Top ten USB condenser mics that will make you sound better

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Introduction

Racking your brains to find the Best USB Condenser Mics for your recording? Well you have landed at the right place. Searching for the perfect mic for your vocals depends not only on your budget but also on the sound, feel and energy of the recording that your mic can produce. But, you will have to choose from different types and according to the setting of your recording.

We have used several microphones for our podcasting endeavors beginning from Blue Snowball Ice to Audio Technica AT2020 USB+. One thing we would like to note is that the choice of microphones should depend on your needs. If it is for professional use we recommend opting for a slightly expensive high end mic which can produce good audio quality.

However, there are also microphones that offer good quality at reasonable prices like the Samson Meteor mic. As already mentioned your choice will depend on the purpose of use and also your budget.

 Have a look at our ranking of Best USB Condenser Mics based on their specs, features and sound quality

  Microphone

SPL

Polar pattern

Connectivity

Samson G Track Pro USB

120dB

Cardioid, Bidirectional, and Omnidirectional

USB

Blue Yeti Pro

120dB

Cardioid, Bi-directional, Omnidirectional and Stereo

USB and XLR

Audio Technica AT2020 USB+

144dB

Cardioid

USB

Shure MV5

130 dB

Cardioid

USB

Razer Seiren X

110dB

Supercardioid

USB

Snowball Ice

-10 dB

Cardioid and Omni Directional

USB

Rode NT1 USB

110dB

Cardioid

USB

HyperX Quadcast

120dB

Stereo, Omnidirectional, Cardioid, and Bidirectional

USB

Samson Meteor Mic

120 dB

Cardioid

USB

Samson Go

121 dB

Cardioid and omnidirectional

USB

1. Blue Yeti Pro

If you are a fan of Blue Yeti then you should have a look at its improved version, the Blue Yeti Pro. The Blue Yeti Pro is a great choice for professional recording gigs. These condenser USB microphones can be used for recording a variety of vocals including choirs, duets, and even entire bands.

Yeti Pro features a 24-bit/192kHz resolution recording performance. The mic offers four polar patterns, cardioid, bi-directional, omnidirectional and stereo and has three custom condenser capsules which contribute to clarity of your recording. The maximum SPL handling capacity lies at 120dB SPL.

The Yeti Pro can be used as a USB microphone as well as an XLR microphone allowing you to connect directly to your Mac or PC and record your vocals without an interface. If you are using an interface, a 48V DC phantom power is required to power the mic. The XLR functionality lets you connect a dual XLR breakout cable to mixers, high-end preamps and other studio gear.

When you are plugging in the mic to your PC or Mac you will notice that it appears as a full USB audio device, rather than just a USB microphone. This means that you can monitor full playback through the headphone jack on the bottom of the mic with zero latency.

The Blue Yeti Pro can blow your mind with its design as well as superb recording quality. It is built to record higher sound volumes with a sample rate all the way up to 192 kHz.

Pros

  • Four polar patterns
  • USB and XLR connectivity
  • Frequency response 20Hz – 20kHz

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Setup requires the installation of a driver that differs depending on the device connected to it

2. Samson G Track Pro USB

The Samson G Track Pro USB is a condenser microphone that boasts superior sound quality. The mic possesses plug and play connectivity which makes it a perfect choice for musicians, streamers and gamers. Albeit, priced higher than its competitors the product’s features are bang for the buck.

Samson's G-track Pro offers three polar patterns for recording audios. The mic can pick up cardioid, bidirectional, and omnidirectional sounds. The cardioid pattern will be of immense help to gamers and streamers who are looking to replace their headphone or laptop mic with a better quality mic.

The sound quality of the mic is accentuated by the dual 1" large-diaphragm condenser capsules that can capture audio to the highest detail. The mic has the ability to capture your audio at 24-bit/96kHz. It can handle a sound pressure level [SPL] of 120dB.

As the name suggests the mic is powered by the USB port therefore, a phantom power source is not required. Other inputs include: a 1/4" rear input sound which makes the audio crystal clear. It also allows the mic to work as an audio interface where you can play both mic and instrument simultaneously. It can be used for recording bass, guitar, keyboard and other line level devices.  

Pros

  • Frequency response- 50Hz–20kHz
  • Three polar patterns
  • Dual track recording

Cons

  • Initial setup is slow
  • Heavy
  • Priced high compared to similar models

3. Audio Technica AT2020 USB+

Audio Technica’s AT2020 is a reasonably priced mic bundled with accessories including a stand mounting swivel clamp, a small tripod desk stand and a 10-foot USB cable. AT2020 USB+ can record numerous vocal styles and can also function as an acoustic instrument mic.

A blue LED light flashes once the microphone is powered. Headphones can be connected to the 3.5mm mini-jack socket on the side of the mic. There is a dial for headphone volume control and a second dial to mix between the mic’s audio and the computer’s audio. The second dial helps preserve the balance between the direct signal from the mic and the computer's stereo output which allows zero latency monitoring.

AT2020 USB+ is compatible with Apple operating systems (OS X, iOS) and Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000. It needs no additional driver to be installed for working with Apple operating systems. As for a Windows system a driver will be automatically downloaded.

AT2020 USB+ records superb sound quality and can deliver tones that are easier on the ear. The mic can handle a maximum SPL of 144dB and showcases a frequency response of 20Hz to 16kHz. This medium-diaphragm cardioid mic is limited to cardioid pickup pattern and therefore can capture noises from the background.

Pros

  • Comes with a swivel clamp
  • Frequency response 20Hz to      16kHz

Cons

  • Only Cardioid pattern
  • Can pick up background noises

4. Shure MV5

Looking for a cheap but quality microphone for home recording with quality audio, then consider buying the Shure MV5 microphone from Shure. Shure has been known for manufacturing quality microphones for decades.  The Shure MV5 belongs to Shure’s ‘Motiv Digital Microphones’ series and is the least expensive among its product lineup.

This lightning-enabled microphone is the best condenser microphone under $100 and has a free app called ShurePlus Motiv app that is designed to make recording and audio editing easier.

The plastic cast microphone which comes in grey and red colors is relatively smaller compared to other microphones from the Shure series. Since most of the mic is made of plastic it is portable, allows easy setup and takes up only a little space. The mic is roughly a 2.5 inch sphere covered by a sturdy plastic grill. A cardioid-pattern 16mm condenser rests inside the grill which picks up the audio.

The mic is 5.5 inches tall and can be adjusted according to the height of the speaker. The stand of the mic is lightweight and therefore has the chances of being easily knocked over if the connecting cables are slightly pulled.

Other external features of the mic include a 3.5mm low-latency headphone jack at the back of the mic and a USB port. The back panel features a dial to control headphone volume, a mute button and a mode selector. The mode selector helps change between three DSP [digital signal processing] modes, namely, voice, instrument, and flat modes.

Besides, the mic can be tuned to fit any occasion via the hardware DSP settings. The ShurePlus Motiv app also helps in in-app tuning. The app lets you fiddle with the MV5's EQ and compression modes. The mode selected is signified by Status LEDs positioned on top of the mic.

If you want a microphone for recording voiceovers and podcasts from an iPad Shure MV5 is the best choice as it is lightning-enabled.  The mic has an easy setup; all you need to do is plug it into your device using microUSB or lightning, launch the app and start recording. The mic is recommended for home studio recording and streaming purposes and not for professional gigs.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Frequency response 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • Only Cardioid pattern
  • Easily knocked over

5. Razer Seiren X

If you want to set up a recording studio but have budget restrictions, you can opt to buy the Razer Seiren X. This microphone will fit into your budget and at the same time give you a superior quality audio.

Razer Seiren X belongs to the broadcaster series of Razer’s microphone lineup and is a condenser microphone made for streaming. Therefore, Seiren X is designed specifically for streamers who are looking to enhance their initial setup.

Seiren X is a compact microphone which demands less space and therefore easy to carry with you. It has a supercardioid pickup pattern and the sound is recorded at a tighter angle. It has an in-built shock mount which reduces vibrations and helps you stream against background noises. Noises from random knocking, keyboard typing, and vibrations on the desk is barely noticeable while recording on Razer Seiren X. Razer promises that its product is fine tuned to produce precise recording.

Recording in isolation with the Razer Seiren X can work wonders. It can pick up the finer details of higher frequencies and the recorded voice has a punch to it. It is a perfect choice for streamers, especially on the go streamers, as the mic is lightweight, transport friendly and promotes quick setups and packdowns.

Pros

  • Compact design
  •  Portable
  • Reduces background noise

Cons

  • Only supercardioid pickup pattern
  • No gain control

6. Blue Snowball iCE

Snowball Ice from Blue was manufactured in 2005 and was its first consumer level microphone. Snowball has become a standard for all the podcasters and home studio recorders as it is modestly priced The instant plug and play mic is compatible with any software on any computer.

As the name suggests the microphone is shaped like a ball. The mic has two condenser capsules; one helps pick up cardioid patterns and the other offers an omni pattern pick up. These dual-condenser capsules produce crystal clear and high-quality audio, however, it is not equal to professional standards.

The omni directional mode is perfect for live music sessions with different instruments. The cardioid with -10 db pads showcases lesser sensitivity which will let you capture clear sounds in a loud surrounding. Therefore, the mic can be used to capture vocals, music, podcasts, gaming and multimedia production. You can also use Snowball iCE for your Twitch streams.

The mic doesn’t require drivers to record the audio. It sets itself up as the primary recording device in your Windows settings, so there is no need to play around with the sound settings. You just need to connect it one end of the USB wire to your PC and then start recording.

Pros

  • Frequency response 40 Hz to 18 kHz
  • SPL 120dB
  • Cheap

Cons

  • No controls on the device
  • Only one connecting point

7. Rode NT1 USB 

Rode NT1 USB from Rode features excellent build quality and terrific audio quality. It is specially designed to capture voiceover, singing and instrumentals. The mic comes along with pop filter, tabletop stand and long cable. The condenser mic can capture a wide range of frequencies than dynamic mics and delivers more transparent audio. It also has relatively high sensitivity which allows you to record from a distance.

The mic can be setup easily. Plug the mic into the device of your choosing and start recording. As a USB microphone it can be connected to your Mac or PC and therefore doesn’t require an audio interface. The mic is powered by USB port connected to an external computer so there is no phantom power required.

Coming to the external features, the mic is equipped with a volume dial and a mixer dial which lets you control the balance between the sound captured by the microphone and the sound from the computer. A 3.5mm headphone jack facilitates latency-free monitoring of audio. There is a blue LED light which flashes when the mic is powered up.

The cardioid condenser mic can handle up to 110dB SPL, which may not be high enough for recording kick drums but is enough to record vocals and acoustic guitar. Besides, the mic possesses an inbuilt headphone amplifier which contributes to the clarity of the recording.  

Considering the price of NT1, it is a solid unit with excellent recording quality sporting well designed accessories.

Pros

  • Frequency response 20Hz to   20KHz
  • Comes with a pop filter

Cons

  • Only one polar pattern
  • Arm that holds the pop filter can be unsteady

8. HyperX Quadcast

If you want a microphone for live streaming, podcasting or gaming HyperX Quadcast is one to consider. HyperX introduced this USB condenser mic to attract streamers and podcasters. Quadcast has become a popular choice amongst gamers with its streaming ready looks and well-positioned controls that allow for quick gain changes and muting while you record.

There is a capacitive mute button placed above the mic which is touch-sensitive. The capacitive sensor is tapped lightly to activate the mute button. This also eliminates the need of a physical button which can create clicking noises while recording. A gain control button placed at the bottom of the mic can be used to adjust the gain but may affect your recording. The gain controls on your computer software could be an alternative to using the gain control switch.

The back of the mic features a knob which will let you switch between four pick up patterns: stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, and bidirectional. The option of four polar patterns contributes to the versatility of the mic. This also allows you to change from recording voiceovers to a round table podcast. Also, at the back of the mic is a 3.5 mm headphone jack allows you to connect your headphones to the mic and a mini USB port which is used to power the microphone.  

A unique feature of the mic is the foam-like material inside the grill of the mic is designed to reduce pressure spikes and plosives. This means that you wouldn’t have to buy a pop filter to increase the clarity of your recording.

HyperX Quadcast is the most popular gaming mic as it has the ability to cut through game audio with a finer sound. The mic can take on high fidelity recording tasks but is not recommended for professional productions.

Pros

  • Four 120dB pick up patterns
  • Frequency response 20 Hz to 20 KHz
  • Pop filter not required

Cons

  • Can pick up background noises
  • Not suitable for professional recording

9. Samson Meteor Mic

Boasting solid recording quality, the Samson Meteor mic is a reasonably priced mic aimed at amateur and home recorders. The mic performs extremely well in scenarios like Skype call, podcast recording, game streaming or voiceovers.

Weighing just 6 ounces, the mic is a little over 6 inches tall which makes it easily portable. Its portability makes it a perfect choice for ‘on the go’ streamers. The mic is easy to set up as it can be directly connected to your PC using the USB port located at the back of the mic and doesn’t require the assistance of any drivers.

Also located at the back of the mic is a 1/8" headphone jack allowing monitoring without latency. Looking at the external features of the mic it lacks some of the most important controls. Apart from the mute button positioned in the front, the Samson Meteor doesn’t have a knob to control the gain or the headphone volume.

Therefore, Meteor cannot be used for professional productions. Plus, it fails to handle extreme volume levels. It is highly sensitive and can capture background noises like typing. The mic requires a quiet room to record to capture a clean signal. If a clean signal is captured the sound produced is crystal clear.

Pros

  • Compact and portable
  • Can directly be connected to another device
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • Only cardioid pickup
  • Can capture background noise

10. Samson Go Mic

The Samson Go is a reasonably priced entry level mic for beginners. It was released a decade ago but is still one of the best condenser microphones out there. Standing short at 0.9 inches and weighing as little as 3.9 ounces, this petite mic will hardly take up any space in your bag. Therefore, it is a great option for travel vloggers.

Apart from travel vloggers, it is a great choice for beginner content creators, gamers and people who have to be a part of frequent video conferences. Beginner content creators can grab the Samson Go without worrying about money. Also good content requires quality hardware. Even though the recording quality of the unit is a little disappointing, it makes for an excellent beginner’s mic.

Listeners can record 16-bit/44.1kHz, but the quality isn’t the best. Despite the recording mode background noises like typing, the traffic outside and even a noisy washing machine are clearly captured.. The -10 dB setting is of definite advantage only if you have a quiet room to record in.

While the mic may not be the best at recording, it is definitely the right pick for business calls and gaming communications. There is a shock absorbent pad to isolate the recording capsules from minimal vibrations. Therefore, conversations made via the mic from a room with minimal background noises are clear.

There are two 10mm capsules that are internally shock-isolated and can record both cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns. There is a pattern switch on the left side of the microphone which helps choose between cardioid, cardioid with a 10dB pad, or omnidirectional pattern.

Even though the quality of the recording is found lacking, the mic is considered a great entry level unit for less than $40. Its portability factor works in its favor, making it a convenient choice for beginner travel vloggers and content creators.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Plug and play
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Pop filter required
  • Disappointing audio quality

Buyers Guide  

1. Types

There are three types of microphones namely; condenser, dynamic and ribbon microphones. This listicle only contains condenser microphones. But, it is important to know the other types as well. Now that you have read the article you would know condenser mics are versatile mics more balanced and accurate than both its counterparts.

The components inside condenser microphones are configured in such a way that the fidelity and the sound quality of the original audio signal are improved. Therefore, condenser microphones beats both dynamic and ribbon microphones when it comes to sound quality.

Unlike condenser mics, dynamic mics have only one response pattern; cardioid polar. Cardioid pattern helps the microphone filter out noise from its rear to isolate the sound source for the recording. These mics are rugged and can handle high sound pressure levels, like those produced by a kick drum.

Ribbon microphones listen to audio just like your ears. They are the most natural mics that can record an instrument, vocals and the ambience of a room. They feature a figure of 8 polar pattern and have a massive low end pickup.

2. Polar patterns

There are six main types of polar/pickup patterns namely, cardioid, super cardioid, omnidirectional, figure 8, shotgun and switchable pattern. Cardioid, supercardioid and omnidirectional mics are the most popular in the market.

The cardioid pickup pattern picks up audio from the front of the microphone and blocks everything else. Therefore, it can be used for live performances where you would want to isolate unwanted ambient sound. Similar to the cardioid microphones, super/ hyper cardioid microphone pickup audio from the front but have a narrower surface of sensitivity. This helps in improved isolation and higher resistance to feedback.

Omnidirectional microphones can capture sounds from all angles. Recording on an omnidirectional mic adds a natural touch because it can capture background noises.

3. Frequency response

Microphone’s frequency response is the range of frequencies the microphone can pick up. The range is determined by the mic’s lowest to highest frequencies measured in Hertz. A mic with a frequency response range of around 80 Hz to 15 kHz would make a good choice for a vocal mic.

4. Software inclusion

Microphone doesn’t require any special software. Your computer will have the necessary hardware and software to record a piece of audio. This software will help you tweak the audio output of the microphone.

Condenser Vs Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are more rugged than condenser microphones. It can withstand moisture and can take a beating compared to the latter. Condenser microphones are generally used for studio production while dynamic microphones are used for stage performances. The former can handle a larger frequency range and has a good transient response while dynamic microphones have a limited frequency response.

Condenser mics have a louder output but are much more sensitive to loud sounds. Dynamic microphones can withstand high sound pressure levels including loud guitar amps, live vocals, and drums, however, the sound captured is not accurate. Also, condenser microphones are more expensive than dynamic microphones.

Cardioid vs Hypercardioid

Cardioid mics can only capture the sounds in front of them rejecting the sounds coming from the rear and the sides of the mic. These mics come in handy in multi-miking situations where you want to avoid capturing the ambience of the room. They are particularly used for loud stages because they show more resistance to feedback.

Hypercardioid mics compared to cardioid mics have a narrower front pick up angle resulting in the greater rejection of unwanted background noise and feedback. The increased focus of the front region is essential when you are recording in loud environments. This can avoid unwanted sound from bleeding back into the mic. These mics have sensitive rear lobes which makes the positioning of the mic hard.

FAQs  

1. Are condenser mics good for live performance?

Condenser mics are good for live performances due to their sound performance. They have a well-built condenser capsule that is capable of a smoother response through the full frequency range than a dynamic microphone. Dynamic microphones are less responsive to higher frequencies. Besides, the audio quality is irregular and peaky compared to condensers.

2. How to make your mic sound better?

There are some general tips to follow while recording on a mic. Always get the distance between the mic and speaker right. The speaker shouldn’t be too close to the mic or too away from the mic. Also, avoid touching your mic while you are recording.

There are some programs that you can download to make your audio better. Voicemeter is one such program that will help your recording sound like a professional recording. The program has a voicemeter which lets you control your recording via a voice panel. The voice panel lets you choose the point where your recording sounds best. After finding the sweet spot you can begin recording.

3. Do I need a preamp for my condenser mic?

Pre amp, short for pre amplifier, is a device that prepares an audio signal to be processed by another device. A condenser mic needs phantom power to power up. This phantom power is provided by a pre amp.

4. Is sm57 a condenser?

The SM57 from Shure is dynamic microphone. It is specially designed to record higher frequencies without distortion. This means that high-pressure sound that explodes from instruments and amplifiers is easily captured by the mic and reproduced without distortion.

5. Do condenser mics need phantom power?

There are two types of microphones that require phantom power; microphones that require XLR which needs 12-48 volts to be powered, and mini condenser mics that use roughly 9 volts. These microphones will require an audio interface to power up the microphone.

Microphones which cannot be powered by USB needs phantom power. Nowadays, most mics are equipped with a USB connection point which lets you directly connect your microphone to the device of your choice.

6.What microphones are preferred for gaming?
a. Audio Technica AT2020

Audio Technica AT2020 is considered as best PC mic for gaming. It has sampling rate of 4.1/48 kHz coupled with a high-output internal headphone amplifier which contributes to clear and precise recording for gaming, podcasting and streaming. The mic also boasts high sensitivity and full frequency response along with an easy setup.

b. Blue Yeti USB

Blue Yeti is a premium mic for your gaming needs. It boasts multiple pickup patterns which makes it capable of recording sound from any direction. The mic also possesses a simple control system and requires no additional drivers to be installed. Gamers can easily set it on their desktop table next to their gaming console and adjust the pivot mic according to the position of the speaker.

Conclusion

The winner from our listicle of Best USB Condenser Mics is the Blue Yeti Pro. Hailing from one of the best brands of the industry, the Blue Yeti Pro hosts a pile of features. With four unique pattern settings and three custom condenser capsules, the Blue Yeti Pro can capture digital audio with four times the resolution of audio files recorded on CDs.

Although the choice of microphones depends on the location settings of your production, it could be in your room, a studio or a place outside. You could be recording a podcast, live streaming or video conferencing.  Each situation requires a different kind of mic. Always keep in mind that a good condenser mic should be plug and play ready. It should also be able to block interferences to give out a clear signal.

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