An audience can accept the fact that the picture is grainy, but when the sound is off, they disconnect. I've completely scrapped or redone many videos because of this very reason. To avoid that happening, I suggest you not use the built-in microphone for your camera or smartphone.
And while spending a fortune on a good microphone may not be possible for beginning YouTubers, you should place just as much emphasis or more on your audio as you do your entry-level camera.
Even inexpensive options can make a big difference. So, I'll take you through my favorite affordable lavalier, shotgun, condenser, and USB mics.
Fifine Condenser USB Mic
Looking for an alternative to something more expensive like the Blue Yeti? The Fifine condenser K669B microphone is a good budget option.
While a bit lacking in the noise-isolation department, the overall sound is incredible for the $40 that you pay.
If you go with this mic, I suggest you grab a mic mount that allows you to keep it at the right distance. Something like the Neewer NB-35 boom arm would be ideal.
For me, 6 inches away seemed to be ideal while any closer and it'll take over and any farther away it'll sound too narrow.
The big downside here is if you don't have a way to get the mic close enough to your face is that the sound might not be as loud as you'd like. So, again, make sure you've got the right setup for this.
Overall, you get solid professional sound for cheap with the Fifine mic. If you're willing to deal with some limitations, there is definitely money to be saved here.
As a USB mic, this is ideal for a one-room isolated setup with a computer. In addition, you'll need to actually combine the audio with the videos you're making. For some, this may be an extra step you're not willing to do; however, programs like Audacity give you great recording and processing options for free.
Cheap Mic Alternative for your DSLR - Takstar SGC-598
The great thing about a shotgun microphone is you can take it with you wherever you go. Whether you're using it with a tripod and your phone or on a shoe-mount on top of your DSLR, this gives you flexibility. In addition, the audio and the video are together here out of the gate which is something I've found increases my ability to put out videos.
If you're looking for an inexpensive solution, the Takstar SCG-598, pictured above is a great shogun microphone for beginning YouTubers. It sounds nearly as good as the Rode microphones at a fraction of the cost and it has a 2.55mm jack that plugs in your camera along with the hot shoe that easily attaches it to your DSLR.
I currently own the Takstar SGC-598 as a secondary option because I'm not afraid to throw it around a bit. For the price, you can afford to do that with this one.
I also like that it takes a AA battery. This is so convenient that I often simply replace the battery before a long video shoot just in case.
Overall, this is a microphone for experienced and beginning YouTubers alike. With a little adjustment, you can make it sound fantastic for what you're paying. And considering it's a big upgrade to your DSLR mic for cheap, it's kind of a no-brainer.
If you're willing to use a Lapel Microphone there are several inexpensive options that give you fantastic audio without the need of a boom arm.
Of course, the downside of using these is feeling attached to a cord.
However, in a studio where you may be sitting or simply not moving around too much, this isn't that big of a deal.
Another positive is you can hook these microphones directly to your smartphone or DSLR. Keep in mind that not all of these are externally powered. So, if you have a camcorder that requires a powered external microphone, you'll want to make sure the mic is compatible.
Purple Panda Lavalier Lapel Microphone
First, this is not an externally powered microphone. It will work with your phone and some cameras as it works with TRS and TRRS mic inputs. It will work with all GoPros while some may require a 3.55mm mic adapter.
ThePurple Panda Lavalier is my favorite Lav option for under $50. It gives you amazing sound for the money you spend. I'd describe the sound as a warm signature with lots of throat.
It comes with a clip and windscreen, a 10-foot extension cable, as well as a variety of adapters for various devices.
In fact, if you're willing to deal with some of the hang-ups, you may decide this sounds better than many shotgun mics in the $200 range.
Overall, it's a great option if you're looking for a Lavalier microphone around $40 to $50. A cheaper option that still sounds good would be the PoP voice Professional Lavalier for around $15.
No, a compact shotgun microphone won't work in every situation; however, it's a good place to start.
There's one main reason that I use a shotgun microphone whenever I can. It's easy and ideal for vlogging. No matching audio to the video here. Instead, you simply plug your shotgun microphone into your DSLR camera and you're good to go.
Shotgun mics allow you to improve sound quality over built-in sound quality. However, if they aren't compact, it'll slow you down. For this reason, finding one with a small form factor is ideal for most Vloggers.
Is There Any Downside to Shotgun Microphones?
Admittedly I get rid of these mics and replace them with an interview microphone while at a show or convention as a dynamic microphone is needed to eliminate background noise. However, if I'm doing any Vlogging I bring them back out.
Rode VideoMic Pro and Alternatives
I'll admit it. I have more expensive microphones that I could use, but often times end up using the Rode VideoMic Pro.
It's compact, easy-to-use, mounts directly onto your HDSLR camera and keeps everything so simple. And, when you keep things simple, you tend to make more videos.
Normally would need a longer barrel, but Rode has worked hard to make the barrel more compact on this one in order to work with today's compact cameras.
To avoid any interference, it has an integrated shock mount that helps to isolate the microphone from the camera body.
The Rode Videomic Pro uses its own battery, which is great as it won't drain your camera. That being said, I do occasionally leave it on, so I keep a spare battery or two with me at all times.
The Rode VideoMic Pro can get a little noisy in the wind, so I recommend you go with the Bundle that includes a deadcat wind cover. Speaking of noisy, if you're in a crowd I recommend using the -10db setting for the best overall sound quality. For these reasons, the VideoMic Pro made our affordable audio-video setup for YouTube shortlist.
The Rode VideoMic Pro is a must-have for Vloggers. While $200 may seem expensive, it's actually a very affordable all-around solution when compared to other professional solutions. The VideoMic GO is a decent option for those that want a budget option that doesn't require a battery. Grab a good budget tripod like the Gorillapod and you're ready to go.
The Pro+ is also an option for around $100 more; however, I don't feel it's worth the additional cost. However, if you plan on being outside, I recommend the PRO with the Rode DeadCat as that's something you'll be glad to have.
Good Alternatives to the Rode VideMic Pro in 2021:
Looking for something a bit different? I recommend taking a look at the Deity D3 Pro and Azden SMX-15. The D3 Pro especially has a few options that set it apart including USB-C and quick charge.
Under $100 - Blue Yeti USB Microphone
I've been using Blue's Yeti microphone for several years now. It's a fantastic option for just under $100 and should be one of the first purchases you make for your home studio.
The Yeti has a built in stand that's articulating so you can face it towards you. On the back is a switch that allows you to switch between stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, and bidirectional. (Cardioid will probably be what you use the most)
These allow you to set the microphone to pick up the voices in your home studio exactly how you'd like to.
On the front, you'll also see a mute switch and a headphone jack so you can monitor yourself.
For the money, the Blue Yeti gives you the best bang for your buck around $100. I remember spending quite a bit more on this microphone than it costs now. So, it's a relatively affordable solution with clean audio that's perfect for most YouTubers.
If you're willing to spend about twice as much, you can go with the Yeti Pro which includes XLR support while the Yeti is strictly USB.
Under $150 Audio Technica AT2035
Unless you're willing to spend around $1,000, you won't find a lot better than the Audio Technica AT2035. The sound is clear and detailed.
Get the Combo:
It's a great overall value. For $150, you get the microphone, a shock mount, XLR cable, cleaning cloth, and a pop filter.
No, you don't get the directional recording options that the Yeti has; however, if you're just using the cardioid option like I do, that won't matter much.
Plus, I find the sound quality to be superior to that which the Yeti offers. It's simply clear and warm and has better depth.
This is a condenser microphone and as such it'll pick up most of the sounds around you. So, you'll need to make sure you're in a relatively quiet room to take full advantage of it. If you live in the city and get a lot of noise, a dynamic microphone might be preferable.
Overall, the Audio Technica AT2035 is definitely a worthy option for your YouTube channel. The included shock mount is sturdy and works well.
Under $50 - Blue Snowball
Under $50 Blue Snowball
Don't have $100 to spend? The Blue Snowball microphone is still a nice Studio USB microphone with several options.
No drivers or configuration needed here. The Snowball is plug and play with any Windows or Mac computer.
Even though it's relatively cheap compared to other options, the Snowball still offers three modes. So, you can focus on recording just yourself or others around you if you'd prefer.
Blue Snowball Vs Yeti
Compared to the Yeti, the Snowball's sound is a bit colder (ironically). Yes, you can do some post production to fix this; however, I strongly recommend you spend the extra money and go for the Yeti if possible.
This is different than my opinion on cheap lighting solutions for YouTube. In that case, less expensive options can be just as good as the pricey alternatives.
At $200, you might not consider the Electrovoice RE50N/D-B cheap or affordable. However, I think it's important to present options that I think you'll be able to use for a long time. I've got another option for around $100 below for those of you who want something more affordable.
The Electrovoice RE50N/D-B is a durable microphone that allows you to focus in on the subject you're trying to interview. It can plug directly into your camera using an XLR output but some of you may need an adapter cable.
This microphone is used every day by news reporters, so it's certainly a microphone that sets a standard.
It includes a built-in Acoustifoam filter that keeps any outside wind or popping noises to a minimum. The Electro-voice also has a mic-within-a-mic shockmount that helps to keep your audio clear.
Overall, this microphone is a fantastic option for YouTubers who plan on doing regular interviews. It's a bit pricey so it won't likely be your first purchase. However, when you're ready to buy this type of microphone, this is the one I'd recommend.
Zoom H1 Digital Recorder
Looking for a less expensive portable option with a ton of ways to use it? For around $100, I like the Zoom H1. You can hook it up to your camera or record separately and transfer the audio to your PC.
If you want to use it for interviews, simply purchase the windscreen with it and take it wherever you go. Optionally you can plug your lavalier microphone into it to record sound that way.
You can also mount this microphone on your desk, use it as a shotgun mic, or just take it wherever you go in order to get high-quality audio.
So, ultimately the Zoom is an option that works in so many ways. At first it can be your home studio, on-the-go interview, and portable lavalier option. So, it's a flexible product that might just be one of the first things you want to pick up as a YouTuber.
Unless you're sure that you need a lavalier mic, I wouldn't spend your full budget on one. I started out my YouTube channel using an Audio Technica ATR3350. It cost around $30 and was a much better option than my onboard microphone.
However, the Purple Panda or Pop solution I feel are the better solution today. The great part about a Lav Mic is that it's easy to get close to you and you get outstanding sound for that price. So, if you don't have a lot of money to spend upfront, this is a good option.
That being said, I ended up moving on from this type of microphone to a Shotgun and Interview microphone setup. That doesn't mean you can't get a quality Lavalier option that you're satisfied with. I simply mean you should know what you're getting into before spending too much.
If you prefer a lavalier-type setup, be sure to purchase the Zoom H1 above. It's a great portable device for recording digital audio and allows you to move away from your camera without needing the cable to go through your shirt and still into the camera.
XLR vs USB Microphones
Before I go, I thought I'd go over some of the differences between using an XLR and USB type connector.
Most people say that USB microphones have inferior sound quality when compared to XLR mics. This isn't always true as shown in this microphone myths article by Shure. In fact, many USB mics feature the same condenser mic element. The difference is likely in the analog-to-digital converters in the USB mic and the interface to the next device.
After reading this hopefully you're now ready to get started with the audio on your YouTube channel. Choosing a solution up front that's easy and portable will make producing videos a lot easier.
Most will want to start with a portable shotgun microphone solution. This goes along with today's vlogging style approach.
Again, in my opinion audio quality is even more important than the quality of your video. Above all of these is content. Without a good story, you can't expect too much. Be yourself, think outside of the box, and be sure to keep your viewer interested above all else.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to read the other ones I've written on YouTube gear. For questions, you can leave a comment here or directly reach out to me above.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Erdin on July 30, 2018:
What mix do you recommend for twitch
Brandon Hart (author) from The Game on April 05, 2018:
Ebitan. There's a budget one that's pretty good I've tried that would work pretty well. It's called the Takstar SGC-598.
Ebitan on April 02, 2018:
Great reviews you have here. Could you please recommend a microphone for a YouTube channel that features a newsreader in a small home studio? No outdoor shots. Just basic newsreading filmed from the front, sitting down. Thank you.