A USB microphone is the heart of any worthwhile streaming or podcasting operation. Without a decent USB microphone, all of your favorite podcasts would be ridden with echoes and unwanted background noise. Even in the new MacBook, the built-in microphone isn’t ready to handle the task of great sounding recording. That’s why USB microphones are so crucial to get great audio recordings.
How To Choose The Best USB Mic For You
There is a wide variety of USB microphones out there, and they aren’t one-size-fits-all. Here are a few things you should know before you make a decision:
- USB vs XLR
- Recording patterns
- What is DSP
Between USB and XLR microphones, USB is considered more entry-level. We think it’s safe to say that your laptop doesn’t have an XLR port built into it. So, if you’re going to record with an XLR microphone, you are going to need an additional audio interface. That being said, for more professional operations and for music studios, there’s no question that XLR microphones are the go-to choice. But USB microphones provide a plug and play convenience that XLR mics can’t match, and are significantly cheaper than a premium XLR microphone. Truth be told, for podcasting purposes, or beginner-level musical recordings, a good USB mic is really all you need.
Most USB microphones will have pattern selectors on them. “Well, what is that?” you might ask. The pattern selector can switch between directional recording (standing in front of the mic and talking directly into it) and omnidirectional (multiple people standing around a mic talking into it). If you’re a solo podcaster or streamer, multiple patterns probably won’t matter. But for gamers who move around a lot, or podcasters with multiple people recording in a room at once, you’ll want the ability to have omnidirectional recording as an option.
Finally, DSP stands for digital signal processing. Without going down a rabbit hole of audio engineering technology, this is how cleanly a microphone processes a signal. For someone with poor mic control that moves around and changes vocal volume without noticing, DSP can help those recordings sound better by adding digital processing that can control volume and tone issues. But for those looking to record music, having a clean signal is important, so you’ll want to look for a USB mic that has a clean and natural recording quality with minimal DSP.
The Best USB Microphones for Sale
There are a lot of great choices for podcast hosts, gamers and streamers. USB mics are a simple addition to exponentially raise the bar on vocal clarity for streaming and recording. Below you’ll the best USB mic for your needs.
1. Blue Yeti
Compatible with both Mac and PC, simply plug this USB mic in and start recording. The microphone doesn’t have any additional digital processing, so your recording will sound natural. You can plug headphones directly into the mic for monitoring and control the gain and volume right on the mic making it ideal for podcasting. You can even switch the microphone pickup patterns to best suit recording by yourself, with others, or to record an entire room. It’s about as versatile, reliable and sturdy as a USB mic can get.
2. Blue Snowball USB Mic
This USB mic doesn’t add any additional digital signal processing resulting in clean recordings that are great for podcasting or video conferencing. And its affordable price can get aspiring podcasters what they need for cheap. The downside is the stand doesn’t get high enough to reach mouth level and it doesn’t have any gain or volume knobs on the mic. Of course, those adjustments can be made using software. You give up a little convenience with the Snowball, but it’s a smart choice for those dipping their toes into the recording world.
3. Apogee Hype Mic
The built-in analog compression feature helps keep the volume of your records full. Compression brings up the quiet levels and squishes the peaks (loudest levels) for nice, full and even sounding recordings. This mic even comes with a pop-screen to help eliminate annoying plosives and hard “s” sounds from your audio. If you have the money, the onboard compressor combined with the rich recording nature of the microphone make this one 100% worth it.
4. HyperX QuadCast USB Mic
BEST FOR GAMING
Gamers need a microphone that is both easy to control and one that can handle fluctuating volume levels. With four selectable patterns and easy gain control knobs, gamers can dial in the right settings for their streams. There is even a convenient tap-to-mute button on top for those times your partner wanders in the room and starts talking to you in the middle of a streaming session. Plus, the vibrant red design will look awesome on camera.
5. Blue Yeti X
BEST FOR PODCASTING
Looking to get into podcasting but don’t have any equipment? The Blue Yeti X is a great place to start. This microphone comes with recording software, so you’re covered on that end. And the volume knob also has live metering, so you can see right in front of you if your levels are good for recording. It has four pattern selections and even records in stereo. Like we said, this is a great do-it-all package for an aspiring Joe Rogan or Marc Maron.
6. Fifine USB Microphone
With over 12,300 ratings and 4.5 stars on Amazon, there are plenty of podcasters and streamers that are pleased with this USB mic. Not only for the affordable $36 price tag, but also for the easily accessible volume knob on the front of the microphone and the lengthy 5.9 ft cable. It even helps eliminate unwanted background noise to put your voice front and center. Not a bad investment, especially for beginners.
7. Shure MV5 Digital Condenser Mic
COMPACT & PORTABLE
When valuable desktop space is at a premium, the Shure MV5 can be your recording solution. It has great one-directional recording ability (single voice recording), although it doesn’t have additional selectable recording patterns, so it’s not great, let’s say, for two people sitting across from each other. It does have headphone monitoring as well as gain control. And it even packs away nicely in a bag or in your desk. Solo podcasters should consider the Shure MV5.
8. Rode NT-USB Condenser Mic Package
This package on Amazon comes with the Rode NT-USB mic that features headphone monitoring and adjustable volume and gain knobs, as well as a pair of over-the-ear headphones. The mic also comes with an adjustable pop screen to help reduce plosives in your recordings. It’s also uber compatible and works with both Mac and PC as well as iPad, as long as you have an iPad Camera Connection Kit.
9. Shure MV88
BEST FOR iOS
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a USB microphone, but for those who do their recording with their phone, whether that’s for vlogs, streaming or trying to capture an interview, the Shure MV88 is a fantastic tool. It connects right into your iOS lighting connection and adjusts exactly where you want without being overbearing or bulky. It even comes with a windscreen you can attach to remove unwanted environmental noise. It’s a great tool for better recording on your phone.
10. Blue Nano
It’s not as robust with recording features as the Yeti or Yeti X, but you can save a little bit of money and still have some versatility. The Nano has zero-latency headphone monitoring as well as an adjustable volume knob right in front of the mic. You can even switch between single and omnidirectional recording patterns — more than the Shure MV5 can do.