The best USB microphone nowadays can begin to rival even some studio-quality mics. They’re skyrocketing in popularity and overall quality and are amazing microphones for quite a few reasons — not only are they easy to use with their simple plug-and-play abilities for PC’s, Macs or Laptops, but they’re also extremely versatile to span across several different ‘uses’ and ‘applications’. We remember first delving into USB mics quite a few years ago (a decade or so we believe) and were skeptical to say the least — a mic you merely stick into a USB port and can immediately begin using and recording or streaming audio? Without an external power source! Unheard of. Let alone being so versatile to stem across uses such as gaming, live calls, streaming, YouTube videos, home studios, and more. How wrong we were, as we sit here writing about them today. Let’s get down to it.
Choosing the best USB microphone
Your budget will be important when first deciding which route to go in picking the best USB microphone. We’ve some great, cost-effective and affordable USB mics for under $100 or even $50. Others can get into the few hundred dollar range, but will start to give you what you may be looking for — overall better quality builds to help with the longevity of the mic, as well as audio resolution (literally higher in resolution than other, cheaper USB mics). It all depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice — money or quality?
Although the best USB microphones are versatile and can be suited for many types of uses out there since all you do is merely plug-and-play into a Universal Serial Bus port, we do like to ask our readers as with any type of microphone the next question: what’s your intended application? Podcasts, YouTube videos, home studio recording (vocals, guitars, other instruments), gaming — or perhaps all of the above? USB mics will fit in all of these categories, but your specific use can entail where you’ll be using the microphone. Need it to fit on your desk on the side? Or perhaps you’re traveling and need something more compact that folds (we found a few for this) for even more versatility?
Your use will also give you some lenience when it comes to audio latency (the few split seconds it takes for your source to be transferred into your computer) as well as audio quality. For those recording singing or instruments in a home studio (although we usually recommend going the true condenser microphone with some phantom power or an audio interface route), quality will be your number one priority — look into the audio resolution of the USB mic (we don’t recommend going lower than 16-bit / 48 kHz audio resolution if you’re recording music). Otherwise, if you’re streaming or using the mic for calls, you can technically go lower in resolution or at least sacrifice this factor if you want to save a few more bucks — as long as the other person can hear you, right?
If you are indeed looking for a mic to use with your smart devices, we wouldn’t go the USB route. Instead read our iOS microphones guide for some more info there. Otherwise, let’s get down to business.
The top 10 best USB microphones
First we will talk about the Rode NT-USB, which is one our favorites as the best USB microphones for those who need something versatile, as this model is suitable for recording singing and other instruments such as guitars and keys in home studios (16-bit / 48 kHz resolution here), podcasts, gaming, Skype calls, business meetings, and voice-overs to name a few. The NT-USB is a studio-quality USB mic that is fully compatible with all mainstream recording applications on both Windows and Mac OS based computers, as well as the iPad using the “Rode Rec” software, GarageBand or any other recording app that accepts an external mic. The NT-USB features a zero-latency stereo headphones monitoring (3.5 mm) jack, which allows you to monitor the microphone input in real-time, as well as adjust the monitoring level and mix between your computer/iPad audio and the mic input. It also comes equipped with a nifty little stand as seen in the photo to fit neatly on your desk or table-top as well as a pop-filter which fits onto the base of the mic, positioning the filter the most efficient way from the capsule to minimize plosives during speech or singing. The Rode NT-USB is price-friendly, and in the box comes with the mount, tripod stand, and storage pouch for a solid all-around package to allow you to get going as soon as it arrives on your doorstep.
Apogee MiC 96k
Up next, the Apogee MiC 96k is another one of the best USB microphones that is both small and low-profile with some of the best recording quality out there in the USB world (up to 24-bit / 96kHz hence that 96k name). It is a professional studio quality cardioid condenser microphone that can be directly connected to your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Windows computer. It is also tiny — about the size of an iPhone. With the “PureDIGITAL” USB connection, the Mic 96k is able to easily capture your best takes with solid quality, and you can take it anywhere – studio, outdoors, concerts to name a few. The Apogee’s cardioid polar pattern design is designed for, but not limited to, vocal and acoustic instrument recording. It has a steel mesh housing on the microphone capsule, as a well as a die-cast zinc body to give it a durable finish. You can also use the MiC for voiceovers, podcasts, and interviews due to its combination of small size and portability. You also have a gain control knob on the side in case you need to adjust your levels on the fly. The Apogee Mic 96k offers the best sound quality you can buy when it comes to USB mics and compact design that can be obtained at a relatively higher price if you can afford it.
Razer Seiren Elite
Here we have another multipurpose USB model, the Razer Seiren Elite. This particular USB mic is a cost-effective, multi-pattern mic that is suitable for all different sorts of recording applications like instruments, vocals, podcasts, conference calls, interviews, and more — making this one of the best USB microphones for people who need a mic for multiple recording environments, but don’t want the most high-end model. Even though Razer is a gaming model (and yes this is a great solution for those needing an external model for games), the Siren Elite allows you to switch between 4 polar recording patterns (cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, bidirectional) by just rotating the main control knob, further helping the argument for this microphone’s versatility function. This model also comes with a built-in headphone amplifier that is compatible with any monitoring headphones with a 3.5 mm jack. It also has a zero-latency output plugged directly into the mic which allows for accurate monitoring on real-time recordings. The mic is rather easy to use as it has 5 main controls: the polar recording pattern selector, mic gain control, OLED display, master headphone volume, and the mute button. The Razer Seiren Elite also comes with a shock mount for minimal noise, a pop filter for little-to-no hissing, and a nifty carrying case for storing. It’s definitely a beauty.
Next we have the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+, one of the best microphones with a USB connection specifically designed for digitally capturing music or any acoustic source using recording software of your choice. The AT2020 is famous at this point, and is a USB rendition of their famous AT2020 condenser mic that’s been around for years. It’s for more music-focused recording due to its cardioid condenser design and technology. Although this model is ideal for recording music, it can also suffice for stuff like podcasts, voice-overs, field recordings, and even home studio recording. This Audio-Technica in particular features a built-in headphone jack with volume control to allow you to directly monitor mic with no delay. It also comes with a mix control which lets you blend your microphone signal with pre-recorded audio. The mic’s cardioid pickup pattern delivers a pretty good off-axis rejection, while it’s A/D converter with a 16-bit, 44.1 1/48 kHz sample rate provides solid sound reproduction to meet nearly all of our requirements. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ mic is also budget-friendly, so if you’re searching for a music-focused USB mic, this may be your pick as the best USB microphone.
This is by far one of the most popular USB microphones ever at this point. The Yeti serves as one of the best microphones with USB connectivity for anyone who needs a multi-pattern model for recording or streaming. The Blue Yeti is also suitable for any application, as it captures a our needed 16-bit/48 kHz for professional music recordings, gaming, and even audio for video. It features tri-capsule technology and 4 different pattern settings — cardioid, omnidirectional, stereo, bi-directional –all of which can be switched to, at just the click of a button. The proprietary 3-capsule technology is designed to deliver rich, detailed sound, while coming with studio controls like headphone volume, instant mute and microphone gain – you are in charge of the recording process. The Yeti is equipped with a 3.5 mm headphone jack that allows you to monitoring and listen without any latency delays and is also rather easy to use, simply plug the mic into your computer’s USB port with the USB cable included, calibrate it with your operating system, and boom — you’re ready to record. The Blue Yeti is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, and Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher. It’s famous for a reason, making appearances in countless best USB mic guides around the net, typically listed first.
Samson Go Mic
A little past the halfway point of our guide, we are onto the very affordable Samson Go Mic and one of our favorites for travelers and laptop audio connoisseurs. The Go Mic is one of the best USB mics for someone in need of a portable computer-based mic that goes where you go, as it is very small and can “clip” onto your laptop. The Samson has a plug-and-play operation, in which it is compatible with both the Mac and Windows operating systems, no drivers required. The Go Mic is ideal for recording podcasts, or field recording, as well as voice-recognition software, iChat, web casting, and even Voice over IP (VoIP). We honestly wouldn’t recommend this one for recording music of any kind, even though the resolution is decent we just feel there are better models out there for it — it’s more for uses that entail lower audio recording and less quality overall, such as online meetings or voice calls. It also has two pattern settings: cardioid and omnidirectional — allowing you to pick whichever pattern is more appropriate in a certain setting. Although the mic is super compact, it still spits out a solid frequency response of 20 Hz – 18 kHz and a resolution of 16-bit, 44.1kHz – both of which are good for the money you are spending. Again, the Samson Go Mic is perfect if you need something low-profile and inexpensive and travel a lot since it folds into a wallet-size for easy storage.
The Shure MV5 is by one of our favorite mic brands to exist, and this one is another economical and compact model that serves as one of the best USB mics for people looking for a simple plug-n-play device. The MV5 offers flexibility with both the 2-in-1 iOS and USB connectivity which allow it to be setup at home or on-the-go. It has a low-profile and quite appealing, nearly vintage-like design that comes with an angle-adjustable desktop stand integrated 1/4″ threat mount for your computer. It also features 3 DSP preset modes, headphone monitoring capabilities, and 2 color options so you may find the setting that fits the situation best. The Shure MV5 is tuned to capture human voice with clarity and tone – ideal for music, video voice-overs and podcast recording. You can also enhance the MV5 experience by downloading the “ShurePlus MOTIV” iOS app which lets you record, edit, and share recordings on the fly. The Shure MV5 is also very reasonably priced, and while it’s not the most high-end mic, it will definitely get the job done for the price you are paying. You can also read our Shure MV5 review for some more information.
The next model we will talk about poises to be one of the best USB microphones for people who need something extremity low-priced to record vocals or instruments. Although we do insist you save up a little more if you’re recording music and want to go the USB mic route, this can get the job done if you do have to keep it easy on the wallet. The CAD U37 is a large condenser, cardioid patterned microphone that can bring the recordings directly to your PC or laptop. It has a side-address design which is popular among broadcasting, TV, and home recording studios. The cardioid pattern on the U37 minimizes background noise and isolates the main source sound – ideal for home recording or podcasting. Its smooth, extended frequency response allow it to capture singing, speech, and instruments, while the -10dB overload protection switch minimizes distortion from loud sources. The U37 also includes a tripod stand and a 10’ foot cable to get you going as soon as you open the box. The CAD’s combination of the simple plug-n-play, inexpensiveness, and compatibility with Windows and Mac make the CAD U37 a good choice for those trying to begin their musical or podcasting career. We have been skeptical at this one before due to the price, but those user reviews don’t lie when it comes to the U37’s combination of decent quality and affordability, especially for beginners.
Almost to the end of our guide, we have the pocket-rocket MXL Tempo. MXL was a little late to the USB game but they made up for it with a nice little sleek solution here. The Tempo is one of the of best USB microphones used for mobile vocal recording, so things like voice memos, on-the-fly recording, dictation or legal dispositions can be done easier with better quality. It features a lightweight, condenser design which makes it very portable so users can record vocals and other sounds on-the-go via a USB 1.1 or 2.0 connect. For being such a small size, the Tempo still provides a solid frequency response of 40 Hz – 48 kHz – perfect for vocals, podcasts, and video chats. The MXL Tempo also comes with a built-in high fidelity headphone jack to give the user the ability to monitor and assess their recordings. This mic is compatible with a number of computer music programs, as well as over-the-internet communication systems like ooVoo, Skype, iChat, and Google Talk. The MXL Tempo offers a very manageable price, making this one of the better bargains on a USB mic by a legendary microphone brand.
Blue Snowball iCE
Last but not least, we look at another Blue model, the Snowball iCE. This one isn’t listed for a particular reason and is ideal for both experienced and inexperienced individuals, as it economically priced and contains easy-to-use features. Recommended for smaller desk applications, the Blue Snowball is one of the USB microphone for people looking for a mic for their computer or laptops. The cardioid polar pattern on this mic allow it to be a little more flexible, as the pattern helps it capture vocals, music, podcasts, and even gaming. It also features a custom condenser capsule that delivers clear audio quality with a solid frequency response of 40 – 18 kHz – both of which are pretty good for the price you are paying. The iCE is compatible with virtually all Windows and Mac software – just plug-in and begin recording your favorite sounds! The Blue Snowball iCE is a pretty good all-around package for the price, coming with a tripod desktop stand, unique look and a USB cable for your convenience to plug-and-play as soon as you’re ready to go.