The 10 Best USB Microphones

Updated September 22, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best USB Microphones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Podcasters, amateur musicians, or anyone looking to record better sound at a reasonable price without the hassle of a powered microphone or a complicated audio interface, will find an excellent solution in one of these USB microphones, some of which outperform many available mid-grade studio mics. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best usb microphone on Amazon.

10. Blue Snowflake

The adorably compact and convenient Blue Snowflake is a great replacement for your computer's standard mic. It's tiny enough to take up only minimal desk space or to clip right onto a laptop, and its sound quality is above par.
  • collapses for easy transport
  • built-in sound card
  • picks up some unwanted ambient noise
Brand Blue Microphones
Model SNOWFLAKE
Weight 9.9 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB

The Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB accepts both USB and XLR cables, making it a versatile choice for the home recording artist who also wants to take a microphone out to a gig. It's also ideal for live speeches and presentations, as its sound is crisp and clear.
  • onboard volume control
  • cardioid polar pattern
  • usb port breaks easily
Brand Audio-Technica
Model ATR2100-USB
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Rode Podcaster

Designed after the professional broadcast units used in radio operations, the Rode Podcaster has a broad frequency response and is compatible with the company's sturdy shock mount and boom arm, though both of those items are sold separately.
  • 28mm dynamic capsule
  • 10-year warranty available
  • very heavy build
Brand Rode
Model PODCASTER
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Cad U37 Studio Condenser

The Cad U37 Studio Condenser has a large-diaphragm condenser capsule, making it one of the more sensitive units in its class. That's great if you're working in a soundproofed studio, but a podcaster recording in the garage will pick up a lot of background noise.
  • exceedingly warm tone
  • compatible with macs and pcs
  • not viable for field use
Brand CAD
Model U37
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

6. Blue Spark Digital Lightning

The Blue Spark Digital Lightning combines the company's excellent audio performance with a connection tuned to Apple's Lightning port. It has a headphone jack on its body for a zero-latency monitoring experience, as well as focus controls to change your sonic signature.
  • led volume meter prevents clipping
  • cloud production bundle included
  • construction is somewhat flimsy
Brand Blue Microphones
Model SPARK DIGITAL LIGHTNING
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Apogee MiC 96k

Essentially rolling three products into one, the Apogee MiC 96k adds a mic preamp and an audio/digital converter to an already powerful condenser. It records at a sampling rate up to 96kHz for exceptional clarity and functionality in post.
  • 24-bit audio capture
  • multiple cables included
  • lacks low-end response
Brand Apogee
Model MiC 96K-LO
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Rode NT-USB

The Rode NT-USB boasts a unique dial set on its flank that allows you to mix the level of your vocals against that of your backing track, making it ideal for solo artists working from home without an engineer on the controls.
  • pressure gradient acoustics
  • half-inch capsule
  • 2-year warranty with registration
Brand Rode
Model NT-USB
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Blue Yeti

The supremely sensitive, high-fidelity Blue Yeti features a tri-capsule condenser array that aids in the unit's unique pattern selection. You can choose from among cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional, and stereo polar shapes to suit a variety of situations.
  • gain controls and a mute button
  • plug-and-play capability
  • zero-latency headphone output
Brand Blue Microphones
Model YETI
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Blue Snowball

The Blue Snowball was designed to be user-friendly, which means you'll spend more time enjoying it than trying to understand how to use it. This is a great choice for kids and creatives, especially thanks to its playful color options.
  • dual capsule design
  • switch to eliminate noise
  • techno-retro design
Brand Blue Microphones
Model SNOWBALL-BA
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS

The Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS is a powerful condenser with a cardioid polar pattern to keep its focus on the vocal performer in front of it and little else. It's based on the company's acclaimed AT2020, with a simple output adjustment to a digital format.
  • includes pivoting stand
  • internal headphone amp
  • top-quality audio-digital conversion
Brand Audio-Technica
Model AT2020USB PLUS
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Under Pressure

You can accomplish a lot with just a little pressure. Squeeze a crystal like quartz, for example, and it'll produce a steady electrical charge out either end. Noise vibration is a kind of pressure exerted through the air in the form of sound waves. That's what causes a rolled up piece of paper to project your voice further than it could go on its own. You pressurize the paper with your voice and that vibration travels outward into the air.

Microphones work not by amplifying sound the way our paper megaphone above would, but more like a human translator would interpret a speaker from one language to another. Words come in through one opening, translate into electrical impulses, and reemerge anew. In the case of the microphone, they are amplified and recorded, where the translator simply speaks them in a new tongue.

When you sing or speak into a microphone, a small diaphragm usually made out of plastic vibrates in direct proportion to the pressure your sound waves put on it. That vibration transfers to a metal coil that's both attached to the diaphragm and also wrapped around a magnet. That magnetic interference produces a signal in the wire attached to its other end and sends that signal down the length of microphone cable to a given output device.

Some of the microphones on this list are condenser microphones, which means that their diaphragms vibrate a capacitor before using the magnet beyond to translate the vocal pressure into an electrical signal.

What makes these USB microphones unique is that they interact with your computer's sound card, sending the signal either directly via USB cable or through an intermediary XLR cable to a small pre-amp before reaching your computer. In either case any power needed by either the microphone or the pre-amp comes to both through the USB cable itself.

To Each His Or Her Own Sound

It may be tempting to despair over the idea that you couldn't really evaluate the quality of any of these microphones without hearing them. After all, different voices are going to get different responses from the same microphone. Thom Yorke from Radiohead, for example, uses an insanely expensive large-diaphragm condenser microphone because its stabilization of certain frequencies in the upper register helps his naturally nasal voice sound more palatable to the average listener.

Now, if you aren't up for spending $4,000 on your microphone (and additional hardware to wire into your computer via USB), you still have tremendous options laid out before you, and you don't need to worry too much about how each will treat your voice.

The real concern should be what your intended use is for each microphone. As much as sound plays a role in this particular point, you'll also want to consider ergonomics. Take the Snowflake and the Snowball by Blue, for example. Each will produce lovely tones for speech if you want to run a good podcast or do voice-over work from home, but neither makes for an effective interview mic in the field. Their shape is all wrong for the handling you'd need.

The more expensive microphones on this list are the ones that resemble traditional studio vocal mics, and they're stellar for tracking your band's vocal melodies as well as picking up acoustic guitar sounds and some lighter percussion. None of these mics is really built for tracking heavy electric guitar or drum sounds without running into a little natural distortion of their own. But if the Kinks were willing to slice up their amps with razor blades to get their signature sound, maybe pushing a USB mic to its limit will get you something special.

Take a close look at connectivity, as well. Not all of the microphones on our list have completely removable USB cords. One or two are hard-wired, so when–and I mean when–that cord wears down, your otherwise perfectly good microphone becomes useless.

Persona Non Grata

Reaching incredibly far back into the heyday of the Greek theatre, actors often wore masks as part of their performances. The masks served a dual purpose. They helped audience members identify and discriminate between and among characters, and they also helped project the sound of the actors' voices throughout the amphitheater.

The masks were called personae, a combination of Latin roots for through (per) and sound (son). Literally, the thing through which the sound travels. These were the very first known devices for amplifying the human voice.

Nearly 2,500 years later, the microphone made its debut. Invented by combining the efforts of inventors John Philipp Reis and Alexander Graham Bell, the late 19th century saw the very first transmission of the human voice into a usable electrical current that could be transmitted and amplified at will.

Over 100 years later, a consortium of computer manufacturers collaborated to reduce the variety and complexity of the inputs and outputs plaguing computer hardware design in the 1990s. The result was the introduction of the USB format in 1996. In the intervening 20 years, the format remains the standard despite several attempts to surpass its speed and convenience, and that speed has only increased from a maximum 12 megabits per second to today's impressive 7.2 gigabits per second.

Given the speed, reliability, and ubiquity of USB in modern computing, it serves as the perfect intermediary for electronic audio signals.



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Last updated on September 22, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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