The 6 Best Dynamic USB Microphones
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in September of 2016. Not that long ago, few professional musicians or broadcasters would put their faith in a USB microphone. But technology moves very quickly, and today's models are much more likely to give you the dynamic sound quality you need along with the convenience and portability of plug-and-play use. Our selection includes units ideally suited for podcasting, studio recordings, and voice-overs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
January 21, 2020:
There still seem to be a lot more condenser mics with USB connections than dynamic options, and that makes some sense considering the fact that vocal condensers are often preferred for studio use, and have gotten focused enough over the years to serve for broadcasting and podcasting in controlled environments, as well. It also doesn't hurt that a lot of people are building their own soundproof booths with simple materials these days, so a condenser's tendency to pick up more background noise might not be an issue. For others, though, a dynamic mic's tighter polar pattern and rugged metal grille make it indispensable for live performers or podcasters who take their work into the field.
Models like the Samson Q2U are particularly good for more rugged use, like an impromptu interview. And the Neewer Wired Handheld Vocal's lack of a power switch, while potentially frustrating in some scenarios, may help conceal the fact that you're recording for investigative purposes. Of course, you'll want to make sure that for any and all field work, whether it's obvious you're recording or not, that you have your subject's consent to the extent that your local laws mandate.
One thing that's a little disappointing in the category is that so few models have yet to be upgraded to the USB Type-C standard, save for the new and improved Audio-Technica ATR2100x Cardioid, which replaces its predecessor on our previous list with this newer, more reliable connectivity.
Why Choose A USB Microphone?
On the other hand, USB mics are essentially already their own audio interfaces.
While musicians and voice actors tend to shy away from USB microphones, they're a nice and convenient alternative for both hobbyists and professionals who can't afford an expensive audio recording setup. Whether you're looking into recording some voice-overs or just playing video games online, a good USB microphone can provide you with high-quality audio that can somewhat match that of an XLR microphone used in a studio setting.
One of the major advantages that USB microphones have over conventional ones is that they don't require any additional equipment to function properly. In order to use a regular microphone with your computer, you'd need an audio interface with an XLR input and possibly even a phantom power supply, and these can cost you a hefty sum. On the other hand, USB mics are essentially already their own audio interfaces. This means that they can be plugged in directly to your computer and used immediately with little to no setup required.
Since USB microphones are built to be an all-in-one recording solution, they're also a great choice for people who are always on the road. Most brands also typically provide you with a free stand, and sometimes they even throw in useful accessories such as a shock mount and a pop filter. With all of this equipment and a laptop, you can easily set up a makeshift studio in a hotel room or even in your car. The fact that USB mics don't take up a lot of space may also be appealing to people who don't have a lot of room at their disposal.
The Difference Between Dynamics And Condensers
If you're searching for a new mic, USB or otherwise, you'll probably encounter the words "condenser" and "dynamic." These are two very different types of microphones, each with their own pros and cons. Most of the big brands, such as Audio Technica and Rode, manufacture both of these. While you can certainly get away with using either of them, knowing the difference between the two will help you figure out which one will bring you the best sound quality depending on your needs and work environment.
These are two very different types of microphones, each with their own pros and cons.
Condenser microphones work by using a capacitor — which consists of two metal plates, namely, a diaphragm and a backplate — to capture sound. Whenever a condenser microphone picks up sound, its diaphragm will start to vibrate. This causes a change in capacitance that converts sound into an electrical signal that is then sent through an audio interface or straight to a computer. In order to do this, it also requires a source of phantom power, though a USB mic eliminates this need.
Condenser mics are commonly used in controlled environments, such as studios or any soundproof room in general. They are very sensitive and can pick up a wide range of sounds around the microphone. As a result of this, condensers aren't great at blocking off background noise, and you'd most likely have to invest in soundproofing if you plan on using it in a loud environment.
On the other hand, dynamic microphones make use of electromagnetic induction in order to capture sound. When sound waves hit the diaphragm, a metallic coil that's attached to it will start to vibrate. Behind this setup is a permanent magnet, and whenever the coil vibrates, the magnetic field around it helps create an electrical signal that's sent straight to your mixer or computer.
Dynamic microphones are less sensitive compared to condensers, which means that they are less likely to pick up any background noise and can handle much higher sound levels. They're also more durable than condenser mics, making them a decent choice for live performers. These microphones are commonly used by broadcasters due to their crisp sound and reliable noise rejection, and they're usually the ideal choice for musicians looking into recording instrumentals.
A Brief History Of Microphones
Before microphones were invented, the concept of amplifying the sound of human voices goes all the way back to the days of Ancient Greek theatre. In order to project their voices, performers used masks with horn-shaped mouths. These were essentially primitive megaphones that also served to help the audience distinguish characters from one another.
started manufacturing the first commercially available condenser microphone, the Neumann CMV3.
In 1878, British-American inventor David Edward Hughes created the carbon microphone. It was one of the earliest proper microphones that resemble the ones used today. It worked by having two metal plates with a bunch of carbon granules in the middle. When sound waves moved the diaphragm, the carbon inside helped create an electric current that somewhat represented the sound the microphone was trying to capture.
Around 40 years later, the first condenser microphone was invented by Edward Wente who, at the time, was working at Bell Telephone Laboratories. In 1928, Georg Neumann and Co. started manufacturing the first commercially available condenser microphone, the Neumann CMV3. Three years later, Edward Wente collaborated with fellow Bell engineer Albert Thuras to develop the Western Electric 618A, the very first mass-produced dynamic microphone.
The audio quality of microphones continued to improve over the years, and some mics from the 1950s can still somewhat hold up to today's standards. In 1962, Bell Laboratories invented the electret microphone, which is essentially a condenser microphone that doesn't require an external power source because it has a permanently charged backplate. This technology revolutionized the industry, and it paved the way for smaller microphones such as the ones used by mobile devices.
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