Greatest microphones of 2021 – CNN Underscored


(CNN) —  

Whether or not you’re seeking to begin the subsequent nice podcast, you’re a severe Twitch streamer otherwise you merely need to sound higher on convention calls, having a high quality microphone is important. That’s very true now that we’re working, taking part in and creating from residence greater than ever, as the fitting mic could make you’re feeling current to others in a manner that’s exhausting to duplicate over a Zoom name.

There are a ton of fashionable USB microphones to select from, and sorting by the mess of entry-level and professional-grade mics on the market can get overwhelming. That’s the place we are available. We spent weeks testing greater than a dozen top-rated microphones to determine which of them are literally value your cash, whether or not you need one thing inexpensive to your residence workplace or a high-end mic for leveling up your livestream recreation. Listed below are the three that stood out essentially the most:

Whereas we tried out tons of nice microphones, the Blue Yeti managed to outclass all of them. This microphone delivered one of the best mixture of sound high quality and options for the cash, producing heat, natural-sounding voice recordings full with helpful onboard controls and 4 helpful recording modes. There’s a motive you see plenty of your favourite YouTubers utilizing this mic — it truly is that good.

In the event you’re not seeking to spend as a lot, the FIFINE K669B is a ridiculously good worth. We examined plenty of high-quality mics below $60, however this $35 mannequin outshined some rivals almost twice the worth, because of its superior controls, extremely versatile design and spectacular quantity and readability. There are some trade-offs for this low worth — the K669B’s voice high quality isn’t as refined as that of the Blue Yeti, and it picks up far more background noise. You’ll additionally must dwell with out a number of sound modes and a headphone jack. However by way of sheer worth, this small however mighty microphone can’t be beat.

For individuals who are severe about their Twitch streaming, the Elgato Wave:3 is made particularly for you. On high of being one of many best-sounding mics we examined, the Wave:3 has a wonderful companion app that makes it simple to handle a number of audio sources when broadcasting out to the world. Whereas the Yeti has stable controls for adjusting how loudly you get picked up, the Wave:3 goes a step additional with an onboard mixer that permits you to stability your voice and no matter you’re broadcasting with a fast flip of a knob.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Blue Yeti has been largely thought of the gold commonplace in USB microphones for greater than a decade, and our testing made it simple to see why. This fashionable microphone has been our private each day driver for years, and nonetheless held up towards newer and costlier mics by way of sheer audio high quality.

The Yeti persistently delivered heat, shiny voice recordings, preserving each element of our voice with none distortion or crackling. It sounded almost an identical to its costlier sibling (the $169 Yeti X, which provides extra sound customization and LED lighting), and was only a bit richer and crisper than premium rivals just like the HyperX QuadCast S.

Blue’s mic additionally carried out pretty effectively on our noise assessments. Whereas we might hear sounds comparable to controller clicks, keyboard strokes and YouTube movies coming by with the acquire (which determines how a lot sound will get picked up) set to 50%, the Yeti pulled in far much less background noise than our price range decide within the FIFINE K669B in addition to the QuadCast.

A part of what makes the Yeti our favourite microphone is its versatility, because it provides 4 distinct sound modes: cardioid (for recording a single individual, perfect for calling into a gathering or podcasting/streaming by your self), bidirectional (for recording one individual on both aspect of the mic, perfect for multi-person podcasts), omnidirectional (for recording in each route, perfect for convention calls) and stereo (for recording a large soundstage, perfect for music).

All of those modes labored effectively in our testing. Cardioid provided the crispest, most targeted sound, whereas bidirectional mode picked our voice up equally effectively whether or not we recorded from the entrance or again of the mic. Likewise, omnidirectional mode recorded us effectively from each angle, however our voice sounded prefer it was notably farther away than on the opposite modes. Lastly, stereo mode labored as marketed — after we listened again on our recordings with headphones on, it was simple to pinpoint which sounds had been recorded from the left and the fitting sides of the microphone, respectively.

The Blue Yeti additionally boasts a few of the finest construct high quality of any mic we examined, with a chic, understated design that is available in quite a lot of colours and gained’t stick out like a sore thumb in your house workplace (we examined the glossy all-black model, however there are additionally enticing silver and blue choices accessible). Extra importantly, the Yeti feels weighty and durable, with a stable metallic body and a rubberized stand that sat securely on our desk for weeks on finish. And if you wish to connect the Yeti to a separate stand or arm, all it takes is unscrewing two knobs positioned on the aspect of the microphone.

The Yeti is fairly intuitive in the case of controls, with a helpful mute button proper up entrance for when it’s good to go silent throughout a gathering in addition to a quantity knob for adjusting your PC quantity when you have got headphones plugged in. Within the again, you’ll discover a acquire knob for adjusting how a lot of your voice will get picked up and a knob for switching between the Yeti’s 4 recording modes. Whereas we’d love the choice to regulate acquire from the entrance of the mic (just like the Yeti X provides), the Blue Yeti usually places quantity of easy-to-use buttons and knobs at your fingertips.

The Yeti can be utilized with Blue’s Sherpa software program (which is a free obtain for Home windows and Mac), although it largely supplies the identical controls you’ll discover instantly on the microphone. You possibly can regulate the acquire and headphone degree right here simply as you possibly can on the mic, although there’s a helpful additional choice to tweak the direct monitoring degree — this determines how a lot of your personal voice you’ll hear whereas talking. Whereas Blue’s app is pretty simple to make use of, it’s not integral to getting essentially the most out of the Yeti, and we discovered it simpler to regulate the microphone utilizing its built-in bodily controls.

After testing the Yeti towards the competitors, it’s simple to see why Blue’s microphone has withstood the check of time and remained a favourite amongst content material creators and on a regular basis customers alike. The Yeti’s sound high quality will make you sound skilled and vibrant throughout vital work calls and shows whereas being wealthy sufficient for high-quality podcasts, YouTube movies and Twitch streams. It additionally sounds higher than some microphones that price considerably extra. Think about its a number of recording modes, helpful controls and durable, versatile design, and also you’ve acquired one of the best total microphone for the cash.

Mike Andronico/CNN

FIFINE isn’t precisely a family identify on the planet of USB microphones, however now we have a sense that gained’t be the case for lengthy. The FIFINE K669B is a real hidden gem at simply $35, upsetting most of the costlier and big-name microphones in our testing pool and delivering very spectacular sound high quality that punches manner above its low worth.

FIFINE’s microphone produced full of life and natural-sounding voice recordings in our assessments, beating out pricier entry-level choices just like the $59 HyperX SoloCast and $49 Razer Seiren Mini by way of sheer quantity. Our voice sounded only a bit extra refined on the SoloCast, however you’re sacrificing little or no — and getting a louder mic — with the K669B. FIFINE’s microphone additionally delivered a lot louder and extra detailed recordings than the pretty tinny built-in microphone on our MacBook Professional, so that you’re getting a giant improve for work requires simply $35.

When testing the K669B towards the Blue Yeti with each mics set to half acquire, it instantly turns into clear what you’re giving up by paying a fraction of the worth. Whereas FIFINE’s mic provided extra total quantity, the Yeti delivered considerably crisper, extra true-to-life recordings that had been devoid of the windy background noises picked up by the K669B.

Happily, we had been in a position to make the K669B sound clearer (on the expense of barely decrease quantity) by turning the acquire down utilizing the front-facing knob, which is a degree of management that microphones that price almost twice the worth don’t even provide.

Because of the amount knob up entrance, you possibly can regulate how a lot of your voice will get picked up or flip all of it the best way right down to mute your self. This seemingly minor characteristic units the K669B aside from the price range competitors — the Razer Seiren Mini has no controls in any respect, and the HyperX SoloCast has solely a mute button.

The K669B additionally outclasses many pricier microphones with its surprisingly versatile metallic design, which appears like one thing that prices far more than $35. Its extremely adjustable pivot mount allows you to swivel the microphone a full 360 levels aspect to aspect, or place it horizontally if it’s good to match it beneath your monitor. This makes the K669B extra versatile than the SoloCast, the Seiren Mini and even semi-premium mics just like the $99 Blue Yeti Nano.

Its hooked up tripod stand can also be a cinch to twist off for if you need to connect the K669B to an arm or toss it in your bag if you’re on the go (which is an effective factor, as FIFINE’s mic is without doubt one of the most compact we’ve examined). Our one gripe with the K669B’s design is that its tripod legs are fairly large when totally stretched out and never simple to articulate, so that you’ll must clear a good radius in your desk to make correct area for it.

So what else are you sacrificing for the K669B’s extremely low worth? Not an entire lot, really. This mic solely data in cardioid mode, so it’s not perfect for multiperson podcasts or massive convention calls just like the Yeti is. There’s additionally no companion software program, which is widespread for cheaper mics however value noting for individuals who need the choice to fine-tune how their voice sounds on their laptop.

However, finally, these are very minor trade-offs for what’s simply one of the best price range microphone we’ve examined. Don’t let the dearth of a giant identify model idiot you — the FIFINE K669B is the actual deal.

Mike Andronico/CNN

In the event you’re a YouTube or Twitch streamer on the lookout for a microphone custom-made for broadcasting, the Elgato Wave:3 is well worth the premium. On high of sounding and looking out nice, this microphone provides content material creators a degree of audio management that no different mannequin we examined might match.

The Wave:3 actually involves life with Elgato’s Wave Hyperlink companion software program, which is unique to Elgato microphones and provides up a one-stop store for managing a number of audio sources whereas streaming. So, when you’ve got a recreation, some background music, your Discord chat and your personal microphone all working without delay, Wave Hyperlink supplies a straightforward solution to monitor and regulate the amount ranges of all of them after which feed that every one into your streaming app of selection.

Wave Hyperlink comes with a little bit of a studying curve — you’ll primarily must sync up the app together with your laptop’s sound settings and determine what audio sources (comparable to a Chrome browser, your Spotify app and a recreation) you need to pull in. However after watching a short tutorial from Elgato, we had been adjusting sound ranges on the fly inside minutes. With out this app, adjusting audio ranges in your stream sometimes requires an costly mixing board (such because the $249 GoXLR Mini) or a variety of tedious clicking round in your streaming software program, so it truly is a recreation changer for these severe about Twitch.

That superb degree of management extends to the microphone itself, which has a handy quantity knob that doubles as a button you possibly can press to change between three features: microphone quantity, headphone quantity and adjusting the combo between your voice and your PC audio to your viewers. That latter characteristic is one other perk that no different microphone we examined provides, making it extremely simple to make on-the-fly changes in case your voice or recreation sound is simply too loud. There’s additionally a helpful tap-to-mute button neatly hidden on the high of the microphone, which is able to make the front-facing LED glow pink to let you already know you’re being silenced.

In fact, all these fancy options are ineffective in case your microphone doesn’t sound nice, so we’re completely satisfied to report that the Wave:3 excels with flying colours in the case of audio. Our voice recordings sounded crisp and full, and almost an identical in high quality to the Wave:3’s premium rival within the HyperX Quadcast S. The Blue Yeti and Blue Yeti X produced hotter, bassier vocals by comparability, whereas the Wave:3 delivered total cleaner recordings with much less audible background noise.

The Wave:3 can also be one of many extra compact and enticing microphones we examined, with a singular slim-rectangle design that blended proper into our residence workplace setup. Elgato’s microphone may be very simple to disassemble, in case you need to unscrew it from its base to connect it to plain microphone arms (there’s an included adapter for becoming it into completely different sized mounts). You may as well take away the microphone from its U-shaped bracket to connect it to Elgato’s $39 Wave Shock mount, which is designed to attenuate noise from unintended bumps and knocks.

Our one gripe with the Wave:3’s design is that the included USB-C cable connects to it at a barely awkward angle that makes it exhausting to tilt the microphone all the best way again. That is one thing we had been in a position to simply get round by unplugging the cable, repositioning the mic and plugging it again in, but it surely does make the Wave:3 only a bit much less versatile than different mics we examined.

It’s value noting that the Wave:3 solely data in cardioid mode (instantly in entrance), making it much less of a jack of all trades just like the Blue Yeti and extra of a microphone with a laser concentrate on streamers. But when that’s your area of interest, Elgato’s mic will serve you higher than any we’ve examined, providing very good sound and a degree of audio management that will in any other case require you to purchase an expensive mixing board.

Since microphones are designed for each on a regular basis use and severe content material creation, we evaluated each mic in our pool utilizing a mixture of anecdotal testing and in-depth audio comparisons.

To guage audio high quality, we recorded clips of ourselves speaking into every microphone utilizing Audacity. We positioned every mic on the identical level on our desk for every recording (roughly 8 inches from our mouth) and set the acquire (which determines how a lot of your voice will get picked up) to 50% for microphones that allowed us to toggle it.

When testing microphones that provided a number of recording modes (comparable to cardioid and omnidirectional), we made voice recordings on every setting. We additionally carried out a noise check, measuring how a lot background noise every microphone picked up whereas a YouTube video of ambient airport noise performed on our audio system.

We evaluated the bodily design of every of those microphones, noting how simple they had been to regulate or disassemble for when it’s time to take them on the go or place them on a mounting arm. We additionally examined the companion software program for each microphone that provided it, being attentive to how intuitive every one was to make use of and the way helpful the options had been. Moreover, we used every microphone on each a Home windows 10 desktop in addition to a MacBook Professional to see how every functioned on each main working programs.

Lastly, we used these microphones in on a regular basis eventualities, comparable to convention calls and Twitch streams, to see how they stacked up in the actual world. We additionally despatched sound recordings to 2 colleagues to get a recent set of ears on our comparability assessments.

Right here’s how our scoring broke down when testing to search out one of the best microphones:

  • Sound high quality had a most of 40 factors: total high quality (30 factors) and noise isolation (10 factors).
  • Design had a complete of 30 factors: construct high quality (10 factors), controls (10 factors), portability (5 factors) and adjustability/mounting choices (5 factors).
  • Options had a complete of 20 factors: recording modes (10 factors) and companion software program (10 factors).
  • Compatibility had a complete of 5 factors: total (5 factors).
  • Guarantee had a complete of 5 factors: total (5 factors).

Blue Snowball ($69.99; amazon.com)

Blue Snowball

Blue Microphones

Blue Snowball

The Blue Snowball provides good sound high quality for the worth, and a number of recording modes perfect for each solo and multiperson periods. Nonetheless, its top-heavy design is a bit unwieldy, and you may get comparable audio high quality from even cheaper mics.

Blue Snowball Ice ($42.29, initially $49.99; amazon.com)

Blue Snowball Ice

Blue Microphones

Blue Snowball Ice

A streamlined model of the Snowball, the Snowball Ice provides a single recording mode and a extra compact design. And it additionally sounds nice — however different price range microphones, such because the HyperX SoloCast and FIFINE K669B, provide a bit of extra for the cash.

Blue Yeti Nano ($89.99, initially $99.99; amazon.com)

Blue Yeti Nano

Blue Microphones

Blue Yeti Nano

The Blue Yeti Nano is a less expensive and extra compact model of the Blue Yeti, our favourite total microphone, that makes surprisingly few sacrifices. You’ll get equally nice audio high quality and a extra transportable design, however you additionally get solely two recording modes as an alternative of 4, making the Nano much less versatile than its greater brother.

Blue Yeti X ($169.99; amazon.com)

Blue Yeti X

Blue Microphones

Blue Yeti X

Whereas the Yeti Nano is a simplified model of the Yeti, the Blue Yeti X takes issues into overdrive. This premium tackle the Yeti ups the ante with onboard LED lights for monitoring your voice and retaining monitor of your lively recording modes in addition to customizable vocal results through its companion app. These are nice bonuses for severe podcasters and streamers, however most people will probably be simply superb with the usual Yeti.

HyperX SoloCast ($59.99; bestbuy.com)

HyperX SoloCast

HyperX

HyperX SoloCast

An in depth contender to our price range throne, the HyperX SoloCast provides nice sound, a extremely adjustable design and mute button — all options which are exhausting to search out in a sub-$60 mic. Nonetheless, the FIFINE K669B’s barely higher audio and less expensive worth gave it the sting.

HyperX Quadcast S ($169; amazon.com)

HyperX QuadCast S

HyperX

HyperX QuadCast S

One other nice microphone that just about made our checklist, the HyperX Quadcast S delivers wonderful sound, 4 recording modes and hanging RGB lighting that you would be able to customise to match your setup. It’s a fantastic decide for individuals who worth seems to be as a lot as audio high quality. However severe streamers will get extra flexibility out of the Elgato Wave:3, and the Blue Yeti sounds simply nearly as good and provides higher controls for much less. The Quadcast S is a bit of exhausting to search out as of this writing, however you may as well go for the common $139 HyperX Quadcast, which is actually the identical microphone with out RGB lighting.

Razer Seiren Mini ($49.99; razer.com)

Razer Seiren Mini

Razer

Razer Seiren Mini

If we had a “most lovable” award, the Razer Seiren Mini would win it. This pint-size mic is each transportable and enticing (particularly within the white and pink shade choices) and does a pleasant job isolating noise. Nonetheless, its voice pickup was a bit too low in quantity in comparison with its price range rivals.

Razer Seiren X ($99.99; razer.com)

Razer Seiren X

Razer

Razer Seiren X

The Razer Seiren X is a stable choice within the sub-$100 worth vary, with first rate sound and a glossy, compact design that’s simple to disassemble and toss in a bag. Nonetheless, it’s not fairly as much as snuff with $99 opponents such because the Blue Yeti Nano and Shure MV5C by way of audio high quality and options.

Shure MV5C ($99.99; amazon.com)

Shure

The Shure MV5C serves up crisp audio high quality and a helpful speech boosting mode inside one of many extra travel-friendly designs we examined. Nonetheless, its compact construct makes it a bit awkward to make use of, particularly with all of its controls tucked onto the again.

Shure MV7 ($247.95; amazon.com)

Shure MV7

Shure

Shure MV7

The Shure MV7 is a superb podcasting microphone for professionals — and professionals solely. This mic has a few of the warmest, richest voice high quality of any we examined, but it surely additionally prices a hefty $249. However what actually stings is that there’s no included stand or mount, making this already costly mic a good greater funding if you wish to use it correctly.

Learn extra from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:

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