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Headset or USB microphone? Which is best for you?
March 29, 2022
Reading time: 7 minutes
A reliable external microphone is an essential communication tool for work and play. Whether you’re calling a coworker via Zoom or connecting with your squad in Call of Duty, you can no longer rely on flimsy options. But when it comes to choosing a mic, which one is right for you: a USB mic or a headset?
The answer depends on your unique needs. In this article, we’ll explain the differences between these two types of mics to help you spend your money wisely.
The mic is designed to only record the person wearing it via unidirectional technology, so it shouldn’t pick up sound from elsewhere in the room. This is a standout feature for those who want to game in the same room as other people while having a private conversation through the headset.
Comfort is everything
Comfort is key when choosing a gaming headset microphone because you'll wear it for long periods of time while gaming or meeting with coworkers and clients. You can connect headsets via USB or a 3.5mm plug, so double-check the ports on your PC, controller, or console before you buy one.
Headset mics come in a number of designs. There are low-profile, barely noticeable sets as well as bulkier builds with RGB light patterns that show off your tech.
What is a USB microphone?
A USB microphone is a standalone mic that typically sits on a desk, table, or another surface. Unlike the headset, it doesn’t include a speaker for audio playback. It only picks up sound, so you need to plug in a headset, speakers, or another listening device to monitor the mic’s input.
These microphones connect to your console or PC via USB cord, and offer more audio direction options than a headset. They can pick up sounds from all over the room, which is helpful when you record conversations during a meeting or podcast episode.
Accessorize however you want
You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing your USB mic’s appearance, from flashy, LED-lit models to modest, low-key designs.
You can also choose from different accessories, including boom arms and pedestals, to help you position and move the mic as you record. While most USB microphones for gaming are plug-and-play, you’ll get the best sound possible when you play around with positioning, settings, and accessories.
Pros of headset microphone
What makes a headset a better choice for you? They usually offer these perks.
Price: Headsets are often much cheaper than USB mics, especially when you consider that they include headphones.
Noise-canceling features: Headsets can block out external or background noises, making it easier to hear what’s going on and get a fully immersive gaming experience.
Comfort: You can find headsets with features like extra padding, cooling ear pads, and lightweight design, making it easy to wear them for hours.
No keyboard stroke noise: The headset is designed to only pick up sound from your mouth, which minimizes the impact of external noises, like keyboards and mouse clicks.
Pros of USB microphone
Why would you want a USB mic? Consider these benefits:
Accessible buttons for better control: Most USB mics feature a variety of controls on the device’s body, so you can adjust gain, mute, and switch sound directions without relying on software.
Better sound quality: USB mics are designed for professional purposes, so they offer better all-around sound performance in a variety of settings.
Versatile audio patterns: Unlike headset microphones, which focus on omnidirectional sound, a USB mic provides more options, including cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, and bidirectional mode. Just note that these audio solutions vary by model.
Streaming platform compatibility: USB-gaming mics are built for YouTube and Twitch compression, so you can record and upload your audio without a lot of tinkering and editing.
Whole room audio: You can capture everyone in the conversation with a USB microphone.
How to choose between a USB microphone or headset?
Both microphone options offer many perks, so you may have a hard time choosing. Consider these questions to determine which is right for you.
Will you play games solo? A headset microphone is built for privacy, comfort, and long-term gaming that's free from distracting outside noises.
Are you a streamer? A USB mic offers professional-level sound with audio files compatible with major streaming platforms.
Will you produce content for sale? If you plan to use your audio for business purposes, like a podcast, you should use a USB microphone for the most consistent quality.
Are you looking for comfort and plug-and-play simplicity? There’s nothing easier than a headset microphone. You can start using yours in minutes and stay comfortable for hours.
Do you want to include others in your audio? If you’re interviewing others or recording a live event, you need a USB microphone.
Do you want to look more professional? Unless you work in the gaming profession, a USB microphone will appear more polished than a headset microphone. USB mics are also less intrusive in videos and on webinars.
Best USB microphones
If a USB microphone sounds like the best option for you, check out these top picks from HP®.
1. HyperX Solo Cast
For the budget-conscious, you can’t do better than the HyperX SoloCast. It’s compatible with most consoles and is certified by Discord and TeamSpeak™ for plug-and-play streaming. The flexible and adjustable stand paired with the cardioid polar pattern provides what you need for a variety of recording situations.
2. HyperX QuadCast
The HyperX QuadCast is a standing microphone that’s priced right and gives you all the perks of a standalone USB mic. You’ll enjoy four recording modes, a tap-to-mute sensor, a built-in pop filter, and an anti-vibration shock mount. The red and black design helps it stand out while still looking professional.
3. HyperX QuadCast S
For an even more jaw-dropping look, upgrade to the HyperX QuadCast S. It boasts a full RGB color display that you can control through the HyperX NGENUITY software settings. It has all the same perks as the original QuadCast, such as the four recording directions, pop filter, and more, but with its own sense of style.
Best headset mics
If you need the comfort and convenience of a headset microphone, you’ll love one of these wireless microphone headsets.
1. HyperX CLoud II Wireless headset
Stop dealing with tangled USB cables and frayed wires when you choose the HyperX Cloud II Wireless headset, which is made for PC, PlayStation consoles, and Nintendo Switch. It’s lightweight and comfortable with a stylish red-and-black theme. Plus, it delivers when it comes to battery life with up to 30 hours of play and 20 meters of range. And the 7.1 virtual surround sound and 52mm drivers add an extra layer of immersion.
2. HyperX Cloud Flight S Wireless
Building on the premium features of the HyperX Cloud II, the HyperX Cloud Flight S offers more thanks to its status as the first free-standing Qi-charging wireless gaming headset. In addition to wireless charging freedom, you’ll enjoy high-quality 2.4GHz audio. And you can even boost your audio to 7.1 surround with a tap of your earcup.
If you’re a gamer, you will love how much control you have from your headset. You can skip game menus and adjust your sound all through the intuitive onboard controls.
3. HyperX Cloud Stinger Core
The HyperX Cloud Stinger Core boasts a very low price point and still delivers a 2.4GHz wireless connection. It also boasts DTS® Headphone:X® spatial audio, 40mm drivers, and noise-canceling benefits. You can adjust the audio from the earcup and flip the mic up to mute as needed.
Like all HyperX wireless headset mics, it's built for breathable comfort, so you can say goodbye to hot, sweaty ears and pinched temples. It also has a sleek simplicity with a basic black look that looks great on everyone.
When making your decision, keep in mind that a console or PC headset mic is the simplest and most comfortable way to share or record audio. A USB microphone is more appropriate for professional recording or when you want to record multiple voices.
What does this mean for the gamer who wants to livestream or host a podcast? You don’t have to pick just one of these best gaming mics. Some streamers like to use a headset for gaming only before swapping over to a USB stand mic for streaming. Both are portable and easy to set up, so you can take either with you.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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