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Podcasting has exploded as a medium thanks in part to how relatively easy it is to get started. Unlike, say, starting a band, which requires instruments, space to practice, finding venues, etc., a podcast can be recorded, edited, and distributed from home. You need some equipment for a podcast, however, including a way to record your voice. You could use the built-in microphone on your phone or computer, but your podcast is infinitely more likely to succeed if, at the very least, it has decent-quality audio, which is why having a good microphone is perhaps the most important piece of equipment a podcaster can have.
Fortunately, you can find several good-quality microphones at a relatively low cost, so if you’re on a budget, your podcast can still sound professional. This includes XLR microphones, which you might think are more expensive because they’re more traditionally “professional” than USB microphones, but in fact, a cheap XLR microphone can often be superior to a cheap USB mic. Because of the analog XLR connection, XLR mics don’t need to rely on good software to sound professional, giving them an advantage over USB mics. So you can expect both types of connections even in a list of budget-friendly microphones. Of course, when talking about money, prices are relevant, but considering just how expensive audio equipment can be, any microphones under $100 can be considered budget-friendly. The products in that price range can vary greatly in terms of quality, so if you’re looking to use one for your podcast, here is a list of the current best budget-friendly microphones for podcasting.
The Shure SM58 is not just a favorite microphone among podcasters, but also among musicians, stand-up comics, or just about anyone using a microphone on stage. Part of its appeal is its durability; if you drop it on the ground you can be reasonably confident that it can survive the fall. Add in the fact that it is designed to be handheld, this makes it a great option if you’re taking your podcast equipment on the go, for interviews or to cover live events.
You can easily mount it on a stand, however, and use it in a studio environment. While it’s a dynamic mic perfectly suited for live recordings, it produces a high-quality sound in a quiet, controlled setting as well, with little-to-no hum or background noise. One downside is that, while still budget-friendly, its price is at the upper limits of this list, costing $99. It’s also an XLR mic, so you’ll need either a USB adapter or an XLR cable and mixer to attach it to when recording, which will add to your overall cost. You’ll also want to buy a stand if you don’t want to hold the mic up to your mouth during your entire podcast.
Ask a lot of podcasters, both beginners and veterans, which mic they like to use, and a lot of the time you’ll get the same answer: the Blue Yeti. For a mic that costs less than $100, it has exceptional recording quality, which is why it remains a favorite among streamers and podcasters alike. The Blue Yeti is a USB microphone, so it can plug straight into your computer and immediately begin recording. It even comes with its own desktop stand, as well as onboard audio controls like headphone volume and mic gain.
It also offers omni, bidirectional, and stereo pickup patterns, which means if you’re podcasting with a guest or co-host, you can both simultaneously use the mic, which is great for podcast beginners trying to save money on equipment. All these features come cheap but not that cheap, considering the Blue Yeti is $99.99, as expensive as a mic on this budget-friendly list can get.
If you’re not sure whether an XLR or USB mic is right for you, or plan to use both at some point, then the Samson Q2U is a perfect choice, because, unlike most microphones, it natively has both connections. That means you can record your podcast using a mixer or by plugging directly into your computer. This is especially useful to podcasters just starting out who either can’t afford additional equipment or want to wait and see if podcasting is right for them before making the commitment to buy more gear. You can start with the USB connection to your computer, and if you want to keep podcasting after a few episodes, then commit to buying XLR-compatible mixing equipment.
Alternatively, you could use the dual output of the Samson Q2U simultaneously, and record both to a mixer and your computer, so if one device fails, you’ve got a backup copy of your recording. Or you can record locally with the XLR while using the USB to chat with a guest or co-host through Zoom, FaceTime, or another app. At $50.99, the Samson Q2U podcasting pack also comes with a mic clip, desktop stand, cables, windscreen, and headphone jack, so this is a pretty good deal. However, the audio quality isn’t quite as good as other, slightly more expensive microphones, and it’s not omnidirectional, so you’ll need one mic per person in the room that you want to record.
The Rode PodMic offers some of the richest sound you can get for a budget-friendly microphone, so even if you’re podcasting from your bedroom, your listeners might mistake you for being in an actual recording studio. Its high quality is in part due to its integrated pop filter and shock mount, which will help reduce any noises from moving your desk or keyboard, as well as room tone.
The Rode PodMic doesn’t come with many frills, though it does have an onboard mute button. If you’re video podcasting, you (and your audience) will appreciate its sleek design. One drawback is, as with any XLR-exclusive mic, you’ll need to purchase a mixer and cable or an adapter to connect it to your computer, as well as a stand, which isn’t included with the Rode PodMic. The mic itself is great but will cost you $99 on top of whatever you pay for these additional accessories.
One of the nicest-looking microphones you can find in this price range is the MXL 990. There are a few varieties of its vintage-style look, but the most well-known is its champagne-colored finish, which will definitely add a cool, professional look to your podcast if you’re also doing video or including guests in the room with you. The condenser mic also has a large diaphragm so you can be confident in the audio quality of your recordings.
However, it costs $99.95 and, while it includes a shock mount, does not come with a stand or cable. You’ll need to buy a stand and make sure it’s a stable one because the MXL 990 is also fragile and can break easily if dropped or mishandled. It’s also an XLR-only microphone, meaning you’ll need to also purchase a USB adapter or XLR cable and a compatible mixer to use the MXL 990 to record your podcast.