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The 5 Best Budget Microphones for Audiobook Narration

Updated: Jan 21

First Things First


Budgeting for audio narration can be tough. This accountant is trying to figure out just how much you can afford to spend.

The next step on our path to becoming audiobook narrators is figuring out just what kind of microphone you need. If you already have a microphone but are having trouble getting it to sound the way you'd like, take a look here. It's highly likely that you need to address issues in your recording room.


For those of you who have put together an excellent room and are now in the market for a microphone, look no further! I mean, do. Look in as many places as you can to get good information. Anyone who tells you they have all the answers is either lying to you or being rather foolish.


In this article, we're going to take a look at what I think are the 5 best budget microphones for audiobook narrators so you have some exposure to potential options, as well as give you an idea of what to look for when you look elsewhere. If you hit any terms you don't understand, refer to the glossary for classification (I'll add to it as people tell me more things that aren't clear).


Important Terms


The following terms are incredibly important for understanding what makes a microphone good or bad. If you don't know what any of these terms mean, I have explained them all in my Glossary article:


Diaphragm

Condenser/Dynamic

XLR/USB

Pre-Amps

Phantom Power

Self-Noise

Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Clipping

Decibels (dB) Shock Mount


The 5 Best Budget Microphones for Audiobook Narration


For these microphones, we're generally going to be sitting in the under $250 range. These are going to be USB mics, as the fact that they can be plugged directly in to the computer means that you don't have to shell out for an audio interface. It also means that the self-noise is likely to be significantly higher than the mid-range and high-end mics. I'm also gonna go from cheapest to most expensive:


The Audio-Technica ATR2100X-USB microphone

Pros - It's hard to say no to a price tag this low - Solid audio for the price point - XLR and USB options Cons - You'll need to replace the mic stand - The self-noise is high (98 dB-A)

All in all, this mic is way better than it deserves to be. As you've probably guessed from the price, this one is well below normal in terms of its cost. Audio-Technica is a well-known mic manufacturer, and this is a decent mic for the price. However, with self-noise being as high as it is (18dB-A is the minimum standard, and 98 is simply unacceptable), it would probably be better for the professional narrator to practice on their phone until you can save up for one of the other mics on our list.



The Razer Seiren X microphone

Pros - Clean overall signal - Very low self-noise

- All-metal construction Cons - No included adapter for a mic stand or boom mount - Frequency response leaves a lot to be desired Just based on the build quality alone, this mic is a fantastic find for the money. Razer claims the mic the incredulously low self-noise figure of 11dB-A (Broadcast quality is 18dB-A and below). From testing, it seems to play really well in the higher frequencies of human speech.


The mic will require you to buy a shock-mount, pop-filter, and mic stand, but overall this is a great price for this level of audio quality. The biggest place the mic falls down is its middle and lower frequencies, where the audio just doesn't sound all that nice to listen to. Maybe a great find for those of us with higher voices, but deep, bass-heavy voices should probably avoid.


The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X microphone

Pros - Build quality is solid - Includes an adapter for a stand - Clear quality sound from a reputable brand Cons - The onboard audio interface can be finicky - No XLR output The sensitivity of this mic is solid, with the build quality meaning you could work with this mic for a few years without fear of failure. The manufacturer also remembered to include an adapter for a stand, a solid indication that they expected this mic to be used in a studio setting. Additionally, with self-noise around 20 dB-A (18 and below is standard), this is the first mic that is getting close to our needs as audio professionals.


The biggest issue is that, with no XLR, you'll need to replace it relatively soon in your narration journey. On top of that, the fiddly audio controls means that you are going to have trouble dialing in your gain levels (and start clipping), which can be incredibly problematic in exciting sections of a book.


The rode podmic usb microphone

Pros - USB or XLR, so you can upgrade later - All-metal build quality - Includes a pop filter Cons - Have to use dedicated software to settings on the USB side Honestly, if you have the money, either this or the MV7 USB (no. 5) is the mic I would get started with. It has beautifully clear sound, especially for a USB mic. On top of that, the ability to upgrade to an audio interface once you have the funds also means you can future-proof your purchase, since it functions on both USB and XLR. The only real downside is that when you need to change settings for the USB side of things, you'll have to do it on the in Rode's dedicated software on your computer, which is a bit of a faff, but bearable.


The Shure MV7 USB microphone

Pros - Incredibly clean and clear audio - USB and XLR - Microphone controls are easily accessible

- The frequency response is variable Cons - Changing the settings is two-handed - The frequency response is variable As I mentioned when we talked about the Rode PodMic, these two are the best USB mics I could find if you want to be able to record studio-quality audio from a USB mic. Shure specifies that the self-noise sits around 20dB-A, which is solid for a USB mic (Though the Razer has it beat there). The ability to switch between XLR and USB means you can keep this one for a longer portion of your journey (Nothing wrong with saving a little cash).

The biggest boon and bane is the ability to change the frequency response. For someone who doesn't know how this will affect their voice, this amount of control can be overwhelming. But once you get a grip on it, you'll be able to get much more varied sound. Additionally, the gain control on the mic is a two-handed affair, as the capacitive controls are quite difficult to manage.


That's a Wrap


So there are my recommendations for mics in the sub-$250 category. They're solid for the price, with USB connectivity meaning you aren't going to have to invest in an audio interface just yet, and can focus on prioritizing what your room sounds like. Hopefully, with a better understanding of what makes a mic good as well as a few options to get started, you can build a room for your self and begin recording! Remember, these options are not the end all be all, and there are virtually endless options of mics to choose from.



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