When it comes to making sure you’re heard on the battlefield, nothing quite beats having a dedicated standalone USB microphone. As much as the best gaming headset mics have improved over the years, they still can’t hold a candle to the wind when it comes to a plug-in, full-sized microphone. Better yet, you can now pick-up some of the best gaming microphones--or at least a fairly serious one -- for well below $100/£100, making them affordable even to gamers with tight budgets.
With many of us stuck at home these days, it's a better time than ever to focus on your hobbies or even work on turning it into a career. Whether you want to venture into the world of podcasting, music recording, streaming or are just a gamer who wants to make sure that your teammates hear every command barked at them, we’ll find the best gaming microphone to tick all of your particular boxes below.
Quick Shopping Tips
Which polar pattern?
A microphone’s polar pattern is the area around it in which noise is picked up. A hypercardioid pattern creates an extremely narrow cone around one side of the mic, so it’s ‘listening’ to a really selective area and blocking out the rest. At the other end of the spectrum, omnidirectional mics are listening out in - you guessed it - all directions. Some gaming mics offer a selection of polar patterns, whereas others might only offer one.
- Cardioid: This is the most commonly found polar pattern because it’s the best suited to recording one vocal. Variations, like hypercardioid or supercardioid, narrow the polar pattern down to pick up audio from a narrow area, allowing you to point it at a particular source and pick up only that sound.
- Bidirectional or figure-8: Is so-called because it creates two fields of polarity, one on each side of the mic. Think of it like taping two hypercardioid mics together and having them face opposite ways. It's ideal for recording two vocals at once -- one on either side of the mic. It’s always better to use separate mics to do this if possible, though.
- Omnidirectional: In this configuration, the mic picks up audio from every angle around it, front and back. It’s most useful for capturing room noise and ambient sounds like crowd chatter or reverb from a loud instrument or drumkit. It’s less useful in a gaming environment, but in a pinch you can use it to record more than one vocal in close proximity.
USB gaming mic or studio mic?
As great as USB-based gaming mics are, they are but one of two options for the streamer, competitive gamer or home recording enthusiast who happens to play a bit of PUBG on the side. The other is XLR-based studio mics, which require an audio interface. When used correctly, these can offer higher quality and more versatile recordings.
- USB gaming mics: These interface with your PC via a USB input and, thus, feature an inbuilt ADC that changes the analog mic signal to digital data. They’re very easy to setup, usually don’t even require specific drivers and often feature automatic noise suppression.
- Studio mics: A studio mic interfaces via XLR, meaning you’ll need some form of sound card with XLR input jacks connected to your PC. Studio mics vary from affordable $100 models to prestigious high-end ones worth tens of thousands that are only feasible for recording studios. Since they don’t feature an ADC or DAC, they don’t have noise suppression ‘baked in’ like gaming mics.
Hearing the direct input signal while you’re recording can be really handy. A number of gaming mics offer this option via a headphone jack on the mic itself, so when you plug in you’ll hear the raw audio lag-free and minus any compression or effects applied to the track.
Frequency response range
This is an important point on the spec sheet of any mic. It tells you the lowest and highest pitched sounds the mic membrane is capable of picking up, and the baseline range is 20 Hz-20 KHz. That’s because those extremes are also the limits of human hearing, although in the real world of hearing damage it’s usually more like 15 Hz-15 kHz.
Some mics go beyond that gamut though, and although that might seem unnecessary since you can’t hear the extra detail they pick up per se, you can ‘feel’ subharmonics within the low-end frequencies. Same goes for the other end of the frequency response range: you can’t hear 22 KHz unless you’re a dalmatian, but you can feel the extra harmonic detail it adds to the high-end tones your ear does pick up. In short, then: the wider, the better.
Best gaming microphones at a glance:
1. HyperX Quadcast
2. Razer Seiren X
3. Beyerdynamic FOX
4. Blue Yeti USB
5. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+
Best Gaming Microphones 2020
1. HyperX Quadcast
Sample rate: 48 KHz | Bit rate: 16-bit | Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 KHz | Condenser Type: Electret | Polar Patterns: Cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional, stereo | Cable length: 9.8 feet (3m) | Connectivity: USB Type-A
Of all the current crop of USB microphones we’ve tested, HyperX’s Quadcast has impressed us the most in a gaming environment. The HyperX QuadCast is the best gaming microphone for most and stands out by delivering great vocal warmth and clarity. And it does this with the most pronounced gaming aesthetic on the market.
Behind the cradle, a striking red light illuminates when the mic’s operational, which is very dramatic. Tapping the top of the mic mutes it instantly and turns the light off easy. It’s also supplied with a very sturdy shock mount as standard, so you can relax and get your game face on without having to worry too much about knocking the stand and deafening your Discord mates.
The name ‘Quadcast’ refers, oddly enough, to an unusual three-diaphragm design that allows for four polar patterns including an unconventional stereo arrangement. In reality, this is best made use of outside of gaming for a wide sound source or two different sources as you might find in a home or live recording environment, but it sounds nice and warm -- with a welcome touch of roominess -- when used in this way.
Read: HyperX Quadcast review
2. Razer Seiren X
Best Budget Gaming Microphone
Sample rate: 48 KHz | Bit rate: 16-bit | Frequency response: 20 Hz20 KHz | Condenser Type: Electret | Polar patterns: Supercardioid | Cable length: 3.3 feet (1m) | Connectivity: USB Type-A
If you’re looking to keep costs down, Razer’s Seiren X, the little mic that could, is your best option. Featuring much of the bigger Seiren Elite’s looks and functionality, it’s available for $100 at the time of writing and looks great on any desktop, thanks to Razer’s patented ‘all black except these retina-shattering bright green bits’ color scheme. It's also available in a classy mercury white and stand-out quartz pink.
There’s just one polar pattern here, supercardioid. That’s an unusual pattern. It's even more directional than hypercardioid and is intended to cut out all external noise in order to emphasize the one voice or sound source in front of it. In our testing, we found it to be an effective approach, since the Seiren X is decent at cutting out the mechanical clatter from even the best gaming keyboards, particularly when you get right up in its grille.
It’s also a fantastic option for mobile setups. We’re not suggesting you’d pull the Seiren X out in the middle of a bus ride and start streaming, but if you travel a lot and play/stream/podcast/record from events and hotel rooms, the reduced size and weight of Razer’s mini-mic in your bag and on your desk pays dividends.
Read: Razer Seiren X review
3. Beyerdynamic FOX
Best Gaming Microphone for Recording Music
Sample rate: 96 KHz | Bit rate: 24-bit | Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 KHz | Condenser Type: Back electret | Polar patterns: Cardioid | Cable length: 3.3 feet (1m) | Connectivity: USB Type-A
Whether you like to croon some tunes during or after your Twitch stream, this music-centric microphone is a great choice. Beyerdynamic is a respected name in pro audio, and the company’s expertise in the studio carries over beautifully in this compact, no-fuss USB mic.
Unlike the vast majority of its USB interface peers, the FOX offers hi-res 96 KHz/24-bit recording quality, which is an impressive feat for a mic you can simply plug in via USB and hit record. You might not make use of that extra quality on platforms that compress audio and video, like YouTube or Twitch, but if you’re into podcasting or music production you’ll be glad for the option to go beyond CD-quality 44 KHz/16-bit.
On the mic itself are controls for mix and volume and a headphone minijack input for inline monitoring. The preamp that outputs this monitoring signal runs a little hot in our experience, distorting well before the mic itself does; however, it’s still a useful feature when the gain’s rolled off.
There’s also a mute button at the top, and a high-low gain toggle (essentially a pad) at the rear of the mic. Beyerdynamic throws in a sturdy metallic pop shield that clips on without the need to unscrew anything, and you can angle the mic on its stand.
The Beyerdynamic FOX is loaded with features, but ultimately it’s the sheer recording quality and usability that wins out and makes the FOX our pick for home studios.
Read: Beyerdynamic FOX review
4. Blue Yeti USB
Best Gaming Microphone for Streaming
Sample rate: 44 KHz | Bit rate: 16-bit | Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 KHz | Condenser Type: Back electret | Polar patterns: Cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, stereo | Cable length: 3.3 feet (1m) | Connectivity: USB Type-A
The venerable Blue Yeti was there at the birth of the streaming boom, and it’s still a ubiquitous desktop feature on Twitch. And with good reason. It’s just about the easiest mic to use on the market and really excels when picking up a single vocal signal at a time.
Priced right in the mix with our other picks at $129 as of this writing, Logitech’s Blue Yeti is built to a very high standard and will stay where you angle it on its weighty stand. The design of that stand, along with the understated, retro aesthetic of the mic capsule itself, makes this the most stylish USB microphone, and that’s important when you’re streaming yourself for an audience of judging eyes. If you really love RGB though and want to sync all your peripherals up to the beat of the same light show, consider Razer’s Seiren series instead.
The controls couldn’t be easier to use while you’re streaming. A single volume control and a mute button on the front of the mic are all you get, and for the intended purpose that’s all you really need. You’re never going to accidentally hit the wrong thing mid-stream.
The Blue Yeti’s four polar patterns also give it great versatility, so if you venture out into music recording or podcasting, you’re not limited by a single cardioid pickup pattern.
5. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+
Best for Gaming Microphone for Podcasting
Sample rate: 44 KHz | Bit rate: 16-bit | Frequency response: 20 Hz-20 KHz | Condenser Type: Fixed-charge plate, permanently polarized | Polar Patterns: Cardioid | Cable length: 10.2 feet (3.1m) | Connectivity: USB Type-A
Like Beyerdynamic, Audio-Technica is a hugely respected name in the pro audio industry. It brings decades of expertise to the table with the AT2020USB+. This is a medium-diaphragm condenser with just a cardioid polar pattern available, which makes it somewhat specialized to lone vocal recording, but luckily it’s brilliant at that very thing.
In a straight shootout with the Beyerdynamic FOX, the AT2020UBS+ comes incredibly close to matching the FOX's warmth and detail but falls slightly short. Yet, the particular characteristics of the Audio-Technica -- a breathiness and really pleasant high end -- make it perfect for spoken vocals.
We recommend a couple of additional purchases for this mic, though: a pop shield and a boom arm. We’re surprised not to see the former included, but they’re inexpensive to pick up on their own. As for that boom arm, the tripod design felt a little wobbly during our testing, so we preferred mounting it up above us on a nice sturdy boom before hitting the record button. That way we were able to relax and not spend our session worrying about knocking into the desk and picking up bumps and scratches on the waveform.
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