There is a ton of options at this level. But whatever you need it for – singing, podcasting, YouTube, whatever – well-rounded sound quality is what we’re looking to get.
That is our guiding star in this list of the best USB microphones under 100.
But you can easily over spec these things and be left with something unsuitable for what you want. So we will focus on the overall quality and value. Something that’ll get you up and running and get you 80% there whatever your needs.
There’s a help section below. But if you haven’t got the time, our top pick is the Blue Snowball. However, if you have some specific uses like Gaming then we have you covered with some alternate suggestions.
|Cardioid or Omnidirectional
|40 –18 kHz
|Marantz Professional Umpire
|80Hz to 15kHz
|35Hz – 20kHz
|Zaffiro Home Studio
To make things easier, there’s a guide to how to buy a USB mic below. Just check out the menu below.
- Blue Snowball USB Microphone
- Samson Meteor – Close Runner Up
- Marantz Professional Umpire – Best Budget Mic
- Blue Snowflake USB Microphone – Best for Portability
- Zaffiro Home Studio – Best Home Studio on a Budget
- Why pick a USB microphone
- How to choose the best USB Microphone
- USB mics and what they are
- What are the advantages of a USB microphone?
- Downsides to a USB microphone
- Things that differentiate these products
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
The Blue Snowball USB condenser mic has been around for a few years. Originally launched in 2006, as with other ball mics in the Snowball range, it comes with a distinctive resin casing with a wire mesh grille at the front and rear.
Blue markets the Snowball to podcasters, musicians, and people who want good quality voice recording for conversation. So a good all-rounder then.
- It features a cardioid unidirectional mode, so it’s well suited to podcasts and vocals. It has three settings on it – Omnidirectional, Unidirectional, and a second unidirectional setting for louder sounds.
- 16-bit recording. Pretty much all of the microphones here are in this range. It could be 24-bit, sure, but 16-bit will be good enough in a majority of cases.
- There is also a second cardioid (unidirectional) mode, made for recording in louder environments. This puts a -10 dB pad to keep the microphone from overloading and distorting.
- Lastly, there is an omnidirectional mode, which records from all sides. It’s great to have these options.
- An adjustable tripod lets you point the microphone in the direction of the sound source, improving sound quality.
- There is a LED indicator, which lights up red if the microphone is switched on.
- No Pop Filter.
- Ensure you have the right USB port. You may need an adapter if you have USB-C.
The fact the Snowball comes with three modes – cardiod, cardiod alternate, and omnidirectional makes it a really versatile mic.
The size is pretty distinctive. Be aware it is more like a softball than a tennis ball. The tripod legs stick out a bit so it takes more space than you’d think. But it’s ok to move around. Sadly it doesn’t come with a pop filter, and it would have been great if one was made specifically for this model
Most people who buy this will be podcasting, and gaming. If you’re looking to get into podcasting but don’t have the money to invest in the full setup this will do the job nicely. The Blue Snowball is a great choice as a USB microphone.
There are no additional power connectors required. It is self condensing and the three separate modes make a real difference at this price point. It is pretty sensitive but you can adjust this with the mode change.
Samson Meteor – Close Runner Up
Samson’s Meteor USB Microphone features a cardioid unidirectional pickup pattern. With headphone volume control and microphone mute switch. It also comes with a built-in tripod and of USB case pouch. As with many of the microphones in this category, it is 16-bit.
- The Samson Meteor has one of the largest condenser diaphragms of the USB microphones in this price bracket. So it is suited for someone who wants to record vocals.
- There is an integrated mic stand adapter at the bottom of the microphone. So it is easily transportable and can be used in different situations or fitted with a boom arm.
- It comes with zero-latency headphone monitoring. So you can plug in your headphones into the headphone jack and hear your voice recorded without delay or echo.
- There’s a standard plug and play operational capability. Samson says it also works with iPhones and iPads via Apple’s lightning to USB camera adapter. Or Android smartphones and devices via a host over TG cable. Although, as we often advise, it always depends on applications and an individual device (see below).
- Yes, there have been some reported issues of the mic failing to connect to iOS devices. Again this comes down to individual devices.
Podcasting and gaming is one thing. Recording vocals is something else, and this mic can handle it. It’s also portable (so worth considering if you’re often on the move). The build quality feels expensive and durable. In chrome it looks more expensive than it is. The legs are a nice touch and are pretty sturdy.
On the downside, it lacks some of the recording versatility of the Snowball. But it makes up for it in overall quality and picking up the sound you want it to pick up, i.e. you.
Marantz Professional Umpire – Best Budget Mic
Okay, the Marantz Professional Umpire at the lower end of the sub-100 threshold. But if you are looking for something to use outside and in – and don’t have the budget for the Snowball – this will work.
- There is an integrated switch for a -10 DB pad to prevent distorting when recording loud noises or voices.
- Includes a Pop Filter to suppress distortion on loud voices.
- A shock mount is also supplied, designed to suppress unwanted noise transfer—something lacking in some of the other products. It’s a nice touch, although there are other ways around it.
- Plug and play capability for windows and Mac OS. Although, again be aware that it depends on the individual machine.
- The cable, which although long is permanently attached to the microphone.
- No headphone jack.
So how does the recording work? For the price is pretty solid. Yes you need to get quite close to the microphone and there is a lack of options. But for the price it’s not too shabby.
Okay this microphone is at the lower end of the sub-100 threshold. But if you use cases it holds up fairly well despite its rather distinctive look. The starters, when you hold onto it it seems very well made although the stand itself is not particularly heavy.
Blue Snowflake USB Microphone – Best for Portability
It’s hard not to be bowled over by the designof the Blue Snowflake. The design allows it to be used in two ways. One is to hang it over the laptop screen, and the other is resting as you see here on the desk.
This is your basic a condenser microphone with a sample work rate of 44.1 kHz at 16 bits. Its frequency response is 35 Hz by 20 kHz, so its basically targeting vocals.
- Great compact design and nicely adaptable in terms of how you want to position it.
- Plug-and-play on both Mac and PC.
- The foldable design means it’s easily transportable if you want to keep your kit to a minimum.
- We found it worked well with vocals, even guitar, with minimal distortion. It also did not pick up much in the way of ambient sound.
- No Pop Filter. So be prepared to pick up some ambient noise.
It works well, and it integrates well with both Mac and PC. We like the way that it stood up in the design. The cardioid setting works well for a microphone of this price point. It is suited well for podcasters or people recording demos. Maybe not the best for gamers.
The Snowflake is good for recording high quality sound to a laptop or broadcasting via video conferencing apps. The ability to hang it over the screen means it can work well filming via the laptop camera.
It’s lower spec than the Snowball – but cheaper and a solid all-rounder. Ideal if you want to just plug it in hit record and start talking. But if you want more flexibility then look elsewhere.
Zaffiro Home Studio – Best Home Studio on a Budget
The first thing you think when you see the Zaffiro Home Studio is wow (in addition to being a bit of a mouthful), there’s a lot of kit included here. For selection, this one is the wildcard.
Well, on paper, it has a lot going for it. For a start, it is the only one here that is 24 bit. As well as that, though, it comes with everything you are going to need in the way of accessories. This includes an adjustable arm stand, deskbound clamp, metal shock mount, fomite cover, and other components. But it lacks the brand assurance of a product like Blue.
- Includes a Pop Filter, so it softens those hard sounds you make. There is also a shock mount and a wind guard. Not many mics at this price point come with these items. So you have everything you need to get going if you want to set up a home studio.
- It’s 24-bit. This means you get blu-ray quality sound recording.
- Nice and easy to set up.
- Although you get all of the accessories, some of them don’t feel of the highest quality. Perhaps that is a pay off compared to a product from a known brand like Blue.
The recording quality is good enough if you are doing vocal work, for example vocals, gaming by casting. But it is not going to go much further than that.
We feel this microphone is best suited to gamers. With the additional accessories, you can avoid annoying ambient sound like picking up keystrokes.
Want to shop around? Then check out this guide below. It covers what to look for in a USB mic as well as what the choices above were based on.
Why pick a USB microphone
The USB microphone is an excellent device if you want to hook up to a laptop or computer and start recording.
But it’s worth remembering a few pointers. The microphone uses the USB port and is powered by the laptop’s power source. But it can also be integrated with other devices such as a camera or headphones.
At this price point, the USB mics that we are looking at cover many uses. These include podcasting, recording music in a DIY studio, gaming, or merely using it to communicate with others on conferencing applications like Zoom.
There are quite a few reasons for this. But if you’re looking for an all-around tool, there are some great options at this price point.
How to choose the best USB Microphone
It depends on what you want to use a USB mic for. But let’s assume you are looking to make some vocal recordings or instrument recordings.
The first point would be that you should look for a large-diaphragm condenser microphone. A dynamic microphone is more restricted in terms of its frequency range and does not tend to be used for vocal recording.
Try and pick up a mic with a frequency range of between 20 to 20,000 Hz. The reason for this? It’s the human hearing range. Anything much within that and the sound quality will suffer in certain situations.
USB mics and what they are
Focusing on the particular use case right now, you probably have a specific idea of why you want USB microphone. It might be live streaming games, might be recording demos, or it might be a podcast.
But they are not all the same.
One thing to note is that USB microphones work in a very different way to regular microphones (i.e., those that send a signal via an XLR cable to a mixer). In this case, the signal is digitized in the microphone. USB mics also tend to have their gain knob built-in.
Another aspect is they will often have their headphone jacks. An XLR mic will have theirs by the mixer.
Possibly the most significant point of difference between a USB microphone and an XLR microphone is how they use digital signal processing (DSP). Essentially DSP processes the audio into digital. Most sound storage uses these days however, some use it more than others. The main outcome is that the more DSP is used less “pure” it will be suppressed in some cases.
Last most USB microphones are plug and play. However, be aware that just because it says it works on Windows or MacOS this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be happy with the application you are using.
One of the later additions to USB microphones has been the ability to listen to your voice be recorded without any sound delay. Back in the day, you used to have two play the music through your computer and then back again through the earphones, which led to a delay.
Many microphones have this now as these two below. But it is worth being aware of in case you are shopping around.
24-bit versus 16-bit
The latest top-end mics use the 24-bit chip set ensures Blu-Ray standard recording. Whereas 16-bit gives you a range of around 96 dB, 24-bit produces a range of 144 dB. It means the 24-bit picks up lower sound levels.
What are the advantages of a USB microphone?
Firstly, the most obvious one. The laptop powers it so you can go straight into the digital processor. Secondly, it is very portable. All you need is your laptop on the microphone, and you are good to go. With just a laptop you can record quality audio on the road.
In fact, the ability to plug and go can not be underrated. Many microphones require additional accessories. If you are working remotely, you have to weigh up that extra sound quality is worth hiking around all that gear.
Beyond simplicity, there is the cost. USB microphones are much.
Downsides to a USB microphone
So keep your expectations in line. For the economy and the portability, there will be a loss in quality. How much is down to you.
Another issue is that you can only record with one microphone at a time. For example, if you want to record some vocals and guitar, it will come through the same microphone.
Latency can be an issue. As explained above, there is a delay in the recorded voice coming through your headphones, causing an echo effect. The obvious point here is sound quality is never going to be as good as something with XLR.
Things that differentiate these products
The biggest differentiator between USB mics themselves is how they use digital signal processing (DSP). Some mics have it and utilize it subtly. Some mics prevent DSP entirely and provide you the purest high-bitrate signal they can.
The condenser microphones that we’ve picked out here are all excellent quality for this particular price point. However, be aware, they are limited in terms of the different types of recording that you can do.
We also try to look at the design quality. Sound is essential, but portability is also important and works with you and what you’re doing. Not all of us are going to be recording from a desk at home.
Lastly, try to take account of some of the issues people had integrating these microphones with Mac or Windows machines. Although the micro manufacturers say they have black and play capacity, it is known to have drivers and compatibility problems. Hopefully, the products we have picked here will minimize that.