Although it may not initially seem like it, a decent and reliable microphone can make a big difference in your professional or personal life. It is almost always a worthwhile investment for anyone who wants to ensure that their ventures in 2023 have the best sound quality possible. But with an endless number of factors to consider from software to aesthetics, narrowing down the best microphone is a slippery slope with lots of room for error.
Fortunately, CGM was able to nail down some of the best microphones to kick off 2023 from top brands such as RODE, Neat and BEACN who all delivered some great audio performances this year with all kinds of fresh innovations in order to bring you the best mic of 2023.
Here are CGMagazine’s nominees for Best Microphone 2023:
The RØDE X XCM-50 looks a lot like the RØDE NT-USB Mini in almost every way, with the RØDE X branding and some colour added in the form of some red that comes from under the mic’s grill, the ring on the end of the capsule and headphone volume knob. In terms of out-of-the-box sound, it is an RØDE microphone. They have their reputation for a reason. The RØDE X XCM-50 sounds really nice. What was also a pleasant surprise was the small amount of noise.
The higher tones add beautiful clarity to my voice. I usually end up doing a little processing to up the lower frequencies and scoop out the mids just a little bit to round out the tone of my voice. It’s an easy process that can be done at the production or post-production level, or in this case, a new option in the form of potentially the best mixing software on the market. That’s right, RØDE X is not just a couple of new microphones packaged with a new look. It is also a completely revamped streaming software that combines a user interface that is equal parts beautiful and powerful
The Rodez XCM-50 is a new rung on Rode’s evolutionary ladder. It is a good microphone made great by a fantastic software solution. Its failings surround the lack of physical updates made on what is looked at on the surface as a repackaged old model, but when you dig deeper, you hit gold, and X marks the spot.
The XDM-100 itself looks like an updated, stylized version of the RØDE Procaster, with an all-black body and grill with red accents and the RØDEX branding. The XDM-100 is made to look like a classic XLR mic, only there is a USB-C port at the back. When mounted to the shock mount, the XDM-100 is an absolute beast. It can take up a lot of screens for a streamer depending on how they place their microphone. There is something aesthetically pleasing, though, about a mic on a shock mount, it is the simplest way to look like you are in a professional studio. A table with four of these around it would just instantly look cool.
In addition to the good looks and good sound, however, is the pièce de résistance in the form of the RØDE X software solution, Unify. The mixing app takes what people loved about popular solutions like Elgato’s Wavelink and the BEACN app and added the things that make RØDE stand apart, like their recording functionality and sound pads that exist on previous software, RØDE Connect and their hardware, the RØDECaster Pro and RØDECaster Pro II.
The RØDE X XDM-100 is a beautiful microphone that mixes the aesthetics of an audio professional and a gamer. It’s a big mic with great sound and game-changing software. Rodez has set a new bar for content creator brands.
The RØDE NT-USB+ is a condenser microphone with an internal DSP to keep any necessary processing on the microphone and off of your PC, lightening the workload as you record. It comes with a detachable pop filter, a ring mount to mount it on a stand or arm, and a small desk stand. The RØDE NT-USB+ sounds fantastic out of the box, providing perhaps the best vocals of any USB condenser microphone. Standard issues like room noise exist but are minimal. What’s better is that any software you can use with this microphone can boost your quality.
RØDE Central allows you to control a high pass filter at 75 and 150 Hz, a noise gate and compression, as well as their proprietary Aphex processing, consisting of the Exciter (High-Frequency boost for that vocal presence) and Big Bottom (Low-Frequency Boost for the bass in your voice). From RØDE Central, you can save the settings directly to your microphone, so you never have to have the software open to maintain your processing.
The RØDE NT-USB + is my favorite-sounding USB Microphone in the RØDE stable. It looks great, feels great, sounds great and the price is spectacular. RØDE continues to top itself in a competitive marketplace and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
King Bee II sports a 34 mm gold-sputtered condenser capsule with a cardioid polar pattern, 16Hz-20kHz frequency response, and a 134dB dynamic range. Its components and build quality suggest that whatever this mic takes in, it’ll output with ease. It is worth noting that, as it is a condenser microphone, it requires 48V of phantom power coming from whatever interface you plug it into. Devices like the Elgato Wave XLR, Rode AI-1 and so many more can provide this power.
The sound quality is excellent. It is. Frankly, the Neat King Bee II is the most natural sounding my voice has ever been from a mic that I have reviewed for CGM. It captured a nice bass in my voice and the high-frequency sounds were crisp. There also wasn’t too much of a muddy or nasally sound in the raw audio. Usually, it is a part of the signal that I have to cut down a little bit to really make my voice pop. With this mic, I feel comfortable going to air with it with no EQ in place at all.
The Neat King Bee II is a unique-looking, amazing-sounding microphone that is also a spectacular value. Any complaints are simply nit-picking. King Bee II only adds to this team’s sterling legacy.
WINNER: Best Microphone 2023 BEACN Mic
It wasn’t until July that the company, BEACN, showed us who they were and what they were planning. Over the next seven months, the company created a social media frenzy among the content creator community with the announcement of BEACN Mix, BEACN Mix Create, and BEACN Mic. The setup of the BEACN Mic was simple enough. With the BEACN App downloaded, all you need to do is connect the mic to the PC (either through a USB-C port or a USB-A port using the provided adapter), and the app instantly recognizes the mic.
The App also gives you control of a number of other important tools, none more important to this creator than its noise suppression. BEACN offers real-time noise suppression that outdoes any tool I have ever heard. Their adaptive suppression will listen to the background at a high sample rate and cut down the sound as you hear it. The BEACN Mic software even offers controls for your headphones. This includes separate levels for your mic monitor and the other content being fed to your headphones from the PC, a simple EQ with subwoofer adjustments and amp power adjustments that include high impedance for people with 100+ ohm headphones, and even a setting for earbuds.
I have used a lot of microphones in my life, but the BEACN Mic is the best overall mic I have ever laid my hands on. It wears so many hats, being a mixer and being its own processor without sacrificing a bit of sound quality. BEACN has built up a lot of hype with its online campaign, but I can safely say that they’ve lived up to the hype.