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We are all masters of live streaming these days and a USB Microphone can take your zooming game to another level.

USB microphones have given us the ability to record, perform and live stream easier than ever before. Rather than dealing with the complexity of audio interfaces or the terrible quality of laptop microphones the USB mic just plugs in and makes us sound fantastic. While music production might be our focus these will also upgrade your live streaming and video conferencing game keeping your voice clear and on point.

Studio microphones are the best way to go and offer the highest quality and most professional results. But they also expect you to know what you’re doing and you’ll need to gather together a lot of equipment. This is where a USB microphone can help. They are dead easy to use, sound fantastic and bypass all that messing around with cabling, mixers and other equipment by plugging directly into your computer and working on their own.

You can’t easily live stream spontaneously with a studio setup but with a USB microphone you most certainly can and it’s going to sound so much better than your phone or laptop microphone.

Some USB microphones are designed primarily for speech rather than singing or instruments and so (as this is a website about music) our focus is going to be towards those microphones that’ll capture your performance as well as your chat. And what’s good for broadcasting music is also going to be great for speech as well.

For this roundup, I’ll cover a range of price points and features so that you can make the best decision based on your budget and requirements.

But first, some FAQs:

Frequently Asked Questions About USB Microphones

Which USB mic has the best quality?

Robin Vincent

The best USB microphones (2022) are:

  • Razer Seiren Elite
  • Blue Snowball
  • Elgato Wave:3
  • Audio Technica AT2020USB+
  • Rode NT-USB Mini
  • Blue Yeti Pro
  • Earthworks Audio ICON
  • Shure MV7

Are USB microphones better?

Robin Vincent

USB microphones have some definite benefits. They are a complete recording solution in a single device that connects easily and conveniently to your computer or phone. You don’t have to worry about using a mixer or preamps and they give you a vastly better level of sound quality than the microphones built into your device.

When compared to studio microphones than we generally find that USB mics are aimed at the lower end of the market and can give great results but you will find better quality in the studio microphone market.

Do I need an audio interface if I have a USB Microphone?

Robin Vincent

No you don’t. A USB microphone is essentially an audio interface built into a microphone. It performs the tasks an audio interface usually does; it records the sound and gives you playback through headphones.

However, there’s no place to plug in a guitar, or your synthesizer, or what about if you wanted to record a few voices or instruments at once? For a larger or more complex setup you need an audio interface and regular microphones but for direct recording or performance you can’t beat a USB microphone.

Is a USB mic better than XLR?

Robin Vincent

The connection is not really the issue here. Whether your mic is connected via USB or XLR, the audio has to be converted into digital audio at some point and that’s where the quality lies. In a USB mic, the audio conversion is done in the microphone itself whereas in a studio microphone using XLR you would need to plug it into a separate audio interface.

So a USB mic is better in terms of ease of use and value but a studio mic via an XLR connection can offer a higher quality of sound via a professional audio interface.

The Best USB Microphones 2022

Razer Seiren Elite

Razer Siren Elite USB microphone

Razer is a company who are well known for their mice, keyboards, and other peripherals and so it’s unexpected to find them with such a great USB microphone.

The Seiren Elite is a straight-forward single capsule dynamic microphone that looks stunning and gives you the perfect combination of features for live streaming and performance. It has a built-in high-pass filter to take out the rumble of your environment like footsteps, traffic, and your air-con.

But perhaps its coolest feature is the inbuilt limiter which keeps your voice from distorting when things are getting too loud. When your voice starts to peak a band around the middle of the mic flashes red to show you that you need to back off a little bit to keep things right.

Normally you’d have to monitor such things on a mixer or in software whereas the Seiren Elite puts it right on the mic.

The rest of the specs are decent with 16-bit recording up to 48kHz, a cardioid polar pattern, and a signal-to-noise of 114dB.

Street Price: $199

Blue Snowball

Blue Snowball USB microphone

The Snowball from Blue has become a bit iconic for its good looks and usefulness. It’s surprisingly versatile and is available in a nice snowy white, gloss black or rock-and-roll chrome. It comes with a metal desktop stand and is ready to go out of the box.

Inside there are two condenser capsules featuring cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns. Cardioid is perfect for picking up sounds from the front or directing it to an instrument. For loud singers or instruments, there’s a -10dB pad for reducing the sensitivity. Omnidirectional lets you place the Snowball in the middle of the action and it will record everything from everywhere. It runs at a sample rate of 44.1kHz at 16 bits.

At $69, along with the CAD U37, it’s the cheapest microphone on the list and is a simple and easy solution for both Windows and macOS.

Street Price: $69

Elgato Wave:3

Elgato Wave:3

The Wave:3 brings together the hardware expertise of studio microphone makers Lewitt and software developers Elgato to offer an elegant streaming and content creating solution wrapped up in a good looking microphone.

Boasting broadcast quality 24-bit audio via a fixed cardioid condenser capsule the Wave:3 has everything you need to capture the perfect performance. It features clever Clipguard technology that analyses the audio input and ensures there’s always sufficient headroom to prevent clipping.

It’s a great mic but it’s the software side that really elevates the Wave:3. It comes with Wave Link software that brings together all of the things generating sound in your system like your music software, game or audio playback and lets you create two independent internal mixes with the microphone for sending to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook or wherever you are streaming to. It’s totally brilliant.

Wave:3 comes with a little stand that gives it a old-style radio broadcast vibe. On the front you’ve got a soft mute button and level indicators. Its USB-C connection is compatible with Windows, macOS and Playstation. A slightly cheaper Wave:1 is also available which lacks the front display and has a slightly reduced sample rate.

Street Price: $159

Audio Technica AT2020USB+

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB microphone

Let’s head upmarket a little bit with the Audio Technica AT2020 USB+. It has the same sound and technology as their acclaimed AT2020 condenser microphone, which brings this USB microphone into the realms of studio quality.

The AT2020USB+ records at 16bit and 44.1kHz or 48kHz over a regular 20Hz to 20kHz response. It has a standard cardioid directional polar pattern for great off-axis sound rejection and comes with a little stand and an adapter for a proper mic stand.

But it also features a built-in headphone jack with volume control. This allows you to both monitor your input without latency or mix in recorded material.

The AT2020USB+ is a good, solid if unexciting microphone for Windows and macOS that will do a decent job all day long.

Street Price: $149

Rode NT-USB Mini

Rode NT-USB Mini

I wasn’t expecting this to be as good as it is. I naturally lean towards the regular NT-USB because that work “Mini” makes me think the NT-USB Mini is somehow less in quality and I couldn’t be more wrong.

The NT-USB Mini is a solid USB microphone that captures Rode’s ability to make great products and serves it up in an easy to use package. It looks plastic on the website but this thing is made of metal that’s cold and heavy in your hands. It looks great, very professional, dark and sober which is what you want when you’re streaming, podcasting or recording.

It has a high-quality condenser capsule, cardioid pattern and built-in pop filter. Volume control is right on the front and the headphone socket is tidied away on the back. The desk stand is solid and magnetic with 360-degree movement.

The cherry on the top is the Rode Connect software app that gives you loopback mixing, monitoring and level control plus DSP processing to remove noise, compress, excite and give it some bass. Simply engage the processing to massage your vocals to exactly where they need to be.

Street Price: $99

Blue Yeti Pro

Blue Yeti Pro USB Microphone

The second Blue microphone in our line-up is the Yeti Pro. Now, Blue does a range of USB Yeti microphones, but as the cheaper end of the market is a bit crowded, I thought I’d pull up their “Pro” offering to see what you get for your extra dollars.

First of all, the recording quality leaps to 24bits and up to 192kHz. Then it has three custom condenser capsules and four different patterns. It has the regular cardioid pattern, but you can also record in a defined stereo environment as well as omnidirectionally. Or if you want to go front and back then a bi-directional figure-of-8 pattern is what you need. Blue says it’s the highest quality USB microphone available in the world today.

Rather than a pad for sensitivity, you get a gain control to set the perfect level. It also has a mute button which is remarkably useful in podcast or recording situations. It has the headphone output with volume control and mixing with audio playback.

One thing that hasn’t appeared on the other mics so far is that the Yeti Pro comes with its own drivers for Windows. This means that the latency is going to be very low even when monitoring through software. This can be vital, especially on Windows where the native drivers tend to be slow and can cause noticeable delay to audio. It also works great with macOS and iOS as well.

Lastly, the Yeti Pro is also an analog microphone and comes with an XLR socket for connection to a proper preamp or audio interface. So, you can use it quick and easy on USB or put it into a wider context with XLR through studio gear. And as a bonus, it looks fabulous.

Street Price: $269

Earthworks Audio ICON

Earthworks Audio ICON

Let’s take things up a level to a microphone that brings the quality of the studio to the convenience of the USB format. ICON looks stunning, like something out of a 70’s sci-fi movie. You are not going to feel anything other than cool with this mic in your Zoom meeting. It’s beautifully and yet understated, makes you look effortlessly professional rather than hiding behind a studio mic hanging on an arm. It’s made in stainless steel and is rather nice.

The specifications are those of a professional studio microphone with 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response, 70dB signal-to-noise ratio and a peak acoustic input of 132dB SPL. The small cardioid capsule captures audio with 14 microseconds of rise time.

Earthworks point to its simplicity and its ability to work in any situation without any fuss. There’s no EQ, no DSP or pattern selection, it’s pure recording class. On the back is a gain knob to get the levels right and it also doubles as a mute switch which clicks as you push it in to inform you that you are muted. It comes with a desktop stand but can also be mounted on any microphone stand.

ICON is a lovely looking microphone that’s simple, elegant and classy.

Street Price: $249

Shure MV7

Shure MV7

You’ve already seen this mic everywhere, or at least you think you have? The Shure MV7 is designed to look like their legendary SM7B studio microphone which has become an industry standard for close micing vocals and instruments. The MV7 is a lot cheaper than the SM7B and so while it can’t claim the same quality level it has a lot going for it as a USB mic.

It has a built in level meter and touch controls so you can make all the important adjustments with ease. Voice Isolation Technology will help push away room noise and keep the focus on your vocals. The ShurePlus app brings in additional features like Auto Level Mode to ensure you always have a consistent output. You’ll also find monitor mixing, EQ, a limiter and compressor and full manual control if you wish.

While the MV7 is a USB microphone it also has an XLR output so if your situation grows you can keep on using the MV7 with a mixer and audio interface. Rather than a stand it comes with the mount that made the SM7B so eye-catching. This can be attached to a mic stand or boom so that you can place it exactly where you want it to be and as a dynamic microphone that means as close and you can.

Street Price: $249

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