Many laptops, and virtually all webcams, come with built-in microphones, but if you're trying to create a podcast, record your commentary in a gaming live stream or create a vocal demo for your original songs, you'll need something with far better sound quality. Many people believe that in order to get the quality you need, you'll have to buy an expensive soundboard or rent time in a professional recording studio. Fortunately, there are several USB microphones available that offer high-quality recordings and plug directly into your computer.
When comparing computer microphones, you cannot count on price as the primary differentiator. The quality of each microphone varies, and we discovered that each microphone excels in specific uses, including music, podcasts and telecommunication. While you can look at the basic specs to get an idea of how the microphone works, the best way to understand which microphone is best for your project is to actually use them. We tested each microphone on our lineup as well as several that did not make the top ten list in order to see which microphone captured the best sound.
As a result of our testing, we discovered that the best USB microphones are the Blue Microphones Yeti Pro, MXL USB.009 and Blue Microphones Nessie. However, it should be noted that the microphones that made the final lineup truly are the top USB microphones available. We also have articles about music and podcast microphones.
USB microphones don't require a soundboard, and our favorite of these require few adjustments in the settings. These programs work with any recording software or communication platform, so you don't have to download special drivers or tools. We used the following criteria to find the best computer microphones.
It is difficult to determine the quality of sound you will get from a USB microphone without physically testing it. You can determine the type of sound recording you'll experience through polar patterns, which determine which sides of the microphone can pick up sounds. Frequency range is the scope of sounds that a microphone can pick up. Human hearing has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. Microphones that have a frequency outside of the human hearing range will distort higher and lower sounds so that the vocals will feel unnatural and animated. Look for a USB mic with a minimum bit rate of 16 and a sample rate of 44.1kHz, the standard rates for CDs. USB microphones that have a higher bit rate take more file space, but they are capable of recording better quality sounds. Higher sample rates will also give you a better recording.
USB microphones are usually very basic. The best USB microphones come with standard XLR cables allowing you to use your USB microphone as a recording or performance mic, although this feature is not very standard. Internal pop filters are a useful feature because they block plosives. Also, look for external control knobs for manually adjusting mix and gain. Microphone stands let you securely position your microphone in just the right place for smooth, consistent sounds when you record.
Ease of Use
The best USB microphones are simple to use, without requiring you to change your computer's settings too much. Several USB microphones are plug-and-play compatible with both PC and Mac electronic devices, including computers, laptops and smartphones.
Help & Support
Every company we reviewed offers both phone and email support to customers. Turnaround times for email support are usually within 24 hours, even on weekends. Standard warranties last a year on the low end, and we saw several warranties that last five to 10 years.
USB microphones give you the high-quality audio you need without costing much money. They are versatile, so you can also use them with any audio or communication software. You don't have to buy lots of expensive software or rent a studio in order to create your next song or podcast.