If you want to stream, podcast or record gaming videos for YouTube, then one of the first steps is picking up a good USB or XLR microphone. These mics can provide that extra bit of audio quality, noise reduction and control you need to be a successful content creator – things you won’t often find on your standard gaming headset microphone. There are plenty of options on the market, so we tested the most popular USB and XLR mics available to find the best of the best. Let us discuss about Best Gaming Microphones.
We’ve split our picks into a few different categories: the Best Gaming Microphones for streaming, the best for recording voiceovers or podcasts and the best cheap option. There’s a separate category for XLR mics, as these are a different kettle of fish. We’ve also selected a handy attachable mic that trounces those built into most gaming headsets but remains just as convenient to use.
All of our choices retail for less than $200/£200, as we’re focusing on affordable options for those new to content creation rather than truly professional-grade solutions which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Finally, we also picked runner-up options for a few categories to recognize good alternatives that may be preferred by some people.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the selections. We’ll start with a brief summary of our five favourites. Click the links below to jump to that entry, or just scroll down to read our selections in full.
Best USB mic for streaming: Elgato Wave 3
In our best streaming accessories article, we have separate categories for “best USB mic” and “best mixer”, but you could make a strong argument for the Elgato Wave 3 to take over both categories. That’s because this mic is also a virtual mixer, thanks to the Wave Link software which allows you to adjust the mix of the mic and up to eight additional audio channels. Best Gaming Microphones is great for streaming, because it makes it dead-simple to make sure your game audio, your subscriber alerts, your music and anything else running on your PC or Mac sounds properly balanced. This also integrates into the Elgato Stream Deck – either the physical devices or the phone apps – so you can control your audio settings while streaming with a tap, which is neat.
Even if you don’t need the mixing features, the Wave 3 also performs well as a straight-up USB mic. One of the big reasons for this is the inclusion of a “Clipguard” feature, which effectively swaps the standard recording channel for one 20dB lower if the mic detects clipping. Both channels run all the time, so swapping between the two sounds natural and it eliminates a common pitfall for streamers. There’s still a 3.5mm jack on the back for zero-latency monitoring, which is always nice to have, and the Wave 3 is powered by USB-C.
While the software experience is best-in-class, the Wave 3’s hardware has been developed cleverly too. A single dial on the front can be pressed in to switch between adjusting gain, headphone volume and the mic/PC mix, while a capacitive sensor on the top allows for a one-tap mute (indicated with a clear red LED). There are no different capture patterns here, as on the Blue Yeti, but for recording a single person’s speech this is no problem.
HyperX QuadCast Best Gaming Microphones
The QuadCast is the second-best USB microphone we’ve found for streaming thanks to its excellent audio quality and its long list of well-implemented features. There are four recording modes on offer and a physical gain dial, allowing the mic to be adapted for one audio source or multiple voices with ease. Being able to mute your audio quickly can be indispensable, and the tap-to-mute system – accompanied by the entire microphone dimming – is the best implementation we’ve seen. Other handy features include an internal pop filter that ensures p and b sounds don’t result in an annoying pop, a shock mount in the provided desk stand and lag-free audio monitoring. The only real drawbacks are that the LED lighting isn’t optional and the default stand is a little short, so using a proper boom arm or another mount is recommended.
Røde NT-USB Mini
The Røde NT-USB Mini is a compact USB mic with a short stand but excellent audio quality for its £100/$100 price point. Rather than offering multiple recording patterns, as with the Blue Yeti, Røde have focused on capturing the best audio they can from right in front of the mic, with recordings typically emphasising the mid-range in a manner that’s pleasant for acoustic instruments or – helpfully for us – human speech.
The focus on simplicity means this mic really is plug-and-play, with no gain knob to adjust or polar patterns to select, and it works on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS over full-size USB or USB-C. The NT-USB Mini does include one very helpful extra feature though – zero-latency monitoring via 3.5mm, which is great for dialling in your sound before you go live. The included desk stand is quite short, so we do recommend picking up a simple desk mount to make sure your dulcet tones are being captured rather than the mechanical clatter of your keyboard. Overall, a great low-profile microphone that’s easy to use and sounds fantastic.
Blue Yeti X Best Gaming Microphones
When it comes to streaming and podcasting, the Blue Yeti series is perhaps the most popular microphone in the world. Whether plunked down on a desk to be held aloft by its chunky stand or held in place on a strong boom arm, the Yeti provides strong audio quality for a range of use cases thanks to its four different recording patterns: cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional and bidirectional. The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack means you can also plug in headphones to monitor exactly what the mic is hearing.
The Yeti X is the latest edition and includes a new LED volume metre and multi-function control knob right up front, making it easy to adjust gain to dial in the perfect levels on the fly. On the software side of things, the Blue Vo!ce section in the Logitech G Hub includes plenty of options for adjusting tone and removing annoying sonic artefacts, including presets from popular streamers. The Yeti X is a solid improvement over the standard Yeti, but if you’re working to a budget the original model is still worth considering.
Audio-Technica AT2020 Best Gaming Microphones
The AT2020 is a popular entry-level XLR mic, offering the possibility of extremely clear audio if you’re willing to put together the necessary equipment to get it running. All that comes in the box is the mic, a bag and a stand adapter, so you’ll need to provide at least an XLR cable, a stand and an audio interface or mixer that provides at least 48V of phantom power. Once all of these components are in place, your reward is warm, crystal-clear audio that’s ideal for recording podcasts or video voiceovers. It’s worth noting that the AT2020 is fairly hefty and skews towards ‘professional’ rather than ‘gamer’ in the looks department, but that’s no bad thing.
Blue Snowball Ice
If you’ve only got $50/£50 to put toward upgrading your recording setup, you’ll get the most bang for your buck from the Blue Snowball Ice. This older desk mic provides surprisingly good audio quality, more than enough for recording the voiceover for a video or starting your streaming career. It’s also easy to use – just plug it in and hit record, with no software or additional equipment to install. However, you do lose out when it comes to features compared to the more expensive recommendations on this list, with only one recording pattern on the less expensive Ice model.
If you’re just going to use your single mic at your PC, then a USB microphone is ideal – it’s plug and play, with no extra equipment needed. XLR mics need to be connected via an audio interface, but these allow you to include other audio equipment like multiple microphones or mixers. If you’re just starting out, USB is the way to go, while XLR may be a better choice for dedicated content creators that want room to grow into more advanced setups. You can also split the difference – pick up an XLR mic, but use a simple XLR to USB adapter until you bring in a proper audio interface.