USB microphones are an affordable and effective way to learn about proper recording techniques, gain staging, cardioid polar patterns, and a whole plethora of other technical aspects and other acoustic recording techniques; in a streamlined and non-confronting manner.
What Are The Best USB Mics For Podcasting & Streaming?
The Audio Technica AT2020USB+ is the very best mic for podcasting and streaming. Its ability to blend pre-recorded audio into the signal while monitoring in real-time, premium A/D converters and price point gives it the crown.
The Blue YETI is our best-value USB microphone for its versatility, i.e. being able to switch between four polar patterns.
If you’re on a budget, check out the Audio Technica ATR2500x. At under $100, it does a fantastic job.
With that out of the way, here are the best USB mics for podcasters and streamers:
Blue Microphones’ YETI (Best Value USB Microphone)
Audio-Technica ATR2500x USB Microphone (Best Budget USB Microphone)
Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Microphone (Best USB Microphone For Podcasts & Streaming – Our Pick)
Having been around for a significant period, the Blue YETI has been a staple in the bedroom/amateur and semi-pro setup since at least 2009.
I remember finding out about these as early as 2013 when I was looking for my first at-home solution to recording hip-hop vocals.
Since the inception of the YETI not much has changed, the design is relatively the same, and the functionality is as rock-solid as ever.
The YETI provides the user with a choice of 4 polar patterns. This microphone uses a condenser diaphragm and so is extremely sensitive and is best used in conjunction with a proper gain staging method.
This microphone ticks all the boxes for someone looking to apply it to multiple different applications and is a fantastic all-rounder and a great and easy way to introduce yourself to the world of recording.
2. Audio-Technica ATR2500x USB Microphone (Best Budget USB Mircrophone)
The Audio-Technica ATR2500x is a snazzy little all-rounder regarding application and use. Featuring the same 3.5mm headphone monitoring port as most of the devices on this list, the Audio-Technica ATR2500x also has a built-in 24-bit 192kHz A/D (analog to digital). Combined with the large and highly sensitive diaphragm, it delivers incredible clarity and is fantastic for capturing the finer timbres of a singer or instrument in the studio.
It also features a rear-and-side rejecting cardioid polar pattern making this mic more than suitable for interviewing, podcasting, conferencing, or even field recording situations.
The mic comes with two cables for both older and newer USB-a and USB-c devices, meaning your current technology isn’t left behind or obsolete when standing next to this device, for those still rocking 2014 MacBook Pros.
This mic also comes with a convenient little desk stand in the form of a detachable tripod, and also includes a standard mount for use on any microphone stand, meaning you can integrate this into your pre-existing recording setup with minimal fuss.
Built with ease and functionality in mind, this USB microphone works with any recording software and has front-facing controls so that adjustments can easily be made on the fly. With a range of 30Hz to 15kHz, this mic is less likely to pick up high-pitched annoyances.
3. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Microphone (Best USB Microphone For Podcasts & Streaming – Our Pick)
Geared towards singers/voice-over artists/podcasters
Audio-Technica is probably among one of the oldest and most experienced companies on this list, let alone the market, having originated in Japan in 1962. Building stereo phono cartridges, they quickly expanded into other sectors of the audio gear industry.
Since then they have made leaps and bounds in their technology and design, remained at the top of the field, and become a globally recognized brand synonymous with quality.
The AT2020USB+ (a mouthful, I’ll admit) is probably the best option on this list for those looking for a more premium end-user device on the USB recording spectrum. This mic has all the standard features and functionality you expect from a company like AT.
Unlike the other mics on this list, the AT2020USB+ gives the ability to blend pre-recorded audio into the signal which can be monitored in real-time through the device’s external 3.5mm headphone jack.
This allows Solo artists a leg-up on what they could do with something like the (much) cheaper G-Track Pro, which is to layer their music as they go and play over the top of it, adjusting the mix as they see fit.
This mic is highly recommended to those with the budget for it or those looking to capture a more detailed recording in an isolated environment. As this is locked to a standard cardioid polar pattern, it is more suited to capturing subtle details from those looking to ensure their recordings contain detailed nuances.
The HyperX podcast and streaming mic from QuadCast is a beautiful thing to look at. Being a pre-existing gaming brand with other gaming devices and peripherals on the market, QuadCast has done well to think of including a microphone on its list of offerings. Like their other devices, this one looks really freakin’ cool.
The microphone itself is full aluminum construction with a bright red pop filter situated inside the housing and symmetrical circular holes present on the body and a softer finish capping the top of the device, where quick-access a ‘tap to mute’ sensor is located, combining with a light that shows you whether your mic is muted or live.
This mic has been certified by both Discord and TeamSpeak for having met their requirements regarding both the clarity and quality of the audio signal.
The HyperX also boasts four different cardioid polar pattern selections, making it suitable for several uses including streaming, podcasting, and studio recording. Overall this microphone is well suited to gamers or anyone looking to film themselves while streaming, as it provides a cool aesthetic and simultaneously delivers great sound.
G-Track allows for simultaneous stereo input and gain control of vocals and guitar, bass or keyboard while also providing switchable stereo, mono, and computer monitoring through an on board headphone output.
This microphone comes from Samson, a well-known figure in the recording world, with a huge range of top-tier and mid-tier microphones for professional recording artists.
Samson has designed the G-Track pro to deliver the features and capabilities of some of their best technologies inside a much smaller and more affordable, easy-to-use package.
Many musicians (specifically solo artists) often wind up creating first and recording later. This leaves themselves with technical or equipment-based limitations which leads to the need to purchase lots of different gear and learn to use them WHILE learning how to record using a DAW.
It can all be a bit overwhelming for a folk singer who wants to lay down a jam they’re working on at the moment of inspiration. Enter the G-Track Pro; with some of the more impressive functionality on this list, the G-track Pro allows the user to not only record an acoustic signal using a selection of 3 polar patterns but provides a ¼” jack for the artist using it to include their instrument of choice, be it a guitar amp output, a semi-acoustic guitar or a portable keyboard.
The G-track Pro also has dedicated rotary knobs on the front of the device plus a 3.5mm jack to help you balance your levels in real-time and hear your signal output before recording, allowing you to get your levels right and hopefully wind up with a much more streamlined recording process or workflow.
The Razer Siren X is the microphone designed specially to elevate the quality of streams. The microphone strategically filters unwanted backilogramround noise and features a built-in shock mount to dampen vibrations.
The Razer Seiren USB microphone range is brilliant and innovative and has been designed not to break either the bank or itself, with a selection of models starting in the lower price range of around $99.
With easy-access front-facing buttons and a 3.5mm headphone jack the user also has the ability to monitor their audio signal from this range of devices with zero latency.
One of the nicer features (available on the Elite model) is the flashing ring that extends around the mic to let you know if your signal is clipping while recording in a situation where you cannot monitor.
The Razer Seiren ‘Emote’ can display illuminated emojis and messages upon the grille of the microphone itself, which may appeal to some.
The super-cardioid polar patterns drastically eliminate a significant amount of background noise that would otherwise be picked up by standard cardioid patterns and has a more directional focus on the user, giving a clearer overall signal.
Razer is an official partner of Sony Playstation and comes in a cool black/blue PlayStation color scheme as well as a selection of other cool colors. Sony also collaborated on this design with Razer directly, and the mic includes FULL PS4 integration and functionality.
The last thing I’ll say about this pretty little range is that they were designed to travel – and look good while doing it. With a metallic body and internal shock mount on even the lowest tier of the range, these space-saving mics won’t use up much space in your bag if you’re traveling between locations while streaming or recording.
7. MAONO AU-A04 USB Condenser Microphone Kit
Huge value for money
Professional looking setup
Ideal for permanent installation while remaining easy to dismantle
USB Microphone Kit Plug & Play -with professional sound chipset, which let the USB microphone hold high-resolution sampling rate. Sampling Rate: 192kHz/24bit. With a good cardioid polar pickup pattern, high output and low self-noise function, the microphone can accurately reproduce even the most subtle sound.
This microphone can be used for a variety of purposes and looks good on camera, but due to the nature of the scissor arm design, this mic can also be placed above the audio source and be positioned discreetly off-camera.
As the only mic on the list that comes with this accessory, it’s worth a look for those looking to host a ‘radio-style’ panel or podcast.
Buying a scissor arm, shock mount, and pop filter separately can be a costly exercise, and waiting for all your packages to arrive or going out and trying to source the gear can be annoying. The AU-404 setup takes care of that by including everything you’ll need to get started.
8. Fifine K670 Podcast USB Microphone
Fantastic low-budget option
3.5mm jack for zero-latency monitoring
Sturdy all-metal construction
This microphone is a great little low-budget option for solo content creators looking to ‘cut their teeth’ or try to dive into recording and creating their own content.
This mic would be recommended more for someone who wants to start learning and creating without breaking the bank.
You might find that you outgrow this mic and want to move on to something better, but for the price, you really can’t argue with what’s in the box.
The Fifine K670 functions as an audio interface, allowing you to monitor your recordings with a 3.5mm headphone jack. With the combined USB connectivity and accessible ‘volume’ (gain) knob on the front, this is perfect for beginners.
Other features include a swivel stand and detachable base, cardioid polar pattern, and ‘multi-system’ compatibility, delivering probably one of the best bang-for-buck options currently available on the market.
Understanding Microphone Polar Patterns
Now, we thought we should highlight some features that could help you determine what type of microphone would meet your needs. These are:
Polar Patterns and their types
Dynamic and Condenser microphones
The polar pattern of a microphone is its sensitivity to sound relative to the direction of the source of the sound.
Polar patterns are the effect of changing the amount of charge supplied to a condenser mic capsule. Changing the charge supplied to the capsule can present several variations in the way sound is picked up and transduced into an electronic signal.
This all depends on circuitry and electronics that are better fundamentally understood than technically understood. Unless you have the time to go down that rabbit hole, here are some of the basic patterns uses.
Cardioid/Super-Cardioid polar patterns record from the front and reject from the rear. This is perfect for streaming at a keyboard or computer or recording near a reflective surface or as part of a group.
Super-cardioid has a much stronger rear repulsion effect and will more likely be found in the application on stage at a live concert or on a TV interview panel or live audience show.
Stereo records the entire front center, left, and right of the microphone, suited for capturing vocal performances or recording acoustic instruments, for example, a four-piece band from the perspective point of the audience.
Omnidirectional picks up sound from all angles surrounding the device, best suited for group discussions, conference calls, group interviews, or larger podcasts where multiple people are talking at once. It also saves on buying multiple mics but can leave you with much editing.
The Bi-directional polar pattern also known as Figure 8, is aptly named as the microphone captures from the front and rear of the capsule and rejects from the sides.
This makes it perfect for conducting two-person interviews or recording a musical duet. It’s also great for traveling journalists or podcasters who do more interview-related content.
Dynamic vs. Condenser Microphones
When choosing a type of microphone, one important thing to consider is the environment you will have when recording.
Dynamic microphones capture sound through a magnetically charged diaphragm, the diaphragm vibrates in response to the sound. This makes the mic effective for capturing loud and strong sounds or vocals. They are also less likely to pick up sounds like the tapping of a keyboard, clicking of a mouse, the squeak of your chair, or the bark of the dog next door.
Condenser microphones, in contrast, are more effective in enclosed environments such as studios. These microphones capture sound through a lightweight diaphragm suspended by a fixed plate. The thin diaphragm allows the mic to pick up delicate and crisp sounds perfect for recording softer and more articulate vocals.
A gain stage refers to any point in a production where you can control the volume level of an individual device or track.
Gain staging itself is the process of managing all of these volume levels within a project before or during recording to achieve the cleanest mix possible at the final stage of production.
This helps to avoid the need to re-record, missing out on great moments, or losing the impact of a statement made on the fly during a group podcast session.
The process of gain staging doesn’t end when you’ve finished recording, as you will still be able to playback your recordings and ‘mix’ them accordingly to other layers or tracks you might like to add.
Aiming for a recording level of -18dB to -12dB is your best bet, as this will drastically reduce the potential of the audio signal clipping, and leave plenty of headroom to adjust gain later on during the mixing and final production processes without the signal clipping in the DAW you’re using.
Monitoring is the process of keeping an eye on or ‘monitoring’ your signal as it is being recorded.
This allows you to hear in real-time if you are too loud, or if there are unwanted artifacts in your signal such as room reflections, room noise, or signal interference.
The monitoring process goes hand-in-hand with the process of gain staging.
After successfully gain-staging your signals before recording, you should be able to monitor or listen to your audio in real-time with little-to-no worry.
ProTip: Get The Waves Content Creator Toolkit
As a footnote to this list of microphones, it is worth noting to those of you who made it this far that Waves Audio has recently released a special collection of plugins that are made for the sole purpose of streaming and podcasting.
This pack contains four great plugins including Greg Wells’ VoiceCentric, NS1 Noise Suppressor, Playlist Rider, and WLM Plus Loudness Meter.