Best USB Mic for Podcasting in 2024? Costs, Build, & Audio Quality Compared

Best USB Mic for Podcasting in 2024: At-a-Glance

A USB mic is simple to use. Just plug it in, and you’re ready to roll.

They’re often seen as a “beginner” option. However, the quality of USB mics has increased drastically in recent years.

There are a lot of USB mics on the market. The best option for you will depend on a few different factors.

For best value, it’s hard to see past the Samson Q2U or the ATR2100.

Audio quality-wise, the AKG Lyra, Rode Podcaster, Shure MV7, and Samson Q9U sound superb.

Some USB mics have smartphone connections, too.

And the AntLion ModMic USB can turn your existing headphones into a quality headset mic.

Read on to find out more about the pros, cons, and pricing of each one…

Take me to the recs!

USB, digital, or “plug and play” mics are popular recording choices in the world of podcasting. After all, most people start a podcast not because they want to learn about audio equipment and sound recording but because they have something to say.

I remember when I started out in podcasting, there was a perception that USB mics were for amateurs and hobbyists, whereas “Pros” used analogue/XLR setups. These days, however, there are a lot of top-tier USB mics on the market that go toe-to-toe with any XLR setup.

You don’t need to be a sound engineer to record quality audio into your computer nowadays. You can have most USB mics unboxed, set up, plugged in and ready to go in about a minute. The quality can even be good enough to warrant including a couple in our flagship Best Podcasting Microphones roundup.

But if you’re already sold on the idea of getting a USB mic, how do you know which make or model to go for? There’s a lot of choice out there.

The good news is that we’ve already used most of them here at The Podcast Host, so we can provide you with the essential details to help you decide.

A quick heads up: This best USB mics roundup contains affiliate links which help support all of our free content. We may earn a small commission should you choose to buy through them. This is never at any extra cost to you!

One thing you’ll hear me mention throughout is “microphone polar patterns”. If you’ve no idea what this means, don’t worry. Here’s a guide to polar patterns, and why they matter.

Dynamic & Condenser USB Microphones

Another thing that I’ll be mentioning is whether the mics are “dynamic” or “condenser”. This relates to the way a mic is built, and how it functions.

To drastically simplify this, dynamic mics are a bit less sensitive but reject more unwanted noise from the environment. On the other hand, condenser mics are more sensitive, which means they can capture a more nuanced vocal performance but are also susceptible to such unwanted noise.

Why Mention Headphones?

Most USB mics come with a headphone jack, letting you plug a pair of earbuds directly into the mic and monitor yourself when you’re recording.

Monitoring your recordings is good practice because you’ll hear exactly what’s being recorded as it’s recorded. This way, you can immediately identify issues like distortion or poor mic technique and correct them there and then. The alternative can be to finish an hour-long episode, listen back to it, and realise that it sounds terrible.

Best USB Condenser Mics

Most USB microphones are condensers because they’re predominately designed for vocals. Here are your options…

AKG Lyra

Price – $84

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Patterns – Front, Front & Back, Tight Stereo and Wide Stereo

Function – Condenser

The AKG Lyra is one of the best-sounding USB mics on the market.

The mic is ready to use right out of the box with its own desk stand. But you can easily remove this and attach it to a more traditional stand or boom arm if need be.

It has four different recording patterns, so it is flexible in the way it can be used.

One minor irk for me is that the gain button is on the back of the mic rather than on the front. Other than that, though, it’s an exceptional mic that takes USB sound quality to a whole new level. See our AKG Lyra review for a deeper dive.

AntLion ModMic USB

Price – $85

Headphone Jack – No

Polar Patterns – Cardioid, Omnidirectional

Function – Condenser

USP – Best minimalist option

The AntLion ModMic USB (also available as a wireless model) is unique because it lets you turn your favourite pair of headphones into a headset mic.

Headset mics are ideal for folks with no desk space, boom arm, or mic stand. However, they’re also notorious for their sub-par audio quality.

The ModMic USB bucks that trend by offering great-sounding audio, which you can combine with the comfort and familiarity of your own headphones.

The mic has two polar patterns to suit recording in either silent, or noisier environments. It’s a great option for podcasters who do a lot of interviews online, and who lack recording space or a permanent podcasting setup.

For the solo podcaster, it doesn’t offer active monitoring so isn’t really suited to recording lengthy monologues. If that’s you, opt for a model with a headphone port instead. See our AntLion ModMic USB review for a deeper dive.

Rode NT-USB Mini

Price – $99

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Patterns – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

USP – Can record multiple USB NT-USB mics into one computer, in multitrack

Rode’s NT-USB Mini is a downsized version of the Rode NT USB, but it has a very unique selling point. You can plug up to four of the mics into your computer simultaneously and record them, multitrack, via Rode’s free ‘Connect’ software.

It’s worth noting that Rode have since added this capability to some other USB mics in their range, too!

Even as a standalone, though, the NT-USB is an excellent value little mic. It picks up the voice well, is robust and weighty, and it even has a magnetised desk stand, too.

Check out our Rode Connect & Rode NT-USB review for a deeper dive.

Samson Satellite

Price – $56

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Patterns – Cardioid, Omnidirectional, and Bi-Directional

Function – Condenser

USP – Records straight into iPhone

The Samson Satellite is another fine USB mic offering from our pals at Samson.

Not only is it an excellent-sounding USB mic, but it also works directly on the iPhone.

The Satellite is mounted on its own built-in tripod stand but can also easily be used with a boom arm or mic stand.

Its touch-control mute button is a nice feature, as it doesn’t pop or click your audio when toggled during a recording session.

Multiple polar patterns allow you to use the mic for solo, interview, or roundtable discussions, too.

Logitech Blue Snowball

Price – $40

Headphone Jack – No

Regular Snowball Polar Patterns – Cardioid, Omnidirectional

Snowball iCE Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

The Blue Snowball comes in two forms: the regular Snowball and the Snowball iCE.

The regular Snowball is what Blue refers to as the “professional quality option”, whilst the iCE is marketed as basic quality.

The Snowball is a great-looking, well-built mic and comes on its own stand. It probably has the lowest-quality sound out of the other mics listed here, but it can be a decent starter option if you’re a bit intimidated by the thought of operating a microphone.

My main gripe with the Snowball is that it doesn’t have a headphone port, so you can’t monitor your audio as you record. You can only hear what the recording sounds like once you’ve finished. By then, it’s already too late if you’ve had any issues.

The mic is also sensitive to plosives, so it can be easy to ‘pop’ your way through an entire recording, and know nothing about it until you load it up for editing. Check out our Blue Snowball review for a deeper dive.

Logitech Blue Yeti

Price – $90

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Patterns – Cardioid, Stereo, Omnidirectional, Bi-directional

Function – Condenser

Perhaps the most popular podcasting mic on the planet. The Blue Yeti is essentially the Snowball’s big brother. It has more features, weighs more, sounds better, and costs more.

A running theme with Blue is how accessible they make their gear. The Yeti, like the Snowball, is a good-looking mic that won’t intimidate the absolute beginner.

The Yeti has a few different ‘polar pattern’ options, which determine where it picks up sound. Set it to ‘bi-directional’, and you can record an interview or co-hosted show with someone sitting at either side of the mic.

Set it to ‘omnidirectional’, and you can gather a few people around a table and record a discussion-style episode.

Or, leave it on ‘cardioid’ if you just want to talk into the mic on your own.

In my opinion, only the cardioid option sounds good, and the other polar patterns can sound roomy and distant. I’d only recommend getting one to use as a solo mic. Check out our Blue Yeti review for a deeper dive.

Samson Meteor

Price – $43

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

The Samson Meteor is Samson’s trendy-looking little USB condenser mic.

It has a better sound quality than the Blue Snowball and is cheaper than the Blue Yeti. It’s also lighter and more portable than both.

Like any condenser mic, recording environment is a big factor towards how well it’ll serve you.

If you’re mainly going to record in places where there’s a lot of unwanted background noise, then take a look at the Q2U instead.

If you’re recording in a fairly quiet environment though, this can give you a decent sound.

It’s an aesthetically distinctive mic, too, so it could be an option worth considering if you do a bit of video recording. Check out our Samsom Meteor review for a deeper dive.

Shure MV5

Price – $99

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

USP – Records straight into iPhone

Shure are famous for their legendary musician microphones, but they also dabble in the digital mic arena.

The Shure MV5 is extremely small, light, and portable. It’s aesthetically well-designed and comes on its own stand.

The MV5 doubles up as an iPhone mic without the need for any additional equipment, too. You can download Shure’s free MOTIV app, which turns your phone into a little recording interface.

Whether you’re using it as a USB mic or into your iPhone, you’ll get a quality sound from the MV5. It’s a great option for someone who tends to record ‘on the go’ because it’ll barely take up any room in your bag, and can be set up ready to record in seconds. Check out our Shure MV5 review for a deeper dive.

Sennheiser Profile

Price – $199

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

The Sennheiser Profile is a USB cardioid microphone for podcasting and streaming. In our Sennheiser Profile review, Dev wrote that the “Profile’s design is sleek, much like the rest of Sennheiser’s range.”, adding that “It’s simple, elegant and sturdy; no cheap plastic thrills here. It is, however, tiny, and the dials are small and somewhat fiddly, even for my wee gremlin hands.”

Dev was impressed with the sound quality but did run into a few problems during setup. And one of the big reasons behind getting a USB mic is to avoid exactly this – things should be simple.  

Rode NT1 5th Gen

Price – $238

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

USP – “Unclippable” and ultra-low noise

The latest offering in Rode’s legendary NT1 range, the Rode NT1 5th Gen is at the premium end of the range, here. But there are a few good reasons to invest in one.

The first is its ultra-low self-noise of only 4dBA, making it the quietest large diaphragm studio condenser in the world.

Next, there’s the fact that it works in both USB and XLR form. That alone doesn’t make it unique in this best USB microphones roundup, but the technology Rode deploys means that it uses the exact same sonic characteristics in both forms. Essentially, the NT1 5th Gen has an audio interface built into it, so in its USB form, it’s akin to an XLR mic going into a computer via a USB audio interface.

Finally, when used in USB form, sound levels are protected by 32-bit floating technology. The mic’s ultra-wide dynamic range means that your days of clipping and distortion when a sound source gets too loud are at an end. This is good news for podcasters who’d rather focus on the content and what’s been said, rather than having to distractedly monitor the gain dial at all times.  

Rode NT1 5th Gen review coming soon!

Apogee HypeMic

Price – $350

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Condenser

USP – Onboard vocal effects, iPhone compatible

The Apogee HypeMic is another USB mic with a premium price tag. It has built-in compression settings that can aid in the balancing out of your recordings (essentially, pulling the quietest and loudest parts closer together). This is a process more experienced podcasters prefer to do in post-production rather than “baking it in” to the source recording itself. But depending on your level of experience or time constraints, this might be a big plus point for you. That said, it’s worth a warning that Sarah did experience some issues with clipping during her Apogee HypeMic review.

You can also connect the Apogee HypeMic to numerous iOS devices, making it another great mobile option. Sarah got it working with an Android device, though Android isn’t “officially” supported, here.    

Best USB Dynamic Mics

If you’d prefer a bit more protection against unwanted external or environmental noise, then a dynamic mic could be a better option.

Samson Q2U or ATR2100

The Samson Q2U

Samson Q2U Price – $70

ATR2100 Price – $55

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Dynamic

USP – Best overall value. Works as both USB and XLR.

I throw these two mics in together because they are virtually identical, and their availability and price both seem to depend on your region.

The Samson Q2U is the mic I recommend to most people who are starting out in podcasting, for a few different reasons.

Aside from it being very well-priced, you’ll often get a quality pair of headphones and a mic desk stand included in the standard bundle.

The Q2U and the ATR2100 both work as USB mics directly into your computer or as XLR mics into a mixer, interface, or digital recorder.

This means that when you feel ready to buy your first audio interface you won’t need to buy a new mic to get it set up and working.

These mics have a ‘cardioid’ polar pattern, which means they are designed to pick up a single voice at one time.

Check out our Samson Q2U review for a deeper dive.

PreSonus Revelator Dynamic

Price – $99

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Dynamic

USP – Aids in minimising reverb in recordings

The PreSonus Revelator Dynamic is a mic that may help you in the fight against reverb/echo and unwanted noise in your audio.

As I said in my PreSonus Revelator Dynamic review, “the mic’s off-axis rejection means that it performs well even in less than ideal conditions. I’d always recommend trying to do your best to create a good-sounding recording environment. But getting some extra help from your gear, without reducing the sound quality of your voice, is a big plus here.”

The mic also has a ‘Presets’ button on it. You can manage this from PreSonus’ Universal Control Software panel, which is available as a free download. The Universal Control Software is essentially like a digital mixer or interface. You can use or create presets and save them to the mic itself to access them at the touch of a button. These presets use EQ and other audio wizardry to liven up your voice.

Rode Podcaster

Price – $200

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Dynamic

The Rode Podcaster is one of the higher-end options in this roundup, like a USB version of the company’s popular Rode Procaster mic.

The sound quality is great – it always is with Rode – but it’s a big investment and might be a little above budget for some.

You’ll also need a boom arm or mic stand to mount it, so it isn’t as flexible as some of the other options here when it comes to portable or ‘on the fly’ recording.

If you’re looking for a premium-quality mic but would rather stay with USB instead of getting a mixer or interface, then the Rode Podcaster could be for you. Check out our Rode Podcaster review for a deeper dive.

Shure MV7

Price – $250

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Pattern – Cardioid

Function – Dynamic

USP – Marketed as “perfect recordings in imperfect rooms”

Shure’s SM7B has always been one of the most popular mics in podcasting. Maybe that’s because Joe Rogan uses one, or maybe it’s simply because sounds and performs well. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. In any case, this famous mic now has a little brother – the Shure MV7. This mic works in both USB and XLR form, and works hand-in-hand with Shure’s MOTIV app. Shure markets this mic as “for perfect recordings in imperfect rooms”. Check out our full review of the Shure MV7 right here.

Samson Q9U

Price – $195

Headphone Jack – Yes

Polar Patterns – Cardioid

Function – Dynamic

The Samson Q9U shares some similarities with the Q2U (they’re both Dynamic XLR/USB and have a Q and U in their name), but I don’t think it’s designed as a replacement. The Q9U costs a bit more and is definitely in the “high-end vocal mic” category. You’ll find handy settings on the mic itself, too – a mid-range button to improve the sound and a low-cut button to guard against those pesky plosives. Check out our full review of the Samson Q9U right here.

Best USB Mics: Summary

Hopefully that’s helped narrow your choices down a bit in the search for your first (or next) USB mic. We’ll continue to build this guide out as and when we get new kit to try out.

The bottom line is that all of these mics are good enough to podcast with. It just depends on how and where you plan to use yours.

Best Overall Value USB Mic

For overall value, I can’t see past the Samson Q2U or the ATR2100. We tend to recommend these to most new podcasters. They are flexible, sound good, and are both very affordable.

Best Sound Quality USB Mic

It’s hard to pick one single standout here; the quality is pretty high across the board. If you’re looking for pristine audio, then weigh up the AKG Lyra, Rode Podcaster, Shure MV7, and Samson Q9U. Factors such as pricing, additional features, optimal use cases, and even how they look can help you to make a final decision.

Best Minimalist Option USB Mic

The AntLion ModMic USB is a headset attachment for your existing headphones. It’s always easy to carry around in your bag and quick to set up.

A mention here also to the Shure MV5, Samson Satellite, and Apogee HypeMic, all of which can connect to your iPhone right out of the box!

Best Multiple USB Mic Option

Recording with multiple USB mics into one computer has always been an elusive and complicated process. Rode changed that with their release of the Rode NT-USB Mini and Rode Connect software.

This setup means you can run up to four USB mics into your computer simultaneously and record them in multitrack!

Need More Help Choosing Podcast Equipment?

If you need some more tailored advice for your own setup or want help with any other aspect of podcasting, then why not take a look at the Podcraft Academy

There, you’ll get access to all of our video courses, tutorials, ebooks, and downloadable resources. On top of that, we run weekly live Q&A sessions where you can get all your questions answered on an ongoing basis!

Originally posted on January 16, 2024 @ 3:26 am

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