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  • Nicholas Chamberlain

USB Microphone Vs. Audio Interface

Updated: Nov 19

Are you trying to decide whether you should buy a USB microphone or an audio interface with a microphone? Let's go over which option will be best for you.


USB Microphones


If you are looking for a simple and affordable way to upgrade your audio recording setup for your zoom meetings or podcast productions then this option would be ideal for your first audio upgrade, but it does have its downsides. Let's break this down.


Pros


1. They are simple to use and easy to setup.


If you have a PC or a Mac, you can simply plug the USB microphone into your computer and select the USB microphone as your computer's input and output sound device in your computer's audio setup.


2. They are affordable.


With a USB Microphone, you are essentially purchasing an audio interface and microphone built into the unit, and they are generally more affordable than separately purchasing an audio interface and microphone.


3. They are convenient.


USB Microphones usually come with built-in microphone stands and sometimes pop-filters, allowing the user to easily place the microphone right on the desk at an approximate height. Additionally, some USB microphones have special features that allow you to change your microphone's polar pattern to better serve your audio recordings.


Cons


1. They tend to have lower sound quality.


Most USB microphones are consumer-level recording devices that lack the quality of professional-grade recording equipment. If you are not an audio engineer or if you listeners are not audiophiles, then most people will not be able to hear the difference, but as the quality of recorded podcasts and audio products continue to grow, it is advisable to make sure you have the best sounding recording equipment if you are looking to grow a podcast or audio product.


2. They are not easily upgradable.


When you order your USB microphone, that is it, no more upgrading your USB microphone or improving the quality of your microphone until you order a higher-quality and usually more expensive USB microphone.


3.They still have a learning curve.


Even though USB microphones are usually a plug-and-play format, you still need to understand each element of the microphone to pick which USB microphone will be best for your application. For example, you will need to look at what type of microphone, is it a dynamic microphone or a condenser microphone? You will also need to see what the polar pattern of the microphone is, is it cardioid, omnidirectional, or figure-8? Need to know which one is best fits your needs? Email me at nick@nccaudio and I will help you out!


Examples of USB Microphones I would recommend:


Blue Yeti

Rhode NT-USB

Audio Technica



Audio Interfaces with Microphone


If you are looking for a professional level recording for your podcast, audio product, or music recording, I would recommend getting an audio interface with a microphone. This would be ideal for professional podcasters and home studio artists looking to record music.


Pros


1. The allow for high-quality recordings.


Most audio interfaces in the market today come with great-sounding pre-amps and high sample and bit rates that will allow you to record high-quality audio. As long as you have a decent microphone, you will be glad you went with the audio interface.


2. They are versatile and allow you to easily upgrade.


An audio interface allows you to choose which microphone you want to use. If you can't afford your RE-20, then go ahead and get the Shure SM-58, you can always upgrade later! Additionally, you can easily change your microphone to meet your recording needs. Let's say you want to record your podcast with your dynamic microphone, but you want to record your acoustic guitar with your condenser microphone, you can do this by simply switching microphones.


3. They have multiple inputs and outputs.


Most audio interfaces have multiple inputs and outputs and vary depending on your need. For example, you can purchase an audio interface with 4 inputs, so you can record your podcast with up to 4 people, or you can purchase an interface with 32 inputs and record a full band and more! Additionally, you have multiple outputs, so you can have your headphones plugged in as well as your powered studio monitors, subwoofer, or output to another audio interface if you need to!


Cons


1. They tend to be expensive.


An audio interface will range from $99 to $9,000. Even though audio interfaces can be expensive, a single podcaster or musician would do great starting out with a $150 Focusrite or PreSonus, so entry-level audio interfaces are relatively affordable for studio-quality recordings.


2. They are more complex.


These are not as simple to get up and running as a USB Microphone. You need at least a microphone, XLR cable, an audio interface, and a USB cable to connect the audio interface to your computer. Additionally, you will need a microphone stand to hold your microphone and a pop-filter is also very important for any recordings using your voice.


3. They have a greater learning curve.


You might have already guessed from the first pro reason of audio interfaces, they have a greater learning curve. In addition to knowing which microphone you need for the application, you also need to understand the basics of the audio interface, which sample or bit rate to choose, does this microphone need +48v phantom power, what is the difference between Mic/Inst/Line, etc.


Examples of audio interfaces I would recommend to start with:


Focusrite

Presonus

MOTU

In Summary


If you need something quick and simple to increase your audio recording quality then go ahead and get a USB Microphone, it is a great starting point. If you want a professional setup that will have more flexibility and the ability to upgrade microphones and speakers, then I would go with an audio interface with your microphone of choice.

If you need additional help setting up your podcast recording please do not hesitate to reach out to nick@nccaudio.com

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