A dull microphone can be frustrating, to say the least, both for the person using it and for those who are unhappy about listening to it. You might want to upgrade to a dedicated microphone for clearer sound, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with a complicated bulky setup. Here are the best small USB mics you can buy today.
USB microphones come out of the box, sound great, and can come in surprisingly small packages. Whether you just want to upgrade your game for your next video call or finally want to kickstart the podcast you’ve planned, there are plenty of mics out there that deliver great sound while maintaining a compact size.
What to look for in a microphone
Most of the microphones on this list are condenser microphones. This is the most common type of USB microphone, and there are many things to consider when deciding which one to buy.
Audio quality: This is the most important part of any microphone, but it’s hard to determine how good or bad a microphone sounds or sounds just from its spec sheet. If you want to hear how a microphone sounds for yourself, your best bet is to check out the microphone on YouTube and watch some sound tests.
Software: There are a lot of things you can fine tune on a microphone to make it sound perfect. This is usually done through software provided by the manufacturer. The more options the better, but the program should also be easy to navigate.
Controls on the device: Just because a microphone comes with software does not mean that the controls on the device are unnecessary. Being able to adjust your volume (or gain as it’s technically called) or mute yourself with a dial or knob is extremely useful in a pinch.
Headphone socket: Many microphones have zero latency headphone jacks. These allow you to monitor the input going from your microphone to the computer, which is useful if you are recording your voice and want to make sure everything sounds right. Usually, microphones that include this jack will also have a dial to adjust the power level of the headphone output on the microphone itself.
Polar pattern: Simply put, polar diagrams are the area around a microphone where it picks up sound. There are many models, but the most common are cardioids, which mainly pick up sound directly in front of the microphone; super cardioid, which is similar to cardioid but has a narrower zone; and omnidirectional, which picks up noise from all angles.
Sampling rate and bit depth: These two factors have to do with the amount of data the microphone records. The sample rate and bit depth standard (commonly referred to as “CD quality” audio) are 44.1 kHz and 16 bit, respectively. All of the above is considered “high definition audio”. It’s not something you need to worry too much about if you’ve just joined voice calls, but if you’re recording your voice or streaming your voice, it’s worth noting. All microphones in this list record at least standard CD quality.
Best Overall: Blue Yeti Nano
The original Blue yeti is one of, if not the most popular, USB microphones. It’s the microphone of choice for many YouTubers, podcasters, and streamers, and quite recently Blue compacted this great tech into the adorable Nano. It’s even still capable of the high-definition 48 kHz sound that the original Yeti achieved, with a 24-bit higher bit depth compared to the 16-bit of the original Yeti.
Considering the size difference between the Nano and the original Yeti (the Yeti Nano is about three inches shorter than the original), it’s remarkable how good the Nano sounds. Like the Yeti, you can install Blue’s Sherpa software to adjust the gain and sample rate as desired. The Nano can also toggle between cardioid and omnidirectional polar diagrams with the button on the back of the mic or using Sherpa. Also on the back of the microphone you’ll find a zero-latency headphone jack for listening. There is also a headphone output volume knob on the front.
The Blue Yeti Nano is available in four colors: Shadow Gray, Vivid Blue, Red Onyx and Cubano Gold.
Best budget option: FIFINE K669B
Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t get great sound. The FIFINE K669B offers excellent audio quality for the price and is more than adequate for voice or video calls. Most reviewers cite this microphone as being quite sensitive, so if you want to use it for recordings you will probably need to remove some background noise.
There is no software for the K669B, but the basic settings should be fine for most situations (16 bit, 48 kHz with cardioid polar pattern). There is a dial on the front of the mic to adjust the gain, which is always useful to have.
The K669B is available in black and rose red.
Best budget option
Designed for streamers: Elgato Wave 1 and Wave 3
The Wave 1 and Wave 3 microphones are Elgato mics designed for streaming. They are extremely similar to each other – in fact, from a specification point of view, they are indeed the same. The only difference to note is that the Wave 3 offers an incredibly high sample rate of 96 kHz, while the Wave 1 goes with the more standard 48 kHz (they both have 24-bit bit depth). Both record using the cardioid polar pattern and have latency-free headphone jacks for monitoring.
Looking at the outside, the microphones are extremely similar, but the Wave 3 is slightly larger than the Wave 1 (0.4 inches taller to be exact). The main physical difference between the Wave 1 and the Wave 3 is the dials on the front of the microphones. The Wave 1 dial only adjusts the headphone output volume and can mute the mic if you press it down. by pushing the dial. There is also a dedicated mute button on the top of the Wave 3.
Another big draw to either of these pickups is Elgato Wave Link. This is Elgato’s audio mixing software specially created for streamers and Wave microphones (although it also works with non-Elgato microphones). You can use it to balance audio from up to nine sources, whether it’s Wave 1 or Wave 3, your game’s volume, or other programs such as Discord. There is also the “Clipguard” setting in Wave Link, which automatically balances your audio to avoid spikes. Because of all of this and its straightforward design, Wave Link is extremely useful for streamers looking to improve their overall audio setup. Wave Link is also where you can change parameters for Wave 1 and Wave 3, such as gain and sample rate.
The Wave 3 costs a bit more than the Wave 1, with the main advantage being the more sophisticated dial. But at the end of the day, these microphones are going to sound extremely similar to each other, and since Wave Link was designed with both in mind, streamers can’t go wrong with either.
Designed for streamers
Razer Mic Trio: Razer Seiren X, Seiren Emote and Seiren Elite
Although Razer is best known for its gaming peripherals, it regularly diversifies into other areas. The Seiren X is Razer’s attempt to break into the world of microphones, and it’s a fairly successful attempt. It’s marketed as a “gaming microphone” (whatever that means), but it’s still a compact mic (7.24 inches tall with stand) that can be used by anyone.
The Seiren X itself is nothing special. It has a zero-latency headphone jack at the bottom of the mic, with a dial on the front to adjust the headphone output volume – there’s also a mute button directly below that dial. It records in the super-cardioid polar pattern with a sampling rate of 48 kHz, 16 bits.
Overall, it’s just a solid microphone with a sleek chassis. While it doesn’t have any unique features, nothing will distract you either. You can use Razer Synapse 3 software to fine tune the microphone settings as you like.
The Seiren X is available in black, rose quartz and mercury white.
Sleek and elegant
The Seiren Emote is the same microphone as the Seiren X, except that it uses the somewhat rare hyper-cardioid polar pattern (similar to the super-cardioid, except it has an even narrower area where it picks up sound). These are only talking specs though, most notably the Emote has a pixelated LED display on the back of the microphone. This screen can display small animations and images, either embedded by default or those you create in Razer streamer companion app. (You still use Synapse 3 to adjust the audio settings.)
This software also allows you to integrate the mic into your feed, so that certain emoticons will show on the mic based on what your cat is saying, for example. Of course, this does not improve the functioning of the microphone, which can make it difficult to swallow the significant increase in the price of the Seiren X. But if you want a unique microphone that can be fun to play or if you are a streamer who wants to cheat its configuration, the emote may be for you.
Fun and bright
The latest microphone in the Seiren line is the Seiren Elite, which unlike the rest of the mics on this list is a dynamic microphone instead of a condenser microphone. Dynamic mics, in general, are better at picking up loud sounds and rejecting background noise than condenser mics, so they’re better suited for professional recordings. Other than that, the Elite is extremely similar to the Seiren X, although it uses the cardioid polar diagram instead of the super-cardioid. The Elite is also taller at 8.84 inches and includes a gain dial on the front of the microphone, as well as a headphone output dial for the zero-latency headphone jack.
And, like the Seiren X and Emote, you can use Razer Synapse 3 to adjust the settings.
Ultra-compact: Samson Go Mic
If you want the smallest microphone possible, the Samson Go Mic is for you. Although it’s been around for about a decade now, it still looks fantastic for its size. It can record in both cardioid and omnidirectional patterns (using a switch on the side of the mic), and records at the standard CD quality sample rate (16-bit, 44.1kHz). It also has a headphone jack for latency-free monitoring. (Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the headphone output volume.)
It is just six inches tall and comes with a travel case perfect for stowing the microphone when not in use. The included stand can sit on your desk or rest on your laptop or monitor (much like a webcam). Overall, the Go Mic is extremely versatile, and it’s great to see that in such a small microphone.
Unfortunately, there is no software available for the Samson Go Mic, but the stock settings will be fine in most situations.
Headset to headset: Antlion Audio ModMic
The ModMic is a bit different from the rest of the microphones here. It’s a small microphone that can be attached to any pair of headphones via the included magnetic clasp (note: only over-ear headphones, not headphones). The clasp is attached with adhesive tape, but don’t worry, it won’t leave any residue if you decide to take it off. Three additional bands are also included in the box if you want to change the helmet you are using. (You can also buy more of these bands if you need them.)
Due to its size and construction, the ModMic is more comparable to headset mics than to desktop mics. It might not sound as good as the mics we’ve covered before, but the ModMic still sounds great for a headset and is more than good enough for voice calls.
There are two versions of the ModMic: wired and wireless, the latter using its own USB-A adapter.
Helmet to helmet
Cut the rope