Best USB Microphones For Podcasts

by Patrick Hyde •

A good microphone is a must for those who make and broadcast podcasts. While traditional electronic microphones from Shure, Sennheiser and Neumann transmit with crystal-clear quality, they come with ¼” or XLR microphone plugs. XLR plugs generally do not correspond to computer input jacks, creating headaches for startup podcasters. They only work with musical-instrument interface, and these are often not of the highest quality and can affect the sound. At the very least, they’re an additional annoyance when you just want to hook up a mic and go.

However, there are newer mics made with USB plugs that are intended to plug straight into a computer system with no interface and little difficulty. They are perfect for podcast hosts because they simplify the operation and cause fewer links in the power chain between microphone and computer.

USB mics do have their limitations. Many of the less-expensive models have lower sound quality than a traditional XLR mic of comparable cost. In addition, the USB-only setup makes it difficult, if not impossible, to record the podcast on multi-tracking equipment using signal processors to manipulate the sound before transferring the file to the computer. If this is not an issue, however, a good USB mic is an invaluable addition to a podcast setup. This is a rundown of the best USB microphones for podcasts.

Best USB Microphone Overall: Blue Microphones Yeti Pro

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This entry from Blue Microphones is an amazingly versatile tone monster. To begin with, it utilizes no less than three condenser capsules for the accurate capture of sound, and offers four different pattern settings for different tonal applications: Bidirectional, Cardioid, Omnidirectional and Stereo. This allows for recording in a variety of sound conditions. This mic will deliver the best possible sound through judicious use of its controls.

This microphone utilizes a powerful A-D converter chip for a clear, crisp tone. In addition, the Yeti Pro offers a separate XLR output jack for recording and live use, making it quite flexible. The XLR jack is accompanied by a separate traditional analog circuit path for excellent tone when used with recording machines or PA systems.

Other features of this superior entry include a built-in headphone microphone to allow for clear monitoring of the signal, a headset volume control, mute button and microphone gain volume control. In general, this entry offers enough control to replace both a traditional mic AND a USB computer mic. It is the clear choice for best USB mic of 2016.

Best Sound Quality: MXL USB.009 Condenser Mic

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Audiophiles will love the MXL USB.009 Condenser Mic, which commands a clear tone with good forward projection. It is a cardioid microphone, which makes it ideal for those recording podcasts because it is best for picking up a single sound source such as one voice.

However, what really makes this a solid choice is that it is the first USB mic to record at 24 bits and 96 kHz without the use of pricey sound-enhancing equipment. This is the equivalent of DVD-level sound quality, which is unusually clear for a digital microphone. It has a versatile frequency range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and a dynamic range of 114 db.

The controls on this mic include volume/gain and a mix control that can control where the sound goes in a stereo mix. For those who make podcasts including calls from listeners, sound effects, or other additions, this control can make for a creative stereo mix.

Like the Yeti Pro, it also includes zero-latency monitoring, which is useful for those who like to use a headset to monitor their sound. The MXL is a solid choice for those who are concerned about USB mic sound quality.

Best Side-Address USB Microphone: Audio-Technica AT2020

best usb microphone for podcasts

Many podcast hosts trust the Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Condenser Mic. It is a side-address mic, which means that the condenser is aimed at the sides rather than the top of the mic; this makes it easier to place for those who make podcasts and helps to get a more complete sound.

It features a standard USB output, a high-quality A-D converter for crisp sound, zero-latency monitor system with headphone jack and volume control and it is compatible with both Mac and Windows. This mic is made of metal parts for durability, and its low-mass diaphragm that gives the sound excellent frequency response.

This mic, like the MXL, has a cardioid pattern that creates a strong, powerful sound with excellent clarity. The onboard mix control allows the user to blend the direct mic signal with pre-recorded audio signals to get an idea of how the material sounds with other sources included.

Like the other choices in this article, this microphone includes a zero-latency monitor control system. The A-D converter with 16-bit, 44-kHz sampling rate ensures that there is little to no loss in sound quality as the signal is transferred to computer. Another top product from Audio-Technica, you can’t go wrong with the AT2020USB.

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