What is the best USB mic? According to a joint effort by Engadget and the Wirecutter, one USB mic triumphs as the best. But I’m not sure I agree with their choice.
There are tons of them on the market, and I’ve reviewed a few (see My Review Of The Blue Spark Digital USB And iOS Microphone, and Review of The Blue Snowball USB Microphone). Engadget and Wirecutter selected…the envelope please…the Blue Yeti.
As with a lot of pieces of technical gear, there are several things you could rate to compare. In this little competition, they focused on the mic that made a voice sound the best with the least hassle. The Blue Yeti was the one that sounded the best when just plopping it down on a desk and recording. It was “the easiest way to sound good,” as they put it.
They tested 25 different USB microphones and for the third year in a row, they chose the Yeti as the winner.
My personal favorite USB mic used to be the Samson C01U, which is also a large diaphragm condenser. Up to now I was never been a huge fan of the Yeti, truth be told. But I am coming around. I got one and have used it on a number of products and I have to admit, now (2022), that I like the sound of the Yeti better. There are still some issue with it though. Read more about that here: Quickly Improve The Audio Quality Of The Blue Yeti.
One of the reasons the Yeti was not my favorite is the frequent occurrence of people distorting their audio because the gain knob on the microphone is turned up too high. I’ve heard this on many an online meeting (Zoom, Skype, etc.). It’s too easy to turn the gain up too high. I still hold that THAT is a major drawback of the yeti.
Another reason I don’t like the Yeti is that it sits on a desk. In poor sounding rooms like the rectangular bedrooms most of us record in, this puts the mic too far from your mouth. That distance allows the echo-y, reverb-y room sound to dominate our audio.
The best way to use a Yeti, if you don’t have a way to get your mouth close to it (and I mean like 5-6 inches max) is to buy a shock mount for the Yeti and put it onto a microphone stand. One such mount is the Radius Shock Mount for Blue Yeti.
Update in 2023 – My new favorite!
I reviewed the RØDE NT-USB+ mic in May of 2023 and wow! This is now my favorite USB mic. the Yeti still sounds just about as good as is about as quiet. But the NT-USB+ doesn’t have the same issues as the Yeti. See my review here: My Review of The RØDE NT-USB+ Microphone.
Read all about the testing and how they made their choice here.