Updated on Apr 14, 2021
In the digital age, we rely on our computers for a lot, from entertainment (gaming, videos, social media, etc.), work, or even running a business. Whether you find yourself in remote meetings, virtual learning, or you're looking to start a career in entertainment, you might find yourself in need of a great microphone, and as the Musician Nerds, we've tested a wide catalog of popular microphones on the market and will provide you a list of the best computer microphones for any need.
Of course, every budget is different, and we've kept that in consideration when compiling our list. Many on here are USB microphones, so they will be compatible with both PC & Mac, as well as some tablets if needed.
We're going to start by going through the best computer microphones with details on each one, but afterwards we will cover our full analysis on the ranking factors that helps us compile this list. We've tested every single one of these microphones and ran comparisons with others in their price range to ensure we're as accurate as possible.
Lastly, before we dive in, keep in mind that the awards we give some microphones should be taken with a grain of salt. To ensure you get the best out of this list, look into each microphone we mention before making that final decision.
When it comes to USB computer microphones, you're most definitely going to see the Blue Yeti come up time and time again. This series from Blue comes in 4 different models, ranging from the much more affordable Blue Yeti Nano to the studio-grade Blue Yeti Pro, all of which take the things we love from studio condenser microphones, while providing the simplicity of plug-and-go that USB microphones offer. It goes without saying that you can't make a wrong choice here.
The Blue Yeti comes packed with the most essential features any good computer microphone needs, including a headphone jack, gain control, and multi-directional polar pattern modes for every setting.
The thing that stands out the most with the Blue Yeti series is the price to quality ratio. While not the cheapest on our list, you'll struggle to find another USB computer microphone that offers studio-grade quality for the prices these models come in at.
The Blue Yeti sticks to the roots of condenser microphones & has a level of depth and richness to it that's uncomparable. It leverages both a low-mass diaphragm (high Sensitivity) & high resolution to offer best-in-class audio quality that's both warm and crisp, offering a well-rounded experience. You can also checkout our Blue Yeti USB Microphone Review.
However, that being said, if budget is not what's holding you back, we strongly suggest you slide down the list to The Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone, which is still relatively affordable (compared to studio microphones), and is used by celebrities all around for things like YouTube, podcasts, radio, etc.
The Rode NT-USB is another hot choice when it comes to USB computer microphones, and is even preferable over the Blue Yeti's base model. The high versatility & the sleek design is major selling points, on top of Rode's strong history with condenser studio microphones. Just like the Blue Yeti, the value you get for the price is incredible.
Unlike the others on our list, the Rode NT-USB comes with a Pop Filter (a noise protection filter for microphones), which is one of the many features we love about this computer mic. It also comes with a desktop stand, gain controls, & a headphone jack.
The Rode NT-USB also has incredible Transient Response, which is the response of the system to a change from a steady state. This strength is most notable when dealing with rapid sound waves, like the strum of a guitar, and plays a major role in the accuracy of the sound recorded. This is why the Rode NT-USB is so highly versatile, as we can use it on musical instruments like the kick drum or a guitar.
The only issue I have with this microphone is the lower resolution. It's definitely not uncommon to see USB computer microphones with a resolution of 16-bit depth / 48kHz sample rate, but it would be nice if they at least offered a "Pro" model with a 24-bit depth / 196kHz. It's already such an amazing microphone, and I would love the option to make it even better. Check out our full Rode NT-USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone Review.
It should be no surprise at all that this USB gaming microphone was the design award winner of 2019, and a massive hit amongst the gaming community. The HyperX Quadcast comes in strong from an aesthetics point of view, offering RGB lights to match your gaming PC in their special edition, or the classic gaming red color in their standard.
However, looks are not what we base our computer microphone purchases off on, and fortunately for the gamers reading this, the HyperX Quadcast offers the impeccable sound quality, with both high sensitivity & a wide-frequency response, providing studio-grade levels of depth and accuracy.
The built-in features for the HyperX Quadcast are also well-made, with the anti-vibration shock mount & internal pop filter, which provide an assurance that your audio won't get mangled by unwanted sounds. It even has a sensor-activated tap-to-mute button because sensors are just so much cooler than buttons.
However, I would not say the HyperX Quadcast sounds as good as the Blue Yeti or Rode NT-USB, but if you're using it for gaming, then I feel confident you won't regret this purchase. You can check out our HyperX Quadcast Gaming Microphone Review.
One of the first notable things about the Shure MV5 is the vintage look, which is fitting for the nearly hundred years of experience that Shure has building quality studio microphones. The built-in stand also offers a unique look, rather than the tripod legs that most desktop microphones opt for, the Shure MV5 uses a single leg stand, though it is removable and compatible with tripods if that's your fancy. The risk you'll run into with either of those stand types, however, is handling noises from vibrations on your desk or table that the mic is rested on.
One of the cool features I enjoy about the Shure MV5 is their iOS capabilities, offering a lightning connection option to plug right into some iPads & iPhones, as well as MacOS computers. After reading about the state of mobile gaming devices, having a microphone with mobile capabilities is becoming even more essential. Between that and their USB capabilities, you should have no trouble connecting the Shure MV5 with any device you choose.
The Shure MV5 also offers a few DSP (Digital Signal Processor) modes, one of which is no DSP at all, similar to how Blue Yeti microphones work. I personally like my audio samples to be as raw as possible, following the principle of only adding effects and EQ during production, though there can be advantages to having a DSP mode for both vocals & instrument use like the Shure MV5 offers.
The fact that they give you the option to choose whether or not you want to use DSP is super awesome and unique. It adds to the versatility that this multi-use microphone already has, and so it's worth considering if your budget lands around $100 (price may change).
If you're looking for compact & cheap, look no further because that's exactly how we would describe the Samson Go, with its small size and lightweight, it's great for traveling and outdoor use. Even better, it's capable of connecting to your computer screen for simple use. The Samson Go is going to be compatible with both macOS & PC computers and has a 1/8" stereo headphone output that offers zero-latency monitoring from your microphone.
I've always felt a bit blown away by the Samson Go just because of how much power this tiny & affordable microphone can pack into itself. I won't go on to say it's the best microphone I've ever used, but it works really well and sounds great for an under $100 microphone.
This microphone is going to be perfect for someone who uses their computer for meetings, working from home, remote learning, etc., and just needs something better than the scrappy microphone that comes built-in to your computer. That's not to say the Samson Go can't be used for podcasts, streams, videos, etc. because it definitely can! The audio quality is great, without a doubt, and it makes for a very versatile beginner's computer microphone.
One of the most popular choices for podcasters and alike, the Audio Technica AT2020USB brings massive quality to any project. Audio Technica has a lot of experience in the USB microphone department, and so it's no surprise they have so many great choices. While this model is USB, they also offer XLR versions.
The Audio Technica AT2020USB is another great travel companion, and a wonderful alternative to the Blue Yeti is you're looking to emphasize on the crisp highs. The Blue Yeti can feel a little low-biased, and so this USB microphone can have its advantages if that's what you're looking for.
What we find really cool about the Audio Technica AT2020USB is the mix controls, which allow you to use pre-recorded audio with your microphone input. On top of that, it has a fast-responding gain control function with a headphone jack. The only major caveat is that they only offer unidirectional polar patterns, which is great for a single user.
Out of every microphone on this list, the Shure SM7B is hands down the best in quality in every single way. It's also quite a bit more costly than the others on this list, but far worth it if you're able to stretch your budget. The versatility is unmatched, being used by celebrities like Michael Jackson on "Thriller" & The Breakfast Club for Hip Hop vocals, while also used by a large number of popular YouTube stars & popular Podcast hosts.
There's a good reason for the massive popularity of this microphone. It sounds extremely clear with deep, warm lows & crisp highs. You'll get a level of depth out of the Shure SM7B that no other microphone on this list is going to offer you.
I remember years ago when I chose to go from a studio condenser microphone to the Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic, I was a little nervous to go to a dynamic microphone, but that quickly changed after one pass on the mic. The quality you'll get from this microphone paired with the low background noise is incredible and I couldn't say enough good things about it to do it justice.
One thing to be cautious of is that this microphone can be pretty quiet, which is common for dynamic microphones like this, and so it's recommended to also set aside some room in the budget for an ultra-clean gain booster like the Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator, which boosts your audio by +25db.
One thing you'll notice about this list is the number of USB microphones. It should go without saying that they are definitely the more user-friendly microphones out there, offering the flexibility of plug-and-play. The alternative is to use an XLR microphone, which will then require either an XLR to USB converter, or some sort of physical audio interface to record into.
Of course, going the XLR to Audio Interface route is far from a bad thing. In fact, eventually, you'll want to consider using things like preamps to ensure your microphone settings are perfect for your needs, and many interfaces offer a USB output option to port to your computer. I personally do something similar when using my Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic, as it is not a USB microphone.
The concept of USB microphones became really popular in the early 2000s as they started to flood the market. Back then, they were nothing like what they are today, and you'd often find lower audio quality and a bad user experience. Today, there's little separating a USB mic and a studio XLR microphone, as we discuss in our article Understanding The Difference Between XLR & USB Microphones (but there are differences).
Another thing a lot of these microphones have in common is that they're condensers. Often we find condenser microphones to have superior audio over dynamics due to the wide-frequency response & transient response. These allow the microphone to capture a massive level of depth in your sound waves while also capturing the rapid movements, allowing a level of accuracy that dynamics could hardly achieve.
As we discuss in our article What Is A Condenser Microphone?, the worldwide standard for powering condenser microphones is a Neumann invention known as P48 Phantom Power, and even back when USB microphones first became popular, it was still a requirement! I remember using a little audio interface with my USB mic just to give it phantom power before plugging it into my computer.
Fortunately, the USB microphones we use today can receive the powering for their inner electronics from the USB port on whatever device you're using.
Condenser microphones are definitely the leaders of audio quality, but they can have their ups and downs depending on your environment, so we recommend reading that article further to learn more.
One thing we strongly considered while developing this list was what the microphones would be used for. What a rapper needs may be different than what a gamer needs, or a podcaster. This played a major role in some of our top choices, like the Blue Yeti or the Rode NT-USB, both of which would be fine choices for all of these things.
The difference between some of these uses may seem minimal, but the reality is that a gamer might be moving around in their chair much more than the podcaster, therefore, requiring a wider polar pattern, or instead of rapping, you might be into singing opera. Regardless, we find it to be essential that we cover computer microphones for every use, and you'll find a lot of these to be pretty versatile.
Polar patterns play a big role in our decision-making as their effect on your audio quality can be pretty major. The average consumer reading this post does not have a designated soundproof room to do their work, and so the directional polar pattern of their microphone can be essential to recording noise-free audio. So you may be wondering, what are polar patterns and what do they do?
Polar patterns essentially control how much audio can enter your microphone by blocking (or unblocking) audio from different sides of the capsule. For example, the "Cardioid" mode (or Unidirectional) limits the microphone to only receive input through the front. This is the most common polar pattern, and in many cases, the only pattern available on a microphone, like with the Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic.
This is definitely not a bad thing, particularly on a dynamic microphone, but some USB microphones on this list offer the other 3 patterns, such as the Blue Yeti, which of course means more flexibility, whether you're alone, doing an interview, or in a conference room.
Furthermore, because many of the microphones on our list are condensers, it's even more valuable to offer this selection of patterns. Condenser microphones offer a wider capture of audio, such as the "Stereo" mode from that graphic, to allow the flexibility of recording vocals & instruments, while also ensuring depth in your audio. For someone with a noisier environment, the option to switch down to Cardioid will be extremely handy.
It goes without saying that the quality of these microphones is of utmost importance. So how do we test them and what do we judge by? We start by compiling a much bigger list of microphones we've already used & tested, and mixing it with anything we find on the many online retailers with high ratings that we haven't used (not a lot).
Before recording anything, we jot down a pros and cons list of the features, such as the polar patterns, gain controls, noise controls like pop filters and shock mounts, price, and anything else we deem relevant. We don't disqualify anything at this stage, but it does help us choose between two microphones that may be similar in sound quality.
At this stage, we run a whole host of recordings, from speaking/singing/rapping to using instruments, noisy rooms, quiet rooms, etc. until we have enough to get a strong comparison. If we have difficulty choosing between two microphones, later on, we may record more.
With these samples, it's not difficult to compare and make our rulings.
We look for a balance between highs and lows while ensuring enough character in each for good depth, as well as low self-noise and other such things. Some microphones try to eliminate background noise by sacrificing some of their sensitivity, which in turn ruins the accuracy of their audio, and we have to rule them out.
This is of course one of the most important factors in our decision-making process, and definitely the more enjoyable part. Lots of features and stellar designs are great, but it's all for nothing if the microphone can't perform.
Our choice for best overall went to the Blue Yeti series due to the considerable versatility and wide range of models. While not the highest quality on the list, the Blue Yeti definitely offers the best in terms of cost & quality ratio.
The great part about the Blue Yeti series is how they have an option for almost everyone, and that's definitely a leading reason for being the "Best Overall". Inclusion is important to the Musician Nerds when talking about consumer microphones.
What's more impressive is, not only do their lower-end models in the Blue Yeti series come at a decent price with strong quality, but their higher-end models such as the Pro & X offer studio worthy audio quality, and have the option to work with an XLR cable for that extra bit of umph.
All of that being said, we're always looking to dethrone champion microphones like the Blue Yeti, and I'm sure if you poke around, you'll find others saying this is the best computer microphone overall. So if you know of one you think could stand a chance, let us know and the comments and we'll run a deep comparison!
Adding the Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic was a last-minute decision that we debated over due to the large price difference from the others on the list. While the others are typically under $200, the Shure comes in around $400 on average. If you can afford it, it's beyond worth it. You will never want to use another microphone for speech-based audio ever again, and many can attest to that fact.
When it comes to cardioid dynamic microphones like the Shure SM7B, they put a lot of focus on the mid-range, just as Shure did here. However, the bass roll-off that you find in this model is absolutely stellar. The wide-range frequency response is comparable to a studio condenser of the same grade. I replaced a studio microphone when I first bought the Shure SM7B many years ago.
It's hard not to trust a microphone used by Michael Jackson, Anthony Kiedis, and many famous podcasts. Not to sound like a broken record here, but if the quality is your priority, you really can't go wrong buying the Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic.
For our budget option on this list, we went with the Samson Go, not just because of its low price, however, but the travel functionalities as well. We didn't want to pick our affordable option based on price alone, and the compact size and lightweight of this Samson product make the strong audio quality that much more amazing. If you do your research, you'll find there are actually quite a few comparable microphones in this same price range that we would still recommend as strong budget computer microphones, such as the Jlab Audio Talk Go.
For a budget option, some will find the Samson Go to be pretty niche, but in reality, it's going to be a lot more versatile than they advertise themselves to be, and in my opinion, it's a lot more user-friendly than some of the competition. One major edge I would give to their competitors like Jlab Audio Talk Go, however, is the multi-directional polar pattern modes that other brands offer, which the Samson Go does not.
In conclusion, there were a lot of options we could've gone with for computer microphones, and with this list, you should be able to find the perfect microphone for you no matter your need or budget. There is a lot of competition on the microphone market for consumers, and at Musician Nerd, we try so hard to give some light to the less known brands, because there are some surprisingly good options out there, and we don't want our readers to miss out on a good opportunity. But when it comes to the very best computer microphones out there, it shouldn't be a surprise that top brands like Shure, Blue, Rode, and Audio Technica dominate the scene, as some of these companies have been developing studio-grade technology for a very long time, and have certainly mastered this craft.
But every year brings something new. Technology is advancing faster than ever, and the ability to record music from your own home on your own computer is becoming more and more possible thanks to these user-friendly microphones, and we're hoping to see some new hot choices come to market over the next couple of years.
Did we miss a hot computer microphone? Do you think we made some wrong choices? We're all ears and would love to get your feedback! Let us know in the comments below what you thought of this list.
Posted on Sep 23, 2020
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