It wasn’t so long ago that the podcasting world was new and shiny and could do no wrong. Audio quality was an afterthought. Heck, that thirty-four cent microphone built into your keyboard worked just fine. While the background noise made it seem like a passing stranger was being mauled by a grizzly bear, listeners could figure out what you were saying – mostly.

My how the winds of change have blown through, especially in regard audience expectations when it comes to sound. Blame Disney, ESPN, and those other corporate entities who jumped into the game with their billion dollar budgets and nose-bleed price equipment. Heck, they can drop ten grand on a microphone and not even sneeze. The bottom line is that people expect a higher level of audio clarity in a podcast than they did just a few short years ago.

Does this mean you should quietly pick up your laptop and fade into the background, never to open your mouth again? Not hardly. While it’s true you might not be able to get away with the absolute bottom of the barrel microphone, there are still a handful of great choices for less than $100.

We’re going to focus on USB mikes for this article, mainly because due to ease of use. Here are a few of Jason Hartman’s favorites.

Snowball USB Condenser Microphone
Perfect for either a Mac or PC environment, the Snowball comes with a neat little stand and sort of cool miniature bowling bowl appearance. A switch on the back allows you to choose between recording speech or live instrument with equal clarity. This little workhouse requires no additional drivers and will only set you back about $65 from Amazon.

Logitech USB Microphone
For about half the price of a Snowball you can get yourself into a great little starter podcasting microphone. Voice quality might not be quite as pleasing as more expensive options but the reviews at Amazon seem pretty impressed with this offering from Logitech, especially when taking into account the modest cost. This desktop setup boasts excellent noise-cancelling capability to help keep all that background junk out of the final recording.

There’s always someone out there who isn’t all that interested in lowest price. For you we’re happy to announce that you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a podcasting microphone if you want to you. That’s a relief, right? At $229 the Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone moves you pretty near studio quality, if that’s what you’re aiming for. (Top image: Flickr | twidget)

The Speaking of Wealth Team