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A Tribe Called Cars takes a look at five of the best on-camera and lavalier vlogging microphones that are low in price and high in quality.

Here at A Tribe Called Cars, I’ll be doing more than just driving cars and playing racing games. My plan is to also help you make your own YouTube videos.

For this article, I’m going to be focussing on cheap microphones because you may not have a lot of money when starting out. Or you would rather not be that person with ‘all the gear and no idea’.

The good news is that for less than £50 you can get decent audio quality for your vlogging needs, certainly a lot better than what you would get from a camera alone. That includes the Sony A cameras, which offer better sound quality compared with average Canon.

“You absolutely sure I need to buy an external mic, Ben?” Without a doubt. Because the moment you go outside, your internal mic will pick up unwanted wind and background noise.

Even inside where you can reduce background sounds, the end recording will be less clear. Tinny and unpleasant, usually. That’s a bad thing if you want your subscribers to watch and listen to your videos for long periods of time.

With that said, most people will struggle to tell apart a high quality microphone from a decent one although listening through headphones (especially decent ones) will make the difference clearer.

However, a bad microphone will put people off instantly. Audio is vitally important so making it better will help improve the quality of your videos no end.

There will be a video on this very subject in the future so stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to A Tribe Called Cars.

1) Best cheap microphone: Takstar SGC-598

Takstar SGC-598: Best cheap microphones (2019)

For the absolute tighest budget, the Chinese-made Takstar SCC-598 is your best bet. Its mono microphone means you won’t get directional sound as you do with stereo, but it does record with a decent level of clarity and a sound that is surprisingly pleasing to listen to. And that’s important because audio fatigue is definitely a thing.

Being a mono microphone actually makes it particularly good for recording at home because you probably just want people to hear your voice and will be facing the camera. Outside, it means you will just have to worry about volume and not the direction beyond pointing it the right way.

Usefully, the SCG-598 includes a +20dB mode, which is great because it allows you to reduce the recording level in your camera and let the microphone make up the difference. In doing so, you reduce any unwanted hissing or other bad audio noises your camera’s internal pre-amp can introduce, something especially useful on a Canon.

There is also a high pass filter. What this does is let high frequency noises pass. In some reviews I noticed people calling it a low pass filter, which is incorrect but would make more sense because a high pass filter reduces the impact of low-frequency sounds.

A situation where this is useful is when recording in a car, because you want people to hear your voice best instead of it being drowned out by the sound of the engine, road noise, wind noise and other things that creep into the cabin.

Another useful design feature of the SGC-598 is that it sits ahead of the viewfinder on my Sony A7RII and probably most, if not all digital cameras. This means you can still use the viewfinder, as opposed to when using something like the Rode VideoMic Pro and newer VideoMic Pro Plus variant.

Powered by an AA battery, you will need to remember to turn the SGC-598 on or no audio will be recorded. Rather than waste cash on throwaway batteries (and harm the environment), get yourself some rechargable alternatives.

One downside of the Takstar SGC-598 is that you lose the Rode 10-year warranty and have much less flexibility in terms of adjusting your end audio recording using the likes of Audacity or other audio editing software.

You will also want to buy a third-party dead cat to reduce the effect of wind noise when shooting outside becauses the standard Takstar offering is less effective.

What’s good?
Impressive audio quality for the money – a solid option.

What’s bad?
Needs a better deadcat for really windy days and you need to remember to turn it on.

Price: £24.99
Buy from Amazon

2) Best cheap microphone: Takstar SGC-698

Takstar SGC-698: Best cheap microphones (2019)

The Takstar SGC-698 is the newer version of the SGC-698. Costing a little more than the SGC-598, you get a smaller microphone that weighs less in part thanks to its use of a watch battery instead of a heavier AA.

Unlike the SGC-598, the SGC-698 records a stereo sound. That means it records left and right, giving you directional sound. This is handy if you are filming a car driving past very fast as your viewer will hear the car’s engine noise from left to right or vice versa.

Being lighter means you can carry the setup around for longer without getting a tired arm and your bag will be lighter. It also frees up space for other things, though not by much.

Like the SGC-598, you have a high pass filter and an on and off button so you need to make sure it’s on or you will have no audio.

It can also do +20dB and even has a -10dB, which may be useful for when recording really loud cars or a close-up of an exhaust when revving the engine. Remember that boosting low volume audio is way easier than saving audio that has distorted (AKA clipping).

For me, the SGC-698 is a rather different sound before you edit anything. It’s a bit more natural, but it is a little less clear for voices.

I also find the directional audio can be off-putting when listening on headphones as sometimes you may hear something with more volume in one ear than the other, which for an extended period is annoying.

With that said, there are times when a directional sound can enhance the immersiveness of your videos. But if only recording at home, the SGC-598 could be an easier bet.

What’s good?
Compact design and decent stereo recording at a cheap price.

What’s bad?
Stereo can mean an unbalanced sound if your subject is off-centre.

Price: £29.99
Buy from Amazon

3) Best cheap microphone: Rode VideoMicro

Rode VideoMicro: Best cheap microphones (2019)

Rode – meaning red in Danish – makes some great microphone at all price levels and the VideoMicro is one of the cheapest. It came after the VideoMic Go, which is noticeably less effective when it comes to recording good audio.

Perhaps the biggest plus of the VideoMicro, besides being lightweight, compact and capable of recording nice audio with little, if any editing, is that it requires no battery. Therefore you never need to turn it on or off, it will just record all of the time.

You get a particularly fluffy deadcat in the box, which reduces wind noise effectively. In fact, given that it does nothing to the audio when inside you may as well leave it on, especially as it takes some effort to attach it deep enough so that it stays on.

The red cable is good and bad, depending on whether you want people to notice your camera or not. What I will say is that the design itself keeps it from tangling, which is good.

On the flip-side, you will need to buy a slightly longer cable if you plan on having the Rode VideoMicro away from the camera. I noticed it really limits where it can go if using a camera cage, although for general use in the hotshoe it’s a non-issue.

For absolute ease of use and reliability, the Rode VideoMicro is my go-to. It also sounds dangerously close to much pricier microphones, including the VideoMic Pro and Pro Plus, at a fraction of the cost and it takes up hardly any space in my bag.

All things considered, if you can stretch the budget a little I would recommend going for the VideoMicro over every other microphone in this list unless you need maximum audio recording flexibility.

What’s good?
Decent audio quality, always recording, no battery necessary, compact and lightweight design.

What’s bad?
No audio gain control and high-pass filter.

Price: £38.99
Buy from Amazon

4) Best cheap microphone: Rode SmartLav+ Lavalier

Rode SmartLav+: Best cheap microphones (2019)

The Rode SmartLav+ is a viable vlogging microphone because it is a lavalier microphone, which basically means it is better at recording your voice and little else. Once mounted near your mouth (usually below), background noise is greatly reduced.

This is handy for in-car recording as your voice will be a lot clearer although it can mean your listeners will hear less of the engine, but then you could record this separately with the lav in the boot or hanging out near the exhaust and add to your video in post.

Putting a microphone on your clothing also helps with keeping wind noise at bay and your viewers should struggle to see it. For really windy conditions, you can buy a proper dead cat (it’s not included), although these will be visible.

Besides reducing background noise, the Rode SmartLav+ also weighs next to nothing. Should you need to be quite far away from the camera, you can buy an extension cable such as the official Rode SC1.

The Rode SmartLav+ has also been designed with your smartphone or tablet in mind, which means you can simply download a free voice recorder app and away you go – one easy to use and cheap audio recording solution you can carry with you at all times.

Where the Rode SmartLav+ falls down a bit is that it needs you to give it power from your camera or external audio recorder such as the Zoom H2N I use. I also dislike the clip used to attach it to your clothes as the mic holder broke in a short space of time.

You can buy others, which are cheap, but that and the fact you need to buy the Rode SC3 adapter to use the SmartLav+ with a DSLR means the highest cost of any mic in my list.

Fortunately, the Rode SmartLav+ is a simple and effective solution that records your voice at a decent level of quality and, like the VideoMicro, never needs to be turned on. Just remember to give it power, assuming your camera can.

What’s good?
Great at minimising background audio and is easy to maintain consistent audio.

What’s bad?
Accessories up the price and it’s bad at recording other people’s voices. Also needs phantom power to work. Can pick up clothing noise.

Price: £42
Buy from Amazon

5) Best cheap microphone: GiantSquid Lav

Giant Squid Audio Lav: Best cheap microphones (2019)

The GiantSquid Lav is a cheaper alternative to the Rode SmartLav+ that works in the same way. Connect to your camera, attach to your clothing near your mouth (but not too close) and away you go.

You get a deadcat in the box, which is nice, despite having a usually cheaper price. The audio quality is good, too, and at this price it is easier to stomach should you accidentally lose it or for some reason it breaks.

The downside is that it seems difficult to buy in the UK, but perhaps US customers will have more luck. Or you can try Ebay.

What’s good?
Solid audio quality at a really cheap price.

What’s bad?
Lacks the same impressive warranty as the Rode, harder to purchase.

Price: Varies

So which budget vlogging microphone is best for you?

If you plan on more run and gun videos or will be including other people’s voices, a shotgun microphone is best. When recording your own voice and filming a different subject such as a car while you walk round it, simply spin the mic round in the horseshoe.,

For this scenario, my absolute favourite is the Rode VideoMicro. Yes, it costs a bit more but I find the audio quality is really clear and natural with minimal editing and adding a touch of bass is easily done in Audacity. But the Takstar offerings are a very close second, thanks to greater functionality.

For in-car recording or recording your voice consistently and with less background noise no matter what your camera is pointing at, a lavalier microphone is usually best. In this instance, the Rode SmartLav+ is great but the Giant Squid could save you money. If you can find one.

Check out: Five essential bits of camera equipment

About The Author


Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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