The Best USB Microphones for Recording & Podcasting

USB microphones

Originally published on July 6, 2016 and updated by Denise Azucena and Jason Horton on November 17, 2017.

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 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.

This is our 2017 update of this guide and we performed a thorough survey of the market resulting in several mics being removed from our recommended list with some great new mics replacing them.

Contents

The Best USB Microphones

Gearank Sources Street Price
Rode NT-USB 93 425+ $169
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ 89 300+ $149
Fifine K669 89 200+ $28
Blue Microphones Yeti 89 6800+ $129
Audio-Technica ATR2100 88 950+ $68
Samson Meteor Mic 88 1050+ $70
Samson C01U Pro 88 300+ $90
Audio-Technica AT2005USB 88 150+ $79

Rode NT-USB

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ 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

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Rode NT-USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Rode NT-USB Frequency Response

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".

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,

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.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ 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

Click image to expand
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Frequency Response

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.

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

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

Fifine K669

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$28
Fifine K669 Condenser USB Microphone

The Fifne K669 is a USB condenser microphone that comes with an adjustable tripod desk stand and a 6 ft. long USB cable.

Applications

This microphone is made for recording vocals, podcasting, and gaming voiceovers.

Features

It has a customized unidirectional capsule and a single knob for volume control.

Compatibility

USB Class Compliant. Compatible with Macintosh, Windows, Linux and other operating systems.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Uni-directional
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Sampling Rate: Not Specified
  • Bit Depth: Not Specified
  • Maximum SPL: 30dB(at 1kHz≦1% T.H.D)
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB

At an affordable price, its metal construction is an excellent factor that gives it a sturdy and solid feel. Its tripod stand also lives up to these positive remarks when it comes to build quality. Many podcasting beginners find it quite easy to set-up with their PC or Mac. In terms of recording and monitoring, users found it to provide clear vocal recordings. It does a decent job with minimal background noise when recording at close range.

It picks up noise when comes to handling or adjusting the microphone itself. It doesn't really bother most reviewers since they rarely touch it while recording.

This is a great if you are looking for a budget microphone that's easy to setup.

Blue Microphones Yeti

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 6800+ 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

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.

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.

When it comes to customer reviews the Yeti appears to be more popular with beginners than experienced musicians or podcasters. That said, this is still one of the top selling USB mics.

Audio-Technica ATR2100

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$68
Audio-Technica ATR2100 Cardioid Dynamic XLR & USB Microphone

The Audio-Technica ATR2100 is a dynamic handheld microphone with both XLR and USB connectivity.

Applications

Podcasting, Home studio recording, Field recording, On-stage use, Voiceovers.

Features

It sports an On/Off switch for both USB and analog operation, and low mass diaphragm for accurate response. It comes with a tripod desk stand with folding legs, and stand clamp that attaches securely to the tripod or to any regular microphone stand.

Compatibility

Macintosh: MAC OS X; USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64 MB RAM (minimum)
Windows: XP/Vista/Windows 7; USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64 MB RAM (minimum)

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz – 15kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1 kHz/48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Maximum SPL: Not Specified
  • Power Requirements: 5V DC USB Power

Polar Pattern Chart

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Audio-Technica ATR2100 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

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Audio-Technica ATR2100 Frequency Response

A number of reviewers praised its crisp sound quality. Its USB and XLR connectivity gave reviewers flexible options when they want to connect directly to their computer or to an audio interface - which improves the sound quality of the audio input. Its a very directional microphone picks up precise audio with rarely picking up any background noise. Some reviewers mentioned it works fairly well when used as a boom mic for shooting videos outdoors. They also mentioned it doesn't pick up too many plosives so that a pop filter is not really needed as long as it's used at a certain distance.

Some users mentioned the stand wasn't sturdy and the USB connection was flimsy. They would use a different stand and USB cable that fits well with microphone.

This is a good entry level microphone if you are looking a versatile microphone used for both at-home and outdoor use.

Samson Meteor Mic

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 1050+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
Samson Meteor Mic Desktop Studio Condenser USB Microphone

The Samson Meteor Mic is a compact condenser microphone with a convenient fold-back leg design in case you want to record on the go.

Applications

Voice recording, instrument recording, voiceovers, podcasting.

Features

It features a dual-chrome-played body with a fold-back leg design adjustable for ideal positioning. Its 1/8" stereo headphone jack and headphone volume provide total control when it comes to monitoring your recordings. The microphone's mute switch is a plus factor that gives you audio privacy while video conferencing. In terms of connectivity, it lets you easily connect to an iPad via Apple's Lightning USB Camera Adapter or Camera Connection Kit (30-pin).

Compatibility

Compatible with Mac, PC computers and iPad via Apple's Lightning USB Camera Adapter or Camera Connection Kit (30-pin)

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Maximum SPL: 120dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V 70mA (idle), 100mA (peak)
  • Polar Pattern Chart

    Click image to expand
    Samson Meteor Mic Polar Pattern

    Frequency Response Chart

    Click image to expand
    Samson Meteor Mic Frequency Response

Many customers said it has great audio quality. Its cardiod polar pattern picks up audio sources, such as vocals and acoustic instruments, from up front while rejecting a lot of ambient noise. It picks up quite accurate and clear sound since it has a nearly flat frequency response. Its foldable and chromed steel design makes it easy to set up, and convenient enough to carry around without worrying of any damages.

Some reviewers mentioned its lack of gain control, the volume can only be adjusted on connected headphones or on the computer.

This is an excellent choice if you are looking for a portable microphone with great sounding quality.

Samson C01U Pro

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$90
Samson C01U Pro Large-diaphragm USB Condenser Microphone

The Samson C01U Pro USB studio condenser microphone is based on the original Samson C01U.

Applications

It is recommended for voiceovers, recording music, ADR work (Automated Dialogue Replacement), sound foley, and podcasting.

Features

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 ideal desktop use.

Compatibility

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

Specifications:

  • 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

Polar Pattern Chart

Click image to expand
Samson C01U Pro Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Samson C01U Pro Frequency Response

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 damages when dropped.

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.

This is an exceptional microphone if you are looking for a condenser microphone that's versatile and will last for long term use.

Audio-Technica AT2005USB

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ 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

Click image to expand
Audio-Technica AT2005USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response Chart

Click image to expand
Audio-Technica AT2005USB Frequency Response Chart

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.

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.

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.

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.

Methodology

For this update 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 29 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. Over 19,300 sources were analyzed during this process - you can see most of the short-listed mics in our Music Gear Database. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

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