Podcasting, vlogging, streaming, the list could go on, but one thing's for sure, the audio recording world continues to show rapid growth. So whether you're thinking of starting a podcast or are looking to record music, you're sure to need a high-quality USB microphone.
The best USB mic affords you a lot of benefits. For starters, the convenience of the setup process as most are designed to be compatible with the latest operating systems. There are many more factors to consider, such as whether you'll require a condenser or dynamic pick-up pattern, the build quality, the audio, and the sound quality.
In this article, we'll guide you by outlining 5 of the best USB microphones in the market and factors to consider when shopping for them.
Best USB Microphones
1. Blue Yeti USB Mic
- Custom three-capsule array: Produces clear, powerful, broadcast-quality sound for...
- Four pickup patterns: cardioid, Omni, bidirectional, and stereo pickup patterns offer...
- Onboard audio controls: Studio controls for headphone volume, pattern selection,...
- Legendary Blue Broadcast sound: Makes the professional difference for recording,...
- Unique position able design: Adjust and pivot the microphone in relation to the sound...
The Blue Yeti is extremely popular with many users in the vlogging and streaming world. Known for its crisp-clear and versatility, it's not hard to see it's the best USB microphone for most.
The Blue Yeti features four pickup patterns: ( cardioid, Omni, bidirectional, and stereo ). Thus it affords you remarkable flexibility allowing you to find a preferred recording style that works.
The Blue Yeti comes equipped with onboard audio controls for headphone volume, pattern selection, instant mute, and microphone. Hence, allowing you to feel in control of every part of the recording and streaming process.
Lastly, the Blue Yeti has a gain control knob and recording mode selector knob on the rear. In addition, the knobs are well built, placed, and easy to use.
2. Audio-Technica USB/XLR Microphone
- Handheld dynamic microphone with USB digital output and XLR analog output
- USB output connects to your computer for digital recording, while the XLR output...
- Smooth, extended frequency response ideally suited for podcasting, home studio...
- Built-in headphone jack allows you to directly monitor from your microphone
- Adjust headphone volume with easy-to-use controls on the bottom of the microphone
The Audio Technica offers the best of both worlds in that it can operate as a USB mic or XLR mic.
It's the best USB microphone if you're looking for a model that offers both connections but at an affordable cost.
The dynamic mic features a USB digital output and XLR analog output. The USB output connects to your computer, allowing for digital recording, while the XLR output connects to your sound system's conventional microphone input for use in live performance.
The USB microphone is best suited for podcasting, home studio recording, field recording, voiceover, and on-stage use.
It features an analog to digital converter with a 16 bit, 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate. The controls are placed on the bottom of the xlr mic and on/off switch functions for both USB and analog operation.
3. Rode NT- USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- High quality studio microphone with the convenience of USB connectivity
- Pop shield, Tripod desk stand, ring mount, storage pouch and 6m (20’) USB cable...
- 3.5 millimeter stereo headphone jack for zero-latency monitoring
The Rode NT USB Cardioid microphone is designed to be a versatile studio microphone making it the best USB mic for podcasting.
The condenser microphone features 2 dials allowing for simple control over monitoring levels and mixing. It's easy to set up as it comes with what you need in the box.
The condenser mic is equipped with a built-in stereo headphone jack which provides zero-latency monitoring capabilities. It also features a pop-filter that's included that's onto the base of the mic. Hence the filter is positioned at the optimal distance from the mic to minimize plosives during singing or speech
The condenser mic includes a stand mount with 3/8" thread, a desktop tripod stand, and a pouch for storage.
4. Apogee Hype Mic
- Studio-quality analog compressor
- Pure digital connection for pristine sound quality up to 24-bit/96kHz
- Premium cardioid condenser microphone capsule
- Headphone output with blend feature offers zero latency recording
- Premium accessories kit includes tripod, pop filter and carrying case
The Apogee Hype Mic stands out as the best USB microphone in that it features an analog compressor built into the signal chain.
The USB Mic features a gain knob that also acts as a mute button. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB port on the bottom panel. The controls and knobs are pretty simple to use hence making for an enjoyable experience.
The USB mic features a blend button on the front face that allows you to adjust mix levels, shifting in various degrees from more mic signal to more playback signal from your recording software. When adjusting gain, the level indicators are in the form of status LEDs. They flash red when the signal peaks.
5. SAMSON Meteor Mic
- Professional USB microphone with 1" Studio-quality Capsule.
- Fold-back legs provide optimal mic positioning and folds up for easy transport.
- Cardioid pickup pattern captures the Audio in front of the microphone, minimizing...
- Smooth, flat frequency response of 20hz–20khz captures the detail of your voice or...
- 1/8" Stereo headphone output with level control for zero-latency monitoring.
The Samson Meteor Mic boasts high audio quality at a great price. As a result, it's the best USB microphone if interested in podcasting and recording music.
The condenser microphone captures the audio at the front, minimizing ambient noise from entering the recording. In addition, it features a smooth, flat frequency response of 20hz–20khz that captures the detail of your voice or instrument.
The USB microphone is equipped with a 1/8" Stereo headphone output with level control for zero-latency monitoring.
Its zinc die-cast construction with chrome-plated finish gives it a contemporary and elegant aesthetic that would look great on any desk. In addition, the USB microphone features fold-back legs allowing for optimal mic positioning and convenient portability.
Factors To Consider When Buying Best USB Microphones
a) Type of USB Microphone
USB mics are extremely useful as they can be directly plugged in and used without the involvement of a confusing and time-consuming setup. They come in two forms:
i) Condenser Microphone
This type of USB mic is usually found in a studio. It does a great job reproducing voices and instruments but is easily affected by loud sounds.
The microphone's louder output makes it ideal for recording voices. Though it tends to be generally more expensive than dynamic mics, it is possible to buy less expensive condenser microphones; however, you may have to sacrifice quality for the price.
The cheaper options will often have a crisp sound and sound much more low-end than the higher-priced ones. This is the best USB mic for those interested in recording podcasts, singing, or playing a single guitar or piano. It will give off a more traditional studio feel with crisp and clear vocals.
ii) Dynamic Microphone
Dynamic mics tend to be more sturdy as they can stand up to more abuse. They are also moisture resistant and can handle louder noises. However, they don't usually have the highest sound quality, especially when compared to condenser microphones. In addition, they have a limited frequency response.
This is the best USB mic for those whose activities involve recording outside and need a machine that can handle more noise. It is also a great choice if interested in powerful radio sound versus the crisp studio sound.
b) Sound Quality
When shopping for the best USB mic, sound quality should always be a key priority. However, this doesn't mean that you should go for the largest sample rate and widest frequency spectrum. The type of mic you choose will also be dependent on what you're planning to use it for. For instance, if looking for a USB mic for a podcast, the sound requirements are likely lesser than those of a musical vocal recording.
Most USB mics feature a cardioid polar pattern ideal for most activities, but you may want to consider mics that incorporate switchable polar patterns. This feature allows you to easily record with different polar patterns instead of using different microphones every time.
c) Pickup Pattern
Most condenser mics feature a standard ‘cardioid’ pickup pattern. This means they can pick up more sound at the front and less at the back, thus isolating unwanted background sound. It also allows them to be resistant to feedback from speakers.
The best USB microphone with this type of pattern is ideal for a soloist or one voice.
Most dynamic mics feature a 'super cardioid' and tend to be very directional. It's the best USB microphone if you want to avoid picking up background noise but have a less frequency response. They are also best suited for recording one person.
Some USB Microphones have stereo mode that works for recording music, but a cardioid is still better for recording speech. Panel discussions tend to use stereo recording as it allows you to get an idea of where each speaker was positioned when you listen back.
Other USB mics have a bidirectional or omnidirectional pattern which is great if you want to record a large group of musicians or a conference. The mic will pickup sound all the way round. The downside is that it is likely to pick up unwanted sounds as well. So you have to be careful with positioning.
Lastly, some mics have a ‘figure of 8’ pattern that's useful if you want to record two people having a conversation facing each other over the microphone. Finally, some USB mics have a switch allowing you to choose different pickup patterns – a really flexible option.
d) Build Quality
The build quality is a factor that people often overlook while shopping for the best USB mic. It's essential to search for a USB microphone that's not too fragile, especially if you plan on carrying it around. Also, look out for the materials used to create it. Sturdy build quality also ensures that the product is durable.
e) Dual Features
Most USB microphones will only function as recording mics and can only be used when plugged into the USB port. However, some models offer a "dual format"; hence they can be also be used as a standard microphone.
This is worth considering if you want to use your USB mic as a standalone plugged into a mixer or amp. This affords you flexibility in that you can use it anywhere without the need to access a computer. You can also use it for amplification and not just as a recording mic.
f) Extra Features
Some of the best USB mics will have extra features that make them stand out, depending on the brand. You'll come across some models in different colors, while others come with built-in desk stands.
It all depends on what you're looking for and what you plan to do with the microphone. The features should aid in amplifying your experience. For instance, if you consider yourself an audiophile, there are USB microphones with attenuation pads and bass-reduction switches.
If you value convenience, some models allow you to control your microphone remotely via a dedicated app that can be accessed from your smartphone or tablet.
g) Easy of Use
It's always important to purchase products that you're likely to enjoy using. Most USB microphones tend to be aimed at beginners; hence it's crucial to look for one easy to set up and use.
Most of the best USB mics are “plug-and-play” both for iOs and Windows, meaning that you don’t have to install any additional software to your computer to record. At the same time, other models allow you to record directly on tablets and smartphones, which can be really convenient and useful if not planning to use your computer for recording.
h) Direct Monitoring
Most high-end USB microphones provide direct monitoring. This courtesy of the headphone jack featured on the mic body lets you plug in your headphones, allowing you to listen to your voice without any latency.
Depending on the model, the feature may come with a knob that lets you adjust the volume and/or a mute button that blocks the signal transmission. This can be useful if you enjoy recording voice-overs; however, if you want to record vocals over other instrument tracks, monitoring through your computer is still ideal.
Frequently Asked Question About Best USB Microphone (FAQ)
a) What's the difference between XLR Mics and USB Mics?
The main difference lies in the connections. With a USB mic, you can only record with one mic at a time. Connection-wise, a USB mic can connect directly to your computer. You don’t need a mixer or any audio interface to connect it up. Hence they can do without audio input/output to field the multiple signals is select a single input. It is possible to work around this; you can use recording software that will allow you to record multiple mics at once—but the catch is that they'll all record to the same track.
Xlr Mics has 3 prongs in its connection. Hence it needs to be connected to an audio interface and then to your computer. They are best suited for recording multiple microphones at once.