Microphones are among the most critical and useful tools for any recording setup. Without a good mic, it is impossible to create high-quality recordings for making music, streaming, or podcasting, but good microphones are very complicated to use well, and they are difficult to set up correctly. This leaves us wondering if USB mics are a good alternative and if they are worthwhile using at all.
USB microphones are worth it. USB mics are somewhat expensive, and it can be challenging to find the right model, but if you need a mic for a small recording setup, if you need a mic that is simple to use and portable, or if you need a high-quality mic for podcasting, a USB mic is an ideal option.
USB microphones have a bad reputation for being poor-quality microphones that produce low-quality recordings, but microphone technology has progressed, and USB microphones have become viable options for multiple purposes. However, is a USB mic the right choice for you? Let’s find out!
Are USB Microphones Good?
USB microphones have a reputation for being low-quality mics, and this was a fair reputation a few years ago when these mics were in the early stages of their devolvement, but USB mics have come a long way since the earlier models, and these mics have become very high quality and very useful in many situations.
Modern, high-quality USB microphones are very good. These mics are made to compete with high-quality XLR microphones and are made to the same high standards as all high-end mics.
Several USB microphones are produced by some of the biggest, best-known, and most trusted names in the microphone industry, such as AKG, Shure, and Audio-Technica.
Modern USB microphones are designed to be used as easily as possible and produce the best possible audio quality. There is a wide range of high-end USB dynamic and condenser mics on the market, and most are far better than you may expect.
The audio quality produced by these microphones is very good, and most of the good USB mic models produce audio that is as good and clear as a good XLR microphone.
These mics have a built-in analog to digital signal converted and a built-in preamp, which allows them to be used with any computer with nothing more than a single cable.
Other microphones require complex external preamps and interfaces to work with computers, but USB mics produce the same audio quality with significantly more ease and convenience.
Modern USB microphones are very good, easy to use, and convenient. They can be used for vocals, instruments, spoken voice, and even for generating audio samples.
Are USB Microphones Worthwhile?
Modern USB microphones can be very good, provided you buy a good-quality microphone, but the added circuitry and hardware that these mics are made with can make them very expensive. This leads potential USB mic buyers to wonder if using these mics is even worthwhile or if they should rather use a typical XLR microphone instead.
USB microphones can be expensive if you want to get a good quality model, but the cost of a good USB mic is not more than the cost of an XLR microphone and all of the other hardware required to run it, operate it, and get it to sound good.
However, with that said, USB microphones are not the best option for everyone and should only be considered by those that can make the best use of them.
The advantage of buying a typical XLR microphone and the accompanying gear is that the external equipment can be used with any microphone. This means that once you have the gear to run an XLR mic, you can add to your setup over time by purchasing other microphones with different attributes.
Using a USB mic does not encourage you to add any other gear to your recording setup. If you want another mic, you will need to either spend the extra money on a different USB mic or pay up for an entire XLR mic setup.
However, USB microphones are very worthwhile for anyone who only wants to ever use one microphone, anyone who records simple podcasts, or anyone who travels with their gear.
If you use a laptop for recording and need to move your recording setup easily, there is no better microphone to use than a USB mic, as there is no extra gear required to use this mic type.
USB mics are also very worthwhile for anyone with a small recording setup, be it for making music or recording voices, as these mics require very little space to function.
A USB microphone is also ideal for a beginner who does not have the time to learn all of the necessary information associated with an XLR microphone setup, as USB mics are very easy to use and set up.
All of this means that there are certain individuals for whom a USB microphone is the ideal choice, making this mic type very worthwhile, and there are other people who can benefit more from using a wired XLR microphone recording setup.
Are USB Microphones As Good As XLR Microphones?
We have established that USB microphones can be very good, so long as they are a good mic made by a good manufacturer, but are these mics really as good as similar quality XLR microphones?
Modern USB microphones are as good as XLR microphones in the same class. There are very high-end XLR microphones that far supersede all USB mics, but a USB mic that is made to compete with a specific class of XLR mics usually matches the quality of that class, especially if it is made by a good microphone company.
For example, the king of podcasting microphones, the Shure SM7B, has a USB mic counterpart called the Shure MV7. This mic is made to directly match the SM7B and is even made with a nearly identical design.
This microphone is made specifically for podcasting and is not ideal for any other purpose that does not involve recording the spoken voice, but it excels at this purpose, matching the SM7B in quality and style.
There are other USB microphones that are specifically made for recording instruments and singing voices, and there are a few that are made to be as versatile as possible.
However, all of this is to say that good-quality USB microphones are as good as similar-class XLR microphones, so long as you buy the right mic for your purposes and if the mic is made by a trustworthy company.
What Are The Advantages Of Using A USB Microphone?
USB microphones have their weaknesses, but there are several advantages to using this type of microphone over regular mics.
The main advantage of using a good USB microphone is the fact that these mics require no other hardware to run.
Every good USB microphone has a built-in analog-to-digital converter (A/D converter), which allows the mic to connect directly to the computer without using an interface. This built-in A/D converter converts the analog audio signal of a microphone into a digital audio signal that can be used by a computer.
These mics also have a built-in preamp to boost the microphone’s signal to usable levels. If you plug a mic without a preamp into a computer, the output signal of the mic is so low that it can barely be used at all, but the inclusion of a preamp enables the computer to easily use the audio signal from the mic.
These two features of the USB microphone combined with the portability of these mics, their versatility, and the easy functionality of the microphone type are the most important advantages of using these microphones.
USB Microphone Pros And Cons
There are some great advantages to using a USB microphone, but there are also some significant disadvantages in certain circumstances.
Let’s take some time to identify and explore the pros and cons of using a USB microphone, especially in comparison to using an XLR microphone, to help determine if these mics are worthwhile using.
The Pros Of USB Microphones
The pros of using a USB microphone include the following:
- USB microphones are very easy to use.
- USB microphones require no additional equipment to use.
- USB microphones are highly portable.
- USB microphones require very little space to use well.
- USB microphones can be very high quality.
- USB microphones are often made for specific purposes.
- USB microphones are easy to set up.
- USB microphones are ideal for small recording setups.
- USB microphones are ideal for a single-mic recording setup.
- USB microphones are good for beginners.
- USB microphones require no special training to use.
- USB microphones are good for multiple purposes.
- USB microphones can be compatible with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
- USB microphones have built-in A/D converters and preamps.
The Cons Of USB Microphones
The cons of using a USB microphone include the following:
- USB microphones can be very expensive, depending on the model.
- USB microphones can be poor quality if they are not a high-end model.
- USB microphones are not very versatile.
- USB microphones leave no room for upgrades or gear expansion.
- USB microphones may have trouble with certain operating systems depending on the brand.
- USB microphones do not always fit on mic stands or boom arms.
- USB microphones can be unreliable at inconvenient times.
- USB microphones cannot be used without a computer and a DAW.
Which USB Microphones Are Best?
There are several excellent USB microphones available right now, but the fact that there are so many means that it can be challenging to choose the right one.
For this reason, here is a short list of some of the very best USB microphones available right now:
- The Shure MV7 USB Podcast Microphone.
- The Blue Microphones Yeti Multi-Pattern USB Microphone.
- The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Microphone.
- The AKG Lyra Multi-Pattern USB Microphone.
- The Razer Seiren Mini USB Condenser Microphone.
- The Behringer Bigfoot All-In-One USB Studio Microphone.
These are some of the best USB mics available, but it is always best to do your own research and find the mic that best suits you regarding the features that you are looking for, the ways you will use your mic, and the budget that you have to spend on the mic.
Is A USB Mic A Good Option For You?
We now arrive at the most important question regarding USB microphones: should you use one?
Using a USB microphone is perfect for many situations, including streaming, video conferencing, podcasting, recording voices and instruments, and even for gaming, but these mics are not well-suited for everyone.
If you need a microphone for a basic purpose, such as for streaming or video conferencing, then a USB microphone is the best option because it is the simplest way to get high-quality audio with the least amount of gear and setup requirements.
If you travel a lot and want to have a microphone with you on the road, then a USB microphone is also the best option in this situation. These mics are also great for a beginner recording setup and are excellent for podcasting.
This means that if you travel with gear, record podcasts, or need good audio for calls, a USB mic is the best option for you.
However, if you want a more comprehensive setup, then an XLR microphone is a better choice. USB microphones leave no room for gear upgrades, and they do not encourage you to learn more about your gear to get the most from it.
These mics are also not the best option for recording instruments, and they can leave something to be desired when trying to achieve a highly dynamic sound.
If you want the best possible audio quality, it is easier and cheaper to get it from an XLR mic, but if you want convenience and portability, then you should be using a USB microphone.
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USB microphones are better today than they have ever been before. These mics are becoming so good that they rival XLR mics of the same quality in almost every class. These microphones are worthwhile for anyone who needs a simple-to-use microphone or for anyone who wants a portable mic for a moveable recording setup.
There are no other microphones that can do what a sub mic is capable of, so if you need one, nothing else will fulfill the same purposes. USB mics are worthwhile, and there are very high-quality models available for those who need them.
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