The 3 Best USB Microphones of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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Our Audio team has taken over this guide and is currently working on a complete overhaul. We still like the Blue Yeti for now, but new recommendations will be coming. Pop Screen

The 3 Best USB Microphones of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

The built-in microphones on most computers don’t do your voice justice—they pick up too much room noise, add too much fuzz, and dull your warm and natural speaking tone. A standalone mic connected via USB will help you sound your best, whether you frequently sit in on conference calls or record podcasts. After testing more than 30 USB microphones over the past eight years with the help of audio professionals, we’ve found that the Blue Yeti is still the best microphone for most people.

Experts on our test panels have consistently agreed that the Yeti records some of the best-sounding vocals, and it’s a versatile, solidly built mic you can use for years.

This inexpensive USB mic sounds surprisingly good and does a remarkable job of capturing your voice while rejecting background noise.

A little orb that delivers great sound, the MV5 is compact enough for you to tuck it away easily or transport it in a bag.

Experts on our test panels have consistently agreed that the Yeti records some of the best-sounding vocals, and it’s a versatile, solidly built mic you can use for years.

The Blue Yeti has been our pick since 2013, coming out on top during every retest of available microphones. In our latest brand-concealed, sample-based test with five panelists, including a professional audio engineer, all five experts ranked the Yeti’s recordings at or near the top because it produced clear, rich-sounding recordings and preserved our speaker’s natural vocal warmth. This is a microphone that both amateurs and professionals turn to for their voice or music work, and one that will last for years.

This inexpensive USB mic sounds surprisingly good and does a remarkable job of capturing your voice while rejecting background noise.

Of all the microphones we tested, the Amazon Basics Desktop Mini Condenser Microphone did the best job of capturing clear vocals while cancelling all other non-voice sounds. All five of our audio experts ranked this mic in their top three, with two of them even choosing it as the best. (One panelist had it in a tie with the Yeti, saying the Amazon Basics was better suited to spoken voice, while the Yeti was the one to buy for capturing ambient sounds and instruments too.) The newest version of this microphone adds a second, omnidirectional sound-pickup pattern to better capture more than one voice, as well as a headphone jack, headphone volume control, and microphone gain (volume) control—it’s a significant upgrade over the previous version of the mic. It doesn’t feel as durable as the Yeti, and it isn’t as compact as the Shure MV5, but it can make your voice sound vastly clearer than any computer mic would.

A little orb that delivers great sound, the MV5 is compact enough for you to tuck it away easily or transport it in a bag.

If you’re looking for a portable mic—or one that doesn’t hog too much desk space—the Shure MV5 is a better option than both the Blue Yeti and the Amazon Basics mic. In previous testing, all our experts ranked the audio samples recorded with the MV5 on its vocals preset in their top three, with one audio engineer rating it the best. When unscrewed from its stand, the mic is about the size and shape of a billiard ball; it’s hardly noticeable on a desk, at least not any more than a big paperweight is. In addition to connecting with computers, it can plug directly into an iPhone or iPad (but not the USB-C iPad Pro or Android devices). Although it doesn’t have the additional sound-pickup patterns that the Yeti does, the MV5 remains a fine single-voice microphone. Its small size makes it much easier to pack in a bag than the Yeti, but that also means you’ll have to figure out how to prop it up to match your speaking height.

Melanie Pinola has written about technology and home-office topics for more than a dozen years for sites such as Lifehacker, PCWorld, and Laptop Magazine, and she has reviewed various gear for Wirecutter, including office headsets and webcams, for more than five years.

We’ve coupled years of microphone experience with interviews of recording professionals who have given us their takes on what makes the best USB mic. For previous versions of this guide, we interviewed Bill Holmes (Compost Productions, the McCoy Productions studio in Los Angeles, and The Voiceover Doctor); Lynnanne Zager, a successful longtime voice actor and instructor; Jason Howell from This Week in Tech; veteran podcaster Tom Merritt; Brad Fisher, technical manager for The New York Times Audio; Gina Delvac, producer for the Call Your Girlfriend podcast; two audio producers who work in the film and television industries; and Josh Strid, sales engineer for the music technology and instrument retailer Sweetwater.

For our most recent update in the spring of 2021, we added to that body of knowledge an email interview with Alan Henry, service and games editor at Wired, who also served as a panelist for this year’s testing.

Whether you prefer the freedom of Bluetooth or the reliability of a wired headset, we have picks to suit all budgets and fit preferences.

A year’s worth of garbled pandemic Zoom calls has made it abundantly clear that laptop microphones don’t do people’s voices justice. If you spend a lot of time in remote meetings, a USB microphone is a worthy investment because it can more clearly capture your natural voice while also reducing distracting background noise such as a whirring fan or passing traffic. The result: meetings with fewer “Say that again?” interruptions.

If you’re a podcaster, a Twitch streamer, a musician looking to share homemade recordings online, or a YouTube vlogger—or if you just want better-quality recordings than your laptop’s built-in microphone allows—a USB microphone is the easiest way to improve your results. You don’t need any extra equipment or software: Simply plug a USB microphone directly into the USB port on your computer, and it should appear as an additional input you can choose in your system settings, recording software, or conference-call interface. In this sense, USB mics are much easier to use than traditional mics, which need extra equipment to connect to your computer.

Depending on your goals, a USB microphone alone might not make you sound as perfect as you’d like to. All of our experts advised us that the space you’re recording in has a big impact on sound quality; even the highest-quality mic will capture less than perfect audio if the room isn’t set up ideally for acoustics (how sound is absorbed, blocked, or reverberated in a space). Josh Strid, sales engineer for Sweetwater, told us that a good-sounding room makes a larger difference in the quality of recordings than microphone choice does. So before you upgrade your mic, be sure to limit background noise (turn off fans and air conditioning, for example) and try to eliminate anything that reflects sound, such as hard bare walls and floors. (You can add rugs and sound-dampening foam if your space is full of hard surfaces.) If that’s not possible or if the results still aren’t to your liking, you can purchase a shield to place around your mic to focus the audio input.

Our picks will help you look and sound as good on video calls as your Internet connection (and your audience’s) will allow.

If you want to delve more deeply into recording your voice or musical instruments, we have a guide to USB audio interfaces, too. A USB audio interface paired with a high-quality standard microphone will offer even better sound quality overall than a USB mic and will pick up more nuances in both vocals and acoustic instruments. But if you’re just starting out, or if you don’t want to invest in an audio interface and a mic, a USB microphone will still make a significant difference in how you sound.

For the latest update to this guide, we relied on expert interviews, our previous years of microphone testing and research, and reviews from microphone buyers and professionals. Using these resources, we compiled and evaluated (or reevaluated) a list of 18 current top-rated microphones and then narrowed that list down to 11 that we wanted to test, using the following criteria:

Some budget microphones don’t offer a headphone jack or gain control, so we made exceptions for those models if the price was under $50 and their owner ratings were high.

We also considered some features that are nice but not necessarily must-haves:

A note on pattern style: Most of the microphones we considered are cardioid or supercardioid, which is just another way of saying that the microphone picks up sound most when the sound source is right in front of it—for example, a podcaster speaking directly into the mic. Microphones can also focus on picking up sounds from other directions, such as everything in every direction (omnidirectional) or from the front and back of the mic (bidirectional). Those models are useful in some situations, such as if you want to pick up the ambiance of a sports stadium or record two speakers seated across from each other. But most USB microphones have the cardioid or narrower supercardioid pickup pattern because they’re meant primarily to help people who are speaking or playing their music directly into the mic sound better.

We tested and assessed these microphones with home use and minimal recording setups in mind. We recorded ourselves reading the same 10 sentences from Harvard Sentences (list seven) into each mic a couple of times, in a quiet home office (not soundproofed) and then with a noisy air purifier running in the background.

In our first set of recordings, we mounted all the microphones to a boom arm in the same position, and in the second set of recordings, we placed each of the mics on their own stands at the same 5-inch distance from the speaker. We set each mic’s gain to the middle using its knob and pushed its input level to the max in our macOS settings. We didn’t use any software audio enhancements, and we recorded all samples (in QuickTime) in the same session in order to provide a neutral, common playing field.

To keep the mic brands and models concealed, we labeled each audio sample with a letter corresponding to a specific mic. We then sent the samples to our panelists, who ranked them on audio quality. They looked for factors such as how crisp the consonants sounded, how much background or room noise the mics picked up, and how well each mic captured the vocal tone. Note that, generally speaking, many people find that mics work better for lower voices; in this round of testing, the recordings were of a female alto’s voice.

Our panelists for this round were Lauren Dragan, Wirecutter senior staff writer, headphone and audio expert, and voice-over actor; Kimber Streams, Wirecutter senior staff writer and author of our guide to gaming headsets; Haley Perry, an updates writer on Wirecutter’s PC team; Alan Henry, service and games editor at Wired, who hosts weekly Twitch streams; and Grammy-winning and multiple Grammy-nominated music producer and audio engineer Charles A. Martinez.

You can hear the audio samples from this round of tests on Soundcloud, along with the recordings we did in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2019. Compare these samples with a MacBook Pro’s standard-mic recording or a recording from the Logitech C920S webcam under the same conditions, and you can hear how much better an external mic makes voices sound.

Experts on our test panels have consistently agreed that the Yeti records some of the best-sounding vocals, and it’s a versatile, solidly built mic you can use for years.

If you want to plug a microphone into your computer and sound clear and engaging right away, whether you’re recorded or live, we recommend the Blue Yeti. Of all the mics we tested, it provided the most reliably well-rounded, natural sound—whether on Windows or Mac, and whether recording happened in professional studios or in a small, square office. Over the past eight years, an ever-changing group of panelists in Wirecutter testing has consistently rated it the best or one of the best. It offers live headphone monitoring and gain control, so you can easily optimize how you sound. And with four sound-pickup patterns, it’s versatile enough for any type of recording, not just voice. Of all the mics we’ve tested in its price range, the Yeti has felt like the most durable and well-built microphone, as well.

The Yeti is a professional-grade microphone that audio producers are more than happy to work with, but it’s also simple enough for amateurs or home-office workers. One of our audio-producer panelists remarked that this mic “sounds how I would expect a good professional condenser microphone to sound in an untreated room.” He added, “I would use this and definitely recommend it to friends looking for USB mics.” From our years of testing experience with dozens of USB microphones, we can attest that the Yeti is one of the easiest mics to get plugged in and sounding good.

Our panelists have said the Yeti produces sound that’s “full and rich with appropriate ambiance” and that it’s “a nice happy medium for novices or recording in non-ideal settings.” Even the Yeti X, Blue’s more expensive, professional-oriented mic, failed to score higher than its sibling in our previous sample-based tests for audio quality. Most other mics, whether more expensive or much cheaper, pick up far more mouth noise and sounds (plosives and sibilance) or significantly alter your voice at certain frequencies in an attempt to round out the sound or to correct shortcomings.

In our latest round of testing, the Yeti did pull in a lot of room noise compared with more noise-isolating mics like the Amazon Basics microphone, but our audio experts still ranked it near or at the top due to its very natural, clear, and full sound. When we previously tested mics with both male and female speakers, the Yeti ranked well for both lower and higher vocal registers; it was the top choice for most of our panelists when it came to recording voices in the higher register, and it landed in everyone’s top three for the lower register. In contrast, our testers preferred other mics for only one register over the other—for example, one panelist chose the previous version of the Amazon Basics microphone as the best model for the higher register but ranked it fourth for lower voices. The Yeti is less likely to hiss or boom, or to enhance higher or lower voice disparities than other microphones. It’s a sensible USB mic at a reasonable price for most people.

The Yeti’s headphone jack and in-mic gain control make it ideal for podcasting or recording vocals. The zero-latency headphone jack lets you hear yourself without any delay as you record, and the in-mic gain dial gives you more control over the volume coming out of the microphone and going into your computer. This feature is helpful anytime you need to make on-the-fly adjustments for louder or softer speakers. If you’re streaming live, it’s also much easier to dial down a mic’s physical gain dial just a tad than it is to figure out which software slider you need to click and drag to reduce background noise.

Although other mics in this price category also offer a headphone jack, in-mic gain control, and mute control, the Yeti’s controls are the simplest and most intuitive to use. The master volume control mimics a headphone monitor control on a professional recording console. We liked its tactile clicks and volume marker, which made it easy for us to gauge the adjustments as we went along, as opposed to the controls on the Yeti Nano, which has a similar dial without tactile or visual feedback. The Yeti’s light-up mute button is right on the front of the mic, which comes in handy for live recordings, whereas other mics (including the Shure MV5) have a harder-to-press mute button on the back.

The other side of the Yeti has a dial with firm, reassuring clicks that lets you switch between four pickup patterns: cardioid (one person), stereo (multiple sources from two sides), omnidirectional (the whole room), and bidirectional (two people across from each other). A surprising number of microphones we’ve tested make it hard to know (or just hard to see) what pickup mode you’re using and what features and inputs you have enabled. With four pattern modes, the Yeti is the most versatile of the microphones we’ve tested—most mics have just one or two modes.

The Yeti comes with its own swiveling table stand, but you can remove that and place the mic on a traditional mic stand (though not all mic stands are compatible, and the mounting involves a little hassle—more on that below).

The biggest flaw of the Blue Yeti lies not in its sound but in its build. This is a rare instance where good build quality can actually be a downside. The stand is sturdy and heavy (2.2 pounds with the mic attached), providing stability and bump resistance, but as a result the mic takes up more valuable desk space, and it’s more difficult to stash away than smaller mics. Once out of its stand, the mic itself weighs 1.2 pounds—too heavy for most standard shock mounts, even though it has standard ⅝-inch threading to work with one. It can also be awkward and tippy with small desktop mounts, a recurring irritation that owners mention in Amazon reviews.

The same goes for pop filters—those that are made for general mics often don’t fit well on the Yeti’s basic stand. A universal clip-on version (like this filter) can do in a pinch, but the look of the long wire and the space it takes up can be irksome. If you want the perfect fit, you have to buy Blue’s own accessories, which means shelling out about $50 for a shock mount and about $20 for its branded pop filter.

This inexpensive USB mic sounds surprisingly good and does a remarkable job of capturing your voice while rejecting background noise.

For less than half the price of the Blue Yeti, the Amazon Basics Desktop Mini Condenser Microphone is a steal. The new model we tested is nearly identical to the one we loved the last time we updated this guide (shown in the photo above), except it now has important features that were previously missing, namely a headphone jack, headphone volume control, and gain control. Its audio quality remains stellar: It stood out to our panelists in our tests, ranking as well as or even better than more expensive options. Although it feels less stable and more plasticky than the Yeti, this microphone offers the most affordable way to noticeably improve your audio quality when you’re recording or streaming.

For two of our five experts, this mic was either their top pick or tied with the Yeti. One audio engineer said, “It’s the most natural sounding for spoken-word podcast.” Another said it was on a par with—and in some ways better than—the Yeti (though they didn’t know which was which at the time), with a more direct sound that would need less correction in post-production. With the gain set at the middle as on the other microphones, the Amazon Basics mic was one of the quietest models in our test group, but you could correct that by, well, turning the gain up on the mic. Wirecutter senior staff writer Kimber Streams said, “Overall, I think this one has the best balance of clear vocals while cancelling background noise.” We recommend it primarily for voice recordings with the cardioid pattern that isolates vocals, but the mic also has an omnidirectional pickup pattern, should you want to record the entire room.

True to the brand, the Amazon Basics microphone also stands out for its simplicity. This mic isn’t as huge and in-your-face as the Blue Yeti, but it’s also not as tiny as the Shure MV5. That makes this model convenient to keep off to the side of your desk and to grab when you need it. The tripod stand is sturdy, but we found that adjusting the legs doesn’t make a noticeable difference in getting the mic closer to your mouth. That wasn’t an issue because angling the large diaphragm (3 inches in diameter, versus most mics’ 2 or 2½ inches) allowed the mic to capture our voices just fine. You can also unscrew the mic from its stand to place it in a microphone arm, and most pop filters and wind screens can clip onto the body of the mic.

Going with this less-expensive option doesn’t require you to compromise on sound quality, but this model does sacrifice another feature found on most other microphones: a mute button. In a pinch, you can still mute yourself by turning the gain knob all the way down, but doing so is not as quick or convenient as pressing a dedicated button. The previous version of the Amazon Basics microphone had a mute button but no headphone jack or gain control; we prefer having those controls over a mute button.

Amazon Basics offers only a one-year warranty, half as long as Blue’s two-year warranty, and the tripod stand is less sturdy than the Yeti’s stand. But after over a year of long-term testing the previous version, we’ve found that the microphone is still in good shape and perfectly reliable.

A little orb that delivers great sound, the MV5 is compact enough for you to tuck it away easily or transport it in a bag.

If your desk or storage space is at a premium, or if you often move your mic between recording spaces, consider the Shure MV5. In previous rounds of testing, it scored well with our panelists in voice recording quality—some panelists even ranked it better overall than the Blue Yeti. The trade-off is that the MV5 is not as sturdy, stable, or tall as the Yeti, so you have to put in more work to set it up at the proper height for recording. In addition, it offers only the cardioid pickup pattern, lacking the versatility of the Yeti’s four selectable patterns. But the MV5 has just enough recording features—a direct-monitoring headphone jack and impressive automatic gain control—to make it a solid pick for people who value smaller size and portability. And if you want to use your mic to connect directly to an iPhone or to a non–USB-C iPad with the included Lightning cable, the MV5 has that capability, whereas the Yeti and the Amazon Basics mic don’t.

In 2021 we decided to test the new Shure MV5C microphone instead of retesting the MV5. We recommend the MV5 over the MV5C because it’s more versatile, with iOS compatibility and modes for capturing instruments in addition to vocals.

The MV5 was one of our panelists’ favorites, with one audio engineer ranking it first for its lower-register voice samples. Most of the other microphones we tested had a much wider range of scores from our experts, but the majority of our panelists agreed that the MV5 was nearly the best when we used its vocals preset. Testers found the sound “clear, with almost no background noise” but also “tinny,” at least for the higher-register voice sample, in comparison with the Yeti’s “warm and very present” recording from the same speaker.

The MV5’s light weight lets it work with most desktop microphone stands without any tipping issues.

The MV5 avoids most of the compromises you might expect in a portable microphone. It has a physical mute button, a headphone jack, and a slightly recessed volume knob, though they’re slightly inconveniently placed on the back of the mic. Due to the MV5’s diminutive size, the mute button and volume knob are also smaller than on most competing mics. It offers three digital signal processor (DSP) presets: vocals, flat (neutral), and instrument. If you’re going to be doing a lot of editing, the flat setting will give you the most leeway for adjustments after the fact. But in our tests, the vocals preset created a noticeably clearer recording.

The MV5 also supports direct recording into iOS devices with the included Micro-USB–to–Lightning cable. The only other mic we’ve previously tested that works with smartphones and tablets is the Samson Q2U, but the MV5 is much more portable thanks to its stress-ball-like shape and size. This means you can easily keep recording while working at different locations without lugging around a laptop. (Wirecutter senior staff writer Lauren Dragan uses the MV5 while traveling and has booked voice-acting gigs with it on the go.) Shure provides an iOS app that allows for quick recording and sharing, with gain control, clip trimming, a live visual monitor, and more presets for equalizing your recordings.

The MV5 weighs 5.6 ounces with its stand (the mic head is 3.2 ounces on its own), in sharp contrast to 3.5 pounds for the Blue Yeti and 10.6 ounces for the Amazon Basics microphone. It easily disassembles into a ball-shaped head and a C-shaped stand for travel. A heavier mic and stand like the Yeti is useful when it’s stationed on a desk near a keyboard, because it transmits less motion to the recording, but the MV5 is far easier to stash after use and much more convenient to toss in a bag. The MV5’s light weight also allows it to work with most desktop microphone stands without any tipping issues. The mic head has a ¼-inch thread, which is standard for camera tripods, but it also comes with an adapter so that you can screw it into a more typical ⅝-inch microphone mount.

Because the MV5 is a small mic, with a small default stand, most people will have to place the MV5 on top of something (preferably something stable) to put it in a comfortable speaking position at a laptop or desktop computer. But to be fair, this is often the case for the Yeti and other mics, too.

The JLab Audio Talk is a great value—often similar in price to the Amazon Basics mic and half the cost of the Yeti at this writing. Like the Yeti, it has four pickup patterns (cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, and bidirectional), a headphone jack, volume and gain controls, and a quick-mute button. The attractive LED light surrounding the large control knob tells you at a glance if you’re muted, what sound pattern you’re using, and the volume level.

Commenting on the voice samples we recorded with the JLab Audio Talk, Wirecutter senior staff writer Lauren Dragan said, “Overall, it’s a very good representation of the female voice,” though she also noted that it ran quieter than the Yeti. Most panelists, however, ranked its samples third, fourth, or fifth among the seven audio samples we provided—our audio-engineer panelist called it “middle of the pack in terms of pure sonic quality.” In other words, it’s a fine microphone and worth considering if you need additional pickup patterns and your budget can’t stretch to the Yeti, but the Yeti and the Amazon Basics mic both sound better overall.

After we completed our most recent round of testing, an audio engineer recommended the AKG C44-USB Lyra to us. It typically costs about $30 more than the Yeti, but among musicians it’s well regarded for its audio quality and simplicity. We’ll take a look at it in our next round of testing.

In our tests, the JLab Audio Talk Go and Talk Pro microphones didn’t perform as well as their sibling, the Talk. The Talk Go is lightweight but not as portable as the Shure MV5, and we found that it picked up too much room noise and outside noise. The Talk Pro has nice LED lights and sleek controls, but its recordings ranked near the bottom for most of our panelists. Our test vocals were so processed and compressed that we sounded depressed.

The HyperX QuadCast S usually costs about $20 more than the Yeti, but its voice samples ranked in the middle of the pack. The colorful RGB lighting (this mic is designed for gamers) might be too distracting for office use, and although this mic offers sturdy build quality plus an included shock mount, we found it fiddly to disassemble for mounting on a mic boom.

We were intrigued by the Earthworks Icon—a $350 microphone (at this writing). Its all-stainless-steel design is elegant, and the mic is especially simple to use. Unfortunately, it ranked at the bottom of our tests, capturing our voice with a harsh edge. Our audio-engineer expert, who has used Earthworks vocal mics on tour with musicians, explained it this way: These mics are excellent but not “flattering” because they go after a “flat” sound. “If you have a Stradivarius, flat is very desirable. If you have a $50 guitar, you’ll hear all the warts.” Most people would sound better with any of our picks.

After our initial testing, we eliminated a few microphones from our full panel testing:

The Shure MV5C is nearly identical to the MV5, with a few key differences. Shure calls it a “home office microphone” designed for video conferencing or teleconferencing, which is why it has a “speech enhanced” mode but no instrument mode, and a fixed 48 kHz sample rate (meant to prevent shifts in pitch) rather than a variable rate like the MV5 has. The MV5C connects over USB-A or USB-C but lacks the MV5’s Lightning-cable connectivity with iOS devices. In our test, the audio sounded warm but also thin and as if we were far away from the mic. We prefer the MV5 for its greater versatility with mobile devices and its better performance in previous tests.

The Fifine K670 microphone offers solid build quality for a sub-$50 mic. However, it didn’t do as good a job as the Amazon Basics model on suppressing or eliminating background noise.

Razer’s Seiren Mini is a simple, compact microphone that lacks a headphone jack, gain control, and a mute button. It also costs more than the Amazon Basics mic, and it picked up boomy room noise in our tests.

The Tula Mic is an interesting combination of a USB microphone and a mobile voice recorder, which might make the $200 price tag more reasonable than if it were just a mic. It has a colorful, old-timey design, too. Unfortunately, after our first test we had connection issues with the microphone (which resulted in an extraordinarily warm-sounding recording), which we weren’t able to resolve in time for this update. We may consider retesting it in the future.

In previous rounds of testing, we dismissed the following microphones:

The Blue Yeti Nano is like the younger sibling of the Blue Yeti. Its more compact size makes it easier to stash away or to ignore on your desk, but only one of our testers rated this microphone in their top three based on the audio samples. For about $20 more, the Blue Yeti gives you higher-quality audio, as well as on-mic gain control and two more pickup patterns (the Yeti Nano offers just cardioid and omnidirectional patterns), making the Yeti more suitable for more types of audio-recording needs.

The Samson Q2U Recording and Podcasting Pack consists of a standard handheld mic (the kind you might use for singing karaoke) with a tripod stand and a pop filter. The mic’s most compelling feature is XLR analog output, which allows you to pair the mic with an audio interface (if and when you’re ready to invest in one). It’s also almost half the price of similar, competing mics. However, for the majority of our panelists, it rated lower on our sample-based audio-quality tests than all other mics, and the stand felt less stable, as well.

Razer’s Seiren X is the same shape and size as the Blue Yeti Nano—it doesn’t take up a lot of desk space. It’s well built, too, with nice touches such as a braided cable and a built-in shock mount. None of our testers, however, chose this model as one of their top three mics, and several said the recordings sounded unclear and boomy, with too much room noise and echo.

Introduced in 2019, the Blue Yeti X is an enhanced version of the Blue Yeti: It has the same four pickup patterns as the Yeti but adds vocal effects, an LED meter (which we loved) to adjust your gain or voice level, and vocal presets (via Blue’s audio software) to adjust your tone and audio effects. Voice-over professional and Wirecutter headphones and audio expert Lauren Dragan chose it as her second pick for voice quality, but the less-expensive Blue Yeti rated higher in our sample-based testing across all of the other panelists. However, if you’re a content creator—streaming sound on Twitch, for example, or recording YouTube videos—you might prefer the presets and on-mic controls, which can help you adjust your audio on the fly.

The Senal UB-440 has a headphone jack and onboard gain control, and at the time of our research it was priced about $40 less than the Yeti. Our audio engineers rated this mic last or second-to-last in our sample-based tests, though, noting that it picked up a lot of interference, sounded hollow, and lacked clarity. One audio professional remarked that it “sounds like an old laptop mic or cell phone mic 10 feet away.”

The Samson Meteor was a prior pick for a decent-enough portable USB microphone, but the sizable grill caused bounce-back that made it sound unnatural, and both experts and staffers on our panel noticed a lot of mouth noise.

Shure’s MV51 comes from the same Motiv family of Shure portable devices as our MV5 portable pick. It has a larger diaphragm for capturing sound, more processing modes, and touch-bar buttons for adjusting the input level and muting the mic or headphones. It’s a bit heavy for us to consider it truly portable, as well as a bit small for a desktop, and it didn’t sound better to our panelists than the MV5. Did we mention that it typically costs twice as much?

On the recommendation of commenters and the strength of reviews, we tested two Audio-Technica microphones in 2016: the condenser ATR2500-USB and the dynamic USB/XLR hybrid AT2005USB. Staffers and experts rated the AT2005USB’s vocal samples last and near last, respectively. The ATR2500-USB didn’t fare much better with our experts.

The Rode NT-USB came the closest to unseating the Blue Yeti in our 2015 tests. In sound quality, averaged across two rounds of testing, it nearly tied the Yeti, edged out ever-so-narrowly by the Yeti’s more neutral sound. But the Yeti costs less, is a bit simpler to set up, and has a stronger reputation behind it.

The Blue Yeti Pro is nearly the same microphone as the Yeti: same capsule, same features, same chassis (but black). So why does it typically cost about twice as much? Two things: XLR analog output and a higher sampling rate (the Yeti provides 48 kHz/16 bit while the Yeti Pro offers 192 kHz/24 bit).4 We’ve concluded that most people looking for a USB microphone don’t need or want the XLR output or the extra sampling rate, which can’t be represented on CD, MP3, and streaming.

Other mics we dismissed because they just didn’t sound as good as our top picks in our sample-based panel tests include the Apogee MiC 96k, Audio-Technica AT2020USB, Blue Nessie, MXL Studio 24, MXL Tempo, MXL USB.009, Razer Seiren Elite Pro, Rode Podcaster, and Samson C01U Pro.

Melanie Pinola covers home office, remote work, and productivity as a senior staff writer at Wirecutter. She has contributed to print and online publications such as The New York Times, Consumer Reports, Lifehacker, and PCWorld, specializing in tech, work, and lifestyle/family topics. She’s thrilled when those topics intersect—and when she gets to write about them in her PJs.

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The Blue Yeti has been our top USB mic pick for years, but we only recently found out that some of its audio quirks are well-suited to a thriving YouTube genre.

Whether you’re a musician, a podcaster, or anyone else who needs to record high-quality audio to a computer, a good USB audio interface is a vital tool.

Razer’s BlackShark V2 gaming headset has excellent audio quality, a decent mic, and a great price—and the wireless version costs just a little bit more.

The 3 Best USB Microphones of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

Phantom Power Supply Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).