Best USB Microphones for Vocals & Musical Instruments

The Best USB Microphones

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These days, more and more people are taking an interest in home recording. For people picking up the art, it may be daunting or out of budget to have a mic and usb interface set up. Luckily, Many major manufacturers now offer some of their models with built in analog-to-digital converters for people who want a good microphone for recording, streaming, podcasting and more. It also makes mobile recording more efficient since all you need is a cable and your mobile device or laptop to start recording.

Home recording, streaming, podcasting, whatever you may want to do, you will need the best possible equipment.

In this 2020 update, we see some changes in the lineup with some of last year's picks falling out and being replaced by newer entries on both the budget and high ends of the spectrum.

The Best USB Microphones

Samson Go Mic

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 3400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone

Not only is the Samson Go Mic the most affordable in our updated recommended list, it is also the most portable.

The Go mic was designed for mobile recording. Even with that in mind, it doesn't compromise functionality.

It includes a clip/stand so you could easily place it on top of your laptop or your desk. It also features two polar patterns: Cardioid and Omni.

Features:

  • Type: Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid or Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response: 40 –18 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications: Voice recording, instrument and vocal recording, podcasting, conference calls, streaming.

Compatibility

Windows: Windows 7/8.1/10 with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0
Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.10 or higher with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0

Pros

This mic has experienced a surge in popularity and ratings due to the rise in popularity of video conferencing but before that, people have been using it for podcast recording, vocal recording and even instrument recording. Users from older reviews note that the sound signature is very flattering for vocals and little processing is needed to get a good sound.

Cons

Mic may not be optimum for louder sound sources.

Overall

If you're looking to start a new hobby, either recording or podcasting, or if you just want an affordable, all purpose microphone, the Samson Go Mic is a great starter pick.

Frequency Response and Polar Patterns

Samson Go Mic Frequency Response & Polar Patterns

Blue Snowball

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 5350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
Blue Snowball USB Condenser Microphone

Although older than the Snowball iCE, the original Snowball is still offered by Blue as an option in their value oriented Snowball Line.

It offers a switchable cardioid / omnidirectional polar pattern and a -10db pad in cardioid mode for recording louder sound sources like a bedroom jam or rudimentary guitar amplifier miking.

The Blue Snowball features a switchable cardioid / omnidirectional polar pattern, -10db pad on cardioid mode, tripod desktop stand and a USB Cable.

Features:

  • Type: Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid or Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response: 40 –18 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications: Voice recording, instrument and amplifier recording, podcasting, conference calls, streaming.

Compatibility

Windows: Windows 7/8.1/10 with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0
Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.10 or higher with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0

Pros

Reviews for the original Snowball are generally similar with its younger iCE sibling, mainly focusing on great sound quality for the price. Some note that the -10db pad is invaluable for recording loud electric guitars through an amplifier and other high SPL sound sources like a full band rehearsing in the room. The Omnidirectional polar pattern setting also helps capture more of the room in the case of recording more than one speaker, although a little post-processing was required to bring up the gain a bit.

Cons

The Snowball is easily knocked over when on it's supplied tripod desktop stand so users recommend using a scissor boom mic stand for more stability. It doesn't handle close distance plosives on its own so for users opting to speak closer to the mic, a pop filter is recommended by a few users. Some reviewers noted that the Omnidirectional polar pattern thins out their voices too much.

Overall

If you require more than just speaking into a mic and would like the option to record louder sounds like a full band rehearsal or miking up a guitar cabinet, the original Snowball has the advantage of the -10db pad and omnidirectional polar pattern over its iCE sibling.

Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

Blue Snowball Frequency Response & Polar Pattern

Samson C01U Pro

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 850+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$90
Samson C01U Pro Large-diaphragm USB Condenser Microphone

The first generation Samson C01U was the first USB condenser microphone on the market when it came out in 2005.

Its successor, the C01U Pro improves upon the original platform with a dedicated headphone out for latency-free monitoring and improved signal-to-noise ratio.

Its large 19mm diaphragm captures pickup patterns and nuances.

It has a 1/8" headphone jack for zero-latency monitoring, and a shock-mounted element within its metal construction for minimizing handling noise/vibrations while recording.

It also includes a tripod stand and swivel mount for desktop use.

Features:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Super-cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 18kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Maximum SPL: 130 dB
  • Power Requirements: USB bus powered via Mac, PC or iPad
  • Applications: Voiceovers, recording music, ADR work (Automated Dialogue Replacement), sound foleys, and podcasting.

Compatibility

Windows: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7/Win 8
Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.4.9 or higher
iPad (cable included)

Pros

Musicians, game commentators and podcasters alike praised the quality of this microphone. Most of them mentioned it reproduced clean and transparent vocal and instrument recordings. They also experienced no latency when it comes to monitoring their recordings. It is very easy to set up without any additional installations. The metal material exhibits a very sturdy construction and didn't obtain any major damage when dropped.

Cons

Some users pointed out the size of the microphone limits its position and it may need to be adjusted a specific way to keep it balanced on its stand.

Overall

If you need a mid-tier microphone without the bells and whistles of other options but unsure about the quality of lower priced units, the Samson C01U Pro is a safe starting point.

Polar Pattern

Samson C01U Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Samson C01U  Frequency Response

M-Audio Uber Mic

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$119
M-Audio Uber Mic USB Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated USB Microphone along with the Rode NT-USB.

When M-Audio announced the Uber Mic in the 4th quarter of 2017, they noted that its development was borne from "Recognizing a critical need in the market for a professional-quality microphone with the performance, functional versatility and mounting options to meet any recording scenario" -- all while maintaining simplicity and ease-of-use for the general consumer.

The Uber Mic's main features include four polar patterns including stereo, zero latency monitoring, and integrated LCD screen to view settings and levels.

Features:

  • Type: 3 Capsule Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: cardioid, figure-8, omnidirectional, and stereo
  • Frequency Response: 30–20,000 Hz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Maximum SPL: 120dB SPL
  • Power Requirements: USB bus powered via Mac or PC
  • Applications: Vocal and instrument recording, broadcast, gaming, conference calls, interviews, stereo ambient/field recordings, foleys.

Compatibility

Mac OS X 10.10.5 or higher
Windows 7 or higher
iOS compatibility using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit

Pros

For the price, several reviewers were happy to have a feature rich microphone with stellar audio quality and intuitive controls. Users note that the Uber Mic is more than capable of handling different usage scenarios.

Cons

A forum user was hoping for iOS functionality without using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit. One reviewer received a unit with electrical noise - it is unclear whether the noise is from the unit or other factors.

Overall

If you are a versatile content creator that does streaming/gaming, recording, podcasting, and interviews, and want a USB mic that can keep up with you, the M-Audio Uber Mic might be the jack of all trades microphone you need.

Polar Pattern

M-Audio Uber Mic Polar Pattern
M-Audio Uber Mic Polar Pattern
M-Audio Uber Mic Polar Pattern
M-Audio Uber Mic Polar Pattern

Blue Yeti

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 5650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$130
Blue Yeti USB Microphone Silver

This unassuming gadget is actually one of the best-selling USB Microphones for many retailers.

It owes this to its 3 capsules which enable it to have Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional and Stereo recording capabilities.

Features:

  • Type: Large, Multi-Diaphragm Condenser
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications: Voice recording, instrument and vocal recording, podcasting, conference calls, streaming.

Compatibility

Windows: Windows 7/8.1/10 with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0
Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.10 or higher with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0

Pros

Users love the sound quality and feature set of the Blue Yeti. Despite being so feature rich, many first-timers with recording were able to get set up right away.

Cons

Some users experienced durability issues so handle with care. Initial gain level may be too loud so some reviews mentioned that you may have to check the mic's input gain before recording to avoid clipping.

Overall

The Blue Yeti is a great pick for the home recording enthusiast that wants a mic that can do it all. At this price range, it's hard be beat.

Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Blue Yeti Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Samson G-Track Pro

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$130
Samson G-Track Pro USB Condenser Microphone

Perhaps the most unique feature about the Samson G-track Pro is that it isn't just a microphone - it also doubles as an audio interface with a standard 1/4" input for recording line level signals like guitar, bass, keyboard.

One creative use noted on the Samson website is patching in a mono output from a separate mixer to include a mono submix: perfect for recording additional speaking hosts, guests or instruments.

Notable features include a 1/4" instrument input for connecting guitars or line level devices, built in mixer function, selectable polar patterns and zero latency monitoring.

Features:

  • Type: Large diaphragm Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid (unidirectional), bidirectional and omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz–20kHz
  • Sampling Rate: Up to 96kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 or 24-bit
  • Maximum SPL: 120dB
  • Applications: Podcasting, gaming/streaming and recording music.

Compatibility

Mac OS X 10.10.5 or higher
Windows 7 or higher

Pros

Being able to capture 2 tracks with the line-in sound along with the mic capture is a major plus for users. This enables guitar players to use the mic as a D.I. recording solution for use with plugins inside a DAW.

Cons

There have been some reports of build quality issues. Some retailers have been noted as not supplying a mount adapter. Learning curve can be challenging with so many features and it frustrated some users. However, those who sought help from their respective podcast/gaming communities were able to solve their problems. The unit itself, while solid and weighty, sacrifices portability.

Overall

If you operate from a stationary setup and require a separate mix for line level instruments, or even a separate mixer for guests, the G-track Pro is an excellent choice.

Polar Pattern

Samson G-Track Pro Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Samson G-Track Pro Frequency Response

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Condenser Microphone

The original, XLR connected AT2020 mic is a studio staple for people who need a good vocal mic for recording music while on a budget.

The AT2020USB+ shares that same technology and value in a USB condenser microphone.

It includes headphone jack for zero latency monitoring and comes with a desk stand, pivoting stand mount, and USB cable along with a storage pouch.

The unit has both Mix and Headphone volume control.

Features:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 144 dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB
  • Applications: Recording music, voice-overs, and podcasting.

Compatibility

Mac OS X 10.10.5 or higher
Windows 7 or higher

Pros

Most of the reviewers are podcasters and home recording enthusiasts that want to run a basic home studio setup without an audio interface. The Audio Technica AT2020USB+ is mentioned several times as an "upgrade" to the USB Mic they previously owned. Users found the sound to be ideal for musical recordings.

Cons

Several people note that the included mic stand is flimsy and recommend other mounting options.

Overall

Just like the AT2020, the AT2020USB+ has the qualities of a good vocal mic such as midrange warmth and smooth highs. The AT2020 series sounds best when used with musical recordings but podcasters, gamers and voice-over artists will be equally at home with its presentation.

Polar Pattern

AT2020USB+ Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

AT2020USB+  Frequency Response

Rode NT-USB

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 3100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$169
Rode NT-USB

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated USB Microphone along with the M-Audio Uber Mic.

A little bit of history: The Rode company started off by modifying imported mics with premium components. Upon release, these hot rodded microphones took off "like a rat up a drainpipe" in Australian vernacular. Because of this, the mics were unofficially named the "Rodent-1" and later became the Rode NT-1 with the official stylization of the brand's "Ø" as a nod to the founder's Scandinavian lineage.

The Rode NT-USB bears the NT designation for the company's flagship line of condenser microphones. This particular model was designed to address the need for a USB recording solution while maintaining the company's pedigree sound.

The Rode NT-USB includes a pop filter, 3.5mm headphone jack for zero latency monitoring, and has a mix knob and volume knob for monitoring adjustments.

Features:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 110 dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB
  • Applications: Best used for recording vocals/singing, podcasting and voice-overs as well as recording acoustic instruments - mainly guitar.

Compatibility

Mac OS X 10.10.5 or higher
Windows 7 or higher
iOS compatibility using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit

Pros

The recording quality of the NT-USB has positive reviews from musicians, podcasters and voice-over artists alike. First-time home recording enthusiasts are pleasantly surprised with how well the NT-USB handles vocal and instrument recordings. Trevor Curwen said in his Music Radar review that the NT-USB is "...your computer's perfect partner for recording vocals and acoustic instruments with minimal fuss".

Cons

Some users had trouble with the gain and compatibility with Skype but upon further investigation, a specific windows 10 update at the time of the review compromised some features of USB input devices in general and has mostly been addressed as of this writing.

Overall

With nearly universal praise, the Rode NT-USB is a great pick for those that just want a top quality recording microphone for vocals and instruments.

Polar Pattern

Rode NT-USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode NT-USB  Frequency Response

Apogee MIC PLUS

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$259

Apogee is known for their sleek, high-end Audio gear; most notably their audio interfaces.

To have that technology in a USB mic is the reason why the Apogee MIC PLUS gets the ratings to make it onto this list.

It features the same converters used on Apogees audio interfaces, PureDIGITAL connection for pristine sound quality up to 24-bit / 96kHz and 46dB of mic preamp gain.

Features:

  • Type: Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40 –18 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: Up to 96kHz
  • Bit Depth: 24 bit
  • Applications: Voice recording, instrument and vocal recording, podcasting

Compatibility

Windows: Windows 7/8.1/10 with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0
Macintosh: Mac OS 10.9 or later with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0 or Lightning
iOS: iOS 9 or later

Pros

People rave about the mic's pristine sound quality. While it doesn't necessarily color your sound in ways a vintage condenser and preamp would do, it allows you to impart your own touches on your recordings. The plug and play feature is well received by new users as well.

Cons

Price might be a barrier to entry for many.

Overall

Given its premium positioning, you'd expect the Apogee MIC PLUS to provide excellent quality recordings and it does in spades. For people who want absolute pristine raw recording quality that makes mixing your track or podcast easier, the MIC PLUS is hard not to recommend, budget willing.

Polar Pattern

Apogee MIC PLUS  Polar Pattern

Things To Consider When Buying A USB Microphone

Differences Between USB and XLR Mics

The main difference, which is true of both condenser and dynamic mics, is that USB mics have a built in A/D (Audio to Digital) converter which means that you don't need an audio interface to digitize the signal from the mic.

There is another important difference with condenser mics. USB condenser mics have a built in preamp that can't be bypassed. Most preamps supply phantom power to operate the mic which is usually between 12v and 48v. Because USB only provides 5v this means the mic has to be specially designed to work at this reduced voltage level. For these reasons a USB and XLR version of the same mic may sound perceptibly different - so much so that some audio engineers and home recording enthusiasts prefer not to use USB mics at all, although their numbers have declined as USB mics have improved significantly in recent times.

Condenser or Dynamic?

If you are going to be recording singers or acoustic guitar then a condenser mic will give a sound that's closer to the traditional 'studio condenser mic'. Dynamic mics tend to be a little more robust and so are good for outside recording. Dynamic mics are also the type traditionally used by radio announcers and is the key to getting that polished "broadcast" sound.

Zero Latency Monitoring

If you need to be able to hear what you're recording in real-time, such as when recording to backing tracks, then you will need a mic that has a headphone jack. If the mic doesn't have a headphone jack then you can only monitor by listening to the audio coming from your computer which may be slightly delayed on some systems - this is what is referred to as 'latency'. Some mics do have a headphone jack but still require you to take your monitor mix from your recording software - the IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio is an example of that.

iPad USB Power Issues

As of the time of writing iOS limits the current that can be provided to USB devices. This can result in a USB mic not working at all on the iPad, or more commonly the mic will work but as soon as you plug headphones in it will draw too much current and the iPad will cut the power completely. You may need to provide additional power via a Powered USB Hub in order to solve these problems.

Best USB Microphone Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in July of 2016 written by Jason Horton and the latest edition was written by Raphael Pulgar and published on June 29, 2020 with contributions from Denise Azucena.

For this 2020 update we looked at all USB Mics currently available at major online stores in the USA across all price ranges. Based on their popularity and amount of reviews, we then narrowed the list down and collected information about those mics from experts, customer reviews and forum discussions. From our initial list of 26 products, we gathered over 31,900 review and rating sources. These sources were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce scores out of 100 for each mic. This process enables us to choose the top rated equipment based on in-depth user reviews, forum discussions and expert opinions. You can see most of the short-listed mics in our Music Gear Database. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Thank you for this post. Out

Thank you for this post. Out of the hundreds of sites that I browsed(still have 60 tabs open on my phone's browser) this post helped me make my decision and gave a perfect breakdown of the microphones that I was considering. Keep up the great work. I'll definitely be following @gearank for other reviews and info.

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