‘*Crackle* Hello, can you- *crackle* hear me? This is impor- *crackle*’ That’s the sound of you on your headset mic, trying to convey some vital information to your coworkers in the weekly business meeting. Nobody can understand you, and that’s no good for anyone. Or maybe it’s you trying to convey crucial game information like which bombsite the enemy team is heading towards. Bummer.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We know you have a lot to say, and it’d be better if people could actually hear you over the crackling and stop-starting of a poorly made pickup. Unfortunately most people think getting such results means buying a $200 audio interface and an even more expensive studio mic – but this isn’t the case any more. Studio quality microphones exist in the budget sphere, and they don’t need anything other than a USB connection to work.
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What is it?
Studio-quality USB microphones are aimed at people who want crystal clear audio without having to splash out on a studio setup for across-the-board, perfectly equalised frequency responses. Most people who communicate over games, attend video conferences, or stream don’t need the kind of completely accurate audio that high-end studio equipment delivers, but they do need something that sounds clean and sharp.
This is where decent USB mics come in handy. With USB and audio driver technology improving tremendously over the past few years, some pretty stellar sound quality can be maintained on such devices. The sort of quality that’s noticeable to anyone listening, but that might not quite cut it for Taylor Swift’s latest love-struck single or a DMT-fuelled Joe Rogan podcast. This is the gap in the market that good USB mics fill: they’re for the average user needing a noticeable step up in mic quality.
Why should you buy it?
If you spend a lot of your time using in-game voice chat to coordinate with teammates, speaking to colleagues virtually for work, making video or audio content on YouTube, or streaming on Twitch, and if you notice that your mic’s audio quality is somewhat lacking, then a budget, studio-quality USB mic is probably for you. Going from a headset mic to one of these usually provides a noticeable difference, and gives your content, calls, or call-outs a more professional air.
What options do you have?
There are many studio quality USB mics, but we have a couple of recommendations depending on your budget. (Note: the HyperX Quadcast is also a great mic to consider, but is currently only available from third-party sellers on Amazon US).
Blue Microphones’ Yeti Nano (aka the ‘Blue Yeti’ Nano) is a mainstream go-to budget option for many professionals and semi-professionals such as part-time streamers. The Yeti has a proven record of fantastic audio quality, and the Nano is its impressive younger brother, offering a frequency range of 20Hz – 20KHz and the choice between cardioid and omnidirectional pickup patterns.
Audio-Technica’s AT2020USB+ is a fantastic option if you have a little more money to spare and want something slightly higher end than the Blue Yeti. Audio-Technica is renowned for its high-quality audio products, and the AT2020USB+ is a great example of this, with a banging analog to digital converter and a frequency range of 20Hz – 20KHz. This product is the USB version of Audio-Technica’s AT2020 microphone, which is one of the best budget non-USB mics on the market.
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