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Can I get away with using a USB Mic Instead of an XLR Mic For My Voice Over Business?

Oct 02, 2020
It’s a question that comes up from time to time and it’s certainly one worth discussing… but more than that, I’d really like to discuss why the question is actually there… and It’s my belief, it’s based in functionality, convenience and is driven largely by price…

I mean, why would you want to jeopardize the quality of your audio if you can afford to make it great? 

When you think about the importance of your microphone as a ‘tool’ in your voiceover journey, next to your room treatment, it takes a pretty high priority, it’s also fair to say that the advice you’d be normally given regarding microphones would be, to buy the most expensive microphone you can afford…
A great example of this ‘challenge’ would have to be the offering from Rode Microphones and their XLR shotgun condenser unit, the ever-popular NTG3, which reportedly gives the Sennheiser MKH 416 the (L.A. booth and film microphone icon) a more than solid run for it’s money....and at literally half of the retail price of the MKH 416! 
Based on the perception that a ‘higher price tag’ brings a better quality microphone, this largely ‘traditional concept’ is currently being challenged by better and newer technology. 
Putting all this aside for a moment, let’s pose the question: 

Why would you go for a USB microphone over an XLR microphone... and to what end? 

Well, on the positive list; A USB microphone can plug straight into the USB connection of your computer, doing away with the need for a DAW or audio interface as there’s no requirement for turning analog signals to digital
It’s certainly a space saver as you don’t have to lug an interface around if you're traveling… It’s just you, your USB mic, your computer, a couple of hotel pillows to build a hobo fort and you’re good to go…
What is the difference?

You know that warm, smooth, and creamy sound you can achieve with a quality XLR microphone attached to an interface?

It’s just generally harder to find that level of versatility for a USB microphone...
In not getting too technical, what a USB microphone provides in, convenience and price, could possibly detract from your audio in spectral dynamics and also limit the versatility and scope of a quality XLR condenser or dynamic microphone provides.

Price differences:

I think it’s common knowledge that you can set yourself up with a robust good quality USB mic for under 200 dollars.

However, in saying that, a solid, reliable good quality XLR microphone that will last you for years of use is ‘well within your grasp’ for the same kind of money and if possible, you can pay a little more for better quality and more features…

Yes, you can, and yes you should upgrade when you can…

So, when it comes down to tin tacks, YES you can record with a USB microphone

But in saying that we need to pose another question and that is: 

Q: When given the choice, do full-time, pro-voice talent record with USB microphones when given the option of USB or XLR?

A: Ummm… No.

Treating your space is more important

Irrespective of what Microphone you work with, Hands down, the most important component of your sound chain is that it starts with a quiet and well-treated recording space, free of refractions, echos reverb, motor mowers, airplanes, and dog barks...

Here is a list of 6 good USB mics to try:

1. Blue Yeti USB microphone LINK
2. Fifine Metal Condenser Recording Microphone LINK
3. Audio Technica AT2020 LINK
4. Apogee i Mic LINK
5. Rode Podcaster LINK
6. Blue Snowball Ice USB Microphone LINK
So, my advice is: If you get the opportunity, beg, borrow, or steal a USB Microphone, just to get the feel and to have the experience of working with one.  
I think you’ll find they’re great convenience-wise, and super-useful for podcasting, and probably also more than adequate for audiobook work, but I think you’ll find it’s possibly a little limiting for work that requires a higher level of engagement and character…
And If you’d like some advice and mentoring to get you on your VO Journey, Voice Over Coaching

Here’s to your continued voiceover success,

Anthony Pica