What Kind of Microphone Do You Need for Streaming?

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Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast, making YouTube videos, or even streaming your video game skills (or lack of) via a website like Twitch? If the answer is yes to any of those, then you’ve no doubt wondered what equipment you would need to do it, or if you’re already in the know you’ve started researching the tech and hopefully started to research some of the deals on the best microphones.

The Various Types of Streaming Mics

One of the most important items that you need to make content is a microphone, because you want viewers and listeners to take note of your voice and what you’re trying to convey. Mics come in all shapes and sizes and you will have multiple choices of whether to opt for a desktop USB microphone or maybe something a little more technical that uses XLR connections.

The easiest option is to just use the built-in microphone on one of the best gaming headsets, as some of these microphones have really improved over the years as more companies cater to streamers and the use of communications software like Discord and put more emphasis on quality and clarity of microphone audio.

So, what do you go for? In my case, I like to do a little casual streaming on Twitch and record the odd bit of audio for videos, and I have several options at hand to be able to facilitate this. Budget is a large constraint for me, as I don’t want to be spending huge amounts of money on something that I would barely make use of, or could be replicated or cleaned up by some third-party software.

My Streaming Setup

For my own setup, I use OBS and Streamlabs software for streaming and recording, and Audacity to edit and clean up audio files, hardware wise I have a Blue Yeti microphone, but also use the microphone on my Corsair Virtuoso SE gaming headset as it has excellent audio quality and is much more convenient to setup.

To use my desktop Yeti mic I find the need to make software filters, as the Yeti microphone can be so sensitive that it will pick up any and all vibrations and background noises if not configured correctly. Also, a microphone boom arm and pop filter are must-have items and luckily these can be picked up quite cheaply.

The Yeti I use is a desktop USB microphone that I’ve owned for many years and has several different polar patterns that include Cardioid, Bidirectional, and Omnidirectional patterns which can be changed with the turn of a small switch - making this microphone capable of being used for individual audio pickup for streaming to picking up multiple people in a room for a podcast or conference call.

Some great examples of USB microphones are:

Getting More Professional

If you want to upgrade your setup from USB to XLR and maybe add in some mixing hardware such as a GoXLR or similar then you might need to spend a little more. For an idea of cost, the TC-Helicon GoXLR is hovering around the $400 mark, and I’ve only seen the price dip substantially during the Black Friday sales. Unlike the plug-and-play ease of USB, if you want to use the XLR interface you will need to connect a sound card or an audio mixer with an XLR jack to your PC to get things up and running. The advantage of having a hardware setup like this though is that you are able to configure and change settings more easily and on the fly whilst live streaming, instead of having to stop and start your recording/streaming software to implement changes and test new settings.

Some of our favorite XLR microphones are:

The All-in-One Solution

There are many more options for USB microphones, XLR mics, mixers, and DACs and you will need to research and see what fits the best use-case scenario for you and of course how much you’re willing to spend. I’ve personally found that the quality of gaming headsets has improved exponentially over the last decade and although gaming audiophiles will always opt for a decent pair of headphones and a desktop mic - however, if you’re not too enthusiastic about the ultimate sound setup, then opting for a gaming headset is a perfectly acceptable compromise.

As I mentioned earlier, I use a Corsair Virtuoso SE headset that in my opinion has a really clean and clear microphone quality, and to be honest, I think it sounds perfectly serviceable whenever I’ve listened back to any of my streams or recordings, and have had friends often remark on how clear it sounds on Discord. I can also say the same about my son’s HyperX Cloud Alpha wireless headphones which sound really great on Discord and offer clear comms when he’s playing with either myself or his online buddies.

Some of our favorite gaming headsets are:

To summarise, your decision on what equipment to use should be based on how deep you want to go with your budget - as the price can skyrocket quickly - and what you want it to do. If it’s a multi-person podcast in the same room, you either want a cardioid mic each or a bidirectional mic for two of you, or an omnidirectional mic for multiple people gathered around a table.

For just streaming your games on YouTube or Twitch, the cheapest option could be to go for an all-in-one gaming headset, and if you have the cash-to-splash, then opt for a more professional separate microphone (USB or XLR) and your choice of audio mixer and DAC combination.

MORE: Best Gaming Microphones

MORE: Best PC Gaming Headsets

MORE: Best Gaming Monitors

MORE: How to Stream On Twitch

Stewart Bendle
Deals Writer

Stewart Bendle is a deals and coupon writer at Tom's Hardware. A firm believer in “Bang for the buck” Stewart likes to research the best prices and coupon codes for hardware and build PCs that have a great price for performance ratio.

  • Giroro
    Studio style condenser microphones have been the popular choice in streaming for awhile, but they are usually a pretty bad choice in a home office gaming setup.
    They can sound amazing in a treated sound booth, but they will just pick up every little flaw in your room.

    For most people sitting at a computer, (who don't mind seeing the microphone in the video) you want to be using a dynamic microphone about 1 inch from your mouth, and do not spend over $300 for the entire setup ($100 microphone with $200 for interface, cable, stand)

    If you want to hide the microphone out of the video, you'll want a Small Diaphragm Condenser microphone like a pencil mic or a shotgun mic, and the microphone itself will cost more like $200. Because any < $100 SDC or shotgun mic isn't good enough to be worth it.

    You could also use a lav mic, but any affordable (as in below $200) lav mic you find is not really going to sound much better than a decent gaming headset (preferably plugged into an audio interface to avoid PC noise)

    If you have less money, pretty much any $50+ USB condenser mic kit will sound as good as a Yeti (Sometimes a little better), while being smaller. Similarly any $200+ fancy RGB USB gamer mic will also sound about the same. Yeti was one of the best options when they were new, but they haven't kept up with an absurdly comparative market. Plus they've had bad QC lately.
    These USB mics are all built in similar ways out of the same parts. Bad microphones DO exist. But if it comes from a real company then you'll probably be fine.
    Either way, try to get one that comes with a decent stand or even better a mic arm.
    A USB dynamic microphone would still be better, but good luck finding one for $50. There's some pretty good ones for $200, but you'll be better off buying into an XLR/interface setup for that kind of budget.

    It doesn't help that it's almost impossible to find good reviews of microphones right now, thanks to the Amazon affiliate program. Everybody has a pretty strong motivation to be overly positive and to convince you to buy the wrong stuff.

    At the end of the day, trying to collect microphones is expensive, and an absolute nightmare. Microphone selection is only about 20% of sounding good. Most of the rest of that equation is room treatment, mic technique, and mixing/post processing technique (all of which require years of experience to get right). Audio is a learned skill. It takes practice.
    You can't compete with because they have unlimited money, and a team of experienced professionals dedicated to making them look and sound good (even if they pretend to be some random person in a bedroom).
    So don't worry about competing. Don't waste a ton of money on overpriced plastic crap marketed to gamers. You don't need it.
    Just use whatever you have to get started and do your best. Start doing it for fun, and you'll get better eventually. If your channel isn't making enough money to pay for new gear (and it definitely won't make money for several years), then you probably don't need new gear.
  • systemBuilder_49
    one dynamic mic for sale right now that you might consider is the FiFine K688 dynamic mic. It has both USB-C interface (for beginners) and XLR interface (for when you succeed on YouTube). Sound quality with USB is among the best that FiFine makes and they make some mighty great mics. Most YouTube reviews compare it to the Shure SM7b and its quite hard to tell the difference if you take the time to listen (but to get those results you need an amp and you need to use the XLR outputs, the USB output isn't going to approach the SM7b.) So for about $120 you can get a great USB mic with a great articulating stand and it will make your bedroom look like a million-dollar studio.