The Best USB Microphones

The Best USB Microphones

The Best USB Microphones 2018/2019

Buying the perfect USB microphone to record your vocals or instruments is not always easy. They are a great option for simplicity and ease of use but there are many to choose from. When they initially hit the market they left a lot to desire, but some of these mics have evolved to deliver very good results. Personally I would still recommend you consider a proper setup with an interface and regular mics, but as we are all at different stages of our journey I have prepared this guide with the aim of helping you select the ideal USB microphone for your needs.

Microphones normally have an XLR connection, and need to connect to an audio interface or mixer; they cannot be connected directly to a PC or laptop, and this is exactly why USB mics are so practical.

It can be helpful to understand the differences in these technologies, so, briefly; an audio interface contains mic preamps which are responsible for amplifying the sound captured by the microphone. Hence, the quality of the sound that we capture not only depends on the mic we choose, but also the quality of the audio interface, its preamps, and the analog to digital/digital to analog conversion (which is usually built into the interface but can be a stand alone unit). As there are many interfaces on the market, as well as a multitude of standalone preamps and hundreds of microphones to choose from…..not to mention other outboard gear like eq’s, compressors etc, the amount of possible combinations is huge. An interface will also usually have outputs for studio monitor speakers and headphones.

Interfaces are a whole world and deserve their own separate guide, which I may get around to writing in the future! Follow us on Facebook and/or join our lovely and very supportive FB group to keep up to date 🙂

With a USB microphone, things are considerably simplified; as they do not need to be connected to the preamp of an audio interface, they do not need extra cables and AD/DA  conversion is built in. Simply connect them to the computer (or even a tablet, iPad or similar), you might have to install a driver or some basic software which is often very quick, and you are ready to capture audio in your DAW!

Reasons to buy a USB microphone:

  • Your microphone needs are not complex: podcasting or youtube vids, voice overs, recording  commentary for gaming, demos etc …
  • You are starting out and want to do some basic recordings.
  • Simplicity and ease of use is a priority.
  • You do not have or want a traditional audio interface.
  • You have a tight budget.
  • You need a highly portable setup

 

In summary, USB mics are very practical and comfortable. Although quality has improved over the years, some still feel they don’t quite match up to regular mics. This may be because a lot of components are crammed into one device. Plus as most USB mics aren’t really aimed at the pro end of the market, they don’t really need to go overboard with the quality of their components. That’s not to say there aren’t high quality USB mics on the market, as you will see below.

At the end of the day you need to choose the best microphone for your specific recording needs and price range. If a USB microphone covers all your recording needs and satisfies you in terms of quality for the level of work you are doing, you don’t really need to spend any more money buying or worrying about other equipment. Important note: condenser microphones are generally more sensitive to the sound of the recording space than dynamic mics, and typically offer more pickup patterns. If you have an untreated space you may want to stick to a dynamic.

Let’s get to it!

Low budget:

These may not deliver the greatest sound quality, but you certainly can’t argue with the prices! They are fine for demos, podcasting and the likes, but are not really the best options if you are aiming for more polished results.

mb88u Dualthe t.bone MB 88U Dual

  • Dynamic – better for untreated spaces
  • Dual USB and XLR connectivity – a great feature, as it means you can still use it when you upgrade your setup to include an interface or mixer
  • Doesn’t require installation of drivers – super handy!
  • 16 bit/48khz
  • Compatible with Mac and PC
  • Full specs, price and reviews

e205u

Superlux E205U

  • Large diaphragm condenser (LDC) – more sensitive than dynamic mics
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • Driverless operation
  • Headphone output with volume control
  • Mac and PC compatible, 16 bit/48khz
  • Comes with accessories
  • Full specs, price and reviews

 

Mid range:

Better quality options here, some offering more flexibility than others.

c03Samson C03U

  • LDC with a dual diaphragm capsule
  • 3 different pickup patterns for flexibilty
  • Low cut filter to cut out rumble
  • -10db pad for loud sources
  • 16bit/48khz
  • Full specs, price and reviews

 

Audio-Technica-AT2020USB-MicAudio-Technica AT2020 USB+

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Single cardoid pickup pattern
  • Headphone output with volume control
  • Comes with a handy accessories kit
  • One of the best for price to quality ratio although it lacks features
  • Full specs, price and reviews

rode-nt-usb-3Rode NT-USB

  • Cardioid LDC
  • Headphone output with volume control
  • Mix control to balance vocal volume with playback from your computer
  • Comes with accessories like a quality pop filter and tripod stand
  • 16bit/48khz
  • Full specs, price and reviews

yeti_studio_angle_2Blue Yeti Studio

  • Triple capsule LDC with 16bit/48khz conversion
  • 4 pickup patterns including stereo
  • Mute button – pretty handy
  • Volume and mic gain controls
  • Comes with a cool stand and free software
  • Full specs, price and reviews

 

High end:

Let’s face it, if you are thinking of splashing out on a high end USB mic you may well be better off grabbing yourself an interface and an xlr mic! However all our needs differ, so I have included some pricier options:

microfono-shure-pg42-usbShure PG42 USB

  • Plug and play cardioid LDC
  • Switchable -15db pad
  • Headphone jack with volume control
  • Built in monitor control
  • Comes with a suspension mount and aluminium case
  • Full specs, price and reviews

 

lewitt-dgt-650-usb-1Lewitt DGT 650 USB

  • A mini recording rig
  • MIDI, Stereo Line/Hi-Z and headphone connectivity in a breakout box
  • 4 recording modes
  • 2 small capsules in an XY arrangement
  • Multi stage low cut/pad, and gain meter
  • ASIO compatible, 24bit and upto 96khz sample rate
  • Includes various accessories
  • Full specs, price and reviews

 

Lastly, some honourable mentions for these three mid to high price USB mics which are certainly worthy consideration:

 

blue yeti pro

Blue Yeti Pro Studio – The big brother of the aforementioned Blue Yeti Studio, with 4 polar patterns and 24bit/192khz recording as well as XLR connectivity.


apogee-mic-96kApogee Mic 96k – Very compact and great quality, which makes sense as it won a TEC Award in 2015. (Links to Mac and PC compatible version. Mac/IOS only here)


rode-podcaster-microfono-usb-cardioideRode Podcaster – Dynamic USB mic, with internal pop filter and shock mount! If that didn’t get your attention, Rode will extend their warranty to 10 years if you register your product with them…. things really have come a long way since the first USB mics!


 

Remember! If you are using a condenser mic (as almost all on this list are), your room could have a considerable effect on your sound. Be sure to consider a dynamic mic if you are close miking or at least have some basic acoustic room treatment, and you can get great results with any of them. I hope this was helpful! Feel free to leave any comments below and check out our growing collection of articles, guides and reviews here 🙂

 

May your mixes be forever punchy!

Amar Sharma

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