XLR vs USB microphones: What's Better?
Both XLR and USB microphones have their own advantages and disadvantages, and which one is better depends on your specific needs and preferences.
XLR microphones are professional-grade microphones that use a 3-pin XLR connector to transmit audio. They are typically more expensive than USB microphones, but they offer a number of benefits. XLR microphones typically have a higher build quality and offer better sound quality compared to USB microphones. They are also more versatile, as they can be used with various audio recording equipment and easily integrated into a professional recording setup.
On the other hand, USB microphones are more convenient to use, as they can be plugged directly into a computer's USB port and do not require additional equipment. They are also generally more affordable than XLR microphones. However, the sound quality of USB microphones can be as good as an XLR microphone, but they are not as versatile, as they can only be used with a computer.
If you are a professional musician or audio engineer looking for the best possible sound quality and versatility, an XLR microphone is probably the way to go. If you are a beginner or a casual user looking for an affordable and convenient way to record audio on your computer, a USB microphone might be a better choice.
Its also important to know when using a USB microphone, you can only use one USB mic per computer. An XLR microphone can be used with an audio mixer, and you can have as many XLR microphones as your mixer will support.
Things to Consider When Buying a Mic
Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a budget condenser microphone:
Purpose: Consider what you will be using the microphone for. If you are a singer looking to record vocals, you might want a cardioid polar pattern. You might want a condenser microphone if you are a podcast host.
Frequency Response: The frequency response of a microphone refers to the range of frequencies that it can capture. A microphone with a wide frequency response will be able to capture a wide range of sounds, while a microphone with a narrow frequency response may struggle with certain frequencies. All the microphones on this list will be great at capturing voice audio from streaming to podcasting and any voice capturing.
Sensitivity: The sensitivity of a microphone refers to how well it can pick up quiet sounds. A more sensitive microphone will be able to pick up softer sounds, while a less sensitive microphone may struggle with quiet sources. For XLR microphones and some USB microphones you can adjust gain witch controls how sensitive a microphone is.
Noise Level: The noise level of a microphone refers to how much background noise it picks up. A microphone with a low noise level will be able to capture a clean, noise-free signal, while a microphone with a high noise level may pick up a lot of background noise. This uses to be a major concern but microphone technology has gotten very good. Very cheap microphones can have issues with this)
Build Quality: Consider the build quality of the microphone. A poorly built microphone may not last as long or perform as well as a well-built one. In many cases, going with a trusted manufacturer will play a large part in building quality and reliability.
Price: Finally, consider your budget. There are many budget condenser microphones on the market, but be sure to read reviews and do your research to find a microphone that offers good value for money.
What is a polar pattern?
A polar pattern is a graphical representation of the way in which a microphone responds to sounds coming from different directions. There are several different types of polar patterns, each of which is suited to different recording situations.
The most common polar patterns are:
- Cardioid: A cardioid polar pattern is shaped like a heart and is sensitive to sounds coming from directly in front of the microphone, while rejecting sounds coming from the sides and back. Cardioid microphones are good for recording a single source, such as a vocalist or instrument, as they can effectively isolate the sound from the background noise.
- Omnidirectional: An omnidirectional polar pattern is sensitive to sounds coming from all directions, making it ideal for recording a group of musicians or for capturing ambience in a room. Omnidirectional microphones are not as effective at isolating a specific sound source, as they pick up sound equally from all directions.
- Figure-8: A figure-8 polar pattern is sensitive to sounds coming from the front and back of the microphone, while rejecting sounds coming from the sides. Figure-8 microphones are good for recording two sources, such as a duet or an interview with two people.
- Bidirectional: A bidirectional polar pattern is sensitive to sounds coming from the front and back of the microphone, while rejecting sounds coming from the sides and top. Bidirectional microphones are similar to figure-8 microphones, but they are less sensitive to sounds coming from the sides, making them more effective at isolating a specific sound source.
- Shotgun: A shotgun polar pattern is highly directional and is sensitive to sounds coming from a very specific direction while rejecting sounds coming from other directions. Shotgun microphones are commonly used in television and film production to capture sound from a distance. They are also great when you are a content creator speaking into a camera or when you are picking up audio from a distance.
What Makes a Good Mic vs. A Bad Mic
A good quality microphone is one that is able to accurately and clearly capture sound, with minimal distortion or noise. It should have a wide frequency response, meaning it can capture a wide range of frequencies, and a good sensitivity level, meaning it can pick up both soft and loud sounds.
A good quality microphone should also have a low noise level, meaning it does not pick up a lot of background noise, and a polar pattern appropriate for the intended use. In terms of construction, high-quality microphones should be well-built and durable, with quality components. (All the ones on this list are what I would consider a high-quality microphone but may be made of plastic components to save on cost)
On the other hand, a bad-quality microphone may produce distorted or noisy sound, have a narrow frequency response or poor sensitivity, and pick up a lot of background noise. It may also be poorly built and not durable.
A good quality microphone will produce a clean and accurate representation of the sound being captured, while a bad quality microphone may produce a distorted or noisy version of the sound. It's best to stay away from options that may look good but either have bad reviews or are not recommended by content creators/bloggers.
What Can I Expect for a $100 Microphone?
For just $100, you can find a great microphone perfect for basic recording needs. These microphones may not have all the bells and whistles of more expensive models, but they can still provide excellent sound quality and be a great value for the price. Whether you're looking for a dynamic microphone for instruments and vocals, a USB microphone for easy computer recording, or a condenser microphone to pick up clear voice recordings, there are plenty of options available in this price range.
While you may not get all the features of a more expensive microphone, a $100 microphone is a great choice for those on a budget or those who only need a microphone for podcasting, streaming, or basic recording.
What Kind of Audio Quality Will a $100 Microphone Produce?
The audio quality you can expect from a $100 microphone will vary depending on the specific model and how it is used. In general, however, you can expect a microphone in this price range to produce sound that is good enough for basic recording tasks, such as podcasts, voiceovers, or music demos. These microphones may not offer the same level of clarity or detail as more expensive models, but they can still produce acceptable results for many purposes.
It's worth noting that the quality of the recording also depends on factors such as the recording environment, the quality of the recording equipment, and the skill of the person using the microphone. Even a high-end microphone can produce poor-quality recordings if used in a noisy or reverberant room or paired with low-quality recording equipment.
On the other hand, a well-placed and well-used $100 microphone can produce excellent results in the right circumstances.
What’s the Difference Between a Condenser Microphone and a Dynamic Microphone
Condenser and dynamic microphones are two different types of microphones that are used for different applications.
A condenser microphone is a type of microphone that uses a capacitor to convert sound waves into an electrical current. Condenser microphones are sensitive to changes in sound pressure, and they can capture a wide range of frequencies. They are typically more sensitive than dynamic microphones and are often used in recording studios, for radio and television broadcasting, and for live sound reinforcement. Because of this condenser mic's sensitivity may require an external power, called Phantom Power, to function. This is usually provided through an audio mixer or audio interface.
On the other hand, a dynamic microphone uses a simple diaphragm and coil to convert sound waves into electrical currents. Dynamic microphones are less sensitive than condenser microphones and are less affected by changes in sound pressure. They are typically more rugged and durable than condenser microphones and can handle high sound pressure levels without distorting. They are often used in live music performances and in other applications where durability and resistance to high sound pressure levels are important.
Condenser microphones are better for recording and live sound reinforcement; they excel for streaming, podcasting, and when clear vocal sounds are needed. while dynamic microphones are better for live performances and applications where durability is a concern.
Best USB Mics Under $100
The Blue Yeti is a popular USB microphone known for its high-quality audio, easy plug-and-play setup, and versatility.
It has four different pattern settings (cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional, and stereo), allowing it to be used for a wide range of recording tasks, including podcasting, voiceovers, and music recording. It also has a built-in headphone amplifier, allowing you to monitor your recording in real time and a convenient mute button.
Tt's is easy to use and produces excellent sound quality. It is a particularly popular choice for podcasting and streaming, as it is compatible with many popular software programs and requires no additional equipment to use.
Overall, the Blue Yeti is considered a high-quality USB microphone that is well worth the price. It may not be the most budget-friendly option (sometimes floating over $100), but it offers excellent value for the price and is a popular choice among many content creators. The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular microphones in the world. I mention that if you damage your Blue Yeti, a local big box store probably has one on the shelf. The Blue Yeti is a fan favorite and is great for recording everything from podcasts to music and everything in between.
Multiple polar patterns
It can cost more than $100 sometimes
The Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB is a great microphone because it delivers high-quality audio and is very versatile. It is a dynamic microphone that is well-suited for both live performances and recording applications. One of the key features of the ATR2100x-USB is its built-in USB interface, which allows you to connect it directly to a computer for recording or streaming. This makes it a convenient choice for home studio use or for streaming on platforms like Twitch or YouTube.
The ATR2100x-USB also has a smooth, extended frequency response and a cardioid pickup pattern, which helps to reduce background noise and feedback. It is also able to handle high sound pressure levels, making it suitable for use with a wide range of instruments and vocal styles. Additionally, the ATR2100x-USB is durable and easy to use, with a simple plug-and-play design and a convenient on/off switch. All of these features make it a very versatile and user-friendly microphone.
USB & XLR capable
Headphone adjustment for USB
No Mute Button (but does have on-off switch)
Razer Seiren X
The Razer Seiren X is a popular USB microphone that is well-liked by many users for a number of reasons. One reason people like the Seiren X is because it has very good sound quality for a USB microphone. It has a cardioid pickup pattern that does a good job of rejecting background noise, making it great for streaming and recording in a home studio setting. It also has a built-in shock mount that helps to reduce handling noise, which is a common problem with many USB microphones.
In addition to its good sound quality, the Seiren X is also very easy to use. It has a simple plug-and-play design that allows you to start using it right out of the box. It also has a compact and lightweight design, making it easy to take with you on the go.
Overall, the Razer Seiren X is a great USB microphone that offers a good balance of sound quality, ease of use, and affordability. It's a good choice for anyone looking for a high-quality microphone for streaming, recording, or other uses.
Adjustable Microphone Position
Best XLR Mics Under $100
The Shure SM58 is a popular and highly respected vocal microphone known for its durability and versatility.
It is widely used in live performances and recording applications due to its ability to produce clear and detailed sound with a strong presence in the mid-range frequency spectrum. The SM58 is also built to withstand the rigors of touring, with rugged construction and a shock-mounted cartridge that helps to reduce handling noise. It has a built-in spherical filter that helps to reduce wind and breath noise, making it well-suited for use in close proximity to the mouth.
The SM58 has a cardioid pickup pattern, which helps to reject noise and feedback from the sides and rear of the microphone, making it ideal for use on stage where there may be loud instruments or monitors. All of these features make the SM58 a reliable and versatile choice for a wide range of vocal applications.
This is one of the world's most popular XLR dynamic microphones, and most live performances have them on set.
Its not great for picking up musical instrument audio.
The Rode Podmic is a popular microphone that is well-liked by many people for vocal recordings and podcasting. One reason people love the Podmic is because it has very good sound quality. It has a dynamic cardioid pickup pattern designed specifically for vocal recordings and does a great job of capturing clear, detailed audio. It also has a built-in pop filter that helps to reduce plosive sounds, making it ideal for close-mic recording.
In addition to its good sound quality, the Rode Podmic is also very easy to use. It has a simple plug-and-play design that allows you to start using it right out of the box, and it comes with a built-in stand mount that makes it easy to set up on a desk or other surface.
Another reason people love the Rode Podmic is that it is durable and reliable. It is made with high-quality materials and a robust design built to last. It is also very affordable, making it a good value for the price.
Overall, the Rode Podmic is a great microphone that is well-suited for vocal recordings and podcasting. It offers good sound quality, ease of use, and durability, making it a fast favorite for many people.
Heavy (2.06 lbs)
Doesn't come with a XLR cable
Audio Technica AT2020
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a popular studio microphone that is known for its high-quality audio reproduction and affordable price point. Some of the key features that make this microphone stand out include its large diaphragm condenser mic design, which helps to capture a wide range of frequencies and produce a warm, clear sound. Additionally, the AT2020 has a cardioid polar pattern, which means that it is sensitive to sound coming from directly in front of the microphone and less sensitive to sound coming from other directions. This makes it well-suited for recording vocals or other sound sources in a controlled studio environment.
Another factor that contributes to the popularity of the AT2020 is its durability and build quality. The microphone is made from durable materials and is built to withstand the rigors of regular use in a studio setting. Additionally, its compact design and lightweight makes it easy to set up and use in a variety of recording scenarios.
Helps reduce ambient noise
Doesn't come with a XLR cable
Best Mobile Podcasting Mics Under $100
Samson SAGOMIC Go Mic
The Samson Go Mic is a portable USB microphone that is popular among a wide range of users, including podcast hosts, streamers, vloggers, and more. There are several reasons why it is considered a great portable microphone:
- Compact and portable design: The Go Mic is small and lightweight, making it easy to take with you on the go. This makes it a great option for people who travel frequently or need to record in multiple locations.
- High-quality audio: Despite its small size, the Go Mic is capable of delivering high-quality audio. It features a cardioid polar pattern, which helps to reduce background noise and other distractions, making it well suited for recording speech and vocals.
- Versatility: The Go Mic can be used for a wide range of applications, including podcasting, streaming, video conferencing, and more. It can also be used as a secondary microphone for a camera or smartphone.
- Affordable: It is also an affordable option coming in at $32.
- Easy to set up: The Go Mic is easy to set up and use. It is plug-and-play, so it can be used with both Mac and Windows computers without the need for additional drivers.
Keep in mind, it's a USB microphone, which means, depending on your needs, it might have some limitations. Overall it's a great option as a starter microphone and if its something you plan to travel with get an extra USB cable for your bag.
Compact and Portable
Not the highest quality sound but better than a mobile device or laptop mic.
PGDLOF Wireless Lavalier Lapel Microphone
The PGDLOF Wireless Lavalier Lapel Microphone is a popular wireless microphone system that many people use for mobile podcasting. People like this microphone because it offers a wireless solution for podcast recording and live streaming. It eliminates the need for cords and cables and allows for more freedom of movement, making it more comfortable and convenient to use, especially when you are on the go or in a mobile setting.
Another reason people like the PGDLOF Wireless Lavalier Lapel Microphone is because it has a good sound quality. It has a lapel clip-on design which allows the user to place the microphone close to the mouth, which helps to capture clear, detailed audio. The microphone also has a low noise, high-fidelity condenser, which makes it easy to transmit the audio without any background noise.
The PGDLOF Wireless Lavalier Lapel Microphone also has a wide compatibility, it can be used with smartphones, computers, laptops, or tablets with a standard 3.5mm audio input.
Can be attached to clothing
Only used on iPhone or Apple devices
Movo Professional Lavalier Lapel Clip
The Movo Professional Lavalier Lapel Clip is a popular choice among mobile podcasters and video creators as it's a budget-friendly and user-friendly microphone with good sound quality. It is easy to set up and use, simply plug it in a 3.5mm jack, it has a clip-on design that allows for portability and flexibility, and it comes with a long cord. Its compatibility with most recording devices and noise reduction feature make it suitable for recording in different environments.
This is a staple in my backpack and its very hand when both people are close together. It gets crystal-clear audio and is simple to use. It works great with anything with a 3.5mm jack or an adapter for androids or phones.
Simple to use
Durable and reliable
Needs a 3.5 mm jack
Can't control each level of audio
Rode VideoMic GO II
The Rode VideoMic GO II is a popular choice among podcasters and videographers because of its compact and lightweight design, which makes it easy to travel with. It is also very easy to set up and use, with a simple plug-and-play operation that requires no additional batteries or power.
Additionally, the Rode VideoMic GO II has a high-quality directional condenser microphone that is able to capture clear, crisp audio. This is especially useful for podcasting, as it helps to isolate the speaker's voice and reduce background noise. The microphone also has a built-in shock mount, which helps to further reduce noise and vibrations.
Another reason people like the Rode VideoMic GO II is its value, it is an affordable option for people looking to improve the audio quality of their podcast without breaking the bank. Overall, it's a great choice for anyone who wants to capture high-quality audio on the go, whether you're traveling for a podcast recording, video production or vlog.
Simple to use
Doesn't require battery
Requires 3.5mm jack
Notable Mentions That Didn't Make The List
This is a phenomenal microphone, but it has been going up in price over time. It's currently at $136, but it's an amazing microphone. Compared to others on the list, it will provide a little warmer sound and is an amazing microphone with a headphone adjustment knob. I am a big fan of the Rode NT-USB microphone, but there are other amazing options at a similar price.
Razer Seiren Mini USB Condenser Microphone
This is a powerful and small microphone from Razer. It's great for on-the-go and smaller setups. Its on the cheaper side of microphones at $49. It's awesome for delivering great audio on a cheaper budget. It is a USB Connection and is light enough to be supported by cheaper microphone stands.
This is a great microphone and comparable to the Razer Seiren Mini and the value you get is amazing. The Blue Snowball features a larger size microphone with a tall tripod stand. Its not going to have all the bells and whistles that the Blue Yeti has but its great for mounting or taking on the go. It does feel a little cheap, but the Blue Snowball is a well-known name and a great entry-level USB microphone. If your on a tight budget, it's a great place to start.
Blue Yeti Nano
The blue Yeti nano is a massively popular microphone that is the bridge between the Blue Snowball and the Blue Yeti. It offers a condenser mic with two polar patterns (Omni & Cardioid), a headphone adjustment knob, and a mute button. The mesh frame contains an embedded pop filter and houses two custom capsules for great audio.