What are USB Microphones?
A USB microphone is an audio recording device that is designed for use with a computer or laptop – something with a USB interface. What makes a USB microphone different from a traditional microphone is that it effectively has an in-built recording interface, due mainly to the “plug and play” technology offered by USB connectivity.
USB Microphones are almost always ‘condenser’ mics. Also known as ‘capacitor microphones’, these mics utilise a diaphragm next to a metal backplate and measure the distance between the two, creating voltage variances when sound waves pass through it. This allows for very accurate recordings, making condenser microphones the preferred choice for studio recordings, especially for vocals, voice overs and acoustic instruments.
Why Use USB Microphones?
Traditional microphones use an ‘XLR’ output and to be able to use these mics on your computer you would require an audio interface to convert the signal from analog to digital, then connect the interface to your PC via USB. This audio interface comes at an extra cost that isn’t considered when purchasing the mics, and in most cases are an unnecessary complication.
USB microphones are very popular with vloggers, musicians, streamers and people working from home due to the easy set up and minimal cabling required to achieve good quality audio. The “Plug and Play” aspect means using these microphones is very intuitive for beginners to achieve great quality audio with very little fuss.
A Quick Buyer’s Guide – Things to look out for
Cardioid / Omni directional
Some mics, such as the BOYA BY-PM500 have the option of switching between the two polar patterns; cardioid and omnidirectional. Think of these two settings as directional (cardioid) and surround sound (omnidirectional) recording.
As ease of use is a big feature of USB microphones, this can be complimented well with the microphone possessing controls on the unit itself so you can adjust settings such as volume, mute settings and polar pattern on the fly, rather than hunting in your software for these settings. The previously mentioned BOYA BY-PM500 has all of these controls, and also a 3.5mm jack to enable real time sound monitoring without any delay.