USB Mic vs XLR Choose the Best for Your Needs

Wondering which is better for your project - a USB mic vs XLR mic? We break it down for you. Check out this comparison to find out!

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: April 15, 2022

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What is the best way to get your voice heard? If you are a podcaster, singer, or just want to record some audio messages for friends and family, you will need an interface. That's because XLR microphones can only be used for live performances. You might think that this makes USB mics the perfect solution - but they have their limitations too.

In this blog post, we'll discuss both USB Mic vs XLR and give you a rundown of the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision about what kind of microphone is best for your needs!

USB Mic vs XLR: Which one is better?

USB Mic vs XLR

Both USB mic and XLR microphone are input device used to record voices or any other sounds. They are both digital and have their own specific advantages and disadvantages.

It's mainly the connection that's different. A USB mic plugs into your computer, while an XLR microphone connects to a mixer or PA system.

When it comes to sound quality, there is a big difference between USB Mic vs XLR. USB mics tend to have lower quality audio because they use a compressed signal.

This can result in a tinny or muffled sound. XLR mics, on the other hand, use an uncompressed signal that results in much higher quality audio.

Since this article is about USB Mic vs XLR mics and not the other types of mics, let's diggin a bit deeper into each type.

XLR Mic + Interface vs USB Mic at a Lower Budget

If you are considering setting up a home recording studio for the first time, you may be concerned with cost.

A professional microphone for recording vocals and audio interface can be quite expensive, while the cost of a USB mic is significantly less than that for an XLR set up with an interface.

However, the quality of the recordings made with a USB mic may not be as good as those made with an XLR mic. The sound of the recordings made with a USB mic may be tinny and have less bass than those recorded with an XLR mic. Also, the USB mic will not provide phantom power to XLR microphones.

If you are looking for the best possible quality in your recordings, you should invest in an XLR set up with an interface. However, if you are on a tight budget, a USB mic may be a good option for you.

A XLR Mic + Interface vs A USB Mic At A Lower Budget

Microphone Setup

A USB microphone is a very popular choice for those looking for an easy way to connect a microphone to their computer. USB mics simply plug into your computer via a USB cable and port, and then you're ready to record.

Unlike a USB microphone, which can be plugged directly into your computer, an XLR mic requires a bit more set-up, the results will be worth it. XLR mics are the standard for recording studios, so you'll be able to get that same quality of sound at home.

In order to connect your XLR mic to your computer, you'll need an audio interface. This will allow you to connect your XLR mic to your computer's USB port. You may also need to purchase cables and phantom power if your XLR mic needs it.

Portability and Convenience

Another factor to consider when choosing between a USB mic and an XLR mic is portability. If you plan on traveling with your microphone, a USB mic will be much easier to pack up and take with you.

USB mics are also more convenient because they can be plugged directly into your computer without the need for any other equipment. With just that and a set of headphones, you can record anywhere you want.

This is not very true with XLR microphones, as they are much more sensitive and need to be placed in a quiet room for the best possible sound quality. You will also have to lug around cables and an audio interface which makes it inconvenient when traveling or recording on the go.

 

USB Microphone Setup is simpler - They are less complex

Which Should I Use?

USB microphones are great for:

  • Podcasting
  • Recording voiceovers
  • Making Skype/VoIP calls
  • Gaming

XLR microphones are great for:

  • Live performances
  • Recording music
  • Broadcasting

USB microphones are becoming increasingly popular, but there are still many people who prefer XLR microphones. So, which should you use?

USB microphones are typically more affordable and easier to set up than XLR microphones. They also offer more features, such as the ability to record directly to your computer.

However, USB microphones can be more prone to interference than XLR microphones. Additionally, they are not as widely compatible with other audio equipment.

XLR microphones, on the other hand, offer better sound quality and are less likely to experience interference. They also have a wider range of compatibility with audio equipment. However, they can be more expensive and difficult to set up.

Ultimately, the decision of which type of microphone to use depends on your budget, your needs, and your preferences.

No matter which type of microphone you choose, you'll be able to get great sound quality for your recordings.

If you're looking for portability and convenience, a USB microphone is a good choice. If you're looking for the best possible sound quality, an XLR microphone is the way to go.

Here is a list of pros and cons for each type of mic to help you make your decision:

USB Mic Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use
  • No extra equipment needed
  • Can be used with a laptop or desktop computer
  • Most models are plug and play, meaning no drivers need to be installed

USB Mic Cons:

  • Lower quality sound than XLR mics
  • Limited compatibility – can only be used with computers that have a USB port

XLR Mic Pros:

  • Better sound quality than USB mics
  • More versatile – can be used for live performances, recording studios, etc.
  • XLR cables are less likely to pick up interference than USB cables

XLR Mic Cons:

  • More expensive than USB mics
  • Requires extra equipment, such as an audio interface or mixer
  • Can be more complicated to set up and use

Phantom Power – What is it? Do I Need it?

A phantom power supply is required for XLR microphones, as it provides power to the microphone.

With a USB microphone, the USB power supplies that phantom power.

Phantom power is a controversial topic in recording, as some people believe it helps the microphone to produce a clearer sound. No external phantom power is needed for a USB mic

If you have an XLR microphone then you will need a phantom power supply to use it.

If you are unsure about your needs, then I would recommend buying an XLR microphone and using the audio interface for recording vocals or instruments.

FAQs

Is USB or XLR better for streaming? It depends on your needs and what you're looking to achieve with your stream. If you're just starting out, a USB mic might be a good option because it's easy to plug into your computer. However, if you're looking for the best possible sound quality, an XLR mic is the way to go.

Can I use an XLR mic with my computer? Yes, but you'll need an interface. This is because XLR microphones can only be used for live performances.

Do I need an audio interface to use an XLR mic? Yes, an audio interface is necessary to connect your XLR mic to your computer.

Is a USB microphone good for recording vocals? A USB mic can be a good option for recording vocals, but it may not provide the same quality as an XLR mic.

Is XLR best for audio? XLR is the gold standard for recording studios, but it's also useful in live recording environments when you can't always control the conditions.

How much does an XLR microphone cost? The cost of an XLR microphone varies, but they are typically more expensive than USB microphones.

Are USB mics worse? USB mics are not necessarily worse than XLR mics, but they may not provide the same quality of sound.

Should I get a USB or XLR microphone? The vast majority of USB microphones are not good for recording sound. However, there is a small percentage that can produce high quality recordings when used correctly!

Are USB mics noisy? USB microphones are sensitive devices that pick up sounds from surrounding electronic hardware easily. They're typically used in close proximity to computers, and desktop units can be quite noisy themselves!

Final Verdict

The answer really comes down to the type of microphone you're looking for and the scenario you are using it for.

I would recommend either USB or XLR microphones if your needs have been outlined above, and an audio interface to go with them.

If you want a cheap microphone then buy a USB mic, but make sure that you have phantom power as this is necessary in order to use a XLR microphone.

 

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