Skip to main content

Best USB microphones in 2022: desktop mics for podcasting, streaming and more

Best USB microphone: Blue Yeti
(Image credit: George Cairns)

Your computer has a built-in mic, but the quality that it captures will probably sound flat and tinny.  If you want to boost your presence in a Zoom meeting or capture professional sounding voice-overs for your YouTube channel then it’s well worth investing in a USB microphone.  

Related articles

Best microphones (opens in new tab) (all types)
Best wireless mics
Best lavalier mics
Best XLR microphones (opens in new tab)
Best boom arms for microphones (opens in new tab)
Best iPhone microphones (opens in new tab)
Best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

USB microphones are ‘plug and play’ devices that enable you to record (or live stream) clean, clear and full-bodied audio on your Mac or PC.  Although you may not need to spend time downloading drivers to get a USB mic to talk to your computer you will need to go to its Settings menu and select the attached mic. 

The USB mic’s audio input will then replace the inferior sound quality captured by your computer’s built-in mic. It's not just that in-built mics are inferior quality. Your computer’s built-in mic will be also picking up unwanted ambient sounds such as your voice echoing from the office walls or the whirr of your PC’s cooling fan.

Most of the USB mics featured in this buying guide have a selection of polar patterns (areas of sensitivity) to suit your recording needs and reduce unwanted ambient sound in your recordings. 

For example, if you simply want to talk into the mic (for a voice-over ,perhaps) then setting the mic’s polar pattern to cardiod causes the mic to be sensitive to sound from directly in front of it, whilst ignoring unwanted sounds from the sides and rear. This selective sensitivity leads to a cleaner sounding audio track. 

However, if you need to interview someone on the opposite side of the mic then you can switch to a bi-directional setting to pick up both your voice and that of the interviewee.  

An omni-directional polar pattern will pick up audio from a 360º sound field, making it useful for recording live music or ambient audio for your video editing software's sound effects library. 

The USB mics featured our buying guide have a range of features and prices but any of them will significantly improve the quality of the sound recordings or live-streaming audio broadcasts that you make on your computer.

Best USB microphones in 2022

Editor's Choice

(Image credit: George Cairns)
(opens in new tab)
This will give you professional sounding audio at a budget price

Specifications

USB Type: USB-C, USB-A
Mic Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardiod, Omni-directional
Sample Rate: 48kHz
Bit Depth: 24-bit
Extra Connections: 3.5mm jack (for headphones)

Reasons to buy

+
Cheaper than comparable quality mics
+
Captures broadcast quality audio

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited polar pattern choices 
-
Plastic build on body

This is a budget alternative to the similar but well-established Blue Yeti USB mic that’s already popular with podcasters and voice-over artists.  It has fewer polar patterns than the Yeti but it will capture great sound if you’re podcasting via the front of the mic on the cardioid setting.  A detachable orange pop shield adds a splash of colour (if you need to show off the mic via YouTube) and it helps soften audio bangs caused by plosive consonants.  A handy multi-function knob adjusts headphone volume or the strength of your input sound levels. Great value for money.

Recommended

(Image credit: George Cairns)
(opens in new tab)
The most popular USB microphone, and deservedly so

Specifications

USB Type: USB-A
Mic Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Stereo, Figure-8
Sample Rate: 48kHz
Bit Depth: 16-bit
Extra Connections: 3.5mm out

Reasons to buy

+
Four polar patterns
+
Simple function controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky when on base
-
No multi-mic setup

One of the most well known USB microphones worldwide, the Blue Microphones Yeti is also one of the best. Its solid construction and sturdy base make it a mainstay in home studios or on location for streamers and musos alike. Inside, the three capsule array allows users to choose from four different polar patterns, to record everything from an entire room, to just two people having a conversation. Its big, tactile buttons and switches make it easy to use, and the no-latency headphone output means musicians can have a foldback without the delay associated with running through a DAW (digital audio workstation).

(Image credit: Rode)
(opens in new tab)

3. Rode NT-USB

Easy to use plug and play offering

Specifications

USB Type: USB-A
Mic Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Sample Rate: 48kHz
Bit Depth: 16-bit
Extra Connections: 3.5mm out

Reasons to buy

+
Comes with pop shield
+
Two year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower max SPL than others
-
No XLR out

With a noticeable frequency response peak at around 4kHz, the NT-USB is most suited to vocals, but will also extend to other instruments of comparable tone such as guitar and piano. A single USB connection provides both power and connection to recording devices also compatible with Apple iPad (with compatible hardware). The Rode NT-USB comes with some useful accessories, including a pop shield, ring mount, tripod desk stand, storage pouch, and impressively long 6m USB cable. A two year extended warranty denotes what Rode is known for – reliability in the long-term. Simple control knobs on the side for input gain and headphone volume control combined with sleek aesthetic makes for a gorgeous USB microphone.

(Image credit: Mackie)
(opens in new tab)

4. Mackie EM-USB

Trademark robust microphone for rugged jobs

Specifications

USB Type: USB-C
Mic Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Sample Rate: 48kHz
Bit Depth: 16-bit
Extra Connections: 3.5mm out

Reasons to buy

+
Rugged and robust
+
Mute button and headphone volume control

Reasons to avoid

-
Headphone monitor latency
-
Not much else

Another pro audio giant, Mackie has been running for several decades and provides a range of USB microphones, but at this price point Mackie has hit a home run. Its Built-Like-a-Tank trademark means this mic should be recording for eons, and comes with a whole host of additional software and DSP plug-ins including compressors, limiters, equalisers, and much more. Unfortunately, the headphone monitoring does suffer from some latency which might be off-putting for musicians or those who don’t like delay in their foldback. But it does feature independent volume and gain control and includes an instant mute button.

(Image credit: George Cairns)
(opens in new tab)
A small, cheap USB mic which produces a big, rich sound

Specifications

USB Type: USB-C, USB-A
Mic Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardiod
Sample Rate: 20kHz
Bit Depth: 24-bit
Extra Connections: 3.5mm jack (for headphones)

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap and portable 
+
Full-bodied audio

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one polar pattern
-
White version shows up scratches

Standing at approx 17.5, cm the Wave U1 is around half the height of the established Blue Yeti, making it perfect for discreet Zoom calls where the mic is out of sight (instead of poking up into your PC camera’s field of view).  It’s easy to transport as a portable field recorder that you can attach to an Android smart phone via the USB-C to USB-A adaptor. The Wave U1 has an eye-catching shape, with an audio input level dial surrounding a hollow centre. Despite its small stature (and budget price) it produces a strong rich sound that won’t require any post-production boosting to give it more impact.  

(Image credit: Shure)
(opens in new tab)

6. Shure MV51

Gorgeous looks and extensive sound control interface

Specifications

USB Type: USB-A, USB-C, Lightning
Mic Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional, Figure-8, Stereo
Sample Rate: 48kHz
Bit Depth: 24-bit
Extra Connections: 3.5mm out

Reasons to buy

+
Iconic look and feel
+
Touch panel controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Only cardioid pickup
-
Not the cheapest

A vintage-style USB microphone this one will appeal to hipsters and traditionalists alike. Don’t be fooled by its ancient looks, though, as it comes equipped with some contemporary on-board DSPs for controlling different audio inputs such as Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, and Loud options all operated via the touch buttons on the front. It has automatic adjustment for gain, EQ, and dynamic range control, and even features a built-in kickstand for quick and easy setup anywhere, anytime. A little pricier than others, but with the Shure sound quality and elegant design it should perform perfectly for singer songwriters or podcasters alike. 24-bit depth also improves dynamic range recording and multiple polar patterns mean it’s versatile in a number of situations.

Read more:

Best microphones (opens in new tab) (all types)
Best XLR microphones (opens in new tab)
Best boom arms for microphones (opens in new tab)
Best iPhone microphones (opens in new tab)

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1