The Best of USB Microphones
You just want my number one pick? That depends. It’s actually a tie!
Short Version : the Zoom H2n and Blue Yeti microphones.
Both of these microphones can be used as USB microphones, with the Zoom H2n offering additional options such as line out or recording to SD card, and both come in at around £120.
The Zoom H2n will benefit from something to mount it on, such as a Pixi tripod, adding to the cost a little, whereas the Blue Yeti has its own stand. Further details for both microphones are below for comparison.
I’ve also included the Rode NT-USB as an honourable third place mention, just pipping the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ to that spot. I remember the NT-USB being a bit more expensive and maybe not quite as versatile as the top two, but since the price has come down, it’s at least worth checking out.
Please take a look at my accessories guide if you’re thinking about microphone arms, shock mounts, tripods, longer cables and the like. Also if you’re worried about noise appearing in your recordings, take a look at my troubleshooting tips.
What are the Other Options?
My advice would be to read through the types of microphone and settle on one that you can both afford and grow into. It doesn’t need to be expensive.
My Top 3 USB Microphones
Zoom H2n (£119)
My first pick is the Zoom H2n, which makes a really interesting UBS microphone, and I use mine mostly for this. The H2n has a dizzying array of abilities beyond a Blue Yeti, including an ability to record without a computer straight to SD card. Or you can record to computer via USB, as you would with a Blue Yeti. Whatever you like!
Let’s say you don’t use the USB today. You can record audio straight to SD card while recording your video on an iPhone, DSLR or whatever, and then all you need to do is import both the audio track and the video track into your editing software. Sync them up and you’re golden. The likes of Filmora can even do the sync for you.
The major benefit of this type of setup is portability. You can take a recorder and portable camera just about anywhere without lugging a hefty computer with you. Plus there’s no noise from any of the equipment. It’s all blissfully silent. The quality from specialist gear like this is higher, so yeah, you’re entering a whole new level of ASMR production from trying to use a noisy computer and basic recording equipment.
Listen to this English duo for proof. Filmed on a Fuji X100S with audio on the Zoom H2n. (It’s there on the table.)
Thanks to David play Larus sing
H2n’s Advantage over The H-n Family
The funny thing about getting a recorder is that it isn’t even that expensive for what it does. One of the Zoom H4n Pro reviewers on Amazon boasted that they used it in a Hollywood movie. And if you just did a double-take, right, I did too. But then that’s the kind of company Zoom is. It’s the company that professionals use. And this is the kind of gear that they use. You could have this gear as well. I own an H2n and love it to pieces.
Since I just mentioned the H4n Pro in such a glowing light, you might be wondering why you’d go with the H2n at all. Isn’t is worse? No, it has more built-in microphone capabilities than the H4n does and appears (after sifting through many comparison reviews and videos) to be the better stand-alone device. That’s right, Zoom have built more surround sound capabilities into the H2n and given it its own niche in the series.
In particular, it’s the 4-channel surround sound and spacial audio capabilities that jump out of the official specs.
Intense, right? You could make incredible ASMR with such capability. Overall the Zoom H2n is a very affordable killer device. Even if you also bought an H4n Pro for it’s XLR abilities, your Zoom H2n would retain it’s place in the sun forever. Definitely a great choice for your first recorder microphone. And also a great choice for your tenth.
So, do you really need batteries? Not if you’re using USB power, no. You can also use a USB lithium-ion power pack or a USB AC adapter instead of a computer. Batteries are just an option, and the device will automatically switch to the internal batteries when needed, should you put any in. Two fresh AA batteries will last (in reality) around 6 hours.
As with mics such as the Blue Yeti, there’s a headphone port for you to monitor what you’re recording. That’s true for the later Zooms too, which is pro gear and you can expect that as standard now. While the full list of audio features may seem overwhelming at first, the Zoom H2n is an easy mic to get to grips with, while providing you with plenty of room to grow.
The H2n will work as a USB mic out of the box. To use additional features of the H2n with a computer, you’ll need to download and install some drivers from Zoom’s website, and check that the H2n’s firmware is the latest. Overall this is a very impressive piece of kit at a very reasonable price, and it should last you a long time if you take care of it.
Should you want to listen to more of the H2n’s sound quality, I listened to all of David play Larus sing‘s covers when I was making my own choice. You are welcome to do the same if you feel like it. All the ones I saw were done with a Fuji X100S camera and a Zoom H2n audio recorder.
My personal H2n setup has this mic on a Pixi tripod, which I collapse and slot into a shock mount. It’s currently my favourite USB microphone.
Blue Yeti (~£119)
First off, there are a lot of USB microphones on the market. So many. I really thought I was going to have a headache sifting through a mountain of microphones with very similar capabilities until I read up on the Blue Yeti. This microphone must be as famous in the ASMR community as the 3Dio for very, very good reasons. It has many more relevant features for ASMRtists than the vast majority of the competition out there and so it has to be a top pick for this category.
Firstly it’s a stereo mic. Some people confuse stereo with binaural, but it’s not that, no you need two microphones to create binaural sound. A stereo mic still allows for some incredible effects though make no mistake. The Blue Yeti also has a selector for four different audio pickup patterns, which allows you to screen out sound from particular directions. Smart! Booth Junkie goes over the four patterns in about the next 2 minutes. (~4m30 to ~6m30s is the part to watch.)
Thanks to Booth Junkie
The next feature that’s amazing is the monitoring port for headphones, which allows you to hear exactly what you’re recording with zero latency, a must have feature for many artists. Without that feature you’re just hoping and praying that what you’re recording is good. All you do is plug in some headphones and you’ll be able to hear exactly what your listeners will hear. Most competing mics don’t allow you to do that, but the Yeti does.
The overall construction of the Blue Yeti looks incredible, quite a large microphone, very easy to brush, tap and interact with. It’s also perfect for voice work, from whispers to normal speech. So you can podcast with it as well if you wanted. A very flexible microphone, and the price point is also frequently mentioned as being very attractive for everything that you get. Great value.
If you’d like to hear the microphone in action, take a look at this video from Caroline ASMR.
Thanks to Caroline ASMR
Caroline uses the Blue Yeti a lot and I have to say it sounds amazing and she gets really great results out of it. It’s funny because some people much prefer the stereo sound you get with the Yeti over the binaural options and it really goes to prove you don’t have to spend a lot to get into creating the best ASMR.
The Blue Yeti microphone also comes in a lot of different colours, including newly released ones. I have a gallery. Also because this is USB, you won’t need a specialist recording device, you just record on your computer, do your editing and then you’re done. Easy.
Rode NT-USB (~£120+)
I was determined to find at least one good competitor to the Blue Yeti for the USB category. Although I found the “quite good” Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ microphone, it wasn’t good enough to recommend to you for ASMR. Then I came across the Rode NT-USB Condenser Microphone, which is at least worth a look. Something to challenge the Blue Yeti? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Well okay. First thing’s first, Rode have reduced the price on Amazon to match that of the Blue Yeti. People who own both microphones report that while the Blue Yeti has more features, the Rode delivers a higher audio quality. You also get a custom pop filter thrown in, so you don’t have to buy one of those as an extra.
Great features worth noting on the Rode include plug and play (no drivers to install, just plug it in and it works) and that all-important headphone jack for monitoring what you’re recording. Overall I still think the Blue Yeti is the safer bet as the better microphone for ASMR in the USB category on price and features, but if you’re sold on the Rode’s higher quality as a studio mic then why not give it a shot.
As you can see, all three microphones have gravitated to a similar price, which is that of the Blue Yeti. The Zoom H2n and Rode NT-USB have both dropped in price to match.
The Zoom H2n became my personal favourite once I got to grips with it. It’s a professional recorder microphone as well as a USB microphone, and it does more than the other two at a higher quality. The one downside, perhaps, is that it’s a bit more complicated — but therein lies its greater potential.
The Blue Yeti is the most aesthetically beautiful of the three microphones. It’s also the most popular, with many colour variants, and it’s very easy to use. The only downside might perhaps be its bulk if you intend to mount it, so be sure your mount can handle it. You can see my Blue Yeti gallery here.
The Rode NT-USB is a bit of a wildcard. It’s good, no doubt, from a well respected brand.
Lastly, if you’re interested in stepping up a level, you should definitely check out Recorder Microphones. All of these double as USB microphones, plus they also act as an audio interface for professional external mics that require XLR ports. They are, however, more money.