The best XLR microphone for Zoom meetings

If you hear the dreaded, “You’re on mute,” too often during your remote workday, it might be time to consider getting an XLR microphone for all your Zoom meetings. Not only will it give you the flexibility to record from anywhere in the room, making it easier to give presentations or demonstrations, but your audio will be of higher quality and far less likely to cut out during the meeting. Also, you’ll be able to record more audio sources at once, such as several people or even musical instruments and performances.

For anyone new to microphone technology, it is imperative to know what to look for to find the microphone that works best for you. For example, if you’re back in the office but still rely on Zoom to communicate and the noise is too much, the Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone is a great choice. Due to its cardioid pattern, it easily isolates only the sounds you want, without any background noise (like your coworkers talking).

What to know before you buy an XLR microphone for Zoom meetings
Microphone types
In the recording industry, there are several microphone types suited for recording dialogue, sound effects or instruments. They’re categorized by how they’re made and how they record sound.

Dynamic microphones are the most durable and versatile and are usually found in live music or theatre settings because of this. They make sound with a magnetic coil.
Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are a go-to in recording studios because of their sensitivity, so they’re especially good for recording vocals. They make sound with a capacitor which converts vibrations into electricity. They typically require an external 48-volt power supply, known as phantom power.
Small-diaphragm condenser microphones are built the same way as large-diaphragm ones, they’re just shaped differently and are narrower. They’re less often used to record vocals or dialogue and are mostly used for stereo recordings, such as overhead drums or acoustic instruments in classical music.
Ribbon microphones use a tiny piece of conductive ribbon to make sound. They used to be prominent in early radio broadcasting days and are now used for instruments with a lot of high-frequency sounds, like brass instruments or electric guitar amps that might emit high-pitched feedback.
Microphones usually have XLR or USB connectors. The most common XLR connector in audio has three pins representing positive, negative and neutral polarity. XLR microphones tend to be of higher quality than USB microphones. USB microphones are more likely to pick up hum or other audio noise, they ideally need shorter cables making them less versatile, and they have higher latency. This means there is more likely to be a delay between the recording of a sound and when you hear the sound itself, which can be very disruptive when recording audio, especially in a Zoom meeting.

If you’re buying a microphone, you also want to consider some useful accessories, such as microphone clips, stands and mounts. Microphone stands usually have an adjustable boom arm that can swing out over a desk, or they might be a simple stand with a base and an adjustable height. You can also get a clamp or mount which sits or clamps on the desk, meaning it takes up less room if you’re recording in a small space. Some microphones come with a shock mount, which suspends the microphone in a series of small rubber bands or nylon cables so that it won’t vibrate and make noise. Most clip-on microphones come with extra clips.

XLR microphone for Zoom meetings features
Clip-on microphones
Some microphones for voice recording clip on to a shirt collar. These are also known as lavalier mics. Sometimes they’re wireless and sometimes they have thin wires which connect to a larger cable. If you’re moving around a lot, it might be a good idea to get a clip-on microphone. They’re very common in film and television because they can be easily hidden and won’t show up on camera.

Noise cancelation
Some microphones for Zoom meetings incorporate noise-canceling features, usually in a headset-style microphone. Even though you can filter out background noise in your Zoom meeting settings, it’s also nice to have additional control over any noise that isn’t dialogue. Noise-canceling microphones work by prioritizing the frequencies, or pitches, of your voice and ignoring the rest.

Polar pattern
Microphones have a few different types of polar pattern, or pickup pattern. This affects how they should be placed to record.

Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound all around them, making them less ideal for recording dialogue but better for recording an entire room. However, they can still record a smaller area of sound if the microphone itself is smaller; most headset and clip-on microphones are omnidirectional, too.
Figure-8 microphones pick up sound directly in front and directly behind, making them good for recording two voices at once or recording in stereo.
Cardioid microphones have a heart-shaped polar pattern, and it mostly picks up sound directly in front of it while picking up less sound from the sides or from behind it. This makes it ideal for recording the voice of anyone sitting right in front of it, such as during a meeting or podcast.
There are a couple of variants of the cardioid pattern called “super-cardioid” and “hyper-cardioid.” This just means the polar pattern is narrower, with the most extreme being a “shotgun microphone” used on film sets to record dialogue.

XLR microphone for Zoom meetings cost
XLR microphones for Zoom meetings range in cost from about $40-$200 depending on if they are meant for home recording or professional studio use.

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