Intro

Every streamer knows that stream quality is a crucial factor of live streaming success. However, the significance of stream quality runs deeper than just a high-quality image and fancy overlays. When it comes to professional streams, audio plays a huge role too. Many viewers prefer listening to streams, rather than actually watching them. So you’ll want to invest in good audio quality if you want your live streaming career to live up to your expectations.

How do you get good audio? With an awesome microphone! There are tons of good audio companies producing great mics, but all of them have pros and cons.

This guide covers all the important technical characteristics (parameters) of microphones, as well as which ones matter the most. But first, let’s describe a basic live streaming setup for the beginners out there.

👀 What do I need to start streaming?

The very basics of live streaming equipment include a PC, Mac, or smartphone and a stable internet connection. However, there are many more nuances involved when you start live streaming. The essential equipment for streamers can be divided into two components: physical and mental. Both of these are equally important; the lack of one leads to an absolute disaster.

For the physical component of live streaming, you need a powerful machine that’s able to transfer your live content, especially if you are planning to start streaming video games. You should also have a decent webcam and microphone. Another important factor is the upload speed — aim for around 5.6 Mbps and higher for top-notch video quality.

The mental side of the streaming setup includes your streaming goals, ways to monetize your streams, and your personal attributes, like charisma and determination. You need a strong foundation to be able to grow as a streamer. The more you know about the world of live streaming, the better your chances are.

Live streaming requires a lot of choices. You have to pick the right gear and the right streaming platform, for example. With Restream Studio, you can take one decision out of the equation. Restream Studio allows you to go live on every social platform simultaneously and produce professional streams in a matter of a few clicks, thanks to:

  • The ability to add your own logos and overlays
  • The Guest feature, which allows you to co-host with your friends or special guests
  • Copyright free background music
  • Powerful audience engagement and statistics tools

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🤔 How to choose a streaming microphone

Now that you know what a basic streaming setup looks like, let’s cover the main characteristics you should look for when choosing a microphone for live streaming. These parameters include:

  • Frequency response
  • Polar pattern
  • Connection method
  • Pop filter

Frequency response

Frequency response is the range of voice frequencies your microphone can pick up. It is measured in Hz and kHz, from the lowest frequencies to the highest. Typically, the golden standard for frequency response is from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Anything lower or higher than these spectrum extremes is pretty much useless, as the human voice simply cannot produce such frequencies.

Polar pattern

A polar pattern, also known as directional property, is the inherent sensitivity to the direction of audio waves. Simply put, a polar pattern is the ability of a microphone to pick up your voice from different angles. The three polar patterns you need to know are cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional.

  • Cardioid polar pattern. A classic cardioid microphone picks up the sound from the front. Cardioid microphones isolate unwanted ambient sound, as well as any other unwanted sounds, from the back of the microphone. They are the most common choice for live streaming, as they block sounds such as a loud fan or the clatter of your mechanical keyboard.

Cardioid subtypes, known as super-cardioid and hyper-cardioid, have narrower sound sensibility angles and a greater ability to reject ambient sound. However, it is harder to place and aim these microphones accurately.

  • Omnidirectional polar pattern. Omnidirectional microphones are equally sensitive to sound from every direction. This means they evenly pick up sound from 360 degrees. The bright side is that you don’t need to aim an omnidirectional microphone to the source of sound. However, it will pick up all undesired background noises along with your speech.
  • Bidirectional polar pattern. Bidirectional microphones have a so-called Figure 8 sound capture type. This means a bidirectional microphone will pick up any sound from two sides: the front of the microphone and the back. A bidirectional microphone is especially useful for live streaming interviews, as it can pick up both your speech and your guest’s.
Microphone Polar Patterns: Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Bidirectional

Connection method

The two most common mic connection methods for streaming are XLR and USB, and they have some substantial differences. Firstly, you cannot connect an XLR mic directly to your PC. You need to buy a mixer or audio interface to plug in an XLR microphone. With this additional investment, you get more control over the sound — thus better overall sound quality.

Another key difference is that XLR cables are more robust and durable than USB. An XLR microphone will live long enough to see two or three of his USB brothers die. This long life is included in the price, however, making XLR microphones the most expensive on the market.

Lastly, don’t forget about TS/TRS/TRRS-based microphones. This connection method is designed to plug your microphone into mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. The sound quality of these microphones is usually worse than that of XLR mics. TS/TRS/TRRS microphones are, therefore, best suited for mobile streamers.

Pop filter

The most overrated feature in the world of live streaming is a pop filter, also called a pop screen or pop shield. This noise-protection filter serves one function: to eliminate any popping sounds that occur when the airflow bumps into the microphone. The result of applying a pop filter to your microphone is the clearer sound of your voice on the viewer’s end.

Why are pop filters overrated? Pop filters are most often used in recording studios. The airflow, which vocalists produce during the recording, can be quite intense, which may result in sound distortion or clipping. Pop filters minimize the mechanical impact of the airflow and prevent these issues. You should consider a pop filter if you are prone to producing high-pressure, loud sounds on your streams.

Read Next: Best headphones for live streamers 📍

🎙 Best microphones for streaming

Let’s look at some good examples of microphones suited for live streaming. These options all accommodate different streaming needs and budgets.

1. Shure SM7B

Microphone for streaming — Shure SM7B

Shure is a legendary audio company that specializes in high-quality microphones. The Shure SM7B is a professional microphone for vocalists, which makes it an excellent choice for ASMR streams. Don’t just take our word for it — lots of top streamers are using it, including Shroud, Tfue, and Sodapoppin. The main specs of the Shure SM7B are:

  • Frequency response: 50 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Connection method: XLR (no cable included)
  • Pop filter: Included

Pros:

  • High rejection of background noise
  • Great durability
  • High-quality sound

Cons:

  • High price
  • Requires an XLR cable, audio interface (or mixer), and a stand

2. Audio-Technica AT2020+

Microphone for streaming — Audio-Technica AT2020+

The Audio-Technica AT2020 and above are probably part of the most popular series of professional microphones for streaming on the list. The Audio-Technica AT2020 and higher models combine amazing sound quality and a balanced price, which makes them some of the best microphones for streaming in 2021. Top streamers like Ninja, Pokimane, Yassuo, and Dr. DisRespect use these microphones. Let’s look at the specs:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Connection method: XLR (no cable included) or USB
  • Pop filter: Included

Pros:

  • Balanced price
  • Great durability
  • USB option

Cons:

  • No XLR cable included
  • USB version requires a pre-amp (an amplifier that converts the weak signal from the microphone into a stronger one to prevent distortion and background noise)

3. Blue Yeti USB

Microphone for streaming — Blue Yeti USB

Another great option for live streaming, Blue Yeti mics offer superior sound quality compared to other USB microphones. Streamers like DrLupo and Myth are using the Blue Yeti USB. The mic is easy to use since it doesn’t require a stand and other cables. Moreover, you can switch between all polar patterns: from cardioid to omnidirectional. Here are the specs:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: Multipattern (Cardioid, Bidirectional, and Omnidirectional on your choice)
  • Connection method: USB
  • Pop filter: Included

Pros:

  • Relatively cheap
  • Easy to connect
  • Polar pattern switcher

Cons:

  • Has to be kept strictly upright
  • USB sound quality

4. Electro Voice RE-20

Microphone for streaming — Electro Voice RE-20

The incredibly clear Electro Voice RE-20 is a great option for professional recording, but it might not be so great for live streaming because of its price. The microphone has a built-in pop filter, element shock mount, and windscreen to eliminate any unwanted noise. Streamers like Imaqtpie and Comikaze are using the Electro Voice RE-20. Let’s look at its specs:

  • Frequency response: 45 Hz - 18,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Connection method: XLR (no cable included)
  • Pop filter: Built-in

Pros:

  • A built-in pop shield, shock mount, and windscreen
  • Clear, high-quality sound
  • High durability

Cons:

  • Very high price
  • Requires an audio interface and XLR cable

5. HyperX QuadCast

Microphone for streaming — HyperX QuadCast

If you’re a fan of fancy gamer gear, the HyperX QuadCast might be your choice. It has a USB connection type, as well as a built-in pop filter. This microphone has cool red LED lighting, and a desk stand provides a shock mount. Unfortunately, you can’t turn the lighting off, which is surely a minus. The main specs are:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: Multipattern (Cardioid, Bidirectional, and Omnidirectional on your choice)
  • Connection method: USB
  • Pop filter: Built-in

Pros:

  • A built-in pop shield
  • Clear sound
  • LED lighting
  • Low price

Cons:

  • Boosts sibilant sounds (f, s, sh, etc.) a bit
  • Can’t turn the LED lighting off

6. Elgato Wave 3

Microphone for streaming — Elgato Wave 3

Elgato is a big name in streaming gear, so you can expect a microphone like the Elgato Wave 3 to be designed for live streaming. The biggest appeal of this mic is the Wave Link software that allows you to mix up to eight channels of audio within your stream. The Wave 3 isn’t as versatile as other mics, though, with only one polar pattern. Let’s check out its specs:

  • Frequency response: 70 Hz - 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Connection method: USB
  • Pop filter: Included

Pros:

  • Works well with other Elgato streaming gear
  • Clear audio
  • Digital mixing software

Cons:

  • Single polar pattern
  • Not very versatile

👉 Bonus tip

On some occasions, a bulky microphone might not be a good option. Webinars, live-streamed stage performances, live fitness streams, or any other form of live content where you’re moving around a lot requires a more elegant solution: a lavalier microphone, also known as a lapel microphone, clip-on microphone, or a lav mic. You can learn more in our article about lavalier microphones.

Let’s recap everything

When it comes to the technical parameters of microphones for streaming, you should be looking at frequency response, polar patterns, and connection methods. Typically, the best streaming microphones have a 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz frequency response, a cardioid polar pattern, and an XLR type of connection. XLR requires an additional audio interface or mixer to be able to connect the microphone, though.

Depending on your streaming needs and available budget, we listed six great microphones for you. The best microphones for streaming in 2021 include:

  1. Shure SM7B —  classic, yet expensive
  2. Audio-Technica AT2020+ series — overall well-balanced
  3. Blue Yeti USB — versatile and easy-to-use
  4. Electro Voice RE-20 — elite and high-priced
  5. HyperX QuadCast — trendy and cheap
  6. Elgato Wave 3 — built for streamers

Hopefully, we’ve made the decision on a streaming mic easier for you. For more useful live streaming tips and tricks, head to our blog!