Best USB Microphones to Use on a Tight Budget

One of the most important factors in the production process for your video is the audio quality. Poor audio quality can leave a lasting impression on your viewers, making your videos sound cheaply made, distracting the viewer from your message, or even making it hard to hear what you are saying.

It is vital to have a high-quality mic to record audio for your video tracks.Click To Tweet

But microphone technology comes in many forms. There are high-quality XLR microphones that offer more flexibility with a more robust audio interface and soundboard setup, but for those just getting started or for those that record the bulk or all of their audio on a computer, a USB microphone is not only a more efficient solution, but it’s also a lot less expensive.

Here are some of the best USB microphones you can find on the market today when operating on a tight budget.

Blue Yeti USB Microphone – $149

These microphones are frequently cited as among the best and most cost-effective for those starting in the podcast or video production process. The sound recording quality here is high, even effective in some very intensive applications such as music recording. For our money, this is the best quality USB microphone on the market – it’s not the cheapest, but when compared to many XLR models of similar quality it’s a no brainer.

With the Yeti, the only major downsides you’ll find are the weight (this is a big heavy mic) – and the sensitivity of the microphone. You’ll likely want a pop filter.

Audio Technica ATR2500 – $100

There are a number of Audio Technica USB mics on the market – including the ATR2020 which is impressive in its own right. However, the ATR2500 comes with the bare minimum technology needed to record quality vocals which is a must-have for video tutorials and other training materials you might put in your video-on-demand library.

This is a great microphone for anyone just getting started – providing quality audio, minimal setup requirements and sturdy construction as you get started. It is a bit sensitive so expect some background noise pickup if it is there but with the price point and the ease of setup, this is a great place to start for anyone just beginning to record.

Samson Meteor Mic – $150

The Samson offers probably the lowest overall sound quality of any microphone on this list, but for the price point and the features it provides, it is one of the better all-around values. The microphone is small and lightweight – much more so than the Yeti – and it has the much needed mute and monitor buttons available on the device. Many lower-cost microphones lack these buttons and can be hard to manage when in a video conference or webinar (it’s a lifesaver when you need to sneeze).

Additionally, this microphone works well with an iPad and is generally more flexible because of its lighter weight. Whether it’s the best option for you will depend largely on the situation in which you will be recording, but if this is what you’re looking for, it’s a great pickup.

Rode NT-USB – $300

The Rode is the highest-priced model on this list and as such the highest quality microphone we’ll recommend. It works out of the box without issues on all major platforms, including your iPad, and it is a solidly constructed, lightweight option that offers a bit more flexibility than the Yeti. That little bit of extra cost goes a long way too – ensuring you have the best possible noise cancellation available from a USB microphone.

Shure X2u XLR-to-USB Adapter – $150

If you don’t yet own a condenser microphone and your only option is a USB connection, we recommend selecting one of the four above, but if you have access to an XLR microphone or if you will be using your microphone in multiple settings where an XLR solution will also be feasible, then an adapter might be your best option.

Shure makes a solid XLR-to-USB adapter that allows you to use your XLR microphone on any Windows or Mac OSX computer. Offering +48V Phantom power for use with almost all models of condenser microphones and with volume control and headphone jack for monitoring as well as zero-latency monitoring for real-time playback and multitrack recording without distortion, it’s a good solution for those that don’t want to purchase a new microphone just for use with their computer. One thing to keep in mind with an adapter like this, however, is that it isn’t designed for the highest of high-end studio-quality XLR microphones, but it is a good fit for midrange options.

Choosing Your USB Microphone

While you can certainly get better sound quality from an XLR microphone and a proper audio setup, sometimes all you need is a low-cost USB microphone that can be carried with you and your laptop and offers good quality sound. These four mics do just that and are a great place to start if you’re just beginning to record videos.


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