Buying Guide for USB Microphones

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Buying Guide for USB Microphones

As technology develops, the ability to record directly to a computer becomes faster and easier. USB microphones are a quick connection developed as a solution to the rising demand for quality microphones that send signals straight to a recording software programme. Unlike traditional microphones that require an external audio interface, USB microphones contain the audio interface inside the microphone body, eliminating the need for extra equipment or cables. They come in a variety of types and sizes and can be used in several different applications. Buying the right USB microphone is not complicated, however. When choosing the ideal microphone for the buyer’s needs, knowledge is the key in relation to this compact alternative for mobile and in-home recording.

USB microphones can be purchased from electronic stores, specialty vendors, and from online marketplaces such as eBay. eBay has a wide variety of used and new USB microphones that can be purchased from both private and commercial sellers. In addition, buyers have access to a large online community that allows customers to rate sellers on the quality of their products and service. Buyers can browse items for sale using a simple search interface that narrows the listings with categorical and organisational options. Once buyers learn to navigate the site, they can use it to compare prices, types, and sizes of microphones.

Defining USB Microphones

The USB microphone was invented much more recently than its traditional counterparts. It retains all the usual elements of a traditional microphone, however, including a diaphragm and capsule. Where it differs from traditional microphones is in the addition of two circuits: a built in preamplifier and an A/D or analogue to digital converter.

The preamplifier eliminates the need for the USB microphone to connect to an external amplifier or mixer. This can be beneficial in reducing equipment costs or clutter. The A/D converter enables users to switch the microphone output from analogue to digital and back again in order to make it compatible with computers and recording software.

Altogether, the construction of the USB microphone makes digital or home recording as simple as plugging in the device and launching the software. This also makes USB microphones ideal for mobile applications or in-home uses where a computer microphone is required.

Types of USB Microphones

As stated above, USB microphones are much like their traditional counterparts. This also extends to the types of microphones. USB microphones come in three different types: condenser, dynamic, and ribbon.

Condenser

Simply put, a condenser microphone reacts to capacitance changes within its diaphragm. A thin conductive diaphragm is placed close to a metal backplate, between which an electrical charge vibrates. Condenser microphones are known for their sensitivity and responsive, detailed sound, making them ideal for fast musical pieces consisting of single instruments or vocals. They are available in solid-state and tube variations and have a variety of shapes and sizes. Condensers require an external power source. This can be advantageous to USB microphones since the phantom power is transferred via the USB cable, allowing the power to be physically streamlined from the source.

Dynamic

A dynamic microphone works by translating incoming sound into a varying current. It does this by vibrating a conductor inside the diaphragm. That motion moves a magnetically placed voice coil. This is called electromagnetic induction. Dynamic microphones are less sensitive than condensers, but in exchange are hardier and can cost less. Because of this, they are well suited to recording drum sets and electric guitar sounds. USB microphones benefit from this type because dynamic microphones are sturdy and relatively moisture-resistant, thanks to their simplistic inner components.

Ribbon

Ribbon microphones were originally used in radio's Golden Age and were the first successful directional microphones used for commercial purposes. Ribbon microphones operate by moving a voice coil that is suspended in a magnetic field in the diaphragm through the velocity of air molecules. Many microphone users claim there is no functional difference between ribbon microphones and the other types inside a studio. In outdoor situations, however, this can negatively affect the sound of the audio. For those who like a vintage throwback, USB ribbon microphones can be a good choice, especially since they are now built to withstand more than the original design.

USB Microphone Polar Patterns

Every USB microphone has a property known as directionality or polar patterns. Polar patterns simply refer to how sensitive the microphone is to sound from a specific direction. Some microphones pick up sound from any direction while others only pick up single directional audio. Others are designed to pick up a combination. There are three main categories of polar patterns in USB microphones:

Pattern

Design

Benefits

Disadvantages

Cardio

Detects sound from front only

Rejects sound from sides and rear

Reduces ambient noise in recordings

Compatible with multi-microphone settings

Proximity effect (increased bass response near source)

Omni-directional

Detects sound from any direction

Captures background noise along with main source

No proximity effect

Cannot reduce ambient noise

Figure Eight

Detects sound from front and rear

Rejects sound from sides

Excellent for dual speakers or performers

Can only be used for specific applications

There are other categories of polar patterns available but they are more rare and are generally used for specialised purposes. Buyers who spend some time reviewing the different types of polar patterns are better prepared in choosing the right USB microphone for their needs.

Cardiod

USB microphones with a cardiod polar pattern are designed to pick up sound from the front while rejecting side and rear sounds. The graphic of this is often drawn as a heart shape; thus, the name. This pattern makes a cardiod microphone beneficial in closing out ambient noise or in situations where multiple microphones are being used. They do have a proximity effect, which increases bass response when the microphone is placed close to the source of the sound. Cardiods are popular in studio and live audio applications.

Omnidirectional

USB omnidirectional microphones can detect sound from any direction, which representationally is usually drawn as a circular pattern. This type of microphone is popular for capturing background noise along with the main recording. Because it is designed to pick up sound from all directions equally, there is no pronounced proximity effect. All microphones start out as omnidirectional devices. Additional components must be applied to create a specific directional pattern.

Figure Eight

A figure eight polar pattern, also known as bi-directional, allows users to pick up audio from the front and back while rejecting side sound. This produces a polar pattern that looks like a figure eight when drawn as a graphical representation. These USB microphones are popular when, for example, two people sit across from one another. Also, radio production studios often use this type of polar pattern for on-air interviews.

USB Microphone Applications

USB microphones can be used with any device that contains a USB port. Some of the more popular devices both hobbyists and professionals use them with include:

  • Laptops           
  •  Desktops         
  • Mobile phones
  • iPads

This makes USB microphones convenient for those who use them in casual applications. Some users utilise them to talk through programmes like Skype or in online gaming with friends.

How to Buy a USB Microphone on eBay

Once you research the types and sizes of USB microphones available, you can look for what you need through online marketplaces and auction sites such as eBay. Begin your search by entering the keyword terms into the search box that is located on eBay's home page. Since there are often hundreds of choices available for one product, take a moment to use the refinement options to narrow your search by category or organisation, such as price or new versus used. When you find a listing that you like, click on the image or title to arrive at the full listing page. There you can study pictures of the USB microphone and read the provided description on its condition and type. It is beneficial to read through the seller's shipping policies so that you can calculate any shipping costs ahead of time.

Furthermore, look at the seller to ensure a positive buying experience. Click on the seller’s name, which takes you to his or her page. Here you can review their feedback rating, comments from other customers who have purchased from them, and the number of items they have sold. Once you receive your purchase, you can also leave positive feedback for the seller to further improve their quality rating.

Conclusion

USB microphones are an excellent all-in-one computer recording solution for novices and experts alike. A wide variety of USB microphones can be purchased from electronic stores, specialty shops, vendors, and online marketplaces or auction sites like eBay. Buyers who shop online can search for the ideal USB microphone for their needs by using search refinement options to narrow the seller listings by type, size, and more. Prospective buyers should be careful to read the entire item description provided by the seller in order to compare it with both the included pictures and their own research. It is also recommended that buyers review the seller's profile, along with all relevant feedback to ensure the seller offers a quality service.

Buying the perfect USB microphone does not have to be complicated. Once buyers know about the microphones capacity, the different types available, and the applications it can be used with, it is simple to find the ideal solution to match their recording needs. With all of the traditional and online buying options available, buyers are able to quickly and easily find the best USB microphone for their in-home or studio system.

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