Best USB Microphones
Let’s start of with something that most of us can afford without it affecting our budgets too much. CAD U37 is pretty much the cheapest you should go and still expect to have some decent sound quality and at least some confidence that the mic is gonna be somewhat future proof. You don’t wanna feel like replacing the mic after you get more serious about whatever you’re gonna be using this thing for.
Right as you pick the CAD U37 out of it’s plastic packaging you’re not gonna get the impression that this is a premium product – but that’s a trade-off that makes sense considering the price tag. It’s packed in one of those practically impenetrable plastic boxes, that might as well be the least user-friendly packaging there is.
The stand that it comes with is actually pretty nice and serves its purpose somewhat well. On the front of the microphone you’ll find a blue LED light which is always on, and therefore might be annoying if you’re one of the people who rarely turn their computers off. You’ll also find a 10db overload protection switch which serves the purpose of minimizing distortion if you’re speaking into microphone too loudly, and a bass-reduction knob on the bottom which allows you to eliminate some of the background noises if you ever need to.
Summary: If you’re someone looking for a microphone that’s not gonna cost you much, and you’re also not too worried about sounding the best you can – this is probably a good start. You’ll see what a decent microphone is capable of, and you’re likely not gonna be disappointed by what you’re getting at this price range.
Samson Go Mic Portable
Next up we have something that’s not really your average microphone in the sense that everyone is gonna want one. The Samson Go Mic is made for people who want something small and portable, and still keep some of the quality that the larger premium microphones offer.
This microphone is tiny, and it almost feels like you’re holding a miniature version of the real thing. Nonetheless it feels pretty sturdy and well made – and although we’re still on the territory of plastic-made bodies, this mic just seems very well thought-out. You basically get this small square-shaped thing which then can either stand on your desk or be clipped on the screen of your laptop/desktop if you prefer it that way, and you can just fold the microphone and put it in your pocket when you’re done.
The sound quality is actually pretty decent when you consider that it’s coming from such a small microphone, but this shouldn’t be a surprise considering that it’s made by Samson.
Summary: As said in the opening paragraph, this microphone is a niche product meant for people who travel a lot and want something portable as an alternative to a bad laptop microphone. Not that it can’t serve as a regular desktop microphone, because if you take away the portability aspect this is just a very good microphone to have on your desk at all times.
Blue Microphones Snowball
Snowball mic is hugely popular among people who do podcasts and talk-shows on an amateur level, and as such gives you somewhat of an idea whether it fits your needs or not. The sound you get from it is arguably very close to the previous two mics listed, and will hardly be the factor to influence your decision. It all comes down to convenience and whether you think the mic is pretty or not (we tend to agree with latter).
But those personal preferences aside, it’s hard to deny the fact that the Snowball mic got so many things right. It’s awfully convenient and beginner friendly, it comes with everything you’ll need to set it up within minutes, and it’s one of the few mics that focuses on user customization – meaning you can actually chose the color of the mics to fit your preferences.
Summary: If one of our less tech-savvy friends asked us for a advice about buying a mic that they could use for Skype calls and maybe even to record some of their music, wewould probably recommend them this one. Whether you see that as us complimenting this mic or not, should be a clue by itself on whether Snowball is a right fit for you.
Samson Meteor Mic
Here’s a really good microphone for all the people who enjoy the idea of owning a brand-name product, and still getting away with paying less than what is expected. Samson Meteor Mic is basically an alternative for the Go Mic which we discussed previously, with an obvious improvement in sound and build quality.
Samson Meteor Mic comes in a pretty nice packaging, well secured and cushioned from all sides. The mic itself looks premium and very stylish, with chrome finishing and somewhat vintage-inspired design. Three legs that fold away from the body are highly adjustable so you can tilt the microphone at an angle to speak more directly to it.
Controls are very basic – you just get a volume knob and and on/off switch on the front. On the back of the mic you’ll find the USB port, and the standard headphone jack for monitoring – which is a pretty handy feature!
Summary: If you’re just ascending from a cheap $5 Walmart microphone, the Samson Meteor Mic will definitely blow your mind. It is made by people who know what they are doing, and you can use this mic for basically anything – from talking to your friends online, to recording instruments and singing. If anything, this microphone is our personal favorite as far as the value for money goes.
We are slowly but steadily entering the big league. Audio-Technica AT2020 could be viewed as the entry ticket to the party of professional sound engineers and producers, and as such should be good enough for almost any task you throw at it.
The very first impression you get when you pick up the microphone out of the box is that the whole thing is just very solid and built to last — although somewhat small in size and form-factor. The design of AT2020 is very pleasing and simplistic, without unnecessary ‘bling’ and nonsense. This becomes even more obvious after meeting the fact that the microphone has no physical controls on it whatsoever – which means that you’ll have to do all the settings though a program or a mixer.
As far as connectivity, the microphone comes in two versions – XLR and USB. The USB version is a little bit more expensive but comes with a small tripod stand, and is obviously more convenient for people looking for a simple plug-and-play solution.
Summary: If you wanna go the safe way and invest in something that is likely to serve you for years to come, but still stay on a relatively low budget, AT2020 is a product that will certainly deliver. You’d be surprised of how many professionals use this exact microphone, even though it is still relatively affordable considering how high the price goes when it comes to microphones and studio equipment as a whole.
Blue Microphones Yeti
If you ever explored the subject of desktop microphones online it is very likely that you heard about the Blue Microphones brand. They are especially popular among YouTube personalities and gamers, as well as some podcasters and amateur musicians.
The Blue Yeti in contrast to the previously mentioned AT2020 is packed with some very useful on-board features. On the back side of the microphone you’ll find a gain knob and a knob for choosing a pickup pattern between cardioid, bidirectional (or interview), omnidirectional and stereo. On the front you’ll find a mute button (extremely useful during live broadcasting), and a volume control to use while monitoring through the headphone jack on the bottom of the microphone.
The physical aspect of the microphone is something worth praising as well, mainly regarding the practicality of the all-in-one idea behind the design. In contrast to their cheaper Snowball microphone, the Yeti leaves little to be desired in the field of aesthetics.
Summary: This is pretty much a go-to microphone for anyone starting their own podcast, home studio, or anything of the kind. You just can’t go wrong with a product like this which has been tested out and recommended over and over again, almost always with overwhelming enthusiasm and respect for the brand.
Although somewhat of a new kid on the block, Rode NT-USB already found it’s place among those few products that achieve almost unanimous positive response from users. Many people who ended up testing and owning this mic consider it to be the ‘holy grail’ of budged USB professional microphones. That title is really hard to dispute because in all honestly it’s almost impossible to find a flaw or something that should’ve been done better on this mic.
Sound quality is best described as transparent, meaning you get a very clean and natural sound – still not comparable to an XLR mic, but surprisingly good for a USB one. The build quality is just phenomenal, and the mic looks and feels like a professional piece of equipment. The packaging includes a tripod stand, and a pop shield – which is a thing of beauty by itself.
Summary: It’s really hard to top the NT mic from Rode. If your priority is getting the most natural sounding samples and you’re willing to invest some more money, Rode will deliver in all aspects. When you get to know it, everything below it will sound like crap, and everything above it will make it hard to justify spending more money on.
Although the couple of mics mentioned before this one should be good enough for most people, for those few of you who want the best of the best here’s something really special – the one mic to rule them all.
From the design itself it is pretty clear that the intended use for hands-free use, and making to whole ordeal of recording yourself as easy and as simple as possible. The controls on the front panel allow you to switch between a couple of different modes – Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud – all pretty much self-explanatory. You also have controls for mode selection, headphone volume, microphone gain, and mute. All the buttons are touch sensitive, which really isn’t something we’re fond of, but it’s all personal preference.
Only question that arises is – is it worth paying almost double the price of an AT2020 for something that realistically will not deliver double the performance? Well, this is obviously not bang for the buck product, and if you’re asking yourself that question you should probably avoid it. This is for people who are after the top of the line stuff, willing to pay an extra for an industry standard.
Summary: It all depends on your personal needs, but realistically looking this microphone is the one USB mic to rule them all. It’s simple, very intuitive to use, and it’s doesn’t get in your way at all. If you’re really looking to take your mic game to the next level, this could work – but note that USB is kind of a “dead end” in the sense that there’s a limit with what you can do with it. An XLR mic on the other side, coupled with a decent mixer would be a lot more versatile and future proof option.