Streaming Mic Upgrade: USB or XLR?


I’m growing out of my Blue Snowball Ice. As an entry-level solution that provides decent sound and ease of use at a budget price, it’s a fantastic choice. By leveraging the built-in compressors, noise gates, and noise filters in OBS, I was able to address some of the mic’s issues while also improving its sound quality.

Even so, I’m at a point in my streaming career where I want a mic that sounds even better. However, I’m at a crossroads. Do I get a better USB mic? Or do I transition into an XLR setup?

USB

+ Higher-end USB mics can sound really good

+ Don’t need to buy extra hardware (pre-amp/mixer) to function

+ Plug-and-play

– Lower quality ceiling

– Less control in terms of equalization, effects, compression, and other sound adjustments

– Have to buy all new hardware for each upgrade

XLR

+ Highest potential sound quality

+ Additional flexibility and control of sound (ie. equalization, compressors, effects)

+ Modular setup creates less waste. I can replace the mic, mixer, and amp independently.

– Additional start-up costs for a mixer and/or pre-amp

– Learning curve to set up and maintain all of the components in the sound chain

– Additional desk space required for the mixer and/or pre-amp

Some of the biggest factors weighing in on this potential decision:

  • Immediate cost: I want to fund as much of my streaming efforts with revenue generated from the stream and from the blog. That’s…not a lot at this point in time. I want to try and minimize costs and maximize every piece of equipment I add.
  • Ease of use: I have some experience with mixing boards through my radio broadcasting career and through my dad’s home studio. However, I’m not all that enthused at the idea of managing all of those extra functions.
  • Potential impact on growth: How much more will my channel grow if I go with an XLR setup vs. a USB one? My gut says, “Not much.” There’s certainly room for improvement in the sound department, but I feel like there are other aspects of my product that will grow the channel in a more efficient manner.
  • Long-term considerations: At some point, I do want to reach a place where I do offer the highest possible sound quality. Also, if I ever decide to get back into podcasting, having an XLR setup is going to prove more meaningful, as there won’t be any background music or game sound to mask the quality of my voice.

So…USB or XLR?

In terms of finances, ease of use, and potential impact on growth, I think the USB route is the right way to go in the immediate term. However, I do want to get an XLR setup someday. Am I ready to bite the bullet right now for someday to be today? Am I okay with buying a USB mic now with the potential that it won’t work as part of a future XLR setup later? Decisions, decisions.


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2 thoughts on “Streaming Mic Upgrade: USB or XLR?

  1. Pete Davison December 13, 2019 / 9:46 AM

    I would go with USB. It’s much more practical for what you’re doing. There’s really very little reason to go for an elaborate XLR setup unless you’re doing large-scale live events with multiple participants, music and all that sort of thing. For streaming, you’re absolutely fine with even a modestly priced USB one.

    I use this one from Marantz, it comes with a boom arm. https://www.amazon.com/Marantz-Professional-Pod-Pack-Microphone/dp/B01GHUA3XA/ Not sure how much of an upgrade that might be over your existing setup, but it came very highly recommended when I was shopping around, is cheap and is excellent quality, with lots of nice “presence” to your voice. See any of my videos for examples of sound quality.

    • Jett December 13, 2019 / 9:52 AM

      It does sound nice! Thanks for the reco!

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