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 is so good, sometimes, 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 is microphone polar patterns. If you’ve no idea what this means, don’t worry. Here’s what I mean by polar patterns.

Blue Snowball

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

Blue SnowballThe 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’s an ideal starter mic if you’re still a bit intimidated at the thought of operating a microphone.

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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.

Blue Yeti

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

Blue YetiPerhaps 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.

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.

Samson Q2U or ATR2100

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

samson-q2uI 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.

Shure MV5

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

Shure MV5Shure 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. Its a great option for someone who tends to record ‘on the go’ because it’ll barely be noticeable in your bag, and can be set up ready to record in seconds.

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 more than good enough to podcast with. It just depends on how and where you plan to use your mic once you get it.

My personal opinion so far though –

  • If you want a podcasting mic for your solo or Skype interview show, go with the Samson Q2U or the ATR2100
  • If you want to have the immediate option of recording into your iPhone, as well as your computer, go with the Shure MV5
  • If you want to get 2 or more people round one mic to record, go with the Blue Yeti

Do You Agree?

Have you had good or bad experiences with the mics I’ve reviewed? Let me know in the box below.