Choosing the best mic for your Mac, iPad and iPhone without breaking the bank

Having a nice mic for your Mac/computer isn’t a necessity for everyone, but it can come in handy for anyone recording voice-overs, song demos or even those that find themselves knee deep in video conference calls. There’s nothing worse than horrible audio during a FaceTime call with a client/colleague.

Personally, I need a mic for all of these reasons (and more), so I thought it was time to take a look at some of the best options and how to most intelligently spend my money. Some mics are insanely expensive and are certainly going to be overkill for your weekly podcasts and staff meetings. Others will suffice for live streaming and things of that nature, but just aren’t going to cut it when it comes to voice-overs and song recording. As a general rule of thumb, voice work and songs are going to require a more expensive, higher quality mic, than those of us just using them for other more casual reasons.

Needless to say, we will be focusing on the much more affordable USB mics, as opposed to your typical, pro analog options. Although we are going to go over some options for those looking to step it up a notch as well:

First, let’s look at the lower end of the spectrum. Blue Microphones makes some of the best options in the $40 to $80 category and they sound great doing it. The smaller Snowballs are great for tasks that don’t demand the same level of fidelity as voice-overs and vocal recordings. For that, you’re going to want to jump up to the best-selling Yeti models (at least), if not something even more high end.

If you aren’t taking your recordings all that seriously, and just need a nice sounding mic that is going to work with your Mac right out of the box, Blue clearly makes some of the best option available.

Having said that, for me even the Yeti models aren’t quite good enough for vocal recording. Now if it’s just rough demos (that are definitely going to be re-recorded at some point before anyone hears them), you should be fine with Blue. Before I stepped up to testing out some straight analog options, I thought it would make sense to take a look at a high end USB mic. In this case I chose the Apogee MiC 96k Professional for iPad, iPhone and Mac.

Now this one is going to hit your pocket book much harder than the others, but you’ll hear it in the recordings. USB mics convert analog audio from an instrument or a voice into digital audio the computer can understand. Apogee has been a (the) leader in digital audio conversion for many years and you can can hear it on the MiC.

The included Lightning and USB cables connect it to your Apple devices right out of the box, and like most USB mics, is entirely bus powered (no extra power cables needed). It also has a nice built-in tripod to keep it up right on your desk. At $229 or so, it isn’t going to make as much sense for quick conference calls etc., and will probably be overkill for those that aren’t recording vocals and instruments, despite sounding much better (in my option) than the Blue Yeti. It is the best sounding USB mic I’ve ever recorded with.

But therein lies the problem. Any musician/recording engineer cringes at the site of a song or voice-over being recorded over a USB cable. Analog mics used on the recordings we listen to everyday can go anywhere from $300 up to $20,000+. I mean you definitely aren’t going to get the warm tone of a $3,000+ German-made U87 from a $300 or $400 mic (or $800 for that matter). However in my experience, there is a drastic difference in quality over USB options even at the lower price points.

It isn’t an easy choice, but after using multiple options in that price range (and hundreds more over the years), I can’t help but to keep suggesting Audio Technica options to new musicians/engineers/producers. AT makes a great mic for $1,000 with the AT4050, but that seems a bit pricey for most starters and the AT4040 has been an excellent way for me to capture high quality recordings without breaking the bank. It currently goes for $299 or so and beats out the Apogee MiC on most voices/instruments in my opinion. It has a very natural response to it (for a $300 mic) and seems to sit on a nice middle ground for both male and female voices.

At only $70 more than the Apogee model that works on your iPad out of the box, it can be hard to choose a clear winner. So I think it comes down to personal use (taste), and how important audio quality is to you. Personally I would go for the inexpensive analog AT mic for song recording, and lean towards the versatile Apogee MiC for everything else.

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