In the past five years, we’ve seen an impressive rise in the public’s interest in podcasts and accessible content, like YouTube musicians and vloggers. If you’ve thought to yourself, “Hey, I’d like to try my hand at that,” but didn’t know where to start on the hardware side of things. From the enthusiast to the professional, a solid USB microphone will jumpstart your passion project.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on June 11, 2020 to address an FAQ about the difference between USB and XLR microphones.
What you should know about any USB microphone
So, you’re in the market for an easy-to-use USB microphone. Well, there are a handful of things you should know first.
- Not all USB mics work with both Mac and PC operating systems. However, we’ve made sure all of our picks are compatible with both, saving you the trouble of checking, checking, and triple-checking.
- There is a variety of recording patterns offered from one USB microphone to the next, but not all of them are available with each pick. In brief, cardioid patterns are your best bet; they do a great job at recording sounds directly in front of the recording element, while simultaneously reducing distracting background noise. That said, if you want to record a certain background presence, you may want something with omnidirectional capabilities like the Blue Yeti Nano.
- There are few instances where you’ll need anything greater than a 16-bit, 44.1kHz recording. We promise.
Should you get a USB microphone?
Well, if you need something portable with zero learning curve, yes. Though most of these are just fine (if not superb) for vocals streamed as a compressed MP3 file, there are instances where a non-USB microphone will better serve you. For one: if you make your living on recording and mixing audio, then you’ll want to look at an XLR mic like the Rode NT1A. Its recording capabilities surpass any of the listed following microphones, but it also requires an external recorder, which will cost much more than any of the following options. We can help you out if it comes to it, but a USB mic sidesteps this issue.
Even if you are a professional in the audio industry, you may want a USB microphone as a go-to backup. As they say, “redundancy saves lives.” By having something as easy as a USB microphone, having a backup recording will be a thoughtless process that could save you from a world of frustration.
Related: Best podcasting mics
The best USB microphone is the Blue Yeti Nano
We’ve reviewed a handful of great Blue headphones—yes, the company makes headphones—but the real stars of the Blue lineup are its USB microphones. Up until very recently, the Blue Yeti X was our top pick for the best USB microphone, but with the state of online shopping and shipping being what it is, getting one has become pretty difficult. Luckily, the company’s newest is still available and seems like just as viable an option. The Blue Yeti Nano is a condenser microphones and it allows you to choose between cardioid, and omnidirectional recording patterns (fewer than it’s larger counterparts).
Full disclosure: We’ll probably put the Yeti X back in this spot when it becomes available again. If the Yeti Nano is all you can find, you’ll have a great time with it, but let’s be clear—the Yeti X is a better USB microphone.
Blue Yeti Nano
The Yeti Nano brings more compact design, with a smaller stand, and more stripped back approach. It supports USB and 3.5mm output, and sports a control knob for volume, as well a switch for selecting a recording pattern, but that’s it. Unlike the Yeti and Yeti X there’s no onboard controls for adjusting gain or anything else. Instead all that is handled by Blue’s new Sherpa desktop app, which can set gain, as well as keep the device’s firmware up to date.
Inside the mic is a dual-capsule array which consists of two condenser capsules, each angled differently to record omnidirectional sound. This is great if you want to capture room ambiance, but the ability to switch presets to something more focused—say cardioid mode—is just as valuable. What’s more, this the best of the best USB microphones for a reason: just like its more expensive counterparts, the Yeti Nano records 24-bit audio at 48kHz.
Don’t compromise quality for convenience. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ belongs in your bag and on your desk
Depending on which side of the audio pond you’re from—production or listening—you’ve probably heard of Audio-Technica. The Japan-based audio company has made its way onto plenty of our best headphones lists, but today we’re going to highlight a lesser-known product: the AT2020USB microphone. Like the Blue Yeti, this condenser mic records in 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz sampling rate.
The AT2020USB+ includes a standard headphone jack like some of the other best USB microphones listed, which—again—lets you monitor the microphone’s signal sans delay. This USB mic includes a high-output, internal headphone amplifier, delivering a clear reproduction of your subject. Below the microphone’s grill, you’ll find two horizontal dials that allow for basic audio mixing as you go. The left dial mixes vocals with pre-recorded audio; if done correctly, this could save you ample time in post-production. Then there’s the right knob, which adjusts the volume delivered to the headphones.
Just like the other mics listed, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is a universal USB microphone. You can skip any additional downloads because, well, there aren’t any. Just plug in and record. Oh, and lest we forget, this includes an external pop filter, mic mount, and carrying pouch. Sure, it’s a bit pricey at around $160, but it’ll make your project sound oh, so crispy.
Take the Samson Go Mic Connect anywhere. No, really, anywhere.
The best USB microphones are portable—after all the whole point of them is not to need nay additional equipment. However, while most the other items on this list are excellent choices, they’re most desk-bound options, which makes them a bit of a pain to transport. That’s where the Samson Go Connect USB microphone comes in. This foldable microphone is built to work just about everywhere, just plug it into a laptop or computer and point at the sound you want to record.
Samson Go Connect
At just under $50, this mic is budget-friendly and very portable. It’s built to sit neatly on top of any kind of monitor, but the folding stand can rest on any flat surface. This is a stereo microphone with a focused recording pattern, so it only picks up sounds in a narrow range directly in front of it—ideal for recording while sitting at a laptop or talking on Skype, Zoom, or Discord. It comes with an echo erasing feature for eliminating feedback from laptop speakers, and it’s compatible with most VoIP, text to speech, and DAW software.
The Samson Go Connect can record 16-bit audio at either 44.1kHz or 48kHz, which is great for something in this form factor, though it won’t compete with the more premium options on this list. Still, as we mentioned above, it’s pretty rare to actually need more than 16-bit audio. If you’re really worried about it’s audio quality, the mic is also compatible with Samson’s Sound Deck software so you can tweak as much as you like.
The HyperX Quadcast is an easier way to podcast
Whether you’ve been yearning to get a jumpstart on that “Which is better: Ketchup or mustard?” podcast idea or you already have a substantial following, the HyperX Quadcast is the best USB microphone for you. While this is billed as a gaming mic, it has nifty features that bode well for podcasters, too.
One of the most practical things about the Quadcast is how it’s built. Its tilting stand elevates the capsule, which rests in the included dual-shock mount. This makes it more accessible and lessens vibration. A foam material under the grill effectively diffuses plosives (p, pf, etc) and fricatives. This means you don’t have to run out and buy a pop filter before using it. On top of the capsule there’s a broad touchpad to easily mute and unmute the mic. This is particularly useful if you have unpredictable roommates and don’t want to restart the entire recording.
When you’re recording you want to choose the cardioid pickup pattern, instead of the hyper or bi-directional options. Its heart-shaped pattern means sounds directly in front of it get recorded while off-axis noises are effectively stifled. For less than $150, it’s a good choice.
If you want the best value, record with the CAD U37 USB Studio
If you’ve been following the updates to this best list, then you’ll notice that the CAD U37 USB Studio has been here for a while. That’s no mistake. This affordable SB microphone features a large, front-facing condenser mic element easily registers vocals, while the cardioid pattern attenuates ambient noise. This gives full attention to the subject without increasing the gain, risking the appearance of unwanted noise in your recordings.
The CAD U37 is equipped with a 10dB overload protection switch to reduce distortion from loud sources—perhaps a kick drum. It also has a bass-reduction toggle that’s great for immediately reducing room noise; again, this allows for your subject to take center stage when it comes to listener’s auditory attention spans. And like all the best USB microphones listed here, the CAD U37 is a universal mic that works with both Macs and PCs.
The whole package comes with a 10-foot USB cable and a desktop mic stand. If you want a pop filter, you’ll have to make a separate (online) shopping trip for that, but it’s easy enough to get. If you’re still on the fence, just know that CAD has been in the audio game for over 85 years, so it’s safe to say that the company knows how to manufacture a solid microphone. The U37 just happens to be the best value-packed USB mic available.
- Shure MV5: It’s easy to set up and takes up less space than a majority of our picks, save for the Samson Go Mic. It’s easy to transport and provides pretty good sound quality. Though, it’s going to cost you about $100.
- Shure MV51: This is great for users who want to podcast or record in style. Thee mic resembles the company’s siganture Elvis mic design, and it includes five recording presets
- Beyerdynamic Fox: The Fox is the only USB microphone listed that provides 24-bit audio recording; though, it’s at 96kHz.
- Blue Snowball: Similar to the Blue Yeti, the Blue Snowball has managed to accrue a wide base of avid users. Its appearance is similar to that of the Shure MV5 but the stand and general aesthetic are less graceful.
- Samson Meteor: The Samson Meteor is a step up from the company’s Go Mic. It records at a 16-bit, 44.1/44.8kHz resolution and works with Apple’s iPad when using the appropriate USB adapter. It’s a trite complaint, but the Meteor uses a ⅛” headphone jack instead of the standard 3.5mm option.
- AmazonBasics Mini Condenser Microphone: Amazon’s been making big strides in the affordable consumer electronics space for a little while now and it’s recent mic entry is a strong budget contender. This unidirectional desktop condenser mic will work with just about every recent version MacOS, Windows, and Linux. It’s a got a decently long 5-foot USB cable, and an included stand, all for under $45.
Related: What to look for in a microphone
Why you should trust us
Through the countless hours spent testing a wide array of audio products, the team at SoundGuys can identify a good product from a gimmick, saving you time and energy. Ultimately, we want this site to serve your needs and understand that researching audio products can be tiresome and time-consuming, albeit enjoyable too.
We’re not invested in any purchase you much, but we do want you to be happy with whatever product you pursue. None of us may benefit from championing one USB microphone over another and, while the site makes money from referrals, the writers are paid based on their work, period. If you feel compelled, feel free to read our ethics policy.