Microphone Recommendations for Giving Online Presentations (Podcast Appearances, Webinars & Online Conference Meetings)

When it comes to delivering a presentation from your home computer, whether it’s a webinar, livestream, podcast appearance, online conference call meeting or anything else — audio quality matters. Here we are going to explain what makes microphones work and sound good (vs the tinny sound you may currently be getting from using your laptop microphone), and recommend several comprehensive microphone setups suitable for different budgets that will have you delivering online presentations with buttery-smooth vocals in no time!

In the Spotlight Planner, we guide our readers through delivering the best online presentations of their lives, specifically online conference call meetings (over Zoom/Microsoft Teams, etc), delivering webinars, appearing on podcast and hosting or appearing on livestreams.

A common roadblock that anyone giving these presentations online experiences is audio — how to make sure that you are sounding as good as possible so that your listeners can hear you clearly and without interference.

What we’ve found after delivering countless presentations online is that audio quality and tonality has become a significant differentiator in today’s environment. During COVID when many people started to work from home and Zoom calls became the norm for weekly meetings amongst many companies; we all got to experience just how annoying and distracting hearing a monologue from someone talking through a cheap pair of headphones with significant background noise can be!

On the contrary, if you’ve had the luxury of hearing someone speak through a proper audio setup — perhaps a Shure SM7B that’s powered properly and run through a good audio interface that uses quality pre-amps — you’re likely aware of how much better a message delivered through it is often received.

Here, we’re going to cover several audio setups that you can use for your online presentation in order to make yourself sound great and ensure that your message is received as well as possible by the listener, and we’re going to suggest different options for a range of budgets, too.

Microphone Basics: What’s the Difference Between A Good Sounding Microphone & a Bad One?

One of the first and most important thing to understand about microphones is that there are two main types: condenser microphones & dynamic microphones. For the non technically/gear-obsessed readers, this differentiation may seem like it doesn’t matter at all. But the truth is that each type of microphone is usually far-better suited for certain uses.

For the purposes of giving an online presentation like a webinar, podcast or livestream appearance, I’ll tell you the spoiler up front and generally suggest that you use a dynamic microphone because you can get amazing results with fewer problems occurring. Condenser microphones can be used for these purposes too, but they are more difficult to set up and can often pick up unwanted external noises [1].

If you’re interested in learning why, then keep reading…

Condenser Microphones Vs Dynamic Microphones for Online Presentations

Dynamic mics look more like what you would probably consider a ‘classic mic’. They are always used professionally outside a soundproofed studio environment (as in live music performances, outdoor reporting or in any wide-open space).

The reason they work so well outside of a studio is that they pick up the area closest to the microphone and reject a lot of everything else happening around them. This makes them more versatile (or more dynamic, if you will) [2]. Dynamic microphones are typically cheaper then condenser mics.

Condenser mics are typically larger in size than dynamic. You can usually see the circular diaphragm behind the screen with a condenser. They’re usually quite delicate and pick up a large range of frequencies giving a crystal clear sound when used in a space that has a completely dead sound (such as a recording booth). Condensers typically require an external power source, called Phantom power.

In the correct environment like a recording studio, condenser mics sound amazing and can produce more spacious and deep vocals! This is why they are commonly used for professional vocal recordings [2].

When choosing between the two, we recommend dynamic microphones for most people delivering online presentations from a home computer. The main reasons are (typically) better cost and value-for-money plus better rejection of background noise (think hum from an external AC, etc).

Here’s an excellent video from the microphone guru Podcastage explaining more of the nuances between Dynamic and Condenser mics:

USB Microphones vs XLR microphones with Audio Interface

Today you can easily get your hands on thousands of different USB microphones as well as purchase the same microphone in both XLR and USB format, as well as choose from a wide range of XLR only mics. So the obvious question is: which is better?

Well XLR microphones typically require additional equipment to be used, like an Audio Interface or a Mixer, while USB microphones are designed to be connected directly to the computer via a USB Cable, making them easier to set up and use. However, XLR microphones generally provide a higher-quality audio signal because of how XLR cables are able to suppress noise [3].

We always recommend that people who are trying to get the best sound quality out of their equipment from the start, should go with XLR microphones since they will end up yielding a better end result and you can upgrade components in the chain in future if you’re ever seeking better results. However, as mentioned, XLR microphones will require you to purchase additional gear, which means that the whole setup, while more versatile and better-sounding, will be more expensive. To get started with adequate sound quality for cheap and with minimal technical setup, USB microphones are the way to go.

If you’ve done any research into microphones at all, you will probably have seen many microphone models out there that come in both the XLR and USB format, such as the Audio-Technica AT2020.

Essentially, it’s the exact same microphone, but the USB version comes with additional components, such as a built-in audio interface, phantom power supply, etc., that allows the microphone to record all on its own and to draw the power it needs straight out of the USB port. XLR microphones, on the other hand, don’t come with those additional components, which is why you will need an Audio Interface, Mixer, or a Preamp to record with them and to feed them Phantom Power [3].

Here’s a video explaining the key differences between USB & XLR microphones:

Online Presentation Microphone Setup Recommendation

So we’ve covered the technical factors behind the different microphone types that you can use for delivering your online presentations. Now we’re going to share 3 different microphone setup recommendations at 3 different budgets that contain everything you need in order to have the audio section of your digital presentations completely covered; whether it’s for delivering webinars, podcast appearances, livestreams, zoom/online conference call meetings or any other format that requires a clear and well projected voice to the listener on the other end of the screen.

Microphone Setup Recommendation #1: Low Budget Option

Our low-budget but still high-quality audio microphone recommendation is the Audio Technica 2100x USB microphone (with optional XLR connection so that you’re future-proof) or nearly the same microphone from a competing brand: the Samson Q2U.

These USB microphones are excellent as ‘quick-start’ microphones, as they come in at under $100 (often way under with sales and promotions), can be hooked up to your computer via USB and will be recognized by Windows or Mac computers instantly without the need for driver installs, sound pretty amazing out of the box and, if you ever want to upgrade to a more advanced setup using an audio interface or mixer like the Audient Evo 4 or Rodecaster Pro (mentioned later) then you can still use these microphones with those devices by connecting via XLR cable. In short: you cant go wrong with either of these choices!

Audio Technica 2100x mic for online presentations

Audio Technica 2100x

The 2100x-USB is a dynamic microphone with USB-C digital output and XLR analog output. Durable metal construction for long-lasting performance with smooth, extended frequency response perfect for podcasting, webinars, online meetings, digital presentations and even voiceover work. The USB output connects to your computer (Windows and Mac) for digital recording, While the XLR output connects with your audio interfaces conventional microphone input for use as part of a complete audio system. The built-in headphone jack lets you monitor directly from the microphone, and the cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of unwanted sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source. There’s even a sturdy tripod desk stand with folding legs included, making it easy to set up and transport. Also includes three cables: USB-C to USB-C, USB-C to USB-A, and XLR-female to XLR-male.

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Samson Q2U Microphone for online presentations

Samson Q2U

Q2U is a dynamic microphone with USB digital output for connecting directly to a computer and XLR analog output for connecting to a mixer or audio interface. The cardioid pickup pattern captures sound from in front of the microphone and less from the side and rear, minimizing ambient sounds and other room noises for podcasting, online presentations, home recording or voiceover work. With a Solid, die-cast construction with heavy gauge mesh grille the Q2U is a plug-and-play device, meaning it doesn’t need any special drivers to work with your computer. It even comes with an extended desktop stand with mic clip that positions the microphone close to the sound source, a pop-filter for reducing p-pops, and USB and XLR cables.

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Microphone Setup Recommendation #2: Medium Budget

Our medium budget, mid-to-high-end sound quality microphone setup recommendation will likely end-up costing around double what the USB microphones recommended above will cost you, but you are pretty much guaranteed to have an audio setup with these that will sound just as good as any professional podcast or livestream host you’ve heard and been impressed by the quality of their audio output. We’re not talking studio-quality it, but for non-audiophiles and industry experts, this is about as good as it gets!

There’s 3 parts to our medium budget mic setup recommendation (plus an XLR cable), you’ll need:

  • Audio Interface: connects to your computer and converts the analogue signal coming out of your mic and running through your XLR cable into a digital signal that your computer can then use and feed into any application of your choice (typically shows as a microphone input on most Windows or Mac computers).
  • XLR Microphone: a microphone with an XLR connection (XLR is a three-pronged circular connection if you’ve never seen one).
  • Microphone Stand: range in price and quality from super cheap and no-frills to eye-watering-ly expensive and fancy.
  • XLR Cable: to connect your mic to your interface.

The setup that we personally use at the Spotlight Planner headquarters for several of our staff is as follows:

From our research, there are newer audio interfaces that are just as good as the Focusrite Scarlett, but we haven’t personally tested these out so can’t fully recommend (in other words, please do further research on these before purchasing):

Here’s a solid video talking over the pros and cons of several audio interfaces available on the market today:

Microphone Setup Recommendation #3: Expensive ‘Money is Not an Issue’ Option

Our “money is no object” microphone setup recommendation really only has two items (not including the XLR cables and mic stands, which we covered above) and all together will come in at around the $1k mark. The two items are the Rodecaster Pro II audio interface/mixer and the Shure SM7B microphone.

Rodecaster Pro II

Rodecaster Pro II

Touted as ‘the world’s most powerful all-in-one audio production solution’. Combining tens of thousands of dollars worth of studio equipment into one easy-to-use console, the RØDECaster Pro II is all you need to record incredible audio for any content you’re creating. The RØDECaster Pro II comes equipped with ultra-low noise, high gain Revolution preamps, which have been designed from the ground up to give you pristine audio from the moment you plug in your microphone or instrument. Every feature is designed to make you sound incredible with absolute ease; and navigating and controlling the RØDECaster Pro II is super simple with the high-definition touchscreen, tactile rotary encoder, and intuitive hands-on controls.

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Shure SM7B microphone for online presentations

Shure SM7B

The SM7B is trusted by the worlds leading vocalists, podcasters and streamers. It’s dynamic cartridge with smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response produces exceptionally clean and natural reproduction of both music and speech. The SM7B’s cardioid pattern is designed to reject off-axis audio, so you can sing or speak at a comfortable angle and it captures the sound, just as you want it, with minimum coloration.

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Here’s a fantastic video covering how to use these two devices together:

Professional Speaker, Performance Expert & Lead Writer

Eric is a professional speaker, performance expert and a member of the Spotlight Planner team since it was founded. Eric has battled anxiety his entire life and he is passionate about helping people gain control over the things that they fear most, with anxiety & performing in front of crowds being at the top of that list for many!