Top 5 USB Microphones Under $200

best usb microphones reviewed

Universal Serial Bus (USB) equipped consumer devices have proliferated over the last decade and a half.  The USB was created in the mid 1990’s to standardize the bus, a computer architecture system made up of cables and connectors that transfers data between different components of a computer.

USB’s first applications were used in simple computer peripherals like keyboards, pointers/mouse and printer. USB’s interface is now ubiquitous among consumer devices where the technology allows almost anything to connect directly to a PC (personal computer), even an e-cigarette!

The USB has now made professional grade recording microphones available to the average musician and aspiring music producer.  With so many types of mics on the market, and at varying price points, it can be difficult to decipher which USB microphone is best and/or which USB recording mic provides you the best value.

What is USB – How Did We Get Here?

In simple terms, any device connecting to a computer requires at least three basic parts to interact and with each other – the CPU (Central Processing Unit) to process the data, the main memory to hold the data, and a peripheral device to communicate the data.

The PC boom in the 1990’s created a multitude of new peripherals, designed and manufactured by different companies, which led to a slew of compatibility issues where the external buses (expansions buses) of different products, from different companies, weren’t compatible and could not connect to PC’s.

The issue was eventually addressed when the 7 market leading computing companies at the time – Compaq, DEC, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, and Nortel – decided a system was needed to simplify software configuration of all devices – and the USB was born!

We won’t bore you with the history of microphones as there are many different types of mics whose mention is irrelevant to our discussion of what the best USB mic is, however, it’s worth understanding how far we’ve come in such little time.

Before the convenience of USB, most musicians had to record vocals in a live setting using some type of dynamic microphone, usually a cardioid, connected by large, clunky XLR Connectors to a serious of expensive amplifiers, preamps and mixers to capture the sound.  Contrast that scenario to plugging a USB chord into your computer and following the install instructions!

The simplicity USB provides in connecting recording mics to the computer has completely changed the landscape of music production by making home-studio recording available to the masses.

Choosing the Best USB Mic – For YOU!

One’s decision to buy a microphone is ultimately driven by the manner in which that person will use the microphone; on stage, for studio vocals, to mic instruments?

It’s a fairly obvious piece of advice but it makes a huge difference in the quality of sound you strive to produce.  We however are only interested in what the best USB microphone is and as such are unconcerned with stage and instrument mics although that’s not to say USB mics don’t pick up quality instrument sound if properly set up.

We want a USB microphone for its convenience, its ease of use and its affordability. When purchasing a USB microphone your checklist of features should include should include system requirements, microphone type, warranty, drivers, and price.

System Specifications

Spec Character Shows Specifications Details Particulars Or Desig

System specifications are the metrics that measure a microphones sound quality, duh.  Sound quality is made up of many different factors but there are a few primary specs that are most important for our purposes of choosing the best USB mic.

Polar Patterns describe a microphone’s field of sensitivity, meaning the direction from which the microphone accepts or ignores incoming sounds.  Polar Patterns describe how different types of mics “hear” noise and are a function of the shape of the microphone.  Many of the best USB microphones on the market come equipped with multiple polar patterns.

For the majority of USB mic users however, Cardioid pattern is the ideal polar pattern as it is optimal for voice clarity and vocal recordings.  The majority of USB microphones are designed with the cardioid polar pattern as the dominant setting although we have included an omnidirectional microphone in our list of the best USB Microphones because it’s of its strong versatility and overall value.

Frequency Response is another important measuring stick of a good microphone.  A microphones range of frequencies is measured in hertz (Hz & kHz), the higher the frequency range the higher the number of hertz.

For the USB microphone user looking for good voice quality you want a higher frequency response range – anything over 80 Hz – as you’ll want a microphone that can pick up all the different vocal frequencies of your voice.  Lower frequency response rates are good in microphones that attach to percussions and other instruments that don’t involve large variations in frequency.

SPL Capabilities are also important factors to analyze in your decision.  SPL stands for ‘sound pressure level’ and it measures the maximum volume a microphone can handle; SPL is measured in decibels (dBs).  In your research you’ll want to look for a USB mic that can handle a large SPL’s but at the same time, also has low Sensitivity (lacking a standard metric) which measures the how quiet of a sound the microphone can detect.  Usually the manufacturer will highlight these two terms as a pair since given their interplay on the overall quality of sound detected in recording mics.

Other Checklist Items:

Numerous microphone types exist – Condenser Mics, Dynamic Mics, Ribbon Mics, Carbon Mics, Piezoelectric Mics and a newly emerging class of microphones we’ll call ‘application specific mics,’ engineered specifically for certain types of instruments.  The ‘type’ or ‘variety’ of microphone historically referred to its transducer principle – how the mic converts energy to sound.  Dynamic Microphones have become the standard for live recordings and now even studio recordings as they are rugged and resistant to moisture and also have a high degree of SPL handling capabilities.  For these reasons we suggest starting your search in the class of dynamic mics.

There are also other, less technical aspects to consider when searching for the best USB microphone, such as:

Drivers and compatibility should be at the top of your checklist after the specs, and in some cases even more important.

Is the mic compatible with both Mac and Windows, and if so do you have the correct version of operating system required for use?

Does the recording mic require installation drivers?  If you’re impatient you’ll most likely opt for the ‘plug and play’ USB mics that require little to no set up.

Warranty is also something to consider if you’re the type who has spider web cracks all over your iPhone.  Manufacturers have different warranties for different types of mics, it’s advised you reach out to customer service and request the manufacturer’s warranty.

Depending on the retailer the warranty may be different as well, for instance Newegg will provide their own warranty on top of the manufacturer’s warranty for certain products and devices so it’s always important to check.

Top 5 USB Microphones

Hand with a microphone from the monitor

Without further ado, here is our list of the best USB microphones on the market.  For our selection we created a system that takes into account price, functionality, durability and consumer reviews to reach our list.

  1.  Blue Mic YETI USB Condenser Microphone

    1. Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    2. 3 capsule condenser system provides 4 distinct polar pattern modes
    3. Perfect for Vocals, VoIP’s, musical instruments
    4. Plug & Play compatible with Mac and Windows
  2. Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

    1. Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    2. Provides two output systems – USB and XLR – for digital and analog output
    3. Plug & Play compatible with Mac and Windows
  3. CAD U37 Studio Condenser Recording Microphone

    1. Robust sensitivity control system provides rich SPL capabilities and bass reduction
    2. Built in pop filter
    3. Plug & Play compatible with Mac and Windows
  4. Blue Mic Snowball USB Microphone

    1. Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    2. Great for vocals and VoIP’s
    3. Plug & Play compatible with Mac and Windows
  5. Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone

    1. Switchable Cardioid or Omnidirectional polar patterns
    2. Frequency Response Range 20Hz – 18kHz
    3. Great for Voice recordings, field recording, voice recognition software.
    4. Bundled with Cakewalk recording software
    5. Plug & Play compatibility with Mac and Windows

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