The built-in microphone on your laptop, smartphone, earbuds and headphones isn't very good. Sure, it might be good enough taking calls, but if you're podcasting, taking streaming seriously, or taking way too many video conference calls because you're working remote, it might make sense to consider upgrading to USB microphone. They aren't terribly expensive, yet they'll make your voice sound crystal clear.
A good external microphone doesn't have to be a complicated gadget. Most don't even require you to download extra software. You simply plug it into your laptop or docking station via a USB connection, and then select the microphone in your sound input settings (via System Preferences) and it'll just work. Plug-and-play, baby.
Blue Snowball Ice
Blue Microphones is one of the biggest names in external microphones and its Snowball Ice is one best options that comes in at just under $50. Its large bulbous shape is definitely distinct and might not be for everybody, but it's plug-and-play ready and delivers very clear audio. It's available in either white or black.
The Lyra is a great entry-level microphone for podcasters and musicians. It shares a similar vintage look and feel of AKG's classic and beloved C414 condenser mic, but it includes a stand (which can be detached in case you want to connect to a different stand or boom). It also has a USB-C connection so you can plug it directly into a new MacBook or USB-C laptop.
The Rode NT-USB is another great plug-and-play external microphone that connects via USB-A (not USB-C). It holds the unique distinction of coming with an integrated pop filter which, in addition to making it look more professional, helps the NT-USB sound pristine while blocking out any extra ambient sounds.
Blue Yeti X
The Blue Yeti X edges the line between and entry-level and a "prosumer" external microphone. It's still very easy to use — plug-and-play ready — but it's a higher-quality microphone (compared to say, the Blue Snow Ice) and adds more controls, such as volume and gain, that you can adjust on the actual microphone.
Released in early 2021, the Tula Mic is a high-quality external microphone that has retro flair — but it doesn't stop there. It also works as a full-fledged portable digital recorder that can take with you — no computer required. It has a 14-hour battery, 8GB of built-in memory and a built-in headphone jack so you can listen straight from the device.