While they started out as just a gimmick…
There’s no doubt that today, USB microphones are more popular than ever.
With home studios, podcasters, Youtubers, and many others…
They have become standard tools of the trade.
And while they aren’t quite at the level of professional recording microphones yet…
They get closer and closer with each passing day.
So if you’re looking to add one to your setup…
In today’s post we will look at the top USB mics of 2016 to see exactly how they compare.
1. Blue Snowball
Even if you’ve never owned a single microphone before…
Odds are you still know the Blue Snowball…because the damn thing is everywhere.
For pretty much any type of vocal recording, whether it be podcasting, voiceovers, Youtubing, or Skype calls…
The Snowball is one of the standard go-to mics that everyone has at least considered at some point.
So why is this mic so popular?
Well it looks cool, it’s super easy to use, it doesn’t take up much space, and it sounds great. So more could you really ask for?
Anyways, check it out:
NOTE: The regular blue snowball has a dual capsule that allows for both cardioid and omni polar patterns. If you don’t need an omni polar pattern, or don’t know even know what a polar pattern is…
2. Blue Snowflake
While the Blue Snowball is pretty darn perfect for desktop recording…
For mobile recording, you’ll probably want something a little smaller instead.
So for this purpose, Blue Microphones went ahead and created the Blue Snowflake.
As you can see, it has a unique casing that unfolds into either a desktop stand, or a clip a laptop clip, as needed.
Inside the casing, it holds the USB cable as well, so everything you need can literally be carried around in your pocket.
Pretty cool huh? Check it out:
And for a few similar options, check out these as well:
3. CAD U37
By all outward appearances, the CAD u37 is the first mic we’ve covered so far that actually looks like a “real” studio microphone.
But is it?
Because as any knowledgeable person will tell you…CAD is not a brand well-known for their quality microphones.
And personally, when I first saw it, I was highly skeptical.
Not only does it look kinda cheap…the price is so low, its hard to imagine this thing could possibly be good.
Every once in a while, you find a piece of gear that really shouldn’t be good by all outward appearances…yet it somehow is good. And the CAD U37 is the perfect example.
But don’t take my word for it…just check out the insane number of positive reviews:
4. Apogee Mic 96k
These days, as audio recording becomes increasingly “mobile”…
It’s now possible to make recordings with less equipment than ever before.
In fact, you don’t even need a computer anymore! Because you can just record straight into your tablet or smartphone.
Of course, to do this, you’ll need a special type of microphone.
And among the current options, none is more time-tested and highly-reviewed than the Apogee Mic 96k.
While most USB mics record digital audio at 16bit-44.1kHz, this one records at 24-bit/96kzHz…
Which is a higher resolution than even some pro studios will use.
Not too bad, huh? Check it out:
5. Rode Podcaster
Ever noticed that for some reason, 95% of USB mics are condensers?
And it’s actually surprising when you think about it…
Because 95% of people who use USB mics have minimal home studio setups, with little-to-no acoustic treatment.
And as any sound guy will tell you…without acoustic treatment, it’s MUCH easier to get good sound from dynamic mics than condensers.
Among the dynamic USB mic currently on the market, the one I recommend most is the Rode Podcaster.
Check it out:
And besides just being an overall great mic, it’s also the first mic on the list that includes a built-in zero-latency headphone jack.
If you’re unfamiliar with this KEY feature, let me explain…
When recording into a microphone, you ideally want to hear yourself in real-time through a set of headphones.
The problem is…with any USB mic, there’s a time delay that occurs when the audio signal is converted from analog to digital, on its way into your computer.
And you can actually hear this time delay through your headphones! As you might imagine…it’s pretty much impossible to record this way.
But the built-in headphone jack of the Rode Podcaster solves this problem by sending the audio straight from the mic to your headphones, eliminating the delay.
And if you intend to use your USB mic for any type of music recording, this feature is a MUST-HAVE.
NOTE: All microphones on the list from this point forward also have this headphone jack feature.
6. Audio Technica ATR2100
When I first heard about the Audio Technica ATR2100, I was a bit confused…
On the surface, it looks like your average cardioid dynamic handheld vocal mic for live performing.
And it is in fact all of those things.
But you might be wondering (as I was)…
How would a USB mic be used for live performing? Isn’t it used for recording on the computer?
Well the answer is…this one is actually designed for BOTH. Because it has both USB and XLR inputs, it works either in the studio, or on-stage.
And as you can see from the reviews, it does both jobs pretty damn well. Check it out:
7. Blue Spark Digital Lightning
Based off the original, and highly successful Blue Microphones Spark…
The Spark Digital Lightning combines the sound quality of a proven studio microphone…
With the convenience of USB connectivity.
PLUS…there’s the one feature that makes this mic unlike any other: the Focus Button.
Here’s how it works:
On the back, there’s a toggle that allows you to switch between normal mode, and focus mode.
Without getting too technical, this button works by altering the “voltage loading” of the mic capsule, which changes both the frequency and transient response…effectively resulting in two completely different tonalities.
While normal mode is well suited for general purpose recording, focus mode is works particularly well on vocals.
Some say it instantly brings any vocal track more forward in a mix. Others say it makes vocals sound great even in rooms with no acoustic treatment.
Sound interesting? Check it out:
8. Blue Microphones Yeti
For simple voice recording, any of the previous mics we’ve covered so far should work just fine.
But for music recording, you definitely need something more…
Especially when it comes to recording instruments such as acoustic guitar for example.
In a recording studio, instruments such as this one are normally recorded in stereo, with two mics configured in a variety of arrangements.
The problem is…you can’t do this with one USB mic, unless of course that mic is the Blue Microphones YETI.
Inside the Yeti, there is a unique Tri-Capsule Array that allows you to record in STEREO, as well as the 3 standard polar patterns:
I think it’s fair to say, there is no USB mic more versatile than this one. If you plan to use just a single USB mic to record all the music in your studio, I highly recommend the YETI above every other mic on this list.
And if you like the Yeti, but prefer to use it in a more “traditional” studio with an audio interface, check out the YETI Pro, which has both USB and XLR inputs.
Here they both are:
9. Rode NT USB
Now as you may have noticed from this list…
USB mics tend to be a little “gimmicky”.
They always seem to have at least one weird feature that no other mic has.
And don’t get me wrong…that’s awesome.
But what if you don’t want any gimmicks?
What if all you want is the quality of a studio microphone, with the convenience of a USB connector?
Well…that’s exactly what you get with the Rode NT USB.
The one great (not gimmicky) feature worth mentioning is the mix control for the headphone jack.
With the simple turn of a knob, you can fine tune the balance between the live and backing tracks to exactly what you want.
Surprisingly, not all mics have this feature…but this one does. Check it out: