The best USB microphones are part of the music and audio production world which has blown up in recent years. Where once using a microphone required a studio full of extra gear such as mixers, interfaces and other outboard gear, nowadays, USB mics offer a much easier way to do things. As a result, even those who would never consider investing in or using a microphone have taken the plunge - opening up entirely new markets for manufacturers.
The best USB microphones can be used for a vast number of musical and non-musical scenarios. Streaming, vlogging, podcasting and video conferencing, USB microphones are enjoying something of a golden era. The technology is mature enough that even the best budget USB microphones will provide exceptional results, and can be used to their full potential by people who’ve never even picked up a mic before. In this guide, we’re going to show some of the best USB mic options available to you right now, as well as explaining a bit about why they’ve become so popular.
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 USB microphones and what to know when buying one, then click the link. If you'd rather get to the products, then keep scrolling.
Best USB microphones: Our top picks
To know what the best USB microphone for you is, you'll need to know what you want to record. For speech and broadcast/podcast applications, the Rode Podcaster is an excellent choice. We liked the low-cut filter and general build quality, and have achieved great results in a studio setting.
For field or roving use, the IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2 ticks a lot of boxes too, and works extremely well with the bundled suite of apps from IK. A big shout also to the Blue Yeti; it might have been around the block, but for the vast majority of streamers it remains the top choice.
A newer entry on the block is the Shure MV7. With great brand pedigree, the option of USB and XLR connections, and killer bundled software, this is another great all-rounder USB microphone. It's also pretty versatile, which we love.
Best USB microphones: Product guide & reviews
Rode is arguably one of the better-known brands in recording microphones, particularly in the broadcast world, and in the Rode Podcaster USB mic there is the perfect example why. As a sister product to the Rode Procaster, the Podcaster has clearly been designed by people who understand the requirements of broadcast users and have included all that know-how in one simple package.
The Rode Podcaster has an in-built pop filter to capture those nasty plosives, and we liked the addition of a low-cut filter to nullify any low-frequency rumbles that might ruin a take. A tripod would have been nice but, overall, this is a superb microphone.
Read the full Rode Podcaster review
You can generally tell when a new product segment is being taken seriously when the respected brands get in on the act. Shure has been content to wait to release its flagship USB mic, and the results are well worth it. The Shure MV7 offers both USB and traditional XLR mic connectivity, so it will work both with audio interfaces and direct into your computer and retains that simplicity of operation that users demand.
We are big fans of the bundled software, which gives you fine control over a variety of settings, with a few presets to keep things easy for the uninitiated. It’s a step up, price-wise, from some of the other models on this list but you can’t go far wrong putting your trust in Shure to get it right. The Shure MV7 is a real success, and we can see it going on to dominate the field for years to come.
Read the full Shure MV7 review
- The best Shure MV7 deals
Perhaps the first and last word in USB microphones for many users, the Blue Yeti has been synonymous with the rise in popularity of streaming and vlogging. And for good reason too; the Yeti is easy to use, and is extremely versatile thanks to its four pickup patterns. We’ve seen them used for podcasts, for recording musical instruments and for all manner of different studio applications.
One thing it doesn’t have in its favour is portability. Beast by name, beast by nature. But, providing it’s being bought with studio use in mind, the Blue Yeti is still the mic to beat.
Read the full Blue Microphones Yeti review
- Today's best Blue Microphones Yeti deals
For podcasts, voiceovers or other speech-driven formats, the Rode NT-USB is well worth a look. It’s relatively small and unobtrusive, but the results gained from the cardioid condenser capsule are quite phenomenal.
We liked the included carry case and six metre USB cable, and the removable pop shield further enhances its speech credentials, however we’d advise upgrading to a more substantial tripod for longer term use.
Read the full Rode NT-USB review
- The best Rode NT-USB and Rode NT-USB Mini deals available today
We’re not going to go too deep in debating the relative merits of USB and XLR microphones, which is just as well seeing as the Audio-Technica AT2005USB offers both connections. For a shade under $/£80 you get a sturdy, all-metal dynamic mic which isn’t going to win any awards for recorded sound quality, but it might just save you in a number of different situations.
We can see these being extremely popular as back-ups, thanks to the extra versatility offered by both USB and XLR, while the on/off switch – never guaranteed at this level – is a nice feature to have. Just remember to turn it on before you go live…
Read the full Audio-Technica AT2005USB review
If you ever find yourself in the presence of a broadcast news reporter, there’s a high chance you’ll see an IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2. These unassuming plug-and-play mics have grown in popularity with the broadcast crowd on account of their ease of use, great sound quality and native support for Apple mobile devices.
Now in its second iteration, the iRig Mic HD offers that winning combination of simple operation, low price and high performance. Well worth your time.
Read the full IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD 2 review
Anyone with an interest in home studios and recording has likely come across Mackie on their travels. The American brand specialises in producing cost-effective gear to get beginner and intermediate studios up and running, and in the Mackie EM-USB has now expanded its focus to meet newer demands.
The EM-USB has a few neat touches, including an onboard mute button – handy for those mid-sentence sneezes – and it’s nice to see a USB-C connection included too.
Read our full Mackie EM-USB review
Great things can happen when dedicated, optimised hardware and software packages come together. The Shure MOTIV MV51 is a great example, working with the accompanying MOTIV application in perfect harmony. Which is handy, because the MV51 is geared towards iOS users above others, who can use the app to gain quick access to useful tone-shaping tools and presets.
For speech applications, this is a superb package and worth the price alone. For music, however, we’d perhaps look to other, more specialist options.
Read the full Shure MOTIV MV51 review
Take a look on YouTube or Twitch now and you’ll see even the most basic streaming setups include an external USB mic. Gaming peripheral brand Razer knows this, and has branched out to include a small range of USB mics to appeal to these producers. The result is the Razer Seiren X, which is a small, unobtrusive mic which is ideal for desk-based setups.
Interestingly they’ve opted for a super-cardioid pickup pattern, whereby the axis for capturing sound is reduced slightly and the area which rejects ambient noise is increased. This is perfect for streamers, but also for podcasters where the user will largely be in a static location speaking directly into the mic. We like the look of it, with its matt black finish, making for a great low-cost option for anyone looking to buy their first USB mic.
Read the full Razer Seiren X review
A common complaint thrown at USB mics is that they can’t be as good as a regular mic, because they are comparatively cheap. While that perhaps has more to do with the demographic they’re aimed at, there is an argument that USB mics are well accepted enough now that there should be some more advanced models to choose from. The Apogee HypeMic answers this, by offering a high level of audio quality – 24-bit/98kHz – with the same levels of overall performance you’d expect from Apogee. The jewel in the HypeMic’s crown is its on-board compressor, which gives you three levels of compression to help tame dynamic voices for that radio-style consistency.
Admittedly, the HypeMic is going to be way above what the majority of users need, but if pristine audio is a deal-breaker for you, and you have the cash to spare, then it’s well worth your consideration.
Read our full Apogee HypeMic review
We might pretend it doesn’t matter, but if a microphone is going to take centre stage in your vlogs or streaming sessions, then it doesn’t hurt for it to look interesting. The AKG Lyra is perhaps the most visually striking mic we’re recommending, but it also has a huge amount of versatility going on under its vintage exterior. Four separate capsules mean you can access a variety different polar patterns depending on the situation in which you’re recording, while the audio quality is also superb.
Admittedly, the looks will put some off but if you can get past that, the Lyra is a well-priced, feature-packed USB mic with plenty to offer.
Read our full AKG Lyra review
Best USB Microphones: Buying advice
Choosing the best USB microphone for you
MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.
The beauty behind any of the best USB microphones around is that, by design, they're easy devices to use. With a regular microphone, you'll need a connection to an audio interface or a mixer to make it usable, Whereas a USB mic requires only a spare port on your computer, laptop or smart device. All of the signal processing is taken care of within the mic itself, which assumes the role of audio interface and usually offers a way to monitor directly by connecting a pair of headphones. You don’t need any other gear, and that’s why they’re so popular right now - especially among those who've never used a mic before.
How to start a podcast: a beginner's guide to podcasting
We know that the connection and basic operation of all USB mics is simple and straightforward - and the same in nearly every instance - so what else should you be looking for instead and what features could make the difference for your needs?
A key characteristic of any microphone that is worth considering is its pickup pattern. The pickup pattern dictates the direction (or directions) in which the microphone will pick up sound. The most common pattern is 'cardioid' which is where the mic picks up the sound from very specific direction, and rejects noise coming from anywhere else. This pattern is most often used for vocal microphones, as if you're speaking or singing, chances are you'll be in the right place - and you'll want to avoid anything else getting picked up in your USB microphone.
Alternatively, some mics feature bi-directional or omni-directional patterns, meaning they take audio from two sides or from all around the mic respectively. These pickup patterns are useful if you’re aiming to use a single mic to collect audio from multiple angles like, for example, at a round table session.
Some of the best podcasting microphones have features such as a high-pass (or low-cut) filter to help eliminate extreme low-end rumble and noise. Some microphones also include shock-reducing mounts to combat accidental vibrations and their resulting sounds.
What’s important is to find the USB microphone that fits your needs. The requirements of a music recording studio will be different to someone who simply wants to level-up their FaceTime or Zoom setup, for example. There are plenty of options to choose from though, for all budgets and ability levels.
How we test USB microphones
Our testing process for USB microphones is a little different to our usual microphone testing process. USB mics play a very different role compared to most other recording microphones in the fact that they're more often designed to record a human voice than any type of instrument. They're also obviously designed to plug directly into a computer, so the amount (and type) of signal processing is also different to that of a regular mic.
While testing USB mics, for the aforementioned reasons, we've found it's best to focus on voice recording quality, then, often comparing these often cheaper microphones with similarly spec'd studio vocal microphones or standards in the podcasting arena.
When focusing on vocals we take into account how microphones handle artefacts like sibilance and what has been provided to cut down such an occurrence – a pop shield might well come with the microphone, either separately or built into it, for example. Podcasting mics also tend to come with other items like podcast recording software designed to get you up and running in the world of podcasting, a desktop mount to place the mic firmly next to your computer and (usually) some kind of carry case, so these are all taken into account when we look at value for money.
While podcasting mics are generally aimed at vocal recording, it's always good to stretch them a little in our tests to see whether they are any good at recording acoustic guitar or, more likely, singing. Having a flexible microphone that can be used for studio tasks as well as broadcasting your opinions can't be sniffed at, and some podcasting microphones are surprisingly adept at recording other instruments.
Obviously the final factor is price. USB mics tend to be cheaper than their studio equivalent so we take this into account with our overall findings and balance up whether it's worth paying more for a studio vocal mic and interface to get 'proper' BBC radio vocals for (sometimes) not that much more outlay.
Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.
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