Best USB Microphones for Vocals & Musical Instruments - Over 96,000 Rating Sources!

The Highest Rated USB Mics

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USB microphones offer a no-frills solution to recording. Despite the plug and play simplicity of these microphones, many manufacturers put in some serious research and development into offering USB equivalent to some of their mics; some even having flagship status.

They have progressed beyond the "beginner mic" impressions and are steadily moving into emphasizing mobility and practicality over novelty. Where previously you either had to bring a mic, cables, interface, stand and more to a recording session, There are USB mics out on the market that achieve great recording quality with little compromise.

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

In this March 2021 edition, we see a drastic change as some of the previous top picks have been overtaken by newer USB microphones that have gotten great ratings.

The Best USB Microphones

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Mackie EM-91CU

84
GEARANK

84 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Mackie EM-91CU USB Condenser Microphone

The Mackie EM-91CU is Mackie's USB equivalent to the Element Series EM-91C and shares the same principles of sound quality, durability and serviceability.

It was released in late 2020 as a "jack of all trades" microphone with a warm, but balanced sound signature.

The onboard Mackie Onyx preamp provides clean headroom with low noise and great harmonics for a USB mic.

Features:

  • Type: Largg Condenser
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-17kHz
  • Polar Pattern:Cardioid
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications: Voice recording, instrument and vocal recording, podcasting, conference calls, streaming.

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB, Windows 7 SP1 or later , Mac OS X 10.11 or later or higher with USB 2.0.

Pros

Many users liked the EM-91CU with voices, particularly female vocals and spoken word. The sound signature is accentuated by subtle low frequency harmonics that lend depth to female vocals and power to deep male vocals. Sibilant S and F sounds also get rounded off.

Cons

Some found the mic "too warm" and needed further processing to bring out some sparkle.

Overall

If you want a warm and deep sounding mic for vocals, the EM-91CU is a great pick.

Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

Mackie EM-91CU Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

Blue Yeti Nano

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 1450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Blue Yeti Nano USB Condenser Microphone

The Blue Yeti Nano looks like a compact version of the company's iconic Yeti Mic.

Under the hood, it has an analog signal path with two capsules for cardioid and omni polar patterns. This is to ensure the best possible sound before hitting the analog to digital converters.

The Multifunction knob controls mic gain, headphone level and also functions as a mute switch.

While focused as a content creation mic, it works equally well for capturing acoustic guitars.

Its small size makes it easy to place in an optimal position.

Features:

  • Type: Large, Multi-Diaphragm Condenser
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid and Omni (selectable)
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications:Podcasts, Content Creation, Streaming, Vocals and Voice overs. Instrument recordings.

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB, OkWindows 10, Mac OS 10.10 or higher with USB 2.0.

Pros

The Yeti Nano gets many praises for having two selectable polar patterns despite its small size. This makes it perfect for interviews, rehearsal recordings, field recordings and ambient recordings. The Yeti Nano is also noted by users of the original Yeti to have a similar "broadcast" sound signature.

Cons

The multi-function knob was a deal-breaker for some as they wanted separate controls for gain, mute and headphone volume.

Overall

For fans or owners of the original Yeti that want a more portable version, the Yeti Nano is the perfect pick. It also makes a great first condenser mic for those that don't want a separate audio interface.

Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Blue Yeti Nano Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Blue Yeti

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 12850+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$130
Blue Yeti USB Condenser Microphone

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

Class Compliant USB; Windows 7/8.1/10 with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0; 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. In this price range, it's hard be beat.

NB: You might also benefit from taking a look at the more advanced Blue Yeti X.

Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Blue Yeti Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 2350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Highest Rated USB Condenser Mic.

The original, XLR connected AT2020 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 version.

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

Class Compliant USB; 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 using 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

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 7550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$169
Rode NT-USB

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

Class Compliant USB; 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

Blue Yeti X

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$170
Blue Microphones Yeti X USB Condenser Microphone

The Blue Yeti X is the company's current flagship USB microphone.

Building on the original Yeti, the Yeti X has a DSP-free signal path before the converters for studio-quality sound.

It features a four-capsule array for multiple polar partterns (cardioid, bi-directional and omni).

It also has built-in LED metering, multifunction knob for gain, headphone volume, mute and direct/computer signal blend.

Features:

  • Type: Large, Multi-Diaphragm Condenser
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications: Voice recording, streaming, podcasting, instruments

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB; Mac OS 10.10 or higher; Windows 7 or later.

Pros

Many users that loved the Original Yeti were pleased to find that the Yeti X improved on it with the addition of built in metering and a multi-function knob for easy adjustments without needing to fiddle with the app. This is important for podcasters who don't want to interrupt themselves speaking while making adjustments.

Cons

Some users had trouble getting the Logitech GHub integration to work. But that has very little to do with the performance of the microphone.

Overall

The Blue Yeti X represents what a flagship USB mic should be. Blue's broadcast-style signature sound is the main attraction but the little things like the multi-purpose knob and the built-in metering help you adjust your settings for best sound.

Polar Patterns

Blue Yeti X Polar Pattern

Shure MV7

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 1300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Shure MV7 USB/XLR Podcast Microphone

At publication time this was the Highest Rated USB Dynamic Mic.

Inspired by the legendary Shure SM7B broadcast microphone, the Shure MV7 is a hybrid USB / XLR mic that aims to get you that famed "SM7B" broadcast sound without hundreds of dollars worth of additional equipment that SM7B's usually require to maximize its potential.

It features Shure's proprietary Voice Isolation Technology along with customizable sound signatures to tailor it to individual voices.

Features:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Applications: Podcasting, vocal recording, streaming

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB; Mac OS 10.13 or later; iOS 12 or later; Windows 10 or later; Android 8 or later.

Pros

Many hail it as a tweaked SM7B for more minimal setups. The overall sound signature is noted by users to be reminiscent of the inspiration behind the mic. Many others who have never used an SM7B still liked the sound and build quality of the MV7 for podcasts and streaming. One user noted that the MV7 sounds great with aggressive screamed vocals.

Cons

Most cons come from people who expected the MV7 to perform more like the SM7B than it actually does; which is fair given the marketing angle.

Overall

Despite some skepticism coming from SM7B aficionados, the MV7 is a great mic in its own right regardless of how it's marketed. Being a hybrid USB/XLR microphone also wins it points for versatility, especially when you choose to upgrade to an audio interface setup in the future.

Frequency Response

Shure MV7 Total Frequency Response
Shure MV7 Frequency Response per 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 condenser mics 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 in headphones 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 2016 and the latest edition was published on March 31, 2021.

For this 2021 edition 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 short-list of 34 mics, we gathered over 96,900 review and rating sources; more than three times the sources from the previous edition. These sources were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 for each mic. This process enables us to choose the top rated mics to recommend. You can see most of the short-listed mics in our Music Gear Database. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Denise Azucena: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+, Blue Yeti X and Rode NT-USB.

The individual product images, frequency response charts and polar pattern charts were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation.

Comments

Great review! I am looking

Great review! I am looking for some advice on a microphone that would be good to pick up the voice of a few people in a garage while teaching a martial arts class, yet also have the ability to produce good audio for webcasts, zoom and the like. So, omnidirectional and cardiod multicapsule?

Good Day Lou,

Good Day Lou,

Portability and versatility seem to be your top priorities so the Blue Yeti Nano would be a great pick for a compact, portable microphone with omnidirectional pickup capabilities.

-Raphael

Hey, thanks so much for

Hey, thanks so much for putting together a list that is compiled in this way. Will you be updating this list soon?

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.