Laptops today have decent integrated webcams and microphones which are good enough for casual use. But if you’re looking to vastly improve the audio quality of any recording done with your computer, you’re going to want to purchase a dedicated USB microphone.
USB microphones are plug and play devices that integrate with almost any piece of software, allowing you to record vocals, podcast or do voice over work for a YouTube video. I consider a microphone to be an essential tool for online work, so take the time to go through this buying guide and understand your options.
Personally, the only laptop I’ve tested that has an exceptional integrated microphone is the Macbook Pro 17 inch. That laptop’s microphone is above average and ideal for video interviews. Apart from that machine, what should you specifically be looking for in a USB microphone?
Multiple sound channels
An quality USB microphone should have the ability to switch between multiple sound channels. This means that you can setup the microphone to record sound coming from multiple directions or just one direction by changing the sound pattern.
In general a super cardioid pattern sounds best for individual narration and omni-direction would be ideal for an interview. This is because of how the sound pattern works, super cardioid has a full sound while still reducing ambient noise.
Sound patterns super cardioid on the left, cardioid on the right. – Source
When purchasing a microphone, please take note of the sound patterns it allows for and if you can adjust anything. The cheaper the microphone, the less customization over the pattern (if any) you have.
Cheaper microphones also limit your ability to adjust the mic gain which is the overall sensitivity of the device. It all comes down to your budget and what specifically you’re trying to do with audio.
Small and portable
Small and portable is ideal for a USB microphone. As a laptop is mobile, you’ll want your accompanying microphone to match in size and form factor as well to be as equally portable (and trust me, some USB microphones are actually quite large and heavy).
Portability means you’ll be able to take your laptop and USB microphone with you as you travel abroad or perhaps as well as give you the flexibility to work from a co-working space. With a high quality, small portable microphone you’re not encumbered in any way.
Fairly obvious, but not all USB microphones are created equal. Some devices do in fact produce a more rich, balanced sound profile. On top of that, the best in class microphones tend to come with a pop filter or a wind muff.
So depending on your needs be it podcasting, streaming, interviews and so forth will determine what type of usb microphone you should consider purchasing.
The Best Overall USB Microphones for YouTube
Let’s start off by getting into what I’ve found to be the best overall USB microphones for recording audio . These are my top choices after having used a wide variety of microphones for YouTube video creation.
Shure MV7 USB – The best USB microphone, period.
This is easily the best microphone I’ve used for my YouTube tutorial videos. It’s a USB version of their popular XLR podcasting version. You get a small microphone with a premium build and a wind muff to help reduce your plosives. It also comes with software to adjust the sound profile (specifically the highs and lows) and you can adjust the mic sensitivity.
If you’re wanting to know what the best overall microphone on the list is then stop right here. This is what I personally use (after having used a lot of other USB mics) in my work flow and am incredibly impressed by the ease of use and sound quality.
- The best USB microphone for recording your voice.
- Helpful software to adjust the sound profile.
- Small, light build.
- USBC, thunderbolt, USB and XLR connections are built into this device.
- Stand not included. It does stand up on it’s own, but I do suggest purchasing a separate stand.
Stand I bought: This is a must have. This affordable stand pairs perfectly well with the Shure USB microphone to make recording optimal.
Rhode NT USB – Pairs with boom arm
The Rode NT-USB microphone is one of the most effective USB microphones available, and it outperforms anything in the $200 range. It delivers high-quality sound without requiring special drivers or any additional 3rd party equipment like a sound interface. It is well built and can pair with a boom arm.
The overall design is well planned and includes a handy headphone monitor so you can test your audio as well as effective controls. It also comes with a well-fitted and essential pop shield as well as a decent desk mount at no extra cost. While there are certainly less expensive microphones, the Rhode NT USB is a solid mid range podcasting microphone.
- Comes with stand and a pop filter to reduce your plosives.
- Plug and play functionality without needing any additional devices.
- Comes with a helpful desktop stand and can pair with a boom arm.
- The audio is good, but not quite a stereo quality as the MV7.
Zoom H2N – The best multi-purpose microphone
The Zoom H2N Handy Recorder tops the list because it’s the most flexible, multi-purpose microphone on the list. You can pair this microphone via a USB connection to your laptop or computer or you can buy a wire and attach it to your DSLR (or mirrorless) camera for some rich sounding audio.
You can even use this as a stand alone recording device for interviews and on the go podcasts as it’s battery powered (when not plugged in via USB) and can save audio recording directly.
This microphone is the most feature rich device on this list as it has multi channel functionality due to it having 8 mini microphones built into it you can change the sound pattern with ease.
- High quality audio.
- Works with both cameras, laptops, computers and can be used as a stand-a-lone recording device.
- Multiple sound profiles. Everything from omni-directional to super cardiod
- Built in mic gain.
- Headphone output.
- The accessory kit comes separately is an essential buy.
Accessory Kit: You’ll want to purchase this as it includes a wind muff, remote and helpful little tripod for the mic.
Blue Yeti – High quality recording device
The Blue Yeti is a highly recommended microphone for podcasters and anyone looking to do voice over work for a video. The main issue however is that this microphone is big, heavy and quite bulky. If having something that is portable is important to you then skip on the Blue Yeti.
Where this microphones shines however is that for a fair price you get a lot of professional grade features like a mic gain, multiple condenser capsules and a headphone jack output.
- Excellent quality audio for YouTube videos or podcasts.
- Mic gain, headphone output, plug and play USB microphone.
- This microphone is big. It lives up to it’s name and is not particularly portable.
Tonor Condenser Microphone – The Pop Filter Option
This is a medium sized microphone that comes with a built in pop filter and tripod. A pop filter is important because when you say words that being with the letter “p” you tend to push to much air at the microphone, making your audio peak. This setup reduces and unwanted audio distortion.
In addition, it comes with it’s own tripod so it’s easy to position the microphone right in front of your laptop so you can record audio with ease. If you need a microphone for your gamming YouTube channel, streaming or voice over work this is great affordable option.
The Tonor condenser microphone is a simple and affordable microphone for both Windows and IOS laptops an computers. It’s easy to setup and works right out of the box. As with all budget microphones don’t expect advanced controls like mic gain or sound direction options.
- Excellent sounding microphone for the price.
- Good build quality with a pop filter included.
- Plug and play installation via a USB connection.
- Very affordable microphone.
- This microphone is on the larger side and may not be ideal for on the go travel situations.
Best USB Microphones for Podcasting
For podcasting I do suggest eventually getting a proper XLR microphone and a sound interface. But these two devices are expensive, not particularly mobile and can be complicated to setup. So what are some effective USB options for podcasting?
Shure MV7 USB – Similar to the XLR counterpart
Leading off the list again is the Shure USB microphone. It’s the best choice for someone wanting to podcast who does not want to go the XLR route yet. The USB version of this microphone can plug and play via a USB connection, thunderbolt connection and it even has an XLR connector on the back.
It does produce sound quality on par with it’s more famous XLR counterpart, but it’s not quite as good. However, as a USB microphone you get a lot more flexibility as it can connect to both a laptop or a dedicated sound interface.
Last is the software that comes with the microphone. What I found helpful is you can adjust the sensitivity of the microphone for how you like to speak into the mic, either really close to it or a bit further back.
- USB, Thunderbolt and XLR compatibility.
- Premium audio with a good design.
- Software for add control over the sound.
- The sound quality is not as good as the stand-a-lone XLR microphone.
Audio Technical AT2020 USB – The Podcasting USB Option
This is a beginner friendly podcasting microphone that does not need any complicated, expensive audio interface to work. Simply mount it on it’s stand or a cheap boom arm and plug it directly into your computer.
The audio sounds premium out of this cardioid condenser microphone. It’s ideal for any sort of digital recording like narration or voice overs but it really shines as a budget podcasting USB mic.
Last, you can plug your headphones directly into the microphone to observe and fix any audio distortions in real time. Last, we suggest purchasing a pop filter for this mic as it can be a bit sensitive.
- An easy to use USB microphone.
- No audio interface required.
- Great audio and build quality.
- Built in analog to digital converter which is helpful for beginners but a bit restrictive for more advanced users.
Blue Snowball – The original budget podcasting microphone
The Blue Snowball is still one of the best budget friendly microphones on the market today. It’s a personal favorite of podcasters and YouTubers due to the high quality audio that can be recorded and the fact that it does an excellent job of blocking out background noise.
The main issue however with this excellent microphone however is that the build quality is low. It comes in a plastic body with fragile wires that make recording quite annoying if you intend on using this microphone for years.
However, for the price the Blue Snowball still produces some of the most premium sounding audio at a great price.
- Excellent audio and very good noise cancellation for such a cheap microphone.
- Build quality with regards to the wire as well as the longevity of the microphone could be vastly improved.
- Big goofy logo. Fine for podcasting but not great for using on camera.
Best USB Microphone for Streaming
So you want to do live streaming on YouTube? You will absolutely want a USB microphone for that deep, rich audio. You’ll also want to get something that looks professional on camera. So what do I suggest purchasing? Let’s get to it.
Shure MV7 USB – Excellent choice for voice and streaming
No surprise here, the MV7 is an excellent overall microphone for a wide variety of uses. As it’s a plug and play device that works well with popular streaming software like OBS, this device is truly one of the best, if not the best USB microphone currently available.
What’s excellent about this for streaming software like OBS is that when you turn OBS filters on like the noise cancelling feature, it works perfectly with the MV7.
- Works great with streaming software like OBS without any weird distortions when using filters.
- Has a similar design to the XLR version so if you’re going to be doing a picture in picture video, the microphone will look good on camera.
- The MV7 is not cheap, but if you want the best this is it.
Rhode NT-USB Mini – The budget Zoom
The Rhode NT USB Mini is simply a smaller, less expensive version of their larger studio microphone the Rhode NT. This USB microphone is great for recording voice primarily and is ideal for streaming and voice overs.
It’s small, surprisingly heavy, comes with it’s own stand but also the ability to attach to a boom arm. Overall the stand looks great, but is not particularly functional as it’s too low. You’ll need put this microphone on a stack of books or something to get it closer to your voice when on a laptop.
- Good audio for voice recording.
- Can attach to a boom arm for streaming.
- Stylish and minimalistic.
- No mic gain to adjust the sensitivity. You’ll have to to adjust the gain via your laptop.
- Surprisingly heavy.
- The stand it comes with looks great, but is too small.
Blue Yeti X – A great choice for a video game streamer
The Blue Yeti X is a combination of the Nano and the original Yeti, combining the best features of both. Even as new mics enter the market, the Yeti X remains a recommended choice for anyone seeking for a great-sounding microphone, particularly for gaming.
The premium microphone’s improved design, now with an LED-lit front panel that shows your audio levels at a glance, is very helpful. It’s easy to see why this is still the preferred microphone of many professional podcasters and streamers.
- Good audio and a good design.
- Multiple sound patterns like cardioid, omnidirectional and stereo.
- The stand is fine to put on desk, but it’s a bit short and ideal only if you’re going to be positioning the microphone right in front of your screen.
- Big just like the Blue Yeti.
HyperX Quad Cast S – The gamers microphone
The HyperX QuadCast is the ideal all-in-one microphone for pro streamers or budding podcasters searching for a condenser mic with high sound quality. Quad Cast has its own anti-vibration shock mount and built-in pop filter to help dampen loud plosives.
The ultimate mic for gaming, this model is prepared for almost any recording scenario thanks to four adjustable polar patterns and a conveniently located gain control dial that allows you to quickly alter your microphone input sensitivity. The included mount adapter fits 3/8″ and 5/8″ thread sizes and is compatible with most stands.
Last, this USB mic is validated by Discord and TeamSpeak, so you may rest confident that your microphone will broadcast loudly to all of your fans and listeners, and that it may also be monitored in real time thanks to the handy headphone jack on the back of the mic.
- A condenser microphone designed with the pro gamer in mind.
- Helpful recording features, adjustable polar patters and simple controls.
- Colorful design that fits most setups.
- Build quality could be better. Other mics on this list at this price point are made out of metal, not plastic.
Best USB Microphone for Music and Vocals
If you’re wanting to record yourself playing music on video and have that music actually sound good then you’ll need a quality microphone. Yes you can get a cheap microphone, but lower quality mic produce a less complex sound profile. Here is what I suggest looking at across multiple price points.
Marantz Professional MPM-2000U
The MPM-2000U is an excellent microphone for recording high-quality audio directly to a digital audio workstation (DAW). Its studio-quality frequency response and built-in 48kHz/16-bit A-D converter make it ideal for vocals, instruments, and percussion recordings.
While you can podcast or do online video calls with this microphone, it’s really designed for the solo musical artist in mind. It provides a wide range of features perfect for recording instruments and singing. Best of all, it’s a USB mic so you can plug it into your computer to start recording audio.
- USB condenser microphone with a studio-quality sound quality
- Designed for the digital audio workstation (DAW).
- A-D converter with high-quality conversion at 48kHz and 16 bit.
- With a shock mount, USB cable, and carrying case.
- More of a Widows issue than a mic issue, but when first plugging this microphone into your laptop it will download the respective drivers. if you interrupt this process your mic won’t work.
Blue Yeti Nano – The smaller, more colorful version
The Yeti Nano is premium USB microphone from Blue that produces broadcast-quality audio for podcasts, YouTube videos, Twitch streaming, Zoom calls and music. The Yeti Nano combines 24-bit sound quality with Blue Voice for professional recording and streaming vocal effects for an affordable price. With several pickup patterns, a built-in headphone jack, and a small form factor it’s a great alternative to the bigger, heavier Blue Yetti.
The Nano is the ideal vocal and music microphone, offering crystal-clear sound recording. There are two new bespoke mic capsules that are especially suited to producing a lot of presence and detail in your voice. In addition, Yeti Nano works with high-quality 24-bit/48kHz recording for premium audio.
- Smaller form factor. Blue responded to the critique that the Yetti was simply too big to be a usable, on camera USB microphone.
- Multiple sound patters, gain control and all the recording basics.
- Blue Voice is excellent software for editing your vocals.
- Small stand. If you’re playing music it’s fine, but you’ll find mounting this up to your voice to be annoying.
- You’ll probably want to buy a boom arm to mount it where you want.
Razer Seiren X – A good entry level microphone
The Razer Seiren X is the gaming peripherals’ entry into the low-cost USB microphone market. The Seiren, particularly the “mini” version, is heavily marketed towards gamers, streamers, and vloggers searching for a quick and easy method to improve their sound. The Seiren X however is a good fit for music.
Getting a dedicated external microphone is beneficial in a variety of ways, not least because it improves the sound quality right away. Your voice will be clearer, ambient noise (i.e. chair movements) will be reduced, and the distinctive mouth-breathing sound that headsets produce will be much more manageable.
The Seiren X is a good affordable choice for recording music and vocals in a treated room. It’s not a microphone with any professional features, but I’ve found the audio to be acceptable.
- This microphone captures high note very well.
- Super cardiod polar pattern.
- Small, plug and play device.
- No gain control.
- This microphone also only has one polar pattern.
Best Cheap USB Microphones (Under $100)
While I personally use and recommend the Shure USB MV7 microphone for most use cases, it’s not cheap and may be a bit excessive if you’re just looking to improve your audio. So if you’re looking for something under $100 here is what I suggest you first take a look at.
Fifine Microphone – The budget friendly microphone
We love the Fifine microphone for it’s simplicity in design, usability and sound quality. While not at the same level as the H2N and lacking a lot of the pro features like controlling the mic gain and having multiple sound directions, the audio quality out of this microphone is sufficient for YouTube narration.
If you’re just needing a basic microphone for voice overs that does not cost too much, then the Fifine microphone may be a good choice for you. It’s a medium sized microphone that is plug and play via USB and reasonably portable.
- Good microphone for voice. Designed to pick up vocals and not any background noise.
- Good built quality.
- Small enough to take with you if need be.
- Plug and play for ease of use.
- Lacks more advance features of more premium microphones.
HyperX Solo Cast
The HyperX SoloCast is a sleek, budget-oriented microphone. With regards to price vs performance this new microphone delivers an audio performance on par with its more expensive counterparts, prioritizing sound quality over a comprehensive feature lists.
The HyperX SoloCast goes above and beyond the competition because it delivers the audio on par with its more expensive Quad Cast S sibling. If you’re just looking for better-quality audio and don’t want to fiddle with gain settings while recording, the SoloCast might be all you need.
- Small, portable desktop mic.
- Good audio recording for general purposes.
- Built in mute button is surprisingly useful.
- Picks up a decent amount of background noise, you’ll need to use a noise suppression filter in your audio recording software.
Samson Meteor Mic – The prosumer option
Samson really does a nice job with creating small, portable microphones. The meteor mic is no exception. It’s a stylish, portable microphone perfect for recording audio on a laptop or computer.
At this price point don’t expect any advanced controls but if you’re in need of something for voice over work or audio recordings this microphone is a solid choice. As it’s a USB condenser microphone there is no way to attach this to a camera, but if you need improved audio at a low price in a small design this is a good choice.
- A simple, cost effective, no frills microphone.
- Stylish look and surprisingly great audio.
- Lacks the various pro features of more advanced microphones like the Blue Yeti or the Zoom H2N.
- Uni-directional only.
Mini Gooseneck Microphone – The minimalist option
This tiny gooseneck microphone from Fifine is ideal if you’re looking to get the smallest microphone possible that also has decent audio. As a tine microphone, it pairs well with any webcam as you can position the microphone out of the shot due to it’s size.
It’s a simple, minimalistic microphone with no advanced options. It works well for reducing ambient noise for any type of Zoom or Skype call and produces crisp clear audio; all in small, portable form factor.
- Very small and discrete. Ideal for improved audio for online calls.
- Good build quality and good portability.
- Very good audio quality considering the price and size.
- Provides improved audio, but not good enough in our opinion for voice over work or narration for YouTube content creation.
Samson Go Mic Portable – The tiny microphone
Another excellent, budget option. The Samson Go Mic is a cute, tiny little microphone that packs up for on the go use and won’t take up too much space in your bag.
As a more budget microphone, don’t expect any premium features. However, if you’re looking for a simple and portable USB condenser microphone the Go Mic is a good choice.
It’s compatible with both Windows and IOS and can also be used with your phone if need be as it’s compatible via a Apple Lightening to USB adapter.
All in all, if you’re looking for a small microphone to replace your integrated microphone on your laptop as a way to give you improved audio this microphone does just that.
- An excellent step up from your built-in, internal audio on your laptop.
- Small, convenient size.
- Good for voice recording.
- Can pair with a smartphone for improved audio if you’re creating content with an iPhone for example.
- Designed for voice recording while using your laptop and not much else.
- Build quality is poor and the USB wires may wear out quickly.
Jounvio Desktop Microphone – The noise cancelling choice
This is the best cheap microphone I’ve used. While it’s marketed as a desktop microphone, it works fine with any laptop. It’s a USB microphone and works via plug it into your laptop and position the microphone neck as needed.
It’s just your run of the mill, basic, cheap, noise cancelling microphone that provides improved audio. As a large gooseneck microphone it’s easy to position the device near your voice as a way to produce high quality audio.
In terms of audio quality it’s average. The noise cancelling effect is helpful for reducing ambient noise so the listener can focus on your voice, but the raw audio is only slightly better than your internal microphone.
- A decent sounding cheap microphone.
- Gooseneck design so you can position the microphone head closer to you.
- Plug and play USB device that works without any issues.
- It has a low build quality of plastic.
- It’s not exactly portable with how it’s designed.
The best USB microphone – Conclusion
For most, I strongly suggest buying the Shure MV7. Out of all the microphones I’ve tried, it simply produced the best sound quality and is flexible for multiple use cases.
The highs are high, the lows are deep and rich, comes with software that allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone and it works perfectly with audio filters. Also, in addition to a USB connection, it allows for a USBC connection and even has an XLR output.
My second choice would then be the Zoom H2N audio recorder. That mic produces very clear audio and comes with multiple sound patters and is in a very small form factor. Ideal for recording voice, music, conversations and more.
David UtkeDavid Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 20k+ YouTube subscribers!
How to Start a Vlog – A Complete Step by Step Guide
As a vlogger with a few thousand subscribers, here are my actionable tips on how to start a vlog people will like.
How to Get Review Products for Free as a YouTuber
How do YouTubers get review products for free? In this guide I explain how to leverage influence to help companies reach a wider audience.