USB Microphone Buyers’ Guide
There was a time when recording of audio was considered to be a pretty big task, but thanks to the advancement of modern technology, this task is now easy. No matter how challenging a recording situation is, you can always make a quality recording using a good microphone.
There are a lot of different microphones available and all of these microphones are designed to serve a different purpose. If you’ve made up your mind to buy a USB microphone, it’s best to do some research before choosing which microphone to buy; they each have different qualities and specs on offer. In this way, you can buy the best USB microphone to suit your needs.
An important thing that should be kept in mind is that a USB microphone has both advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional microphones. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference and what you actually want out of your own microphone that will be the determining factor of whether you opt for a USB or traditional microphone.
One of the advantages of a USB microphone is that they’re easy to use. Most USB microphones have a plug-and-play option, so you can start using the microphone straight out of the box without installing any software and drivers. You also don’t need any additional audio equipment when using a USB microphone, unlike traditional microphones. If you have a computer or a laptop with a USB port, the process is simple. Plug the USB connector into the port and your USB microphone will automatically be enabled and ready to use.
Since USB microphones don’t require any additional audio device or a separate interface, they’re really cost effective compared to traditional microphones. USB microphones are a great option for anyone on a tight budget. On the other hand, USB microphones have their own limitations. We all know that mixing boards and audio interfaces take the audio quality of the microphone to an entirely different level and they are more often used with traditional microphones. For cheap options, try these audio interfaces for under 200 dollars.
The Ability to Convert to Digital Audio
When discussing traditional microphones, the analog to digital conversion is done by audio interfaces or mixing boards. This isn’t the case with USB microphones because this capability comes built-in with a USB microphone. So you have to be very particular about this factor because it will affect three important things and later on, will have an impact on the overall recording quality of the microphone. The three things that the digital conversion depends upon are the sample rate, the bit depth, and the latency of the microphone.
The speed at which the microphone is able of capturing frequencies audible to the human ear is referred to as the sample rate. Now you have to be very selective. The USB microphone you buy should have at least the standard sample rate of 44.1 kHz.
Anything less means that your microphone won’t be able to provide you with quality recordings. Professional AV equipment is generally between 48 and 96 kHz; this equipment is specially designed for the best editing options and the best definition.
Bit depth will actually determine the details and the clarity that you get from your recordings. The bit depth should also be at a minimum of a standard level, int his case 16 bit. Professional audio is generally 24-bit depth. This depth is also found in some of the high-end USB microphones.
The latency is the time delay that you’ll find in microphones. By delay, we’re referring to the time taken from when you speak into the microphone to converting it into digital a signal and then being able to hear it in your headphones. The entire duration from speaking to hear is the latency of the microphone. If you’re using a microphone for monitoring simultaneously with recording, this is really important. The lower the latency, the better the quality of the microphone.
Going for a USB microphone with the lowest latency rate is ideal for optimum performance. You’ll find some USB microphones on the market that have a headphone output on them, and this actually helps in completely eliminating or reducing the latency to a great extent so that you can monitor your recordings in real time.
Whether to go for a condenser or a dynamic microphone
Dynamic microphones (click here for the top 10) are more commonly used for in-house applications like live stage performances. Dynamic mics are the more rugged of the two and can handle large sound sources. At the same time, dynamic mics are also very good at reducing handling noise, hence their use in live stage applications.
Condenser mics are usually found in USB microphones. Since the application of USB microphones is primarily an in-house or an in-studio one for the purpose of recording, they use condenser mics that have a reputation of delivering better transient response and also extended frequency response.
There are some high-end dynamic microphones available that come equipped with a USB port so that you can easily use them, regardless of the application.
The Microphone’s Diaphragm Size
Whether using a traditional microphone or a USB microphone, the size of the diaphragm is equally important. Since the diaphragm of any microphone is the first component in picking up the sound, the size of it does indeed matter. If the diaphragm of the microphone is big, it has a better capability of picking up lower sound frequencies compared to microphones with a smaller diaphragm. The sensitivity of a large diaphragm microphone, when compared with a smaller diaphragm microphone, is also much better.
Small diaphragm microphones are really good at recording acoustic instruments like guitars and in addition to high-pitched instruments.
Polar Patterns of the Microphone
You need to determine the application of your microphone before hitting the stores and picking one up. The different polar or pickup patterns are described below to help you make the best decision.
There’s a reason why this type of microphone is called a cardioid; its shape is like the human heart. Cardioid microphones are best known for picking up sounds from only the front and reducing sounds coming from the sides. If you’re recording sound in a room but don’t want any unnecessary external room noise, then this type of pickup pattern is the best choice for you.
When you want to capture all the sounds in the room, record instruments or even simply record the voices of several people speaking or singing at the same time, the omnidirectional microphone is your best bet. Since they have the ability to pick up sound from multiple sources and from multiple directions, they are best suited for this application.
The multi-pattern pickup is equipped with both the patterns we just covered. For this reason, it’s also known as a switchable microphone. There will be situations when you want your microphone to have a cardioid pickup pattern, but other times you may want an omnidirectional pickup pattern. If you have a microphone capable of providing you with both options, it increases the flexibility that you get from your microphone.
USB Microphone Features
Unlike traditional microphones, USB microphones usually come equipped with a number of features and control switches. Some of the features that you’ll get with USB microphones are a volume control, so that you may have complete command over the output of your microphone; a polar pattern switch as mentioned earlier; a bass boost switch or a mute button to actually cut off the microphone’s signal. The more features a USB microphone has, the more you should expect to pay for it.
Blue is one of the best brands in the USB microphones business. It’s renowned for coming up with exceptional USB microphones which are compatible with all sorts of applications but are also equipped with numerous features.
The Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone is one of the very best of the USB microphones available. It has everything you’d expect from the very best. It’s a condenser microphone so it captures crystal clear audio. It’s also considered to be a very good microphone for your YouTube recordings. You can use it directly out of the box as it’s plug and play.
The Blue Yeti USB Microphone is one of the best USB microphones of modern times. It’s capable of giving you all the necessary features and outputs that you could want in a USB microphone. It’s equipped with multiple polar patterns to give you plenty of flexibility.
It uses tri-capsule technology to give you the very best recordings regardless of the situation. It also comes in with a gain control and mute button. This is arguably the perfect choice for anyone looking to get the best quality USB microphone; it’s capable of doing wonders.
The Fifine Plug & Play Home Studio USB Condenser Microphone for Skype, Recordings for YouTube, Google Voice Search, Games(Windows/Mac)-K668 has everything packaged into an affordable, great quality mic.
This USB microphone comes with a wide frequency response so it only delivers brilliant sound. This USB microphone uses a cardioid pattern so that it only picks up sound from the main audio source and eliminates any unwanted room sound. The audio that you get from this microphone is crystal clear without any hiccups or unwanted sounds.
Whatever you are using the USB Microphone, Fifine Plug &Play Home Studio USB Condenser Microphone for Skype, Recordings for YouTube, Google Voice Search, Games(Windows/Mac)-K668 for recording the best quality singing or speak, or simply using it for Skype chatting, this USB microphone is just amazing.
Gain Knob Benefits – For recording vocals or live instruments, having an embedded gain knob on the microphone itself can be extremely helpful. This way, you can easily capture just enough sound and seamlessly switch up your settings for recording different sources. While you can do this within your DAW to a degree, this feature undoubtedly gives you more control over your sound.
Are USB Microphones Any Good?
If we talk about the functionality of the USB microphones when compared to the traditional microphones, they are good and tick off all the boxes.
USB microphones are as good as traditional microphones since the working mechanism of both is almost the same. As far as the effectiveness of the microphone is concerned, you can bet USB microphones are excellent.
Do USB Microphones Provide the Same Sound Quality?
The answer to this question is a simple yes. USB microphones are capable of providing almost the same sound quality as traditional microphones. The major difference between the two is the difference in applications that they are used for. Traditional microphones are used in live settings while USB microphones are used more of in-house or in-studio.
What Should I Look for When Choosing a USB Microphone?
Here are a quick recap and overview of the things to look for when going for a USB microphone.
- Its ability to convert to digital audio
- The size of its diaphragm
- The polar patterns that it has
- The features that it is equipped with
What are the Best USB Microphones?
All the microphones on this list have the ability to serve the purpose for which they are designed for and are considered to be the best on the market. If they have any extra features it just adds icing on the cake.
What is the Best USB Microphone for Home Recording?
As has already been stated above, the primary application of the USB microphone is in-house, so most of the USB microphones that are considered to be good are great at providing the best quality for home recordings. If you want to be a bit more specific though; USB microphones with extended frequency response are really good for home recordings.