“When it sounds good, it is good.”
As the (now-retired) founder of our company, Peter Steinberger, (the PS in PSPDFKit) mentions in his Twitter profile, our company was remote even before it was cool.
And cool or not, if you’re working for a remote company, you’ll probably spend a good portion of your working day talking to other people using video conferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, and Slack Huddle, to name a few.
And while doing that, you’ll probably want to use a decent microphone.
In this article, to help you choose a good microphone, we’ll compare six different categories of microphones, and for each of the categories, we picked a representative that we think is a best buy in its class.
The categories and the microphones tested are:
Built-in laptop microphone — Apple MacBook Pro
Mobile phone headset — Samsung-AKG
Gaming headset — ASTRO A10
Lavalier microphone — PowerDeWise
USB condenser microphone — Elgato Wave:3
Dynamic XLR microphone — Austrian Audio OD303
1. Built-In Laptop Microphone — Apple MacBook Pro
We’ll start with the most common choice — the built-in laptop microphone — and use it as a reference point. And the most common type of computer in our company is Apple’s MacBook Pro.
The internal speakers are convenient because no extra equipment is necessary. However, one downside of using a built-in laptop microphone is the fact that the microphone will always be some distance away from your mouth. This allows the microphone to pick up unwanted sounds from your environment.
2. Mobile Phone Headset — Samsung-AKG
As the most affordable option on the list, this headset can be found for around $15.
The microphone is located in a plastic housing on the wire where the controls are, which brings it close to the face.
The downside is that you have to use the whole set, including the in-ear headphones, and we found that the sound, although clear and of decent quality, is always a bit too quiet.
This headset comes in two versions, depending on the connector: either a 3.5 mm jack or a USB-C connector. We recorded a sample with the 3.5 mm jack.
3. Gaming Headset — ASTRO A10
In its second generation, the A10 provides a surprisingly comfortable and easy-to-use set.
Gaming microphones have a tendency to make you sound like you’re an airplane captain addressing the passengers, but this model seems to be doing something slightly different and better.
If you don’t mind wearing a gaming headset, this affordable set (~$50) might surprise you.
Just make sure you get the second generation, as they’re not only more comfortable to wear, but they also have a more neutral sound profile.
4. Lavalier Microphone — PowerDeWise
Popular with streamers, this affordable lavalier microphone (~$40) surprised us with its quality of the sound and the fact that it’s very light and easy to carry.
At the same time, the microphone itself is quite sensitive to sound, but it also feels durable and comes with a small wind protector.
5. USB Condenser Microphone — Elgato Wave:3
Condenser microphones are considered the finest when it comes to microphone technology, and Elgato doesn’t disappoint.
It provides the warmest sound out of all the choices here, but it comes with a cost.
Not only it is more expensive than the above-mentioned options (~$120), but it’s also delicate and easy to break if not handled with care.
Nevertheless, the sound it provides is one of the most pleasant among the tested devices.
6. Dynamic XLR Microphone — Austrian Audio OD303
This is our most expensive option because, to use a dynamic XLR microphone, you’ll need an external audio interface (also known as external USB audio card) and an XLR cable to connect the microphone.
The company was created in Vienna by engineers who didn’t move to the US when AKG (originally an Austrian company) was acquired and the Vienna office was closed. Austrian Audio currently produces some of the finest microphones available today.
At close to $250, the whole set is the most expensive option we tested, but we find the sound quality, extensibility, and durability to be above the rest.
We really enjoyed testing all the devices for this article, and each of them has some great features.
However, if we had to pick a single one, it would be the lavalier microphone, PowerDeWise. It has a good sound, and it’s very portable and easy to use. Combined with its affordable price, the recommendation is a no-brainer.
If you’re prepared to spend a bit more and you have a fixed place of work, Elgato Wave:3 will deliver the best experience out of the box.
On the other hand, if you’re anything like some of us, and you like to experiment and push the limits, then an external audio interface and a good XLR microphone (dynamic or condenser) might be something you want.