The year 2020 intensely changed the landscape for office employees, sending masses of people home to handle conferencing, collaboration, meetings, interviews, and even high-profile presentations from their personal spaces, be they makeshift offices in miniscule apartments or dedicated rooms in sprawling vacation homes. To make a great impression and command attention in such situations, your voice should sound as clear, present, and intelligible as it would in person; for that you need a high-quality microphone that won’t bog you down with a complicated configuration. Thanks to these clever and flexible USB mics from AKG, Blue, RØDE, Samson, and Shure, you can easily attain superb voice quality when working from home.
Big Condenser Sound on a Small Budget
First up is the Blue Yeti from Logitech, one of the most popular USB mics around, and for good reason. It looks cool and sounds great, due in part to Blue’s history of high-end studio condenser mics. Surprising for a mic at this price point is the fact that the Blue Yeti offers four selectable pickup modes—cardioid for standard front-facing directionality, bidirectional to capture two sources such as one person in front of the mic and another behind it, omnidirectional for 360-degree pickup of everything around the mic, and stereo, which is neat for ASMR content.
Like many mics in this class, the Blue Yeti operates at 16-bit/48 kHz digital resolution, and it features adjustable volume, mic gain, mute, and zero-latency headphone monitoring. Not only can your voice be clear, but you’ll be able to hear it without any annoying echo. If maximizing versatility, not cost, is your biggest concern, the Blue Yeti may be the ideal mic for you.
A Dual-Output Dynamic
Compared to the Blue Yeti, the Samson Q2U, available in gray or the B&H-exclusive silver, is a completely different take on a USB mic. Whereas the Blue Yeti is a condenser with four pickup modes, the Q2U is a traditional cardioid-only handheld dynamic mic with an on/off switch. The Q2U also boasts digital USB and analog XLR outputs, so it can be connected directly to your computer or plugged into an audio interface or a mic preamp.
The Q2U tops out at 16-bit/48 kHz, but it is compatible with iPhones and iPads if you snag an appropriate connection adapter. Like the Blue Yeti, the Q2U is equipped with adjustable volume and a headphone port. Note that because the Q2U has a dynamic capsule, it has a lower sensitivity than condensers; keep it closer to you to capture a strong vocal signal.
RØDE Studio Quality
If you want to acquire the trusted sonic quality of a RØDE studio condenser microphone without dropping a hefty load of cash, check out the NT-USB Mini. This cardioid USB Type-C mic delivers crisp RØDE clarity at 24-bit/48 kHz in a space-saving design packed with a host of thoughtful appointments.
A built-in pop filter helps tame those distracting plosives that occur on jarring "p" and "b" sounds while the special detachable magnetic desktop stand inhibits bumps as it sits on your worksurface. The NT-USB Mini’s integrated swing mount allows 360 degrees of adjustment for effortless and precise mic positioning, whether it is attached to the magnetic base or affixed to a boom arm.
Setting up the NT-USB Mini couldn’t be more straightforward; just plug it in and forget about having to download drivers. Since it is class compliant, the mic works with Mac/Windows computers, as well as iOS/Android tablets (Apple camera connection kit required for use with Lightning-equipped iPads). When you connect your headphones to the NT-USB Mini, you’ll appreciate the mic’s studio-grade headphone amp and selectable zero-latency monitoring. Leave it to RØDE to treat what you capture and hear with equal attention to detail.
The Versatile Legend
For ages, AKG has been producing some of the world’s most popular mics, ranging from everyday workhorses to legendary, inimitable vocal mics. With the Lyra USB Condenser Microphone, AKG applied its vast engineering experience to create a highly versatile and intuitive USB mic that’s sleek on the outside and slick on the inside. Don’t let the fact that it has a four-capsule array daunt you; it has four capture modes, simply labeled and easily selected, to provide optimal pickup in a range of scenarios. With intelligently named modes (Front, Front & Back, Tight Stereo, and Wide Stereo), the Lyra requires no familiarity with technical jargon to understand how it works.
With 24-bit/192 kHz capability, the Lyra boasts 4K-compatible, Ultra HD audio quality for sonic performance sans compromise. Hiding beneath its attractive exterior are significant internal features—a shockmount, a sound diffusor, and Internal Element Overload Protection—made to keep your sound clear and free of distortion and rumble.
Whether you use a computer, phone, or tablet for your work, the Lyra provides painless plug-and-play setup. It comes with a USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable, but you can hook up to iOS/Android mobile devices with the right adapter (e.g., an Apple camera connection kit or an OTG adapter cable). When you do need to tweak settings, rest assured it will be easy. The front panel has dedicated controls for headphone volume and mic mute, while the rear panel offers knobs to adjust the mic gain and select the capture mode.
Like the NT-USB Mini, the Lyra also has a headphone jack for latency-free monitoring. Its integrated desktop stand can be removed to allow attachment to a boom arm or mic stand, and it has in-built cable management to keep the cord appearance tidy. If you’re not opposed to showing off your mic on camera, the Lyra’s eye-catching visual impact should please you and any meeting participants. It may even serve you as a reliable conversation piece!
A Budget-Friendly Dual-Pattern Alternative
If the Lyra is a little out of your price range, you might want to consider another AKG microphone, the ARA USB Condenser Mic. Mirroring the Lyra in design and performance, the AKG ARA combines an eye-catching retro aesthetic with excellent sound quality and versatility.
Though its A/D converter is not quite as capable as the Lyra’s, the ARA can handle up to 24-bit/96 kHz audio resolution, enough to satisfy the demands of most studio-quality projects. Two pickup modes are available: “Front” and “Front+Back.” Front mode employs a cardioid polar pattern, making it ideal for solo applications, such as commentary, voiceover work, podcasting, etc. Front+Back mode switches the polar pattern to omnidirectional, which is a better choice for applications like face-to-face interviews, podcasting with multiple speakers, and so on.
The lofty Shure SM7B vocal microphone has been reincarnated for the digital age in the form of the Shure MV7 (available in a traditional black hue or a striking silver finish), featuring XLR and digital USB outputs, as well as embedded tech for instantly polished audio. Drawing from decades of experience in broadcast production, studio environments, and mobile recording, Shure engineered the MV7 to surmount the challenges of working in suboptimal conditions and deliver a powerful vocal presence liberated from the burden of background noise.
Far from your typical dynamic transducer, the MV7 features voice-isolation technology to push extraneous room noise into the background, yielding a robust, professional sound. Taking that a big step further, the auto-level mode of the MV7 automatically manages gain and compression to make the capture of your voice stable and consistently intelligible with no manipulation required from you.
As if that weren’t enough, the MV7 is outfitted with simultaneously active XLR and USB outputs, making it a potent solution for conferencing at home, podcasting, or recording in the studio. Like the SM7B, the MV7 utilizes a built-in mount to allow smooth positioning and secure attachment to a mic stand, boom arm, or desktop stand (all available separately). For additional convenience and customization, the MV7 supports configuration via the ShurePlus MOTIV app for iOS/Android mobile devices and Mac/Windows computers.
To learn more about what these mics can do, stop by the B&H SuperStore or visit our website. We may not be able to stop your attention-seeking cat from strutting slowly across your keyboard in the middle of an important meeting, but we can surely help you sound your best!
Share your thoughts on our selection of mics. Does one in particular stand out from the crowd? Did we overlook a favorite? Engage with us in the Comments section down below!