- Your Laptop Mic ($0)
- Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone ($35)
- Blue Snowball iCE ($50)
- Blue Yeti ($100)
- Elgato Wave:3 ($150)
- Shure SM7B (<$500)
- What's Next?
Your Laptop Mic ($0)
If you caught the audio hardware video from my video series, you saw my laptop mic in a GREAT audio room, sounded better than my pretty good mic in an ok room for audio.
Shoot in a room with lots of furnishings, with a low ceiling, with floor coverings. The more big squishy surfaces in your space, the better your audio will sound.
Also, keep in mind how close you are to your laptop. If you have a big setup, with your laptop driving several monitors is very likely your laptop is a long distance from your face. The closer you can get to your laptop, the better your audio quality will be.
Hear me out - Lapel mics can deliver great audio quality, vastly better than what your laptop offer. If you went through the video series, you know even pro video folks use lapel mics when the subject is too far away from the edge of the frame to get a mic close.
They work well because they can be so close to your face that it's easy for them to isolate your voice. This one comes with an extra-long cord, and is the kind of thing you'll keep using in certain situations long after you've upgraded to another mic.
At this price point, other types of microphones won't deliver very good audio quality and will be heavily reliant upon you being very close to the microphone. This is what makes a lapel mic your best bet at this price point.
Blue Snowball iCE ($50)
Blue offers great bang for the buck with the Snowball - A desktop mic meant to sit on your desk between you and your keyboard. The upside to having a mic between you & your keyboard is it's close to your face, and usually low enough to be out of the frame if you're using your laptop or standalone webcam.
If there's a downside here, it's that any mic sitting on your desk will transfer sound from the desk into the mic. They've done their best to mitigate this, and you're only going to get so much from $50, but you will get a bit of this with mics that sit on top of your desk.
This is the mic I'm currently using, and it offers a good amount of flexibility for the money. Audio quality is decent, though it has always struggled a bit with picking up background noise. The microphone has 4 modes meant to isolate sound around the mic itself, omnidirectional, bidirectional, etc.
It comes with a stand, but as we touched on previously your best bet here is to get the microphone off the desk to prevent sound from being transferred from the desk to the mic. Your best bet is to pick up a boom arm, and a shock mount. People use pop filters, and this may be necessary depending on how close you are to the mic when you record.
Elgato Wave:3 ($150)
Elgato's new flagship microphone, the Wave:3 delivers great audio quality, and an excellent suite of software to control your audio sources. Unlike the other mics in this list, which are simply plug & play USB mics, the Wave:3 comes with software to help you get the most out of your mic.
Here's a video from Harris Heller discussing what makes this mic unique, and how the software works.
Shure SM7B (<$500)
Beyond the $150 threshhold, you'll need to start looking at XLR microphones. This is a different type of interface that won't plug directly into USB and requires a preamp device. Your XLR mic plugs into the preamp, and the preamp plugs into your computer.
The go-to mic below $500 has become the Shure SM7B. If you pay close attention to videos & podcasts, most people are using this mic today.
If killer audio is of the utmost importance, for example, if you're recording a podcast, this is a great investment to make that will last you a long time.
If you're reading this I'd be hard-pressed to think you're going to need anything more than the Shure SM7B! If so, there are loads of XLR studio microphone outs there, some that fill the void between the Wave:3 and the SM7B, and many more than stretch beyond the capabilities of the SM7B.