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Published Oct. 15, 2021

If you’re a gamer, podcaster, vocalist, or other content creator looking for the fastest option to get audio to your computer, there’s no quicker way to get started than by reaching for a USB microphone. Unlike traditional microphones, which require separate amplification and a dedicated external interface to convert the analog signal to digital, the best USB microphones contain every component required.

Add in the fact that most only require a single USB cable to operate and USB microphones prove themselves to be unmatched tools for creating content with very limited equipment and a no-brainer for mobile content creation. Many USB microphones also contain built-in controls or come with companion software that allow users to process and compress their sound for production on the front end, which makes them a great solution for saving time during the editing process. Here are our suggestions for the best USB microphones you can buy today, as well as a few key considerations to keep in mind when making a selection.

Methodology

USB microphones come in a wide range of designs—from incredibly simple devices to all-in-one production tools. To make this comprehensive list of the best USB microphones on the market we eliminated all options that didn’t have a great reputation among users and critics. We then took into consideration the following key criteria to make sure our selections offer something for everyone:

Sound. Unlike traditional microphones, many USB microphones are specifically tuned to provide optimal sound clarity for the human voice. Beyond that baseline, some designs allow users further customization over that sound through the use of EQ filters, compression, and other effects. We selected microphones with user-customizable sound whenever possible, but all of them offer a voice-tailored sound regardless.

Controls. The ability to make quick sound adjustments is crucial in content creation settings, especially when streaming or podcasting. All of the microphones except for our budget pick offer onboard controls that allow users to tweak their settings on the fly.

Brand. All of the USB microphones on this list are made by reputable, established brands, many of which have a hand in manufacturing other types of audio, video, gaming, or streaming equipment. Going with established brands increases the likelihood of customer service follow-through and quality control, both of which are especially important when considering a critical piece of content creation equipment like a USB microphone.

Best USB microphone overall: Elgato Wave:3

Flexible Design

This mic works seamlessly with Elgato’s proprietary mixing software that allows control of up to nine audio channels, making it appealing for a variety of creative applications.

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Why It Made The Cut

Manufactured by an industry leader in high-quality A/V capture devices, the Wave:3 is packed with thoughtful design features that aim to satisfy a wide range of audio recording needs.

Specs 

  • Frequency Response: 70 to 20,000 Hz
  • Max Recording Quality: 24-bit/96 kHz
  • System Compatibility: Mac, Windows

Pros

  • Capacitive mute button allows for click-free control while streaming
  • Built-in clip guard prevents accidental distortion from loud sources
  • Software allows real-time granular control of an entire mix

Cons

  • Mixer software and onboard controls take practice to use
  • Requires USB 3.0 to operate

Product Description

Elgato is well-known in the video production world for being an industry leader in capture cards, and as the best USB microphone overall the Wave:3 packs a lot of the quality, innovative spirit, and sleek design for which the company’s flagship products are known. Powered by a single USB-C cable and plug-and-play ready for both PCs and Macs, the Wave:3 offers a smooth broadcast-grade vocal sound and analog-to-digital conversion at an extremely high 24-bit/96 kHz resolution. Its onboard controls include a multifunctional dial for volume and headphone control, as well as a silent capacitive button for quick muting, which is particularly convenient for live streaming and gaming applications. A built-in software clip guard also prevents the microphone from ever going “into the red” due to overloads, ensuring that recorded content is production-ready regardless of unexpected spikes in volume.

The Wave:3 works seamlessly with Elgato’s downloadable Wave Link software, which grants users access to a nine-source mixer interface for fine-tuning of multiple simultaneous audio sources like browsers, gaming applications, DAWs, chats, and more. This makes it a great choice for users who require flexibility and full control over their audio recording setup in a variety of creative settings from streaming to podcasting. The Wave Link software does require a bit of tinkering to learn due to its complexity and its ability to combine many different sources, and some users may have difficulty configuring it to communicate with all types of software. It’s also imperative that the Wave:3 is plugged into a USB 3.0 port to function properly because, otherwise, it may partially function and deliver a staticky, unusable sound. 

Best USB microphone for podcasting: Shure MV7

Clean, Clear Sound

Access compression, EQ, and other effects via software to fine-tune a broadcast-ready sound.

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Why It Made The Cut

This podcasting mic from Shure is designed with a broadcast-friendly yoke mount and offers a suite of onboard DSP including ambient noise cancellation to deliver crisp and clear voice quality.

Specs 

  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Max Recording Quality: 24-bit/48 kHz
  • System Compatibility: Mac, Windows

Pros

  • Includes studio-grade XLR output for outboard gear compatibility
  • Unique close-talk windscreen offers maximum deadening of plosives
  • Built-in voice isolation and speech-enhancing effects

Cons

  • Capacitive controls are easy to accidentally touch
  • Sound is tailored for voice rather than instruments

Product Description

The Shure MV7, the best USB microphone for podcasting, is a rugged and stylish USB dynamic microphone that excels at capturing and delivering broadcast-ready vocal audio, making it an excellent choice for podcasting and content creation, as well as a high-quality substitute for a computer’s built-in microphone when teleconferencing. While its exterior design takes several cues from Shure’s legendary SM7B vocal microphone, the MV7 has its own thing going on under the hood with unique features like onboard DSP compression, EQ, and voice isolation that allow users to sculpt a production-perfect sound before they even press record. Though the MV7 can function as a standalone USB microphone when plugged into a computer, it also features an industry-standard XLR connector that allows it to connect with virtually any professional audio interface (just like a standard microphone).

All of the microphone’s DSP configuration and sound-shaping is done via its computer software, but users can access basic gain and volume controls on the body of the microphone itself. While this is convenient for making on-the-fly changes when recording is in progress, the onboard controls are capacitive and thus sensitive to touch and, unfortunately, they’re placed in an area that users may grab when making positioning adjustments. This quirk requires users to stay aware of how and where they handle the microphone. Also, the MV7’s overall sound and frequency response are custom-tailored for speech, which makes it fantastic for vocal applications but not as appealing for use on instruments.

Best USB microphone for vocals: Blue Yeti X

Four Mics in One

An array of four capsules and four switchable polar patterns allow the Yeti X to capture lifelike sound in any type of space.

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Why It Made The Cut

The Yeti X’s selectable pickup patterns offer an advanced level of sound-shaping according to users’ needs and the acoustics of their space, delivering crystal-clear audio and crisp vocal tones. 

Specs

  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Max Recording Quality: 24-bit/48 kHz
  • System Compatibility: Mac, Windows

Pros

  • Four polar patterns to fit a variety of recording scenarios
  • Intuitive two-knob controls with high-resolution level monitoring
  • Customizable LED lights for a personalized appearance

Cons

  • USB cable can come loose while moving the microphone
  • Sensitive condenser design may pick up ambience

Product Description

The Yeti X from Blue Microphones is the company’s flagship USB microphone, sporting a unique four-capsule condenser design that gives it excellent detail capture and high sensitivity when compared to other USB microphones in its price range. While this microphone is packed with thoughtful features that make it well-suited for podcasting and streaming use, its level of clarity and four switchable pickup patterns make it one of the best USB microphones for vocals and recording warm and clear vocals in a variety of spaces.

Using a dedicated rear knob, users can select between single-direction, bidirectional, stereo, and omnidirectional recording modes, allowing the Yeti X to capture clear vocal audio from multiple sources without the need for extra microphones. This function is particularly useful for recording groups of people and capturing conversations with room ambience, which makes for a natural and lifelike recorded sound. A front array of high-resolution LEDs allows users to view their gain at a glance and make adjustments to avoid overloads, and these LEDs can even be color-customized via downloadable G HUB software from Logitech.

Condenser microphones are one of the types of microphones typically more sensitive than dynamic microphones, which is why the Yeti X is particularly good at capturing the nuance and range of musical vocal performances. However, this increased sensitivity makes the Yeti X more prone to capturing a high ratio of ambient noise from, particularly echoey or noisy spaces. For this reason, it’s best to use this mic in acoustically treated spaces or rooms with minimal reverberation. The Yeti X also features a heavy-duty USB cable that hangs from the bottom of the microphone that’s prone to falling out during use, which can be annoying at best and disruptive at worst, so users should take care when moving around the mic.

Best USB microphone for gaming: Razer Seiren Elite

Built for Streamers

The Seiren Elite’s built-in DSP offers high-quality, stream-ready audio for content creators enduring the ups and downs of gaming.

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Why It Made The Cut

An incredibly easy-to-use design and a sound that’s tailored for dynamic performances make the Seiren Elite the best USB microphone for gaming.

Specs

  • Frequency Response: 50 to 20,000 Hz
  • Max Recording Quality: 16-bit/48 kHz
  • System Compatibility: Mac, Windows

Pros

  • Clear and present stream-ready sound with no adjustment required
  • Zero-latency monitoring allows users to hear themselves while playing
  • Built-in limiter and switchable high-pass for consistent audio quality

Cons

  • Integrated limiter can’t be turned off
  • Doesn’t record in resolutions above 16 bits

Product Description

Gamers and streamers who want to enjoy a marked improvement over the sound of a standard gaming headset microphone without sacrificing ease of use and esthetic appeal will love the Razer Seiren Elite USB microphone for its plug-and-play functionality and clear, robust sound. It features very few onboard controls apart from a dual-function mute/record button, a headphone volume knob, a microphone gain knob, and a high-pass filter button for cutting out low noise from air conditioners and louder environments. To provide reliable performance and endure the vocal outbursts and volume spikes often associated with competitive gaming, the Seiren Elite features a built-in limiter that’s always on, ensuring that the captured audio never distorts.

Unlike many competing USB microphones that require companion software to access their controls, the Seiren Elite excels at user-friendliness and easy setup thanks to its limited controls and always-on limiter. While this makes its sound appealing and consistent for streaming use and some podcasting applications, some content creators may be turned off by the inability to switch off the limiter when recording quieter material, which can result in more ambient noise coming through. The microphone’s analog-to-digital sample rate is also fixed at 16 bits, or the quality of a CD. This is more or less a technicality that will be rendered moot by streaming compression, but this rate does offer marginally less dynamic range than the 24-bit standard used in modern audio production.

Best USB microphone on a budget: HyperX SoloCast

Compact and Streamlined

Though it lacks advanced sound-shaping features, the SoloCast excels at speed and plug-and-play operation.

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Why It Made The Cut

This tiny USB microphone is incredibly easy to use and costs a fraction of its competitors, making it a convenient and portable choice for users who desire a barebones setup.

Specs

  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Max Recording Quality: 16-bit/48 kHz
  • System Compatibility: Mac, Windows

Pros

  • Easy-to-learn streamlined design
  • Compatible with boom arms and mic stands
  • Integrated tap-to-mute button for streaming

Cons

  • Lacks gain control; prone to picking up background noise
  • Sound is not customizable or adjustable

Product Description

The HyperX SoloCast is one of the best budget USB microphones available thanks to a compact and easy-to-use design that requires minimal setup. It promises plug-and-play compatibility with Mac and Windows systems running a variety of streaming software, and because it includes no onboard controls except a single tap-to-mute button, users don’t need to spend time fiddling with knobs or extra software to operate it. The mic is installed on its own freestanding desk mount, but it also features a standard thread on its underside for mounting on standard boom arms and microphone stands.

The downside to the SoloCast’s streamlined functionality is that its sound is more or less set in stone, and it doesn’t offer access to any EQ, compression, or limiting of more expensive competitors that allow users to improve or custom-tailor their vocal tone. This makes the SoloCast more likely to appeal to users who are experienced with editing their sound using software of their choice and less likely to produce a desirable sound in acoustically untreated spaces or loud environments. Still, when considering its portability and ease of use, it’s hard to find a much better bang for your buck if you’re looking for the best USB microphone on a budget.

Things to consider before buying a USB microphone

Will you use it primarily for recording or livestreaming?

Because USB microphones include their own built-in analog-to-digital conversion and send their audio directly to computers, it’s important to take note of their maximum audio resolution. If you’ll be using your USB microphone for creating recorded content like podcasts or music and you want to achieve the best possible sound, a microphone with a resolution of 24-bits and 48 to 96 kHz like the Elgato Wave:3 will provide quality on par with that of professional audio interfaces. In live-streaming scenarios, audio quality usually becomes highly compressed before reaching the end listener, making USB microphone resolution less of an important factor. For this reason, many gaming and streaming USB mics are limited to resolutions of 16-bits/48 kHz, like the Razer Seiren Elite.

Will you use it in an acoustically treated space?

If your space is treated to minimize excess reverberation and echo, a USB condenser mic like the Blue Yeti X will provide a highly nuanced and lifelike recording. Condenser microphones fall short in untreated or noisy spaces due to their high sensitivity, making dynamic microphones like the Shure MV7 a better choice for those scenarios.

Do you require compatibility with professional outboard gear?

One of the most appealing features of USB microphones is their ability to function without any extra gear, unlike traditional microphones. For this reason, they’re usually not built with the XLR connectors required to work with outboard studio gear. In the event that you want the flexibility to connect your USB microphone to XLR equipment, the Shure MV7 is one of the very few options on the market that can do just that unless you use an additional interface/convertor, such as the Elgato Wave:3.

FAQs

Q: Does a USB condenser mic need phantom power?

USB microphones don’t need phantom power because they’re powered directly via the USB cable itself. Some models do specifically require USB 3.0, which offers a higher amperage than USB 2.0.

Q: Which is better: condenser or dynamic mic?

Condenser microphones use a thin, sensitive capsule membrane to capture sound, making them the best choice for recording nuanced and detailed sources such as singing. Dynamic microphones are more robust and are better at rejecting outside noise, making them a better choice for streaming use.

Q: Can you record vocals with a USB mic?

You can definitely record vocals with a USB microphone—in fact, most of them are designed specifically for that purpose. A condenser USB microphone like the Blue Yeti X is the preferred choice for recording singers due to its sensitive condenser design, while spoken word recordings may be better with a Shure MV7.

Final thoughts

Finding the best USB microphone for your creative endeavors depends largely on the type of content you’re creating and the context in which it’ll be heard. If you’re looking for a jack of all trades that can handle streaming, podcasting, and voice recording duties, the Elgato Wave:3 is a well-rounded option. Podcasters and streamers may prefer the speech-oriented DSP features of the Shure MV7 or the Razer Seiren Elite, which are tailored to decrease dynamic range and increase clarity in crowded audio mixes. If you’ll be using your USB microphone for musical vocal recordings, the four-capsule condenser construction of the Blue Yeti X will deliver some of the most nuanced and detailed vocal sound available in this product category.

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