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Top 10 USB Microphones 2016

Podcasters, novice musicians and anyone looking to record decent sound at an inexpensive price, without the hassle of a powered microphone or audio interface, will find the sort of USB microphones perfect.

Rode NT-USB USB Condenser MicrophoneBlue Yeti USB Microphone - SilverAudio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB MicrophoneSamson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser MicrophoneBlue Snowball USB Microphone (Brushed Aluminum)CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording MicrophoneAudio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR MicrophoneAudio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone (OLD MODEL)CAD U1 USB Dynamic Recording MicrophoneBlue Snowflake USB Microphone

Under Pressure

You can accomplish a lot with just a little pressure. Squeeze a crystal like quartz, for example, and it'll produce a steady electrical charge out either end. Noise vibration is a kind of pressure exerted by the air in the form of sound waves. That's what causes a rolled up piece of paper to project your voice further than it could go on its own. You pressurize the paper with your voice and that vibration travels outward into the air.

Microphones work not by amplifying sound the way our paper megaphone above would, but more like a human translator would interpret a speaker from one language to another. Words come in through one opening, translate into electrical impulses, and re-emerge anew. In the case of the microphone, they are amplified and recorded, where the translator simply speaks them in a new tongue.

When you sing or speak into a microphone, a small diaphragm usually made out of plastic vibrates in direct proportion to the pressure your sound waves put on it. That vibration transfers to a metal coil that's both attached to the diaphragm and also wrapped around a magnet. That magnetic interference produces a signal in the wire attached to its other end and sends that signal down the length of microphone cable to a given output device.

Some of the microphones on this list are condenser microphones, which means that their diaphragms vibrate a capacitor before using the magnet beyond to translate the vocal pressure into an electrical signal.

What makes these USB microphones unique is that they interact with your computer's sound card, sending the signal either directly via USB cable or through an intermediary XLR cable to a small pre-amp before reaching your computer. In either case, any power needed by either the microphone or the pre-amp comes to both through the USB cable itself.

To Each His Or Her Own Sound


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It may be tempting to despair over the idea that you couldn't really evaluate the quality of any of these microphones without hearing them. After all, different voices are going to get different responses from the same microphone. Thom Yorke from Radiohead, for example, uses an insanely expensive large-diaphragm condenser microphone because its stabilization of certain frequencies in the upper register helps his naturally nasal voice sound more palatable to the average listener.

Now, if you aren't up for spending $4,000 on your microphone (and additional hardware to wire into your computer via USB), you still have tremendous options laid out before you, and you don't need to worry too much about how each will treat your voice.

The real concern should be what your intended use is for each microphone. As much as the sound plays a role in this particular point, you'll also want to consider ergonomics. Take the Snowflake and the Snowball by Blue, for example. Each will produce lovely tones for speech if you want to run a good podcast or do voice-over work from home, but neither makes for an effective interview mic in the field. Their shape is all wrong for the handling you'd need.

The more expensive microphones on this list are the ones that resemble traditional studio vocal mics, and they're stellar for tracking your band's vocal melodies as well as picking up acoustic guitar sounds and some lighter percussion. None of these mics is really built for tracking heavy electric guitar or drum sounds without running into a little natural distortion of their own. But if the Kinks were willing to slice up their amps with razor blades to get their signature sound, maybe pushing a USB mic to its limit will get you something special.

Take a close look at connectivity, as well. Not all of the microphones on our list have completely removable USB cords. One or two are hard-wired, so when–and I mean when–that cord wears down, your otherwise perfectly good microphone becomes useless.

Persona Non Grata


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Reaching incredibly far back into the heyday of the Greek theater, actors often wore masks as part of their performances. The masks served a dual purpose. They helped audience members identify and discriminate between and among characters, and they also helped project the sound of the actors' voices throughout the amphitheater.

The masks were called personae, a combination of Latin roots for through (per) and sound (son). Literally, the thing through which the sound travels. These were the very first known devices for amplifying the human voice.

Nearly 2,500 years later, the microphone made its debut. Invented by combining the efforts of inventors John Philipp Reis and Alexander Graham Bell, the late 19th century saw the very first transmission of the human voice into a usable electrical current that could be transmitted and amplified at will.

Over 100 years later, a consortium of computer manufacturers collaborated to reduce the variety and complexity of the inputs and outputs plaguing computer hardware design in the 1990s. The result was the introduction of the USB format in 1996. In the intervening 20 years, the format remains the standard despite several attempts to surpass its speed and convenience, and that speed has only increased from a maximum 12 megabits per second to today's impressive 7.2 gigabits per second.

Given the speed, reliability, and ubiquity of USB in modern computing, it serves as the perfect intermediary for electronic audio signals.


#10.Blue Snowflake USB Microphone


Featuring Blue Microphones' renowned circuitry, the Snowflake is a professional quality portable mic that combines a USB bus powered capsule with a class compliant design to make the Snowflake truly plug and play on both Mac and PC. Not just an eye-catching design, the Snowflake is highly functional. The mic folds into a single compact case which also houses a USB cable for easy transport in a laptop bag or even a pocket. Unfolded, the case serves as a desktop stand or a laptop clip, making the Snowflake a natural for everything from podcasting, calling over the web, narrating a home video, or sketching out a song idea on the go.


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#9.CAD U1 USB Dynamic Recording Microphone


The CAD U1 USB Recording Microphone makes recording vocals or instruments to your computer a plug and plays operation. This dynamic microphone features a cardioid pick-up pattern and a smooth, extended frequency response. A built-in pop filter takes care of those annoying P-popping sounds. Perfect for podcasting, the U1 also includes an on/off switch, 10 foot USB cable and a desktop microphone stand. CAD U1 USB Microphone Features Dynamic microphone element designed for vocals and instruments Cardioid pick-up pattern isolates the main sound source and minimizes background noise Smooth, extended frequency response is excellent for singing, speech and instruments Built in pop filter minimizes P-popping On-Off switch for instant mute Ten-foot USB cable for flexible mic placement Desktop mic stand included Windows and Macintosh compatible


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#8.Audio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone (OLD MODEL)


The new AT2020 USB offers studio-quality articulation and intelligibility. It plugs right into your computer’s USB port and functions seamlessly with your favorite recording software. Equipped with a USB digital output, the AT2020 USB is perfect for home studio recording, field recording, podcasting, and voiceover use. Based on the renowned AT2020 The AT2020 USB is based on the design of Audio-Technica’s critically acclaimed AT2020 cardioid condenser microphone. Like the AT2020, it features a low-mass diaphragm, custom-engineered for extended frequency response and superior transient response. With low self-noise, the AT2020 USB is perfectly suited for sophisticated digital recording equipment. Audio-Technica’s state-of-the-art design and manufacturing techniques ensure that the microphone complies with the company’s renowned consistency and reliability standards. Experience AT2020 USB. Plug it in and transform your sound.


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#7.Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone


The Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone is designed to take you from the stage to the studio and beyond. This rugged handheld microphone offers two outputs, USB output for digital recording, and an XLR output that connects with a sound system conventional microphone input for use in live performance. The microphone plugs right into your computer USB port and functions seamlessly with your favorite recording software. The ATR2100-USB also offers a quality analog-to-digital converter for excellent fidelity and a headphone output with level control for monitoring with no audible delay. Its cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of unwanted sounds from the sides and rear. The microphone is ideal for live performance, podcasting, home studio recording, field recording, and voiceover use.


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#6.CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone


Record studio-quality audio directly to your computer via USB with the CAD U37 side-address condenser microphone a great choice for both vocal and instruments as well as for creating podcasts and voiceovers for videos. Compatible with both Windows and Mac OS operating systems, you can simply plug the U37 into your PC and start recording. The U37 has two switches on the front. The first switch allows you to decrease the sensitivity of the microphone so the sound quality is clear for extremely loud sounds. For example, the switch should be in the "-10" position for loud voices, percussion, and other high sound pressure level devices. The "0" position should be used for normal voices and string instruments. The second switch on the U37 is designed to reduce pickup of deep bass sounds. The switch should be in the "Normal Bass" mode in most cases. However, if you want to remove wind noise, ventilation noise, or decrease the low frequencies in a recording, the switch should be in the "Bass Reduction" position.


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#5.Blue Snowball USB Microphone (Brushed Aluminum)


What did Blue put inside that wild-looking Snowball USB mic, anyway? How about two completely distinct capsules? Yep. You can sing into it, put it on your guitar amp, or just put the Snowball on its included stand and pretend you're sending signals back to your home planet. Podcast with it, record entire albums with it and appreciate the fact that it plugs straight into your computer, via USB. That's convenience! You even get a handy 10dB pad, so your crazy-loud guitar player won't cause the mic to distort. It's round, it's white, it sounds like a million bucks, and it's right here, ready to ship. Get yours today or get left out in the cold!


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#4.Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone


Samson Go Mic Compact USB Microphone is a versatile computer-based miking and recording solution. Due to its custom compact design, the Go Mic is able to clip directly onto your laptop or sit unobtrusively on your desk. Plug and play operation also mean it’s completely compatible with a Mac or PC, with no drivers required. The Go Mic is perfect for recording music, podcasts or field recording, but its range of functionality extends beyond typical USB microphones. The Go Mic is also ideal for voice recognition software, iChat, web casting and even Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).


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#3.Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone


Equipped with a USB output, the AT2020USB+ is designed for digitally capturing music or any acoustic audio source using your favorite recording software. The microphone offers the critically acclaimed, award-winning sound of the AT2020, with studio-quality articulation and intelligibility perfect for singer/songwriters, podcasters, voice-over artists, field recorders, and home studio recorders. The AT2020USB+ features a built-in headphone jack with volume control that allows you to directly monitor your microphone signal with no delay. It also offers mix control that blends microphone and pre-recorded audio. The microphone’s cardioid pickup pattern delivers excellent off-axis rejection, while its A/D converter with a 16-bit, 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate ensures extremely articulate sound reproduction. Audio-Technica’s state-of-the-art design and manufacturing techniques ensure that the microphone complies with the company’s renowned consistency and reliability standards.


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#2.Blue Yeti USB Microphone - Silver


Create unparalleled recordings directly in your computer with Blue Microphone's Yeti USB Microphone. The Yeti uses Blue Microphone's proprietary tri-capsule technology to produce pristine, studio-quality recordings. It features four different pattern settings so you can record vocals, instrumental music, podcasts, or interviews in ways that would normally require multiple microphones. With simple controls for headphone volume, pattern selection, instant mute, and microphone gain, you'll be creating exceptional recordings right out of the box.


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#1.Rode NT-USB USB Condenser Microphone


The NT-USB is a highly versatile side-address microphone that is ideal for recording singing and musical performances in addition to spoken applications such as podcasting and voice-over. It is fully compatible with all mainstream recording applications on both Windows and Mac OS-based computers, as well as the Apple iPad using R?DE Rec, Garage Band, or any other recording app that accepts an external microphone. Use on the Apple iPad requires a suitable USB connection adaptor, such as the Apple Camera Connection Kit. The body of the NT-USB features a zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring (3.5mm) jack, which allows you to monitor the microphone input in realtime, along with dials to adjust the monitoring level and mix between the computer/iPad audio and the microphone input. A premium pop-filter is included, which fits onto the base of the mic, positioning the filter the ideal distance from the capsule to minimize plosives (hard 'B', 'T' or 'P' sounds that produce a harsh sound) during singing or speech. Also provided is a high-quality stand mount with industry standard 3/8" thread, desktop tripod stand that allows the NT-USB to sit at a comfortable height on a tabletop, and a pouch for storage of the microphone when not in use.


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