The best budget USB microphones make the process of recording and streaming music and speech simple (and affordable!). That’s their entire premise. Simply pop the cable into your laptop or tablet, and you’re ready to go. No messing around with mixers or audio interfaces; USB microphones are the ultimate in plug-and-play efficiency.
Now, in 2021, the current crop of USB mics we’re seeing are streets ahead of previous versions. 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. Let’s take a look at some of the best budget USB microphones out there today.
Looking for a great budget USB microphone deal? Check out our Black Friday music deals page for all the latest news and the biggest offers.
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 or Rode NT-USB, we’re actually opting for something newer in our recommended section. The Presonus Revelator isn’t much to look at, and it has a silly name, but look beyond that and you’ll find an outstanding microphone 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 thanks to its fantastic accompanying software package, which makes a good mic into a great mic in the right hands.
Best budget USB microphones: Product guide
Some USB mics 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.
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. 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 the full Razer Seiren X 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. For us, however, the OG Yeti is still hard to beat and an easy recommendation for one of the best budget USB microphones around.
Read the 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. 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.
Build quality is 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 the full Rode Podcaster review
If you already count things like a mixer or audio interface in your studio setup but want to add a bit of versatility to things, the Audio Technica AT2005USB would be a great choice. By combining USB connectivity with a traditional XLR output, as you’d find on a ‘regular’ mic, you can use a single microphone for a huge variety of applications. The AT2005USB is a dynamic mic, making it ideal for guitarists looking to record their practice sessions, although we’d factor the cost of a decent mic stand into the equation if you are able to.
Audio Technica is an established, trusted name in the mic world, so you can buy safe in the knowledge it won’t fall apart after a week, although if we were being picky we might point at the on/off slider switch and shudder slightly. AT has probably earned the benefit of the doubt though, and providing you’re not throwing this mic around the room you should be fine.
Read the full Audio Technica AT2005USB review
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; its cardioid pickup pattern makes it ideal for recording voices, and it can do music at a push, although if that’s your primary purpose there are possible 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 the full IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio review
Another of the first dedicated USB mics on the scene, the Rode NT-USB isn’t quite as old as the Yeti but it has been around long enough to prove its credentials. As a first USB mic for podcasters and musicians, it’s 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 in 2021, 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 the 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 the full IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2 review
Best budget USB microphones: Buying advice
What to look for in the best budget USB microphones
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, 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.
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, identical-looking 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 the category, and their mics can be relied upon to deliver great results.
What types of budget USB microphone are there?
You’ll find USB mics come in two ‘flavours’ - dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are generally tougher and more robust and work well with loud sound sources like guitar amps, yet they can lack a bit of finesse when it comes to recording speech. If podcasts and voice streaming are your goal, then a condenser might be the wiser choice.
Look as well at the connectivity of the mic; clearly, you’ll expect a USB connection (hence the name) but this could be in the form of micro USB or, more recently, USB C connections. Typically the amount of data (i.e. ones and zeros) that the mic is converting your voice into in order for it to be understood by the computer isn’t high enough for us to say a USB C connection should be mandatory, but with many newer computers and phones opting for that connection, it might be wiser to look for that. Plus, in our experience, USB C has far less of a ‘wiggle factor’ at the connection point, lowering the risk of it being yanked out mid take.
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.