In the past five years, we’ve seen an impressive rise in the public’s interest in podcasts and accessible content, like YouTube musicians and vloggers. If you’ve thought to yourself, “Hey, I’d like to try my hand at that,” but didn’t know where to start on the hardware side of things. From the enthusiast to the professional, a solid USB microphone will jumpstart your passion project.
Editor’s note: this list of the best USB microphones was updated on January 12, 2022, to include the Blue Yeti Nano.
What you should know about any USB microphone
So, you’re in the market for an easy-to-use USB microphone. Well, there are a handful of things you should know first.
- Not all USB mics work with both Mac and PC operating systems. However, we’ve made sure all of our picks are compatible with both, saving you the trouble of checking, checking, and triple-checking.
- There is a variety of recording patterns offered from one USB microphone to the next, but not all of them are available with each pick. In brief, cardioid patterns are your best bet; they do a great job at recording sounds directly in front of the recording element, while simultaneously reducing distracting background noise. That said, if you want to record a certain background presence, you may want something with omnidirectional capabilities like the Blue Yeti Nano.
- There are few instances where you’ll need anything greater than a 16-bit, 44.1kHz recording. We promise.
Should you get a USB microphone?
Well, if you need something portable with zero learning curve, yes. Though most of these are just fine (if not superb) for vocals streamed as a compressed MP3 file, there are instances where a non-USB microphone will better serve you. For one: if you make your living on recording and mixing audio, then you’ll want to look at an XLR mic like the Rode NT1A. Its recording capabilities surpass any of the listed following microphones, but it also requires an external recorder, which will cost much more than any of the following options. We can help you out if it comes to it, but a USB mic sidesteps this issue.
Even if you are a professional in the audio industry, you may want a USB microphone as a go-to backup. As they say, “redundancy saves lives.” By having something as easy as a USB microphone, having a backup recording will be a thoughtless process that could save you from a world of frustration.
If you plan to take a more on-the-go approach to recording audio, you’ll be better off getting a digital voice recorder. These can be cheaper than USB microphones as well as being more portable, and some can double as audio interfaces.
Related: Best podcasting mics
The best USB microphone is the Blue Yeti X
We’ve reviewed a handful of great Blue headphones—yes, the company makes headphones—but the real stars of the Blue lineup are its USB microphones. The Blue Yeti X is a condenser microphone and it allows you to choose between cardioid, bi-directional, stereo, and omnidirectional recording patterns.
Blue Yeti XFull Review
The Yeti X has a MicroUSB output as well as a 3.5mm headphone monitoring output. It sports a gain knob with LED lights that indicate if you are peaking or close to peaking. The back of the microphone has a knob for selecting your recording pattern. If you have a PC, you can make use of the Blue VO!CE recording software for adding real-time vocal effects, but this software is not available on macOS.
Blue Yeti X microphone demo:
Inside the mic is a four-capsule condenser array, with each condenser angled differently to record omnidirectional sound. This is great if you want to capture room ambiance, but the ability to switch presets to something more focused—say cardioid mode—is just as valuable. What’s more, this is the best of the best USB microphones for a reason: the Yeti X records 24-bit audio at 48kHz, so you’re afforded more wiggle room for edits in post-production than you would be with the Blue Yeti.
Do anything and everything with the Shure MV7
The Shure MV7 follows in the footsteps of the legendary Shure SM7B XLR microphone, and the MV7 does not disappoint. This dynamic microphone has a single cardioid recording pattern, and supports the simultaneous use of the XLR and USB outputs. The ability to use both outputs at once grants a lot of flexibility: you can record a high bit-depth audio file for post-production, and a lower-resolution audio file for reference.
Shure MV7Full Review
The MV7 is a plug-and-play affair: it includes everything you need to start recording, though you may want to get a mic stand or boom arm to keep it steady. It doesn’t require phantom power to operate, but you won’t damage it if you pair it with a Cloudlifter preamp.
Shure MV7 (Natural) microphone demo:
There are seven different recording modes to choose from—three of which are presets available in auto mode from the Shure Plus MOTIV app, and four of which can be selected from the manual recording mode. To hear all of the audio samples, and see all of the frequency response charts, head over to our full review. Otherwise, the microphone demo above should give you a good idea of this mic’s capabilities.
The Shure MV7 microphone is a stellar performer, and can handle nearly any situation thrown at it. Although the recording quality isn’t quite as good as the Shure SM7B, the MV7 gets close, and offers a much more reasonable price. This USB hybrid certainly deserves a spot on your desk.
Take the Samson Go Mic anywhere. No, really, anywhere.
The best USB microphones are portable—after all the whole point of them is not to need any additional equipment. However, while most of the other items on this list are excellent choices, they’re most desk-bound options, which makes them a bit of a pain to transport. That’s where the Samson Go USB microphone comes in. This tiny microphone is built to work just about everywhere, just plug it into a laptop or computer and point at the sound you want to record.
Samson Go MicFull Review
At $49, this mic is pretty budget-friendly and very portable. It’s built to clip neatly on top of any kind of monitor, but the folding stand can rest on any flat surface. The Samson Go Mic allows you to switch between an omnidirectional and cardioid pickup pattern, making it versatile for recording while sitting at a laptop or for recording a full room meeting.
Samson Go Mic microphone demo (Cardioid):
The Samson Go Mic record 16-bit audio at 44.1kHz, which is great for something in this form factor, though it won’t compete with the more premium options on this list. Still, as we mentioned above, it’s pretty rare to actually need more than 16-bit audio. The mic doesn’t do a great job of attenuating background noise, but there is a -10dB setting to reduce distortion. If you’re really worried about it’s audio quality, the mic is also compatible with Samson’s Sound Deck software so you can tweak as much as you like.
The Movo UM700 is an easier way to podcast
Whether you’ve been yearning to get a jumpstart on that “Which is better: Ketchup or mustard?” podcast idea or you already have a substantial following, the Movo UM700 is the best USB microphone for you.
Movo UM700Full Review
The Movo UM700 has a sturdy build that is bound to stay balanced on your desk. It comes with a removable wind screen that does a good job of reducing plosives, fricatives, and sibilance. The onboard controls included on the mic are also super helpful—there’s a quick-mute button that glows red when activated, a volume control knob, and a gain control knob. The bottom of the mic also houses a 3.5mm input for direct monitoring as you record.
When you’re recording a podcast you want to choose the cardioid pickup pattern, instead of the stereo, omnidirectional, or bidirectional patterns. Its heart-shaped pattern means sounds directly in front of it get recorded while off-axis noises are effectively stifled. The Movo UM700’s sound quality is incredible considering it only costs $100 USD.
Movo UM700 cardioid pattern speaking sample:
If you want a great value microphone, go with the Blue Yeti Nano
The Blue Yeti Nano is really just a miniaturized, pared-down version of the Blue Yeti X. This isn’t going to be the be all, end all of microphones but it certainly sounds better than your computer’s mic. For far less than $100 USD, you get two polar patterns to choose from (cardioid and omnidirectional) and great some nice onboard controls like a gain knob and button to alternate recording patterns.
Blue Yeti NanoFull Review
You get unfettered access to the Blue Sherpa software, which allows you to control the gain, headphone monitoring volume, and alternate between pickup patterns. It’s also very easy to adjust the EQ or choose between a few presets like “flat” and “warm and vintage.” This is a really great microphone for beginners or anyone who needs pretty good sound quality while traveling.
Blue Yeti Nano cardioid pattern sample:
Another great option: the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+
Like the Blue Yeti, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ condenser mic records in 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz sampling rate. The AT2020USB+ includes a standard headphone jack like some of the other best USB microphones listed, which—again—lets you monitor the microphone’s signal sans delay.
This USB mic includes a high-output, internal headphone amplifier, delivering clear reproduction of your subject. Below the microphone’s grill, you’ll find two horizontal dials that allow for basic audio mixing as you go. The left dial mixes vocals with pre-recorded audio; if done correctly, this could save you ample time in post-production. Then there’s the right knob, which adjusts the volume delivered to the headphones. Listen to these samples of the Audio-Technica AT2020, which is the XLR version of the AT2020USB+.
Audio-Technica AT2020 speaking sample:
Just like the other mics listed, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is a universal USB microphone. You can skip any additional downloads because, well, there aren’t any. Just plug in and record. Oh, and lest we forget, this includes an external pop filter, mic mount, and carrying pouch. Sure, it’s a bit pricey at around $160, but it’ll make your project sound oh, so crispy.
The best USB microphones: Notable mentions
- AmazonBasics Mini Condenser Microphone: Amazon’s been making big strides in the affordable consumer electronics space for a little while now and its recent mic entry is a strong budget contender. This unidirectional desktop condenser mic will work with just about every recent version of macOS, Windows, and Linux. It has a decently long 5-foot USB cable, and an included stand, all for under $45.
- Beyerdynamic Fox: The Fox is the only USB microphone listed that provides 24-bit audio recording; though, it’s at 96kHz.
- Blue Snowball: Similar to the Blue Yeti, the Blue Snowball has managed to accrue a wide base of avid users. Its appearance is similar to that of the Shure MV5 but the stand and general aesthetic are less graceful.
- HyperX Quadcast and HyperX Quadcast S: These gaming microphones have excellent sound quality and light up in attractive LED colors. To access the Ngenuity software and an RGB color scheme, get the more expensive HyperX Quadcast S. But, if you’re satisfied with the basics, stick with the original HyperX QuadCast.
- JLab Talk PRO: The Talk PRO has a few notable features like four polar patterns and its intuitive UI. If you want a great mic with onboard controls and nice software, this $150 USD microphone could be in the cards for you.
- Razer Seiren Mini: This little gaming microphone has an unobtrusive design, meaning it can easily be used for your video conference calls. Though it has its drawbacks, it’s only $49, and for this price, it’s not too shabby.
- Samson Meteor: The Samson Meteor is a step up from the company’s Go Mic. It records at a 16-bit, 44.1/44.8kHz resolution and works with Apple’s iPad when using the appropriate USB adapter. It’s a trite complaint, but the Meteor uses a 1/8-inch headphone jack instead of the standard 3.5mm option.
- Shure MV5: It’s easy to set up and takes up less space than a majority of our picks, save for the Samson Go Mic. It’s easy to transport and provides pretty good sound quality. Though, it’s going to cost you about $100.
- Shure MV51: This is great for users who want to podcast or record in style. The mic resembles the company’s signature Elvis mic design, and it includes five recording presets
Related: What to look for in a microphone
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Through the countless hours spent testing a wide array of audio products, the team at SoundGuys can identify a good product from a gimmick, saving you time and energy. Ultimately, we want this site to serve your needs and understand that researching audio products can be tiresome and time-consuming, albeit enjoyable too.
We’re not invested in any purchase you much, but we do want you to be happy with whatever product you pursue. None of us may benefit from championing one USB microphone over another and, while the site makes money from referrals, the writers are paid based on their work, period. If you feel compelled, feel free to read our ethics policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are no standalone mics that are easily compatible with Xbox One but some users have found workarounds with the Blue Yeti USB mic.
If you’re leading an exercise class over video call, you’ll want a microphone with an omnidirectional pickup since you likely won’t be right up next to your computer while demonstrating exercises. The Blue Yeti X has this functionality, but keep in mind it will be picking up the noise of the whole room, not just your instructions. For a more directional sound, it might be worth looking into a Bluetooth headset or workout earbuds with a decent microphone, such as the Bose Sport Earbuds.
XLR mics produce higher quality audio than USB microphones because of the inner mechanisms in each type. In a USB mic, the electrical currents that exit the microphone share a channel with the currents that enter it, often resulting in distorted sound. XLR microphones, on the other hand, have separate channels for the incoming and outgoing currents, so they don’t interfere with one another. This is what the three-pronged output is for. Think of it like a roadway: if you’re driving up a very narrow road and a car coming the opposite direction is trying to pass you, it’s likely you’ll scrape against each other. However, on a highway, the oncoming traffic is separated from your lane by a median, so there’s no danger of collision.