USB Mic vs XLR Mic – A Comparison

Whether you plan to start a new podcast or will record a song, audio plays an important role. Even if you simply record with your smartphone, you will be able to complete your task successfully.

But, you surely know that there is a difference between normal and high-quality results.

If you are recording just for yourself, then it is okay. But if you want your recording to reach a wider audience and be appreciated, then you have to make sure the results are nothing less than perfect.

If you want perfect results, you need the best microphone.

Selecting the Right Microphone

Finding the right microphone for your requirements is very important. There are various factors that must be considered if you are interested in the best results.

The two types of microphones that are mostly used are USB microphones and XLR microphones. Both of them are mics, and both can be used for recordings. But, there are quite a few differences between them, and also they share a lot in common.

This is exactly what we shall learn through a USB mic vs XLR mic comparison. But before that, let us get to learn about both these mics in details.

What is an XLR Mic?

Let us first get to understand what XLR means. Well, it stands for X Connector, Locking Connector and Rubber Boot.

It is true that the ‘rubber boot’ of the connector is not necessarily a part of the equation nowadays. This is simply because it is no more needed. Yet, despite this little change, the name still remains XLR.

Presently, there are many versions of the XLR cables that you can easily find. They come with additional pins, and the three pin-style cables is the most popular one.

XLR is usually the most common option for supreme-quality audio inputs like microphones. The reason behind their popularity is the balanced signal that they send, which helps isolate noises. For such applications, it is a better connector. But, at the same time, it is very robust.

So, some customers may want to think twice unless they require something for great quality audio streaming or recording.

Need Of Audio Interface

Apart from an XLR cable and XLR mic you will also require some kind of audio mixer or interface for your computer to be able to see this mic. A decent interface will not be too expensive, but a high-quality one is available at a higher range.

If you are serious about using your mic, then go for a superior interface as that helps produce amazing results.

If you are recording at home, then you even will require a Digital Audio Workstation. This will help you capture your recordings perfectly.

As XLR microphones require an audio interface, and various other cables for different kinds of processes, it is a little complex. Do not let this scare you though, as you will pretty soon get the hang of it.

What is amazing is that using an XLR mic, you will be able to do many different things. Using the different options that it comes with, you will be easily recording a huge variety of sounds.

Pros and Cons of XLR Mics

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Now that we are aware of what an XLR mic is let us learn about its pros and cons.

  • There are many different kinds of XLR mics. So, you can keep upgrading after you gain a good understanding of one. No matter what your needs, an XLR mic will surely match the same with ease.
  • It proves convenient during troubleshooting. You can easily identify what is the problem and also fix the same without any trouble. This is owing to the fact that you can change the interface, microphones, and cables with ease.
  • It will not be tied down to your computer. Using it, you can record wherever you want with the help of a portable recorder. Or, you can use an adapter and record with a camera.
  • It proves very helpful when you want to record more than one mic on one computer with a sub interface with multiple units.
  • Though it can be carried, it is not easy to do so.
  • First-timers can find all the phantom powers, interfaces, and cables a little confusing initially.
  • If you have a strict budget to stick to, then this may prove to be expensive.

What is a USB Mic?

The full form of USB is Universal Serial Bus. This type of microphone makes it easy for you to produce high-quality recordings using your computer.

When you use a USB mic, there is no need to buy many separate types of equipment. Also, it is very easy to set up.

What is amazing is that USB mics are cross-platform and portable. So, if you get one, you can use it on your laptop, iPad, Mac, and PC without any problem at all.

This kind of mic is an economical option for enjoying good recordings onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer. USB mics have all necessary wiring that instantly helps you form a connection with a USB port. And, you can then begin recording.

Usually, USB mics even come with a headphone out. So, together with recording something, you directly can listen to the sound using your headphones.

Apart from helping you capture performances of your acoustic instruments and vocals, the USB mic can do more. It helps with podcasts, skype chat, internet radio, voiceovers, interviews, conferences, hypnotherapy tapes, and more.

Best For Budget And Portability

If you want to enjoy a nice quality recording but are strict on time or budget to purchase separate components for your small home studio, a USB microphone will prove to be a wise choice. Also, a USB microphone is easily portable, and you can carry it with you wherever you go.

And, if you have the right connector, you can use it with your iPad anytime.

Better quality USB mics generally come with the cardioid polar pattern. So, they even display the proximity effect where the lower bass frequencies get a little louder the nearer the source of sound is to the microphone.

The microphone contains a preamp together with an ADC (analog-to-digital converter). But, many of these devices do not have separate gain controls. This can be an issue if the source is pretty quiet. Latency can be pretty high with such mics.

To help fight this issue, the mic, at times, has a headphone jack on it, directly. And this ensures zero-latency monitoring from the microphone itself.

Pros and Cons of USB Mics

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Before we head towards the USB mic vs XLR mic comparison, let us learn about the USB mic pros and cons.

  • It is a simple plugin and play device. It is extremely easy to use, and you do not need anything extra.
  • Such microphones are budget-friendly. Even if you are a novice and plan to get a microphone for the first time, it will prove to be a good choice.
  • You do not need anything extra to use it and begin recording. So, you can carry it with you wherever you go and use it whenever you want.
  • You require a laptop or computer to record using a USB mic, and this is a must.
  • Troubleshooting is not really easy. If there is any problem, it can be difficult for you to identify where it is coming from.
  • Upgrading is not easy. You simply will have to invest in a new device.

USB Mic vs XLR Mic

Video: “XLR vs USB Microphones, Which Should You Buy?”

Let us now start the comparison and understand the differences and also what both these mics share in common.

What do they share in common?

  • Both are microphones using which you can record audio from the comfort of your home or even outside.
  • Depending on the brand and model you opt for, both can give you high-quality results.

How are they different?

  • USB mics are very easy to transport. If you want to record while on the go and do not want to get involved in a complex setup, then USB mics are a good choice. XLR is a good choice if you want to record at a particular place, like your home studio. It offers high-quality results.
  • XLR mics are a little expensive compared to the USB mics. But, you need to keep the type of quality produced in mind as well.
  • When you use an XLR mic, it has three pongs in its connection. You have to connect it to an interface, and then you can connect it to your PC. Whereas, a USB mic can directly be connected to your PC.
  • XLR mics make a great choice for podcasters with experience whereas USB mics are a favorite with newbies. This does not, however, mean that professionals do not use USB microphones at all.


To conclude this USB mic vs XLR mic comparison, it will only be fair to say that both of them are good. Which one you opt from among these is more a matter of personal choice.

There are various factors, which if you consider, the selection will become a lot easier. For instance, decide if you plan to record only in one room or will need to use the mic at different venues regularly.

Also, consider how much you are willing to pay. Yet another thing that you must consider is what kind of quality you are interested in. Do even think if you plan to upgrade anytime soon.

Keeping these few questions in mind, you easily will be able to find a microphone that suits your requirements perfectly well. And once you do, you will always enjoy the best quality recordings.

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Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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