Best Desktop USB Microphone Under $100 Cardioid
In order to make a wise decision about choosing the best desktop USB microphone that sells under $100 you’re going to have to know a few things. Let’s be clear about one thing, the word “best” is a relative term and is very subjective and it all depends on what you’ll be using the microphone for.
However, whether you are buy a $20 Logitech USB Desktop Microphone or a $3,000 Neumann U87AI the methodology I will share with you today will be useful.
What is your purpose for buying a microphone? What will the microphone mainly be used for?
- Voice overs
- Recording Youtube videos
- Recording your professor’s lectures
- Recording vocals
- Recording music
- Voice recognition software such as Speaking Naturally
- Skype interviews
- Percussion instruments
- Professional recording studio
What is you budget for your new microphone?
I know this criteria seems fairly obvious but it I see so many people that are in the market to buy a new mic looking at microphones that are totally not within their budget. Another mistake I see people make is buying a microphone that will not provide them the best sound quality given what they’re recording.
For this article we have chosen to work with a budget of $100 because this price range appeals to a very large audience. I am also assuming that I will be using this microphone mainly for the voiceovers for my Youtube videos. Besides you can get some really decent sounding USB plug-n-play mics that will easily accommodate most purposes we listed above.
We selected three mics from well respected and established manufacturers, Audio Technica, Blue and Samson. You can see the comparison charts below. The specific models we chose were the Audio Technica at2020, Blue Snowball and the Samson CO1u. All of these are condenser microphones.
Each of these desktop mics can be plugged directly into your computer. Listed below is a more technical explanation of how condenser mics work.
|Blue Microphones Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid||Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone||Samson C01UCW Studio USB Mic with Cakewalk Sonar LE|
|Custom condenser capsule offers crystal clear audio for Skype, Messages and FaceTime|
Record vocals, create podcasts, and add narration to your home movies
Add crystal clear audio to recordings for YouTube
Easy plug and play directly to your Mac or PC – no drivers to install
Ships with desktop stand and USB cable
|Condenser microphone with USB output for digital recording|
High quality A/D converter with 16 bit, 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate for superb audio
Headphone jack with volume control allows you to monitor the microphone signal with no delay
Mix control allows you to blend your microphone signal and pre-recorded audio
High-output internal headphone amplifier delivers superior clarity and musical detail as well as more volume overall
|Industry's first USB studio condenser mic|
Plugs directly into any computer with a USB port
Cardioid pickup pattern
Heavy gauge mesh grill
Large 19mm diaphragm
|$46.88||Too Low to Display||$57.50|
|Read Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews|
Evaluation of USB Desktop Microphones
- Directional (Polar) Patterns
- Frequency Response
- Bit Depth
- Sample Rate
- Consumer Star Rating
- Price – (within $100 budget)
Another thing we considered in deciding the best desktop mic in the $100 range was the directional (polar) patterns. Simply stated, a microphones polar pattern is how sensitive the microphone will be to sound from various directions. Some mics are good at picking up sounds from every direction, other mics only one direction and still other pic up sound from a particular combination of directions.
How Condenser Microphones Work
A capacitor has two plates with a voltage between them. In the condenser mic, one of these plates is made of very light material and acts as the diaphragm. The diaphragm vibrates when struck by sound waves, changing the distance between the two plates and therefore changing the capacitance.
Specifically, when the plates are closer together, capacitance increases and a charge current occurs. When the plates are further apart, capacitance decreases and a discharge current occurs.
When you break it all down the directions mainly fall into 3 different directional types:
- Bidirectional – the mic will pickup sound from two(bi) opposite directions.
- Omnidirectional – the mic will pickup sound from all(omni) directions evenly.
- Unidirectional – the mic pics up sound predominately from only one (uni) direction. The subset, if you will, of unidirectional mics are cardioid and hypercardiod.
- Frequency Response
Frequency response is how well the microphone will respond given different frequencies. Typically condenser microphones are better at capturing a more accurate sound. A USB microphone should be able to match the type of frequency that you want to pick up.
The bit depth is the information (bits) that are recorded for each sound sample. The bit depth is important because it’s directly proportional to the dynamic range and ultimately the sound quality. A bit depth rate of 16 produces CD audio quality.
Picturesque View of Different Polar Patters
Plus: Can pickup sound from any direction. Great at capturing ambient noise. Most desirable situations may be in great acoustic environments. If you need to capture some acoustic instruments then this type of pattern may be ideal.
Minus: The sound tends to very unfocused and may not be ideal where you need to capture the sound of a particular subject. Picks up sound from unwanted sources.
Plus: Cardiod stems from the Greek word kardiā, meaning “heart”. As you can see from picture above the blue line is in the shape of a heart which means that this type of microphone picks up sound mostly from the front, less from the sides and hardly any sound from the rear of the mic. These types are mics are very versatile and can be used to record vocals, percussion instruments, drums, horns, podcasts, etc.
The hypercardioid is a even more directional than the cardioid pattern. Most of the sound pickup is gone from the sounds and the rear of the mic as evidenced by the long blue line. This type of pattern has made users refer to it as a shotgun microphone.
Minus: The sound may not sound as natural because most of the ambient noise has been eliminated. The sound may not be consistent throughout if the mic is not consistently pointed at the subject or if the user changes the distance away from the mic significantly during the recording.
Plus: From the figure above you can see that the bidirectional microphone allows the user to pickup sound equally from opposite directions.
Minus: Not necessarily a negative but there may be very little need for this type of polar pattern unless you were trying to capture the sound of two people sitting opposite each other at the same time.
Audio Technica at2020
- Type – Condenser
- Polar Pattern – Cardiod and Omnidirectional
- Frequency Response – 40 – 18,000 Hz
- Bit Rate – 16 bit
- Sample Rate – 44.1Khz
- Star Rating – 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars
- Price – $69.79 at time the article was written
As you can see the Snowball is the cheapest desktop USB microphone of the three. As far as sound quality goes I feel that the AT2020 has the best sound quality of all the microphones I listened to. This is a matter of opinion and you may feel different and I’d love for you to leave your comments below.
- Blue Snowball
- Samson CO1u
- Audio Technica at2020
- Audio Technica at2020
- Samson CO1u
- Blue Snowball
- Audio Technica at2020 – beautiful black finish – professional look
- Samson CO1u – nice silver finish – professional look
- Blue Snowball – resembles a toy – plasticky look
The overall winner for me is the AT2020, CO1u a close second and the Snowball picking up the rear. All three of these desktop USB microphones would be a significant step up from your built-in microphone.