Sound – Yes, how the microphone sounds is, indeed, important. After all, the goal here is to upgrade the sound you get from your laptop, tablet, and headphones. The mic needs to sound clean without any background noise or distortion. You want your voice to come through crisp and clear, just like you’re in the same room with the person you’re talking to.

Of course, online shopping for microphones can be tricky. While companies offer audio samples, these recordings might be optimized for specific, ideal environments. Your own space will have unique acoustics that can significantly impact the microphone’s performance. We tested these microphones, and can confirm high-quality audio in all of them. If you want to do your own research, focus on established audio brands known for quality and prioritize retailers with generous return policies.

Controls – Microphones generally come with basic controls to fine-tune your audio experience. These include a headphone level control, which adjusts the volume of your own voice in your headphones so you can hear yourself clearly while recording or on calls. A recording level control acts like a volume knob for your voice, ensuring it’s heard clearly without distortion. Finally, a mute button can cut off the microphone, so your colleagues don’t have to listen to your sneezes and coughs during a meeting.

Stand or boom compatibility – Most USB mics come with a basic stand, so you can place it on your desk or other work surface. Some options offer compatibility with a boom arm, which lets you extend the microphone over your keyboard or desk and then move it out of the way when it’s not in use.

Polar patterns – This might seem technical, but it’s important to know. A mic’s polar pattern simply tells you which direction(s) it picks up sound from most effectively. Cardioid is the most common, picking up sound from directly in front of the mic. This is great for office use for video calls. There’s also bidirectional (good for two people) and omnidirectional, the latter of which picks up sound from all directions, making it a good option for group discussions.

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