USB Microphones are gaining more and more prominence. So much so, that they’re beginning to rival with studio-grade microphones. I don’t think they’re going to replace XLR microphones, but they’re being used by a ton of professional podcasters, YouTubers, and vocalists. The best part about USB Microphones is their plug and play usage. All you need to do is plug in your microphone and you’re good to record. When they first came out, a lot of sound professionals were skeptical about them. People argued how a loose connection like USB could offer high-quality sound, for how long could they record, and how can high-quality sound be recorded without power interface.
|Blue Microphones Yeti||Discount Link|
|Audio Technica At2020 USB +||Discount Link|
|Rode Podcaster||Discount Link|
|Blue Snowball||Discount Link|
|Samson Meteor||Discount Link|
|Cad U37||Discount Link|
|Rode NT USB||Discount Link|
|Shure PG42||Discount Link|
|Samson Go||Discount Link|
|Apogee Mic 96k||Discount Link|
With time, USB powered microphones proved their worth by offering rich sound and take away hassles of connecting so many different types of equipment. I test a ton of sound equipment, be it speakers, headphones or microphones. A major part of creating quality audio is by actually using a high-end microphone.
There are a ton of ways you can record audio. From using simple applications, default device microphones, to high-end audio interfaces, and up to top-notch microphones.
USB Microphones: They’re plugged into the USB port of your computer and draw power directly from your PC, hence eliminating the need of power interface. Other types of microphones divided by connecting types are XLR microphones.
USB Microphone Selection Criteria
When you are only starting your career, it is a wise decision to not buy an expensive microphone. USB microphones have a broad range to offer in terms of pricing.
Depending on your budget and usage, you can go with microphones that have to be used on a desk or travel-friendly microphones. Not to mention the obvious thing that pricing increases with quality.
You can use a USB microphone for a ton of purposes. One of the reasons why they gain popularity so fast is their flexibility. You can use them in a semi-pro studio, or get a high-quality one that can be used with mic stand or on the desk.
There are also smaller microphones that are made to fit on your desk for purposes like skype, podcasting or gaming etc.
Cardioid pattern is the most common, it records only what is being said in front. Second is Omnidirection, this pattern picks up from everywhere.
The third is Bidirectional, as explained from the name, it records from front and back. I have a detailed article that explains what recording patterns are.
Quick Comparison of 10 Best USB Microphones
|Blue Microphones Yeti||Excellent Sound Quality||Unusual Shape|
|Audio Technica At2020 USB +||Perfect Sound Quality||-|
|Rode Podcaster||Less noise pickup||Pricing|
|Blue Snowball||Good Sound Quality||Shape not fit for boom arm|
|Samson Meteor||Perfect Sound Quality||Can't fit a boom arm|
|Cad U37||Fair Sound Quality||-|
|Rode NT USB||Perfect Sound Quality||-|
|Shure PG42||Excellent Sound Quality||-|
|Samson Go||Portable||Fair sound quality|
|Apogee Mic 96k||Portable||Not very solid built quality|
1. Blue Microphones Yeti
I like to call this “Every youtuber’s first love”. Whether you’ve actually used it or not, you must have heard about this microphone. I’ve got my hands on other microphones from Blue microphones as well, but so far, yeti has been the best one.
Yeti is a condenser microphone with a bunch of presets built in to help you get the best audio with simple knob control. You can easily slide between recording modes ( cardioid, bi-directional, stereo, and omnidirectional ) with the knob.
The cardioid mode is for solo recording. When you want to record only your voice. This works like charm for voice-overs, commentary, and similar stuff. Pretty explanatory from the name, bidirectional mode records from both front and back of the microphones. This would come handy when you are in an interview situation, or you have a guest on your podcast. The third one, omnidirectional, records in all the directions. This is if you have a bunch of people in your room and you need to record all of them. The last mode is Stereo, which is for people who record music. It gives a better sense of distance and spacing.
Not only comes with a live headphone jack so that you can listen what you speak in real time, you can also mute your microphone instantly from mute button. Unlike usual microphones, this beast has 3 capsules for an excellent recording. It comes with its own built-in stand, which makes it portable, and is available in variants like space grey, silver, platinum and black/white. The microphone is compatible with both Windows and Mac os X. On technical specs, it records at a bit rate of 16, so you can go with a sample rate of 48khz.
Read more about what these recording modes are here.
2. Audio Technica At2020+ USB
They’re focused on creating high-quality audio equipment. Most of the users know them for their popular headphones, but they have got some awesome headphones to pick as well. One such microphone is Audio technical At2020 USB variant.
The microphone has cardioid recording pattern. It is most effective for use on a desk. The USB variant also as a live headphone jack so you can listen what’s being recorded. The microphone also has an amp built into power up headphones. This means you can use almost any headphones with this microphone.
The microphone has two knobs below that help you do some basic audio mixing spontaneously while recording. One controls the volume of your headphones, while other help you mix your vocal with prerecorded audio. The microphone is compatible with both Windows and Mac. Much like the blue yeti, it needs no additional software, just plug it in and start recording. With a pop filter, you can cancel out all the popping noises.
3. Blue Snowball
You remember that relation when you have a big brother who is extremely talented and due to whom no one cares about you?
This is what happens without lovely and cute Blue Snowball. Comes from the house of Blue microphones and receives much less admiration than it deserves. The design of the microphone is round like a ball ( which is where the microphone name “snowball” comes from”. If you need a microphone for basic voice-overs and podcasting, this microphone is what you need.
The microphone records in cardioid mode. Due to its shape, the microphone manages to record crisp audio. The shape also ensures that it can record in omnidirectional mode. This means that you can place the mic in the middle of a room and it’ll pick up all the sounds. This will be very useful for times when you need to record music or group conversation.
The microphone has a switch to reduce sensitivity to -10db which will eliminate the majority of the noise that goes into the microphone. It also helps you to record loud sounds on lower sensitivity. The microphone comes with its very own desktop stand making it portable and plug and play. It comes in various variants: orange, white, aluminum, blue, green, black and pink.
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4. Rode Podcaster
If you’re new into headphones and speakers, rode might not sound familiar. When it comes to microphones, rode is a pretty popular microphone. One reason why the got to this level is due to this very microphone, the rode podcaster. The microphone is specifically made for podcasting.
It is a front addressing microphone on a cardioid microphone which means that it will pick up which is being said from the front in a crystal clear manner but ignore the background noise. Unlike other microphones, rode podcaster records at 18-bit resolution, which means that your recordings will have a slightly more detail even if it was recorded at lower bit rate.
This podcast has a built-in analog to digital converter to make sure you get a cleaner audio. The microphone has an XLR variant as well, so make sure which variant you order. If you have setup for XLR microphones, then buy the XLR connection variant. If you only want USB microphones, go with USB variant. Inside the box comes the microphone, ring mount, and 10-foot long USB cable. Also, you don’t need a pop filter because the microphone has a built-in filter.
5. Samson Meteor
Another USB microphone that I am a huge fan of. Samson is quite a famous brand when it comes to microphones. The name has created a hype for it due to good reasons. If we talk regarding build quality and size, Samson meteor is quite similar to the blue yeti. This isn’t even the best part. Regarding pricing, it is quite cheaper than the Yeti. There is no doubt to the fact that you’d be getting a very big diaphragm and recording surface area ( around 25mm).
The microphone performs on a cardioid pickup, which ensures limited background noise. It also has a secure mechanism for folding it and carrying it along. The folding mechanism makes it a travel-friendly microphone and also makes it easy to store. The audio sounds premium and gets recorded at a maximum of 16bit, 48khz. Another cool feature in its list is that it can be plugged into any smartphone. It also gives you a live headphone jack so that you can listen as you record.
Let it be its design or its build quality; the meteor gives Yeti a fierce competition. If you wish to have roughly the same quality and save some money at the same time, this is the device you should go for.
6. CAD U37
CAD U37 is one of the microphones which looks like a studio microphone. Judging from its appearance, it looks like an XLR input microphone, however, it is a USB powered microphone. The microphone is one of the best budget-friendly USB microphones in this list. It is priced almost half as much as other microphones and offers nearly the same quality. The microphone provides cardioid recording pattern which isolates a lot of the background noise. It also comes with 10db overload protection which ensures prevention from distortion. It also comes equipped with bass reduction switch which in turn gives you more custom options.
If you are planning to record instruments, this microphone records quite well. If you are someone who likes to experiment a lot, this microphone provides you with a couple of switches to play with. I suggest that you customize them and then keep the settings same to keep the tone consistent.
Although it doesn’t offer as much quality as other microphones, you can’t blame it because of the price tag. If you are looking for a bit cheaper microphone, this can get the job done. This microphone is best if you want a budget-friendly microphone. The microphone quality is good but not as high as other highly priced microphones. It also has a ton of positive reviews to back it up. This is not another no-name brand, and you’d be investing your money in the right place.
7. Rode NT USB
Rode is one of the most popular names in the microphone industry. I have used several of their microphones including Rode podcaster, broadcaster, and even NT USB. I have used this microphone for skype calls, podcasting and even for producing music. I don’t see changing my skype mic anytime soon. The stability and the build quality of the microphone are brilliant. The sound quality of the microphone is immeasurable. The microphone doesn’t look like that it would provide USB connectivity. On the microphone, you get some basic mixing controls.
Like many other microphones in this list, this microphone runs on the cardioid pattern. Which means that background noise would be reduced. It also has a pressure gradient of 110db.
This means that you can even scream into it and you would be fine. In the box, it comes with a ring mount which looks excellent, tripod desk stand, storage pouch and a USB cable. Not to mention the actual robust microphone by Rode. If you want a reliable sound, and willing to spend a few bucks, this mic would be worth the money.
8. Shure PG42
Another quality microphone that you should consider getting your hands on is the Shure PG42. It is a tough competition for any USB microphone and works like a charm. One of the key selling points of this mic is its inbuilt pre-amp which helps you control gain with ease. It also has zero latency monitoring to make sure that you can track what you are recording. You can even do some essential mix control monitoring and hear the audio being recorded at the same time. You can record up to 48 kHz which means that audio quality would be a bit higher as compared to other microphones in this article.
If sound quality is your primary concern, this is the microphone you should go with.
If you invest a bit more, you can get the whole combo package that includes a pop filter and desk stand. The microphone is a solid built and offers excellent sound for its money.
9. Samson GO
One more microphone from Samson. It has been mentioned in so many top microphones list that I couldn’t ignore it. Its USP is the low price and portability. It is like a snake. It folds itself for traveling and carrying purposes. It is fit if you are consistently traveling. For professionals who are always on the go and need to make skype calls and web calls. It comes with a cable clip, stand adaptor, zipper carrying pouch, and a USB cable.
A ton of users has tested and reviewed the audio quality of this microphone. Users are amazed at the quality that comes with this tiny microphone. On top of that, it is super affordable as well. Using it is so simple that you just need to clip it on top of your monitor screen. This means that it would be out of your way while recording. A lot of users compare it with the blue snowflake. If you are someone who keeps traveling and needs good quality audio on skype, this is the microphone you need.
10. Apogee MIC 96K
This name is usually linked to high-end gear. This microphone offers high-quality recording at a whopping 96khz. It works well with smartphone devices like iPads, iPhones and much more. If you are searching for a microphone with which you can record using a smartphone, this microphone will do the job for you. Because you can just hook it up with a USB cable, it is effortless to record with it.
It can also be used in the traditional studio setup along with a pop filter and stand. I lot of semi-professional artists also it for recording. There are a ton of ways you can use this microphone.
It has a built-in A/D converter preamp for optimal usage. You can use it with a smartphone or mount it on your desk with a desktop stand or tripod.
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