XLR Mic Vs. USB Mic: Which is Better for Twitch Streaming?

Choosing which microphone you use for streaming is not an easy thing to do. There are many options you can choose from, and it’s hard to decide if you don’t know anything about microphones

XLR Microphone

From hundreds of microphones out there, we can divide it into two types of microphones: XLR microphone and USB microphones. Which type of microphone is better for Twitch streamers?

A USB microphone is better suited for first-time streamers who want an excellent microphone without any additional setup. XLR microphones are recommended for veteran streamers that need a better quality microphone that capture voice more clearly at the cost of a higher price

Of course, it doesn’t mean that only beginner streamers can buy USB Microphone and vice versa. It depends on what you need as a Twitch streamer

In this article, we explain the difference between USB mics and XLR mics, the pros and cons, and which type of microphone is better for your use case

What is an XLR Microphone?

An XLR microphone is a microphone with an XLR connector. XLR connector lets you connect the microphone with most audio equipment available. An XLR microphone needs an audio interface to capture your voice. You can’t directly connect the XLR Microphone to your PC without an audio interface.

XLR microphone is harder to use because you need to have an audio interface before using your mic. This is why I don’t recommend XLR Microphone to beginner streamers. An audio interface is not cheap and complicated to use.

Instead of wasting time learning how to use audio equipment, it’s better to use your time on your Twitch channel

But there is a reason why the XLR microphone is more popular with veteran Twitch streamers. XLR microphone is equipped with better microphone spec, so the voice from XLR microphone usually will be better than USB microphone.

If you are really willing to learn how to use an audio interface and have the budget to spend on both microphone and audio interface, an XLR microphone is better for you

You don’t need to be scared from learning how to use an XLR microphone. Many YouTube videos and Reddit posts can help you set up an XLR microphone.

Pros of XLR Microphone

  1. Audio Interface Let you Customize your Voice
  2. You can upgrade your audio interface without buying a new microphone and vice versa

If you want to improve the sound quality, there are two ways of doing it on an XLR microphone setup. Upgrade your XLR mics or audio interface. You don’t need to throw away both of your equipment in case you want to upgrade it

  1. XLR microphone sound quality is better than USB microphone.

Even if you use a cheap audio interface, your mic will capture sound with less distortion than USB mics. This is the primary advantage of having an analog sound processor instead of a digital sound processor

  1. Less background noise

Most XLR microphones are dynamic microphones. Even though dynamic microphones need an extra gain, they will  capture less background noise

  1. Better Build Quality

Because they are more expensive, usually the mics are built using more sturdy aluminum material and less plastic material

Cons of XLR Microphone

  1. XLR Microphone setup is more expensive than a USB microphone

Because you need to purchase a mixer or audio interface for your mic, both will cost you at least 2x time the price of a USB microphone. A good XLR microphone is also pricey compared to a good USB microphone

  1. Steep learning curve

It’s not easy to learn how to use an audio interface if you never use any musical equipment. It will take time to learn how to use an XLR microphone.

But it will be worth it because it lets you freely customize your voice

What Is a USB Microphone?

USB Microphone is a microphone that uses a USB port to connect to other devices. Because it uses a USB port, you only need to plug the USB cable into your PC. There is no need to use an audio interface and mixer to use a USB microphone

The sound will be digitally processed on the microphone, which compresses the sound quality compared to the XLR mic

Because a USB microphone is cheap and easy to use, it’s more popular among beginner streamers and Twitch Affiliate streamers. It’s not as good as the XLR microphone but provides enough sound quality for most Twitch streamers

Pros of USB Microphone

  1. USB microphones are cheaper compared to XLR microphone

You don’t need to pay for an audio interface, mixer, and soundcard that can cost you the same price to buy a budget USB microphone

  1. USB microphones are easy to use.

USB microphones are perfect for beginner Twitch streamers. They are easy to use. You just need to plug the USB cable into your USB port on your PC and wait for Windows to install the microphone driver.

It’s simply plug-and-play.

Therefore, USB mics are loved even among professional streamers. Because it’s that easy. If you can prepare a good microphone setup without any effort, why should you choose the harder one

Cons of USB Microphone

  1. Worse sound quality compared to XLR mics

The USB microphone has an integrated sound card, so the analog to digital conversion is done in real-time within the mic. It will always be worse than a real XLR microphone connected with a sound card. Budget sound cards can efficiently process 24 bit 96kHz audio.

But what about a USB microphone? Most USB microphones are limited to only a bit depth of 16 bit and a sample rate of 44.1kHz into 48 kHz

  1. Capture more background noise

USB microphone will capture more noise to compensate for the disadvantage of having a digital soundcard. Background noise is a common problem during streaming, and a USB microphone will capture more background noise than XLR mics

USB Vs. XLR Microphone: Which is the Best Choice for Streaming on Twitch?

Which one is better depends on how high your requirement is for your voice during streaming. If it’s okay for you to get mics that capture 90% quality of your voice when you are speaking in front of the mics, then go to the USB microphone

A USB microphone is a good choice for casual users and beginner streamers. Considering how cheap a good USB microphone is, it’s perfect for beginner streamers that not willing to spend a considerable amount of money

If you want a microphone that can capture your voice at 99% quality without any distortion, you must aim for an XLR microphone. With an audio interface, you can connect multiple microphones and customize the sound quality on the go

If you’re just starting on Twitch, don’t go to XLR microphone. It’s just like people that want to have the best gaming PC setup before doing streaming at all. It’s a waste of money

Keep in mind that having an XLR microphone doesn’t mean the sound quality will be exponentially better. The difference between USB and XLR is so slight that people won’t notice which microphone you have unless you tell them.

Recommended XLR Microphones for Twitch Streamers

1. Audio-Technica AT2020 XLR Microphone

Audio Technica AT2020 XLR

Audio Technica AT2020 is a popular budget XLR microphone. If you ask which budget XLR microphone is the best, one of the answers is always Audio Technica AT2020

Audio Technica AT2020 is better than popular USB microphones like Blue Yeti. From sturdy build quality and the clean sound it captures, it’s a steal to get this much quality for less than $100

If this is your first time having an XLR microphone, get this mic first to learn how to use an audio interface. Don’t waste money on another cheaper XLR microphone.

2. Rode Procaster

Rode Procaster

The Rode Procaster is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pattern aimed for professional use. It’s not as expensive as Shure SM7B but delivers better voice than budget Audio Technica AT2020 mics

Rode Procaster will capture your voice while ignoring almost all background noise when streaming.

It’s the best XLR microphone if you want a slightly higher budget but can’t afford a premium XLR mic like Shure SM7B

3. Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B

If you ask most Twitch partners what their microphones are is, most of them will Answer Shure SM7B. Many Popular Twitch streamers use ShureSM7B like Shroud, Tfue, Pokimane, xQc, and Sodapoppin.

Because it’s that good. This is the secret reason why popular streamers have a better voice than most hobbyist streamers. Because they use Shure SM7B

It’s a microphone that will capture your best voice, almost undisguisable with your real voice

Despite how good Shure SM7B is, it’s a quiet microphone, so a preamp or cloud lifter will be needed. It’s not necessarily a flaw because this mic won’t capture background noise as easily as other microphones

So if you can afford a premium XLR microphone and audio interface, then Shure SM7B is the best choice for you

Recommended USB Microphones for Twitch Streamer

1. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

Audio Technica AT2020 USB

The Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is the USB version of the popular AT2020. It has the same build quality with an extra digital soundcard embedded in the mic

The sound quality of this microphone is almost the same as the XLR version. Some may argue that it has a better voice because this microphone is more sensitive to capturing sound.

The best part is, it’s easy to install with the additional USB cable on this microphone. With a built-in headphone jack, you can connect this microphone to your headphone to monitor the recorded sound in real-time

The AT2020 USB microphone is compatible with both PC, Macs and PS5 and works with OBS and other streaming software

Maybe the sound quality is not as good as a professional microphone like Shure SM7B, but don’t forget this mic is aimed at hobbyist and home studio use

If you are searching for a good entry-level budget USB microphone, then this microphone is perfect for you

2. Blue Yeti

Blue Yeti

If you ask Reddit on the r/Twitch community, most Redditors use Blue Yeti as their microphone. It’s the most popular microphone among Twitch streamers and YouTubers

Blue Yeti sound quality is as good as AT2020 USB, but it has an extra feature that other USB microphones don’t have. With Onboard Audio Controls, you can control Headphone volume and mic gain on the go. An instant mute button is available for emergency

Blue Yeti has multiple pickup patterns from bidirectional, omni, cardioid, and stereo, which are perfect if you want to record multiple people speaking simultaneously by using this mic. Blue Yeti is compatible with PC, Mac, and PS5

Be warned that many Twitch streamers complain that this microphone captures background noise easily. Make sure to purchase an additional shock mount, foam windscreen, and boom arm to improve the sound quality of this microphone

Final Thoughts

Both XLR and USB microphones serve the same purpose for Twitch streamers.

If you still hesitate in choosing which one is better for you, then consider your choice based on your available budget

  • If your budget is less than $300, then choose a USB microphone
  • If your budget is $500-1000, consider XLR microphone if you have time to learn how to set up it
  • If your budget is above $1000, always choose an XLR microphone. XLR microphone can last for a long time and can provide the best sound quality for streaming

If you’re a beginner streamer, it’s okay to buy a USB microphone first then  upgrade to an XLR microphone later

Don’t be that guy that wastes their time searching for the best equipment for their job or hobby as procrastination. The sooner you get your mic, the sooner you can start streaming on Twitch

Philip Maynan is a hobbyist streamer and digital artist. What he loves most are writing, gaming, and drawing. Currently, he focuses on blogging and learning digital art.

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