Best USB Microphones for Vocals & Musical Instruments

The Highest Rated USB Microphones

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When USB mics started popping up, they were seen as basic communication tools for calls and not something for musical purpose. Fast forward to today, and each major microphone manufacturer offers USB versions of some of their products.

Many new USB mics are designed and engineered with the same tech as studio mics, often using the same capsule as their XLR counterparts.

Initially labelled as beginner mics, USB mics are a serious piece of gear for people who like to record on the go with laptops or want a minimal setup on a budget. It shifted from being a novelty to a practical piece of gear.

Home recording, streaming, podcasting, whatever you may want to do, you will need the best possible equipment. USB microphones are now just as, if not more useful than an Interface + XLR combo in some situations.

The Best USB Microphones - 2022.11

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Fifine K678

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 5600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$60
Fifine K678 Condenser USB Microphone

Cons

  • Desk stand not ideal for vocals recording
  • Awkwardly placed controls

Pros

  • Surprisingly decent low and high frequency response
  • Plug and play
  • Affordable

Fifine has been a brand that has gotten quite popular recently, especially with more budget-oriented consumers. Their affordable USB mics are a hit with podcasters, streamers and musicians alike. At first glance, the Fifine K678 USB Condenser mic looks similar in form factor to the Blue Yeti Nano. The similarities end there, however.

It includes control for gain and headphone level as well as a mute button in front.

For the price, it sounds better than most USB microphone offerings in the category. The 5.5" diaphragm isn't the largest, but it still captures the voice's low frequencies nicely. I assume this might be an internal low frequency boost as a diaphragm that small usually comes with a slight penalty in the bass.

While it does come with a desk stand, it's not the best option for pretty much anything. If it's for general comms it's fine but it picks up too much keyboard noise. For vocal recording and voiceovers, it's better to have the mic closer to your mouth.

The gain and headphone level controls are also awkwardly placed in the rear out of view. This is a questionable design decision.

All in all, the Fifine K678 still earns a place in our selection not just for its popularity but because of its value. Not a lot of cheaper USB microphones can hold up to proper vocal recordings but the Fifine K678 does a decent job at it; better than most in the price range.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response:40 - 20kHz
  • Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16 bits
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB
  • Applications: Recording vocals/singing, podcasting and voice-overs,

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB

Fifine K678 Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

Fifine K678 Polar Pattern

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Audio Hotline 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 4150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$119
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Condenser Microphone

Cons

  • Flimsy desktop mic stand

Pros

  • Bright and detailed sound signature
  • Great for acoustic guitars vocals
  • Good value

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.

Home recording enthusiasts, podcasters and content creators are definitely the target audience for the AT2020USB+. The convenience of USB with one of the best budget condenser mics around makes for an excellent microphone for the price, especially when upgrading from no-name USB mics or headset microphones.

Given its relation to the XLR AT2020, it can be used for both vocals and instruments. It shares the same bright, detailed, but not brittle sound signature of its XLR sibling which sounds great with acoustic guitars, female singers and rap.

A thing to note is that the included mic stand is flimsy, and I personally don't recommend desktop mic stand setups unless you have a way of maintaining a proper distance from the mic. If using the mic this way for general voice comms, it might pick up keyboard noise more than your actual voice.

The AT2020USB+ is a great pick if you're looking for a bright and detailed microphone balanced with a slightly rich midrange for vocals and instruments.

Specifications

  • 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, streaming and podcasting.

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB; Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Mac OS X or later; USB 1.0 or 2.0, and 64 MB or more of RAM.

Polar Pattern

AT2020USB+ Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

AT2020USB+  Frequency Response

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Musician Nerd Editor 95/100
Tom's Hardware Phil Iwaniuk 80/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Elgato Wave:3

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 4350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Elgato Wave:3 USB Condenser Microphone

Cons

  • Not the best value if you're looking for a standalone USB mic without the software

Pros

  • Great for vocals sung and spoken
  • Software mixer a plus for more routing options
  • Polished sound fits great in any mix

It's easy to categorize the Elgato Wave:3 as just another USB microphone but it offers a lot more in terms of software aside from just the hardware. The Wave:3 was designed primarily for streaming and includes a software mixer to adjust the levels of specific applications and chat. It was developed in partnership with Austrian mic brand Lewitt so those familiar with the sound signature will know that Lewitt designs their mics with a polished sound straight from the mic.

The mic itself has a single dial that enables control over input gain, headphone volume and crossfade between computer output and direct monitoring. The latter of the 3 is very useful beyond just voice over and streaming as many singers prefer to monitor themselves on their headphones while recording. Offering it as a control was a wise decision by Elgato.

What surprised me the most in listening to the mic is how natural it sounds. It's not a Neumann by a longshot since it has a slightly boosted upper frequency. Despite this, it never sounds brittle or brings out nasty resonances in voices. I could describe the sound as nearly "broadcast ready" or "mix ready" because with just a little compression, voices sound great in most mixes I've worked on that were recorded with it.

The only downside would be that to be able to maximize it, you would have to use the included software. It can function as plug and play but you will be missing out on a lot of its features. If you need a standalone mic for recording and don't need extra routing options, the Wave:3 shouldn't be a top priority unless you like how it sounds.

In the end, it all depends on your use case. Many singers and voice over artists are also now beginning to embrace streaming as another venue for performance and entertainment. Elgato has a head start in that market segment and know their way around its needs and demands. Get it if you're a singer, instrumentalist or voice over artist that also streams or wants to stream, but also want to do recordings.

Specifications

  • Type: Electret Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 70 - 20000 Hz
  • Sampling Rate: up to 96 kHz
  • Bit Depth: up to 24 bits
  • Maximum SPL: 120dB (140dB Clipguard engaged)
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB
  • Applications: Primarily streaming but surprisingly good for sung vocals and voice overs.

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB; Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Mac OS X or later; USB 1.0 or 2.0, and 64 MB or more of RAM.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Latest In Tech Editor 90/100
Tweak Town Jak Connor 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Rode NT-USB

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 11800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$169
Rode NT-USB

Cons

  • May be too warm or neutral for some sound sources

Pros

  • Great, warm sound signature
  • Good build quality
  • Includes useful accessories

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.

The NT-USB shares a few sonic similarities to the newer Rode NT1 XLR mic such as the warm midrange sound signature and smooth high frequency range. In my experience the Rode NT1 sounds close to a Neumann U67 and by extension the NT-USB is in a similar sound signature. It's no replacement for a $7000 mic but for that specific tonality from a USB mic, The Rode NT-USB does a pretty good job.

Another thing to note is the build quality; he mic itself feels solid. The included pop filter also does a good job of mitigating plosives.

The neutral/warm sound signature works great for voice overs and sung vocals that need a more vintage touch. If your acoustic guitar is on the brighter side, the NT-USB will pair perfectly with it.

There was a previous compatibility issue with Skype that was since addressed. Other than that, I can't think of any other cons aside from how the sound signature might not work well for darker sounding acoustic guitars or if you want an airy high-end sheen on vocal recordings straight from the mic.

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.

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
  • Applications: Best used for recording vocals/singing, podcasting and voice-overs as well as recording acoustic instruments - mainly guitar.

Compatibility

Class Compliant USB; The NT-USB is a “Plug & Play” USB device, compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, as well as the Apple iPad via the USB camera connection kit.

Polar Pattern

Rode NT-USB Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode NT-USB  Frequency Response

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
MusicRadar Trevor Curwen 90/100
Sound On Sound Paul White 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Shure MV7

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 9900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Shure MV7 USB/XLR Podcast Microphone
At publication time this was the Highest Rated USB Microphone.

Cons

  • Not exactly a USB version of an SM7b
  • Still uses a Mini USB cable

Pros

  • Relatively uncommon Dynamic USB and XLR mic
  • Great sound and build quality
  • Can handle aggressive vocal styles easily

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 the SM7B usually requires to maximize its potential (no preamp needed).

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

I'll be straightforward. It doesn't sound like a Shure SM7b. Now before you dismiss the MV7, I can safely say it does its own thing and it does it really well. It feels more like a "tweaked" version of an SM7b. It doesn't have the low mid richness of its more expensive sibling but most people actually EQ that range out in post for more modern sounding broadcasts and recordings. I can go so far as to say that the MV7 is a bit more "mix ready" than the SM7b.

Like the SM7b, the MV7 is a dynamic microphone, which means you can sing, or even scream, into it as much as you want and so long as your gain staging is proper, you can record great aggressive vocals with it.

One thing that I disagree with, which may be a con of precaution, is that the marketing material hails it as pretty much a USB version of an SM7b. This is not the case for the MV7 as they are basically different microphones. The sound signature may be similar, but they are not the same.

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.

Specifications

  • 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; Android 8 or later.

Frequency Response

Shure MV7 Total Frequency Response
Shure MV7 Frequency Response per Polar Pattern

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
MusicRadar Chris Corfield 95/100
Sound On Sound Paul White 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

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 vocal 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 current edition was published on November 2, 2022.

For this 2022 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 42 mics, we gathered over 239,400 review and rating sources; more than three times the sources from the previous edition. These rating 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

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Some of the recording gear I use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+, Elgato Wave:3 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

What's the best USB mic for

What's the best USB mic for use with an iMac and garage band for velvety vocals but also occasional Trumpet recording? Thanks

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.