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What’s the difference between USB & XLR microphones?

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Two microphones on a aqua background

Which one should you choose?

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.

Whichever way you decide to record you need to know which microphone is right for you, so you don’t buy something that won’t connect to anything.

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So, what’s the difference?

USB Microphones

Rode USB MicrophoneA USB mic 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 straight away (providing you’ve plugged the thing in of course).

It’s important to be aware 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.

You’ll need to download software to help your computer recognise there are two microphones.

If you want to learn how to do that check out this article on The Podcast Host.

What are the best podcast microphones?

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XLR Microphones

XLR microphoneAn XLR mic is connected via XLR cable (pictured), which means if you want to plug it into your computer you’ll also need an audio interface. 

This could be a Zoom recorder which also works as a recording device (this is what I use), or you could buy a device like the one below that’s designed to make sure your mics can speak to your computer.

How to record a podcast

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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 multiple mics and an output that plugs into the USB port of your computer (or somewhere else).

Audio interface

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 record your show by yourself or with a guest via Skype i.e. there won’t be two people recording in the same location?

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 and a couple of XLR mics would be my recommendation.

Do you want to record more than one person in the same location?

My advice, again, would be to get a Zoom recorder and a bunch of XLR mics and record directly onto that.  The Zoom also gives you the flexibility to add more mics if you want more people on your show.

How to record a podcast

Read

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.

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GET MY FREE PODCAST GUIDE

WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

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