Microphones play a crucial role in the results of recording vocals on your computer, as such, you should carefully choose the microphones that you are going to use when recording vocals.
The USB mics are easy to handle and use, especially, for beginners who want a plug-and-play microphone at their disposal. Moreover, this mic type is more affordable as compared to the XLR microphone. But its quality is deemed subpar to the qualities of the XLR mics. However, you can actually hook these USB mics to audio interface and preamp in order to optimize and improve its sound recording quality just like the XLR mic’s sound quality.
Ordinary microphones have very few capabilities on their own, whereas USB microphones have capabilities built right in. USB mics have the ability to convert your audio to digital files which will save a lot of time and hassle, as this doesn’t happen automatically with ordinary mics.
Keep in mind when buying a USB microphone, that they are designed to use for recording audio rather than live performances. So, most of the details in this guide will be covering details that are important for getting the best possible recordings rather than pandering to a live audience.
Facts About USB Microphones You Should Know
Should You Use USB Condenser Mic or Dynamic Mic?
In short, there are two types of vocal microphones, namely: the condenser ones and the dynamic ones. Theoretically, the condenser microphones are more sensitive and are capable of greater frequency response. This type of microphones is mostly used in safe environments that are enclosed and free from many distractions. On the other hand, the dynamic ones are generally used in actual gigs and live concerts for they are more resilient and well-built.
In fact, most USB microphones are condenser, as it’s more flexible in the audio pick-up pattern adjustment and it is very suitable for the beginners for many reasons.
Mobile Device Capability
If you don’t have a computer or need to record on the go, then you should consider a USB mic with mobile device capability. There are many mics that work with IOS and other mobile devices. This is a great feature to have if you plan on traveling and recording away from home. Then, you don’t need to worry about bringing too much with you. All you need is your phone and a microphone, and you’ll be ready to record wherever and whenever you want to. If this feature is important in your buying decision, then make sure you check the microphone you are going to buy for mobile capability because not all USB microphones have this feature.
Every microphone has a diaphragm that responds to sounds by vibrating, and there are different sizes available. Your choice for diaphragm size depends on what you will be using your mic for and what type of performance you are looking for in a mic. Smaller diaphragm mics give a more accurate, untouched sound. So, if you want to pick up a sound exactly as it is produced, then you would want a smaller diaphragm microphone. Because the smaller mics are so true to the original sound, they pick up more tiny details that may be missed on a larger diaphragm mic.
Larger diaphragm microphones have their advantages too. These mics will make whatever you are recording sound larger than life. If you want your voice or instrument to seem loud and larger than life, then a larger diaphragm microphone will certainly bring you the sound you are looking for.
Microphones have different polar patterns, and they play a big part in how your mic picks up sounds. There are 3 main patterns in USB microphones, and they each can help you in different ways when it comes to capturing sound.
The first option is a cardioid mic. This pattern captures sound primarily from the front. If you plan to record by yourself, then this is the best pattern for you. Because cardioid mics pick up sound from the front, they do not pick up as much room noise.
If you want to record with other people, then an omnidirectional mic is probably best for you. This mic captures sound from every direction. So, it is easier to record more than one person speaking, singing or playing instruments. Because omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all directions, they tend to pick up more room noises. So, if you do not have a soundproof room, this pattern may be challenging to work with.
Finally, if you want a mic pattern that allows the best of both listed above, then you should consider a multi-pattern mic. This pattern allows you to choose between cardioid and omnidirectional settings, switching back and forth as needed. These mics tend to be more expensive than the other patterns, but if you plan to use both settings, then it is worth the extra cost to cover every aspect of what you need.
Most USB microphones have mute controls which will allow for the mic to be muted when you don’t want sounds picked up. This setting may seem insignificant, but it can really help you out if you have a lot of background noise that you don’t want to be picked up on the mic. Muting your mic can also save you a lot of editing time later. If you don’t want to hear inhaling while recording, then having a mute button can cut out that extra noise without taking the time to edit it out later or having to stretch away from the mic just to inhale.
You may also want to consider a mic that has a low-cut filter option. This control will cut out low-frequency noises allowing your recording to be much more crisp. If you feel that background noises may be an issue for you, then this control is going to be important for you. Whether it’s general background noises like upstairs neighbors walking or something as simple as the air conditioner coming on, these noises can be picked up on many mics. So, a low-cut filter can help minimize those annoying sounds and help you sound much more clear.
Recommended USB Mics for Vocal Recordings on Laptop / Computer
To facilitate the process of choosing the right mics for recording vocals on computers, we have spent several weeks researching the best mics on the market today. Afterward, we came up with our lists of good brands that you can readily check out:
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1) Rode NT-USB
The Rode NT-USB is versatile and easy to use studio-quality USB microphone that is ideal for any type of recordings. But it is undoubtedly suitable for vocal recordings and other mainstream recordings. Its excellent design features a zero-latency 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring the input of the microphone. It also comes with a premium pop-filter that readily fits into the microphone base, allowing you to position the filter at an ideal distance from the mic. This lets its users minimize the plosive sounds during recordings of vocals.
The Rode NT-USB comes with a stand together with a 3/8″ thread, a pouch for storage, and a desktop tripod stand. It is a high-quality studio mic that comes with the convenience of a USB connectivity. This mic also allows you a direct mix control between the source output and mic input. It is also compatible with Apple iPad.
It is primarily considered the “new-kid-on-the-block” when it comes to microphones for recording. Yet, it has already found a niche among microphone products that are considered to be of great quality. In fact, those who have owned and used this mic surely attest to the fact that this mic is the “holy grail” of the less expensive USB professional microphones. Quality-wise, this mic would surely give you a meaningful and transparent audio reproduction that you couldn’t help but appreciate. Hence, this mic is basically a good choice for vocal recordings.
- Beautiful vocal quality that may not need so much tweaking.
- It provides extended response and crispiness.
- It exhibits low noise.
- Its design is well-thought of.
- It comes with a free pop-shield and a decent stand.
- Its boom bracket is wrought in plastic which may be one of its weak points.
2) Audio-Technica AT2020USBi
The Audio-Technica AT2020USBi basically contains everything you need to begin recording vocals. It is a condenser microphone with digital output for high-resolution recording. It comes with A/D converter with 24 bits/96 kHz sampling rate for higher sound quality and superb audio resolution. This one is a good entry ticket to the world of professional sound engineering for it surely has all the necessary qualities of a good mic for vocal recordings. It is undoubtedly solidly built to last longer in use.
This Audio-Technica USB mic, however, is smaller in size as compared to other brands, though its design is basically good and at par with the designs of other popular mics. The gain control of this mic easily lets you adjust its input level. This mic also has a smooth extended frequency response that is suited for home-studio recording, podcasting, and field recording. The AT2020USBi also works perfectly with both lightning cable and USB cable. Hence, you can readily use it right from the box to digitally capture vocals on your computer.
- This mic is durable and seems like a tank.
- It provides a fairly flat response which is quite suitable for mixing. Moreover, it offers a high SPL rating.
- It doesn’t come with a polar pattern selection switch, limiting its usefulness in some instances, though it is best suited for vocal recording.
- It doesn’t come with a shock mount. So, you need to buy the shock mount separately.
- It necessitates a phantom power supply which you need to buy separately.
3) Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
What can we say about the Blue Microphones Yeti? The Blue Microphones brand is popular among YouTubers and gamers as well as amateur musicians and podcasters. It’s more catered for the home studio users. It will suit you if you are more vocal and music recordings.
It is packed with awesome features that you would love to have in a mic. It has a gain knob, for example, at its backside. It also has a knob for selecting a pickup pattern among cardioid, bidirectional, stereo, or omnidirectional. At its front side, you’ll see a mute button together with the volume control that you can readily use while monitoring.
The stylish design of this microphone and its physical aspect is worth commenting because of the tremendous practical features it presents. It also features three condenser capsules that allow you to record almost anything. Its design likewise is hassle-free. Moreover, it comes with a microphone and full-sized studio headphone filter. It also features gain control, mute button, and zero-latency headphone output. It is plug-and-play; hence, it is very compatible with PC and Mac. What else would you ask for if you have the Yeti Blue Microphone? It is perfect for whatever recording use you intend to use it.
- Its overall structure is wrought in metal which gives this mic a solid base and durability.
- Its best highlight is its sterling sound quality.
- It gives you ample polar pattern options with its four polar patterns.
- It tends to pick up sibilant noise.
- It is a challenge to mount, especially if you are working on an uneven surface.
- Its controls look flimsy.
4) Blue Snowball iCE
The Blue Snowball iCE is a condenser capsule microphone that offers great crystal clear audio for Skype and other general vocal recording usages. It is good for recording vocals, creating podcasts, and voice-over recordings. Its frequency response ranges from 40Hz to 18kHz. It is easy to plug to your Mac or PC and requires no installation of drivers. This mic is popularly used by podcast users. It is also used mostly in amateur talk-shows.
It is relatively produces the sounds that you would get from the previously mentioned mic brands. Yet, this mic is very convenient to use, especially, if you are just new in vocal recordings. Moreover, it comes with basically everything you need to begin your vocals recording. This mic seems to struggle, however, when it comes to programs that make use of voice activation for it appears to be less capable of isolating background noises, especially, if you have the mic at arm’s length. But this little complaint about the Blue Mic Snowball iCE is inconsequential, especially, if you would consider its ease of use and the amount of convenience it offers.
- It is a significant improvement as a computer microphone for it is a plug-and-play mic that is easy to set up.
- It offers a crystal-clear sound.
- It works out of the box.
- It is affordable.
- You’ll notice it lacks top and low end and mainly emphasize the mid frequencies.
- Its mic stand is not convenient for perfect positioning.
5) Samson Q2U
This model is a high-quality dynamic microphone that comes with XLR and USB I/O outputs. This mic basically meets both analog and digital vocal reproduction requirements, and it comes in a very convenient package, together with its accessories. The Q2U dynamic handheld microphone is ideal for use in the recording studios. It features a cardioid (unidirectional) polar pattern with high-quality A/D converter and the sampling rate of 16-bit 48kHz.
Its frequency response ranges from 50Hz to 15 kHz which ensures users a good and detailed capture of sounds. It is definitely compatible with most or all computer-based digital audio workstations. With the use of this mic, you can easily develop and enhance the recording of vocals. The Samson Q2U is easy to set up and can be directly connected to your computer. Lastly, it comes complete with all the things that you need to begin the recording of vocals.
There are many variations to consider when buying your USB microphone, but if you follow our guide, then you can be sure to get the most out of your mic. Most USB mics aren’t priced all that high. So, you can get a good quality mic at a reasonable cost. Set some money aside and take your time choosing the right one for you.