Your computer probably has a microphone in and, while they’re ok and are getting better, their small size often means that the sound isn’t especially good. It's probably enough for video chats or occasionally sending off messages, but if you’re looking to do anything more or regular, getting something devoted can make all the difference.
If you’re looking to record conversations between a number of people, lay down a track from either an instrument or a computer, or make your own podcast or radio show, then a standalone microphone is best. But if you want a new microphone for video chat or playing games, then a headset works better. We’ve collected our favourites of each.
1. Audio-Technica AT2020: £125, amazon.co.uk
The USB version of Audio-Technica’s well-loved microphone, this is a versatile piece of kit. Its wide frequency response means that it can pick up high and low sounds with huge clarity and its rugged construction makes it a solid portable option.
2. Apogee MiC 96K: £189, gak.co.uk
Sending out super-high-quality sound, this is a perfect way to record anything you need to, quickly, and is clever and well built to ensure that it’ll always sound great. It’ll plug straight into youriPhone or iPad, as well as your Mac.
3. Blue Microphones Snowball: £54, ebuyer.com
This microphone’s spherical box captures an equally round sound – ideal for recording just for a podcast, or a whole band. It sounds great, looks distinctive and easily connects with Macs or PCs through their USB ports. With the right connectors, it can also plug into an iPad or iPhone.
4. Shure PG 27: £149, gear4music.com
Shure’s microphones are the stuff of music legend – they’re standard issue at gigs and in recording studios – and this puts its best condenser mic engineering into something that will plug straight into your computer’s USB ports.
5. Blue Microphones Yeti: £99.95, store.apple.com
The Yeti’s eye-catching body hides some brilliant technology. The quality of its sound makes it good for voice-overs, podcasting and music recording – special modes let it work differently if it’s recording a big group or just one voice. It’s bigger than some competitors but if you’re staying in and need high-quality audio, this will do the job wonderfully.
6. Sennheiser PC 363D: £209.99, en-uk.sennheiser.com
This packs in much of Sennheiser’s best audio technology – like virtual surround sound – and sticks a great microphone on the front. Perfect for gaming, where you’ll be able to hear and shout at people with crystal clarity.
7. Samson Meteor: £55.56, amazon.co.uk
This will slot into your bag, so you can record when out and about. When you fold out its collapsible legs and put it on the desk, the sound is great. The broad frequency response means that it’ll pick up voices, bass instruments and shrieking equally well.
8. Sennheiser PC 8 USB: £34.99, en-uk.sennheiser.com
This is a simple headset, meant mostly for talking to people over the internet. As such, it’s not one recording but it’s perfect for having a chat in noisy places or if you Skype regularly. If you’re on a budget, there’s a cheaper version with just the one ear cup.
9. Samson UB1: £70, gak.co.uk
This small, round microphone is specially built to pick up whatever’s going on around it. As such, if you’re looking to record a panel, a conference meeting or just a discussion between a few people, this will pick it all up.
10. Plantronics Audio 300 Microphone: £8.20, ebuyer.com
If you’re looking for a traditional style, now slightly retro, computer mic, this is the one. Mounted on a long stick for easily adjusting to wherever is most comfortable to talk into, this connects into your computer’s microphone input and has noise cancelling so that it won’t pick up too much unwanted sound.
The Snowball takes many of the features of more expensive models, at a fraction of the cost, and sticks them in an interesting little box. With great frequency response for catching high and low sounds, and a wide range so that it can record a busy room as well as one voice, it’s a perfect solution for every situation. If you’re looking for a less wide and more direct way of recording, then strapping on Sennheiser’s PC 363Ds will let you chat and game without any noise getting in the way.
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