So you’re starting a podcast? Nice! The first, and most important, bit of kit you’ll need is a good quality podcasting microphone. It will make all the difference between sounding like you’re recording your podcast underwater or speaking directly into your listeners’ ears.
What better way to figure out which podcast microphone to choose than looking at the microphones real podcasters choose. Amazingly, plenty of podcasters use affordable microphones that you or I could pick up in a store or on Amazon.
You just order a couple of microphones on Amazon… Essentially anyone can do it about any interest they have.
Enough chit chat! Here are 9 proven podcast mics and the real podcasters who use them. I’ve broken them down from beginner-friendly (aka cheap!) to advanced so you know what you’re getting into, and listed notable additional equipment and accessories like preamps, windscreens and headphones where applicable.
And, of course, I will embed an episode recorded with every podcast microphone mentioned so that you can hear the audio quality of the mics yourself and let your ears be the judge.
Quick Answer: Best podcast microphones used by famous podcasters
- Cheapest: Samson CO1U (used on My Dad Wrote a Porno)
- Best USB Microphone: Rode Podcaster (used on Mixergy)
- Best Design: Shure 55SH Series II (used by Kevin Smith)
- Most Popular Podcast Microphone: Shure SM7B (used by Joe Rogan, Marc Maron and many more)
- Best Portable Audio Recorder: Zoom H4N (used on The Nerdist)
- Most Expensive: Neumann U87 (used by NPR)
- Most Popular Podcast Headphones: Sony MDR7506 (used by Anna Faris, Serial podcast and many more)
Best Podcasting Microphones for Beginners
Samson CO1U USB Condensor Microphone (as used on My Dad Wrote a Porno)
Jamie’s been nominated for a Bafta, but we still use GarageBand and really cheap microphones. It’s kind of embarrassing how ramshackle the operation is.
With its own desk stand and USB cable ready to plug straight into your laptop (which will be a Mac, if you’re following the path of My Dad Wrote a Porno), the Samson CO1U is cheap, easy to use and sounds pretty decent. It’s interesting to hear that the team behind My Dad Wrote a Porno have not bothered upgrading their podcasting kit even though they now get hundreds of millions of podcast downloads. They don’t even bother with a pop filter!
Listen to an episode of the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast, recorded on the Samson CO1U microphone:
You can definitely detect audio issues on My Dad Wrote a Porno, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the podcast’s success. For beginners on a very tight budget, the Samson CO1U microphone is a solid choice.
Rode Podcaster USB Microphone (as used on Mixergy)
The Rode Podcaster is an affordable USB microphone, so it’s perfect for a new podcaster looking for a minimalist setup – simply plug it into your computer and off you go. I mean, it’s called “the podcaster” so that should give you a clue about who it’s meant for!
Listen to the sound quality of the Rose Podcaster microphone on an episode of Mixergy (note – only the host Andrew’s audio is recorded using the Rode Podcaster):
Audio-Technica AT875R Microphone (as used on The Fizzle Show)
Chase Reeves, one of the creators of The Fizzle Show, a business podcast for entrepreneurs, swears by the Audio-Technica AT875R shotgun condenser microphone (source). He uses it with a pop filter (also known as a pop shield, they protect the microphone from ‘explosive’ sounds like the ‘p’ sound in words) to record episodes of his podcast in an open room (not a fancy studio):
I love this mic. I got it originally as a shotgun mic to use in video… but I was so surprised to hear how well this performed.
The AT875R will require a XLR to USB adapter or XLR audio interface in order to hook it up to your computer. A basic one audio interface will do, like the Pyle-Pro PAD10MXU. All it needs to do is convert the analogue signal from the AT875R’s XLR connector to digital USB, and you can also plug headphones in to monitor audio while recording.
Some audiophiles believe XLR offers superior audio quality to USB microphones, and there is a far wider choice of XLR microphones on the market. You’ll find that most of the recommendations from professional podcasters in this article are XLR mics.
Listen to an episode of The Fizzle Show, recorded using the Audio-Technica AT875R microphone:
Shure 55SH Series II Microphone (as used by Kevin Smith)
Also known as “the elvis microphone”, Shure’s 55SH (Series II) is the mic of choice for Kevin Smith when he records The Secret Stash podcast with Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Ming Chen and Mike Zapcic who work at Kevin Smith’s comic book shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.
As well as sounding clear, the Shure 55H Series II microphones also looks incredibly cool – and Kevin Smith and co show them off on AMC reality show Comic Book Men, which shows them recording parts of the podcast behind the scenes.
Head of Technology of Kevin Smith’s podcast company, SModcast Internet Radio, Ming Chen talks about making the switch to Shure mics in 2011 (source):
We used another brand’s microphones when the podcast network first started four years ago; and since switching to Shure’s SM27 and 55SH microphones, our listeners can tell a huge difference in audio quality. With more than 80 episodes under our belt, Shure’s microphones have boosted the production value of our content, setting a new bar for podcasting today.
The Shure 55H Series II microphone is a dynamic mic with an XLR connection, so you’ll need an adapter to connect it to a computer via USB. Shure also make their own XLR to USB adapter – the Shure X2U to help you do this .
Listen to an episode of The Secret Stash podcast to hear the Shure 55H Series II mic in action:
Microphones for Advanced Podcasters
Shure SM7B Microphone (as used by Joe Rogan, Marc Maron and more)
Joe Rogan hosts one of the most successful podcasts of all time, the Joe Rogan Experience. Lauched on Christmas Eve 2009, Joe’s podcast is still going strong in 2020. Joe’s microphone of choice is the Shure SM7B is definitely on the professional end of the spectrum (aka not cheap), but it’s by no means the most expensive mic out there and it seems to be working out well for him (source).
Marc Maron loves how his Shure mics:
pick up enough room tone and the voice sounds great on it; gives it a sense of place and intimacy.
Many of the podcasters I saw using Shure’s SM7B mic choose to couple it with the Shure A7WS close-talk foam windscreen– basically it’s a foam cover that fits snugly over the mic and removes unwanted breath noises.
Roman explains that he uses the Shure SM7B microphone alongside a preamp because the mic has low output.
Watch this quick video to get a clear understanding of what impact the Cloudlifter can have on the Shure SM7B:
To be honest, the Shure SM7B is used on so many popular podcasts that I can’t even mention them all in this post without boring you to sleep!
That reminds me: you should try listening to the Sleep With Me podcast if you need help falling asleep. And, big surprise, Sleep With Me host Drew Ackerman records the podcast using a Shure SM7B mic (source)!
In a nutshell, the Shure SM7B is one of the most popular microphones used by professional podcasters. You could do much worse.
Bonus #1: Listen to Dave Grohl belting out Best of You on a Shure SM7B microphone while recording a Foo Fighters Live Lounge special for BBC Radio 1 at Studio 606:
Bonus #2: Shure’s SM7B podcasting mic is so popular, it even made it into Saurday Night Live’s father-son podcasting sketch, which is well worth watching if you have a spare 2 minutes.
Shure KSM32 Microphone (as used by Serial and This American Life)
In the studio we have Shure KSM-32 mics, which are the great $500 knockoffs of the gorgeous $3400 Neumann U87’s you hear on the big NPR news shows.
Listen to the Shure KSM32 microphone in ation on an episode of This American Life:
Neumann U87 Microphone (as used by NPR)
You can even get a look at NPR’s microphone in situ by taking a tour of the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C..
Listen to an episode of NPR News Now, recorded on a Neumann U87 microphone to hear the audio quality for yourself:
Portable Podcast Microphones
Rode NTG2 Microphone (as used by Gimlet)
Nicole Wong, Creative Producer at podcast company Gimlet Creative (the creation of which became the storyline of short-lived ABC comedy series Alex, Inc) explains how the team use the Rode NTG2 shotgun microphone to capture podcast audio outside of the studio (source):
You’ll always wanna be making sure to mic closer than you think you should be so you need to kinda get in someone’s face a little bit more than feels comfortable.
Listen to this episode of Reply All, which features plenty of audio recorded outside the studio on the Rode NTG2:
Zoom H4N Microphone (as used by The Nerdist Podcast and Marc Maron)
Chris Hardwick, creator of The Nerdist Podcast, sometimes records parts of his podcast remotely using the Zoom H4N digital recorder (an all-in-one SSD recorder wih microphones), which is later uploaded via USB (source).
Listen to WTF with Marc Maron episode 653 with Lorne Michaels to hear Marc’s portable podcast setup in action:
But what about podcast headphones!
Most Popular Podcast Headphones: Sony MDR7506
Here’s something we discovered by accident: almost every single podcast host we researched while writing this microphone guide was seen wearing a pair of Sony MDR7506 professional headphones, so we’re thinking they must be the best podcast headphones around.
Take a look at just a handful of the famous and professional podcast hosts who wear Sony MDR7506 headphones:
NPR uses Sony MDR7506 headphones in their studios:
Roman Mars uses Sony MDR7506 headphones when recording episodes of 99% Invisible:
Anna Faris uses Sony MDR7506 headphones when recording episodes of her podcast, Unqualified:
Sarah Koenig wears Sony MDR7506 headphones while recording episodes of the Serial podcast:
Michael Rosenbaum uses Sony MDR7506 headphones when recording episodes of Inside of You:
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
Not only are Sony MDR7506 headphones used by a ton of popular podcasters, they’re not even that expensive! Kind of a no-brainer.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones (as used by Dax Shepherd)
Not everyone uses Sony podcast headphones. We found Dax Shepherd using Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones (the 80 ohm version) on his podcast, Armchair Expert. Those grey furry ear cups look so soft.
Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones (as used by Joe Rogan and Marc Maron)
Joe Rogan is another famous podcaster who bucks the trend of using Sony headphones – he prefers Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones.
If you look at earlier episodes, you’ll notice Rogan wore the older version of the Sennheiser headphones that had a single piece of headband padding. When Sennheiser upgraded the model to a new two-piece headband padding design, Joe Rogan switched to the new model. That’s some brand loyalty.
Marc Maron is also a loyal user of Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones.
‘As Used By’ Podcast Equipment Resource List
Here’s an easy-to-read quick resource list of all the podcast microphones and headphones as used by notable podcasters.
What microphone does Joe Rogan use?
Joe Rogan records The Joe Rogan Experience podcast on a Shure SM7B microphone.
What headphones does Joe Rogan use?
Joe Rogan uses Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones.
What microphone does Dax Shepherd use?
Dax Shepherd records the Armchair Expert podcast on a Shure SM7B microphone.
What headphones does Dax Shepherd use?
Dax Shepherd uses Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones.
What microphone does Marc Maron use?
Marc Maron records the WTF with Marc Maron podcast on a Shure SM7B microphone.
What headphones does Marc Maron use?
Marc Maron uses Sennheiser HD280PRO headphones.
What microphone does Ira Glass use?
Ira Glass records the This American Life podcast using a Shure KSM32 microphone.
What headphones does Ira Glass use?
Ira Glass uses Sony MDR7506 headphones.