XLR vs USB Microphones | Everything You Need to Know


XLR vs USB microphones is a long-standing debate and if you want to see it settled you have clicked just the right link.

The microphone market can be quite tricky, especially, when you are new to it. Although the microphones are fairly simple pieces of electronics, there are certain things that can be quite confusing. Probably, the most important of these is the type of connector a certain microphone has. And this raises the question, XLR vs USB microphones, which one is better!

Simply put, there is no straight answer to XLR vs USB microphones. In fact, these two are designed for separate audiences and hence do not warrant competition. Both of these microphones serve a very unique purpose and cater to an audience of their own. However, with that being said, it is very important to understand both these microphones in order to find yourself the right one.

Thus, in this article on XLR vs USB microphones, we will enlist each and everything that you need to know. Be it their mechanism, audio quality or user base, everything would be covered in this XLR vs USB Microphones article. Thus, if questions like XLR and USB mics, the difference between XLR and USB mics were bothering you, worry no more.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into our XLR vs USB microphones.

The Basics- How Do XLR vs USB Microphones Differ?

At the fundamental level, both of these devices are microphones and intended to be used for audio recording. However, one emphasizes the quality of audio while the other one has convenience as their main objectives.

The USB microphones become very convenient as they can be connected with pretty much every smart device out there. Plus, these can become ideal options for the people who live stream or need something for online calls.

xlr vs usb microphones

The XLR Microphones, on the other hand, provide much better quality than the USB microphones. Therefore, these microphones are proffered over USB microphones in the studio settings where quality is the priority.

One thing one must keep in mind while comparing XLR vs USB microphones is that the quality that USB microphone provides is not bad. It is just not good enough to be used for recording in the studio settings.

XLR vs USB Microphones- A basic comparison.

USB MicrophonesXLR Microphones
Easy to useStandard studio connector
Does not need a separate interfaceNeeds an interface
AffordableCan be quite expensive
More convenientBetter Quality

This is enough for the people who are looking to skim thorough information on the XLR vs USB Microphones. However, if you are interested in the details of these microphones, we have discussed them in the next sections.

XLR Microphones-Everything That You Need to Know

XLR microphones are those that connect via 3-pin XLR connectors, the standard connector in the studio settings. Thus, it is most used by the people in the recording studios and on stages for live performances when quality is a priority.

So, how does XLR Microphone Work?

XLR microphones are the analogue microphones that capture analogue signals with their three-pronged female and male connectors. Since they are analogue, they cannot process the signals on their own and therefore need an interface for that.

This might pop a question in your head that what exactly is an interface? I know this sounds quite complex but bear with me, it is not that difficult to grasp.

Simply put, Interface is a component or a device that processes the signals coming from XLR microphones. These interfaces can also be used to modify the audio signals using different functions on different microphones.

Furthermore, these interfaces can also be connected to computers via a USB connector. Thus, you can essentially process and edit the audio on the computer as well using the interface. Besides that, the interfaces are quite powerful devices and are capable of handling multiple microphones at the same time. And in the studio settings, the interfaces have a lot of ports that can come in handy while editing the sounds.

Since, all the signals are processed in the same interface, they can be modified to get the desirable results. It is because of this these microphones are preferred over USB microphones when it comes to studio settings.

What are the types of XLR Microphones?

XLR microphones have two main types, dynamic, and condenser microphones. We could write an entirely new article about that but for now, this is what you need to know.

Dynamic Microphones

 These microphones are ideal for live performances in outdoor settings. They are preferred over condenser mics because of their ability to also record the ambient environment around it.

Condenser Microphones

 These microphones are not suitable for live performances but are ideal for studio recordings. They have this amazing ability to dampen the noise and record the audio as clear as it gets. Therefore, they are preferred for instrument and vocal recording in studio settings.

Advantages of XLR Microphones

We hope that you have got a clear idea about exactly XLR microphones work and what types are available in the market. Now let’s take a look at the advantages you would get for owning an XLR microphone.

1) Clearer Quality

 It is pretty obvious that XLR microphones provide much better quality of the audio recording. And it is because of this it is used in the studios. However, not many people know what exactly helps XLR in delivering better qualities.

See, in order to deliver quality audio, the cable needs to be electronically balanced. And XLR cables are perfect in this regard. They have three wires that balance the conductor, the positive, negative and the neutral.

What it essentially means is both positive and negative signals are balanced in their polarities. Thus, there would not be any outside interference and consequently, the results would be clearer and better.

2) More Variety 

Although XLR Microphones are expensive compared to their USB counterparts, they are available in more varieties as compared to USB microphones. It is because of the fact that they are relatively old and also have a large user base.

Furthermore, since it is an old technology, a lot of companies have perfected the art of crafting these microphones. Therefore, you would get a much better overall quality and finish if you choose to get an XLR microphone.

3) Upgradability

 If you have decided to buy gear for the studio it is best to start from the XLR microphone. It is because all the devices in the studios would be compatible with it. Plus, it is not like you have to buy everything at once. You can make gradual investment and upgrade the devices while taking your time.

However, regardless of how expensive or how late you upgrade your gear, you can rest assured that the microphone would still be compatible with the new equipment. This is something that you would not get in a USB microphone.

4) Multiple Microphones

 The interface can process multiple signals coming from different microphones at the same time. Thus, because of this XLR, you would be able to use multiple microphones at once. This would come in handy to the bands who want their instruments and vocals recorded at the same time.

Although this same thing is achievable with USB microphones as well, integrating multiple microphones is relatively difficult. So, when we draw the XLR vs USB microphones comparison, this is where XLR takes the lead.

5) Customization

 It is probably the biggest advantage of XLR microphones that they can be tailored as per individuals needs. Since, there are a lot of components involved in order to make it work. Each of these components can be tailored which essentially results in a set up customized as per your requirement.

Since USB microphones are used alone, they do not offer customization of this degree.

Disadvantages of XLR Microphones

Like every other piece of electronics, XLR microphones also have their fair share of disadvantages. In this section of the XLR vs USB Microphones, we would enlist those cons and would let you know how they can have an impact on you.

1) Expensive

 The price is probably the biggest disadvantage of XLR microphones. Although they provide excellent quality, they do not come at a cheap price. Plus, it is not like that only a microphone is enough to get the job done. You have to purchase the interface as well, if you do not already own it.

Thus, for an average user, it becomes quite tough to own the complete gear for XLR microphones. Some companies are putting effort in developing the cheap XLR microphones but they still have a long way to go.

2) Not Convenient

 As mentioned earlier, XLR microphones cannot be used alone which makes them highly inconvenient. You must have an interface in order to make it work. Thus, even if your microphone is perfectly fine but the interface runs into some problem, you would be able to get the job done.

Furthermore, the interface is not that easy to operate, especially, for the people who are just starting outThus, these microphones are not the ideal options for the people who are new to this field.

XLR vs USB Microphones- Everything You Need to Know About USB Microphones

So, far in this XLR vs USB mic we have discussed everything about the XLR microphones. In this section of XLR vs USB mic, we will let you know each and everything you need to know about USB microphones.

Simply put, USB microphones use USB to connect with the other devices. The type of USB might differ between different microphones but the basics remain the same. Because they can be easily connected to the smart devices, these microphones are highly convenient. Therefore, they make the ideal option for people who podcast, live stream or need something to communicate on video calls.

So, how does USB Microphones Work?

Well, unlike the XLR microphones that use three wires, the USB only has two. And the most important thing about USB microphones is that they have analogue to digital converters built-in. Thus, you would need a separate interface to get these microphones up and running. All you have to do is to plug the USB in the PC/Laptop or any other smart device, and these would start operating.

However, one thing must be kept in mind is, your PC or smart devices need a driver to identify the microphone and make it operational. A driver is basically a software that helps the microphone to integrate with your other devices. Most devices, these days, have this software built-in but in case they do not, you can easily look them up on the internet.

Are there any types of USB microphones?

The simple answer is yes, just like you have the option to choose between a dynamic and condenser microphone with XLR microphones, you can also make some choice in USB microphones. However, since USB microphones are not really preferred for live performances, you would mostly find only condenser microphones.

As the technology is developing, a lot of companies are putting their efforts to improve this technology. However, as of now, these microphones are not used for professional purposes.

Advantages of USB Microphones

USB microphones offer a number of advantages to its users and we would enlist most of them in this section of XLR microphone vs USB microphone.

1. Highly Convenient 

The USB microphones are quite easy to set up. As discussed earlier, these microphones use USB which can be easily connected to any smart device. Moreover, they do not have a separate interface which makes them highly convenient options for the users.

2. Easy for Beginners

 As opposed to XLR microphones, the operation of USB microphones is really simple. The controls are really easy to get hold of and the functions are also fairly simple. This user-friendliness of the USB microphones makes them ideal options for the people who are just starting out.

When you opt for the USB microphones, you do not really have to worry about other devices you need with it. All you need is a microphone; a smart device and you would be good to go. Thus, when we discuss the XLR microphone vs USB microphone, this is where USB microphones take the lead.

3. Affordability 

 As discussed earlier, the USB microphones do not need any other device to operate. Thus, naturally, you would have to buy less pieces of electronics which would essentially cost less.

Furthermore, when you compare the prices of XLR mic vs USB mic, you would find out that the prices of USB microphones are also quite cheaper. You can easily get a decent USB microphone for under 200$. And this is the price where a decent XLR microphone starts from. It is because of this these microphones are also a good option for people who are running a little low on budget. And it is another area where XLR mic vs USB mic where USB microphones take the lead.

4. Portability

 While comparing the USB vs XLR mic, it is very important to discuss the portability as well. Since, the USB microphones do not need anything else, they can be easily stored and transported. Thus, someone who travels a lot and does not have the enough space, USB microphones could be the solution.

Disadvantages of USB Microphones

The disadvantages of XLR microphones are already discussed earlier in USB vs XLR mic. In this section of the USB vs XLR microphones, we would discuss some of the disadvantages that you must keep in mind while getting the USB microphone.

1) Average Quality

 When it comes to quality the USB microphones are far behind the XLR microphones. It is because of the fundamental designs of two microphones. There are certain ways to get around it but still, the problem remains. Therefore, these do not make the best option for professional recordings in the studio settings.

2) Flexibility

 Flexibility is another area where XLR microphones take the lead when we draw the comparison of USB vs XLR microphones. Since, pretty much all the other audio equipment uses XLR ports, you would not be able to use USB microphones with them.

Thus, these microphones are only limited for jobs like recording podcasts, vlogs and other similar activities.

Summary of the XLR vs USB Microphones

AttributeXLR MicrophonesUSB Microphones
QualityExcellentAverage
ConvenienceNoYes
PriceExpensiveAffordable
Require InterfaceYesNo
Best ForStudio Recordings, Live PerformancesVlogs, Podcasts, Live streaming
PortableNoYes
VersatileYesNo

Beside these, if you ask XLR vs USB microphone for vocal- which one is better. The answer is simple and straight, the USB would get the job done but you would get much better quality in the XLR microphones.

Conclusion- XLR vs USB Microphones

This is all that we had on the XLR vs USB microphones, we hope this article has answered your questions like what are XLR and USB mics and the differences between XLR and USB mics. If there is anything that you want to add or ask about the XLR vs USB microphones, let us know in the given section. We would love to respond.

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