaming, gaming and podcasting, from high-end professional broadcasting tools to budget options for those at the beginning of their YouTube career.

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Elgato wave 3

Type: Condenser

Patterns: Cardioid

Elgato makes best-in-class streaming hardware designed for Twitch and YouTube producers, enabling streamers to capture video footage directly from games consoles to mix, edit and broadcast live. The wave 3 is a streaming microphone and digital mixer that seamlessly integrates with Elgato’s existing suite of software, so out of the box, you can start blending audio sources from game sound, subscriber alerts, music, and your own voice while keeping volume levels sounding balanced and professional. Even putting those mixing features to one side, the wave 3 performs exceptionally well as a stand-alone streaming microphone. A zero-latency headphone port helps you set and monitor your levels before you stream. A unique anti-clipping feature instantly cuts to a less sensitive pickup if you’re too loud, so you avoid sounding blown out or distorted on the stream. And a shock-mount cuts down on the dull, thudding keyboard vibrations that normally occur when using a fixed desk stand.

Buy now £159.99,

Rode NT-USB mini

Type: Condenser

Patterns: Cardioid

When desk space is at a premium, you need a compact streaming microphone with a small footprint. The Rode NT-USB is a low-profile condenser mic that doesn’t compromise on sound quality or build. By default it arrives on a squat little magnetic stand, making it easy to quickly angle towards your face no matter where you position it on the desk. This means it can fit neatly beneath your monitor without obstructing your view of the screen or your streaming camera’s view of you. We think this discreet mic performs best on the desk and out of the way but Rode also sells a separate boom arm should you prefer to have the NT-USB mini dangling nearer to your flapping gums. For streamers who like to flaunt their microphone on screen, we’d recommend one of the other mics on our list.

Buy now £87.95,

Shure MV7

Type: Dynamic

Patterns: Cardioid

The microphone of choice for streaming veterans — and hobbyists with deep pockets — the Shure MV7 is a hybrid XLR and USB microphone, combining the audio company’s premium hardware with simple plug and play connectivity. It looks and feels the part, with none of the garish LEDs of your typical gaming microphones, but the build quality and understated finish of a professional studio-grade tool. For music streamers, there’s no better option. The Shure MV7 is tuned to pick up every last detail in your vocals and connects with a companion app that monitors background noise to continuously reconfigure the microphone’s sensitivity and focus, ensuring that you’re always heard clearly as you move towards and away from the microphone. Good news for streamers who can’t sit still for long. There’s no boom arm or mic stand included, so if this is your first streaming microphone you’ll need to shell out for those extra accessories.

Buy now £204.00,

Razer seirin elite

Type: Dynamic

Patterns: Cardioid

The seirin elite is a premium streaming microphone designed with Twitch and YouTube broadcasters in mind. Out of the box, it’s configured with a high-pass filter to tune out some common background noises streamers have to contend with, like the hum of a graphics card fan or the whirr of an air conditioner. Our testing setup has our gaming PC less than a foot from the streaming microphone, and the resulting recording was clear and clean. Ambient noise was dialled down without clipping vocals or compromising on fine detail. One of the most useful features for streamers with bad mic etiquette is an LED peaking indicator on the body of the microphone, which warns you if you’re blowing out. Automatic gain correction can then raise or lower the sensitivity of the microphone on the fly, so your viewers hear you at a consistent volume no matter how shouty or excitable you get.

Buy now £145.00,

Blue yeti X

Type: Condenser

Patterns: Cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional, stereo

It’s hardly a coincidence that the most widely used USB microphone is also among the best streaming microphones you can buy. Blue was one of the first audio companies to build studio-quality microphones with simple, consumer-level connectivity, enabling professional-sounding recording setups over a common USB cable. The star of Blue’s collection, the yeti X can be positioned on its included desk stand or mounted on a separate boom arm. We found that the stand’s chunky, padded base helps dampen the sound of your keyboard clacking, but for absolute clarity in streaming it’s best to screw it on to a boom arm. In either setup, the LED indicator around the microphone’s gain knob allows you to continually monitor and adjust your volume while streaming.

Buy now £159.00,

Samson G-track pro

Type: Condenser

Patterns: Cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional

The Samson G-track pro is an exceptionally versatile streaming microphone, with three pick-up patterns making it useful for applications outside of broadcasting and gaming online. For one-on-one interviews, a bi-directional recording mode listens in two directions while ignoring any noise coming in from the sides. For musicians, the G-track pro features a built-in audio interface and mixer with a standard instrument input for recording vocals and instrument tracks simultaneously. That means you can plug in a guitar, bass or keyboard and have its audio signal output directly into the stream alongside your vocals, rather than hoping it gets picked up by the microphone or relying on a separate piece of tech to combine everything. For musicians who’ve turned to online performances during lockdown, this is a super convenient and feature packed streaming microphone.

Buy now £149.78,

Mackie EM-91CU

Type: Condenser

Patterns: Cardioid

The best streaming microphones require the least supervision. The Mackie EM-91CU is an affordable condenser microphone you can simply plug in and forget all about. It uses a cardioid pickup pattern to focus its attention solely on you, actively blocking any unwanted sound that dares to wander in from the rear or the sides, so that you get consistently pristine vocals in noisy rooms. In testing, the EM-91CU picked up our voice clearly even as our PC’s wheezing fans kicked into high gear during processor-intensive tasks. The built-in shock mount helps to further reduce unexpected bumps and thuds, though the lack of any physical gain controls on the body makes this low-cost microphone a less useful prospect for streamers who like to make adjustments on the fly. You’ll also need your own mount, as one isn’t included.

Buy now £45.00,

HyperX quadcast S

Type: Condenser

Patterns: Cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo

If you prefer your streaming microphones to look like futuristic Christmas trees, then prepare to be dazzled by the shimmering RGB spectacle of the HyperX quadcast S. As well as providing a hypnotic light show, this flamboyant microphone performs excellently in noisy conditions and comes fitted with a bunch of thoughtful features for effortless streaming. Sound recording is clear, helped by the built-in shock mount which soaks up desk vibrations as you hammer away on your keyboard. There’s a built-in pop filter too, a thin shield that prevents any exhaled puffs of air from hitting the microphone when you say certain words. Gain controls on the body and a silent mute switch make adjusting this streaming microphone during broadcasts a doddle.

Buy now £159.99,

The verdict: Streaming microphones

Deciding which streaming microphone is right for you really depends on the kind of streaming you want to do. The Elgato wave 3 is the most versatile in our list, and our choice of best streaming microphone for anyone looking for an instant upgrade to the quality of their broadcast. The Rode NT-USB mini is an excellent pick for fair-weather streamers or those just starting out, as it performs brilliantly as a regular desk microphone for Zoom meetings and everyday use.

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