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Published Feb. 2, 2022

Solid audio production is now accessible to anyone with a laptop and about $100, and this is in large part due to the rise of USB microphones. Bridging the digital divide, USB microphones have innovated music production, podcasting, and streaming, and ensured that decent sound is achievable across nearly all digital media. USB microphones, like cell phone cameras, have been among the most important innovations driving digital culture in the last 20 years.

USB microphones plug directly into the USB-A or USB-C slots on a computer. Unlike traditional mics, which send an analog electrical signal, USB mics eschew the need for a digital audio interface. Rather, they process audio signals into digital signals locally, so that you can plug in and immediately start talking.

Below we’ll take you through the best USB microphones on the market. Whether you’re a digital bard looking for shimmering heights of vocal clarity, a podcaster coveting that punchy ‘90s radio tone of the Tappet Brothers, or a streamer looking for a mic you can capitalize on screaming into with every spy headshot you rack up in Team Fortress 2, there’s a mic out there for you. 

How We Picked The Best USB Microphones

Methodology

To choose the best USB microphones, I employed my experience as a tech reviewer, and factored the lessons I’ve learned from ten+ years of making electronic music. I reviewed many models of microphones from different manufacturers, studying their specs and qualities, and comparing them to the numerous microphones and music tech pieces I’ve owned and used over the years. 

The ubiquitous Blue Yeti is probably the most famous USB microphone there is, and  I’ve personally used it for years. There’s still a strong case to be made that it’s the best overall USB mic. However, for the purpose of this list I decided to leave it off and instead use it as a comparison for the other microphones being considered.

I looked for a few specific features in the microphones, broken out into a few categories:

Polar Patterns

Microphones feature various polar patterns, which refer to the sensitivity of the microphone to pick up sounds from different angles. The majority of USB microphones (and possibly the majority of microphones) are cardioid pattern mics. Cardioid mics pick up sound directly in front of them. However many USB microphones feature multiple polar patterns. These can be bi-directional (front and back), omni directional (all around), or fall into other patterns. I did not include any shotgun microphones, ribbon mics, or any of numerous other less common polar arrangements.

Bit Depth and DSP

The devil’s in the details, and so is the quality. Since digital microphones process sound into a series of ones and zeros, it follows that more ones and zeros better replicate what that sound is like. High bit depth means more detailed high quality sound. A 16-bit depth is the standard level used by CDs. A 16-bit depth mic will be good enough for most people, but true audiophiles may want more.

Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is also an important topic that goes hand in hand with bit depth. Since USB microphones process their own signal, the type of DSP a mic uses can be important. If you’re looking for a truly versatile and musical microphone for recording harp, you’ll likely want to look for something with high bit depth that’s digitally condensed as little as possible. DSP quality is a rather technical and arcane metric, but is worth noting in certain cases.

Tone

A good microphone is an instrument; different uses call for different microphones. While that authentic, crisp NPR vocal tone might require a $2,000 Neumann with the bass rolled off, there are much less expensive USB microphones available that can create a similar effect. For the purpose of this article we made sure to include some microphones that do a good job with music, as well as a few that are great for spoken vocal tone.

The Best USB Microphones: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Samson G-Track Pro

Samson

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Why It Made The Cut: With a quarter-inch jack included, a mixer, great resolution, and a higher than normal bit depth, this is a loaded USB Microphone.

Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Patterns: Cardioid, bi-directional, omni-directional, 
  • Resolution: 24 bit
  • Special Features: Mixer, quarter-inch jack

Pros:

  • Musical nature with a good tone
  • Quarter-inch jack means this doubles as a USB mixer for instruments
  • Decent price
  • Great bit depth

Cons:

  • The tone isn’t the flattest, and for some the high-boost profile of this microphone could get in the way

With a wedge-shaped head and black housing, the Samson G-Track Pro is a formidable-looking USB microphone. But quality aesthetics are just one among many features that make this microphone shine. It’s a new contender for the Blue Yeti’s crown. A similar shape, size, and layout, the Samson may at first seem to be a clone of the famous mic. However, the Samson actually outshines the Yeti with a few key features.

In terms of bit depth the Samson is an audiophile’s dream. It features a 24-bit resolution that dramatically outstrips the Blue Yeti’s 16. For folks looking to record studio quality sound, this is an important step up.

The quarter-inch jack with its accordant mixer on the front is an absolutely huge benefit and a big cost saver. With similar USB mics often costing around $100, and decent common audio interfaces such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 somewhat more, for many early career recording artists this microphone (with its quarter-inch jack and mixer included), could eliminate the need to get a separate audio interface for their guitar or keyboard, saving a lot of money.

The one issue to note here is that this mic does prioritize high frequencies. This is nice if you want those crisp radio vocals you hear on NPR. But if you’re looking for a flat, all- purpose mic, it might be worth looking elsewhere. 

Best Budget: Blue Snowball iCE

Blue Microphones

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Why It Made The Cut: If you need a no frills, cardioid microphone for gaming, streaming, or video conferencing and you don’t want to spend the money for something loaded with the extras, then the Blue Snowball has you covered.

Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Patterns: Cardioid
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Special Features: N/A

Pros:

  • Cheap price
  • Lightweight and suitable for travel
  • Clear tone with good sound that works well for gamers and streamers

Cons:

  • Only one polar pattern
  • 16-bit depth

If you’re a gamer, someone who travels for business, or an academic teaching from your home away from home in the Atlas Mountains, then you might be looking for a USB microphone that’s reliable, lightweight, and does its job at delivering crisp vocals. That’s the Blue Snowball iCE.

Scream at it, talk at it, do a little remote karaoke at it: this microphone will take it. It’s a no-frills mic that does no-frills agreeably. Like its big brother the Blue Yeti, this mic offers an effective cardioid pattern that puts the focus on you. Unlike that Yeti, it doesn’t feature multiple cardioid patterns, a one-eighth-inch headphone jack, or a mini mixer. But if you’re looking for an upgrade from your laptop microphone, you’ll hear the difference immediately. 

Best For Vocals: Shure MV7

Why It Made The Cut: With a built in mixer, 24-bit sound, and a built in XLR output, this is a pro level USB vocal microphone that lives up to the Shure name.

Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Patterns: Cardioid
  • Bit Depth: 24 bit
  • Special Features: Built in digital equalizer software with other effects

Pros:

  • Excellent vocal clarity
  • 4 Equalizer presets built in as well as other effects
  • One-eighth-Inch jack and XLR

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Runs quiet
  • Doesn’t come with USB-C

Michael Jackson’s Thriller made the Shure SM7B one of the most legendary microphones out there. The Shure MV7 carries that torch into the USB age. It’s a dynamic vocal microphone with excellent sensitivity that will hook right into your USB synced digital audio workstation and deliver trim and sparkling vocals at 24-bit sound.

The microphone features a USB-A connection, an XLR jack, and a one-eighth audio jack. It comes with a MOTIV application for your desktop that features equalization, compression, and limiting. Included EQ settings include a flat profile, highpass, presence, or highpass presence combo.

It’s a microphone that does a good job of mimicking the SM7B and delivering excellent dynamic vocal tone to USB. However, it isn’t an SM7B and may lack some of the nuance that makes that mic excellent. It also tends to be quieter than most microphones, and this quieter profile can be a hindrance depending on your purposes. That said, we still think it’s a solid microphone for most vocal uses.

Best Streaming Mic For Gamers: HyperX QuadCast S

HyperX

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Why It Made The Cut: With its customizable RGB lights, four polar patterns, and pop filter, it’s a USB mic aimed squarely at streamers and gamers.

Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Patterns: Cardioid, stereo, omni-directional, bi-directional
  • Bit Depth: 16 bit
  • Special Features: Customizable RGB, pop filter, tap mute

Pros:

  • Great customizable polar pattern delivery
  • Pop filter is useful
  • RGB offers great versatility
  • Just sounds good

Cons:

  • 16-bit max

A gamer-focused USB microphone that packs some serious heat, the HyperX QuadCast S looks like a tricked out racing car from Need For Speed Underground. With customizable RGB lighting, it makes a great set piece for a Youtube commentator.

The QuadCast S competes in the same category as the Blue Yeti. It’s a four-polar-pattern USB that features a solid cardioid pattern, as well as omni-directional, bi-directional, and stereo patterns. Also like the Yeti, it delivers 16-bit sound, and includes a one-eighth-inch jack.

The pop filter is one of the best features of this mic. Streamers know that sometimes when the action calls for it, it’s time to get loud, and this mic is there for those moments with its pop filter and adjustable gain. These features coupled with its solid sound, and RGB lighting, make for a USB microphone that’s flashy, but makes sure to harness just as much power as a peacock.

Best With Mixer: Elgato Wave:3

Elgato

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Why It Made The Cut: With a built in highpass filter that makes it sound good for spoken vocals, and an excellent streamer focused mixing software package built in, this is a microphone built for streamers.

Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Patterns: Cardioid unidirectional
  • Bit Depth: 24 bit
  • Special Features: Mixing software package included

Pros:

  • Great vocal tone
  • Excellent software mixing package allows you to mix your vocals with streaming

Cons:

  • Not the most musical tone
  • Unidirectional polarity
  • Stand isn’t the sturdiest

Often the magic happens in the mix. With the Elgato Wave:3 you’ll have all the control you need over that mix. 

With an innovative streamer-focused software package included that allows you to mix together multiple channels of audio, this is one of the best streamer microphones out there. So often with streaming it’s impossible to know how your vocals sit in the total mix until after your stream is complete. Your vocals sound good, but maybe the game volume is too loud, maybe your triggered effects don’t come in with the right punch? With the Wave:3’s mixing software you can be sure that all channels of your stream interact well with your vocals before they’re exported online. The Wave:3 offers an elegant fix to a persistent issue for streamers.

If you don’t need multiple polarities or a versatile musical microphone, and instead want an all in one streaming microphone that will make your spoken vocals sound great, this is the one.

Things To Consider Before Buying A USB Microphone

Recording Types: Are you looking for a versatile microphone that will work well for multiple instruments, screamo vocals, and subtle oboe crescendos? That will be a different microphone from the one that’s best suited for an online sports streamer. When picking a vocal microphone it’s important to first establish what you’re looking to do with it. There are versatile microphones out there such as the Samson G-Track Pro that will respond well to spoken or sung vocals, and also do well with musical instruments. But there are also microphones like the Elgato Wave:3 that prioritize spoken vocals and streaming. 

Polar Patterns: For many of us, a cardioid pattern is all we need in a USB microphone. Cardioid patterns pickup front facing sound. However, if we’re looking for a microphone that will also be useful as a room microphone for multiple instruments, an omni-directional pattern can be useful. Bi-directional patterns, on the other hand, are useful for interviews where two people sit across from each other with the mic between them. When choosing a USB microphone it’s important to think ahead and select one that will be useful to you no matter where your recording takes you.

FAQs

Q: Are USB microphones any good?

Absolutely. Any musical artist, podcaster, or streamer mixing their audio with a computer has to use some form of audio interface, and USB microphones have that interface built in. The best USB microphones include great sound quality, detailed signals, and often mixers.

Q: Which Is the best USB microphone?

The Samson G-Track Pro is the best USB microphone. With its excellent sound quality, high bit rate, and quarter-inch jack, it’s an incredibly versatile microphone for an excellent price.

Q: What are USB mics used for?

USB mics are used for lots of things. They’re used for music produced with a computer, streaming, podcasting, interviews, Zoom, and for multiplayer gaming. USB microphones make sure it’s easy to bring your voice into your digital world.

Final Thoughts

USB microphones have innovated sound. No longer do we have to jerry-rig XLR cables into audio interfaces, or record vocals on our cell phone and email them to ourselves. Modern USB microphones allow us to plug directly into our computer and enjoy high quality, digitally formatted sound. The best USB microphones deliver high bit rate sound and often include built-in mixers, multiple audio profiles, and maybe even software packages or cable jacks. In my opinion, the best USB microphone for most users is the Samson G-Track Pro, for its excellent sound, built in quarter-inch jack and mixer, and its detailed quality. This mic brings a whole bundle of quality features to the table for a very reasonable price.

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