Would you believe that some of the best microphones for streaming and gaming cost less than $100? I'm not kidding; the audio quality on the best cheap microphones I picked out can rival even some premium ones that are double, or in some cases, even triple, the cost. And the best part? Your listeners probably won't hear the difference.
Over the past few years, popular microphone makers have offered more budget-friendly gaming and recording microphones lowering the barrier for someone to become a content creator. The best budget microphone is the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+, a great-sounding mic that comes in at a great price. It's ousted the old HyperX Solocast from its spot at the top, and that's no mean feat.
So, how can a $50 mic compete with some of the best microphones that could cost up to $300? The cheaper mics, while sounding great, offer way fewer features than your usual USB microphone. Things like volume, gain control, or even a mute button are often nowhere to be seen on these microphones requiring you to do any audio tweaking or monitoring through third-party software like OBS or Xsplit.
The cheaper price point doesn't change how we test these microphones. We still follow the same testing criteria as the more expensive mics; all we did was add a $100 max budget. We are still looking for excellent sound quality, form factor, usability, and build quality.
Best budget microphone
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As budget microphones go, we've seen a lot of the "less is more" design approach. Companies are stripping out features and making design compromises so their mics can still sound good and sell cheap. Audio-Technica, who is no slouch in the microphone department, is bucking the trend by making a quality mic under $100 without completely stripping it of features you might need.
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ replaces the now discontinued AT2020USB and retails for under $70. It can be confusing because Audio-Technica has a couple of microphones with the AT2020 designation, such as the AT2020 USB X, the $150 premium USB, and the XLR version of the AT2020 for $100.
Compared to the budget USB microphone, its metal body is designed to take a beating. If you travel a lot, you don't have to worry about the AT2020USB+. It does come with a handy travel pouch which is a nice touch and gives it a premium feel whenever you pull it out.
The mic itself is easy to use. It's plug-and-play; there's no software to install, so you can get to recording fairly quickly. There's even a headphone volume and mix control, a feature you won't find on many sub-$100 offerings. For example, one of my other favorite budget mics, the Razer Seiren Mini, has no extra features. Monitoring and adjusting your mic levels is always really clutch during a live stream without needing to tweak using third-party software. However, I wonder why Audio-Technica went with those controls instead of a mute button or gain controls.
These extra features are great, but the most important question for any microphone you're potentially buying will always be, "So, how's it sound?" And the AT2020USB+ might be one of the best-sounding mics under $100 I've used in a really long time.
As much as I like the AT2020, its flimsy tripod leaves much to be desired. It never quite sits on the desk and often feels like it's going to tip over with the slightest bump desk bump. Bad mounts are common with microphones at this price range, but considering this isn't Audio-Technica's first USB microphone, it could be a lot better, especially given its pedigree.
The Audio Technica AT2020USB+ is proof that you can make a quality microphone for less than $100 and find a way to keep it under $100 without stripping features. Despite a really poor tripod stand, this is still one of the best microphones you can buy now.
Read our full Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ review.
The Razer Seiren Mini is a $50 budget microphone for streaming that might skimp on features but still delivers top-notch sound. If you're just looking to switch from a headset mic to a better-sounding desktop mic, but don't want to have to mess around setting it up, the Seiren Mini is as plug-and-play as it gets.
The Seiren Mini's adorable pill-shaped design comes in your choice of Black, Mercury White, and Quartz (pink). Out of the budget mics out there, the Seiren Mini's design is the most eye-catching. I was sent a Mercury White microphone, and it's one of my favorite looking pieces of hardware I've gotten this year and pretty darn cute.
Much like the HyperX SoloCast, many features were stripped away from the Seiren Mini to keep the sound quality up and the cost down. There's no volume or gain dial, or even a mute button. It's bare-bones as they come, but for $50 it's to be expected.
The proprietary micro-USB cable Razer tends to use on many peripherals is a bit of a pain. It keeps you from using third party cables because they simply wont fit. I can't express enough how much I hate when a hardware company does this. If you lose that cable for whatever reason (which happens), the mic is useless until Razer's replacement arrives.
I would have loved to have seen a ⅝ to ⅜ thread adapter so it could mount on most boom arms but it doesn't have one, sadly. I like the tilting stand and built-in shock mount (a feature missing from the SoloCast), which is useful if you run a pretty animated stream where accidental bumps are everyday occurrences.
The Seiren Mini sounds just as good as Razer's more expensive Seiren offerings. The Mini's super-cardioid polar pattern does a better job of tapering down background noise to focus on what's in front of it, though it does sound a bit softer than the Seiren Emote at its default gain.
The Seiren Mini is a perfect entry for Razer's already reliable line of microphones. It's ultra-portable size and pricing gives streamers another good option for a budget microphone. The lack of a mute control and some other quality-of-life features will take some getting used to for any more pro folks, but they'll be aiming their sights higher up the product stack anyways.
The simple fact that the Mini, at just $50, sounds as good as its more expensive brethren will attract users who just want a simple mic that looks elegant and sounds excellent.
Read our full Razer Seiren Mini review.
This miniature version of the classic Blue Yeti is the perfect microphone for those just starting with streaming or podcasting. The other top budget mics are all focused on either cardioid or supercardioid polar patterns, while the Bue Yeti Nano also offers an omnidirectional pattern. By being able to pick up audio from all around the microphone that makes it the best budget mic if you're starting out in podcasting or will be having more than one person on the microphone.
It has excellent sound quality for a product under $100. Simultaneously, its tiny size and lightweight metal build make it easy to transport (this is at least 40% smaller than its larger cousin).
Its 24-bit, 48kHz recording sample rate is noticeable, too; audio from the Nano and original Yeti shows that the former is superior by a significant margin. It's only got two polar patterns (cardioid and omnidirectional), but the Yeti Nano makes up for it with everything else.
The Nano is a reliable microphone that travels well and still provides that stellar Blue Yeti sound you'd expect. Features-wise, the Yeti Nano isn't as sparse as other microphones on the list. The 3.5mm aux output is super helpful for hearing exactly how you like it without the need for any software. The volume control for that output shares the same dial/button as the mute.
Things like gain control are handled through the Logitech G Hub software (RIP Blue Sherpa). Here you have more control over your mic settings without using third-party broadcast software like xSplite or OBS. However, you can use those if you opt out of another type of hardware-software; I don't blame you.
What you get with the Streamplify isn’t just a budget mic but a full kit with a shock mount, pop filter, tripod, and cables to get you started in a matter of minutes.
If you want to start creating content these days, you have a few things to consider. 'What content should I create?' is a pretty good starting point, but once you’ve passed that, you’ll likely want to think about your setup. 'What capture card do I need?' 'What’s the best webcam to use?' 'Do I need a killer gaming PC?' All of these are valid questions, but there are arguably no more pertinent than this: 'Should I get a dedicated microphone?'
After all, if you haven’t got one of these, your loving audience won’t hear your dulcet tones with respectable clarity.
Well, enter the Streamplify Mic, a $65 (£60) solution to all your vocal needs. What you get here isn’t just a mic but a full kit with a shock mount, pop filter, tripod, and cables to get you started in a matter of minutes.
Most of the kit feels pretty substantial, with a blend of metals and hard plastics on show, which, for the price, is rather good indeed. Just note the pop filter is a little thin and rattly, but this isn’t too much of an issue in the grand scheme of things. Too often, cheap mics are a sea of hollow plastics designed more for looks than function, so it’s nice to see Streamplify taking some care with their entry.
What’s more, everything is nice and easy to put together—it’s as easy as putting together some flatpack furniture from Ikea. No, wait, it’s a hell of a lot easier than that. Oh, and one bonus feature Streamplify won’t mention on the box: assembling this mic is definitely likely to keep your relationship intact, unlike assembling a BILLY bookcase from Ikea—we’ve all been there.
As for the look and feel of the mic itself, it actually feels sturdy in hand, with a smooth metal finish that also helps it look rather sleek. Its all-black coloring also helps it to look professional, which is useful if you intend to use this bad boy for conferencing as much as you are streaming. Fear not, RGB fans, as Streamplify hasn’t forgotten you. To go with the purposeful black looks, a strip of RGB lighting below the mic grille flashes various colors and looks rather smart, even if it serves no real-life purpose (apart from looking cool, of course).
All in all, the Streamplify Mic feels like a steal for its asking price. It’s well built, even if it has a rattly pop filter, and its audio output is crisp and clear, which is all you can ask for. The onboard gain control, mic mute, and two playback mode features are all handy, and this means this microphone is punching above its weight class somewhat. The same goes for getting an entire kit in the box, which keeps things convenient.
Convenience is the name of the game here. If it’s what you’re after, then you won’t be disappointed with the Streamplify Mic in the slightest.
Read our full Streamplify Mic review.
Audio-Technica AT2020 might be the best cheap XLR microphone you can use right now. Any professional musician will tell you that finding a good XLR mic for less than $200 is a massive chore. Somehow, Audio-Technica provides an excellent-sounding XLR microphone for musicians for around $80.
The AT2020 follows the trend of stripping out features to cut costs. The mute button is absent here, although you still have headset volume, monitor dials, a pivoting threaded stand mount, and a handy travel bag. Whenever you record yourself using the AT2020, you'll often think you're using a more expensive microphone.
So whether you're banging away on drums or explaining your latest win in Call of Duty Warzone for your adoring viewers, the AT2020 is a highly versatile microphone. Since it is an XLR microphone, you must invest in an audio interface (which you can find as cheap as $50 online) for your PC. If you can't be bothered with an audio interface, for an extra $50, you can pick the AT2020USB+, which, as you may guess, features a USB interface instead.
Budget microphones FAQ
How do we test microphones?
We use the same process for every microphone we test, and we've tested an awful lot over the years. Given that our day-to-day working life requires a whole host of meetings (sigh) we will test each mic as part of our standard office kit. That way we will be able to hear what it sounds like from our colleagues in the standard way you might end up using it yourself.
As part of that long-term testing—usually at least two weeks of in-place testing—we will get an idea of what it's like to set up the microphone, and what it's like to live with it. That will highlight any foibles that might arise under normal conditions that you wouldn't otherwise see from a quick afternoon of testing.
We will also run test recordings on each microphone, using our standard script of out of context gaming quotes, and reference those recordings back to our historical catalogue of older recordings. That way we can hear exactly what a given mic will sound like in comparison with other microphones we've tested.
What are a mic's polar patterns?
The polar pattern is the way a mic captures the sound around it. These are the most common polar patterns:
Cardioid: Records in front of the microphone. Perfect for voice-over, vocals, and streaming.
Bidirectional: Captures audio in front of and behind the mic. Ideal for one-on-one interviews.
Omnidirectional: Picks up sound from every direction. Perfect for round-table interviews.
Stereo: Perfect for ASMR recordings. YouTube 'ASMR' if you want the best example because I couldn't do it just justice.
Is a gaming microphone worth it?
You can always make do with the stalk mic sticking out of your gaming headset, but there are very few that can come close to matching the recording quality of even the cheapest gaming mic on this list. If you're planning on streaming or recording your gaming, and what to add your own voice to the mix, then making yourself sound better than your weedy headset microphone is surely a must.
Having a good mic will also mean you don't have to use a gaming headset at all. For us audiophiles who prefer a great set of headphones that come without a mic at all, a desk-based option is the only way to roll.
What form factor should my mic be?
This isn't a fashion show, but the form factor is still something that matters. In the case of a standing mic, you'll be staring at it every time you're sitting at your desk—and attachable mics need to make sure they aren't too distracting either.
A mic's form factor can also play a role in how adaptable it is, as you'll need to make space for it. We used every mic in multiple settings with different PCs, keyboards, and monitors, getting a feel for how they looked and performed in each environment. As a streamer, your mic will also be in view for your audience, so its appearance is relevant.