A USB microphone is one of the most commonly-used ways of recording your voice onto a laptop or desktop computer. The purpose of this recording is often to make a podcast, narrate a video, or provide other types of audio experience.
Using portable microphones to do this has become very popular in the last few years, as people are no longer content to use the small microphone which is normally attached to laptops. Having the best USB microphone allows the computer user to create a range of audio sounds, from voices to music, which can then be uploaded to the internet, or combined with other programs in order to enhance the sound.
The major problem with using a microphone is deciding between USB or non-USB microphones, and getting a good sound quality from the device once it has been chosen. It makes sense to get a better understanding of the choices available before making a final decision, and learning more about the differences between USB and non-USB microphones can help someone to make an informed choice.
Ultimate USB Microphone Comparison Guide and Parameters
The following parameters are Included in the comparison table:
- Microphone images
- Brand and name/model – click to read more details or purchase from Amazon
- Price –prices are based on data from Amazon.com. They can be changed frequently based on availability and promotions without any notice.
$ ~ under $50;
$$ ~ $50 to $100;
$$$ ~ $100 to $200
$$$$ ~ $200+
- Varieties: According to Wikipedia, Microphones are referred to by their transducer principle, such as condenser, dynamic, Ribbon, Carbon etc.
- Polar Pattern: Again according to Wikipedia, polar pattern of microphones indicates how sensitive it is to sounds arriving at different angles about its central axis. The common ones are Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Bi-directional, etc.
- Frequent Response: describes microphone sensitivity.
- Sample Rate: defines the number of samples per unit of time (usually seconds) taken from a continuous signal to make a discrete signal.
- Dimensions: This only matters when you have limited space around your work station
- Rating – The average user rating on Amazon.com. Do you find this is reliable? At least we do.
What do you need to know about USB and non-USB microphone?
The USB microphone simply plugs into a USB port on the computer, and usually has to be activated by pressing a button to turn the microphone ‘on’. It is considered to be able to provide a much more consistent sound than the microphones which are already added to laptops and tablet computers and generally pick up the voice much more clearly, too.
The main source of difference between the USB microphone and its similar relatives is the internal sound. USB mics will amplify the sound internally, and then create a digital signal from this sound. This makes it unique from other types of microphone, in that the creation of a digital sound is done by the microphone before it gets to the computer. The downsides to USB microphones are that they can only connect to computers, so they cannot be attached to analog boards to allow mixing, and the USB cables tend to be much shorter than for a standard microphone.
Non-USB microphones can be connected in a variety of ways, but the most popular professional connection is the XLR. This is a tube connection and is usually plugged into the front of the computer, where the headphones would go. XLR microphones are considered to be better for musical composition, or when you need expert sound quality, rather than simply uploading for Facebook or YouTube.
Generally, professionals prefer XLR microphones, but they are considered to be expensive, and unless you are a famous music producer, are probably not worth the cost, as a good USB microphone should be able to provide excellent sound quality.
What are the Key Points to the USB Microphone?
In order to be able to find the most suitable USB microphone for your money, it is important to be able to spot the key points of any types of microphone. There are several key points to a microphone, and differences in these points can mean that their use is preferred by one group of consumers, while another is preferred by a different group.
This means that choosing the best USB microphone is not going to be easy unless all of the different elements which make up the microphone are fully understood. For anyone without much technical knowledge, there are two main differences between types of USB microphone: Polar Patterns, and designs specific to particular microphone applications. These differing features can make a significant difference to the sound quality of the microphone you choose.
Microphone polar patterns
Polar patterns is a term used to refer to the sound quality of a microphone. Also known as the directionality of the microphone, it can be an important factor in choosing what type of USB microphone is right for your use. The polar patterns include unidirectional, which means that sound is only picked up from one area; Cardioid, the most common type and best mic for rap vocals, this only picks up sound from certain directions; Shotgun, which are very directional, and have less sound sensitivity to the sides and the rear, and Omnidirectional, which has the most sound sensitivity of all microphones. This can make it sensitive to computer noises and buzzing tones which can affect sound quality.
Some USB microphones are designed to be compatible with various types of machine, or with the specific needs of a particular microphone user. Wireless microphones, for example, are popular with people who have to constantly be in contact with people via mobile phones, where a wireless microphone is connected to an earpiece and is free of the phone itself. Contact microphones, on the other hand, are designed to pick up vibrations from a particular device or object. It is sometimes used as a throat microphone, where speech is taken directly from the throat.
Lavalier microphones are another hands-free tool which can be attached to the body using a pin or clip, and are often used in TV and film. The music industry, on the other hand, is particularly interested in devices such as stereo microphones, which produce double sound quality, and noise cancelling microphones, which are best used in noisy environments, such as live concerts. These cut out sound by taking double signals, and then crowd noise filtered out from the vocals.
How to find the best USB microphone?
Choosing the right USB microphone for your needs will depend very much upon which is the most suitable for your current needs. For example, there is the question of how compatible the USB cable will be with your own computer. Most microphones connect easily, but others require drivers be downloaded, and some will only work with particular computer models. In addition, while most microphones are ideally intended to be plugged in and used immediately, with some of the more expensive models, it may be necessary to configure the microphone, or use purchased software to set up the computer. All of these elements need to be considered before a purchase is made.
The purpose of your microphone is another important element in deciding what type of device to purchase. Cheaper models can be ideal for using with Skype and other conversation-based programs, but middle range might be better for those hoping to make podcasts or video ‘webinars’, for use in their business. If you want to sound professional, then a better-quality USB microphone will need to be used. This might mean choosing to buy a device which has Cardioid sound, rather than omnidirectional quality.
For good sound quality, ideal for picking up just your voice in a busy area, the Go Mike by Samson might be the ideal product. It has a Cardioid unidirectional microphone, and it also has a plug-and-play feature which means that no drivers have to be installed before the device will work. It is also small and easy to use, which means that it can be taken outside if you wish to record sound out of doors.
For those who want to include Podcasts and other audio documents, either as part of a website or for broadcast on other sites, the Rode Podcaster is ideal. It is ideal for use in noisy backgrounds, and picks up the voice clearly. Although it does not use the condenser, which means that it doesn’t pick up the voice as clearly, it is more adaptable to difficult environments, making it ideal for the keen Podcast maker. It has a headphone which allows direct mix control, and there is no software. The microphone itself has a Cardioid unidirectional output, and it can also be mounted on a specific ‘shock mount’ in order to reduce buzzing and vibration noise.
There are many other types of USB microphone available, with these being just two examples of types that might be suitable for the modern user. Other varieties might include a headset microphone, or the well known Blue Yeti, large (12 inches) and multi-featured, it can perform a variety of different moves, depending upon the desire of the purchaser. However, this is a very expensive make of microphone, and can be too much for the average user. When looking for the best USB microphone for your needs, it is always important to make sure that you search within your price range. There are so many different types of USB microphone out there, you are sure to be able to find one which does exactly what you want.