As the arts of podcasting and mobile recording have become increasingly popular over the years, so has the popularity of USB microphones. USB mics aren’t very different from your standard mic, except for the fact that they contain within them a dedicated preamp as well as an analog-to-digital converter. This makes them incredibly convenient, simple, and portable (as you only need one connection).
In most cases, USB microphones aren’t the most suitable for serious audio recording. This is because sometimes the digital circuitry within the microphone may introduce noise or distortion to your recordings, especially when the signal being captured is at low volumes. However, they cut out the need for an audio interface, preamps, and mic stands, which can save you a whole lot of money. This makes them fantastic choices for podcasters as well as casual demo recordings.
In this article, we’ll review the best USB microphones of 2021 for you to consider.
1. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+
The most popular
Ultimately, this is one of the best USB microphones you can buy for any sort of voice work. As a condenser, it is incredibly sensitive, and its sound quality is rather clear and transparent for the price. The microphone comes as an XLR version as well.
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is the slightly upgraded version of Audio-Technica AT2020USB, and while it may seem as if the only difference is in the slight alteration within the name, there is a huge difference.
The AT2020USB+ features a headphone jack with level control, as well as a dial to allow you to mix the incoming signal from pre-recorded audio with the microphone’s signal. There’s virtually no delay when you listen in from the microphone itself which will prove incredibly useful when you record.
2. Shure MV7
The best podcast mic
The MV7 has earned its place as the microphone of choice for a great number of podcast hosts and content creators, and in all honesty, it’s probably the best USB podcast microphone you can find on the market.
Shure’s MV7 USB microphone is interesting because it also offers both USB and XLR outputs, allowing you to record however you prefer. For this reason, this microphone is arguably the most practical choice on this list, at least as far as serious recording is concerned. It’s particularly adept at rejecting unwanted background noise from your recording sessions, giving you a clean, dry signal.
3. Blue Yeti
For just around $120, the Blue Yeti is well worth the price. The microphone can switch between four polar patterns: cardioid (front-facing), bidirectional (facing both front and back), omnidirectional (all angles), and stereo (right and left).
This added feature allows the Yeti to be extremely helpful in many recording situations. It has an extremely accurate quality in its sound, and it comes with a no-latency headphone jack and gain control.
4. AKG Lyra
The best under $200
For aspiring podcast hosts and streamers, the AKG Lyra is one of the best options available to help you kick-start your career. Just like the Blue Yeti, it offers the ability to switch between four separate polar patterns, making it useful for a wide variety of settings. However, the Lyra sounds far better due to its higher resolution quality.
Just as all the other USB mics we’ve covered, it features a headphone jack for real-time monitoring and gain control. For its performance, the AKG Lyra is easily the best USB microphone for under $200, and we can’t recommend it enough.
5. Rode Podcaster
The second best podcast mic
This microphone is exceptional for podcasters (as the name would suggest), and for $230, it’s one of the better options for its price range.
The Rode Podcaster is a dynamic cardioid USB mic with a fairly flat frequency response, featuring a slight boost in higher ranges around 10 kHz. It’s incredibly bulky too, so you won’t need to worry about dropping it by accident. The microphone also comes with a headphone jack and mix control for an easy recording experience.
6. Rode NT-USB
Rode’s NT-USB microphone is a really solid choice as far as USB microphones are concerned. Just as the AT2020USB+, it features a headphone monitoring jack and a mix control for zero-latency recording.
Unlike the AT2020, however, the NT-USB comes with a handy pop filter that attaches directly to the base of the mic. It’s slightly more expensive than the Audio-Technica, priced at around $170 online, but they’re both great microphones to consider.
7. Audio-Technica AT2005USB
The best budget USB mic
The AT2005USB is a pretty great mic considering it’s priced at a mere $80. It’s capable of both USB and XLR connections, making recording a lot easier. The frequency response of this microphone is a bit lacking, but it’s really not a big deal for the price.
Thanks to its XLR output, the AT2005USB is fairly useful when recording guitars and acoustic instruments as well. We highly recommend this microphone for anybody with a limited budget, and who wants a bit more flexibility out of their mic.
Now that we’ve tackled the main list, it’s time to take a look at other USB microphones that might be worth some consideration. These microphones just missed the grade to make it onto our top 7, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good microphones. If they work for you that’s all that really matters, so let’s take a look.
The best under $50
As far as cheap USB microphones are concerned, the Mackie EM-91CU is great. For under $50, we highly doubt you’ll be able to find a USB microphone with as much clarity as the Mackie.
That being said, of course, it doesn’t have a headphone jack or anything, so expect a bit of latency. This is a great mic for any gamers or Discord users just looking for a cheap way to make their voice sound better in chat, but not much else.
The Apogee HypeMiC is a rather interesting choice, seeing that the microphone contains a built-in compressor. The notion of having an analog compressor within the signal chain before the digital converters is truly unique, but otherwise this is just a standard USB microphone.
Is it worth it? It’s honestly hard to tell. It’s listed at around $300 online, but the added compressor doesn’t seem to warrant such a high price. The first two settings on the compressor are adequate, but the third one, “Squeeze”, is pretty much unusable.
While the compressor with the HypeMiC seems pretty useful, we’d recommend you turn your sights elsewhere.
The best under $100
The Blue Snowball is one of the more popular USB microphones available, but it’s a bit hard to understand exactly why. For starters, it doesn’t have a headphone jack, so expect a lot of latency when you choose to record with it. Second, it’s technically been designed to plug and play, but there have been several issues with it reported by Windows users.
There are also two models of it, the standard including 2 separate mic capsules for both cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns, as well as an adjustable stand. The Snowball iCE is a bit more basic, but it’s not much better than the built-in microphone on your computer. It’s pretty hard to recommend this one, but if the price is what works for you, that’s fine.
With that, our list has come to an end. There are hundreds of other USB microphones out there that may very well be perfect for you, but we just couldn’t cover all of them. Hopefully, though, you’ve been able to find some helpful information about what makes these microphones great.