Best Budget Mic Options: At-a-glance
- You don't need to spend a lot of money to record good audio these days.
- There are plenty of ultra-low-cost mics on the market. That said, we don't want to opt for low quality.
- A budget microphone is false economy if it breaks after a short time and needs to be replaced.
- We need to consider flexibility, too. A microphone is better value when it can be used with any recording device.
- The 3 budget mic options recommended here are the ATR2100, the Samson Q2U, and the Maono AU-HD300T.
- They're all quite similar to one another. We'll help you decide by giving you the lowdown with pricing and sound samples.
- Read on for the full roundup…
Money can buy you a world-class microphone. But, the good news is, you don't need to spend a fortune on your gear to create world-class content. In fact, even if you can afford to pay several hundreds (or even thousands) for your mic, doesn't mean you should.
When we dive into the world of ultra-high-end recording gear, nuances become so subtle that they go way beyond spoken-word content. The majority of listeners hear podcasts through cheap earbuds, whilst the sound from YouTube videos typically blasts out of phone or laptop speakers. That's not to say you don't want to create the best possible sounding content. You just don't need to do it at the expense of paying the rent.
Best Budget Mic Options: Sounding Better for Less
When we talk about best budget mic options, it goes without saying that we're looking for the price to be low. However, we still want the mic to sound like it cost a lot more than it did. We also want it to be robust and durable enough that it'll last us a good few years. It's false economy to buy something at a low cost, only to have to replace it on a regular basis.
Value comes with flexibility too. Typically, a mic will either be USB (plugging straight into your computer), or XLR (used via a digital recorder or audio interface). I suppose I should've made a “Get yourself a mic that can do both” meme for this article.
One of the major benefits of getting a dual XLR-USB mic is that it grows with you. You can start out recording solo episodes and online calls using the mic in its USB form. In fact, for many podcasters, this will remain their setup forever. But further down the line if you fancy “going pro” and picking up a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or a Zoom PodTrak P4, you won't need to buy a new mic to use it.
But enough preamble. Let's kick on to some actual budget mic recommendations along with photos, prices, and sound samples. A quick heads up that we use affiliate links here, so may earn a small commission should you buy through them, though at no extra cost to yourself!
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Budget Mic Option 1 – ATR2100
The ATR2100 by Audio Technica is one of the most popular mics in podcasting. You can usually pick one up brand new on Amazon for about $100.
Budget Mic Option 2 – Samson Q2U
Next, we come to the Samson Q2U. They're available brand new on Amazon for about $90, and you can sometimes find good bundle deals with a boom arm thrown in too.
Budget Mic Option 3 – Maono AU-HD300T
The Maono AU-HD300T is hardly a name that rolls off the tongue. But it's a serious competitor to the other two established heavyweights, mentioned above. You can pick one up brand new for less than $70.
The Best Budget Mic Peter Rabbit Sound Test
Pricing is an important part of any “budget” roundup. But the most important factor for judging any mic is its sound.
What better way to put a few mics through their paces than to read some Peter Rabbit? If a mic can work as both USB and XLR, then I can work at both recording sound samples for an article AND trying to up my bedtime story game.
Q2U as an XLR Mic
ATR2100 as an XLR Mic
Maono as an XLR Mic
Maono as a USB Mic
Q2U as a USB Mic
ATR2100 as a USB Mic
What Else Will I Need?
Each budget mic option comes in a box alongside the various other bits and pieces you'll need for it. You'll generally find both types of cable (USB and XLR), a desk stand, and some plosive protection (either in the form of a pop shield or pop filter). That basically just leaves something to plug the mic into and start recording, and, if you own any sort of computer, you're all set.
I mentioned desk stands to support the mic. These are totally fine for getting you started, but you might want to consider upgrading to a boom arm further down the line. Desk stands are vulnerable to picking up unwanted sounds each time you touch your desk or keyboard. Most boom arms will prevent those vibrations from actually reaching the mic. Again, check before buying a mic to see if you can get it in a bundle deal alongside a boom arm; this will save you more money in the long run.
What About Editing & Publishing?
Finally, you'll need somewhere to edit and publish your podcast. On the editing side of things, I've already mentioned Audacity, which is free, and has a tonne of options, plugins, and features. If you've never edited audio before, and Audacity looks intimidating, then a better option is Alitu. Alitu is our ‘Podcast Maker' web app. It's designed to make editing and production accessible to everyone. It even has a brand new call recording feature built-in as standard. If you'd like to find out more, here's how to make a podcast with Alitu.
On the publishing side of things, you then need to sign up for a podcast hosting account. You'll find our top picks in the roundup I've linked to there. Once you've signed up, created your show, and published your first episode, you can then push it out to places like Apple/iTunes and Spotify for the world to hear.
Best Budget Mics
Here are links to the 3 mics we've covered in this roundup. The best one for you will depend on which one you think sounded best, combined with your own unique budget.
And if you like the idea of a USB/XLR hybrid mic, and are prepared to invest a little more, be sure to check out our review of the Shure MV7.
Need More Help?
Hopefully, this guide has helped you decide on the best budget mic option for you. If you're still undecided and want to shop around some more, then our Best Podcast Mics and Best USB Mics roundups might come in handy.
Choosing a mic is a big step in podcasting, but it's far from the only thing you'll need to consider. In The Podcast Host Academy we've got courses on everything from launching and editing, to promotion and monetisation. On top of that, we run weekly live Q&A sessions too, so you'll always get the support, feedback, advice, and guidance that you need!