Why Aren't USB Mic's Any Good?? Please Answer

Still_learning

New member
Ok, so I was reading a post on here and it said that USB mic's aren't any good for some reason, why is this? I've been using a Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser USB Mic and I thought it was a pretty good mic, Is it?? I've made a lot of songs with it and they always turn out good, but I've just found out that apparently USB mic's suck, I don't think they do, any info is appreciated.
 

krushing

Moderator
Well, usually it's about having the mic, preamp and a/d converter all built (cheaply) into the same tiny package, which makes it impossible to upgrade any part of the chain. And a lot of those simply aren't very good mics - the AT2020 probably being more decent than most. It's fairly obvious that if you're paying, say, ~$150 for three pieces compromised in a small enclosure that usually cost at least hundreds of dollars each, it's simply not gonna be quite up there with the rest.
 

HIMbeats

New member
USB mics are a recording engineers bad dream! Yes there are some that are better than others, but in general you are comparing "suck" with "really suck". They are okay if you are just starting out, but the lack of quality, limited gain staging if at all and no ability to upgrade anything, no thanks. Use the mic you have, save up for a better set up and when you get one sell your USB mic on eBay.
 

deanlofts

Cubase Addict
It has already been said but it isn't because it is a USB Mic it is because it is made up of cheap components.
 

HIMbeats

New member
It has already been said but it isn't because it is a USB Mic it is because it is made up of cheap components.

I would agree. However isn't this comment simply splitting hairs? Honestly is there a USB microphone that you would use in a professional studio setting?
 

deanlofts

Cubase Addict
Not that I have found on the market but this isn't because it is USB. I do agree though, if you can avoid using a USB mic do it.
 

WeissSound

Engineer
A) What you do with it makes all the difference in the world.
B) Sucks is relative. Buy a couple hours at a pro studio and you'll understand.
 

deanlofts

Cubase Addict
Sucks is relative. Buy a couple hours at a pro studio and you'll understand.

Performance is the most important part BUT if you record on a cheap mic and don't process the signal it is quite easy to tell. There was an excellent DX Plugin available by Antares called Mic Modeler. You could always have a play around with that and see if you can emulate the sound of a more expensive microphone.
 

HIMbeats

New member
I would agree that "suck" is relative, but I still say we are splitting hairs here guys. The OP posted this question based on another thread about mics in general. The other thread was saying that USB's in comparsion to other mics "sucked". So that being said, in comparsion to a decent dynamic or a condenser, I don't think there is much to compare. Now I will say that the USB connection itself is not bad. We have adapters here at the studio to attach to any of our microphones to allow them to accommodate a USB connection. Again, I am not saying USB is bad in and of itself, however if we were to compare equally (dry to dry) then the answer would quickly reveal itself. In the hands of a good engineer we can make a $6 microphone from WalMart sound good, but that is not real world. If we take the average home musican and record a take with a decent USB and then record a take with a decent dynamic or a condenser, you guys know you will hear a difference. I don't think I have ever mic'ed an instrument or an artist with a USB microphone in studio..lol..now are you guys really telling me that you have used a mic like a snowball or something in a professional studio? Really?
 

Mr5ambo29

New member
There was an excellent DX Plugin available by Antares called Mic Modeler. You could always have a play around with that and see if you can emulate the sound of a more expensive microphone.

Microphone Modeler is great, Id suggest it to anyone..
 

Mr5ambo29

New member
Mic modeler is a fun program - but it doesn't improve the quality of the capture.

Totally right.
Ive never used a USB mic but.. I think that there is no huge problem with em. Obviously they lack that quality sound(for the most part), and you're unable to upgrade anything, but if you have one or that's all you have access to then use the hell out of it.
I think good mixing could give recordings with a USB a unique sound. Now keep in mind that you cant make a crap recording not crap, so you might wanna tweak your beat or whatever you have to to give you a more grimy feel if that's something you can work with.

My advice is to work with the sound like any engineer would do with any other microphone, and Antares Microphone Modeler is a good tool to help. (i'm speaking on rap music)
 
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Deck$ter

New member
performance matters the most like go on utube and find a videos of say lil wayne recording a verse and you hear that he sounds exactly the same as he sounds on the mixed and mastred song and thats while hearing him through a camcorder, so make sure YOU sound good before you worry about the mic. but i used to use the at2020 usb and im upgrading because the usb mics just sound flat to me
 

WeissSound

Engineer
Totally right.
Ive never used a USB mic but.. I think that there is no huge problem with em. Obviously they lack that quality sound(for the most part), and you're unable to upgrade anything, but if you have one or that's all you have access to then use the hell out of it.
I think good mixing could give recordings with a USB a unique sound. Now keep in mind that you cant make a crap recording not crap, so you might wanna tweak your beat or whatever you have to to give you a more grimy feel if that's something you can work with.

My advice is to work with the sound like any engineer would do with any other microphone, and Antares Microphone Modeler is a good tool to help. (i'm speaking on rap music)

You know, I'm working on a mix now where the guitars were recorded with the mics built into mac laptops. It's a cool sound - it's weird, but it's good. I'll ask the client if I can post a snippet when I'm done.

I like the mic moddeler. It creates tones that you can't really get with eq, and probably wouldn't think of. It's a nice creative tool - that I really should play with more. I just wouldn't anyone thinking that you can buy a $200 USB mic and Mic Moddeler will give you the sound quality a $3000 U87 would give you.
 

~X~

Word+Sound+Power= Music
There's no cheap way to get good quality, just a smart way. It doesn't matter what mic you use it all depends what you know how to do with it. The same ways some people can use regular bookshelf speakers and create amazing mixes; while some ppl with monitors create ugly ones. You can take these claimed 'shitty' usb microphones and record in a good room and have a good engineer do the production. You'll get a DECENT track, you just have to know exactly what your doing. Yes its always better to get better equipment, but if you cant at the moment, learning how to use what you have properly is your last and best choice.
 

deanlofts

Cubase Addict
I've turned USB Mic recorded tracks into Neuman sounding mic recorded tracks...I say it goes back to technique and engineering.

Technique and engineering are both important in the entire scheme. I can take a recording from 2 different mics at completely different ends of the scale and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Depending of course on the style of vocal you are putting out. An example is a heavily compressed distorted vocal (think kanye west), you could get away with a cheap USB condenser where as if I want a crisp dynamic recording with as little processing as possible I'd take a U87 for sure. Of course the best I can do with my studio is a clean recording with the SM7b and use Mic Modeler to alter the sound to the U87. I no longer use Modeler due to it being a pain in the arse and only DX though. :cheers:
 

Torrio

New member
I would agree mainly that you cannot upgrade anything because it is all in one component. Go to any major recording studio and they are most likely not using a USB micrphone.
"USB microphones are good for documenting sound. In other words, if you simply trying to capture the sound of birds chirping, the sound of cars driving by, taking notes, interviews, podcasting, etc than USB microphones may be okay for this. They may not be the best sounding, but they will be functional and you'd only need a laptop and a mic."
There tends to be latency with USB mics as well
 

WatchWhatHappens1204

"Now you's can't leave."
So as far as technique goes, because I'm curious, because I've recorded with and used both types of mics, are there any tips on using and mixing with USB mics that some o yall are willing to give away, or is that too much to ask, like "go take classes a$$hole" or somethin like that?

All I try and do is mix the input from the USB mic like usual, like the voice was another instrument. I know people will take that remark and run with it, I just don't care enough to explain that it should be taken as lightly as possible.

One thing I do notice is the volume of USB recordings, the gain being like half-dead, and the flatness that also sucks about them. The voice is taken and seems as cheaply realistic as a USB value mic can do for you, but it sucks having to add certain effects and volume boosting just to bring the vocal track to life...
 

deanlofts

Cubase Addict
Don't forget a USB Mic is good for on the road type projects. You can just plug a USB Mic into your laptop and your good to go.
 
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