As countries worldwide extend Public Health Emergencies due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, physical interaction remains restricted. As a result, most business and educational activities have shifted online using videoconferencing applications such as Zoom. If you are an employee that works from home or a student who takes online classes, the chances are that you spend a considerable chunk of your daily life busy in Zoom meetings. During these meetings, you might come across your classmates or colleagues being inaudible due to their USB microphone issues. This is because the standard microphone in most laptops isn’t good enough for high-quality audio. To make the most out of these Zoom meetings, you can invest in an after-market microphone and improve the audio quality.

However, making a buying decision might be a strenuous task due to the vast number of options available in the market. Fortunately, our team of tech experts has curated a list of the best microphones according to your requirement and usage. Whether you are looking for a budget-friendly microphone to give your best at your daily Zoom calls or a premium quality microphone for more intensive use, we have got it all covered in this article.

USB Microphone vs. Studio Microphone

Mainly there are two different types of microphones available in the market, USB microphones and Studio microphones. It is better to differentiate between the two before buying a microphone to choose the type best suited to your use and requirements.

USB Microphone

A USB microphone connects directly to a computer or even a mobile phone using the right adapter. If you are looking for an option that is pocket-friendly yet records high-quality audio, then a USB microphone is the right choice for you. It is convenient to use as you just have to plug it into the USB port and start recording. And the compact shape allows it to easily fit in a standard laptop case so you can carry it around while traveling. However, there are a few downsides to a USB microphone. The built-in pre-amp and condenser in the microphone cause an extra element of noise in the recording. Though in high-tech USB microphones, this noise is minimal.

Studio Microphone

A studio microphone connects to an XLR output interface that converts the analog input to digital and transmits the digital audio file to the computer. This output interface adds to the cost, making the setup much more expensive. Unlike a USB microphone, setting up a studio microphone requires both time and effort. You might have to install a few drivers and control panels before you can start recording. The bulky setup also makes it difficult to carry it around while traveling. However, a studio microphone offers much higher usability than a standard USB microphone. It may help you build a multi-microphone setup for a podcast or to record multiple instruments at a music studio. The XLR output interface records audio at a higher sampling rate than a USB microphone, resulting in higher resolution audio. All in all, if you are working from home and require a decent microphone that doesn’t put a dent in your pocket, a USB microphone is an ideal choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for higher quality audio and a more professional setup, such as a music studio, you might want to invest in a good studio microphone.

Which Polar Pattern is Best?

The polar pattern of a microphone determines its sensitivity at different angles, which defines how many signals are picked up by the microphone from different directions. Understanding polar patterns and identifying which pattern is the best for you is essential when buying a microphone.
There are five common types of polar patterns:

  • Omnidirectional
  • Bidirectional
  • Cardioid
  • Supercardioid
  • Wide cardioid

A cardioid directional polar pattern will be the best for you if you are looking for a microphone to help you with your Zoom meetings. This polar pattern has reduced sensitivity towards the microphone’s sides and back. Thus, minimizing background noise. So, when working from home, the clattering of dishes in your kitchen won’t be heard by your colleagues.

5 Best USB Microphone of 2021

Best USB Microphone

Blue Yeti USB Microphone

Blue is one of the top names when it comes to producing premium quality USB microphones. Their flagship product, the Blue Yeti, is on the top of our chart as the best USB microphone in 2021.

Blue Yeti offers a more natural sound and works well for both low and high vocal registers. The Yeti also picks up minimum noise from the surroundings compared to other USB microphones. This is why it is chosen among the best USB microphones by multiple testing panels over the past few years. Apart from the solid build quality, the Yeti also has a gain knob that allows you to manually control the recording volume, saving you from the hassle of using a computer to change settings. You can also attach headphones to the microphone and listen to the recording in real-time. Another knob on the microphone allows you to switch between different polar patterns.

The versatility that the Yeti offers differentiates it from other microphones in the market. However, there are a few points you should keep in mind before going forward with a purchase. The Yeti has a well-built stand; although this keeps the microphone steady, it takes up a huge amount of space on a desk, making the setup bulky and less portable. Another problem with Yeti is that most universal pop filters don’t fit well on the microphone. So you might have to spend a few extra bucks to get a pop filter designed by Blue itself.

Best Budget USB Microphone

Blue Snowball iCE USB Mic

Our choice for the best budget USB microphone in 2021 is the Blue Snowball iCE. The Blue Snowball iCE offers crisp and clear audio within a distance of six to eight inches from the microphone. There might be some background noise if the source is farther away from the microphone. However, you can add a pop filter to enhance the audio quality.

The overall build quality of the Snowball iCE is reliable. It has a tripod stand attached to it, which allows better stability. The microphone has a compact shape and is great if you want to carry it around while traveling.

There are a few flaws with this microphone, too. The size of its stand makes it difficult to align the diaphragm with the speaker’s mouth. Also, the microphone lacks a headphone jack and gain control. Despite the shortcomings, the Blue Snowball iCE offers excellent value for money. If you are on a tight budget but require a microphone that records high-quality audio, the Snowball iCE is a perfect choice!

Best USB Microphone for iPhone

Shure MV88 Portable iOS Microphone

Shure is another trusted brand for high-quality microphones, and their product, the Shure MV88 Portable, is on our list as the best USB microphone for iPhone in 2021.

The Shure MV88 is a tiny microphone that connects with any iOS device through the lightning connector. The audio quality is exceptionally high, and if the microphone is placed right, the sound is super smooth and rich, which is quite astonishing considering its size. The microphone has a mobile application, too. The bitrate, sampling rate, gain, and polar pattern of the microphone can be adjusted using the application. All of these features increase the user experience making the microphone extremely convenient to use.

The considerable latency while recording was identified as an issue while testing the microphone. However, this is not a deal-breaker. Overall the Shure MV88 is a great microphone and should be a go-to if you want a high-quality microphone for your iPhone.

Best Portable Desktop Microphone

Shure MV5 Microphone

The Shure MV5 is on par with other premium USB microphones available in the market. Its performance and compact shape rank it on our list as the best portable desktop microphone in 2021.

The MV5 records high-quality audio. Some test panels have even ranked it ahead of the Blue Yeti for low register audio. The sound is smooth with no or minimal background noise. However, there is some distortion for higher register audio. The microphone has a headphone jack and an automatic gain control knob, making the microphone easier to use.

The MV5 can even be connected to an iOS or Android device using a Micro USB or Lightning cable. Users have access to an iOS app that allows them to control settings such as gain and preset. The microphone is considerably lighter and weighs just 5.6 ounces with the stand, which is significantly lower than its competitors. The detachable stand also adds to the portability of the microphone.

The outer structure of the microphone made of die-cast raises a few questions. Also, the microphone lacks versatility in terms of polar patterns as it only records in a cardioid directional pattern. In conclusion, the Shure MV5 is a great microphone and offers both high-quality audio and portability.

Best Multipurpose Microphone

Rode NT-USB Microphone

Our team has chosen the Rode NT-USB as the best multipurpose microphone in 2021. The Rode NT-USB has a fixed cardioid polar pattern that is efficient in blocking background noise, thus providing crystal clear audio. The microphone is designed not just for vocals such as meetings, podcasts, or voice-overs but also for acoustic instruments. It also comes with a metal shield that prevents plosive sound and improves the audio quality. The microphone has a good build quality. However, the tripod attached to it isn’t sturdy, which causes the microphone to wobble.

The microphone is easy to set up and is compatible with computers and the iPad making it convenient to use. Moreover, the zero-latency headphone jack is also great if you want to monitor the sound in real-time. Some users have complained about the lack of options in terms of polar patterns. However, the Rode NT-USB is flawless at what it does. Overall, if you are looking for a versatile microphone that has you covered for different types of recordings, then the Rode NT-USB is a no-brainer.