The Best USB Microphones for Recording & Podcasting

USB microphones

When you want a microphone to record with that's "plug and play", and you don't want to deal with using an audio interface, that's when you need to get a USB mic.

They are also very advantageous when it comes to mobile recording because you can just plug them directly into your laptop or tablet without any additional power requirements in most cases.

With only a couple of exceptions, most of the mics in this guide are priced over $100, if your budget is limited then you can go to our guide on USB Mics Under $100.

Methodology

We looked at all the USB Mics currently available at major online stores in the USA across all price ranges. Based on their popularity at those retailers we then narrowed the list down to 18 promising candidates and collected information about those mics from experts, customer reviews and forum discussions which we then fed into the Gearank algorithm in order to produce our list of the top rated usb mics below. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

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. A USB condenser mic has a mic preamp built-in so you can't choose any other mic preamp when working in USB mode. 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 you 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 so getting a dynamic mic is a simple way to get that 'radio' 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 this gear guide 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.

The Top 10 Best USB Microphones

Rode NT-USB

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$169
Rode NT-USB

The Rode NT-USB is a Large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone with a desk stand included.

Applications

It is commonly used for recording vocals/singing, podcasting and voice-overs. Some musicians also use it for recording acoustic instruments - mainly guitar.

Features

It comes with a pop filter, 3.5mm headphone jack for zero latency monitoring, and has a mix knob for adjusting the mix between the mic level in your headphones and the backing tracks from your computer as well as an overall volume knob for the total headphone levels.

Compatibility

Works with Mac and Windows and the iPad via the Camera Connection Kit.

Specifications:

  • 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

Polar Pattern Chart

Click image to expand
Rode NT-USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Rode NT-USB Frequency Response

Pros

The quality of its audio has been praised by musicians, podcasters and voice-over artists alike. There were a few home recording enthusiasts and experienced audio engineers that reported that they didn't expect such good quality from a USB mic. Trevor Curwen said in his Music Radar review that it's "Your computer's perfect partner for recording vocals and acoustic instruments with minimal fuss".

Cons

There weren't many consistently reported negatives in forum discussions or customer reviews - the only negative comment that came up a few times in customer reviews, and it didn't come from musicians, is that they said they would have liked a mute button to be included,

Overall

This is the highest rated USB mic currently available so you can't go far wrong getting this for whatever you're recording from music to video voice-overs and podcasts.

Apogee MiC 96k

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$229
Apogee MiC 96k USB Condenser Microphone

The Apogee MiC 96k is a cardioid condenser mic with high sampling rates designed to offer professional quality both in the studio and for mobile recording.

This mic is used by Singer/Songwriter and Producer August Rigo whose recent work includes Justin Bieber, One Direction, Musiq Soulchild, and America’s Got Talent vocal coach.

Applications

With its high sampling rate and bit depth this is designed primarily for music - particularly for recording singing vocals and acoustic instruments like guitar.

Features

It comes with both iOS Lightning and Mac USB cables, a table top stand, and a stand adapter so you can use it with standard microphone stands. It also has a gain control dial on the side of the mic.

Compatibility

Works with iOS 8 on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch 5th generation. Also works with Mac OS 10.10 or later on Intel processors.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: Not specified
  • Sampling Rate: Up to 96 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 24 bits
  • Maximum SPL: Not specified
  • Power Requirements: USB Powered

Polar Pattern Chart

Click to expand
Apogee MiC 96k Polar Pattern

Pros

The most common positive feedback is that this is the best USB mic for the iPad and iPhone. Several people mentioned in their customer reviews that due to its sound quality and ease of use that they have begun using this in place of more traditional and more expensive studio condenser mics.

Cons

There weren't any consistent complaints other than a small number of people who wished it came with longer cables. There was at least one person who said they would have liked it to include a headphone jack on the mic - I suspect Apogee excluded that to avoid exceeding the low power limits of the iPad's USB bus.

Overall

Based upon all the customer and expert reviews I analyzed it seems clear this is the most liked USB mic to use with the iPad or iPhone.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Condenser Microphone

This is based on Audio-Technica's popular AT2020 mic which we featured in our guide to Condenser Mics Under $100.

The AT2020USB+ is a Medium-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser mic - the slightly smaller diaphragm leads to a little bit more of a 'bright' sound than large-diaphragm condensers.

Applications

It is used for recording music, voice-overs, and podcasting.

Features

It has a headphone jack for zero latency monitoring and comes with a desk stand, pivoting stand mount, and USB cable along with a storage pouch. It also has both Mix and Headphone volume control.

Compatibility

Works with Windows and Mac.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48 kHz/li>
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 144 dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB

Polar Pattern Chart

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Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

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Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Frequency Response

Pros

This is extremely popular with podcasters and many of them said this makes the sound professional. Expert reviewers say this has pretty much the same sonic qualities at the AT2020.

Cons

Several people said the included mic stand is a bit flimsy so they use a different mic stand instead.

Overall

Just like the AT2020, the AT2020USB+ adds a little warmth which is well suited to female singers and podcasters of all genders.

Blue Microphones Yeti

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 5200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$129
Blue Yeti USB Microphone Silver

The Yeti is a very flexible USB Condenser Mic with 3 capsules and 4 selectable polar patterns.

Applications

It used for recording music, podcasting and voiceovers.

Features

It has gain control, including a mute button, and a headphone jack with volume control for zero latency monitoring.

Compatibility

Works with Windows Vista or later, or Mac OSX 10.4.11 or later.

Specifications:

  • Type: 3 x 14mm Condenser Capsules
  • Polar Pattern: Selectable - Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 120dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V 150mA USB

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Blue Microphones Yeti Frequency Response

Pros

Many expert reviewers regard this as the best USB mic available. Positive customer reviews say this has a very clear sound and that it is very easy for beginners to use.

Cons

There were several customer reviews that said they experienced build quality problems with things like the mute button or the USB socket breaking after only a small amount of use. Some experienced audio engineers and home recording enthusiasts say that they would only use this mic for recording vocals on demos and not for full release versions of songs.

Overall

When it comes to customer reviews the Yeti appears to be more popular with beginners than experienced musicians or podcasters. Its availability at major online music stores is in decline with the only major store other than Amazon still stocking it being B&H - if the availability falls much further then we will likely remove the Yeti from this guide.

All that said, this is still one of the top selling USB mics on Amazon.com.

Audio-Technica AT2005USB

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$79
Audio-Technica AT2005USB Handheld Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

The Audio-Technica AT2005USB is a dynamic hand-held mic with both USB and XLR connectivity.

Applications

It is used for both music recording and podcasting. Thanks to the additional XLR connectivity it can also be used as a regular dynamic instrument or live vocal mic.

Features

It comes with a mic stand clamp, a tripod desk stand, and both USB and XLR cables. It also has a headphone jack for zero latency monitoring with a headphone volume control dial on the bottom of the mic. Additionally it sports and on/off switch which works in both USB and XLR modes.

Compatibility

As a USB mic it is compatible with both Mac OSX and Windows XP or later. It works with both USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 systems.

Some users report that they were able to get it to work on the iPad 3 via the Apple Camera Connection Kit, but Audio-Technica does not claim this is iOS compatible.

As an XLR mic it is compatible with regular mixing consoles, audio interfaces and PA systems generally.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50 Hz to 15 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: Not specified
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB

Polar Pattern Chart

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Audio-Technica AT2005USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

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Audio-Technica AT2005USB Frequency Response Chart

Pros

Many customer reviews state something similar to "great value mic for the money". There were even a few people who said they had switched to using this instead of the Blue Yeti. It got positive reviews from musicians, podcasters, and even radio DJs.

Cons

A number of users report that the volume, when used in USB mode, was too low on their systems - this appeared to be a problem on Windows 7 but other operating systems and configurations may occasionally have this problem as well.

Overall

This is one of the most versatile mics included in this guide and at such a low price you're not likely to be disappointed adding one of these to your mic collection.

Rode Podcaster

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$229
Rode Podcaster

The Podcaster is a Large-diaphragm Dynamic USB mic.

Applications

The design is based on the more expensive Rode Broadcaster, and as the name implies, this version has been specifically designed by Rode for use in podcasting. It is also used for voiceover work.

Features

It comes with both a stand mount and USB cable. It has a headphone jack for zero latency monitoring with volume control.

It has both an internal shock mount and internal pop filter - you can use this right out of the box with no need for additional pop filters or shock mounts in most situations.

It's important to note that this doesn't come with a mic stand, just the stand mount for attaching it to a mic stand. Popular accessories include the Rode PSA1 Swivel Mount Boom Stand and the Rode PSM 1 Shockmount.

Compatibility

Works with both Mac OSX and Windows.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40 Hz to 14 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: Up to 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 18 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 115 dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB

Polar Pattern Chart

Click image to expand
Rode Podcaster Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Rode Podcaster Frequency Response

Pros

Many customer reviews point out that the Podcaster is excellent at rejecting unwanted background noise - this is due to its fairly tight polar pattern. Many reviewers point out that this mic is very easy to use and produces a broadcast quality sound right out of the box with no post production improvements necessary.

Cons

There were no consistent negatives reported. A couple of expert recording engineers pointed out that this mic doesn't work well recording music or singing, but it wasn't designed for that purpose.

Overall

This is a very good mic for podcasting or any kind of voiceover work.

Blue Microphones Spark Digital

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
Blue Microphones Spark Digital USB Microphone

A condenser mic with both USB and Lightning Connectivity, the Spark Digital is based on the design of Blue Microphone's Spark Studio Mic.

Applications

It is designed for recording singing, acoustic guitar, drums, piano, other acoustic instruments and podcasts.

Features

It has both USB and Lightning connectors and also comes with a shock mount and microphone pouch. It also has a headphone jack for zero latency monitoring.

One of its unique features is the Focus Control switch which changes the capsule voltage to emphasize the mids and highs essentially giving you two mics in one - look at the frequency response chart below to see the frequency changes.

Compatibility

Max OSX 10.4 or later.

iOS 6 or later on iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad, iPad 3rd generation, iPad 4th generation, iPad Air, iPad Mini 1, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPod touch 4th generation, iPod touch 5th generation.

It is also Windows compatible but the official specifications only cover XP, Vista 32-bit, Vista 64-bit, 7 32-bit, 7 64-bit, 8 and 8.1.

Update: Blue Microphones have confirmed this is Windows 10 compatible saying, "All of our USB microphones have been tested with Windows 10 and we have confirmed that they are all compatible with Windows 10."

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 128 dB
  • Power Requirements: 3.3V USB

Polar Pattern Chart

Click image to expand
Blue Microphones Spark Digital Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Blue Microphones Spark Digital Frequency Response

Pros

This mic is a 'Recommended Product' by Digital Trends who said it "may not be ready to take center stage in your prosumer recording studio, it gets closer than we expected. And when it comes to plug-and-play demo recording, we can’t think of a mic we’d rather have in our arsenal".

Several customer reviews compared the Spark Digital to the Yeti with the majority saying this is a much better USB mic than the Yeti - particularly if you don't need selectable polar patterns.

Both musicians and podcasters said in their reviews that the Spark Digital delivers a professional quality sound.

Cons

There were a few people that complained about the bulky stand it comes with, the 'delicate' way the mic screws into the stand, and the fact that if you want to mount it on a regular stand then you have to buy the Blue Microphones S3 Shock Mount.

Overall

Mac, iPad, and Windows users are generally very happy with this mic - I have confirmed with Blue Microphones that this does work with Windows 10.

Blue Microphones Yeti Pro

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$270
Blue Microphones Yeti Pro USB/XLR Condenser Microphone

The Yeti Pro is a very flexible Condenser Mic with 3 capsules, 4 selectable polar patterns, and the ability to use it with either USB or XLR connectors.

Applications

This is best suited to recording music - the high sampling rates and bit depth are overkill for voiceovers and podcasting but you can use it for those purposes if you don't mind paying a bit extra.

Features

The standout features of the Yeti Pro, and what differentiates it from the standard Yeti above, are the high sampling rates and bit depth - you can record at up to 192 kHz at 24-bits. There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not high sampling rates help or hinder your recordings (see Sound On Sound & Trust Me I'm A Scientist), however if you want to record at these levels with a USB mic then this is currently your best option.

It also comes with a headphone jack for zero latency monitoring and has controls for mic gain, switching polar patterns, mute and headphone volume.

Compatibility

You need at least USB 2.0. It works with Mac OSX 10.6.4 or later, and is officially compatible with Windows from XP to 10.

Windows 10 Update: Blue Microphones have confirmed this mic is compatible with Windows 10 saying, "All of our USB microphones have been tested with Windows 10 and we have confirmed that they are all compatible with Windows 10 (This does include the Driver for the Yeti Pro)."

Unlike the standard Yeti you may need to install drivers to use this - you can get them at www.bluemic.com/yeti-support/.

Specifications:

  • Type: 3 x 14mm Condenser Capsules
  • Polar Pattern: Stereo, Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 22 kHz to 192 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 24 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 120 dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V 500mA USB, or 48V phantom power in XLR mode.

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Blue Microphones Yeti Pro Frequency Response

Pros

The sound quality is generally highly regarded when used in both USB and XLR modes. Despite the higher price for higher digital conversion specifications, many podcasters & YouTubers as well as musicians like the sound and performance of the Yeti Pro. Quite a few customer reviews said it performed very well for recording acoustic guitar.

Cons

There were some customer reviews that said if you're only using this for podcasting then you should instead get a cheaper mic like the standard Yeti. In fact complaints about the price were common as they pointed out that this mic may have more features than some people need - particularly for voiceover types of recording. As with many of the other USB mics in this guide some users report problems with low gain but apparently these issues can be remedied by searching on Google.

Overall

This is a good option for anyone wanting a quick and easy to use USB mic that also doubles as a home studio condenser mic.

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio

87
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$100
IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio USB Microphone

The iRig Mic Studio is a large-diaphragm condenser USB mic which comes with free software including models of the Neumann U-87, Groove Tubes VELO-8, and AKG D20 mics for the VocaLive app. Other bundled software includes Cubasis LE, T-RackS CS Classic, and 25 credits for use in AmpliTube, T-RackS and SampleTank. More information on the included software is available from IK Multimedia.

Applications

It is very good for recording music as well as podcasting using an iPhone. Its compact size lends it well to any type of mobile recording.

With its high max SPL of 133dB you can record just about any source including electric guitar amps.

Features

It comes with Lightning, USB and OTG cables. It also has a mic clamp for attaching to mic stands along with a table top mic stand.

The iRig Mic Studio is also the only mic in this guide that officially supports Android.

It comes with a headphone jack and you can control both the gain and the headphone levels. Note that several owners have reported that the headphone monitoring is only available if your recording software supports it (which most Digital Audio Workstations do) however this indicates that it is not providing zero latency monitoring although I also haven't seen any reports that this is causing problems for monitoring.

Update: IK Multimedia have confirmed with us that "The iRig Mic Studio does not offer direct monitoring" - "The monitoring is routed via your DAW or software, where you can set the buffer size"..

The LED on the front not only indicates it has power but it also lets you know if clipping occurs.

Compatibility

iOS

It works with iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S*, iPhone 4*, iPod touch (4th* and 5th generation), iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini, iPad 3rd generation*, iPad 2* and iPad*. iOS 5.1 or later is required.
*These require a 30 pin cable which is sold separately.

Android

This will work with some Android devices using a USB OTG connector. IK Multimedia says this includes devices supporting Samsung Professional Audio technology, like the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge. It will also work on Android 5 or later devices or any Android apps that use USB OTG audio input.

Mac

Mac OS X 10.6 or later

PC

It will work with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 using the ASIO4ALL driver.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: Up to 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 24 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 133 dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB

Pros

Many musicians report that this is a great mic for mobile recording - its portability has gained much praise.

Phil O'Keefe said in his Harmony Central expert review that "There are other high-quality microphones that work and play well with your mobile devices - Apogee's excellent MiC 96k comes to mind - but it's about $50 more expensive. The fact that the iRig Mic Studio compares well with it in many respects is high praise indeed."

In Performer Magazine Chris Devine said, "Sound quality is on par with what a “regular” (i.e. XLR connected cardioid condenser mic) mic in this price range can deliver".

Cons

There were no consistently reported complaints in customer reviews other than a few people being disappointed that it doesn't offer zero latency monitoring.

Overall

If you are already involved in the IK Multimedia software ecosystem then the bundled free software may help make this an attractive option for you, but even if you're not then this is still a good value microphone.

Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB

85
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$99
Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone

The Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB is a low cost large-diaphragm condenser USB mic.

Applications

Podcasting, voiceovers and recording music demos.

Features

It comes with a pivoting stand mount for 5/8"-27 threaded stands, tripod desk stand and a 1.8 m (5.9') mini USB cable. It has a headphone jack for zero latency monitoring and the headphone volume is controlled by pressing up and down buttons on the front of the mic.

Compatibility

Macintosh: Mac OS X; USB 1.0 or 2.0
Windows: XP/ Vista / Windows 7; USB 1.0 or 2.0

Although Windows 10 isn't included in the documentation I have seen reports that it does work with the latest Windows.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 30 Hz to 15 kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1 kHz / 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Maximum SPL: Not specified
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB

Polar Pattern Chart

Click image to expand
Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Frequency Response

Pros

One of the most common sentiments in positive customer reviews is that the ATR2500-USB is "great value for the money". Although there are many positive reviews from musicians it seems to get its highest praise from podcasters and people doing voiceovers.

Cons

A number of expert reviewers said this is not suited for release quality music recordings other than recording demos - this sentiment was also reflected in some customer reviews. A number of owners had complaints about the lack of a gain control knob - you can only adjust the gain in your recording software. There were also a number of people who have reported that the desk stand it comes with is flimsy - there were also complaints about the build and quality of materials although others specifically stated that they thought it was well made.

Overall

If you're in the market for an inexpensive USB condenser mic then this may be just what you're looking for - particularly for anyone who's just getting started with podcasting or home recording.

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