It's probably no surprise that, in the long list of conflicting priorities when designing laptops, focusing on the microphones isn't near the top. And even if it was, the fixed location of these mikes don't provide much in the way of flexibility for, say, interviewing someone behind the screen. Fortunately, there's a host of options when it comes to improving sound capture on the road, whether it be for narrating a slide presentation and putting down tracks to a new corporate jingle.
Blue Tiki. One of the smallest USB microphones available, the Blue Tiki looks a bit like a snail or a one-wheeled electric skateboard. It can plug directly into a USB port or a small extending dock that allows it to be placed a USB cable's length from the laptop or handheld; the logo lights up Blue when it detects sound, but there is no mute function. The Blue Tiki is engineered explicitly for voice and includes a mode that uses circuitry to minimize background noise although -- as with noise-canceling headphones -- some of that comes at the cost of audio purity.
Blue Snowflake. The Blue Snowflake's name may be inspired by the Snowball, the larger spherical microphone that won early recognition for being one of the best USB options. As with the Snowball, the business end of the Snowflake is round.
However, like the Blue Tiki, the Snowflake has a couple of mounting options. It can tilt and rotate as it straddle the top of a laptop screen or when docked into a white plastic base that provides more stability on a desk. The recording part can also dock into the base so that it's protected when traveling where the package looks a bit like a miniature trackball. It's a great option for improved placement flexibility when recording lectures and interviews.
iRig Mic Studio. The largest and heaviest of these portable mikes, the all-metal Studio represents a step up from the company's playful handheld microphone, the iRig Voice. It ships with a tripod mount that offers great flexibility when it comes to positioning the mike.
Available in silver and black, it costs about three times the price of the Blue Tiki and Snowflake. and is the only one of the three that has a mute feature and can connect to iOS and Android devices out of the box. The last point is too surprising given that the company that makes the iRig series also produces a series of music capture and processing apps, including VocaLive. It's a strong offering for a voice or music recording session just about anywhere.