Best USB Microphone For Home Studio, Podcasts & More

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USB microphones allow you to record high quality audio straight to a digital audio workstation (DAW) like Garage band, Logic or ProTools. After scouring the web and trying out the most popular USB mics, we narrowed our list to the 3 top contenders:

In a nutshell, the Samson Go Mic gives you the most bang for your buck. The Blue Yeti is extremely popular for home studios, and the Rode NT-USB is the only way to get full-blown studio quality recordings without buying studio gear.

Best USB Microphone 2018: Samson Go Mic vs. Blue Yeti vs. Rode NT-USB

Samson Go Mic

Blue Yeti
Rode NT-USB
Price (approx) $40 $120 $170
Best For Voice recording, demos Voice, instrument and live recording Studio recording, high quality voice-overs
Size 2.8” by 1.7” 11.6” by 4.9” 7.2” by 2.4”
Patterns Cardioid, Omnidirectional Cardioid, stereo
omnidirectional and bidirectional
Cardioid Only
Compatibility Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac, iPad
Warranty 1 year 2 years 1 year (2 with registration)
Where to buy? Amazon Amazon Amazon

Samson is a budget audio company that makes surprisingly high quality gear for the price. The Samson Go Mic is no exception, featuring a full frequency range, a sturdy metal design, and a handy clip that can be attached to a computer monitor, or function as a stand.

It’s perfect for gamers, podcasters and YouTube producers who want to upgrade from their built-in microphone. The Go Mic is significantly higher quality, picking up richer highs and lows. The optional “omnidirectional” mode means it can pick up sounds all around it -- ideal if you’re conducting an interview, or recording demos with a band.

What's Missing

While it packs in a lot of utility for the price, it doesn’t quite make the cut for studio recording, or voice-overs for a professional film. It’s a bit noisier compared to the Yeti or Rode. In test run videos, you can hear a subtle layer of static under the voice. While this usually goes unnoticed in podcasts and video blogs, it would be quite present if you were recording, say, an acoustic guitar.

Lastly, you would need to upgrade to get those boomy low frequencies heard in movie trailer voices, or radio DJs. The Rode and Yeti can deliver something closer to that, or you can opt for a full-blown broadcasting mic.

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Spend a minute searching for USB mics and you’re bound to come across The Blue Yeti. This mic is extremely popular, and the go-to for musicians getting their feet wet with home recording.

Technically speaking, the characteristics of the Blue Yeti are perfect for home studios. It can sit on the desk, and a producer can record a range of instruments or vocals without worrying much about the mic’s position. The large diaphragm allows you to record at a distance without gathering too much noise, or losing richness of tone.

The Blue Yet is also the only mic that can record in stereo -- ideal if you’re recording drums, or a live performance, and want the feeling of “being there” in the room.

What's Missing

First off, the Blue Yeti is huge. It’s almost a foot tall on its stand and 5 inches wide. This makes it rather impractical for mobile use or field recordings, despite the fact that its stereo mode would be useful for that.

Secondly, while the Yeti has lower noise than the Samson Go Mic, it is still no match for the Rode NT -- dubbed the world’s quietest microphone. If you’re recording soft instruments, or need high quality samples for a film production, you may want to budget a little more for the Rode.

I admit, I was surprised when I first saw this microphone. Rode makes some of the best studio mics on the market. What exactly are they doing releasing a USB mic -- a market traditionally reserved for beginners?

Rode is known for making some of the best studio mics on the market. The NT-USB brings that quality to home studios, or to 

The answer is quite obvious. As home production becomes more common, there’s a growing demand for studio quality recording with the convenience and portability of a USB mic. The NT offers the most realistic sound, and has the lowest noise of any USB mic on the market. Just check out the video below comparing it to the Yeti.

The NT is virtually silent. It’s also smoother on the low-end, capturing a more realistic sounding voice. Musicians and producers who have worked before in a professional studio will be more familiar, and a lot happier with the performance of this mic.

 
 

What’s Missing

The NT-USB seems to have it all. It’s smaller and more portable than the Yeti, yet captures a higher quality sound, suitable for professional productions. Plus its the only mic that can record on iPad in addition to Mac & PC.

The only real downsides are that it lacks stereo recording, and it’s more expensive. The NT-USB sells for roughly $170 compared to $120 for the Yeti, and less than $40 for the Samson.

On the other hand, the NT-USB is about as professional as you can get without switching to an interface + broadcasting mic. In this sense, the ~$170 price tag can seem like a bargain.

Conclusion

Personally, I would go with either the Samson Go Mic or the NT-USB, depending on your budget. The Samson Go Mic is a massive upgrade from any built-in microphone. Plus, just given how handy and portable it is, the Go Mic is the kinda tool you’ll keep using, even if you upgrade later,  The Rode NT-USB fills the other end of the spectrum, providing the highest possible quality within a USB mic.

The Blue Yeti occupies an uncomfortable space in between. In my opinion, most users who are considering the Yeti could either save their money with the Go Mic or jump straight to the NT-USB and avoid having to upgrade later.

If you want something that can record on the go, be sure to check out our guide on the best portable recorders.