Fifine K688: the Best Budget Microphone for Podcasting


Author: Tosh Lubek Published: 31st March 2023

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Discloser: Although Fifine provided a copy of their K688 microphone for review, this article includes my independent and honest view of the product. Fifine has not paid me or sponsored this article.

If you’re new to being a creator and need an affordable podcasting microphone, look at the Fifine K688. It’s a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. That means it’s most sensitive at the front but will reject sounds from behind. The sensitivity of the microphone also decreases fairly quickly with distance, a useful characteristic if you need to cut down background noise. The Fifine K688 must be the best budget microphone for podcasting beginners in 2023. Let’s see in this Fifine K688 review.

The Fifine K688 microphone has seven standout features.

  • USB and XLR outputs.
  • Integrated headphone monitoring (USB mode).
  • On-mic controls for gain, mute, and headphone volume.
  • A warm close-talk broadcast-style sound.
  • Built-in shock mount.
  • Metal construction.
  • High value-to-price ratio.

But how does the Fifine K688 stack up against other popular podcasting microphones?

Many folks have been comparing it to the Shure SM7b, a microphone that’s 5 to 6 times more expensive. The Fifine K688 obviously has a similar look to the SM7b, but can it truly be considered a Shure SM7b killer? Let’s find out.

What’s in the box

The Fifine K688 microphone is packaged in a secure red and black cardboard box with foam padding to protect the mic and accessories. Inside, you’ll find:

  • The K688 microphone with an integrated shock mount.
  • Foam windscreen.
  • 5/8″ male to 3/8″ female metal microphone stand adapter.
  • USB-C to USB-A cable (8.2ft/2.5m).
  • User guide.

A desktop stand is not included with the K688. But that’s not such a bad thing since it encourages buyers to invest in a mic stand or boom arm. This microphone should be used at a distance of 2-6 inches (5-15cm). So, including a desktop stand would encourage users to place the microphone beyond the optimal distance for good audio quality.

I think it is worth mentioning the included USB cable. Far too often USB mics are provided with a 6ft (1.8m) cable and often this is not long enough. Thankfully Fifine provides a cable that is 8.2ft (2.5m) long. The extra length can make recording at a desk easier, particularly if you need to position the microphone away from noisy PCs.

FIFINE Dynamic Microphone, XLR/USB Podcast Recording PC Microphone for…
  • [Clean Sound Quality] Featured with durability and adaptability, the XLR dynamic microphone for…
  • [Upgrade XLR Output] XLR interface enhances the sense of audio space for immersive podcast audio….
  • [Convenient USB Output] Provided with both USB and XLR connections, the USB dynamic microphone for…
  • [Mute and Gain Control] Tap-to-mute on the USB mic front panel is handy to mute instead of pushing a…

Last update on 2024-03-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Microphone specifications and overview

The Fifine K688 is an all-metal dynamic cardioid microphone with an integral shock mount. It is lightweight at about 350g and has a matt black finish. As already mentioned, it is similar in form to the Shure SM7b microphone.

The mic capsule is protected by a tubular perforated metal cage and the microphone comes with a foam windscreen that is pre-fitted. On the base of the microphone, you’ll find USB-C, XLR, and headphone sockets, along with a couple of control knobs for mic gain and headphone level. There’s also a touch-sensitive mute button on the side of the microphone body which, when operated, does not produce an audible click or spike in the audio.

The K688 does not include high-pass or pad switches, but that’s hardly surprising on a microphone costing only $80. Since the published frequency response starts at 70Hz, you could argue that the microphone effectively has a low-cut filter to remove low-frequency rumble.

The side of the shock mount includes a variable angle 5/8” threaded mounting point. Don’t worry if your mic stand has a 3/8” thread since a 3/8” to 5/8” adapter is included in the box.

Check out the table below for the microphone’s specifications.

Mic capsule typeDynamic
Polar PatternCardioid
Output USB-C/XLR
USB Power5±0.25V/86 mA
USB audio resolution16-bit/44.1k or 48k Hz
Frequency Response70-15000Hz
S/N Ratio>75 dB
Max. SPL130 dB
Adjustable Gain Range0 to +12 dB
ControlsRotating knobs for gain and headphone volume on base. Touch-sensitive mute switch on the side.
Total length (incl. windscreen)18.5cm
Diameter of the main body6cm
Diameter of the shock mount10.5cm
Weight350g (approx)

Setting up the Fifine K688 microphone

To set up the Fifine K688 microphone, you’ll need a stand or boom arm, as it doesn’t come with one. It’s an end-address microphone, so position the end of the mic about 2 to 6 inches from your mouth. However, it can work fine up to about a foot away. Being a dual output microphone, you can connect it to a USB port on your computer or an XLR input on an audio interface or audio recorder. I’ll quickly explain how to do both.

Using the Fifine K688 as a USB microphone

When using the K688 as a USB mic, plug it into a USB port on your computer. It should be automatically recognized and set up for you, but you can follow these steps: go to your computer’s sound setting and choose “fifine microphone” as your output speakers and the input device or microphone. This will allow you to plug headphones into the microphone and hear yourself and audio from your computer.

Next, in the sound settings go into the microphone’s properties and choose the audio format you want, 16-bit, 44100Hz (CD quality), or 16-bit, 48000Hz (DVD quality). My preference would be DVD quality.

Finally, adjust the recording level through a combination of the input volume slider in the computer’s sound settings and the gain knob on the microphone. You may wish to fine-tune the recording level in your recording software.

I found that when the Fifine K688 was in USB mode I needed to turn the gain dial quite high, as well as setting the computer’s system input volume to 100%. With those settings, my voice peaked between -18 and -12dB, which is OK. However, I would like the output level to be a little higher, but since the K688 is meant to be a podcast microphone, the level is adequate.    

Using the Fifine K688 as an XLR microphone

When using the K688 as an XLR mic, connect it to an audio interface using an XLR cable. The microphone is not supplied with an XLR cable, so you’ll need to buy one.

Go to your computer’s sound settings and ensure the audio interface has been selected both as the input and output device. Then in the properties section for the audio interface, choose the audio format you require. On my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 I can choose a higher audio quality format than is possible when using the microphone in USB mode.

Finally, adjust the recording level by using the input volume control in the settings and the input gain dial on the audio interface.

Because the microphone has a low output level, which is common to most dynamic microphones, I had to set the input volume in my computer’s sound settings to 100% and the gain dial on my Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 to almost maximum.

Although it is possible to use the K688 without a mic preamp, you’ll have a much better recording experience if you use one with the microphone.

To increase the mic level, I used a Triton Audio Fethead Phantom inline mic preamp to boost the signal by 18dB. I also included a Triton Audio Phantom Blocker to stop the +48V phantom power from getting to the microphone. Ideally, I would have used the standard Triton Audio Fethead, which is designed for dynamic microphones and provides a massive 27dB of clean gain, but I already had the Fethead Phantom in my studio.

Note that in XLR mode all the controls on the microphone have no effect and there is no headphone output. So, you’ll need to plug your headphones into the headphone socket on your audio interface. You could, however, connect the mic to your laptop with the USB cable but use the XLR output for your recording. This way you will be able to plug your headphones into the mic’s headphone socket to monitor yourself.  

Using the USB and XLR outputs simultaneously

You can record from USB and XLR outputs simultaneously.

I did this to compare the USB and XLR sound outputs. I recorded on my PC in Audacity through the USB connection, and simultaneously on a Zoom H4n external recorder using the XLR output.

Note that if you use both the USB and XLR outputs at the same time, you should connect to the XLR device first and then make the USB-C connection. This should ensure that audio is sent to the XLR output.

Fifine K688 USB and XLR sound test results

With everything set up, we can start having fun with the Fifine K688 microphone. I did a few tests and here’s how I got on.

If you get up close to the mic it will reward you with that distinctive warm broadcast-style sound. Fifine recommends speaking from a distance of 2 to 6 inches since it is meant to be a close-talk microphone. However, you might need to upgrade the pop protection, but more on that later.

When I compared the USB and XLR outputs they were very similar, with the XLR output possibly winning by a nose.

The warmth of the microphone in part comes from its frequency response of 70Hz – 15,000Hz. In comparison, the Shure SM7b is 50Hz – 20,000Hz and the Blue Yeti is 20Hz – 20,000Hz. Even though the K688’s frequency response misses the top end it still sounds pretty good.

If you like your recording to have a bright top end you might need to make some adjustments in your post-processing. However, the microphone worked well with my voice, which can be a little sibilant, helping to reduce the “ESS” sound on some of my words.

K688 noise rejection

I don’t normally record at my desk because I have three noisy desktop computer boxes within a few feet of me. However, I thought it would be a good test to judge how well the K688 rejects noise from behind.

The integrated shock mount and its effectiveness

The K688 microphone has a built-in shock mount that consists of inner and outer rings, the inner one being secured to the microphone’s body by screws. The two rings are connected by shock-absorbing rubber chords. The mic stand connector, which has a 5/8” screw thread, is integrated into the outer ring of the shock mount.

I tested the effectiveness of the shock mount by mounting the microphone on a stick desk mic stand and recording myself tapping the desk, the outside of the shock mount, the body of the microphone, and typing on a conventional keyboard close to the mic stand. I also recorded myself speaking normally, to have a reference level.

Once I’d normalized the audio, so that my voice peaked at -9dB, I measured the peak tapping levels to be as follows:

  • Tapping desktop: -30dB
  • Tapping body of mic: -9dB
  • Tapping outside of shock mount: -18dB
  • Typing at the keyboard: -18dB

The measured results show that the shock mount does work and helps to reduce the sound that is transmitted through the mic stand or beyond the shock mount.

Removing the shock mount: Although I have not tried removing the shock mount, it appears as if you can do so if you want to use the mic with a different shock mount.

First, unhook the rubber cords that hold the inner and outer rings together. This enables the removal of the outer metal ring. Now unscrew the four crosshead screws holding the inner ring to the microphone’s body. You should then be able to slip the inner ring off the microphone.

You can now use the microphone with the shock mount of your choice. But bear in mind that the diameter of this microphone is 60mm.

Here are three shock mounts I found on Amazon that should fit the K688.

Last update on 2024-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Compatible devices

I guess most people will buy a USB microphone for use with their computer, but this mic will work with multiple devices.

I tested the K688 with the following:

  • Windows 11 Desktop PC (USB mode)
  • Windows 11 Laptop
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 computer audio interface (XLR mode)
  • Zoom H4n portable recorder (XLR mode)
  • Samsung A53 5G Android phone (USB mode)
  • iPhone (USB mode + Lightning to USB adapter)

According to the Fifine website, the microphone is also compatible with MacOS and PS4/PS5.

You can see that it is possible to use this microphone with a mobile phone. I tested the K688 with a Samsung A53 5G Android phone and an Apple iPhone SE. In both cases, you will need an extra accessory to connect the mic to the phone.

To connect to an iPhone (or iPad) first connect an Apple Lightning to USB adapter to the iPhone and then plug the microphone’s USB cable into the adapter.

To connect to an Android phone (with a USB-C port) you’ll need a Syntech USB-C adapter plugged into the phone and then plug the microphone’s USB cable into the adapter. Alternatively, replace the microphone cable with one that has a USB-C plug at both ends and plug it directly into the Android phone’s USB-C port.

Plosives and the included foam windscreen

This seems to be a bit of a talking point among many people since the foam cover has a textured finish, almost like velvet or brushed cotton. I don’t have a problem with the appearance, in fact, I quite like it. What I am disappointed with is the thickness of the foam where it matters.

The Fifine K688 is an end-address microphone, meaning you speak into the end and not the side. However, the foam thickness at the sides is about 8mm, but it appears thinner at the end. If you point the foam windscreen towards a light and look up through the open end like a telescope, you can clearly see light through the foam.

Even so, the supplied windscreen stops at least 70% of the pops you’d get when using the microphone without a foam windscreen.  

If you want to eliminate all of them, you could use a good fabric or metal mesh pop filter. I’ve tested several with the Blue Yeti and recommend the AOKEO fabric and the even better Framework Gator metal pop filters.

If you don’t want to use a pop filter you could replace the foam windscreen with one that is thicker and more effective than the supplied one. I like the Shure A7WS close talk large windscreen, and although it is designed for the SM7b it will fit the Fifine K688 microphone. For a cheaper option, YOUSHARES makes an alternative that will fit the K688 which costs about $10.

I tested the YOUSHARES foam windscreen against the one supplied with the microphone and found it to be effective. Here’s the audio from my test.

Fifine K688 plosive test

Pros and Cons

Excellent value for moneyNo XLR cable included
Warm close talk broadcast soundThe foam windscreen could be thicker
Built-in shock mountFrequency response does not extend to 20kHz
USB-C output
Long USB cable
Little difference between the sound of the USB and XLR outputs
Good background noise rejection

Who is this microphone for?

I’ve heard some people suggesting that the Fifine K688 is a Shure SM7b killer. But I’m not convinced the Fifine microphone will necessarily appeal to typical SM7b buyers. Nor do I feel that Fifine is actively targeting those buyers.

In reality, I think this mic targets people who would like the SM7b but cannot, as yet justify spending $400 plus the cost of an interface and mic preamp. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that the K688 comes with a USB cable but no XLR cable.

What I think is more likely, is that the K688 targets beginners who are more likely to buy the Blue Yeti. That microphone has been around for what seems forever and perhaps many novice creators gravitate towards it because of its perceived ubiquity and the fact it seems to be packed with features.

However, with the exception of the Yeti’s extra polar patterns, which most creators won’t use, and the heavy desktop stand, which I wouldn’t advise using, the K688 offers similar features. I know this is a dynamic rather than a condenser mic, like the Yeti, but the K688 offers dual outputs and an aesthetic nod to the Shure SM7b. Plus, the Fifine is slightly cheaper than the Yeti, even when the Yeti is on sale.

So, who is a typical Fifine K688 buyer?

Considering the price and the fact that only a USB cable is included with the microphone, Fifine seems to the targeting new creators who are on a budget.

However, because of its all-metal but lightweight construction, it could also suit a podcaster who travels or records away from home. Furthermore, since it costs just $80, it’s not going to be a drama if it’s damaged or lost.

FIFINE Dynamic Microphone, XLR/USB Podcast Recording PC Microphone for…
  • [Clean Sound Quality] Featured with durability and adaptability, the XLR dynamic microphone for…
  • [Upgrade XLR Output] XLR interface enhances the sense of audio space for immersive podcast audio….
  • [Convenient USB Output] Provided with both USB and XLR connections, the USB dynamic microphone for…
  • [Mute and Gain Control] Tap-to-mute on the USB mic front panel is handy to mute instead of pushing a…

Last update on 2024-03-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Summary – Is the Fifine K688 worth buying?

You really can’t complain much about this microphone considering its features and sound quality against a cost of around $80. I think it’s an ideal first buy for any beginner podcaster. OK, it’s not an SM7b killer, but it doesn’t have to be. It just needs to be ideal for its niche in the market, which I think it does well.

This mic has an agreeable appearance and a warm broadcast sound, although I would probably do a little processing to make it sound a touch brighter. It’s also fairly good at rejecting background noise, especially if you’re 2 to 6 inches away.

Considering the mic’s audio quality, features, noise rejection, and low weight, you won’t be tied to always recording in your home studio. I would happily take this microphone on the road to record either into my laptop, Zoom Handy recorder, or phone.

Overall, if you’re just starting as a podcaster and looking for a microphone that can deliver a warm, professional sound without breaking the bank, the Fifine K688 is a worthy contender and arguably the best podcast mic for beginners in 2023.

So, would I recommend the Fifine K688 cardioid dynamic microphone? Yes, there’s not a lot not to like about this microphone.

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Portrait of Tosh Lubek

About the author: Tosh Lubek is a multi-award-winning broadcaster, writer, and video producer, with 40 years of experience in professional broadcasting and has been using Canon video and stills cameras since 2010. He has worked with radio and TV broadcasters, advertising agencies, and direct clients on a variety of projects including radio and television advertising, online video production, corporate videos, award ceremony motion graphics, and theme park sound design. Tosh has won numerous awards, including a Radio Academy Awards Gold Sony, a Gold, Silver, and Bronze World Medals in the New York Festivals International Advertising Awards. Since about 2007 he has been creating YouTube videos. Tosh has been a sponsor of the “video booth” at HashTag Business Events across the UK.

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