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The 5 Best USB Mics for Postcasting
In the past podcasters have plugged a standard XLR mic into a small mixer then output the signal to a computer sound card line input. Unfortunately due to all the routing and adapters the analog signal went through, white noise shot sky high and sound quality was lost.
Things got better by using a simple audio interface like the Griffin iMic after the mixer in the chain to convert the signal to USB. Noise floor was reduced but it was still far from ideal for podcasters looking for a plug-and-play method to record voice-overs.
Fast-forwarding to today, USB microphones make it easier than ever to carry your voice into the digital domain. There is no need for a mixer or audio interface. For the first time ever microphones output a digital signal from the get-go.
Although USB mics are new on the scene, the technology has been the standard of data transfer for around a decade. USB 3.0 technologies are around the corner ensuring a place for devices of today in the future since USB is backwards compatible.
When podcasters discuss microphones, a number of suggestions come up repeatedly. The market isn’t saturated with USB mics yet so the cream has risen quickly, making mics like the Blue Yeti and Samson CO1U practically industry standards.
Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
Blue makes some of the most innovative mics in the industry; naming a mic after the Abominable Snowman is just like them. Yeti is one of their more traditional-looking offerings, and is very practical for podcasting.
The practicality comes from the desk-stand and large tactile controls. In a pitch the Yeti will record both you and an interviewee, thanks to switchable bidirectional and omnidirectional patterns.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB USB Condenser Microphone
Audio-Technica is a name you will see at major studios. Broadcasters have counted on their mics for years.
When plugged in, USB drivers are loaded automatically, allowing you to use it right out of the box. It lacks hands-on controls meaning you need to rely on software exclusively to set levels or mute the mic. The best benefit here is Audio-Technica’s renowned sound quality. Voice recordings have a nice body to them complemented by crisp highs.
The included tripod style stand isn’t as sexy or flexible as the one attached to the Yeti. On a plus side, you aren’t married to it and there are plenty of desk stands you can replace it with for a modest price.
Samson C01U Condenser USB Microphone
The CO1U is one of the earlier USB mics listed here and it still holds up pretty well against the competition.
For one you can get it for under $100. Secondly you can add a nice “spider mount” add-on to it for an additional $29. Anyone who has worked with condenser mics know just how handy these are as it will pick up any tiny bump without it.
The surface of the mic is clean, again leaving the controls to the software. Thankfully the driver and software worked on a Macbook Pro without hiccups.
MXL 990-USB USB Powered Condenser Microphone
MXL is known for inexpensive yet decent-sounding mics. The 990-USB doesn’t have the advantage of a killer price in this case, as you can grab a Blue Yeti or COUI for around the same amount.
Although the sound quality was commendable, there was a noticeable humming noise coming from tracks that can build up in a mix. This is the 990-USBs greatest weakness and still a group of loyal podcasters swear by it.
If you can find it cheap the MXL is a fine choice. At full price however it is hard to recommend over the options listed above.
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
Purely from the perspective of beauty, the Blue Snowball is exceptional. Even the UFO-based tripod stand looks awesome.
Although not quite as versatile as the Yeti, this puppy is selling cheap. It’s not unusual to pick up a Snowball for under $70.
The sound quality is great for the price, however the output level will make you wish you had a few extra dB at your disposal. Still, it gets the job done for basic voice recording and podcasting. If you are hoping for a mic to place far in the background and pick up what is happening in the room, look elsewhere.