XLR Mic vs USB Mic: Which Is The Best Fit For You!

In today’s digital era, it is more important than ever to have a good microphone. Having the right equipment can make all the difference when it comes to audio quality.

The two main types of microphones you will find on the market are XLR mics and USB mics. You may be wondering which one is best for your needs; after reading this article we hope you will be able to decide!  

XLR Mic vs USB Mic

What Is XLR Microphone?

XLR is a type of analog audio connector that was originally designed in the 1950s by Cannon Electric. XLR has three pins, and these are used to connect microphones directly to mixing consoles or preamplifiers.

Digital conversion equipment that may distort sound quality, as well as remove interference from other electronic devices, can be avoided by using XLR cables.

XLR Connectors XLR mics are typically placed on a microphone stand. The cable often connects to recording equipment via an XLR splitter and is plugged into a preamp.

What Is A USB Microphone?

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus, which is a set of specifications developed by Intel in order to standardize the connection of computer peripherals like printers and keyboards.

However, it has also been implemented into the realm of modern technology including audio recording devices. In terms of recording quality, these mics are similar to XLR mics, but the modern microphone does not use analog audio connections and often requires a data conversion process.

The digital signal from a USB mic then has to be converted back into audio that can be heard by your ear when you listen back to a recording.

If your equipment or computer doesn’t produce enough distortion, the result will sound like it was recorded on an old cassette tape player.

Another issue is interference with other electronic devices such as monitors and computers which may cause distracting audible noises, even if they aren’t being used!

What Is The Difference Between XLR Mic and USB Mic?

XLR mics, or XLR microphones, are commonly used in high-quality recording studios and professional sound reinforcement applications because they provide a signal that requires less digital processing to avoid compromising the audio quality.

This means XLR mics can produce a higher fidelity recording than USB microphones. XLR mics are connected to a device using a hard-wired cable with 3 pins. The mic can be plugged directly into devices like mixers, recorders and many other types of compatible equipment.

USB microphones utilize the Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface for communication rather than analog connectors which allows them to be connected directly to computers without any specialized hardware such as mixers or interfaces being required.

The main reason why people prefer using these types of microphones is because you do not need to connect it physically to your computer through a USB cable, and they are simple to use. Simply plug in the USB connector, install any relevant drivers if required and start recording.

Advantages of XLR Mics 

XLR mics are better for recording purposes than USB microphones because they do not require any conversion of audio signals.

This means XLR microphones can provide higher quality audio recordings than USB mics. The pin layout of an XLR microphone is also more universal so it is easier to find compatible equipment compared to using a USB mic and there are fewer compatibility issues with cables for example.  

XLR microphones produce a richer sound which makes them ideal when you need your voice to stand out in an otherwise noisy space, the sound of the XLR will dominate without needing to boost the input gain on your recording device.  

XLR mics do not need to rely on the USB interface to produce sound which means audio signals are less likely to be affected by a problem with that interface.

Another advantage of XLR microphones is that there is no latency which could take place if you use a USB microphone and your computer has problems processing the audio quickly enough.  

Disadvantages Of XLR Mics 

An XLR mic setup can require more upkeep compared to a USB microphone. If you want to maintain high-quality recordings, an XLR setup requires maintenance because over time.

Dust and dirt will get into the pins but this can be avoided through regular cleaning which becomes costly when done on a daily basis. Another drawback is their cost, especially if you want to record more than one person at a time.

XLR mics are not as practical for on-the-go use because they require additional equipment and involve more setup steps compared to using a USB mic, which is simpler to set up.  

One other disadvantage of XLR microphones is that if you want multiple channels, you will need an expensive mixing board or mixer.

Because there is less processing involved with XLR mics it can be harder for your computer to keep up if you have too many channels simultaneously running through the system/interface.  

Advantages Of USB Microphones

The main advantage of USB microphones over XLR microphones is that they do not require external devices such as mixers or interfaces to run.

The setup for a USB microphone is actually easier than an XLR mic because it does not require external hardware to process the signal which saves you from buying equipment to convert audio signals.  

Hence, if you are looking to set up multiple microphones on your computer or laptop, then a USB microphone will be cheaper and more convenient compared to an XLR setup.

USB microphones can provide high-quality recordings compared with analogue mics as long as they do not have problems with latency or noise interference through over-processing in the interface of your computer/laptop.

An important thing to remember when recording using a USB mic is that you may need less gain for your recording because there is no need for you to boost the input gain on your recording or sound production software.

Disadvantages Of USB Microphones 

If you are using a cheap USB microphone then you can experience problems like latency and noise interference. Especially if there is more than one person close to the microphone, but this can be avoided by buying a high quality brand such as Blue.  

Another disadvantage of USB microphones is that they need an active power source because they plug into your computer/laptop’s USB port which means you will have to buy additional equipment for that purpose. This also means XLR microphones are more portable since they do not require any extra equipment.  

There may be some issues when plugging in multiple microphones at once because if your output device does not support that many microphones at once, you will need a mixer or interface to convert the audio signals for everyone.  

USB mics are recommended for recording in quiet spaces because the XLR microphone is best suited to capture sounds which have a wider dynamic range while USB mics can struggle with noise interference and sound degradation if there is too much background noise.

If you record in quiet environments then using an XLR mic may be a better option especially if you do not have any other choice as that would reduce the chances of recording more than one person at a time without an additional mixer/interface.

The XLR connector on most microphones also makes them suitable for short distances such as table-top recording while some USB microphones require more space like 3ft (0.91 m) from the computer.  

Which Is The Best Choice For You

It can be argued that XLR microphones are better because they do not require any additional equipment to process the audio which may result in a higher quality recording.

However, USB microphones do at times produce high-quality recordings and some even have more features than their XLR counterparts so it all depends on your needs as a musician or producer.

Sometimes the price factor plays an important role because you always get what you pay for when it comes to music production/recording gear. But overall the USB mic is a convenient choice if you do not want to deal with extra equipment.

Because of its growing popularity among musicians, producers, podcasters, etc., USB mics are becoming more commonplace these days and this makes them cheaper compared to newer XLR mics.

So if you are just starting out in music production/recording, then it makes sense to buy a USB microphone because they will be cheaper and more convenient right now while XLR microphones can work better for productions that require professional recording equipment.  

If your laptop only has two inputs then it may not make sense to invest money on an XLR mic when most popular USB mics available today, like the Blue Snowball Ice already come with multiple inputs which means you will get multiple recordings at once without buying any additional equipment for that purpose.

XLR setups might give you better sounds but there is no doubt that USB microphones have their place in the industry especially since they provide convenience, versatility and ease of use.

This is because of the way they are built to work with recording software or devices so if you do not want to spend time trying to figure out your XLR microphone then you can get a USB one, and have it ready for use in seconds.

My Top Pick: XLR Mic and USB Mic for

My top pick for XLR mics is the Shure SM58 Speaker Mic. It has an on-stage design with rugged construction that can last you for years in most cases.

The mic comes equipped with a cardioid polar pattern which means it will reject sounds from behind and on either side of the microphone while picking up sounds that are directly in front of it- making it one of the best options if you want to record a specific person only.

The SM58 provides quality sound reproduction, especially when paired with higher-end audio systems such as professional mixers because they allow you to add your own effects such as echo or reverb instead of relying entirely on what your software/recording device offers by default.

This mic is also good for recording singing and live performances- it will work well in quiet environments because it does not have any issues with capturing the sounds directly in front of the microphone.

However, this is a dynamic microphone which means you cannot use it to record sounds from far distances without using another device like one of these.  

Shure SM58

On the other hand, my top pick for USB mics is the Samson Meteor Mic. It has a built-in sound card and XLR port so there’s no need for an additional interface or mixer when you want to record vocals, instruments, podcasts and more.

This makes it suitable for both professional recordings and everyday home studios where cost is a major factor. Its maximum audio resolution of 24 bit / 96 kHz means that you can record high fidelity sounds without having to adjust the audio settings.

The Meteor Mic is a condenser microphone which means you need to take good care of it before and after each recording session. You have to remove any dust particles in its diaphragm by using a soft microfiber cloth which will also help make your recordings sound clearer.

You should also avoid exposing the Meteor Mic to extreme temperatures like placing it near air conditioning or open windows during summer because this could lead to condensation buildup which would affect the quality of your next recording session.

Samson Meteor Mic

Conclusion: XLR Mics vs USB Mics

Choosing which mic is better for you depends on how you intend to use it and your personal preferences.

If you want to record in a quiet environment then an XLR microphone would be the best option, especially if you are recording one person only like voice-overs or singing performances.  

If instead, noise interference is not an issue then buying a USB microphone will reduce the number of props that you need as they do not require an additional mixing board/interface. This means that it will also cost less, even if it’s more expensive than XLR microphones.  

There are some disadvantages like latency problems but these can easily be resolved by purchasing a high-quality brand that has fewer issues with latency.  

XLR mics are still better for professional use because they require fewer cables and can be used on a variety of devices so you do not need to worry about compatibility problems.

However, whether XLR or USB microphones are better depends on how you intend to use them and your personal preferences.

If budget is not an issue then go with XLR mics but if you are looking to save money by buying cheaper products than USB mics will be more suitable for you.

Depending on the environment that you plan on recording in, choose which one will be more suitable since XLR mics provide better quality recordings than USB when there is more than one person speaking at once or in very noisy environments.

Jacob Miller

Hi, I'm Jacob Miller, and welcome to AudioOver, a platform designed to help aspiring music producers create music from home. With a musical background inspired by my award-winning father, I've been passionate about music since I was young.

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