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Best USB Microphones for Podcasters | Find the Right USB Mic for You

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.

You don't need to be a sound engineer to record good sounding 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 that we include 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 make up your own mind.

One thing I'll be talking about here 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 being more sensitive mean they can capture a more nuanced vocal performance, but also be susceptible to such unwanted noise.

Why Mention Headphones?

Some USB mics come with a headphone jack, which means you can plug a pair of earbuds directly into the mic and monitor yourself when you're recording.

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Monitoring your recordings is good practice because you'll hear exactly what's being recorded, as it's recording. 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.

Choosing a USB Condenser Microphone

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

Blue Snowball

  • Price – £50/$60
  • Headphone Port – No
  • Regular Snowball Polar Patterns – Cardioid, Omnidirectional
  • Snowball iCE Polar Pattern – Cardioid
  • Function – Condenser

Blue Snowball

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 mic, which is well built, and comes on it's own stand. It probably has the lowest quality sound out of the other mics listed here, but nevertheless, it can be a decent starter option if you're a bit intimidated at 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, and listen back to it.

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.

Blue Yeti

  • Price – £100/$125
  • Headphone Port – Yes
  • Polar Patterns – Cardioid, Stereo, Omnidirectional, Bi-directional
  • Function – Condenser

Blue Yeti USB mics

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 determines where it picks up sound from. 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 round 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 cardiod option sounds good, and the other polar patterns can sound roomy and distant. I'd only recommend getting one if you're using it as a solo mic.

Samson Meteor

  • Price – $69/£46
  • Headphone Port – 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 more light and 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 noise, then take a look at the Q2U instead.

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

Its an aesthetically distinctive mic too, so could be an option worth considering if you do a bit of video recording.

Shure MV5

  • Price – £100/$100
  • Headphone Port – Yes
  • Polar Pattern – Cardioid
  • Function – Condenser

Shure MV5

Shure are famous for their legendary musician's microphones, but they recently entered the digital mic arena with their MOTIV range. The Shure MV5 was one of these mics.

What gives this mic the edge over the others mentioned in this roundup so far is that it doubles up as an iPhone mic, without the need for any additional equipment. You can download Shure's free MOTIV app, which turns your phone into a little recording interface.

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

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.

What About Dynamic USB Microphones?

If you'd prefer a bit more protection against unwanted external or environmental noise, then either of these mics are a great option.

Samson Q2U or ATR2100

  • Samson Q2U Price – $40/£55
  • ATR2100 Price – $80/£60
  • Headphone Port – Yes
  • Polar Pattern – Cardioid
  • Function – Dynamic

Samson Q2U Best Podcasting Mics

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 also get a quality pair of headphones and a mic desk stand included in the standard bundle.

The Q2U and the ATR2100 are also pretty unique because you can use them as USB mics directly into your computer, or as XLR mics into a mixer or digital recorder.

This means that when you feel ready to buy your first mixer or recorder 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.

Rode Podcaster

  • Price – £145/$225
  • Headphone Port – Yes
  • Polar Pattern – Cardioid
  • Function – Dynamic

Rode Podcaster: USB Mics

Definitely the high-end option in this roundup, the Rode Podcaster is like a USB version of Rode'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 though, but would rather stay with USB as opposed to getting a mixer or preamp, then the Rode Podcaster could be for you.

Summary

So 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, and if there's anything you'd like to see included here, just let us know in the comments section.

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.

My personal opinion so far though? I can't see past the Samson Q2U or the ATR2100. I tend to recommend the Q2U to most people, and it's my favourite piece of podcasting equipment.

However, if you want to have the immediate option of recording into your iPhone (as well as your computer), then go with the Shure MV5, and if you have the budget and the desire to own the “premium” USB mic option, go with the Rode Podcaster.

If you remain undecided and would like to shop around a little more though, then check out our ‘Best Podcasting Microphones‘ roundup. That isn't limited to USB mic options, and you might feel that an XLR mic would be a better choice for you going forward.

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 Podcast Host Academy

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

It’s the ideal place to plan, launch, and grow your podcast in a focused and structured manner!

Discussion:

2 Comments

  1. Phil on 20th November 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Hey Matthew, thanks so much – this is super helpful. I need to avoid 2 people at once and was considering getting 2 of the Samson Q2U. Do you think that’ll be significantly better/worth it, over us crowdfunding around the Blue Yeti? Also does plugging 2 USB mics into the one Mac pose any difficulties?

  2. Casey on 16th October 2019 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks for this. I’m surprised by your high ratings for the Blue Snowball with such a low price. Do you have opinions generally on other Yeti’s?

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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

February 13th 2019