Live streaming has come a long way since it was first introduced. In fact, it saw a massive 99% growth% between April 2019 and April 2020, gaining 3,934 billion more viewers in that short span of time. With that data alone, can you imagine what this industry will be like in the next few years?

This is the right time to start your live streaming journey. But before you jump the gun, make sure you have the proper equipment. Of course, you need a good camera to get things started. But you also need to think about the quality of your audio.

Fortunately, your smartphone and most webcams have built-in microphones that give you decent audio quality. As long as you have a strong Internet connection, you can just bring out your phone and start streaming anywhere any time of the day.

However, they also come with a few drawbacks. For example, they pick up too much room noise. It’s also impossible to adjust the volume on such devices. If you want to achieve studio-like audio streaming quality, you need to invest in a high-quality microphone.

But when choosing the best microphone for making videos, there are many factors you need to consider, such as what and where you shoot and how the mic picks up sound.

How to Choose the Best Microphone for Live Streaming

Here are some things to consider when choosing a microphone for live streaming.

External microphones

In most cases, a webcam or a smartphone is enough to start a live stream. After all, they already have a built-in camera and mic. They’re also the most budget-friendly option, especially if you’re just starting out. But when you’re ready to upgrade to an external microphone, one of the things you need to decide is whether to get an XLR or USB microphone. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each one of them.

1. USB microphones

USB microphones offer convenience and simplicity. They’re very straightforward to use. all you need to do is plug them into your computer and that’s it. It’s that easy to get started. Some USB microphones may require some driver installation, but that’s not hard to do at all—especially if you compare that to purchasing a mixer, preamp, and interface for an XLR.

Moreover, USB microphones are quite affordable. They won’t cost you your whole month’s paycheck. However, they don’t perform at the same level as XLRs in terms of quality. Plus, they’re notorious for having audio latency. This is the delay between the creation of audio and its playback. The resulting echo effect can be incredibly distracting and annoying.

Some higher-end USB microphones come with headphone jacks to help you operate them as audio output devices. If your mic doesn’t have one, you’ll have to manually decrease the audio delay by configuring your recording software’s latency settings.

2. XLR microphones

Unlike USB microphones, XLR microphones are not a single piece of equipment. They come with a few additional components, such as a male-to-female XLR cable and an audio interface or mixer.

XLR microphones will give you the versatility to upgrade should you decide to build a studio for your streams or have guests in the future. And if problems arise with one component, you can simply swap interfaces and cables. You also gain more control over your audio rig.

However, XLR mics have a steeper learning curve than USB microphones, which is why they may be more appropriate for more advanced users. The complexity of its installation and usage may also be undesirable if you prefer a plug-and-play mic.

Polar patterns

Once you’ve determined where you’ll be shooting your video, it’s now time to familiarize yourself with the different microphone polar patterns. A polar pattern is how your mic picks up sound from different directions. Let’s discuss the four most common polar patterns in video production.

1. Omnidirectional

This type of polar pattern picks up audio from every direction evenly. This means you don’t have to aim your mic at anything specific to pick up sound. It picks up even the most ambient sound. That’s why it’s often placed near the subject.

2. Cardioid

A cardioid pattern is unidirectional. It’s most sensitive to the sound coming from the front of the mic while rejecting the sound coming from its back. This makes it a good choice if you want to keep out unwanted ambient sounds.

3. Super-Cardioid

This has similar characteristics to a cardioid, but it’s more directional. It does a better job at rejecting ambient noise coming from the sides of the mic. But it’s sensitive to the sound coming from behind. It’s best used when picking up sound from a single source.

4. Hyper-Cardioid

This works pretty much like a super-cardioid but is even more directional. It rejects more ambient noise from the mic’s sides. However, it still picks up some sound from behind.

Types of microphones

Now that we’ve discussed some of the technicalities, let’s take a look at the different types of microphones for video production.

1. Shotgun microphone

This type of mic comes in a variety of polar patterns, such as cardioid, super-cardioid, and hyper-cardioid. You can use it on a boom pole or on your camera. When placed on your camera, it can be used to capture audio from any direction the camera is pointed at.

On the other hand, using a boom pole allows you to position the mic further from the subject. This way, you get to reject even more unwanted ambient sound. Plus, it’s a good way to isolate your subject.

Shotgun mics are great directional microphones. The longer the line tube, the more directional it becomes. You can adjust the mic’s positioning if you want it to be visible in the shot.

2. Handheld microphone

A handheld microphone is exactly what its name implies. It’s a type of microphone you hold in your hands to capture sound. It can be cardioid, super-cardioid, or omnidirectional. If you want something that’s durable and not too sensitive to sound, this is the mic for you. It’s perfect for singers, performers, interviews, and live events. Use this type of mic if you want it to be visible in your video.

3. Lavalier microphone

If you’re looking for a small, discreet mic that can be used hands-free, then you may want to check out a lavalier microphone. This type of mic normally has an omnidirectional polar pattern, making it excellent for placing near your subject. Lavalier mics are great for live broadcasts, interviews, and documentaries.

However, make sure to keep this mic close to your subject. It should also be protected from abrasions or bumps. Depending on how you position it, a lavalier mic can either be visible or hidden in the shot.

4. Broadcast, studio, or podcast mic

This type of microphone is best for capturing the human voice. It’s excellent for recording voice-overs, instruments, vocals, podcasts, and live broadcasts because it produces detailed, rich, and warm sounds. They come in different polar patterns but are most commonly a cardioid pattern. They can be connected to various devices, but they work best in a controlled environment. They’re placed near the subject, so they’ll be visible in your shot.

Which is the Best? Condenser vs. Dynamic for Streaming

If you decide to get an XLR microphone, you’ll be presented with two options: dynamic and condenser mics. Each one has its own pros and cons, which you need to consider carefully.

1. Condenser microphones

Condenser microphones are a typical purchase for streamers because it’s excellent for vocal recording. They’re also built with accuracy in mind.

However, its accuracy also makes it quite sensitive to sound. It will pick up a lot of unwanted sounds, such as your air conditioning, echo, or even the dog barking across the street if your room is not properly soundproofed.

Only use a condenser microphone for streaming if you have a properly treated room or space. Condenser mics also require what we call phantom power, which a mixer or solid audio interface can provide.

2. Dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones are different from condenser microphones in more ways than one. For example, dynamic mics are more durable and not as sensitive, making them a better choice for untreated spaces. They also don’t require phantom power—but having one can give you more versatility in the long run. Dynamic mics are also much cheaper than condenser microphones.

So which one should you choose?

If you have extra cash and an acoustically treated or quiet recording space, we recommend you get a condenser microphone. This will give you high-fidelity voice recordings. However, if you’re a little tight on budget and don’t have a treated room, having a dynamic microphone for streaming will do.

Takeaway

There are a lot of mic options available on the market that it can get quite overwhelming. That’s why you first need to determine what you’re going to use it for. You also need to understand how each type of mic works. This way, you’ll have the confidence to choose the right mic for your unique needs.