What Is The Difference Between an XLR and USB Microphone?
Simply put, the difference between and XLR and a USB Microphone is the type of connection the microphone uses to transmit the audio signal to a receiver. In fact this is the reason why the microphones are called XLR and USB, those are the type of connections used.
XLR microphones are the ones that have the circular connector with the 3 metal prongs in the shape of a triangle. These are the type of microphones you'll find in radio stations as well as at live musical performances. They require an XLR cable to be run from the microphone into an audio interface of some kind. It could be a mixer or a USB interface for example.
USB microphones skip the audio interface stage altogether and plug directly into the USB port on your computer. It's quite literally plug and play. This simplifies the recording setup and lowers the overall cost, which is a bonus. A lot of podcasters start out using USB microphones for this very reason.
Pros and Cons of USB
Generally cheaper than XLR microphones
Plug and play ease of use
Easier to travel with, just toss it (gently) into your bag and you've got what you need to record on the road
Low barrier to entry which means you can upgrade your podcast audio without a lot of effort or know-how
Not upgradeable or customizable. If it breaks you've got to by a new one
Recording multiple USB mics can lead to issues such as audio drift which makes editing your podcast in post a genuine terror
Not running the mic through a mixer can lessen your ability to control settings while recording, leaving more work in post
Pros and Cons of XLR
Much more control over your audio signal due to running the mic through a mixer before recording
Can record multiple microphones to the same computer without worrying about audio drift or conflicts
XLR mics have more ability to be fixed as you can swap out individual components most of the time
You can also upgrade the individual parts of your setup (mic, cables, interface, etc) as you see fit They tend to be more durable giving them a better shot of providing quality audio for years to come
You need a mixer or an interface, so traveling with these guys can be cumbersome
You need a mixer or an interface, which means you have to buy one. This means more money out of your pocket.
It can be more confusing as this is definitely NOT a plug and play solution
Things to Consider
Your intended use case (Solo recording, multiple people, frequent travel, etc)
Your willingness to learn more about audio recording and production Your end goal of recording (good enough to get by? Or professional sound quality?)
In the end it really does come down to your unique scenario and what you value the most out of all of the pros, cons, and considerations listed above. You can spend a lot of money and still have an awful sounding podcast. You can also spend a little bit of money and with the right know-how have an incredible sounding podcast. Picking between and XLR and USB microphone is just one of the many decisions you'll have to make along the way to making your podcast sound great.
What other podcasting questions do you have? I've got about 40 more articles about podcasting that I want to write but knowing what questions you have will certainly help me determine which ones get written first. So please leave a comment below with your question. Thanks for reading and happy podcasting.