USB microphones have been constantly on the rise in the past few years. It’s not hard to imagine why: beginner musicians on a budget are often tempted to buy such a mic, as it saves them from the cost of buying an additional sound card. Another reason is that USB microphones are all-around mics that, besides recording music, are useful for gaming, podcasting as well as online meetings.
The versatility of the USB microphones has led to a large increase in the models that are manufactured: a simple Google search will provide you with dozens of different USB mics, some of which are ridiculously cheap, while others are extremely pricey. This is a result of the technology improvement that led to high-quality USB mics that can be used for high-fidelity musical recordings.
So, if you are looking for a USB microphone to use with your computer, how can you decide which one is for you? To help you with this task, I have gathered a list of the 10 best USB microphones that you can currently find on the market. Each one has its advantages and drawbacks listed, so that you know exactly what every mic’s specifications mean. There is certainly a mic for everyone among these ten, so read on!
Best USB Microphones 2019 Reviewed
1. Audio-Technica AT2020USB
The first entry on this list comes from a well-known audio manufacturer and it is one of the most popular USB mics currently on the market. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB is a premium-quality USB condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. It is basically the USB version of the already popular XLR condenser mic AT2020, and records at 16bit and 44.1kHz or 48kHz over a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response. A built-in headphone jack with volume control lets you record without any latency. It is very easy to set up, both on Windows devices (it finds the drivers itself) and on Apple devices (you just plug and play). The Audio-Technica AT2020USB has sturdy build quality thanks to the metal body that ensures durability. It comes equipped with a little microphone stand, along with a small adapter for a normal stand, as well as an external pop filter and a carrying pouch. Overall, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB is a bit on the pricey side, but it is perfect for those who are looking for crisp sound on their recordings.
2. Rode NT-USB
Rode is an Australian brand that is widely known for manufacturing popular microphones at competitive prices. That is the case with the Rode NT-USB, which is part of the brand’s popular NT series. The Rode NT-USB is a quality condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, that records at 16bit and 48kHz. In terms of frequency response, it can handle the whole audible spectrum (20Hz to 20kHz). Α built-in stereo headphone jack allows you to record with latency-free monitoring, while a long 20-foot USB cable lets you place the mic away from the computer. It is very easy to use and to set up, and it is compatible with both Windows and macOS software, without any additional driver installation required. The package includes a pop shield and mic stand adapter, along with a desktop tripod. On the whole, the Rode NT-USB might seem expensive to some, but it is definitely worth the money if you consider what it offers.
3. Blue Yeti
The next microphone comes with a playful name that doesn’t bring a microphone to mind. The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular, all-around USB condenser microphones currently on the market and captures detailed and accurate sound performance. Its distinctive feature is the incorporated TriCapsule, that lets you switch easily between four different polar patterns: cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional and stereo. The ability to switch between the patterns gives you extra versatility in different recording situations. This microphone records 16-bit, 48 kHz premium quality sound that you can monitor via the dedicated headphone output, for latency-free listening. The Blue Yeti is compatible with both Windows and macOS computers. Despite its name, it comes in a variety of colours to choose from (platinum, silver, space grey, black, and white). It has a built-in tripod that allows it to stand on your desk and it ships with a 6-feet long USB cable. The low price tag makes the Blue Yeti a real bang for the buck and highly recommended to anyone looking for a high-quality USB mic.
4. CAD U37
The CAD U37 is a budget-friendly option for those looking for a USB condenser mic. It records rich and warm sound thanks to its large diaphragm and single cardioid pattern that minimizes background noise. It records 16bit, 48kHz sound, within a wide frequency range from 20Hz to 20kHz. It is compatible with Windows and MacOS, without requiring any additional drivers or software to be installed: you just plug it and it works. Premium additional features of this mic include a 10 db overall protection (using a pad), that allows you to record loud sources without worrying about distortion, as well as a bass-reduction toggle that lets you remove unwanted room noise. The CAD U37 ships with a desktop stand along with a long 10-foot USB cable. Overall, the sound quality of this mic is not as good as higher-priced models, but it is decent enough if you want to use it for voice and speech. As a result, the CAD U37 is ideal for those on a low budget that are looking for a mic to use for online meetings and podcasts.
5. Samson Go Mic
The Samson Go Mic, as its name suggests, is a nice solution for those who like to record on the go. It is an extremely compact (almost as big as your palm) and portable USB condenser mic that can sit at your desk or be clipped to your laptop screen. Despite the size, it delivers surprisingly good sound quality at 16-bit, 44.1kHz resolution. It records smoothly with a flat frequency response along a large spectrum of 20Hz–18kHz. Due to its small size, the Samson Go Mic can’t handle very loud sounds, but it will perform decently at tasks such as voice recording. One of its best features that are not expected at this price is the switchable cardioid or omnidirectional pickup patterns that give you versatility when recording.
A stereo 1/8″ headphone output ensures no latency monitoring while you record.. The Samson Go Mic is compatible with Windows and macOS operating systems, without requiring any software to be installed: you just plug it and hit record. The package includes a USB cable, a cable clip and a carrying case for maximum portability. Overall, the Samson Go Mic is an inexpensive USB condenser mic with lots of useful features that will satisfy almost everyone.
6. Sennheiser MK4 Digital
Sennheiser has been around for a long time in the audio niche, creating professional-level equipment. The Sennheiser MK4 Digital is a USB condenser microphone that comes as an upgrade of the already successful Sennheiser MK4, incorporating a high-quality digital-to-analog converter that allows this mic to be connected via USB. It records with astonishing sound quality and a sample rate of 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz, at 16 or 24 bits, with a frequency range that covers the whole audible spectrum (20Hz-20kHz). That happens thanks to its gold-plated 1-inch capsule, that records in a cardioid pattern. This mic is perfect both for vocal recording and acoustic instruments. It comes equipped with a microphone mount, two USB cables (one for the computer and one for iPad or iPhone) as well as a cloth bag for storage. The biggest drawback of the Sennheiser MK4 Digital is the price: it is very expensive for an average user. Consequently, this microphone is highly recommended to those who want to get their recordings on a higher level of quality and clarity.
7. Shure MV5
The Shure MV5 is a small-diaphragm, cardioid condenser microphone that comes with USB connectivity for use without a sound card. It records 24bit/ 48 kHz high-quality sound along a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 k Hz. A 3.5mm headphone output allows you to record with latency-free monitoring. A nice feature of this mic is the DSP button that lets you cycle through three preset modes (vocals, flat, or instrument), in order to have the best performance for each occasion. The Shure MV5 comes with a dedicated MOTIV app for iOs users that lets you apply effects such as EQ and compression to the mic. It features beautiful, retro-looking design and comes in two different colour combinations: either in black colour with a red windscreen or in gray color with a black windscreen. The Shure MV5 has sturdy build quality (typical for Shure products) and ships with a steel metal stand. The compact and lightweight design allows it to be carried around easily. Overall, the Shure MV5 is perfect for those who are looking for a mobile, high-quality mic that they can use with their iPhone or iPad.
8. Behringer C-1U
The Behringer C-1U is the USB upgrade of the original analog condenser C-1 microphone. It is a very affordable medium-diaphragm USB mic with a cardioid polar pattern and a frequency range from 40Hz to 16kHz, that records decent sound quality for the price. The cardioid polar pattern allows it to eliminate background noise quite effectively. On the downside, you might find that the output volume is quite low, compared to other mics. It is very easy to set up without requiring any additional software to be installed. The design of the Behringer C-1U is sleek, and it is made from rugged aluminium with a metal grill. As a result, it has an overall solid build quality that will make it last for long. The package includes a stand mount, a mic stand, a 5/8″ to 3/8″ mic stand adapter and a USB cable. On the whole, the Behringer C-1U is the ideal solution for those who are looking for a USB mic with a low price tag and decent audio quality.
9. Samson Meteor USB Microphone
The second entry from Samson on the list, is a step up from the previously mentioned Samson Go Mic, but it still remains quite affordable. The Samson Meteor USB microphone is a condenser microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern that delivers great sound quality. It records at 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz and has a flat frequency response with a 20-20kHz frequency range. The Samson Meteor comes with a built-in ⅛” headphone port for monitoring without latency. A dial lets you adjust your monitoring volume levels and there is also a mute button. It is compatible and works flawlessly with both Windows and MacOS operating systems, without the need for any additional drivers. It is made with a retro design that features chromed steel, resulting in great build quality. The design is both stylish and clever as it incorporates a tripod stand by opening the folded legs of the mic. It ships with a nice small velvetine bag that along with its compact and lightweight design, make it highly portable. The Samson Meteor is a great solution for those on a budget, as it doesn’t sacrifice quality for the price.
10. Blue Snowball Ice
Last but not least, the Blue Snowball Ice is another budget-friendly USB condenser microphone from the “Blue” brand that comes as an upgrade to the popular Blue Snowball USB mic. It features a cardioid polar pattern and records crisp and detailed sound performance at 44.1kHz/16 bit. It covers a wide frequency range of 40 Hz to 18 kHz. This mic does not have any built-in DSP (digital signal processing), allowing you to record pure signals that you can edit later on your DAW. The Blue Snowball Ice is compatible with both Windows and MacOS operating systems that instantly recognise it, without any additional software required. It comes with good-looking, retro design and two different colours to choose from (black and white). Its compact size and lightweight design allow it to be carried everywhere with ease. A tripod desk stand that lets it sit in front of the computer, as well as a USB cable ship along with the microphone. All in all, the Blue Snowball Ice is a cost-friendly solution for those who are looking for crisp audio quality for podcasts and Youtube videos.
Now that the list is over, are you still undecided about which one of these mics you should get? Well, there are a number of factors that you should consider in order to choose the one that fits your needs. First of all, your budget plays an important role: if you have very little money to spend, then the choice might be easier for you. However, pay attention to the extra accessories that come with each mic, as they might save you money.
Another important thing is what you are planning to do with the mic. If you want to record music, then latency-free monitoring is important for you, especially if you like recording multiple tracks. In addition to that, recording multiple acoustic instruments might require a microphone with switchable polar patterns for maximum versatility. On the other hand, if you want to use your mic for online meetings and speech, these features are not important for you.
Last but not least, if you plan to carry around the mic a lot, then try getting one that has robust build quality and can handle a little rough treatment, along with being compact and portable. A carrying case might also prove useful on this occasion. All in all, USB microphones are here to stay, and they have vastly improved all of their specifications in the past few years, so you will definitely be satisfied with whichever mic of the list you pick!