So you are looking for the best USB Microphone. How do you choose which USB Mic to buy? There are now so many on the market, at every price point. Picking the best one for you is a minefield.
To really help you choose, we have created a video review of each usb mic, and also uploaded raw audio recordings of the 12 most popular USB mics on the market, so you can hear them all for yourself…. and make your own mind up.
After all what the microphones sound like is he most important thing. These are pure unedited head to head comparisons of what the best USB mics sound like, along with feature summaries, and detailed videos showing you exactly what they are like up close. Everything you need to know about choosing the best USB Mic for you in one place!
If you are considering a USB mic for video voiceovers, then you should also check out our post on how to make your YouTube videos sound great for other options as well. However, you will find that USB mics are among the best microphones for YouTube, due to how easy they are to set up. Plus they work out cheaper than having to buy lots of other equipment.
So below, you will find all the mics below arranged from the cheapest to the most expensive. And for each one, you simply click to watch the video, listen to what the mic sounds like, get more detail, and – once you have made your mind up – which one to buy.
To help you out further, we have also covered in detail below exactly what to consider when choosing a USB mic in a useful checklist.
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Choose The Best USB Mic – 9-Point Checklist
If you want to make great quality recordings then a USB recording microphone is a really good purchase. Many pro musicians would argue that you might do better looking for a recording studio microphone and separate interface, but the beauty of choosing a USB microphone is you do not need to purchase any extra kit.
The best USB microphones are very simple to set up and use, they will usually work on all your recording studio platforms – PC, Laptop, iPad, Mac – and they are very cost effective. And now that nearly every pro mic manufacturer also has at least one USB mic in their range, you really can get a near pro recording result from just one purchase. So why this ultimate guide to the USB mic? Precisely because there are so many to choose from, we thought it would be helpful to summarise the features of the most popular, and also put up a raw audio recording made with each mic. That way you can compare them all directly in one place, and hopefully decide which is the best USB mic without having to trawl through loads of different pages.
You can access the recordings by scrolling back up or clicking here. You will find a video review, audio recording made with the mic, detailed specs and a link to buy for every USB mic we tested.
We have been helping people like you to choose which would be the best USB mic for your home recording studio for a long time and we know what questions and concerns you have before committing to a purchase. So are you still trying to decide which is the best USB mic for you? From our experience, here are 9 key things to think about when you compare models.
1 – Microphone Type: Condenser or Dynamic?
USB Condenser Mics are more sensitive, and have a broader frequency range, so are generally very good for acoustic instruments, quality vocal recordings etc. USB Dynamic Mics are more direct and great for vocals if you are in a noisy environment as they won’t pick up so much background hiss. They are also good for some recording situations such as recording the output of a guitar amp, or a drum. If you want the benefit of the frequency response of a condenser, but have a noisy recording environment consider one with a supercardioid pickup pattern, or investigate implementing some simple acoustic treatment in your home recording studio.
2 – Pickup Pattern
Most condenser mics have a ‘cardioid’ pickup pattern as standard. This picks up more sound at the front and less at the back so isolates from unwanted background sound and is resistant to feedback from speakers etc. This pickup pattern is good for a soloist or one voice. Most dynamic mics have a ‘super cardioid’ pattern and are very directional. They are excellent if you want to avoid picking up background noise, but have less frequency response. Again best suited to recording one person. Some USB Mics have a an ‘omnidirectional’ pattern which is great if you want to record a conference or a larger group of musicians as they pickup sound all the way round (boundary mics in particular have are omni). However the disadvantage might be they pick up unwanted sound too. You just have to be careful about positioning. Finally some mics have a ‘figure of 8’ pattern which is a useful option if you want to record two people having a conversation facing each other over the microphone. Some USB mics have a switch so you can choose different pickup patterns – a really flexible option. This is one of the key advantages of the Blue Yeti USB microphones, and also the Samson C03U. And even the humble Samson Go Mic has a choice of cardioid and omni. Awesome in such a low price mic! If you want to know more about the technical detail of microphone pickup patterns, then you read our article on microphone types which goes into a lot of detail on all the spec sheet jargon.
3 – Dual Format?
USB Microphones tend to be exactly that and can only be used as a recording microphone when plugged into the USB port. However there are some models that are ‘dual format’ and can also be used as a standard microphone. This is something to look for if you might ever want to use the microphone standalone plugged straight into a mixer or amp, use it live or anywhere where you don’t have access to a computer. You could then use it for amplification, not just as a recording mic. In our tests above, the Blue Yeti Pro is the obvious dual format microphone, but there are other examples, for example the Samson Q2U.
4 – Headphone Socket
The one problem with many USB microphones is that they are great recording microphones but you cannot ‘direct monitor’. So if you are a vocalist and want to record yourself over tracks then you won’t be able to listen to yourself and the track you are recording over at the same time. However if you buy a USB microphone with headphone socket then these do have headphone output so are musch better for that kind of recording set-up. Some also have volume control on the headphones. The Rode NT-USB and the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ also have the additional feature of monitor-mix control so that you can adjust the mix you hear in the headphones. Hear more of yourself, more of the audio output of your computer, or somewhere in between. You can read more hear about choosing the best headphones for your home recording studio.
5 – Recording Resolution and Frequency Response
Most of the USB mics on the market record at ‘CD Quality’ which is 16-Bit and 44.1 KHz. This is perfectly adequate for making good quality home studio recordings. If you want to make a really pro resolution recording, then the chances are you won’t be considering a USB mic at all, but a more sophisticated combination of audio interface and separate microphone. However, there are some USB microphones on the market that offer a very high recording resolution, and if this is important to you then the Blue Yeti Pro Mic is the obvious contender in the mics we tested. You will probably also have noticed that nearly all the condenser mics in this test boast roughly the same frequency response of around 20Hz – 20KHz, which makes them good all round microphones for a wide range of uses. You can read more about the technical terms associated with microphones in our post of microphone types, if you want to make more sense of this. However, if you plump for CD Quality and a wide flat frequency response then you should find you will have a good versatile recording microphone.
6 – Software Included
If you have looked at all the hardware options then your decision might be swayed by the software that is included with some USB Microphones. Of all the mics tested above, the Behringer comes with software in the box for audio editing and podcasting. You might be swayed by this if you want a complete all-in-one package. However, let’s not forget that to start recording you can use the excellent and free Audacity.
7 – USB Mic Accessories
Finally check out what accessories the USB microphone has in the box – most include a stand and lead, some have a pouch or case. The top of the range models come in a flight case complete with shock mount and sturdy desktop stand. Because most of you are buying a USB mic for an out-of-the-box recording studio solution, make sure you at least get some kind of desktop stand. This is the biggest problem with the Behringer C1U, which is a nice solid studio mic, but only comes with a stand mount so you would need to make an additional purchase to use it successfully.
8 – Additional Features
We have listed any additional features that the mics we tested possess. You may find these very useful for your recording studio situation. Things like Mute Button and monitor-mix control might just swing your decision when choosing which USB microphone is the best one for you.
Still confused? Contact us if you want any more information about which USB microphone as we have been selling them for years and so can offer plenty of advice on the best one for your needs. We have also made a feature comparison chart which you can feel free to download to help you decide which USB microphone will best suit you.
9 – Budget
We left this one until last, but at the end of the day the amount you have to spend will be the deciding factor on which mic you pick, all other things being equal. Don’t beat yourself up if you can only run to an entry level mic. Hopefully the raw recordings above will demonstrate that although you do get what you pay for, the least expensive mics like the Samson Go Mic sound absolutely fantastic, and are a huge improvement over your computer’s built in mic.
10 – A Small Note About Windows 10
Some people experience issues trying to plug and play USB microphones on Windows 10. If you are experiencing problems, then we have a few ideas for solutions in this post.
Hopefully this comprehensive guide will have helped you to choose the best USB mic. If at the end of all this you think you may wish to look at other alternatives, then you could explore the option of purchasing an audio interface and a separate standalone mic. In that case you may like our article that explains what is an audio interface, and then the complete guide to the best condenser microphones, starting at sub $100 and working up to more expensive sub $1000 condenser microphones. Happy hunting!