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What’s the difference between USB & XLR podcast microphones?

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What’s the difference between USB & XLR microphones?

How to know which one is right for you…

The letters USB and XLR refer to the way a microphone connects to the device that’s recording your words.  That device could be a computer if you’re recording straight into audio software, or a device like a Zoom recorder.

Getting the right microphone is important because you don’t want to buy something that won’t plug into any of the tech you have.

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So, what’s the difference?

USB Microphones

Rode USB MicrophoneA USB mic is a digital mic and works exactly like any other USB device by plugging directly into the USB port of your computer.

With a USB mic you can take it out of the box and start recording into software like Audition or Audacity or a remote recording platform like Squadcast or Riverside.fm straight away (providing you’ve plugged the thing in of course).

It’s important to note that even if you’ve got two USB ports on your computer, using two USB microphones isn’t as easy as just plugging them in and pressing record.

If you do this your recording will likely pick up the sound from one microphone but not the other and you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to figure out why.

This happens because the soundcard in your computer isn’t set up to read multiple microphones.  So you’ll need to download software to help your computer recognise more than one mic (PC) or configure things in the audio set up of your computer (Mac).

This is not a process for the faint-hearted and if you’re just getting your head around recording audio I’d leave this for the pros and use one of the tech setups below if you want to record multiple mics.

How to record with multiple USB mics

Read

XLR Microphones

XLR microphoneAn XLR mic is an analogue microphone and is connected to a recording device or mixer via an XLR cable (pictured).

These cables don’t plug directly into a computer so if you want to use your XLR mic to record into software or a remote recording platform, you’ll need a piece of hardware in between called an audio interface. 

What are the best podcast microphones?

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What the hell is an audio interface?

It’s just a fancy way of describing a box that has inputs where you can plug in multiple microphones and an output that plugs directly into the USB port of your computer.

Audio interface

These devices help turn your analogue (XLR) mics into digital mics so your computer can register what you’re recording.

You can purchase an audio interface like the one above or use a recording device, like a Zoom recorder as an audio interface.  The benefit of this option is you can also use it as a portable recorder so it gives you a lot more flexibility.

How to record a podcast

Read

How do you work out which microphone is right for you?

When you’re starting out you’ll want to keep your equipment as simple as possible so here are some questions that will help you make the right decision…

Are you going to be recording your show by yourself or with a guest via Skype i.e. each person will be recording in their location by themselves?

If yes, a USB mic will do you just fine.

Do you want your show to be mobile i.e. will you be recording interviews with people at different locations?

If yes, a Zoom recorder or a similar device will be best.

These devices take XLR microphones but since you can also use them as an audio interface it means you can use them to record into your computer.

Do you want to record more than one person in the same location and use a computer?

You’ll either need to configure your computer (which I don’t recommend when you’re starting out) or get an audio interface.

As mentioned above, my advice is to get a Zoom recorder or something similar and a bunch of XLR mics.  This is because these devices give you more flexibility so you don’t have to buy multiple pieces of equipment.

The good news

As podcasting has grown in popularity the tech is getting better and much simpler to use.

Now a lot of microphone companies have released microphones with both USB and XLR cables so you can plug them into whatever device you’ve got without needing to buy additional hardware.

If you’re looking for simplicity in your podcast setup, getting a mic that can record either way is a good option.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

1 Comment
  1. Audio Lover says:

    This is a crucial question when it comes to picking a microphone between USB and XLR. You did a great job and help me choose the best mic for me. Keep up the good work. Thank you!

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!

SEND IT TO ME!