Table Of Contents
|Image||Microphones / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| Rode NT USB |
Total of 4.83/5
A taste of higher end performance that is priced rather very competitively.
|+ -|| Shure Motiv MV51 |
Total of 4.82/5
An awesome, portable large diaphragm condenser that is full of great surprises.
|+ -|| Marantz Professional Pod |
Total of 4.33/5
One of the most attractive budget options on the market right now.
|+ -|| Behringer C1U |
Total of 4.38/5
Simple, straight forward large diaphragm condenser that brings you that classic sound.
|+ -|| CAD Audio U9 |
Total of 3.88/5
A micro package that's highly portable but also capable of good performance.
|+ -|| Aitesco Lavalier |
Total of 3.55/5
A basic but ultimately great lavalier microphone that offers a great performance.
Rode mics have been among the favorite in music recording industry. That much is well known. However, when a brand like this goes into a more consumer oriented segment of the market, we all expect either a complete success or a complete failure. Rode NT USB belongs to the former category. This is easily one of the best put together packages you can find right now. We're looking at a true condenser that's paired with an awesome A/D converter. All of this is squeezed into a slim, aesthetic body while Rode even includes a tripod and a pop shield as standard. On the performance side of things, NT USB takes the cake in any application that comes to mind.
Shure's offer is full of interesting models. Most of them are aimed at professionals, but there are quite a few that aren't. Shure Motiv MV51 was designed as a tool that any enthusiast can use without havingto tackle the problem of tone shaping. It comes in a vintage looking chassis and sports a large diaphragm condenser capsule inside. Shure has built in five distinct DSP modes mean to conform the microphone to just about any application that you can think of. It works great for recording vocals for a track as well as instruments. Shure MV51 is compatible with both iOS and Android devices too, making it a great piece of kit to use while you're on the go.
Finding a good budget condenser microphone has become easier, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Marantz Professional Pod Pack 1 is one of the few models you can run into these days, which gets the job done at a level that is more than acceptable even for serious use. It is a simple package that is devoid of advanced features and focuses more on the core of the condenser experience. Packed in a decently solid chassis, Pod Pack 1 inspires plenty of confidence right out of the box. In terms of pure performance, you are looking at a great foundation that is easily adjusted on the software side of the process. At this price, it is definitely worth looking into.
Finding an affordable large diaphragm condenser is a tough order of business. Especially if you need that microphone to use the USB standard. Fortunately enough, Behringer offers exactly that. Meet Behringer C1U, one of the best large diaphragm condensers you can get on a budget. It comes in a die cast chassis and features a very iconic look. On the inside, we have a shock suspended capsule that is linked to a high resolution A/D converter. In many ways C1U is a rather basic condenser microphone, but it offers a great performance. You can use it to record all kinds of vocals, while the high SPL compatibility means that recording instruments is also within the realm of its capabilities.
CAD Audio is known as a brand that makes great budget friendly microphones and audiogear in general. Their CAD Audio U9 is a great example of this policy. We are looking at a true condenser mic that is packed into a chassis not much larger than your average USB dongle. There are no cables necessary as the whole thing plugs directly into your computer or smart device. From a purely practical standpoint, U9 is designed specifically for recording voice. It can handle podcasting and live streaming pretty well. Using it to record vocals is also possible but goes outside the intended scope of application. Overall, if you need a tiny microphone that offers that condenser flavor, this is it.
Lavalier mics have been around for quite a while. However, you don't see them too often in a USB compatible variant. Aitesco is one of the few companies who offer this type of package, and it is full of surprises. First thing that jumps at you is the affordable price tag attacked to these. For those whose budget is severely limited, this mic is a godsend. Aitesco delivers these with a rugged clip included, as well as a set of pop shields. Its attainable nature and rather solid performance make Aitesco Lavalier a great choice doing interviews or even podcasts on the go. In a world where freelance journalism and podcasting is extremely popular, having something like this is important.
Microphones took a long while to get out of the confines of recording studios. The technology simple wasn’t there before. Today microphones are just about everywhere. You have one in your phone, in your laptop and so on. However, the question is what kind of sound quality can you count on? There is a reason why music is still being recorded in a studio. Everyone wants the best possible result they can get, which usually requires a condenser microphone paired with a good mixer.
These days you can get very closer results in your home. Sure, pairing a condenser with some sort of USB interface is definitely an option, but there are easier ways. If you want to learn more about USB interfaces, check out our guide for that category. All you really need is a decent USB microphone and you are good to go. These mics will get you awesome audio quality that is generally necessary for activities such as streaming, podcasting and similar. Are there drawbacks to using a USB mic over a standard one? Probably, but we are talking nuances. For most users who want to get some recording done at home, those nuances are not that important. With all that said, lets look at some distinct benefits of using USB mics.
Before we get any deeper into this subject, it is worth saying that there are some pretty pricey mics out there, even in the USB category. However, there is a catch. Lets say you want to build a recording setup in your house. You basically have three options. You can go get a classic condenser microphone like one of the mid range AKGs or similar. If you would like to find out more about condenser microphones, check out our dedicated guide.
On the other hand, you could go and get a hand held dynamic model from Shure. After all, they make some of the very best dynamic mics on the market. The problem with both of these choices is the fact that you need some sort of device that will translate that analog signal into a digital one. In other words, just getting the mic won’t do you any good. Devices in question can be USB interfaces, dedicated microphone preamps or even mixers. What they all have in common is a price tag that adds to the overall price of your setup. With USB mics, you don’t have that issue.
A cool thing about using a USB mic is the fact that they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. There are tiny microphones which you can put in your pocket, but there are also full sized condensers. Those who are planing on doing most of their work at home aren’t really affected by this factor. However, if you plan on ever doing work on the go, you might want to get something that is good but also compact.
For example, the last two picks on our list are the perfect choice for mobility and freedom of movement. One is a standard USB mic while the other is a lavalier. They both have different applications but they share that miniature size. Just ask yourself what is more convenient for you? To drag a laptop, preamp, power supply for said preamp and a microphone? Or to just take your laptop or cell phone along with your USB mic? Basically, it all comes down to picking the right tool for the job.
Another factor that goes in favor of using USB mics is pure ease of use. Here’s the thing. Recording audio with a microphone isn’t as easy as simply speaking or playing an instrument in front of one. Sure you can do that, but it will get you only so far. There are actually many nuances to recording audio, which is why professional music producers have a full studio worth of equipment and dozens upon dozens of different microphones at their disposal. Think about it as performing general surgery. Chances are you won’t be able to get the whole operation done with just a single scalpel. You will need a whole array of various surgical tools.
However, just owning the equipment isn’t nearly enough. You have to know how to use it. This is where ease of use becomes a factor. Most of the USB mics on our list are geared towards eliminating much of this process from the equations. Some basic rules will still apply, but you won’t need to be a sound engineer to get a decent result. Some models come with various DSP modes, all of which are custom tuned for specific applications. For example, the Shure Motiv MV51 has five available. If you select singing, the microphone will level out gain, compression and other parameters to accommodate for that. In other words, USB mics offer a convenient and hassle free way of reaching a desired result.
Contrary to popular belief, condenser microphones aren’t inherently better than dynamic ones. Instead, they offer two distinctly different ways of recording audio. Without going too deep into this subject, lets say that dynamic microphones work better in live settings, on live stages and so on, while condensers are generally considered to be studio queens. Naturally, there are exceptions where a condenser will do better on a stage, or where a dynamic mic outperforms the other in the studio, but the point still stands.
So which one should you go for? If we assume that most of your work is going to be done in a home studio of some kind, there is really no reason for you to pick anything but a decent condenser. If you went over our top list, you have probably noticed the reflection of this. Condensers simply make sense. They can do great at recording both vocals and acoustic instruments, which is what most of the users want to do anyway.
How to find the best microphone for my needs? This is by far one of the most common questions people ask when introduced to the world of microphones. Unfortunately, finding the answer isn’t as easy as it sounds. If we take our analogy from before, it will show us that the very first thing you need to define is the purpose you wan your new microphone to serve. Without this key piece of information, you are pretty much swinging in the dark. The next important question is what kind of budget are you working with. Some people are fortunate enough that they can afford high end gear, but most aren’t. The key piece of advice we can give you here is to purchase the very best microphone your money can buy. If that means getting a cheap unit, so be it. Having any microphone is still better than having none at all.
Once you have defined the intended application and a budget, it’s time to figure the rest of the equation. Is the size important to you? If it is, you might be limited in some ways. If not, you can find really awesome, reasonably priced microphones which will work great on your desktop. Accessories also need to be mentioned. Most condensers will require some kind of a shock mount. If the model you are interested in doesn’t come with one, you should add that to your budget as well. Same goes for pop filters.
As it turns out, USB microphones are definitely a viable option for a decent home studio. As time goes by and tech develops, they become better and better. Some of the models on our list can easily go head to head with what many consider to be proper studio mics. With that said, we’ve done our best to present you with models that impressed us with their performance, build quality and overall value. Some of them are cheap while others not so much. Again, having a cheap mic is better than having none at all. That much is definitely true.
If you need more help with setting up your studio, check out the related buying guides for recording gear:
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