Best XLR Mic for Podcasting


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Starting out as a podcaster at this moment of the 21st century is, perhaps, the best time in history to do it. The best gear to get you started doesn’t necessarily require breaking the bank and can be purchased directly from retail leader Amazon.

So, which is the best XLR mic for podcasting? Well, I divided that answer into three categories to help match the budget available for you.

I have to say that although it didn’t make it to the podium, I want to give a special mention of honor to the Telefunken M82Opens in a new tab. for being a great-sounding mic.

What you are about to read is the result of years of accumulated knowledge purchasing gear for podcasting from an early age. Some of these pieces of information are what I wish I was told starting out back in the day. This article has everything to get you started on the right foot when purchasing an XLR microphone for podcasting.

Do you need an XLR mic for podcasting?

Man in Black Suit Holding an XLR Podcasting Microphone

Let’s start right from the beginning: do you need an XLR microphone for podcasting?

The answer is no, you do not need one.

Will your podcast sound better if you do it with an XLR mic?

Yes.

There are several things that lead to this conclusion that I am going to break down for you in the shape of simple questions. I know there are a million options out there. I’ve been in your shoes before, but hey, I’m here to help, so let’s do it.

What is an XLR mic?

Black Microphone

In case you are wondering what XLR stands for, the term is External Line Return and is a lossless way of transporting analog data. When you speak on a microphone that connects through an XLR cable, the microphone translates your voice into electric current and it travels through the XLR cable retaining all of its quality. Why do mics use XLR? They use it because it is the type of connection that provides the richest end result (which for vocals is crucial).

Are XLR mics better than USB mics?

This is a very good question you might be asking yourself right now. Let’s put it this way; your XLR microphone needs a translator. No, not a language translator. It needs to go from analog to digital, from an electric current to ones and zeros. The best XLR mic for podcasting is going to be the best-sounding mic plugged to a translator, or DAC (Digital Audio Converter). The resulting quality will be the combination of the microphone and the DAC that will translate the sound.

Many times people ask me “where do I plug my microphone in to my computer?” as they are holding an XLR mic. Well, you need a DAC that most likely comes in the shape of an audio interface or mixer. What these devices do is translate your electric current into ones and zeros for your computer to understand.

In fact, the better the quality translator, the better the quality of the resulting sound. In the case of USB mics, the DAC is built-in inside the device and you just plug it via USB to your computer and start recording. Most built-in DACs do not have the quality of a regular sound interface, so you will generally get better sound from an XLR/DAC combo compared to a USB microphone.

Is XLR a mono or stereo signal?

Black Headphones and Silver Microphone

If you have ever seen an XLR connector, you’ll know it has three pins. Two of them run signal, using both to take a mono signal to create a “balanced” signal which rejects interference better. Using those two pins to run an “unbalanced” signal will give you a stereo signal as a result but in a lower quality. The third pin is the ground.

Is XLR digital or analog?

We’ve been through this but just to clear it out and not leave any doubts about it: XLR signal is analog. In fact, you need to translate it to digital to use it with a computer.

Does XLR to USB work well?

Yes, you can use an XLR to USB cable to plug your microphone straight to the computer. The cable has a built-in DAC translating electric current into zeros and ones. Bear in mind you’ll need an external phantom power supply to get enough volume to use it with a condenser.

Do XLR mics need power?

This is a confusion many people have that we will answer when we get to the Dynamic Vs. Condenser section further below, but the initial answer is: not all of them.

Dynamic Vs. Condenser

Black and White Microphone and Computer

Well, the time has come; let’s go straight into this very common question on our run to decide which the best XLR podcast microphone is.

Dynamic

This is the most common type of microphone you’ll find anywhere. They are the sturdiest and cheapest to produce, hence, all stage mics are usually dynamics. They convert the sound of your voice to electrical current through electromagnetism. Some very famous examples are the Shure SM58Opens in a new tab., SM7BOpens in a new tab., the Sennheiser e845Opens in a new tab., and countless others.

Dynamic microphones don’t need any external power source and are light-weight and sturdy. They generally do not have the low-end warmth that some of the condenser models offer and are more focused on the mid-range.

Condenser

For years the most revered studios in the world have used condenser microphones to record the voices of all the records you love. Condenser microphones are also widely used on acoustic instruments. You will not likely find them on any stage due to them not handling loud noises very well and picking up extra, unwanted sounds.

The frequency response is fuller and the sound is overall warmer and richer. This kind of microphone works mostly with an external electric current source (48v) called phantom power. Most sound interfaces and mixers have built-in phantom power, otherwise, you can just buy an external phantom power source. The inside components are a diaphragm and a backplate inside an electrically-charged capsule.

Because of their rich sound and sensitivity to audio waves, it’s important to have a properly treated room for the best sound quality possible. Some famous examples of this kind of microphone are the Shure SM27Opens in a new tab., Rode NT1-AOpens in a new tab., and AKG C214Opens in a new tab. among many others.

Which one is better for you?

Silver Microphone on Laptop with Green Headphones

When we think about creating our own home studio and buying the gear we ask ourselves what is the best mic for podcasting? Shall I get a condenser or a dynamic? There are several factors to make a wise decision:

  • The tone of your voice – This is the first thing you must consider when buying the gear for your podcasting career. If you have a low-pitch sound of a voice and want to accentuate it, condenser mics are the answer. On the other hand, if you want more of your mid-range going through it, then dynamics are it.
  • Your budget – Dynamic microphones (most of them, at least) are much more affordable than condensers. I mean, the SM58Opens in a new tab. is a cheap XLR microphone that you can find on most stages in the world because it is world-class sounding. If you have a low budget it would be better to buy a good dynamic than a cheap condenser.
  • The place you are doing the recording at – Condenser microphones are fragile and pick up most of the noises around them. On the other hand, dynamics are more rugged and can isolate background noise better. Bottom line is that if you are trying to record in a noisy room, you’ll find yourself editing for hours with a condenser. On the other hand, if you have a very quiet room, the audio quality is going to be superb.
  • Your gear – For all XLR microphones you need a DAC (in the shape of an interface, a cable, or an adapter) but for condensers, you also need phantom power. If you wish to keep it simpler and spend less, dynamic mics are the answer. If you have an audio interface you can use a condenser with phantom power and get all the benefits.

Based on this information, the best portable podcast microphone is always going to be a dynamic one. On the other hand, the audio quality you get from a condenser in a silent room is always going to be superior in warmth and frequency response.

How much does a podcast microphone cost?

Silver Microphone on Black Microphone Stand

Now that you know the difference between dynamic and condensers on the technical and application side, it is time to talk about money. What is a cheap podcast microphone? Well within the range of $0-200, you have all sorts of amazing microphones. I would say to answer this question that depends on the desired result and how fine-tuned your ear is.

If you are just getting started, I would recommend a good dynamic microphone. That being said, if you are an experienced audio person or a long-time podcaster, you can surely benefit from a more expensive condenser. There is a chance nowadays to buy “kits” containing all the elements you need to start; that is, perhaps, the cheapest option.

Mics

Now that you read all the info to understand the description of each of these mics, it’s time to go through the rundown for the best podcast microphones. Although we focus on podcasting, the results of this rundown also include the best XLR microphone for streaming.

Without taking any more of your time, let’s go straight into it.

Audio-Technica ATR2100

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This is the first in the list because I consider it to be a great no-frills, plug-and-play microphone that will get you started in minutes. The mic has a separate XLR output and a USB Type C output to go straight into the computer. This feature gives you enough flexibility to use it in many scenarios. Construction is very rugged and because of the size and looks, it can be a great field microphone to conduct interviews as well (with a windshield of course!).

I really love the fact that they located a headphone out on the bottom of the mic itself so you can monitor real-time (no latency) what you are doing and how it sounds. The sound is nothing to write home about; you get good mids and decent lows but the high end can be a tad shrill at times. Finally, it comes with all the cables you need plus a (very, very cheap) stand.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid polar (avoids outside noise)

Impedance: 16Ohms

Frequency Response: 50Hz

Durability: Sturdy, field-ready

Price: Under $120Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • USB + XLR outputs.
  • Headphone jack with dedicated volume control.

Not so much

  • Cheap stand.
  • It can be a tad shrill on the high frequencies.

Audio-Technica AT2020

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There is a very famous USB version of this Audio Technica condenser microphone too. I personally prefer the XLR version because I think you can get a much better sound with a better DAC unit.

The audio quality here is great; it can match some other microphones with larger price tags hanging from them. The only flaw I could hear in the audio quality is that again the highs can be a tad shrill. This is noticeable only if you expose the mic to those frequencies, if you don’t it works amazing. The Audio Technica AT2035Opens in a new tab. costs around $50 more and has a high-pass filter as well that cuts out 10db.

All in all, it is a great condenser microphone that works great in close distances and on the low-and-mid frequencies. Beware of the noise around you since it will pick it up a lot; it is a very sensitive microphone.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid polar

Impedance: 100Ohms

Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20,000Hz.

Durability: More fragile than dynamic microphones, still sturdy and well-built.

Price: Under $140Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Cheap and good performing.
  • Sounds great in mid and low frequencies.

Not so much

  • A tad harsh at high frequencies with no hi-pass filter.
  • It can pick up some surrounding noise.

Shure SM58S

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Well, this is one of the most widely sold and used dynamic microphones in the history of human beings. You can find one at your local pub as well as the stage of the Madison Square Garden; it is also a good and cheap podcast microphone. The number one characteristic of this microphone is that it is virtually indestructible. It also sounds great in almost all case scenarios.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. I used to work at a huge ShureOpens in a new tab. retailer some years ago and the company sent a representative to tell us about their microphone lines. The guy asked us for a Shure SM58Opens in a new tab. sealed in the box. He opened it up in front of us all and plugged it right in. He said “one thing you have to know about this mic is…” and dropped it to the ground. He repeated this action five times and gave the entire speech on the same SM58 that was in perfect shape even after falling from 2 meters five times.

The audio quality on this microphone is the standard of the market. It shaped our ears and many brands copied it to come up with their own models. The only downside to it is that it doesn’t have a lot of warmth in the final audio result.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid

Impedance: 150Ohms

Frequency Response: 50Hz to 15,000Hz

Durability: Virtually indestructible

Price: Under $100Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Virtually indestructible.
  • Trademark mid-range sound quality.
  • An inexpensive classic.

Not so much

  • The final audio result is not so warm.

Rode Procaster

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The Rode ProcasterOpens in a new tab. is a serious contender for best podcast microphone. This is a dynamic microphone that has two built-in features that are crucial: the pop-filter and the anti-shock mount for the capsule. It was designed and manufactured especially to have an improved response on the mid-frequency that is the one occupied by a human voice. Also, RodeOpens in a new tab. designed the pattern to be a very tight cardioid polar in an effort to isolate outside noise as much as possible.

The minute you hold this microphone in your hand you realize that Rode made an effort to make it extra sturdy and ready for the battle. I wouldn’t say it is heavy, but the construction is very solid. Although in the books it is a superb microphone, I have to say the sound quality is not impressive. That being said, if your budget excels the ones above a little bit, then this might be a great choice.

Microphone Pattern: Tight cardioid polar

Impedance: 320Ohms

Frequency Response: 75Hz to 18,000Hz

Durability: Seems very sturdy

Price: Under $240Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Sturdy, great build quality.
  • Built-in pop filter and shock mount.

Not so much

  • Sound quality is not impressive

AKG C214

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This is a condenser mic that I would consider a podcast microphone best buy. AKGOpens in a new tab., in case you don’t know, is one of the best-known microphone brands in the world. They manufacture state of the art microphones and headphones. The C214Opens in a new tab. is among their most affordable line and is a large-diaphragm condenser mic that has a special treatment to be a good choice in the run for the best XLR mic for podcasting.

There are two things I love about this microphone that is not as expensive as the 414 line. The switchable bass-cut filter and the 20db switchable attenuation make it great for close-up recording which is, for a large-diaphragm condenser, crucial for podcasting. Although the low-cut is great for the oomph and the proximity, the mid-range suffers a little from the “S”. To be honest, I expected more from this microphone due to the brand. Although it is a really good choice for the price tag, AKG could have worked on the mids a lot more.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid

Impedance: 200Ohms

Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20,000Hz

Durability: Built like a tank

Price: Under $340Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Switchable attenuator and bass-cut.
  • Audio quality in proximity.

Not so much

  • The mid-high frequency is undefined making “S” a problem.

Heil PR-40

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Looking for a podcast microphone on Amazon you will come across this dynamic mic from Heil SoundOpens in a new tab.. It is a good workhorse of a mic but right from the box I thought the sound quality was going to be a little more surprising given the price tag. Everything inside is built with isolation technology plus the dual mesh is perfectly tuned for the human voice.

The build quality is good and the sound quality is also good, but I don’t consider that the $100 extra compared to the Procaster is reasonable. It is a good choice but to me has a little bit too high price tag.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid

Impedance: 600Ohms

Frequency Response: 28Hz to 18,000Hz

Durability: Well-built

Price: Under $340Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Sounds good and the build quality is good.

Not so much

  • The price tag is a little too high for the sound quality.

Telefunken M82

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To me there is no other mic in this list that offers this kind of low-end response. Looking for XLR microphone on Amazon in the range of the below-$500 this comes out as a kick-drum mic. It is one of the most used microphones for this endeavor but it works great for voices too. For those of us who have a low-key voice, this might be the best choice to make the most out of our attribute. This is not such a common thing in dynamic microphones (warmth is mostly an attribute of condensers).

I have to tell you I love the “High Boost” as well as the low-end. It is true that the price tag is close to the $400, but it is everything you would expect from such a microphone. Perhaps I would hope that the boost in the high-end would have a stronger effect on sound but all in all, it is a great choice in the run for best XLR mic for podcasting especially being a dynamic mic.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid

Impedance: 300Ohms

Frequency Response: 25Hz to 18,000Hz

Durability: As a dynamic mic, it is really sturdy

Price: Under $400Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • The low end is superb.
  • Great warmth for a dynamic mic.
  • Build quality is top-notch.

Not so much

  • The “High Boost” doesn’t have such a big effect on the sound.

Rode NT1-A

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A total classic in the world of podcasting mics and studio condensers in general; this Rode NT-1AOpens in a new tab. couldn’t be missing from this list. In fact, you can buy it as a kit including several accessories to get you started as a podcaster. There are no bells and whistles, no cuts or boosts, nothing to shape the sound from the mic itself but the original sound is crisp-clear and balanced.

The build quality and the sound quality are very good for the price tag. It is a condenser mic, so you will need a shock mount and a pop filter to avoid “s”, “p”. You will also need some phantom power for it but the final result is crisp-clean mids, warm lows, and natural highs. Switching back and forth from some more expensive mics you can feel the difference, but it is a great choice for best XLR mic for podcasting for a little over $200.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid

Impedance: 100Ohms

Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20,000Hz

Durability: As a condenser not so sturdy

Price: Under $240Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Crips-clear mids, warm lows and natural highs.
  • Adequate price tag.

Not so much

  • You need all the precautions of a regular condenser mic.

Shure SM7B

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Most radio content you hear now and have heard in the past might have been recorded or broadcasted with this microphone. It is a standard of the industry dynamic microphone that works great in proximity with a flat yet warm response. The cardioid pattern is tuned specially to be the one you need for broadcasting. It is what you call a trademark sounding mic and the included windscreen helps to avoid all unwanted human natural sounds.

The only con I could find in it is that it is not that much of a beginner’s microphone because it requires some technical ideas to make it sound at its best. As with everything related to sound quality, it depends on the sum of gear rather than a single piece. Not accompanying this mic with a good DAC and other equipment is a waste of money.

Microphone Pattern: Cardioid

Impedance: 150Ohms

Frequency Response: 50Hz to 20,000Hz

Durability: Built to last forever

Price: Under $400Opens in a new tab.

What I Like

  • Trademark sound.
  • Added windshield.

Not so much

  • Not beginner-oriented.

Conclusion

After going through the rundown for the best XLR mic for podcasting, the question of what is the best XLR microphone still prevails in our minds. It is tempting to say that the best XLR mic for podcasting is the Shure SM7BOpens in a new tab. because of how it sounds and feels. Truth is that if you are just starting out it might cause you more trouble than good.

On the other hand, this list is comprehensive and good for mics just under $500 which are the most commonly used for podcasting. I could have added some state of the art Neumann U87Opens in a new tab. with a price tag of above $3,000 but I don’t think it really does make such a difference in a podcasting environment.

Make sure that when you are selecting an XLR mic for podcasting that you focus on the other aspects of your studio, such as your equipment and software. Then consider what you need the microphone for and in what situations; Are you traveling or in a soundproof studio? Do you need better high-range mics or mid-range mics? What is your budget? Answering these questions will definitely help you to choose the best microphone for your setup. Happy podcasting!

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