Lots of people just take a camera or their smartphone and start shooting a video. That means they use built-in mics to record the sound. On the other hand, if you see professionals handling their cameras you would see separate mics mounted on the cameras. That’s because they use external mics to record sound for better quality. And professionals do succeed, professional videos basically always have better sound quality than camcorder ones. In this review, we are going to give 12 best external microphones. They fall into different categories, though.
Shotgun microphones are the most visible on cameras and they also deliver some of the best sound qualities you can get. Once you see one shotgun mic you will understand their name. Because of the shotgun shape, they are superior at catching sound from the direction you are pointing the camera.
Audio-Technica AT875R Line
Best microphone lists should include only the best brands, so here is an Audio-Technica model. AT875R is designed for video production audio acquisition. It is easy to use for a beginner as it’s extremely short and perfect for use with compact digital cameras. But it does require phantom power, so people use something like a TASCAM DR-100mkII recorder and then sync up the audio and the video.
Like a good shotgun mic, AT875R has good directionality and the narrow acceptance angle necessary for long-distance sound pickup. Resulting from those 2 things the mic also offers excellent sound and noise rejection from both the sides and the rear of the mic.
The problem with built-in mics is the self-noise, they usually add hiss to your carefully filmed video. No such thing with Audio-Technica AT875R, no self-noise, and no handling noise here either.
Rode NTG2 is a classic with broadcast sound quality. It offers regular 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, but the selectable high-pass filter at 80Hz will cut low-end noise for you. The bundled WSVM windshield cuts down light wind noise and sibilance furthermore.
Since you lose all that noise what you get is accurate rich sound full of details. Low noise circuitry stands for “no hiss”.
To operate Rode NTG2 you need to provide 48V phantom power or just insert a 1.5V AA battery. And then it works reliably protected by rugged metal construction.
Rode SVM Stereo Condenser Microphone
This model from Rode delivers something completely different. This is a versatile supercardioid stereo microphone well suited for capturing true ambience of the recorded space. Simply put, this is the mic without too much directionality.
But Rode SVM Stereo still provides superior rear rejection and low noise as you get a two-step high-pass filter, flat or 80 Hz, with -10dB pad switch.
The second difference from the mics above is that plugs into the regular 3.5 mm jack and mounts with a regular shoe mount which makes operation super easy.
And like the picture shows in a somewhat exaggerated way, a custom designed windscreen comes included.
Don’t forget to power it with a 9V battery.
If the solution with a mic mounted on camera does not work for you, e.g. you work in a noisy room or out in the open, then the opposite solution probably works. That would be attaching them onto the person. This kind of mics is called lavalier microphones.
Audio-Technica has a thing or two to offer in this category as well. ATR3350 is a condenser element, omnidirectional pattern lavalier. And you just plug the thing into 3.5 mm (1/8″) jack. That means it would work with any device with 3.5mm jack, like your phone or a tablet.
Performance figures are quite satisfactory starting with 50 – 18,000 hz frequency response. 54 dB open circuit sensitivity works for most situations and people.
ATR3350 is battery-powered as well, LR44 type. It actually has enough power to pick up voices outdoors, 10 feet away in otherwise quiet conditions.
Neewer 3.5mm Hands Free Computer Clip on Mini Lapel Microphone
We dare offer you the cheapest best seller ever. When you the $7 dollar price you get more than 1 or 2. In fact, you get 3 lapel microphones for those 7 bucks. Each of them has a foam windscreen. And there is an approx. 59″/150cm long cable. Which plugs into the standard 3.5mm jack.
This hardware is certainly good enough for Skype, VOIP, gaming, and/or video conferencing. It does pick up some background hiss but it also picks up voice from 3 feet away. Works for extremely tall people whose mouths are way too far from shirts where this thing clips on. And you can mount it to something in front of you as well.
This model by Rode we would put here as an exemplary lavalier mic. Its frequency range is from 20Hz to 20kHz but that does not say much.
What smartLav+ actually offers is making broadcast-grade recordings with a mobile device, smartphone or a tablet. You just need to plug it. This is as portable as it gets, no complications and expenses of additional wireless equipment. Portability is enhances even more with the Kevlar reinforced cable.
The design qualifies as awesome since Rode smartLav+ features professional quality omnidirectional condenser capsule delivering equal sound pickup from all around the microphone. That makes for versatility of mounting and ensures a truly user-friendly operation.
It works with any gadget with sound recording apps installed but it works the best with RDE Rec app for Apple iOS devices.
Handheld microphones definitely qualify as external because you would not put one of those in your armpit, would you? They are also closer to the speaker than shotgun mics so they’ve been delivering quality sound for ages.
Blue Yeti USB Microphone – Blackout Edition
Before getting to the actual handheld mics we would like to share some good news about desktop mics (that users can hold in their hands too). One the most popular USB mics just had its Blackout Edition released and it’s $45 cheaper than any other Blue Yeti’s available version.
And, of course, the quality is no worse. You still get the acclaimed tri-capsule array which is essentially 3 condenser capsules catching every detail. and we remind you that Blue Yeti is the mic that lets you play switching the pattern – cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional or stereo. The picture also kindly shows that all the controls stayed with the Yeti. The gain control, mute button, and zero-latency headphone output are available in the same positions.
We have a full review of the Yeti available for you right here.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB Plus
These are excellent times to buy the Yeti’ main competition, Audio-Technica AT2020USB Plus, as well since it’s $145 with the free pop filter. This is your standard condenser microphone with USB connection for digital recording.
High quality A/D converter with 16 bit, 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate for superior audio will help you say words “my home studio” with less shame. Via the headphone jack with volume control, you can monitor the microphone signal with zero delay.
You can read our full review of Audio-Technica AT2020USB here.
This mic is good for beginners or semi-professional users. ADM1064B delivers your speeches and even singing, so get this one for karaoke.
But it will not work for any kind of studio. This is a very basic dynamic mic, not a super-sensitive condenser. Don’t get me wrong, the -68 +/- 3 dB sensitivity, a result of a low impedance capsule, is quite good for a dynamic one.
As you’ve noticed the picture, this mic’s other advantage is that a long cable comes bundled and the bundle is actually a nice case.
An affordable Shure microphone is what many people would like and this is it. This is a next level dynamic mic. It is still somewhat basic, simple design with lockable on/off switch does not exactly blow away. Connects with your regular XLR microphone cable as well.
But when it comes to performance matters, SM48S offers frequency response perfect for vocals, with bright midrange and bass roll-off to control proximity effect. The true cardioid pattern is maintained throughout the entire frequency range. Another thing you going to like about this thing is high gain without feedback and it rejects off-axis sound as well.
A built-in pop filter is a nice surprise. They should have come up with that long time ago.
The package with stand adapter and carrying/storage bag is one more good thing here.
Sennheiser e935 Cardioid Dynamic
This is certainly the most advisable dynamic mic. The working musician would not look at the speech-oriented models above. The shock-mounted capsule with humbucking coil sounds pretty classy, doesn’t it? More classiness comes with neodymium ferrous magnet with boron. This is enough engineering to make the mic work regardless weather or even the general climate. Moreover, Sennheiser e935 is a rugged and reliable metal construction made in Germany.
From all of that metal comes the finely calibrated, natural and defined sound.
And we have reviewed that sound for you in full right here.
Blue Microphones Spark Condenser Microphone
Now, the 3 dynamic handhelds above are good for live performances. For home studio recording you would need a good condenser. We recommend this orange Spark.
The versatile Blue Microphones Spark mic is designed to provide professional quality recordings. Focus Control (controlled with the visible orange button) provides two recording modes. The first mode operates with low-frequency sensitivity and that makes it good for recording a wide range of instruments. With either mode, you get great clarity and detail recorded. But the mics that are this good also record every minor speech impediment of yours, note that.
The included pop filter is not the best one, though, but it works.