XLR vs USB Microphones: Pros and Cons

In Audio by Jacob GrozotisLeave a Comment

USB microphones use the same condenser features as typical XLR microphones. However, XLR microphones have some form of reliability and quality. This explains why many people don’t want to place them in the same category as USB microphones. The XLR cable is used in audio applications, such as live shows and professional recordings. They have three pins as well as a circular connector. They are used to deliver a more balanced signal, meaning that the final audio signal output will have less annoying noises from external electrical interference, regardless of the distance.

 What are the pros and cons of USB microphones when compared to USB microphones? The primary difference lies in the connections. The XLR microphone has three pins/prongs, which are connected to an interface that connects to your PC. The interface implies items, such as a mixer, considering that the XLR connection cannot be connected directly to the computer. However, a USB microphone can connect directly to your PC through the USB port, without the need of an interface, such as a mixer. Equally, a USB microphone is used mostly for less professional voice recording purposes, whereas the XLR is used by professionals, because of its ability to adjust the quality of sound.

Between XLR and USB Microphones, which one should I Use?

This question may be challenging to answer, especially if you do not know all the precise differences, such as the pros and cons of each microphone. At some point, your choice will be based on personal preferences and needs. Nothing will stop you from enjoying the experience of recording a podcast with a USB microphone as a beginner, whereas, if you wish to take your professional recording skills to a whole new level, the XLR will not let you down.

It is common to find students or first-time podcasters or bloggers with USB microphones, especially if they only have personal podcasts to make or less professional podcasts and audio files. This is also tagged along with people who do podcasts and audios as a hobby but not a profession. Or, better still, their podcasts may not necessarily have overly strict quality guidelines or high expectations from their audience.

USB microphones are ideal for newbies

The USB microphone is also ideal for students or newbies because they are low-cost as compared to the XLR microphones. It is also easier to set up the USB microphone, where you only need to plug in and play. On the other hand, the XLR microphone calls for several connections, including the mixer and, in some cases, recording and editing software. This could be costly and difficult to get done. However, the USB microphone can be a high starting point for any podcaster, considering its low capital requirement and much more little need for technical knowledge and skills.

The XLR Microphones are upgrades from the USB ones

Moreover, XLR microphones are a step-up of the USB microphone, where many people move to once they start doing more professional and high-quality work. This may include recording sounds and voices in a music studio or doing professional podcasts or audios for monetary gain. With the XLR microphone and the mixer, including software needed, you get a chance to experience even improved and more technical aspects of the audio recording that you would not get from the USB microphone.

 What are the different types of XLR Microphones available for purchase?

There are many types of XLR microphones that you can use for your professional recording. Even though XLR microphones are all used for professional audio recording, you need to select the best for the job. Not merely going for the most appealing one, but one that is functional and adjustable. The following are some of the common examples that you can pick from:

Electrovoice RE20

Electro-Voice RE20 Broadcast Announcer Microphone with Variable-D

This is one of the most coveted XLR microphones that meet the industry standards for producing super high-quality audio files and podcasts. It is, notably, one of the highly preferred XLR microphones for journalists, broadcasters, and sound engineers because of the quality standard that it guarantees. That is why anyone who has used it considers it a premium-grade microphone. Its Variable-DTMs design, as well as the heavy-duty internal pop filter, does a great job giving high-quality audio with reduced vibration noises.

Rode Procaster

Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone

The rode podcaster is a darling for the professional audio recorders. There’s a four in ten chance that you will meet this microphone in any big audio studio. In retrospect, it provides super-quality audio and voice applications in the media field of broadcasting.

Arguably, the best thing about the rode pro caster  is its robust polar pattern. While it’s great, for professionals who desire to have high-quality sounds with a demand for ambient noise reduction ability, it also works well for newbies since its relatively easy to set up. It also comes with an inbuilt pop filter lowers plosive sounds that overload the microphone’s capsule and leads to distorted sound output.

Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

This dynamic XLR microphone has a perfectly smooth, flat, and full-range frequency response. This means that it is right for the production of professional audio and music. It is also ideal for speech presentations in meetings or conference halls based on its high-quality sound. It is characterized by a cardioid polar pattern as well as bass roll-off, including a midrange emphasis that is essential in boosting the sound quality to maximum levels possible. The XLR microphone is also designed as a state-of-the-art internal air suspension shock isolation that eliminates unnecessary noises that can easily affect the quality of sound.

Let’s go into the best USB microphones, shall we?

USB microphones are still ideal forms of microphones that give you the same audio recording experience with only one jack. What you need to do with the microphone is to plug it in your computer through the USB port and start recording. These USB microphones can either be cardioid, omnidirectional, or figure-of-eight, with specific uses and purposes. However, the commonly used USB microphone is the cardioid microphone, which acquires its name from its heart-shape recording pattern. While shopping, the following USB microphones definitely make it to the top of the list.

Blue Yeti

Blue Yeti USB Mic for Recording & Streaming on PC and Mac, 3 Condenser Capsules, 4 Pickup Patterns, Headphone Output and Volume Control, Mic Gain Control, Adjustable Stand, Plug & Play - Silver

The Blue Yeti is a quality defining USB microphone that brings the sound recording’s digital nature. It exudes a retro charm that is entirely at odds with its futuristic design. The whole list of USB microphones doesn’t come with a vintage look. However, the Blue Yeti has the mid-50s, death metal design. In case you were a fan of the Beatles, this might just remind you of the same.

 Samson Meteor

Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Condenser Microphone (Chrome)

The Samson Meteor is one of a kind USB microphone that brings in an improved way of doing podcasts and audio recording. It is the type of microphone that is changing the way people do recordings, without necessarily pushing things beyond the limits. For most audio producers, this microphone works as a perfect replacement for the ordinary laptop microphone or headsets. It is much more affordable and meaning that it is ideal for a person working on a budget, mainly a student or anyone willing to take their hobby to the next level.

Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone

 

Having used the rode podcaster a few times, I think it’s the most reliable USB microphone around. Not only does it provide you with high-quality audio, but it also gives great value for the money. It is perfect for an avid DJ, who desires to generate clean and clear sound quality as well as rich quality. Rode Podcaster may lack a stand like its predecessors, but it doesn’t cost you much to acquire a fitting stand, and your audio recording unit is complete.

Are these the only ones?

Not in the least. We don’t intend to censure your choice. On most occassions, anything between $50-$150 for USB microphones works. On the XLR side, the prices can go higher. Often, there are more buying options when it comes to chosing XLR microphones. This is based on the fact that most professionals use more than one kind of XLR microphone at a time.

Pro tip:While shopping, checking that you have the original microphone. There’s a cesspool of generic and outrightly fake products floating around in the markets. Often, it’s way better to buy the microphone from either the manufacturer or a verified vendor. In case you can find neither  a verified vendor, or the original manufacturer, find an alternative seller with a satisfying number of reviews.

What are the Pros and Cons of XLR Microphones

The XLR microphones are unique types of microphones that do not have an audio interface. Therefore, you need to add an audio interface you add an interface, such as a mixer, to help connect the microphone to the computer. This interface will also help you to adjust the sound quality further. Should you also need to record in either mono or stereo formats, the interface will do the job. However, the interface may also require a couple of cables for the connections.

XLR Microphones

Pros

  • There are many varieties of XLR microphones, which means that you will have a lot to choose from, mainly based on your specific audio or podcast needs;
  • XLR microphones are easy to troubleshoot. Using the USB connections means that you only need a PC to troubleshoot it.
  • Great when  recording  via multiple microphones, especially for a couple of people at the same time;
  • A USB microphone is highly portable. You can’t tie it down to one place. If anything, most of the USB microphones are small enough to fit into the pockets on your pants.
  •  It is possible to move around from one location to another and to use a portable recorder or an adapter to record audio files on site.

Cons

  • XLR microphones are typically expensive; this means that newbies or beginners working on a tight budget may not find them cost-effective for their audio requirements.
  • Complex to connect to computers, especially for first-timers, because of the many o cables that interconnect from one point to the other. The buttons, phantom powers, and interfaces may also be complex to handle for the first time.
  • Not efficient when it comes to moving around while carrying the microphone and the interface as well as the recorders and cables.

Pros and Cons of USB Microphones

USB microphones come with a capsule and an interface in the same unit. Equally, you can control the microphone by using a driver installed on your PC or simply adjusting the controls inbuilt in the microphone. It also consumers less energy, up to 5 V or less, which is the right amount of voltage that an ordinary PC or laptop’s USB port generates.

Pros

  • USB microphones are plug and play by make. This means that they are simple to connect and use. You don’t need an interface to make the connections. Instead, your PC is all you need. Moreover, most USB Microphones will run a simple set-up program when installed for the first time.
  • They are affordable, meaning that beginners with a low budget can acquire a USB microphone for their small and less professional projects.
  • USB microphones are portable, meaning that you can move from one place to another with one or two without necessarily requiring a piece of heavy baggage.
  • Most USB microphone are extremely newbie friendly.

Cons

  • Unfortunately, you cannot use the USB microphone without the use of a laptop or PC.
  • It is not functional when it comes to upgrading the sound quality. You must acquire a different microphone with even powerful or upgraded features for improved sound quality if you want to upgrade.
  • It has problems when it comes to troubleshooting whenever you have issues with the microphone. If something is not working, and if you don’t understand the case of the problem, you may end up purchasing a new USB microphone to go around the issue.
  • It is problematic to record audios or podcasts by using multiple USB microphones. It is often confusing, especially when working with two or more microphone users.
  • You will experience problems with syncing issues when recording multiple USB microphones on different computers. Notably, the intro clocks will vary, leading to dampened audio quality.
  • Using a USB microphones means that you will be bogged down to only a few types of microphones. For instance, you won’t find a good boom pole in the USB section.

Wrap Up

Finally, from this review of XLR vs. USB microphones, it is clear that you will get the best out of what you chose to work with. However, it all depends on your budget and audio needs. It really depends on what you are searching for in a microphone. If you are looking for quality in a microphone, you may find yourself going for the XLR microphone. It guarantees adjustability that goes a long way in enhancing the quality of audio output.

The XLR microphone might be essential when it comes to offering quality audio output. However, it’s quite the opposite when it comes to portability when compared to the USB microphones. Now, I am not saying that carrying an XLR microphone is tantamount to hauling the moon on a beam. That’s not the case. It’s only a little weight differential here. Moreover, USB microphones are further cheaper to buy. They are also easy to connect to your computer. After all, you don’t need complicated cables and interfaces that are somewhat complex for first-time users.

The XLR microphone is typically expensive. Explicably, this comes alongwith the quality of their work and effectiveness when it comes to upgrading quality with time or per project. This is why many professionals are willing to invest in the XLR microphone types that are worth their money.

Ultimately, it is advisable to try out the two microphones and make an effort to keep both of them if possible. You can rely on your XLR microphone in your office or workplace, while you can still have a USB microphone that you can use when you travel out to do interviews or other field projects because of its portability.

About the Author

Jacob Grozotis

Jake(me) is a fan of photography, traveling writing, and free food. He has been behind the camera for more than ten years of his 29-years of life.

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