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How to sound good on a podcast shouldn’t be a difficult question, and there are plenty of options you can consider for a budget podcast microphone to sound the best that you can.
This article discusses the options for the best budget podcast microphone. In addition, also consider your studio setup to be in a quiet place, and strategically placed sound panels can also help. Of course, you can also use editing tools like the Adobe Podcast Suite to improve audio after the fact. But I prefer to start with better quality, and that’s where microphones can help.
Since around 2012, I have bought and used several podcast microphones, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Some are very different, too. Some are better in some situations and not so good in others. I’ve used:
- Lav mics
- USB mics attached to my desk
- Snowball mics
- iPhone built-in mic
- Built-in computer microphone
Let’s look at how my podcast microphone usage has evolved and what’s good and not so good about each podcast.
I started using Snowball mics around 10 years ago, and they worked fine. They work especially well if you sit right in front of them. They are also small enough that you can travel with them.
Nonetheless, I moved on from the Snowball mic as I was traveling more, traveling super light, and wanted to conserve space.
I started using a Blue Yeti in 2023 to conserve my space. The microphone sits in front of me on my desk and is super easy to move. The sound quality is great as well.
Then I moved on to lavalier mics. They are more compact for travel and worked well with my iPhone at the time. If you use one, make sure you know how to hook it up to your current iPhone, and please use a case when transporting them.
I love recording podcasts with my iPhone – like this one and several others- at in-person conferences.
And the iPhone certainly makes it easy. I wondered, though: When not using a headset, where should I be talking into the phone? Where is the mic on my iPhone?
Given that some people use the iPhone as a phone, I assumed the mic was at the bottom – so it’s aligned with somebody’s mouth when talking.
That turned out to be true. The mics are at the bottom end of the iPhone. Out of sight, out of mind.
So does that mean I shouldn’t speak into what we would have called the mouthpiece on a traditional phone? Do I need to tilt my phone and talk directly into the bottom? There’s a noticeable difference when I spoke into the top – where the camera is.
By default, people are likely speaking into the correct area anyway, but I thought this was good to know as more and more businesses are podcasting and recording with their iPhones to share their stories.
Nonetheless, this is also harder to remember than it sounds. I was in Chicago and recorded a podcast with TURF Design.
The setup was like this when we recorded:
Apple AirPods and Earbuds
I’ve been streaming more using Switcher Studio and use my earbuds attached to my iPad for those recordings. It works well and sounds good. Here’s an example from a livestream I did with Pam Didner.
I also used them while recording directly in the Anchor app, and the sounds are great there. I use Anchor for my podcast editing and distribution.
Other times, I’ve used the Apple AirPods – like in this Amazon Live, the audio also sounds excellent.
In this scenario, the AirPods are paired to my iPad, producing the show via Switcher, then distributed to seven channels via Restream.
I started doing more livestreams on my computer and wanted to try a mic attached to my desk. So I got this extendable USB mic and tried it. The sound is fantastic. Assembly is easy and quick. The biggest issue I ran into was making sure it’s set as the default device on my laptop.
This mic also has a mute button, so make sure it’s not muted when your audio is not going through.
This Yeti with a stand included is another option as a USB mic.
I like these mics with arms because the stand makes the setup easier from my perspective. So depending on your setup, consider whether you want a budget podcast microphone on an arm or a stand or know how else you’ll set it up.
Read next: Should we rerun podcast episodes?
Built-in computer microphone
It’s tempting to use the computer’s microphone; most computers have one. And that might be the best budget podcast microphone. If you have a computer with a mic, there’s no added cost. But beware, it also doesn’t sound that great many times.
Usually, you aren’t right in front of that microphone and for a video podcast, it’s nearly impossible to align yourself perfectly to where the microphone is and with a good on-screen framing of yourself.
So while this is an option, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Read next: What podcast metrics matter?
How far away should I be from my microphone anyway?
No matter what mic you are using, make sure it’s placed at the proper distance from your mouth. The distance does matter and people – especially on video podcasts – have the tendency to move the mic away from them. I’ve found it to work best when it’s right in front of your face. Maybe around 2 inches or so away. Here’s how that looks for me on my podcast livestreams.
Best budget podcast microphone wrap
The best budget podcast microphone for you depends on your budget and how and when you record your podcasts. When I used to travel and record most on the fly, the iPhone did just fine. Now, I spend my days at my Varidesk in my office, and the mic hooked up to the desk works great. But I’m also not throwing away my AirPods Pro and Apple Earbuds.
Depending on the situation and setup, I will rotate between the USB mic and my AirPod Pros for recordings and livestreams. The USB mic will stay at my desk, and the AirPods will travel with me once we travel again.