If you’re looking for advice on how to choose the best usb microphone for your needs – you’re in the right place. A usb microphone will almost always be superior in quality to an analog 3.5mm input microphone. Though perhaps providing a touch less fidelity than a truly professional xlr input microphone – like what the majority of professional recording artists and singers use – the various usb mics available today offer outstanding quality. A good quality usb microphone will make you sound great and professional, whether conversing by Skype, podcasting, singing, recording musical instruments or doing voiceover work for video.
USB Microphone Options Galore
There are so many different types of microphone that it’ll make your head spin if you start investigating mics like I did. You’ve got ribbon, condenser, dynamic, binaural and more. At the end of the day though, they’re all accomplishing the same thing – just in a different way – converting sound into an electric current.
Directional Mics versus Omnidirectional Microphones
Directional mics focus audio pick-up in one particular direction and filter out most sounds from outside of this focal area – for instance, the whirring of your air conditioner or the fan on your computer (which I’ve noticed when I get sensitive mics too close to my computer during voice-over work). The sensitivity toward one direction though can make them more prone to distortion from sharp S sounds or popping P sounds. People in the industry refer to these as sibilants and plosives. (This distortion can be mitigated by a pop-filter).
Omnidirectional mics have a universal pick-up pattern that captures sound from all angles around the microphone. This is great if you’re trying to capture audio from multiple sources, such as your voice and a musical instrument, or a dialogue between two people on opposite sides of the mic, but it can also result in the recording of unwanted ambient sounds.
Condenser Mics versus Directional Microphones
Condenser mics are nice in that they usually capture louder, more detailed audio. On the other hand, they require some phantom power in order to operate. Also, they are generally more delicate than dynamic mics. Their detailed output and clarity of sound though make them excellent for voice work and for picking up the subtleties in song and music.
Dynamic mics are the workhorses of the mic world. Their mechanism for moving the mic diaphragm to pick up sound pressure is more robust and allows them to take more abuse. Moreover, they don’t require an external power-source in order to operate. This makes them a bit more popular for field work or rock concerts where they might take more abuse.
Microphone Pick-up Patterns
The pick-up pattern refers to the area from which a mic picks up ambient sound. Sounds not coming from a particular area, or ‘off-axis’ sounds, are rejected to a certain degree. Sometimes they just sound muted or muffled.
The two most common pick-up patterns are cardioid and omni-directional, as mentioned above. A cardiod pick-up line is heard shaped – hence the name – so the majority of its focus is in one direction, and the opposite direction is largely rejected. Sounds from the side are partially picked-up.
There is also a hyper-cardioid, which is even more focused than a regular cardioid. This type of mic is great for detailed audio pick-up, but requires discipline to use properly. You want to maintain proper positioning in front of the mic to ensure the best, most detailed audio recording. Regular cardioid usb microphones are more forgiving. However, as mentioned earlier, these types of condenser style mics can pick-up unwanted noises like
Omnidirectional mics have no almost no off-axis rejection, so they pick-up sounds from all directions, thus making them better if you’re conducting an interview (two people) or trying to record sounds from various areas in a room. They are also less sensitive to noise caused by handling – like bumping the mic stand on your desk.
There are also bi-directional mics which are great for interviews or two-person pod-casts. Essentially, they pick up sound in front and in back of the mic.
USB Microphone Price Points
Ah, the equalizer. Before you start your quest for a usb microphone, be sure to establish your price-point. To get a half-way decent microphone, you’re going to want to spend at least $40. Blue Microphones has a couple nice little mics in this category, notably the Snowflake and the Snowball. Around the $100-150 range will get you a great mic, like the Blue Yeti, Audio Technica AT2020, or the Samson G-Track, among various other great performers.
For more usb microphone reviews and advice for choosing the best usb microphone for your needs, check out the other articles on this site.