There are many microphones to choose from, and you will read conflicting opinions and reviews on all of them.
Let me save you some time if you’re starting in streaming or YouTube and don’t have a $300-$500 budget to drop on a microphone you might not use in six months if you give up. Some opt for the Shure SM7B, but I believe this isn’t meant for streaming and is a waste of money.
The Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone. A cardioid condenser microphone can go toe-to-toe with the more expensive microphones, but for a fraction of the cost. You can find it between $150-200 Australian Dollars. Sometimes a good deal on a used one will show up on eBay.
Unlike some other more entry-level targeted microphones, this one is not USB. Audio-Technica does have a USB version of this microphone, but when it comes to audio, I always choose XLR over USB.
Because it’s an XLR microphone, you’ll also need 48v phantom power. You can get this from an audio interface, and most usually come with one or more XLR/instrument inputs. I use the PreSonus Studio 24c audio interface, which has two inputs and individual gain control.
The AT2020 has a great response with a decent dynamic range. While it sounds good out of the box, it’s the kind of microphone that will afford some room to EQ (if you want), but if you’re streaming you won’t need to touch any of that. It’s a flat sounding microphone which is perfect for talking. This microphone is quite sensitive, so a compressor is absolutely essential, otherwise, you’ll be playing with the gain control on your interface constantly.
Unless you buy a streaming kit that comes with everything, you will need to purchase the following in addition to the microphone:
- An XLR cable
- An audio interface of some kind to plug the microphone into
- A foam windshield (not required, but highly recommended)
Some people mistake buying microphones like these expecting everything you need to come with it, but it’s only the microphone. Just be aware of that. I saw some reviews of this where people were giving it one star because they didn’t know it was just the microphone and required additional items to be purchased.
The good thing about this microphone is that it’s not only well-suited to streaming/podcasting and YouTube-ing. If you’re a musician, the AT2020 can be used for vocals, recording acoustic guitar and even as an additional room microphone. This is an impressive microphone for the price.
Let me fill you in on a bit of a secret: microphone technology hardly ever changes. Buying this microphone is an investment that will last you for years, and it will hold its value quite nicely, too, if you look after it.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good streaming/YouTube capable microphone. The AT2020 will be a step above a lot of the affordable USB microphones you’ll encounter, a professional sounding microphone for an amateur budget.
Thanks for the post – and for the rest of them of course, which I very much enjoy.
If I may I comment on this one:
It’s important to point out that if planning to stream from an untreated room (i.e. big room, little furniture, no carpets, straight walls etc.) then echo is a really big issue, which manifests quite badly with condenser microphones such as this one. In such rooms (which I think make the majority of set-ups), a dynamic microphone such as the Audio Technica ATR2100x-USB is much better. It has less dynamic range than its condenser counterpart (with speaking this is not a problem anyway) but far less echo is heard. And it’s a USB/XLR combo which allows for both working with an audio interface as you suggest, but also with plain old USB connected directly to the computer, which provides a much lower barrier to entry.