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Nowadays, USB microphones are carving out an increasingly large portion of the market. While we don’t think they’ve gotten to the technical level yet to replace XLR-connected condenser microphones in an audio setup, many singers, vocalists, and radio or podcast hosts use these devices to a professional level. They are easy to use as they receive power directly from the computer simply by plugging them into a USB port on the computer, they present fewer problems and are also cheaper. It is possible to discuss for hours about which is the best (our review has declaimed the Blue Yeti as such), without wasting time in other futile chatter, we come to our ranking, but first we list briefly what are the aspects to take into consideration when you want choose a microphone.
Things to consider when buying a USB microphone
Differences between USB and XLR microphones
The main difference is that USB microphones have a built-in A / D converter avoiding having to purchase an audio interface to make recordings with your computer. Another cool thing is that a USB condenser mic has a built-in mic preamp, so you don’t need to buy an external mic preamp or mixer. Most preamps are equipped with phantom power which provides the 48 volts of power needed to run a condenser microphone. Since USB only supplies 5v, usb microphones have been modified to run on this reduced power at the expense of quality. The fact remains that the qualitative difference between a USB microphone and a standard microphone is minimal.
Condenser or dynamic?
If you want to record vocals or guitars a condenser mic can give that studio sound effect. Dynamic microphones boast of a more robust construction, are cheaper but qualitatively less detailed and less airy. Dynamic microphones are often used by speakers in radios.
Zero latency monitoring
If you need to hear what you record in real time you need to purchase a usb microphone with headphone jack. If the usb mic doesn’t have a headphone jack, you can only hear audio coming from the computer which may have “latency”. Some microphones such as the IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio have a headphone jack but still require you to take the monitor mix from the recording software.
Power problems with the iPad
The iOS reducer limits the current that can be supplied to USB devices, due to this when using a USB microphone with an iPad the power may not be sufficient. In some cases the microphone may work, but as soon as you plug in the headphones, too much current will be drawn and the iPad will shut down completely. You may need to provide additional power through a powered USB hub to resolve these issues.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR USB MICROPHONE
How much do you want to spend: fundamental factor to always keep in mind when preparing for a purchase. The market for USB microphones ranges from cheap travel models, not bulky that can be taken anywhere, up to professional models, characterized by high audio quality, but also by a certainly higher price. In our review we have taken into consideration all the price categories on the market, in order to satisfy all needs.
Intended use: most of the microphones under consideration can be used in a wide range of situations (which is why they are becoming so popular), however, if you are considering use in a semi professional recording studio, you will have to choose a model with a higher quality, so you can mount it on a microphone stand. There are small models that can be easily applied on the desk for use with skype, gaming or podcasting, or even applicable to the screen for an even more versatile use. So search for what is right for you, always keeping in mind the use you are going to make.
Microphone type: we love condenser microphones and most USB microphones fall into this category. Some microphones are designed for unidirectional use (in front of the microphone or from the side), while others can capture vocals or instruments from all directions. Here is a brief overview of the microphone models that can be found on the market:
- Cardiode / Unidirectional: By far the most popular type among the best models of USB microphones, this microphone will only record sources coming from the front. Since the most common uses of USB microphones concern home use, office activities, gaming, music, calls, this type of microphone is the most used.
- Omnidirectional: this type of microphones picks up sounds coming from all directions (front, rear and from above). They are best for when you want to record everything around you and have an usually ultra-flat frequency response.
- Bi-directional: also called figure-8 microphones (term deriving from its polar characteristic), they record sounds coming from the front and back of the microphone. Their use is a little less frequent, but some studio microphones allow this configuration. They were massively used during radio broadcasts to record the voice of the conductor and the music coming from a live place in front of the conductor.
THE BEST 10 USB MICROPHONES
Below you can find the list of the best USB microphones on the market today. Let us know in the comments how your purchase went or if we have forgotten any model that you consider essential.
BLUE YETI – See price or buy
The choice of this model was actually quite simple. After a research on the internet about USB microphones I noticed that the BLUE YETI was included in all pages and in most cases it was at the top of the various charts. The projectsTheists of this microphone were particularly intelligent and far-sighted in its design, it is obvious in fact, how they wanted to attract a large slice of the market, trying to cover the fundamental aspects with the same device. First of all there is the possibility to choose between cardioid, bidirectional, unidirectional or stereo depending on the use you will have to make of the microphone, acting on the front side of the device, where the gain, mute and output controls are also located. headphones and not to mention what are the characteristics of aesthetics and the possibilities of the colors available. The audio quality of the Blue Yeti is also fantastic. Most people will not be able to sense that you are using a USB microphone (especially at this price), regardless of what you are using it for. We know some rappers who use it for home studio recordings and it’s just perfect for podcasts as it can be easily placed on a table or desk.
If you’re looking for a straightforward answer to what the best USB mic around is, read no further and run to buy the YETI.
SAMSON METEOR – See price or buy
Here is another very popular USB microphone on the market that we are big supporters of. We’re talking about another very popular brand when it comes to microphones and for good reason. The Samson Meteor is pretty goodza similar to the Yeti in terms of size and build quality. One advantage of the Meteor is that it is cheaper than the Yeti. The Samson is a cardioid microphone, characterized by a medium-large diaphragm (25 mm) and with an intelligent system to be able to store it in a luggage or bag, ready to be taken anywhere. Speaking of audio quality, the Samson can record at a maximum of 16 bits, 48 kHz (32 bits would have been better, but at this price we can’t ask for more). Another great feature is the ability to connect to a smartphone (you will need an Apple adapter to do this).
Let’s not forget to mention the presence of a headphone output, the Samson has an advantage over the Yeti for its much lower price, so you can choose if you want to save some money.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB – See price or buy
One of the most famous and best USB microphones on the market. It looks like a traditional XLR condenser microphone but with the USB socket. Audio-Techinica also produces the regular model if you’re interested, but the USB model has pretty much the same technical features with the benefit of connectivity. A suitable choice for singers as there is the possibility of mounting it on a microphone stand, like the one you will find in a normal recording studio. A nice new feature is that it comes with a tripod holder and a carrying bag in the bag.
Rode NT-USB – See price or buy
Rode is one of our favorite microphone manufacturers. We’ve been using their Rode NT-USB for a long time now when we need to record and have absolutely no intention of changing our habits. The build quality, stability and overall sound quality these mics provide is great. This is a recent model produced by this house, and when we found out it was a USB microphone we could not help but investigate thoroughly. The microphone features are as follows: mixer control on the microphone, cardioid polar pattern, 110 dB pressure gradient, supplied with pop shield, tripod, mounting ring, carrying bag and USB cable. This alternative is certainly not the cheapest, but if you have the money to spend, it will certainly be well invested in this microphone.
CAD U37 – See price or buy
Here is one of the best USB microphones in the budget price range. Offered at a price that turns out to be almost half of the previously mentioned models, the CAD U37 features a cardioid polar pattern, good sound insulation, 10 dB distortion protection and a bass reduction switch, so you can customize the registration.
It certainly doesn’t measure up to other microphones in terms of sound quality and build quality, but it couldn’t be otherwise given its price, but if you’re looking for a cheap microphone this is definitely the right tool for you. There are numerous favorable reviews regarding this microphone, so you can buy a previously tested product.
Blue Snowball – See price or buy
Here is another product from the Blue company in our ranking. The Blue Snowball microphone is an inexpensive product that still offers good sound quality. The appearance, as you can see from the photo, is particular and very different from the previously presented Yeti. This microphone is more suitable for gamers, podcasters and other similar businesses. The sampling rate is 44.1kHz / 16bit, which rivals three times more expensive products, so don’t worry about quality. It is a condenser microphone that can be switched from omnidirectional to cardioid configuration, and certainly one of its main strengths is the aesthetics, and let’s not forget to mention that there are 10 different selectable color possibilities. This super light microphone finds its ideal positioning right next to your pc keyboard. We have heard guitar and vocal recordings made with this microphone, although it cannot be mounted on any other stand other than its tripod (included in the box at the time of purchase). It must be said that it is bought by many people if only for its attractive appearance.
Shure PG42 – See price or buy
Here is a professional USB microphone, from one of the best known and most appreciated microphone manufacturers on stages and in recording studios around the world.
The Shure PG42 is a very high quality USB microphone, able to compete with some traditional models of condenser microphones on the market. The positive opinions about this microphone are very high, thanks to the presence of an integrated preamplifier with gain control placed on the front, latency close to zero and a “mix” control so that you can listen to the microphone and the audio and the music at the same time. headphone output directly into the microphone. The sampling rate is 48 kHz, which is higher than the other microphones featured in this guide, so if the only factor you’re interested in is audio quality, our advice is to buy this model.
This model is ideal for artists who need recordings, which will be close in quality to professional ones. For a few euros more it is possible to have the package containing the pop filter and a table stand. If we hadn’t taken the money factor into account in our ranking, this model would definitely win hands down thanks to the quality of the recording and build.
Samson Go Mic – See price or buy
Here is another Samson that enters our chart, we have seen this microphone placed at the top of many of the charts we have read, we certainly could not ignore it. Quite inexpensive model and easily betweenportable (probably the reason for the name), it is perfect for those people who are often on the road, therefore perfect for business calls, podcasting, gaming and other desktop activities, where it finds its ideal location. Comes with a USB cable, table tripod and clear travel bag with zipper. Users who have tried it have appreciated the audio quality of the unit at a very affordable price. It can be placed on the top panel of the computer screen. It turns out to be a direct rival of the Snowman, highly recommended if a serial traveler, a person who uses skype massively or simply wants to save money without losing quality along the way.
Apogee MiC 96k – See price or buy
Talking about Apogee Electronics means talking about high build quality at the same time. This model finds its ideal location in a recording studio, characterized by HD recording with a sampling rate of 96 kHz / 24bit. This microphone works perfectly with Iphone, Ipad and other devices of this type, so if you are looking for a microphone to record in this way, this is the choice for you. It is possible to mount it on a tripod stand and apply a pop filter to it, and we are aware of numerous semi-professional artists who use it for their recordings. You can use it for virtually any application you have in mind. A preamplifier and a very high quality analog digital converter are the main features of this device, which combined with a small size make it almost perfect. It can also be positioned on the desk using a tripod stand. Highly recommended for iPhone and iPad users and anyone looking for superior audio quality.
Blue Snowflake – See price or buy
Last in our ranking, but certainly not in importance, the third product of the Blue house in our list, and after the snowball this time it is the turn of the Snowflake (snowflake). As the name suggests we are in the presence of a product of reduced dimensions compared to the microphones reviewed previously. Direct competitor of the Go Mic; a very small microphone suitable for all people who have to travel frequently. Great for podcasting, gaming, voice calling, but not recommended for professional audio recording of vocals or instruments (which can still be used if you want to save money and are looking for something truly portable).
The sampling frequency is the same as the Go Mic (44 kHz at 16 bit), and we are in the presence of a condenser microphone with a cardioid polar graph. Summing up, therefore, a microphone with a good a / d converter, small and inexpensive, the perfect solution for those looking for savings, portability without completely sacrificing quality.
Blue Tiki – See price or buy
There are several small USB microphones, but the Blue Tiki is impressive for its size, it looks a lot like a USB stick. With its noise canceling, voice isolation and intelligent mute technology it is geared towards online use, but can also be used for voice and instrument recording. Tiki offers exceptional clarity for online conversations, focusing on desired sounds and reducing background noise improving the intelligibility of conversations in any situation. The Tiki allows you to choose between two modes: Intelligent Speech for communication e Natural Recording for recording podcasts, voice or instruments.
The Tiki can be connected directly to the computer without the need for cables for instant installation. This microphone uses condenser capsules with a professional preamp circuit capable of delivering quality recording. The Tiki was designed in partnership with iZotope to provide Adaptive iZotope Noise Reduction (ANR), while Click Key Reduction (KCR) was specially developed to reduce typing noises such as keyboard clicks. The 2 capsules of this microphone continuously monitor the audio from both sides of the microphone. The Tiki requires no drivers and is plug-and-play with PC and Mac.
The Audio-Technica AT2005USB is a dynamic cardiode microphone that can be connected via USB / XLR. It can be used on instruments and voices and thanks to the USB and XLR connections it can be used with a computer or with a PA system. Its metal construction is sturdy, the microphone offers an extended frequency response and proves great for podcasting, recording studios and live shows. The AT2005USB has a headphone output with volume control for monitoring microphone audio. The microphone used via the USB port is compatible with both Windows and Mac. Its cardioid polar pattern improves the isolation of the sound source.
Marshall MXL USB – See price or buy
The Marshall Mxl is a microphone designed for musical performances, its cost is higher than the other usb microphones listed but the quality is also superior. This microphone is used by many singers who want to get professional recordings at home without having to buy an expensive audio chain. The marshall on the front allows you to modify and customize the sound, but it is also useful in the podcast. What can I say, if you are looking for one of the best usb microphones on the market and do not mind the cost, you can choose this high-end model.
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