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Audio & Recording

Best USB Microphone

Over the past 10 years USB Microphones have become increasingly popular and their future looks promising, especially with the rise of podcasts and home recordings. Since they have to plug straight from the microphone into the computer, there are a couple elements that must exist inside these mics. A USB microphone is not only a mic, but also a preamp and an analogue-to-digital converter, two units necessary to get your signal into your digital audio workstation (DAW). Everything else in a signal chain (equalizer, compressor, etc) is to improve the sound.These two lists focus on the current leaders in USB microphones overall as well as those in the budget category.

Nessie Adaptive USB Microphone

The Blue Microphones Nessie USB mic sports a condenser capsule with a cardioid pickup pattern, giving you a strong and direct sound that eliminates unwanted room noise. The mic itself also comes equipped with a built-in pop screen to reduce pops and hisses. The Nessie also features adaptive processing, including an EQ, de-esser, and auto level control, truly a rare combination of tools to include in just a microphone. All of these components give you a huge advantage by making sure that you get the recording right when you do it, and saves you time of having to fix so many minor details in post-production. The Nessie also has a zero-latency headphone output, giving you even more control and awareness of your recording via direct monitoring.

Samson Meteorite USB Condenser Microphone

The Samson Meteorite is a USB condenser microphone compatible with Mac, PC, and iOS devices. The unit’s cardioid pickup pattern is ideal for those who want to record their voice for a memo, podcast, Skype/FaceTime session, and more; you’ll be sure that you’re just getting the source of audio that you want to capture, and not unwanted room noise. The mic’s 16-bit, 44.1k/48k resolution provides CD-quality sound that goes far beyond the device’s modest price and size (we did mention this thing weighs just half a pound and has a diaphragm size of 14mm, right? Getting started with the Meteorite is simple as you just plug in with the included USB cable and start recording. No drivers are required and it gets all of its power from its USB bus.

Blue Microphones Snowflake USB Microphone

Blue Microphones’ Snowflake USB microphone is the perfect tool for podcasting, voiceover work, voice recognition software – basically anything where you need to capture or record your voice when placed in front of your computer. The Snowflake’s low-profile design makes it an easy component to add to your desk or mobile situation. No drivers or software are required to get started; just plug it in with the included USB cable, and you’re ready to go. Whether you’re making personal records for your own use or recording files that you intend to share with the rest of the world, the Snowflake represents a hassle-free and great-sounding method to getting the job done, at a price that is super affordable.

Samson C01U Pro USB Studio Condenser Microphone

The Samson C01U Pro USB microphone is a large-diaphragm condenser that easily interfaces with your computer and digital audio workstation. Simply plug it in and you’re ready to go. Its high-quality analog to digital converter provides a 16-bit/48kHz sampling rate, which helps it reproduce sound in a pristine way. It’s also durable, thanks to its die-cast construction and heavy gauge mesh grill. The Pro’s built-in headphone amplifier allows users to monitor their signal with zero latency, giving them an accurate and useful way to make sure the signal and recording is going well. This USB microphone also comes with a mini tripod stand and swivel mount for easy setup and versatile use.

Blue Snowball Condenser USB Microphone

Fittingly, the Blue Microphones Snowball USB mic looks just like a snowball; this isn’t your traditional-looking mic, as its spherical shape clearly indicates. This shape works well for this USB mic, though, as it allows you to capture the sound in the room thanks to its omni-directional pickup pattern; this can also be switched to a more conventional cardioid pickup pattern if you just want to record your voice. Because of its more “social” capability in terms of type of sound it can pick up, the Snowball has often been an ideal choice for those looking to record live events or podcasts involving multiple people having a discussion. The mic also features a -10dB pad to protect against extra-loud audio sources. Setting up the Snowball is easy; simply place it on the stand and plug in via USB cable (both are included), and you’re good to go.

Rode NT-USB USB Condenser Microphone

The Rode NT-USB mic is a versatile tool that can be used in multiple scenarios. Whether you want to record acoustic guitar, electric instruments, or vocals, this device offers a great sound and is super simple to start using. The NT-USB is also compatible with Apple’s iPad, so you can really record on the go in what is one of the more compact and easy-to-travel-with setups. It also features a pop shield and a desktop stand, granting you some of the amenities that you might not typically expect from a USB microphone. The mic’s stereo headphone jack also has zero-latency so you can monitor your mix or recording with precise accuracy in real-time.

Blue Yeti Pro USB & XLR Microphone

The Blue Yeti Pro USB microphone does the job of a USB mic with flying colors, offering 24-bit/192kHz digital recording resolution; this means that your signal is going to sound pristine when you plug it into your computer for recording. The unit itself offers four different pattern settings, allowing you to record in stereo, cardioid, omni-directional, and bidirectional; there are few scenarios that this USB mic can’t perform well in. The unit also features an analog XLR output, giving it a leg up on many USB mics that don’t venture out of the digital realm. The Yeti Pro also comes with a custom base and headphone output, making it great for broadcast recordings like podcasts.

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio Digital Studio Microphone

Whether you’re a beginner who wants to have everything laid out for them or a seasoned pro looking for something easy to incorporate into your pre-existing computer setup, the IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio USB microphone makes recording directly to your computer easy. But that’s not all it can do as the device is also compatible with iOs and Android devices, allowing it to work seamlessly with some of your favorite apps, such as multitrack recording platforms or special effects. All the cables you will need for any setup are included thanks to the USB, micro-USB OTG, and Lightning cables that come in the box. The iRig Mic Studio also comes with a handy tripod tabletop stand and a mic clamp, so you can put it to work without any additional gear. A nice touch are the multi-color LED lights which give you a vibrant and useful way to monitor your signal levels.

Shure MV51 Digital Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Shure’s MV51 maintains the quality and reliability that the company has instilled in all of their microphone products, while also bridging it over into the new era of digital proficiency and technological advancements. It might seem odd that a USB microphone has a design that looks like a vintage mic, but that may just be a nod of respect to the great Shure mics of the past, a sentiment echoed by the MV51’s clear-sounding capsule. This device comes equipped with five onboard DSP preset modes specifically tailored for uses such as instrument recording, vocals, and voiceover. A built-in kickstand also allows for extremely easy set up anywhere you take it. The MV51 also comes with cables to allow it to easily connect with any Mac, Windows PC, iOS, or Android device.

Audio Technica AT2020USBi USB Large Diaphragm Microphone

The AT2020USBi from Audio-Technica is a USB microphone that converts signal from analog to digital at an impressive and professional rate, offering 24-bit/96KHz sampling rate for great-sounding audio. The input level can be adjusted on the microphone using the mic gain control. Its cardoid pickup pattern makes it great for recording the human voice, whether it be for singing, voiceover work, or podcasting. A tripod desk stand with folding legs makes it easy to set up wherever you choose to take the AT2020USBi. This USB mic also comes with a required micro HDMI to USB and Lightning cables, so that you can easily connect it to your computer or iOS device.

Sean Kramer
I'm a guitarist/music producer with 18 years of experience playing on-stage, in the studio, and everywhere in between. I have toured and recorded on projects both independent and major, in styles such as rock, pop, funk, hip hop, electronic, and more. My axe of choice is probably always going to be the Fender Stratocaster, but I've been known to pick up other guitars when the music calls for it. I'm a big fan of using a multitude of effects (both hardware and software-driven) to manipulate the sound and atmosphere of an instrument. In addition to playing on records, I have also contributed to the score/soundtrack for shows and spots on MTV and ESPN, as well as for a variety of independent films, web series, and television shows.
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