What’s your pet project? Are you a singer? A musician? Maybe you do a little voice-over work. Maybe you have a sweet gig translating audio books. Whatever your gig, you know you need to have a microphone on hand. Not just any microphone, either. This bad boy has to be easy to use and provide great sound.
Or maybe you’re a casual user. Maybe you’re just sick of potato-y Skype calls.
Maybe you work from home, and your coworkers have told you every single conference call sounds like you’re talking on the tin can at Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Spoiler alert: that’s probably not going to get you a raise (unless you ask Jambi).
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, what you need is a piece of plug-and-play equipment. What that means is a mic that you can very easily plug into your computer and start talking with. Our pick for the solution to these problems is easy: a USB Condenser Microphone.
So if you don’t buy a USB condenser mic, you won’t necessarily be thrown into Audio Purgatory, but your recordings will suffer. You’ll either lose your inspiration in a maze of wires and on buttons, or you’ll give in to constantly sounding like you’re talking through a can of gravy.
Don’t give in to poor sound quality – get the equipment that will allow you to pursue your passion and make your dreams come true!
Check out the mics we’ve reviewed for some inspiration. Follow your dreams. Let your passion take wing. And never settle for low-quality audio.
In This Article
- Top Pick: Rode NT USB
- Runner-Up: HyperX QuadCast
- Best Budget Pick: Samson C01U
- High End Pick: Antelope Audio Edge Go USB Microphone
- Best Portable Mic: Samson Go Mic
11 Top USB Condenser Mics
Now that you’re totally amped up on the idea of a USB condenser mic, allow us to share with you some of our top choices for the best options on the market today. From the highest quality to the best budget choice, these represent a full range of options.
The Top Pick: Rode NT USB
The Rode NT-USB has received constant accolades as a superior plug-and-play mic in a variety of situations.
This Rode is designed to be a “go-to” for podcasters, vocalists, instrumentalists, and anyone who needs clean, clear, authentic voice recording.
The convenience, ease of use, and studio quality sound of the Rode NT-USB make it our choice for the best USB microphone.
This microphone includes an on-body 3.5mm headphone jack for real-time observation of every word or sound. Side dials on the mic body allow for adjustment of gain level and input, as well, ensuring your headphone monitoring is spot on.
It’s cardioid pattern means background noise is highly reduced as well, focusing instead on your magical voice (or instrumental skills).
Rode NT USB Key Features:
- Includes pop filter, 20 foot USB cable, and tripod desk stand
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Frequency Range of 20Hz to 20kHz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level: 110db
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, and iPads (with connection adapter)
- zero-latency monitoring 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Runner Up: HyperX QuadCast
The HyperX QuadCast gets a lot of attention, but it’s definitely due. This is a whole lot of microphone in one pretty cool package, which makes it easily one of the best available.
First off, the audio quality is great on this model. You can choose the pickup pattern on this mic, which means a twist of a knob gives you the functions of a cardioid, bi-directional, omni-directional, or stereo mic, depending on your needs.
Additionally, it has a really handy tap mute button with an LED indicator that lets you know you’ve successfully muted your audio. Easy to turn on and off as the situation calls for it, like your kids outside or an urgent phone call!
While condensers are known for being on the delicate side, the QuadCast is prepared to do all the heavy lifting and is built to last!
It’s got built-in elastic suspension that works as an anti-vibration shock mount, absorbing movement and bumps during the recording process. It also comes with a handy gain control function at the base, allowing you to easily adjust loudness.
HyperX QuadCast Key Features:
- Frequency response of 20Hz to 20k Hz
- Includes a built-in pop filter for vocal clarity
- Headphone jack is built into the body for real-time monitoring
- Compatible with Windows PC, Mac, or PS4
- Built in shock mount
- Long lasting battery: up to 17 hrs
Best Budget USB Microphone: Samson C01U
Not only is the Samson C01U a great audio recording partner, it’s one of the best USB microphones to have on hand at all times. It was designed to be a professional studio-quality microphone on a “daily-driver” budget. Premium sound quality, without the cost.
Its hypercardioid polar pattern means that the focus is largely on the source directly in front of the microphone. This means minimal background noise for the purest possible recordings.
Complete with a zero-latency headphone jack, allowing you to monitor input in real time for the highest level of accuracy.
Another feature that makes the Samson SO1U one of the best USB microphones is its rugged construction. It features a 19mm diaphragm that’s shock-mounted within the unit, making it one of the most accurate and articulate microphones on the market.
On top of that, the body of the mic is die-cast and covered in a heavy gauge grill, making it incredibly durable, as well. Great sound, killer body, and it is built to last.
Samson C01U Key Features:
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 18k Hz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 136db
- Includes miniature tripod stand with a swivel mounting
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, and iPads/iPhones 4S and above (with the Apple Lightning USB Camera Adapter or 30-pin Camera Connector Kit)
- 1/8″ headphone output
- Pickup pattern: supercardioid
High End Pick: Antelope Audio Edge Go USB Mic
Everyone has a dream, right? This is our pick for “dare to dream” microphone. The Antelope Audio Edge Go is expensive – there’s no way around that. However, it has a lot of features that make it one of the best USB microphones money can buy.
This is not conference-call equipment; it is “turn your home studio into a full production facility” quality. This is studio equipment that is marketed for quality, durability, and complete capability.
The Edge Go bills itself as “The World’s First Smart USB Mic.” What that means is that you hold in your hands one simple plug-and-play microphone that is capable of providing the same sound as 11 types of microphones and 22 studio style effects,
Included are preamps, compressors, and equalizers in that library! These effects are programmed into a software library, giving you the opportunity to explore your sound.
Antelope Audio Edge Go Key Features:
- User selection between Figure-8, Omnidirectional, and Cardioid
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20k Hz
- 3.5mm Headphone stereo jack, USB cable, shock mount, pop filter, and desktop stand included
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 116db
- Includes a preset library crafted by top sound engineers
- Sample rates 44kHz to 192kHz
Best Portable Mic: Samson Go Mic
As mentioned before, one of the best features of a microphone USB connection is the simplicity of the process. The Samson Go Mic is the best USB microphone for on-the-road recording.
It is small, it is compact, and it is very good at its job, recording any time you need it. It simply folds up and tucks away when not in use.
The Samson Go Mic shares a lot in common with its brother, the Samson Meteor. Both have the ability to fold up for easy transportation, though the Go Mic is more compact and can clip onto a laptop or use its cover as a mic stand.
They’re both in the “very affordable” price range. However, the Go Mic offers the choice of cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns, while the Samson Meteor offers only a cardioid pattern.
Samson Go Mic Key Features:
- Frequency Response variances: Cardioid mode 80Hz – 18kHZ , or Omnidirectional 20Hz – 20kHZ
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 121db
- Includes 3.5mm headphone jack
- Compatible with Windows and Mac, or iOS/Android device with use of Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter or OTG Adapter
- 1/8″ headphone output
- Clips to laptop or sits on desk
Who Should Buy a USB Mic?
The short answer is that if you’re doing a job that requires your voice or your music, a USB microphone is a great investment.
You can literally use them any time and anywhere, while still getting high quality sound. At the very least, this should be something to add to your arsenal.
Of all the compelling reasons to invest in a USB microphone, the most important is what would happen if you don’t have one. Easy- you’ll be stuck with what you’ve got on hand.
If you’ve got a super sweet professional rig already, that’s cool, but what happens when you pull a Paul McCartney and fall out of bed with the next “Yesterday” stuck in your head? Are you going to pull out the XLR interface, boot up all the instruments, and hope the melody sticks?
And what if you’re trying to break into the extremely competitive world of voice overs? Maybe you’ve got the mic that came with your Wii karaoke game, but you’ve got this gut feeling there’s something better out there – something that might just launch your promising career into a new dimension.
So long story short, if you’re looking to break through in this industry, you’ll need a super sweet USB mic to get you started or to keep you in the game!
Important Things to Keep in Mind
Even the best USB microphone will not solve all the world’s problems. You will need to make sure you’ve got a functioning computer/laptop/device that is compatible with the mic you choose.
You will also need to make sure your laptop or devices are fully charged. Condenser mics require power from another source, so they will swipe that power via the USB.
If you’re on the road, make sure you’re plugged in, fully charged, or not too far from your charging cable.
Your recording software is still important. If you have a mic like the Edge Go, then you’ve probably got more than enough opportunity to keep you occupied.
For most mics, though, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got editing or recording software. Yes, these microphones are very good at their jobs, but editing software will help you eliminate noise, nuances, and nuisances.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s only natural to have some questions, so let’s take a look at some of the things that might be on your mind as you get ready to pull the trigger on your new microphone.
Is a USB microphone the best choice for recording vocals?
It can be. Would you use one for recording your Grammy-nominated album?
Probably not… unless that’s the concept you’re going for. But if you want an easy-to-use, very accessible, very good microphone that records nearly everything well, then check out adding a USB mic to your arsenal.
If I do get a USB microphone, what should I look for?
In this article, we’ve exclusively (and extensively) reviewed the USB condenser microphone. This type of microphone offers very accurate audio quality due to its diaphragm-style construction.
What you and your clients like might differ, but we prefer this type of mic due to the way it interprets sound waves in a clean and clear way.
Why would I choose a USB mic option?
There are several reasons to choose a mic that offers USB connection. First, convenience. You can simply plug this type of equipment into your computer, open your editing program, and get started.
Second, most of us don’t come out of the gate as ready professionals. These microphones will help users go from “good” to “great.”
It is a piece of equipment that is reasonable in price and very usable. Once your career takes off, you can retire this mic to Skyping your family from the road, or for conference calls with your agent and clients.
In the meantime, this is a fantastic investment to get you going from ground level to excellence.
What Are USB Condenser Mics?
On paper, a USB mic is one that connects directly to a computer or device, rather than requiring an XLR audio interface.
An “audio interface,” for those new to recording (and we’re not judging – just educating!) is a piece of equipment that allows you to connect regular microphones, instruments, and more into your computer so your recording software can pick up the signals.
So if you’re a professional who wants a plug-and-play solution for times of immediate inspiration, you’ll want a USB mic.
Ditto if you’re a vocal professional who might do a significant amount of travel, yet you don’t want to miss any deadlines. Or, if you really want to deliver quality presentations over Skype or conference call, this is a good move!
That covers the USB component, but you might wonder why we’re so adamant about a condenser.
Because of their construction, condenser mics are often considered the ultimate for voice work. Sound waves vibrate between a thin diaphragm and a solid metal plate in these types of microphones, resulting in a very sensitive piece of equipment.
Other Mics We’ve Reviewed
While the above represent our top five, there are plenty of other good USB mics on the market.
Here are a few more options we’ve checked out and reviewed for your consideration.
Alternate Top Picks
These microphones still rate as some of the best USB mics, and perform their jobs very well. If you’re looking for a mic that can handle multiple jobs, such as podcasting, gaming, and recording music with the pros, these options might be a good start.Blue Yeti
This Blue microphone is a favorite among recording tech-heads. It’s straightforward, it offers fantastic quality sound, and pretty much everyone has one. The Blue Yeti is actually a family of microphones that includes the Yeti, Yeti Pro, and Yeti Studio.
Pro and Studio require easy-to-install drivers and software, but the basic Blue Yeti model doesn’t require anything but the included USB cable.
- All Blue Yeti microphones include the ability to choose a polar pattern – cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, and bi-directional
- 3.5mm headphone jack, a mute button, and easy gain control, all located on the body of the microphone
- 32-bit audio engine for excellent sound quality
- Custom templates for music, podcast, voice-overs, and more
- IZotope Ozone Elements software and 2 activation cards
AKG Pro Audio Lyra Ultra
The first thing you’ll notice about this mic is its old-school radio vibe. This makes sense, because AKG has been in the business of microphone design for over 70 years.
Rest assured, the Lyra Ultra is friendly to this digital world!
Technically speaking, this is a really cool mic. It is constructed with what AKG terms an “Adaptive Capsule Array,” which allows users to choose different modes such as Front, Front and Back, Tight Stereo, and Wide Stereo.
This microphone is also extremely versatile, with plug-and-play compatibility with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android (adapters may be required).
As a result, it can be used for nearly any kind of vocal performance, including podcasts, voice overs, commercial work, and live-streaming.
- plug-and-play compatibility with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
- 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution
- Zero latency monitoring
- includes: 2m USB C to USB A cable, US to EU adapter, and quickstart guide
This microphone offers some of the most sensitive headphone monitoring available on the market, making it an easy choice for those who really need to fine-tune their output.
It has dials on body for volume control, and a mix control that lets you adjust between the mic signal and any pre-recorded audio, making it an excellent tool for voiceovers.
Best of all, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB features a built-in headphone output amplifier with zero latency.
That means that what you hear in your headphones is extremely accurate and detailed. This is a great option for those who need a very clear and nuanced sound, with precise quality.
- A/D converter with 16 bit depth
- 44.1/48 kHz sample rate
- Compatibility: Mac OS X and Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000
- included: pivoting stand mount, tripod desk stand, protective pouch, 10′ USB cable
- Cardioid polar pattern
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Line 6 Sonic Port VX
This mic is a little different than everything else on this list. While a lot of popular USB mics focus on vocals, the Line 6 option is a full sonic port, as the name suggests. This is a big deal for serious musicians on the go.
The two inputs accommodate guitar or bass, as well as a stereo line for keys, mixers, or drum machines.
Plus, two outputs allow you to connect monitors. This product basically provides the opportunity to put on a full concert anywhere.
But to the point of USB microphones, this microphone is compatible with Windows and Mac, and includes the Lightning connector to play with your iOS devices.
There are three total mics in the Sonic Port, with two stereo mics and one mono mic. There’s also an app that allows you to click on and try various presets and effects, making this less a studio microphone, and more a microphone that’s also a studio.
- 24-bit/48kHz audio
- zero-latency monitoring
- compatibility with iOS, Mac and PC
- Built-in stereo and mono with high-quality preamps
- Includes tabletop stand and adapter
Alternate Budget Picks
While these microphones are going to cost a bit more than your Blue Snowball, if you’re not ready to make the full investment, you might like one of these options as a solid starter.
Razer Seiren X
This mic offers a super cardioid, which means it is very focused on the sound in front of it. This means your audience will always hear what you want them to hear, with less background noise and interference.
This mic also features zero latency monitoring, with less echo than other products. It’s a well designed model, with built-in shock absorption to reduce unwanted noise. Mute, volume, and gain control knobs also help you find that sweet spot in recordings.
- super cardioid
- zero latency monitoring
- built-in shock mount
If you’re an Apple fan, the Shure might be the best USB mic for your budget and your brand. It’s actually MFi certified, meaning “Made For iPhone/Pad/Pod” with no additional adapters. If you’re not using iOS, you can still choose this mic, of course.
This is a great mic for beginners, too. There are three preset modes for vocals, instruments, and a flat tone. Gain, compression, and equalizing are automatically applied, making it truly plug-and-play.
- 3 DSP Preset Modes – Vocals, Flat, Instrument
- Cardioid polar pattern
- includes: desktop stand, 1m USB cable, 1m lightning cable
- compatibility: iOS, Android, Mac and PC
These are some of the best USB microphones on the market. If you need something simple, reliable, and that has fantastic sound capability, these mics definitely make the cut.
We like USB mics for the plug-and-play use, and condenser mics are fantastic when it comes to capturing the fine details of sound.
For a low-tech, high-quality microphone, consider a USB Condenser Mic.