USB microphones and headsets both offer relatively budget-friendly options when it comes to capturing audio, but they have very different priorities in doing so. Which is better for your situation? Let̵
USB microphones: better audio quality, more work
When it comes to high-quality audio, there is no competition: a dedicated USB microphone beats a headset microphone every day of the week. USB microphones are larger and include better internals for recording things like voiceovers and podcasts. Your voice will be clearer, they can handle background noise better and the actually recorded audio will be higher definition than most headset microphones, giving you a lot more freedom in post production and audio editing. If you prioritize audio quality, then a USB microphone is the way to go.
In addition to better sound quality, USB microphones are also more adaptable. Many of them – such as the Elgato Wave 3 or Blue Yeti X – allow you to tune the audio with different settings, such as EQ adjustment. This depends on the model and some USB microphones may only allow you to adjust their volume, but these options are much more common than in the world of headsets. Some microphones also have controls on the device (such as a rotary knob to adjust the volume or a mute button), which help with this, but that’s not very common, especially with cheap microphones.
USB microphones often feature zero-latency headphone jacks that allow you to monitor your audio in real time. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to sound like before the recording is over, and can adjust things live if needed. However, that brings up an important point against USB microphones: the setup. Because you can do a lot to get the best quality from a dedicated microphone.
Microphones sound best when close to your mouth, and while most USB mics come with short stands to help with this, that’s rarely enough. If you want the best possible quality, you should invest in multiple accessories, such as a microphone boom (to bring the microphone to your mouth) and a pop filter (to remove plosives). This can complicate your desk setup and make using the microphone more of a nuisance (at least until they invent a high-quality wireless microphone). It can also add to your overall bill, which you may not have planned on.
USB microphones are certainly not as high as the audio quality, but they offer a comfortable balance between lower microphones found in headsets or webcams and more expensive options such as XLR microphones. But with higher audio quality comes a finer product that requires more attention.
And that is without mentioning the prices; while you can find solid USB microphones for around $ 50, in the $ 100 to $ 150 range you’ll find the best balance of quality for the money. These advanced microphones include better audio quality, more features (such as the aforementioned in-depth settings) and superior build quality. Add the accessories we mentioned earlier, and you can easily spend a pretty penny on a USB microphone setup.
Headsets: Jack of all Trades, Master of None
While USB microphones emphasize audio quality, headsets differ because they have to balance their priorities between the headphones and microphone. Making comfortable, nice-sounding headphones is no easy task, and adding a microphone to the mix only complicates matters. The price isn’t all that different from USB microphones, though – there are budget options that run between $ 50 and $ 100, with more expensive options going up to $ 150 to $ 200 (especially wireless headsets).
This immediately means that the microphone quality will not be as good as a USB microphone, but that’s probably to be expected. Not only are the microphones much smaller, but the money has to go to ensure good quality headphones. This leads to microphones that, while not usually bad, certainly won’t blow you away.
But it’s not like the headphones get out of here without a hitch, they also suffer from this versatile design. You can’t expect high-end headphones from a headset for the same reason that you can’t expect a high-end microphone. Again, they don’t sound bad, but a dedicated pair of headphones for the same price would certainly outperform them.
That lower quality comes with convenience, though, as you never have to worry about buying a mic boom or messing around with the settings for a headset – they’re about as plug-n-play as can be. Whether it’s a cheap office headset or a high-end gaming headset, the trade-off between audio quality and convenience is clear.
This can also be seen which functions have priority when it comes to headsets. For example, there are no USB wireless microphones due to the loss of quality, but there are quite a few wireless headsets out there. And headsets often have small knobs and knobs to adjust your volume or mute yourself while playing, which is not so common with dedicated microphones.
If you don’t care much about the audio quality – going in or out – and you just want something decent, then a headset is more than fine. They are not made to excel anywhere, but rather cover a few different use cases. Headsets are meant to be easy-to-use products that trade pure quality for simplicity, and they do a fantastic job – but if you’re looking for a great pair of headphones or mic, that’s not the market to look into. .
Which one should you buy?
While we’ve covered a lot here, this decision may be easier than you think because it just boils down to what you need a microphone for. If you only participate in voice calls, that’s what headsets are designed for, and good quality is more than enough. You can also save some money by not having to buy separate headphones, assuming you need a new pair in the first place.
On the other hand, if you want to record voice overs, create a podcast, or anything else that requires high-quality audio, a USB microphone is definitely the better option. USB microphones are great because they combine quality sound with convenience. They may not be as high-end as XLR mics, but they easily beat headset and webcam mics.
So if your only concern with audio quality sounds good, then a headset microphone is fine – if you have higher ambitions, you should probably get a USB microphone.