The emergence of USB microphones is slowly changing the myth that one needs to invest in complex studio hardware to achieve quality YouTube videos, podcasts and vocals. Well, USB microphones aren’t replacing the XLR-connected mics any time soon. But they are getting better with each day.
We now have several musicians, YouTubers, and podcasters relying solely on these units. Take the Blue Yeti, for instance. This easily affordable mic can be used in almost all studio applications.
While the Blue Yeti is currently the most popular USB microphone of 2017, there are others that beat it hands down in several instances.
On the right is one of the Blue Yeti USB microphone
Let’s compare the top 6 best USB mics in this category starting from the least expensive going up.
Samson Go is a great cheap USB mic, but it’s certainly the cutest and the most versatile of them all. It’s also the smallest and most affordable USB microphone for outdoor use.
If you love podcasting while on-the-go, Samson Technologies seem to have the real deal for you on this (check the name again).
Samson Go comes nicely clipped up and folded into a zip-up pouch. Its body is all metallic, and the grille seems tough enough for the road and field recording. One standout feature with this mic is that you won’t ever worry about how and where to mount it.
It comes ‘mounted’ on its own ‘stand’ into which it also clips back while not in use. The clip also sits comfortably on your PC, Mac, or iPad and even on your desktops.
Who can use the Samson Go mic? Almost everybody! Whether you write and record songs, acoustic guitars, or sing in a band, this mic has got you covered. Firstly, it’s easily recognized by different DAWs. Secondly, it offers both the cardioid and the omnidirectional mode. Choose the first mode for vocals or close-miking and the second to record a full band.
Next on line is a fierce competitor for the Samson Go above. Quite similar to our first option, Blue Snowflake has been precisely designed for podcasters and gamers. This mic features a swiveling mechanism and is mounted on a j-shaped metallic bracket.
This bracket acts as the base for use as a desktop microphone. You can also clip it on your laptop or desktop if that fits you. In this case, this slid-on bracket has protective pads that prevent the clip from scratching your machine.
Blue Snowflake also comes fitted with a 3-ft long USB cable. This length is just enough not to stand in your way or limit you on where to position the mic. When not in use, this cable is housed beneath the plastic stand in a hollow compartment. Setup is quite a breeze.
Since this mic requires no drivers or tactical mounting, you could be going about with your projects in less than a minute.
How does it sound? Well, its sound production isn’t tailored for professional recording. However, it still has quality sound to record your guitars, voice, and for internet chatting, podcasting, and gaming.
This is the microphone that everyone is raving about out there. And truth be said, Yeti has the highest price to quality ratio. We are yet to find another rich sounding and sonically flexible USB-powered mic at this price. Blue Yeti can be used for podcasts, rapping or voice over.
Blue Microphone’s years of experience and intelligence in microphones is nicely demonstrated in Yeti. This mic measures 4.7 x 4.9 x 11.6 inches while mounted on its stand. Contrary to what it looks in the picture, Yeti features a solid metal build that won’t mind being pushed around.
The mic has a mute button plus a volume control knob at the front. These 2 coupled by a control gain at the back offer you the utmost control of your recording process.
But what enables it to edge the competition is its 4 position pattern selection that allows you to choose between cardioid, bi-directional, omnidirectional, and stereo. Now, this is a good description for a do-it-all mic for your studio. It’s great for podcasts, recording instruments (especially acoustic guitars), vocals, and audios. Another great feature is that it’s compatible with different versions of Windows and Mac OS too.
Audio Technica isn’t any new in our best studio gear reviews. Its Audio-Technica AT2050 ranks highly in our list of the best condenser mics. On the other hand, its ATH M50x is the way to go if you need to step your studio recording headphones.
And now the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is here with us. This mic is an upgraded version of the famous Audio-Technica AT2050. This is a commonly used XLR-connected condenser microphone.
The AT2020USB followed shortly after the AT2020 for those who prefer the convenience of the USB microphones. Unfortunately, this model didn’t include one vital feature that these mics boast; a headphone jack output. Luckily, that comes bundled up in this series’ latest offer, the AT2020USB+.
This is a condenser microphone featuring a medium low-mass diaphragm and with a 20Hz- 16kHz frequency response. Its cardioid pattern helps in minimizing the odds of picking up unwanted noise coming from the rear and sides. Moreover, the long (3.1ft) USB cable offers you greater freedom on positioning.
This USB microphone is again fitted with a high-quality 16 bit, 44.1 kHz A/D converter which when doubled with its high SPL handling capability emits superb quality sound results for your podcasts, videos, and vocals. The package also comes with a free pop filter and a tripod stand.
I did tell you earlier on that Blue Yeti does not win in all battles, right? So, here is one of the most recommended USB microphones from Rode that beats the crap out of Yeti each time. Rode NT-USB features an excellent overall design and comes fully packed with an out-of-this-world tripod stand, a pop shield, and a carry case.
This mic has a metallic build and boasts the usual high-quality and professional feel that is synonymous with Rodes microphones. In a similar fashion to other computer USB microphones, Rode NT-USB features a driverless setup.
It’s easily recognized by your Windows PC, Mac OS, iOS, and some latest versions of Android. As expected, it’s powered via the USB. A blue easily visible LED confirms powering.
Let’s talk about the sound quality. Rode NT-USB has a 20Hz - 20kHz frequency response and 110dB maximum SPL handling capability
. It’s also fitted with a quality cardioid capsule that offers natural and amazingly transparent sound. Another thing, Rode NT-USB is a side-addressed mic and tends to be super sensitive even to whispers. While this may be a glitch if your studio isn’t acoustically treated, the upside is that you get a great mic for vocals and professional sound recordings. This mic is also excellent for podcasting, spoken words, and voiceovers.
Welcome to the future of studio recording where you no longer need an interface or a laptop. If you’re amongst the ever rising population of musicians with an affinity for on-the-go music making, you’re the target market for the Apogee MiC 96k.
This is an ultra-portable mic that offers studio-quality condenser microphone performance with your iPad, iPhone, Mac or Windows 10 computer. The best part is that it offers play-and-play operations with virtually no configuration required.
Though slightly on the pricey side, Apogee gives you a well built, compact size USB mic with all-metal housing and excellent engineering for most of your studio recording needs. It’s a 3-in-1 package bringing a thumb up condenser microphone, A/D converter, and a mic preamp.
Unlike most of the USB mics that we’ve seen so far, Apogee MiC 96k has a pretty straightforward construction design and controls. In fact, it only has a gain thumbwheel for fine-tuning the internal preamp and 3 color LEDs that shows the status.
About performance and sound quality, MiC 96k tends to have a wide sweet spot when recording vocals and musical instruments. Talking of musical instruments, this mic captures the sounds from acoustic instruments with good warmth and remains clear. In general, MiC 96k has clear highs, high-mid clarity, and a detailed bottom end when used for vocals, and wind and acoustic guitars.
For those of us who love getting themselves busy on their music recording projects while miles away from their studios, the availability of USB microphones has made that possible. The market offers a variety of these at different prices and with varying features to fit about any application. Whether you have a little over 30 bucks or $100 this list has something for you.
Quinn is an audio engineer who is passionate about music production gear. He's been a journalist profiling popular musicians and the gear they use. When not helping musicians and audio producers in studios, he's scouring the market to find the latest gear and music production tech.