Nowadays, USB microphones are becoming more and more prominent each year. Although we don’t think they’re quite at the level of replacing the XLR connected condenser microphone to audio interface setup, we know of numerous singers, podcasters and other vocalists who use USB microphones professionally. It’s easy to use because you receive the power straight from your computer and plug-n-play it with merely the USB (it stands for Universal Serial Bus, if you were wondering) cord — less hassle and they’re relatively inexpensive, too. You can argue about which is better for hours, but when it comes down to it, USB mics can and will work regardless of the use. Let’s get down to the top 10 best models to see what you have to work with.
How to choose your USB microphone
- Your budget: This is always important in our shopping endeavors, and when it comes to the best USB mics there’s actually a relatively broad range when it comes to price points. Although dependent on your use as well, we have some smaller, travel-friendly models that won’t dent your wallet a bit. However, if you’re looking for a more professional mic with higher audio quality, the price starts to go up a bit. It all depends on what you’re looking for. We included all price ranges to give you proper options.
- The intended use: Most of these are relatively applicable to a wide variety of uses (which is why they’re becoming so popular in the first place), but if you’re going to be using your USB mic for recording vocals in a semi-pro studio, you’ll want a higher quality model that allows for mounting on a mic stand or at least on your desk. The budget-friendly USB mics in here are quite for beginner musicians; however, if you’re getting up there in terms of seriousness, we recommend reading our microphones for vocals guide (with real studio condensers in there) or at least grabbing a more expensive USB microphone listed below. If you aren’t necessarily recording music, there are also models that are smaller in size and can fit snug on your desk (for skype, gaming, podcasting, etc.) and can clip onto your screen if you need even more versatility. Take a look around and shop accordingly, but keep in mind how you’ll be using your USB microphone as well as where you’ll actually be putting it.
- Preferred pickup pattern? We love condenser microphones and most USB mics are just this. Some you speak in front of the mic, on the side, and others will pickup your voice or instrument on all sides. In terms of pickup patterns and what to look for, here’s a brief overview:
- Cardoid/Unidirectional: By far the most popular pattern of the best USB microphone models out there, this only records what’s in front of it. Since the uses of USB mics is pretty broad, this is the most common pattern being that most uses (home office, gaming, even music) are only concerned with one person’s voice in front of it.
- Omnidirectional: This pattern will pick up sound from all directions (front, back, below and above). They’re great for wanting to record all of your surroundings or everything in the room you’re in. They usually have a super flat response.
- Bi-Directional: Sometimes called a “figure 8” pattern, bi-directional makes only record the front and back of its surroundings. They’re a bit more rare, but some studio mics nowadays still offer this option. They used to be great for radio use back in the day when recording a live performance as well as the audience in front of them.
The top 10 best USB microphones
Below is our list of best USB microphones in the market today. If you’re looking for a microphone in a more traditional sense, read our 10 best microphones for vocals as some of those may appeal to you as well (all are condenser, XLR connected to phantom power mics).
It was a pretty easy choice when it came down to it. Run any query on a popular search engine and you’ll find the Blue Yeti to be included in all of the best USB microphone articles and most likely at the top at that. Blue mics was extremely intelligent and precise when they designed this. It’s obvious they wanted to appeal to a larger market (which I guess should be the case if you’re creating a product) by trying to cover most important aspects with a microphone. You firstly have a multiple pattern selection (choose between cardioid, bidirectional or omnidirectional and stereo – which you select will rely on what you’re doing with the mic, controls on the front of the unit (gain control, mute button, and a headphone out), and not to mention a few choices when it comes to colors and aesthetics. The audio quality of the Yeti is also superb. Most people will definitely not be able to tell you’re using a USB microphone, especially one with this price, regardless of your use. I know some home-studio rappers who use this and if you’re podcasting this is one of the best since it sits snugly right on your desk.
This won The Wire Cutter’s (one of our favorite review websites USB microphone guide as well. If you want a straight answer and don’t care for the rest of the mics we have in here, just grab the Yeti and don’t look back.
Here’s another super popular USB microphone out there that we’re huge fans of. This is another pretty popular brand when it comes to microphones and for good reason. The Samson Meteor is relatively similar to the Yeti in terms of build and size. What’s even better is that it’s a bit cheaper than the Yeti, too. You’re getting a pretty large diaphragm for a big recording surface area (25mm), cardioid pickup, and a folding mechanism for some easy travel or storage. The audio quality is up there as well, coming in at a max of 16-bit, 48 kHz (would’ve liked 32 but beggars can’t be choosers, especially at this price). Another cool feature is the fact that it can plug into your smart device (you’ll need Apple’s converter) so if you record that way it’s a plus.
Paired up with a headphone jack and a decent build\design, the Meteor gives the Yeti a run for the money (literally, as it’s a lot cheaper, too). Grab it if you want to save some money as opposed to getting a Yeti. Lifehacker mentioned it in their five best desktop mics article, too.
One of the most popular and best USB mics out there, Audio-Technica’s AT2020 is famous at this point. It looks exactly like a traditional XLR condenser mic but with USB connectivity. They do have a regular AT2020 model if you’re interested, but this is pretty much the same thing but with USB functionality. Better for singers or recording artists in general due to the ability to mount it via a mic stand and shock mount, it’s a great alternative for those in a studio who’d prefer this over the traditional setup. You have a side-address condenser mic (speak in front of it), cardioid polar pattern, and super clear audio quality. What’s nifty is the fact that it comes with a small tripod desk stand if you want it for a more convenient setup, as well as a storage pouch if you plan on traveling.
Many swear by this mic due to the sound, and although it’s a bit more expensive than the Yeti, it is a bit better in terms of overall audio quality. Grab it if you have a few more bucks or may want to use it like a traditional mic, otherwise it still fits neatly on your desk with the stand that it comes with. Audio-Technica is another one of our favorite brands that always brings top-quality gear.
Rode is our favorite microphone creator, period. We use their Rode NT-USB with our friends when we record music and can’t see us making a change for a very long time. The build, stability, and overall sound quality their mics give us is immeasurable. Here we have a pretty new model they’ve come out with and when we heard it was USB connectivity we had to see what it was about. You get some on-the-mic mixing control, cardioid directional pattern, pressure gradient with a nice SPL of 110dB (you can probably scream into it and you’ll be fine), and it comes with a pop shield, tripod desk stand, ring mount, storage pouch as well as USB cable. Out-of-the-box usable, a solid condenser mic, made by Rode…what more can you ask for? If you have enough cash for it, we recommend this since it’s well-worth the money and you’re getting a top-quality USB mic here. Looks slick, too.
Read our Rode NT-USB microphone review for some more info, otherwise if you have a few more dollars and don’t want a Yeti, grab this one as it won’t let you down as another one of the best USB microphones in the market right now.
Here’s one of the best budget-friendly USB mics in our opinion. At a cheaper cost (nearly half the price of the previous models mentioned), the CAD U37 has a large cardioid pick-up pattern for good sound isolation, 10dB overload-protection to prevent distortion, and a bass-reduction switch to give you some more custom options. It’s been stated to be effective when recording other instruments if you’ll be doing that as well. You can mess around with the switches on the front (keep it at “0” if you’re recording strings or normal voices).
It isn’t as good of sound or build quality as other USB mics out there (a bit obvious due to the price tag), but if you’re looking to save some money and go for a cheaper alternative, this is by far the best mic and easiest on your wallet. It’s got numerous reviews to back it up, too, so you’re not just blindly buying a cheap no-name brand at your local electronics store. Grab it with confidence.
Here’s another appearance by Blue, although it’s no secret why they have 3 sightings in this article. The Blue Snowball is very affordable and still offers sound nice sound quality. It also has a bit of a different look and feel as seen in the photo compared to the Yeti. It’s more suited for podcasters, gamers and the like. The sample rate is 44.1 kHz / 16-bit which rivals USB mics that are three times the price, so if you’re worried about the quality don’t be. It’s a condenser mic that can be switched between omnidirectional or cardioid and one of the best features is the aesthetics — it looks cool as heck on your desk and it comes in almost 10 different colors. Super lightweight and snug right next to your keyboard when do your activities.
I’ve even heard of people recording vocals and guitar with this, you just won’t be able to mount it on a traditional mic stand with a shock mount (it comes with a mini tripod so you’re good to go right out of the box). Many people buy it for the look and feel alone.
Here’s a bit more of a professional-quality USB mic, but it’s by one of our favorite microphone creators ever in Shure. The Shure PG42 is as high-quality as you’re going to get when it comes to USB mics and this one rivals some traditional condenser models in the market. The PG42 is highly reviewed due to its integrated pre-amp with a gain control on the front, zero latency monitoring to track what you’re doing, a ‘monitor mix control’ so you can hear the mic and playback audio at the same time, as well as a headphone jack in the mic itself. You can get up to 48 kHz so it’s a bit higher in terms of audio quality than the others in this article, so if that’s your main concern (it’s one of ours) this should be the mic to grab.
More recommended for recording artists looking for a USB microphone to rival the professionals. For a few more bucks you can grab the package that includes a desk stand and pop filter. If money wasn’t a factor, this would win best USB mic by far due to the audio quality and overall solid build. One of the best high-end USB mics out there.
Samson Go Mic
Another sighting by these creators but we’ve noticed this Samson Go Mic has been ranked as #1 in a lot of USB mic articles around the net so we couldn’t ignore it. Being a bit more budget-friendly and nicely sized for desks, it literally folds into itself for carrying purposes, so it’s perfect for those on-the-go (hmm, hence the name?) for business travels, gaming, podcasting and more. Comes with a USB cable, cable clip, stand adapter and nifty zipper carrying pouch.
Users have raved about the audio quality in such a tiny little mic, plus the price is super affordable under fifty bucks. You can clip it to the top of a computer screen so if you want it out-of-the-way you can do so as well. It’s a rival with the Blue Snowflake we mention last in this article. We recommend this if you’re more of a traveling, meeting on Skype or budget-friendly type of mic user.
The name Apogee Electronics always entails high-end gear. This is another studio-quality mic, but the HD recording is eye-popping at up to 96 kHz \ 24-bit. The Apogee MiC Plus is this works well with iPhones, iPads and the like, so if you’re looking for a mic to record that way this is your best bet. You can also hook it up via USB with an adapter which is why we’ve included it in here. It can be used in the traditional microphone studio setup with a stand and pop filter, and I’ve heard of numerous semi-pro artists use it for recording. Spans across pretty much any use here, so regardless of your application you’re good to go.
Plug-n-play, a nice A/D converter preamp built-in for power and a small size make it pretty optimal in terms of having it all. You can also mount it on your desk with a smaller tripod stand like the rest. We recommend this for iPad\iPhone users or those who are super concerned with audio quality.
Last but not least, we have Blue’s third most popular USB mic in the Snowflake. Hence the name, it’s a smaller option as compared to the others we’ve listed previously.
It’s a fierce competitor of the Go Mic and it’s more of a mac vs. PC kind of debate — regardless of which route you go you’re getting the same thing in essence; a smaller USB mic for traveling and clipping onto your screen purposes. Great for podcasting, gaming, internet chatting and more, we wouldn’t recommend it for professional recording or anything but it gets the job done if you’re looking to save some money on a smaller model. The sample rate is the same as the Go Mic at 44.1 kHz and 16-bit and it’s a cardioid condenser mic.
An A/D converter with good quality audio, smaller-size and inexpensive, it is what it is — a cheaper solution for those who need something like it.