Ever watch a low-budget movie and wonder, “How did this film make the cut?” The cinematography may have been average, the story derivative but — the sound! The quality of the sound design may be the reason the film made it onto the screen. Surprisingly, many film festival programmers rate sound quality as the element they weigh most heavily when looking at entries. In fact, sound in cinema can be very deceptive. Having the best microphone possible is an important element in achieving good sound.
Techniques that many films use — such as audio editing, ADR (automated dialog replacement, also known as dubbing or looping), remixing and sound sweetening — occur in post-production and can be very time-consuming as well as expensive.
Because sound plays such an important role in audience perception, it’s important to get the audio right. That means you need the right microphone for the job. Here are our picks for the best microphones for video production in several categories. At the end of the list, we’ll go over the most important factors to consider as you shop for your next mic.
The Editors’ Choice award recognizes exceptional video production equipment, software and services. These products must help videographers be more effective storytellers while being affordable, easy to use and dependable. The products must also deliver a superior user experience.
Your vision. Better sound.
Capture crisp and clear high-quality audio wherever you record with Sony’s suite of wireless shotgun microphones. Engineered to be compact, lightweight, and packed with technology that makes scenes and stories come to life, there’s one for virtually any kind of content creator. The vlogger-focused ECM-G1 faithfully captures human voices, even in noisy environments. With the ECM-B10, moviemakers can switch directivity between superdirectional, unidirectional, and omnidirectional, optimizing sound capture for the situation at hand. Stepping up to the ECM-B1M brings eight onboard microphone capsules for even wider utility and performance in professional content creation. Learn more about Sony’s Shotgun Microphones.
Best digital wireless microphone
RODE Wireless GO II
- Compact and light
- Dual-channel capability (can use two microphones simultaneously)
- Built-in omnidirectional microphone
- Doesn’t come with classic lavs
- No built-in display
- Not suitable for more complex audio setups
The RØDE Wireless Go II system is an innovative upgrade to the original Wireless GO, designed to accommodate two-person shoots with onboard recording, extended range and flexible output options. This sleek, black audio system is perfect for videographers, vloggers and mobile journalists, allowing them to integrate wireless audio into their setup effortlessly. The Wireless Go II features secure Series IV 2.4 GHz digital transmission, user-friendly operation, built-in microphones and compatibility with separately available lavalier mics. The system is designed for ease of use with simple power-on-and-go functionality, a bright LCD screen for quick information access and RØDE’s companion app for advanced features and settings customization.
The Wireless Go II system supports uncompressed audio recording at a maximum resolution of 24-bit / 48 kHz and offers compatibility with the RØDE Central companion app for exporting files in various formats. With a dual-channel system capable of handling two transmitters simultaneously, the Wireless Go II provides low latency (3.5 to 4 ms) for seamless two-person shoots. Its USB Type-C digital audio output allows the receiver to function as a 24-bit / 48 kHz audio interface, compatible with various devices. Additionally, the new Series IV technology increases the line-of-sight operating range to approximately 656 feet, providing enhanced signal strength in crowded wireless environments. With powerful customization options, the Wireless Go II system is perfect for on-the-go recording and versatile audio solutions.
Best UHF wireless microphone
Sennheiser EW-DP ME 2
- Magnetic stacking system for receivers
- The transmitter is rechargeable
- Low latency of 1.9 milliseconds
- 134 dB of dynamic range
- Remote control via Smart Assist app
- It’s pricey
The Sennheiser EW-DP ME 2 is a fully digital, camera-mount wireless microphone system tailor-made for videographers. With professional UHF transmission, this system delivers pristine, broadcast-quality audio directly to your camera. The package includes an EW-DP EK camera mount, a single-channel receiver with a mounting kit, a lightweight EW-D SK bodypack transmitter and a ME 2 omnidirectional lavalier mic. The added convenience of 3.5 mm and XLR output cables allows the receiver to connect to a DSLR/mirrorless camera, recorder or mixer.
Among the EW-DP’s standout features is its dynamic range of 134 dB, eliminating concerns over signal overload regardless of input levels. With a wide 56 MHz bandwidth, intelligent switching diversity reception with two antennas and an auto-scan feature with 2,240 frequencies, this system provides reliable wireless performance even in challenging RF environments. The system also boasts Bluetooth capabilities that enable remote syncing of components and changing settings using the Smart Assist app. Also, the EW-DP’s efficient battery management provides extended operating times: up to 12 hours on the transmitter and 7 hours on the receiver, minimizing interruptions during shooting.
Best handheld microphone
sE Electronics V7
- Rugged construction
- Great sound quality
The sE Electronics V7 is a handheld dynamic microphone that can capture super crisp audio in many different situations. Whether you’re recording a speaker at a house of worship or a singer at a concert, the Electronics V7 will not disappoint.
It features an aluminum voice coil and supercardioid polar pattern. Together, these reduce the pickup of stage bleed. Also, you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged; it’s built with an all-metal design with zinc alloy chassis.
Best shotgun microphone
- Industry-standard sound quality
- Built to last
- Suitable for adverse environmental conditions
While not a small investment, the Sennheiser MKH-416 Short Shotgun Interference Tube microphone is an industry-standard that can be spotted on Hollywood sets and professional independent productions alike. The mic is responsive to frequencies between 40 and 20,000 Hz and has a hypercardioid pickup pattern that begins to narrow into a lobar pattern above 2 kHz. This particular microphone has extremely powerful directivity meaning you will always get an incredibly tight and focused recording, no matter where you’re recording.
When your work takes you outdoors, you’re bound to encounter humidity and condensation, which can cause many mics to fail. The MKH 416-P48U3’s RF condenser design makes it highly immune to moisture, allowing you to reliably capture high-quality audio in normal and adverse environmental conditions. The MKH 416-P48U3 also has a foam windscreen to reduce unwanted wind noise.
Designed specifically for film, radio and television work, the MKH-416 has a durable all-metal body ready for hard use on set or on location. It’s expensive but the MKH-416 is a quality product that you can rely on.
Best voice-over microphone
Austrian Audio OC16
- Includes a case and shock mount
- Handles loud sound sources up to 148 dB SPL
- Low-cut filter to roll off low frequencies you don’t need
- Slightly higher price than some competitors
The Austrian Audio OC16 is a true voice-over microphone. It can tackle various tasks and still deliver clear, crisp audio. The OC16 features Open Acoustics technology, which isolates the microphone’s capsule from vibrations, working as a built-in diffuser. It also has a cardioid pickup pattern, which helps lessen background noise. Plus, the microphone’s elastic spider shock mount saves the recording from handling noise.
Another great feature is the OC16’s three-position low-cut switch, which allows you to filter out any bottom frequencies you don’t want to record. And, with high sound pressure compatibility of up to 148 dB SPL, the OC16 can tolerate sound pressure even in front of very loud sound sources without distortion. The OC16 from Austrian Audio is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality voice-over microphone.
Best podcasting microphone
- Voice-friendly frequency response
- limits audio-distorting noises and sounds
- 10-year warranty through RØDE
- Limited by its status as an XLR mic
There should typically be at least a little skepticism whenever a company rolls out a marketing phrase like “broadcast-quality sound.” With the RØDE Procaster, however, the phrasing is not just warranted, but validated. The Procaster offers a tight polar pattern and a frequency response designed specifically for voices, making it a great companion to even the deepest voices among the thousands of podcast personalities in the world today.
The Procaster also features an internal pop-filter, which is meant to keep any sounds that have the potential to distort your podcast’s audio output to a bare minimum. It’s a rather pricey piece of equipment, especially for those who have just entered the realm of podcasting. But as your listenership grows, they’ll thank you for recording with a powerful microphone like the RØDE Procaster.
Best camera-top microphone
RØDE VideoMic NTG
- Safety channel
- Long battery life
- Rechargeable battery
- Larger than previous models
RØDE’s NTG shotgun microphones are typically known for being lightweight, on-the-go microphones capable of delivering broadcast-quality audio. The VideoMic NTG offers everything that we’ve become accustomed to in the NTG series, combined with features from the VideoMic lineup.
The VideoMic NTG can be used in many different setups: on-camera with DSLRs or smartphone rigs, on a boom pole or as a USB mic for recording voiceovers, podcasts or live streaming.
This mic has a highly directional super-cardioid polar pattern and infinitely variable gain control. Users are able to adjust the mic’s output from mic level to line level to headphone level. There is also an Auto-sensing 3.5mm output that automatically switches between TRS and TRRS. It would work for both cameras (TRS) and mobile devices (TRRS). No need for adaptor cables.
The VideoMic NTG has a high-pass filter (75 Hz or 150 Hz), – 20dB pad, high-frequency boost, and safety channel. Additionally, the switchable safety channel records an additional channel at -20dB if the main channel just so happens to clip.
The microphone uses the Rycote Lyre shock mounting system with cable management. Also, it works with a sliding rail mount.
Best budget shotgun microphone
- Roll-off positions switch
- Solid construction
- Battery or phantom powered
- Extra-long form factor
The Audio-Technica AT8015 Shotgun has proven to us it is currently the best budget microphone, offering the most features for the lowest price.
To give you an overview of this mic, the Audio-Technica AT8015 Shotgun is a line gradient condenser, phantom or battery-powered, shotgun mic. Its primary focus is to capture over long distances. It is positioned to do that thanks to its sound rejection design, rejecting sound coming from the sides and the rear. With its ability to capture sound from long distances, it can be used in a number of situations. Those working in TV broadcasts can use it to capture audio of a news reporter or interviewee. Also, those working on professional or personal video projects should be able to use this mic to capture audio clearly without having to get the mic in the shot. Its versatility at a low price is one of the reasons it is the best budget microphone out there right now.
Additionally, the AT8015 Shotgun features a roll-off position switch. What does this switch do? It reduces the pickup of low-frequency ambient noise. So, for instance, the mic will cancel out anything like traffic, room reverberation and mechanically coupled vibrations.
Best USB microphone
Shure MV7 Podcast Mic
- Mute button
- XLR and USB C output
Shure MV7 Podcast Mic is a high-quality microphone that’s easy to set up and use in practically any setup. The mic features both a conventional XLR connection and a USB port, making it quite versatile.
The MV7 Podcast Mic, as the name implies, is perfect for podcast recording. It has a unidirectional cardioid polar pattern. This allows the mic to block out any room noise. The mic also optimizes frequency response, allowing for rich and natural vocal reproduction. Additionally, it comes with a built-in pop filter to prevent plosives and p-pops.
With the mic, you can capture at sample rates and resolutions up to 48 kHz / 24-bit. This is standard for editing and mixing broadcast audio. Additionally, it has an integrated touch-panel interface, allowing you to control its levels, monitor mix and headphone volumes and mute the mic if necessary.
If you’re looking for a USB mic, you can’t go wrong with the Shure MV7 Podcast Mic.
Best in-line microphone preamp
Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1
- +25 dB of gain
- Simple and easy to use
- Robust build quality
The Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator from Cloud Microphones is a handy single-input solution for both in-field and in-studio settings. Utilizing any standard phantom-powered mixer or microphone input device, the CL-1 can deliver up to +25 dB of clean gain. This capability enhances the signal-to-noise ratio and optimizes passive microphone signals by driving stronger, cleaner signals across extended XLR cable runs.
The CL-1 Mic Activator is housed in a steel enclosure, providing both shielding and durability. Additionally, the CL-1 is designed with provisions for stage or stand mounting. Overall, the Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator is a versatile, easy-to-use device ideal for various applications.
Factors we considered
The best microphone is the right one for your shooting situation. To get a better idea of how to choose the right mic, let’s take a look at some key specs.
The first thing you’ll need to consider is form factor. There are several basic types of microphones you can use in production.
Whether wired or wireless, handheld microphones are held by an interviewer or talent. They’re great for getting run-and-gun interviews in noisy environments where you don’t have the time for a lavalier. Handheld mics can also be used on a stand to pick-up audio from a subject who will not be moving around. Handheld mics can deliver a very rich, full sound. However, if you don’t want your microphone in your shot, a lav or shotgun mic would be a better option.
This tiny microphone clips to a lapel or shirt, or it can be completely concealed under the talent’s clothing. Lav mics come in both wired and wireless forms. Lav mics can be helpful at times in blocking outside noise because of their close placement to the sound source; however, the noise created by your subject’s clothing moving around while wearing a lav can make the audio captured by the microphone unusable. Lavalier mics typically don’t produce as rich of a sound as handheld or shotgun mics. If it’s possible, use a shotgun mic instead of or in addition to the lav.
This long, thin type of microphone mounts to a stand, boom pole or your camera rig. Shotgun mics can be placed much further away from your subject than lavs or handheld mics while still doing a good job of rejecting outside noise. Shotgun mics are sensitive to handling noise, however, which can make using one mounted to a camera rig or even on a boom pole challenging.
Microphones in post-production
Microphones used for ADR or narration vary from handheld mics to large condenser mics. While many have XLR outs to connect with pro audio gear, many are now being built to connect directly to computers via USB. Foley — the background sounds in film and TV productions — is often recorded with a large variety of mics depending on many variables, including whether the recording is in a studio or outside and what the desired sound is.
Need-to-know tech specs
This is a quick and dirty breakdown. It’s important to note that audio recording is an art unto itself, similar to cinematography. Many chapters of many books have been written about types of microphones, the construction of mics and their pickup patterns.
Condenser vs. dynamic mics
The design of a microphone element or capsule will affect how the mic performs. There are many types of microphone elements; however, due to cost, durability and function, there are only two that should be considered for production and post: condenser and dynamic.
In the most basic sense, condenser microphones use electrical current to power a series of plates that vibrate when sound waves hit them. The obvious con to this type of microphone is that it needs power at all times in order to work. Pro audio systems use phantom power to send power down the microphone cable to condenser mics without interfering with the audio signal. Otherwise, the mic will need a battery.
Condenser mics can be very sensitive, allowing them to pick up audio from a distance. A good example of this use is shotgun microphones. This same sensitivity can result in a condenser mic picking up a lot of extra wind noise and background noise. That’s why a good windscreen is also a vital accessory for your shotgun mic. It’s also important to note that condenser mics can be a bit delicate.
Dynamic microphones are the most rugged mics available.
Dynamic microphones use an electromagnetic coil and diaphragm. While that may sound a lot more delicate than a condenser, it’s not. Dynamic microphones are the most rugged mics available. They do have a limited sensitivity, which actually is not always a downside; however, dynamic microphones don’t usually have as tight of a polar pattern as many condenser mics have.
Polar patterns, also commonly known as pickup patterns, are the areas where a microphone will be sensitive to sound. The common polar patterns used in production recording mics are omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid, supercardioid and line. Some microphones can even switch between polar patterns.
An omnidirectional mic has a polar pattern that is round in shape, while a cardioid polar pattern is heart-shaped. The line polar pattern used for shotgun mics is almost completely in front of the mic and very directional. This helps explain the shotgun’s rejection of noise along the sides of the mic and its popularity for use on film shoots.
Lav and handheld mics commonly use cardioid and hypercardioid patterns. They offer a good balance between wide pick up and rejection of outside noise.
Perhaps the most overlooked element when shopping for a new microphone is frequency response. This is a measurement of the audio frequencies a microphone is most sensitive to. This is usually expressed in Hertz (Hz). Each model will have a different frequency response, so you’ll need to know how you plan to use it. For example, if you record only spoken word, you only need a microphone that has good reproduction down to around 75 Hz. Most people’s voices when speaking are not any lower than that. On the other hand, many audio engineers feel that accurate reproduction of up to and in excess of 15,000 Hz (15 kHz) is important for good intelligibility and a feeling of clarity of the spoken word.
Wireless vs. wired
As a rule, wired microphones are more reliable than wireless; wireless always runs the risk of having radio frequency interference. There are new wireless systems that help eliminate many of those interference issues, making the difference more about money. Wireless systems are typically much more expensive.
Adjusting to the situation
The right mic for the job may be using more than one microphone. For instance, say you’re doing an interview on the sideline of a football game using a handheld mic. You can hear the subject holding the mic but not the crowd behind him. If you see the crowd making a lot of noise behind the subject of the interview but can’t hear the crowd making noise, it’s going to be rather awkward for viewers. In this case, record from a pair of microphones. You can use the built-in mic on your camera to pick up the crowd while the handheld mic picks up your subject. This gives you the ambient sound of your location without overpowering the track from your subject in your mix.
The right mic is only half the job.
Once you’ve determined the right mic(s) for a job, you’ll need to focus on microphone placement. Sound experts have written entire books on microphone placement for recording. Taking the time to learn mic placement techniques will likely improve your audio more than better gear.
Many microphones require accessories such as a windscreen, pop filter, zeppelin, shock mount or even a boom pole. Purchase them with your mic so you don’t find yourself facing an overnight shipping situation. Remember also that proper placement of your new microphone can make a huge difference.
Don’t settle for acceptable audio when you can have sensational sound.
Contributors to this article include W. H. Bourne and the Videomaker Editorial Staff.