There was a time when creating high-quality sound recordings required at least renting out a recording booth and quite possibly enlisting the talents of an experienced editor, but we’ve now reached the point where anyone can record seriously with the lightest of gear. A USB microphone is one of the simplest, most versatile, and all around best options for everything from podcasts to video game streaming.
But that doesn’t mean you should just pick up the first USB microphone you find on store shelves. We’ve provided you with 10 of the top microphone models for recording, and we’ve also come up with a detailed guide you can put to use if you decide to expand your search further.
- 10 Best USB Microphones
- 1. CAD Audio U37 USB Studio Microphone
- 2. Apogee Hype Mic – USB Microphone
- 3. Samson Go Mic Portable USB Microphone
- 4. Blue Snowball iCE USB Micro
- 5. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Microphone
- 6. HyperX QuadCas USB Microphone
- 7. Shure MV5 USB Digital Microphone
- 8. Razer Seiren X USB Streaming Microphone
- 9. Rode NT-USB USB Microphone
- 10. BLUE Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
- USB Microphone Buyer’s Guide
10 Best USB Microphones
1. CAD Audio U37 USB Studio Microphone
The CAD U37 isn't the best microphone on our list, but it's also a strong contender for the best value around. The extended frequency response allows for higher fidelity performance when recording everything from vocals to music mixes, and it also features 10 decibels of overload protection, so you run a lower risk of having to deal with distortion. And you don't need to worry about the acoustics of your room causing excessive reverberation thanks to the bass reduction switch that's built in. This microphone does a great job of focusing directly on the sound you're trying to deliver, isolating it from any other sounds in the room.
2. Apogee Hype Mic – USB Microphone
The most immediate advantage that the Apogee Hype offers over the Cad U37 is that it comes with double the recording resolution, but this mic does a lot more to justify its significantly higher price tag as well. This is a highly portable and easy to use microphone, making it one of the ideal choices for people who know they're serious about podcasting and recording and want an affordable model that can grow as they do. The Apogee Hype also features zero latency monitoring for more seamless performance wherever you happen to be and some great sound quality that belies its highly compact and portable design.
3. Samson Go Mic Portable USB Microphone
Not everyone needs a microphone focused on professionals. If you're the type of customer who wants something cheap and functional but packs in a lot of bang for the bucks, the Samson Go mic is a great choice for you. It's small enough to fit comfortably in your palm and can fold right into itself, and it offers serious plug and play compatibility with most versions of the major operating systems. And it has enough versatility to suit your recording situation. The Samson Go mic can swap seamlessly between cardioid and omnidirectional pickup patterns, and it can be mounted in a variety of different ways, making it great for more guerrilla recording artists.
4. Blue Snowball iCE USB Micro
Need a boost over what your built in computer mic can provide? The Blue Snowball iCE constitutes a respectable step up without costing you much money at all. This microphone is especially well suited to working with streaming services like YouTube, Skype, or Discord, and while you probably don't want to do it for your most serious professional recording, and it's compatible with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 protocols, so you can make the most of the highest transfer speeds possible. The design here is also especially cool thanks to the rounded top which does a great job or resembling a more traditional studio recording mic.
5. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Microphone
Any product you pick up from Audio-Technica is bound to be high quality, and the fact that they offer a $150 microphone makes them one of the best choices to to check for when you're seeking out a mid-range model. Full mix controls give you more control over the final product when you're trying to record professional or semi-professional results, and the high platform compatibility means you can seamlessly jump from one computer to another. It also offers a smooth frequency response range that covers practically the extent of human hearing. Best of all, this Audio-Technica microphone comes with all the key accessories you need to get up and going.
6. HyperX QuadCas USB Microphone
HyperX is best known for their gaming headsets and headphones, but those talents make them equally well suited to designing microphones. The QuadCast is a pretty serious microphone that's tailor made for professional use. The shock mount is specially crafted to minimize the effect of vibration on the quality of your recording. It even offers four different polar patterns, so you can adjust the circumstances to suit the needs of any given situation. It also promises the full frequency response range of human hearing. All of these combine to create a best in class microphone that can be employed in a wide variety of different scenarios.
7. Shure MV5 USB Digital Microphone
You can pick up the Shure MV5 for under a hundred bucks, but it's well suited to aspiring professionals and especially those who need to adapt to different environments outside of the traditional fixed studio. It comes with its own stand, but it's also designed to be mounted easily. But what's especially refreshing is how adaptable it is. There are different established settings for different recording formats, and the plug and play design ensures it will work without the need to download drivers. And if you're just getting started, it will completely handle equalization, gain, and compression so you don't get overwhelmed by the process of recording.
8. Razer Seiren X USB Streaming Microphone
Razer is another brand that's almost entirely ensconced in the world of video game peripherals, and while the Seiren X is a great choice if you're looking to record a Let's Play or or stream your multiplayer adventures, it's just as good for recording podcasts or even music. With a height of less than nine inches and otherwise compact dimensions across the board, this is a great mic to take with you on your travels, and the headphones input promises zero latency monitoring. And as you might hope from a mic that's supposed to be carried with you, this model is shock resistant so it can offer great recording even in less than ideal scenarios.
9. Rode NT-USB USB Microphone
The Rode NT-USB microphone features all the basics you could want for semi-professional or professional recording in a single package. That includes a pop filter, tripod, storage pouch, and ring mount. And these are good tools to have, since this lightweight mic can comfortably go with you anywhere. Even better, it's designed to work with both Mac and Windows operating systems as well as most major recording and mixing software platforms. It also provides zero-latency headphone monitoring so you'll be sure that the voice coming out of your mic sounds as good as it does in your head.
10. BLUE Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
Blue is the only brand to earn two spots on our list, but we're confident in including the Yeti. The ability to shift seamlessly between four different polar patterns is the obvious advantage here, making it a great choice for any recording environment imaginable. And the setup process is a complete breeze. Just plug your USB cable into your source device, and you're up and ready to go. Gain control is completely adjustable, so even an inexperienced user can pretty quickly remove the risk of interference when recording. And the studio controls are particularly impressive. Everything from pattern selection to the mute button are easily and intuitively accessible at all time.
USB Microphone Buyer’s Guide
Are you shopping for your first USB mic? That’s okay. Understanding the different aspects you need to check when seeking out the best sound quality can be difficult, and a single company name won’t always tell you much about the quality of a mic. But keep reading to level up your knowledge and shop for a mic with more confidence.
Any device that records or plays music is going to need to deliver audio across the frequency response range. A higher number does a better job of detecting higher pitch sounds, while a lower number represents bass and other low frequencies. The human hearing range is 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz (or 20 kilohertz), but if you’re just recording a podcast or a video, chances are you don’t need a mic that covers the whole frequency response range, since the human voice falls squarely in the middle of the frequency response scale.
If you’re looking to record music or have a wider range of sounds available to you, you should concern yourself a bit more with having a wide range. What’s more importance is the consistency of scale for the frequency response level. If you really want to find the most consistent mic on the market, you can easily track down a frequency response scale for most of these mics.
Check for models that represent a flat line for the frequency response range (and particularly the middle, as that represents most of the human speaking range) if you want reliable results for the quality of your audio recordings.
One of the biggest advantages of USB mics is that they don’t have to rely on the sound card in your computer at all. Instead, they essentially serve as their own sound card, and the recording resolution provides you with an understanding of the quality of the recording you can expect with a given mic.
This is most often measured in bit level. The bit level essentially tells you how much data is used to record your sound, and a higher bit rate expands the floor and ceiling for frequency recording as well as the fidelity of the audio in your recording. Less expensive mics tend to employ 16 bits, while higher end mics offer 24 bits.
Bit depth also determines the highest frequency response range possible. With a 16 bit mic, you can expect a maximum frequency of 192 KHz, while a 16 bit mic can offer about 44 KHz. In either case, this goes well beyond the range for human hearing, but that also creates denser audio with a better sound stage. Will that have a major impact on the quality of your audio? That depends, but it probably doesn’t need to be a big concern unless you’re trying to produce professional level music.
The pickup pattern tells you from what direction your mic picks up audio. This is a situation where there’s no one best solution but where the ideal choice will instead depend on your recording circumstances. For that reason, mics that allow you to shift between different pickup pattern modes are the most versatile choices around.
- One of the more common patterns, cardioid pickups resemble a heart. They pick up the sound directly in front of them clearly with some of the background noise to the side picked up as well. That makes them a great all around choice.
- Hypercardioid tighten the sound coverage and block out the majority of background noise present. For that reason, they’re often used for recording instruments or vocals.
- Unidirectional mics tighten that coverage even more, offering an audio interface that strips out all but the sound directly in front of them. If you want only your subject to be heard (and for them to be heard clearly even in a noisy environment),
- Bidirectional mics pick up the sound coming from opposite directions with each direction focused tightly. As a result, they’re an optimal choice when recording interviews in a single room.
- Omnidirectional mics record with an equal level of clarity in any given direction, and for that reason, they’re an immersive way to capture subjects in more active environments where what you’re trying to record might be moving around.
Just because what you’re saying sounds great in your head doesn’t mean that’s what your audience is hearing. That’s where headphones can be an incredibly valuable asset. By having a headphone port, you can monitor your own sound to hear what’s being recorded as it happens. You should check for models that promise zero latency, otherwise there may be a delay between what you’re recording and what you’re hearing. And if you want to pair your mic up with a great headphone, check our guide to the best studio headphones in 2020.
Do you plan on traveling with your mic? You’ll want to find a model that’s portable in terms of both dimensions and weight. Most USB models are pretty mobile, but if you’re looking for one you can carry on a plane with you, you may want to pay closer attention to the dimensions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are USB Microphones Good for Recording Vocals?
That really depends on the mic. While USB mics generally provide good performance across the board, there are also some popular options that focus specifically for recording vocals. If you’re looking to shoot a podcast or engage in another type of voice recording, Yeti is a name you should pay close attention to.
Are USB Mics Better?
That depends on your setup. USB mics act as their own sound card, so you can get great sound quality regardless of the computer you’re using them on. If you’re on a budget and can’t invest in a computer with a heavy duty sound card – or if you want the freedom to record wherever you go – mics that use a USB cable are one of the top options.
What Are USB Microphones Used For?
Anything a traditional mic can be used for! USB mics are used for everything from streaming games or shooting YouTube videos to recording music or podcasts. Their mobile design and ability to hook up to any modern computer makes them a versatile choice.
What Microphone Do You Use for Vocals?
We particularly like the Blue Yeti. It offers three audio recording patterns in addition to the traditional cardioid pattern. This condenser microphone offers great audio quality and the ability to travel, and you can improve your professionalism even more by making an upgrade to the Blue Yeti Pro.
Whether you’re looking to record your first podcast or simply improve your gaming performance, a USB mic can absolutely fill the bill. They can work regardless of the quality of your computer, and you can find great models from trusted company names for less than a hundred bucks. Check our list, and we’re pretty confident you’ll find something you need.