USB Microphones Review

 By
 

Why Buy a USB Microphone?

A USB microphone is a hand too. You might plug into your laptop or iPhone to digitally record your professor's history lecture, or use a USB mic as part of your soundstage for recording podcasts. If you are hoping to become the next Jimi Hendrix, you can use a USB microphone to record amazing music demos. They can be used for Skyping or with voice recognition software. We found that the best USB microphones, Audio-Technica ATR2100, Shure SM58+X2u and Samson Q2U USB/XLR, come with XLR capability so you can plug them into a live sound system, mixer or amp and use them as a traditional microphone for live performances. Check out our articles on USB microphones to learn more.

USB microphones are designed as either dynamic or condenser mics. We reviewed dynamic microphones since these are the USB microphones for vocal projects such as podcasts and voiceovers. Dynamic microphones pick up sounds from the front while blocking noise from the back and sides, and they are generally sturdy so you can drop or bump them and they still work perfectly. Dynamic microphones are used in karaoke performances, newsrooms, comedy clubs and presidential debates.

Condenser microphones are more sensitive to sounds. They pick up noise from all directions, even from the next room. Condenser microphones are good for recording band music or multiple soloists at one time. Condenser microphones are more lightweight compared to dynamic mics.

USB Microphones: What to Look For

While there are many kinds of USB microphones, few are good for recording solo vocals, podcasts and speech. All the USB microphones we tested work with GarageBand and most other digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Below are other factors we considered in our USB microphone review.

Sound Quality
It is difficult to determine the quality of sound you will get from a USB microphone without physically testing it. Measurable indicators do exist. Look for a microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. Polar patterns determine which sides of the microphone can pick up sounds. Cardioid polar pattern microphones pick up noise on one side of the microphone while blocking noise from other sides. Dynamic cardioid microphones also block background noise. This means your voice will be the only sound picked up and recorded creating a more accurate projected vocal without the need for noise gate software.

Frequency range is the scope of sounds that a microphone can pick up. The lower the frequency range, the deeper the bass sounds the microphone will pick up. Higher frequency ranges pick up more high-pitched sounds. 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 fell unnatural and animated. If you're planning to record speech, look for microphones that have a frequency range set within the hearing range, such as 50Hz-15kHz. This will give a more natural sound to your voice in the recording.

Look for a USB mic with a minimum bit rate of 16 and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz; these are the standard rates for CDs. USB microphones that have a higher bit rate take more files space, but they are capable of recording better quality sounds. Higher sample rates will also give you a better quality recording.

Features
USB microphones are usually very basic. The best USB microphones come with standard XLR cables allowing you to use your USB microphone as a traditional mic and giving you the versatility and security of knowing your microphone will work anywhere and anytime. Internal pop filters are a useful feature because they block spitting P and B sounds. Also, look for external control knobs for manually adjusting volume. Microphone stands are helpful because handheld mics can pick up bumpy and windy sounds as they move. Plus, a stand lets you securely position your microphone in just the right place for smooth, consistent sounds when recording.

Ease of Use
The best USB microphones are plug-n-play. This means you don't have to worry about navigating your computer's set-up page or installing any software. Several USB microphones are compatible with both PC and Mac electronic devices, including computers, laptops and smart phones. Comfort is also an important consideration. If you are planning to hold your USB microphone for an extended period of time, choose something lightweight and less bulky. However, heavier dynamic microphones can endure frequent and longer drops to the floor.

Help & Support
While the process of installing and using a USB microphone is straight-forward, it is nice to know there is extra support behind the product. The best USB microphone manufacturers have posted video podcasts on their websites and on Facebook demonstrating how to set up and operate their products. Additionally, every company we reviewed offered both phone and email support to customers. Turnaround times for email support are usually within 24hours, even on weekends. Standard warranties last a year and are limited to defective products that arrive damaged rather than accidents and malfunctions that happen during use. However, several manufacturers value their customers enough to offer support and replacement units even after the warranty expires.

USB microphones are an important part of any soundstage. Dynamic mics are best if you are using them for audio recording, such as podcasting or voiceovers. They are versatile, so you can also use them for Skyping and with voice recognition software. Since USB microphones plug into computer, laptops and smart phones you have the ability to create a soundstage wherever you are, and, if you choose a USB microphone that is also a standard XLR mic, you will always have a reliable microphone for any voice project, both in the studio and on the stage.

 
 
Electronics » Computers » USB Microphones Review
LIKE OUR REVIEWS? SUPPORT OUR SITE BY LIKING US ON FACEBOOK OR GOOGLE PLUS
Rank #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
Audio-Technica ATR2100 Shure SM58+X2u Samson Q2U USB/XLR LD Systems D1USB Audio-Technica AT2005 RadioShack XLR/USB Rode Podcaster Blue Microphones Yeti CAD Audio U1 Samson Q1U
Audio-Technica ATR2100 Shure SM58+X2u Samson Q2U USB/XLR LD Systems D1USB Audio-Technica AT2005 RadioShack XLR/USB Rode Podcaster Blue Microphones Yeti CAD Audio U1 Samson Q1U
Reviewer Comments Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Read Review
Lowest Price
Visit Audio-Technica ATR2100
$53.36
Visit Shure SM58+X2u
$172.17
Visit Samson Q2U USB/XLR
$39.65
Visit LD Systems D1USB
$77.71
Visit Audio-Technica AT2005
$49.03
Visit RadioShack XLR/USB
$16.97
Visit Rode Podcaster
$229.00
Visit Blue Microphones Yeti
$99.99
Visit CAD Audio U1
$33.90
Visit Samson Q1U
$49.99
Ratings
10.00
9.20
9.00
8.32
7.88
7.70
7.50
7.20
6.75
5.75
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
10.00
10.00
9.38
9.38
8.75
8.75
8.75
10.00
8.75
7.50
8.13
10.00
6.88
6.88
8.75
7.50
7.50
6.25
8.75
6.88
6.88
7.50
8.13
5.63
8.13
9.38
7.50
6.25
7.50
8.13
8.75
5.00
6.25
5.00
8.13
2.50
5.00
7.50
 
Sound Quality
Overall Sound Quality 100% 90% 80% 75% 70% 60% 45% 40% 45% 55%
Minimum Frequency Range (Hz) 50 50 50 50 50 50 40 20 80 50
Maximum Frequency Range (kHz) 15 15 15 16 15 15 14 20 16 16
Resolution Rate (Bits) 16 16 16 16 16 16 18 16 16 16
Sampling Rate (kHz) 48 48 48 48 48 48 48 48 48 48
Polar Pattern Cardioid Cardioid Cardioid Cardioid Cardioid Cardioid Cardioid 4 Settings Cardioid Cardioid
Features
On/Off Switch
 
 
Volume Control
 
  
Desk Stand
 
 
XLR Capability
    
Headphone Jack
  
  
Ease of Use
Plug-n-play
PC Compatible
Mac Compatible
Length (inches) 7.2 6.3 7.5 7.7 7.23 7 8.5 11.61 8.25 6.09
Weight (ounces) 9.5 10.5 11.2 15.3 9.4 8.5 23.1 19.2 6.7 12
Help & Support
Warranty Lifetime 2 Year 1 Year 2 Year 1 Year 1 Year 10 Year 2 Year 2 Year 1 Year
Phone
Email
FAQs
 
 
 
Online user Manual