USB Microphone Buying Guide

Using a USB microphone buying guide is the best way to make sure that you get a quality microphone that will meet your needs without breaking the bank. With so much new technology being released all of the time, it can be extremely difficult to know what USB microphone will best meet your needs.

If you’re in the market but don’t know where to start, then consider this guide, follow the steps, and you’re sure to end up making a purchase that you’ll love.

The USB Microphone Buying Guide For The Budding Broadcaster

Image of a usb microphone in a usb microphone buying guideQuestions First-Time USB Microphone Buyers Should Ask Themselves

  • What’s My Budget? Nobody wants to think about limiting himself or herself when he or she is going shopping, especially for new technology, but USB microphones can get very pricey quickly. If you know that you can only spend a certain amount, then you will be able to limit your search to options that fall within your price range. Not only will this save you time during your search but it will keep you from becoming frustrated by your price limit. There’s no reason to waste time looking at microphones that you can’t afford when you could be picking out a great option that you can.
  • What Do I Need a Microphone for? Just because a USB microphone worked for your friend doesn’t mean that the same one will work for you. More and more people are using them as a less-expensive and easier alternative to full traditional microphones. If you are going to be running a podcast or recording piano or vocals, then these condenser mics are going to work perfectly for you. By knowing what you’re going to record, you can make sure that you get the best recording possible with your new mic.
  • What Kind of Recording Resolution Do I Need? Higher resolutions are always going to come with a heftier price tag so really think about what kind of resolution you need. USB microphones can convert analog to digital easily and this conversion is categorized by both the sample rate and audio bit. Most available USB microphones have the same bit depth and resolution as CDs but you can buy ones that have a higher resolution. Of course, you will have to pay for that higher resolution but if you need it, then it is worth the increase in price.
  • What Will I Be Recording on? There are more and more USB microphones available now that will sync with an app for your tablet or smartphone and allow you to record on those instead of on your computer. If you will be recording on the go or simply want more flexibility, then you will need to look for a microphone with this feature. By knowing where you will be doing most of your recording, you can be sure to buy a microphone that will meet your needs.

Image of a usb microphoneTypes of USB Microphones

While USB microphones are incredibly useful because they can simply be plugged in and used without a lot of confusing and time-consuming setup, there are really only two main types that you can choose from. While some people are happy about the limited choices because it makes it easier to buy a microphone without a lot of hassle, if either of these types don’t work for you, then you may be in trouble.

Condenser:

These microphones are the types that are usually found in a studio. They do a wonderful job reproducing voices and instruments but they are very sensitive to louder sounds. Their louder output makes them ideal for recording voices. While generally more expensive than dynamic microphones are, you can buy less-expensive condenser microphones but you may be sacrificing quality for the price.
Less-expensive options often have a brittle sound to them and will sound much more low-end than their higher-priced counterparts. If you are going to be recording a podcast, singing, or the playing of a single guitar or piano, then you will generally be better off with a condenser USB microphone. They will give you more of a traditional studio feel and the vocals will all be very crisp and clear.

Dynamic:

These microphones are more rugged, can stand up to more abuse, and are moisture-resistant. While they can handle louder noises, they don’t usually have the highest sound quality, especially when compared to condenser microphones. In addition, they have limited frequency response.

For users who will be recording outside and need to be able to handle more noise, a dynamic USB microphone is the way to go. They’re also the best choice if you are interested in a robust radio sound versus the crisp studio sound.

Top USB Microphone Manufacturers

One of the main problems that people run into when they are shopping for a USB microphone is knowing what manufacturer to buy from. With so many people making USB microphones, you have to be very careful so you can be sure that you’re getting a high-quality piece of equipment. While lower prices aren’t always an indication that you are getting a lower-quality microphone, it is something to be wary of, especially if you are buying from a manufacturer that you don’t know a lot about or haven’t heard of in the past.

Sticking with a manufacturer that has a great reputation is the best way to get a great USB microphone at an affordable price. Some of the most reputable manufacturers include Samson, Audio-Technica, Blue Yeti, and Blue Snowball. Choosing a manufacturer can be tricky so always take into consideration their reputation and offered warranties before making your purchase.

Image of a Samson USB MicrophoneFactors to Consider When Buying a USB Microphone

  • Ease of Use: Unless you are very technologically-inclined, you need to make sure that you are buying a USB microphone that is easy to use. Most of the ones available on the market can simply be plugged in and then used but it’s a good idea to make sure of that before you make your purchase. There are models available on the market for people who want more control over their microphones so be careful when making your purchase that you will be able to use your new microphone easily.
  • Where You’ll Be Recording: Your recording space will have a huge impact on the quality of your recordings and while you may not be able to change your space, you can opt for a USB microphone that will be able to combat any issues that you have. If you are working in a large room, then you will need to worry about echoing during your recording. On the other hand, if you prefer to record outside, then you will need a USB microphone that can handle the ambient noise and possibly even filter it out for you.
  • Computer Compatibility: This is especially important if you have an older computer and haven’t updated the operating system in a long time. Low-quality sound cards can result in you having problems with recording and will not produce the best sound. It’s important that you check your system and make sure that your computer is completely compatible with the microphone that you are considering buying so that you don’t have to return it or make expensive upgrades to your computer to be able to use it.
  • Your Budget: It’s impossible to escape the fact that you may fall in love with a microphone that is out of your price range. For this reason, it’s a good idea to only consider options that you can afford. This will keep you from trying to justify your purchase or thinking that going over your budget just a little bit is okay.
  • Power Issues: If you are going to be using an iPad or iPhone with your USB microphone, then you will need to make sure that it won’t draw too much energy and kill the iPad completely when it is plugged in. If this is something that you are concerned about, then you may benefit from providing additional power with a USB hub to help combat this issue.
  • Polar Pattern: There are five main types of polar patterns; this refers to the pattern in which a microphone will pick up sound. Cardioid microphones are great for avoiding ambient sound while shotgun microphones don’t pick up sound from the sides and are ideal for speaking into. Omnidirectional microphones will capture sound from all directions and will produce a very natural sound but can’t filter out any unwanted noises. Figure-8 microphones capture from the back and front, making them ideal for recording more than one instrument at once. Finally, switchable microphones let you switch the recording pattern, making them the most versatile option available.

Image of a USB Microphone in a holderFeatures to Look for in a USB Microphone

There are a number of available features that make USB microphones not only easier to use but also help them to provide better recording. The features that are important to you may not matter to someone else so it’s important that you think for yourself about what you need from your USB microphone. This will ensure that you use and love your purchase.

Pop Filter:

This is an accessory that will reduce any of the popping noises that are so common with vocal recordings. This is very important for anyone who is going to be singing or starting up a podcast as these pops are very common when someone pronounces sounds such as “t” and “p”. In addition, this filter will protect your microphone from saliva. Buying a USB microphone that comes with a pop filter ensures that it will fit the microphone and that you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

Stand:

Some USB microphones have built-in stands or come with optional stands that you can use. While you may think that you can just place the microphone on your desk or table, any vibrations from your equipment can decrease the quality of your sound and overall recording.

Headphones:

Not all USB microphones have a way to plug in headphones. Being able to listen to your recordings in real time is invaluable and will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to improve the sound quality. Whether or not you want this feature will depend partly on how you are using your microphone as adjusting the sound during recording vocals or music is important but making adjustments while you are gaming is not as big of a deal.

Volume or Mute Control:

It’s important that you can easily adjust and control the output of the microphone. Some USB microphones come with a mute control that will allow you to quickly and easily mute the sound of your microphone.

Monitor Mix:

Not all USB microphones offer this feature, which allows users to not only monitor the recording in real time but also to adjust the signal volume so that it is the same as tracks you recorded in the past.

Image of a plain USB MicrophonePutting it All Together

It’s overwhelming finding the right microphone but the best way to get started is by establishing a budget that you are comfortable with, checking the capabilities of your computer, and deciding what kind of recording you are going to be doing. This last part is important as it will allow you to focus on certain kinds of USB microphones while ignoring ones that aren’t ideal for your particular application.

If you know what manufacturer you want to buy from, then you’re ahead of the game but it’s okay if you don’t. Being able to compare various microphones from a number of manufacturers has its advantages and can make it easier to find the right microphone for you. It’s time to sit down and decide what features are the most important for you so you can narrow down the possible microphones even more. Once you have your list, it’s much easier to look at various USB microphones and see which ones will work for you.

By using this USB microphone buying guide to help you through the process, you can easily find the right microphone for your needs. Make sure that the one you buy will be able to record you clearly, fits your budget, and works with your computer or tablet. This will save you time, money, and frustration and allow you to get straight to recording without any wait.

Duke Taber is the owner of 3 successful websites and is now taking his skill as a webmaster and using it to help non-profit organizations and leaders around the world.

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