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Looking for the perfect USB microphone?

If you’re new to podcasting, you might be on the lookout for a good USB microphone to get you started. Below are the most popular USB microphones amongst podcasters and below that we go into detail to explain what you should look for when you’re shopping for your first one.

#1

Blue Yeti

by Blue

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$129.99
Endorsments
230 hosts
#2

Blue Snowball

by Blue

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$69.99
Endorsments
57 hosts
#3

Rode Podcaster

by Rode

Type
Dynamic
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$229
Endorsments
45 hosts
#4

Blue Snowball Ice

by Blue

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$49.99
Endorsments
18 hosts
#5

Samson Meteor Mic

by Samson

Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$54
Endorsments
12 hosts
#6

Rode NT-USB

by Rode

Type
Dynamic
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$169
Endorsments
8 hosts
#7

Samson Go Mic

by Samson

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$37
Endorsments
7 hosts
#8

Shure MV5

by Shure

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$99
Endorsments
1 hosts
#9

Samson G Track

by Samson

Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$79
Endorsments
1 hosts
#10

Samson c01u Pro

by Samson

Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$90
Endorsments
3 hosts
#11

H1

by Zoom

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$108
Endorsments
7 hosts
#12

Blue Yeti Blackout

by Blue

Type
Condenser
Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$108
Endorsments
0 hosts
#13

U37

by CAD

Connection
USB
Estimated Price
$59
Endorsments
11 hosts

What is a USB microphone?

Oddly enough, and if you hadn’t guessed it, a USB microphone is one that connects to other devices via a USB cable. They are compared most frequently to XLR mics, which connect to other devices via an XLR cable. In essence, a USB microphone is unique from an XLR mic because, with its USB connectivity, it plugs straight into your computer, whereas an XLR mic needs to bypass another piece of equipment, like an interface, before it’s compatible to connect to your laptop or PC. Looking for a USB microphone? Start by looking at the models of some of the more popular brands, like Rode.

Why should you buy a USB microphone?

The question that arises most often, particularly from fresh podcasters, is, Do I need an XLR micr or can I just buy a basic USB microphone? Our view, invariably, is that a USB microphone should be the preferred choice amongst podcasters because of its price and simplicity. But in this section, we’ll expand on our opinion and consider all the elements that should contribute to your decision-making process.
1. They’re cheap
Ah yeah, the friend of all budding podcast hosts: Affordability. If you plan to use your new mic just for podcasting, and you have no intentions of recording bellowing covers of the Rolling Stones’ greatest hits, you’ll save a good slice of dough if you choose a USB microphone over its XLR counterpart. Not only are there savings to be made in the cost of the mic itself, but with a USB microphone you don’t need to purchase some of the other equipment required to run an XLR mic (namely, an interface and some form of phantom power).
2. They’re simple
The other great friend of all budding podcast hosts: Simplicity. Why double you’re already unimaginable workload by adding sound engineering theory to your list? The beauty of the USB microphone is in its simplicity. So long as you have a computer (which we assume you do), there’s no need for an interface or phantom power, you just plug it in and start recording.

Why should you not buy a USB microphone?

Despite the great advantages of a USB microphone, mentioned above, there are disadvantages that may impact you, and you should consider them at the outset. We’ll deal with the shortcomings of a USB microphone against an XLR mic, below.
1. There aren’t as many to choose from
One of the advantages of XLR mics is that the technology behind them has been around for so long that manufacturers all over the world have had time to pump out an inordinate number of models. In effect, that means the market spoils you for choice and you won’t struggle finding an XLR mic to suit your specific recording needs. That said, if all you’re using it for is to record your podcast once a week, how diverse are your recording needs in the first place?
2. They aren’t as versatile
The simplicity of the USB mic’s plug-and-play connectivity can be a hidden double-edged sword, and on the other side is a potential lack of versatility. For starters, with a USB microphone you’re potentially limited to how many mics you can record with at any one time (your computer likely only has so many USB ports). XLR mics, on the other hand, connect into an interface first before being ported to your computer, and most interfaces come with multiple ports for you to run multiple mics at the same time. On top of that, because the XLR cable type is compatible with more devices, XLR mics allow you to record to more devices than just your computer. The above said, if you’re hosting a simple weekly podcast and aren’t undertaking any elaborate recording feats, a standard USB microphone should suit you just fine.

What to look for when buying a USB microphone

Now that we’ve settled the USB vs. XLR debate, it’s time we help you decide which model of USB microphone you should buy. Of course, the best way to find that out is to visit our list of the best microphones for podcasting. There you’ll get recommendations for mics that existing podcast hosts use and prefer. But outside of that simple approach, we’ll go ahead and detail three of the key ingredients that go into a good quality USB microphone.
1. Polar pattern
First and foremost, for podcasters we recommend you buy a USB microphone with a cardioid or hypercardioid polar pattern. You’ve no doubt seen at least one of those phrases advertised alongside some of the models you’ve looked at so far, but what does polar pattern refer to? Essentially, it’s the directions or angles from which a microphone is able to pick up sound. Many lapel mics, as an example, have an omnidirectional polar pattern designed to pick up sounds at all angles (360 degrees). In contrast to those, mics with the cardioid or hypercardioid polar patterns are unidirectional, in that they pick up sound from just one direction: in front. Hence why they’re perfect for podcasters, because they’re designed to pick up everything a speaker says into them, and not much else. So when you’re comparing USB microphone models, make sure you look out for one with a cardioid or hypercardioid polar pattern (assuming you plan to use it to podcast, that is).
2. Noise level
A microphone’s noise level (often referred to as ‘self-noise’ or ‘equivalent noise’) is how much noise the microphone makes of its own accord. A noisy microphone is, clearly, a bad thing, so you want to buy a microphone with as low a noise level as possible. When you’re comparing specifications of different mics, you’ll be able to identify the spec for noise level because it will be measured by the “dB-A” unit. A noise level under 10 db-A has an exceptionally low noise level and will cost you more than a mic with a noise level above 20 db-A (the lower the noise level, the higher the cost, generally speaking). 3. Dynamic or condenser The final element you’ll need to consider is whether you want a dynamic or a condenser USB microphone. Both types of microphone perform the same function of converting raw sound waves into an electrical signal, but they do them with a slightly different internal process. We recommend you stick with a dynamic USB microphone for podcasting, as they sound great when recording voice, but to understand the differences between the two types, click here.

Conclusion

Choosing a USB microphone is the perfect option if you’re new to podcasting, or you just want a simple recording setup that doesn’t cost you a fortune.