The best budget USB microphones make the process of recording and streaming music and speech simple and, even more important in these belt-tightening times, supremely affordable! To be fair, that’s the entire premise of this category of mic. Simply pop the cable into your laptop or tablet, and you’re ready to start creating. There's no messing around with mixers or audio interfaces here; USB microphones are the ultimate in plug-and-play efficiency.
Now, the current crop of budget USB mics we’re seeing are streets ahead of previous versions offering way more bang for your buck. It’s a technology that’s popular and has matured as time has gone on. But it doesn’t have to cost the earth to own one yourself.
We've included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more about the best budget USB microphones, click the link. If you'd rather get straight to out top picks, then keep scrolling.
Best budget USB microphones: Our top picks
While there are budget USB mics in our list which have plenty in the way of pedigree, like the Blue Yeti, Rode NT-USB or AKG Lyra, we’re actually opting for something newer in our recommended section. The Presonus Revelator isn’t much to write home about in the looks department, and it has a pretty silly name, but look beyond that and you’ll find an outstanding microphone for recording with specific functionality - like Loopback - that you can’t find on others at this price point.
Shout out to IK Multimedia too, with the iRig Mic HD 2 still the first choice of many professionals wanting USB-connectivity on a budget, thanks to its fantastic accompanying software package, making a good mic into a great mic in the right hands.
Best budget USB microphones: Product guide
Some USB microphones on this list offer much more than basic microphone duties. The Presonus Revelator, if you can excuse the bizarre name, is one such offering, packing in a quality condenser mic capsule with a fully-fledged audio interface. Its biggest trick is with something called Loopback, which takes care of the otherwise tricky task of recording audio coming from another application. You might, for example, want to capture the audio from a Zoom call, or your gaming stream, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. This alone opens it up to a wider audience, so kudos to Presonus for that.
It’s not the most attractive mic on the list, thanks in no small part to the mic base, but look past that and you’ll find a highly capable, great sounding mic with a few tricks that none of the others here can compete with.
Read our full PreSonus Revelator review
Gamers and streamers know the importance of a clear voice channel. Whether it’s making yourself heard in co-op, or ensuring viewers can follow your streaming adventures, a decent USB mic can make all the difference. And where it used to be traditional mic brands that had the monopoly, now gaming brands like Razer are getting in on the act.
The Razer Seiren X is a great example. You can tell from the aesthetic which users will gravitate towards this, but even if you’re not part of the RGB faithful, there’s a lot to like here and we got on great with it in our tests. The Seiren X is small, nicely designed and features an integrated base so there are no extra accessories needed. It does the job for which it’s intended very nicely, and all for a very attractive price indeed.
Read our full Razer Seiren X review
The worthy recipient of NAMM 2021 Tec Award, the Lyra is a rather ingenious do-it-all budget USB microphone that represents astounding value when you consider its comprehensive multi-use feature set.
Hidden within its smart retro futuristic metal body is an array of four condenser mic capsules, set up in a double bank stereo configuration. One pair of capsules faces towards the front, while the other faces towards the rear, providing all-round coverage.
The clever bit is that you can choose from four capture modes to best suit your subject and artistic intentions: Front, Front & Back, Tight Stereo and Wide Stereo.
Front mode will suit most recording applications, from podcasting and voiceovers to vocals, while Tight Stereo and Wide Stereo are a godsend for recording multiple members of an ensemble or wide ambient spaces.
Front & Back caught our attention most because, just like a Figure-8 mic, it enables podcasters to interview guests without having to fork out for an additional mic, or suffer the complexity of setting one up. This mode is also perfect for recording a singer and an instrumentalist, or two instrumentalists – most duos, really.
What you’re getting here, for a street price of around $/£150, is a mic from a reputable brand that can handle just about anything. If you’re starting out, have a limited budget and don’t yet have a firm idea of what you’ll be recording then the Lyra is a great investment.
Read the full AKG Lyra review
One of the first USB microphones on the scene was the Blue Microphones Yeti which is still, over a decade since it launched, one of the best-selling mics on the market. It achieved popularity at first thanks to its simple operation, great design and versatility from its four separate pickup patterns, which allowed it to shine in a variety of different situations.
Nowadays, the Yeti family has expanded to offer smaller versions, gamer-specific versions and versions with additional connectivity. In our experience, however, the OG Yeti is still hard to beat and an easy recommendation for one of the best budget USB microphones around. It's slightly pricier than some of the other mics on this list, hence it's a few places further down the guide, but if your budget will stretch, it's a no-brainer.
Read our full Blue Microphones Yeti review
There’s a lot to be said for buying a specialist tool for a specialist job. Where other mics on this list play up their versatility, the Rode Podcaster leaves you in no doubt as to what its intended use is - there's a reason it's the number one choice in our best budget podcasting microphones guide.
The Podcaster is a heavyweight mic - literally - without much in the way of frills. You get one pickup pattern, nothing in the way of pads or filters, and the package doesn’t even come with a tripod. This could be annoying for anyone starting up, but then this mic is perhaps intended for users upgrading from an existing mic to something suitable for a specific purpose.
In our tests we found the build quality to be amazing, with full metal construction giving the Podcaster a nice heft, although be careful once it’s mounted as its weight can cause it to topple easily. Sound quality is however superb, breathing magic onto speech in particular, and providing top quality performance right out the box.
Read our full Rode Podcaster review
Once upon a time there was a mic called the AT2020. It was conjured up to please podcasters, voiceover artists and musicians who couldn’t afford to pay a king’s ransom for a top-of-the-line microphone, but still needed something that sounded enchanting. It was a basic XLR mic that worked a treat, unless you only had a USB connector.
So, Audio Technica magicked up the AT2020USB+, which was essentially the same thing but with a USB-B connector instead of XLR. Disappointingly, it could only record at 16-bit, which is acceptable but far from ideal. After all, the standard for quality recordings is 24-bit, which is way more precise.
Fortunately, Audio Technica listened to its customers (and possibly some of its own recordings) and came up with a solution, the all-singing, all-dancing AT2020USB-X.
This little triumph can record in 24-bit depth, and up to 96kHz sampling rate, for far superior levels of accuracy and detail. The AT2020USB-X is also endowed with a sprinkling of other nice-to-have features including a touch sensitive mute button and an LED behind the grille that glows blue when the mic is live and red when it’s muted. At first sight the light looks a bit gimmicky but it’s actually very useful for podcasters and streamers.
Other than bit-depth the most welcome update for us is the inclusion of USB-C, which future-proofs the AT2020USB-X to a certain extent, but also brings plug ’n’ play compatibility with many modern mobiles and tablets.
Oh, the original AT2020 is still available if XLR is more your thing, and at a very reasonable price too.
IK Multimedia has a good heritage in creating recording and production gear designed around your smartphone, tablet or computer. Its long-standing iRig sub-brand has delivered audio interfaces and other connectivity products for a while, but with the iRig Mic Studio and its stablemates, there’s now a nicely stocked range of microphones for a range of different purposes.
The IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio is small but perfectly formed; we found its cardioid pickup pattern ideal for recording voices, and it can do music at a push too, although if that’s your primary purpose there are possibly other mics we’d recommend first. That said, the iRig Mic Studio is still a very competitive, nicely priced mic that will serve most users very well.
Read our full IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio review
When USB mics first appeared, they tended to be cheap, plasticky affairs aimed at the bottom-end of the market. If you wanted a robust, good quality mic of the sort that the pros use then you had no choice but to go down the XLR route, which tended to be expensive.
Thankfully the NEOM, together with some other mics in this guide, are proof that the big mic brands are now taking the middle ground seriously – USB-equipped mics that can rival their XLR counterparts for build quality and recording prowess.
sE touts the NEOM as a professional podcaster or content creator mic, and its team of engineers has clearly invested a lot of thought in its design. It’s a large diaphragm condenser, which means it’ll add a pleasing depth to most voices as well as a rich character to many instruments. It may be a little on the tall side, but when positioned in its stand, on a desk, the capsule is at near optimal height to speak into. So, it’s very easy to position.
With its all-metal body the NEOM is a solid mic that’s reassuringly hefty without being unnecessarily heavy. There’s certainly an old school weightiness to it though, and the fit and finish are flawless.
Those engineers are practically minded too. Instead of a fiddly single monitor mix dial you get two, one for mic level and the other for playback, giving you independent control over both. They also have a sense of humour – the gain dial goes all the way up to eleven!
sE has built a reputation for both excellence and value. In many ways, the NEOM is the perfect brand ambassador.
Yes, we know. At over $200 the MV7 isn’t really a ‘budget’ USB mic option but we’ve included it anyway because it is Shure’s cut-price version of its venerable SM7B, the choice of pro podcaster and voiceover artists the world over. It also deserves a place here because it’s a darned fine mic.
So, what makes it special? Unusually for a USB mic it’s dynamic, which means it’s an excellent performer in less than acoustically perfect rooms. If, like most podcasters, you’re broadcasting from a small spare bedroom or larger bare space, with undesirable sound bouncing off the walls and ceilings, then this is one of the best mics to tame your surroundings. Let rip with the MV7 and you’ll find that your voice shines through.
It's also a robust little mic that’s built to last, with a quality metal body and a durable mount that makes it easy to place anywhere without obscuring your face.
The icing on the cake is the included easy-to-use MOTIV software that provides a plethora of added functionality including auto gain, EQ, a limiter, a compressor and more.
Fundamentally though, this is a truly great sounding microphone that will flatter most voices. Which is what really matters.
Read the full Shure MV7 review
Another of the first dedicated USB mics on the scene, the Rode NT-USB isn’t quite as old as the Blue Yeti but it has been around long enough to prove its credentials. As a first USB mic for podcasters and musicians, we found it to be a superb option. The sound quality is high enough to make it suitable for acoustic instruments like guitars and strings, with the condenser pickup drawing plenty of nuance from the sound, while for voice work it also shines.
The design still stands up today, with its sleek black matt finish, while it’s also one of the smaller mics on the list which means it’s ideal for those of us with small spaces.
Read our full Rode NT-USB review
Sometimes products find themselves a niche and become synonymous with that role. The IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2 is one such mic, having found favour with roving reporters and journalists the world over. The reason is simple; by hooking the iRig Mic HD 2 to your smartphone or tablet, you have one of the best quality portable recording solutions on the market - certainly at this price bracket.
It’s well-designed, robust and the accompanying suite of apps from IK provide everything you’ll need to get out there and start work.
Read our full IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2 review
Best budget USB microphones: Buying advice
What to look for in the best budget USB microphones
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If you’re not inclined in the ways of music studios, or never had reason to own one, then shopping for a new budget USB microphone might be quite daunting. It really needn’t be, however, as we’ll explain. Essentially, at the budget end (for argument’s sake, let's say less than £/$200) there are loads of superb quality, well-designed mics that will serve a variety of purposes. That could, in your case, mean a mic you’ll have set up on your desk to improve your streaming setup. It could be the first purchase in your bid to start up the next great music podcast. Or it could even be a tool you use for work, for video calls or recording interviews. In each of the scenarios, a decent USB microphone will work brilliantly, and doesn't have to cost the earth.
There are a few things you should be looking out for when buying a budget USB microphone. Look on any global retailer and you’ll see hundreds of cheap, seemingly identical mics which, if we’re being charitable, could be described as limited. Far better, if your budget allows, to stick to one of the established names. Brands like Shure, Rode, IK Multimedia and Blue have real pedigree in this category, and their mics can be relied upon to deliver fantastic results.
What types of budget USB microphone are there?
You’ll find that USB mics come in two ‘flavours’ – condenser and dynamic. Condenser mics are more sensitive than dynamics because their impressive active circuitry boasts a broader frequency response. This characteristic makes them perfect for picking up every nuance of your voice or subject, from deep, low bass to sparkly highs.
Dynamic mic capsules have a less sophisticated design, which makes them less sensitive but a little more robust. In use, they’re not quite so good at capturing the lows or the top end.
So, condenser mics are a no-brainer, right? Not always. Their excellent ability to pick up every sound is a disadvantage if you’re planning to record in noisy environments or particularly reverberant rooms. Every hint of background noise and every reflection will intrude on your subject, making it less easy to hear.
The top end is where sibilance sits too, that’s the irritating hissing ‘s’ sound you often hear when people speak words like ship, essence and glass into a microphone. HVAC systems also plague both the low end with rumble, and the high end with hiss and squeals.
In short, if you’re in a well-controlled environment then a condenser is the way to go. If, however, you’re forced to make do with a noisier environment, a room with lots of reflections, or you’re a mobile creator recording in a variety of locations, then a dynamic mic makes more sense. Either, when used for the correct application, can sound wonderful.
Budget USB mics will be directional to a greater or lesser degree, depending on their polar patterns.
Many will feature a cardioid pattern, which captures sound mostly from the front with less sensitivity to the sides and rear. This is the ideal pattern for the majority of vocal, voice and instrument recording applications, which is why it is so popular.
You may find a budget USB mic on your shortlist that has a super-cardioid pattern, which as the name suggests has a tighter pickup pattern than regular cardioid. These are ideal for excluding surrounding noises, if that’s a problem, but will work well in most environments too. Hyper-cardioids are tighter still, so great for rejecting any off-axis source. Of course, that will include you if you move even slightly away from the mic, so use with caution.
Omnidirectional mics, aka omnis, pick up sound from all around. They sound wonderful, with a very natural, open character that exhibits a lovely bass response. Their strength, the ability to capture everything, is often their undoing because they tend to pick up a lot of undesirable background noise.
Budget USB mics with figure-8 patterns are uncommon, but they can be very useful for one particular application. Figure-8 patterns pick up sound equally from the front and rear of a mic, while rejecting it from the sides, which makes them ideal for recording two podcasters with just the one mic.
Most budget mics feature a single pattern, but a few offer a selection that you can switch between. The AKG Lyra goes a step further with its array of capsules that can be mixed and matched to constrict or extend the stereo field.
What extras do you need for your budget USB microphone?
Finally, think of the form factor of the mic, and the accessories you’ll need to get the best out of it. If you’re keeping it in a static location, like a desktop, then a good quality stand or boom arm is essential. The mic you choose may come with one, but upgrading to one with a sturdy base might be something to consider in the future. Also, look out for any bundled software that comes with the mic. The fact they function by connecting to a computer means they’re designed to work with recording or streaming software, so it’s worth looking up what added extras you get for your money.
Other budget USB mic features and controls to consider
The best feature every USB mic shares is USB connectivity. Up until quite recently, the vast majority of mics had bulky XLR connectors that added expense, weight and the complexity of requiring a separate audio interface. The USB standard has enabled mics to become smaller, lighter, cheaper and far less complicated to use for amateur and even pro-am applications. Need a small, portable mic that can sit connected directly to your laptop in your studio, yet can also be easily carried with your phone to record interviews in the field? USB is your friend.
My mother used to reassure me that looks aren’t important. Sorry mum, you were wrong. If you’re a vlogger or content creator who regularly posts to YouTube or Vimeo then you’re going to want a mic that looks the part. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so that may be a smaller mic that doesn’t obscure your face when you’re talking, or it could be one that best matches the aesthetic of your set.
The big brands are producing some fantastic looking mics these days, so there’s really no need to settle for an ugly block of black plastic anymore. Whether you go unobtrusive, or loud ’n’ proud, is up to you.
Most budget USB mics will have a few basic features and controls, such as a mute button, a headphone socket, a gain control, a volume control and a mix control. The gain control boosts the mic’s signal strength so that you can get a good, clean recording. Dial in too little gain and your subject will sound quiet, with a lot of intrusive noise. Too much and your recording will sound clipped and distorted.
The volume knob may be combined with the mix dial, but either way, these controls enable you to monitor both your subject and any sounds emanating from your laptop whilst recording. For example, a singer will be able to monitor how their live vocal sounds against tracks playing on a DAW or, depending on the set-up, a podcaster may be able to hear other guests contributing to a discussion.
Less commonly, controls may be included to switch polar patterns, attenuate the input level (known as PAD) or, in the case of a mic such as the AKG Lyra, select particular capsules from an array.
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