Last Updated on June 5, 2021 by J.SCALCO
Best Recording Microphone for Vocals
Looking to record some melodic, tuneful vox? Whether it’s for vlogs, podcasting, YouTubing, or studio song recording, I’m assuming you’re well aware that accurately capturing vocals is relatively challenging. But we’ll break down some of the best recording microphones to make things a bit easier.
Sure, technology has dramatically revolutionized what we can do during post-production. Production managers today can tinker with sound at a level that would seem like fan fiction when legendary artists such as The Beatles, Zeppelin, Aretha, and the Beach Boys were dominating the airwaves back in the ‘60s. But even technology has a limit when it comes to salvaging poorly recorded vocals (at least for now)—and this is where a quality recording microphone comes in.
Deciding that you need a good quality recording microphone is the easy part. Finding one that suits your needs (budget, specifications, qualities, etc.,) is a whole ‘nother beast. Running a Google search of the “the best microphone for vocals” or “the best cheap microphones” brings back an overwhelmingly large number of contender brands names and options—all claiming to be the best.
To ease your search hassle while helping you record the best vocals, I decided to dig deep into the vastness of the internet. My product hunt resulting in a highly scrutinized and informed list of 15 recording microphones that tick most—if not all—of the boxes in terms of quality, durability, and reliability.
Read on for more on best budget microphones for entry-level recording and some more specialized high-end options for the pros.
What is a Condenser Recording Microphone?
When it comes to recording vocals, you need a fine-tuned studio microphone – i.e., one that’s specifically designed to capture detailed, clear, and crisp sound. This often comes down to finding the best condenser microphone. If you’re new to all this jargon, then you might be wondering; what is a condenser microphone?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a condenser microphone is “a microphone in which the sound waves cause a variation in capacitance, the vibrating diaphragm acting as one plate of a condenser.” If that definition left you even more confused here’s a “watered-down” explanation:
In its simplest form, a condenser microphone is a fancy capacitor. And if Electrical/ Sound Engineering is not your forte, a capacitor is an electrical component that uses two plates in close proximity to stores energy temporarily. In a condenser recording microphone, one of these plates acts as a thin diaphragm—which vibrates to the sound waves of your sweet vocals. As the diaphragm (plate A) vibrates, it alternates the distance with plate B—hence creating acoustic energy ready to be produced and uploaded on music streaming sites.
Condenser microphones are a staple for studio recording applications—and it’s easy to see why. They offer a wider frequency range and lower input sensitivity, meaning they can pick up signals faster and more accurately.
But even the best things in life have a caveat. In the case of condenser recording microphones, their sensitivity is both a blessing and a curse. While it can capture low frequencies better, this also means that it’s more delicate to high signal levels and it may capture noise—especially the cheaper options (which is why you should be selective about the budget microphones you buy).
Best Budget Recording Microphone for Vocals Entry Level
Strapped for cash—but you got big dreams and a voice that needs to be heard? Here are some of the best budget microphones for users who have modest resources. And just because they’re cheap does not mean that you should compromise on sound quality or reliability. Read on for more on how you can record epic tunes without breaking the bank.
(Please Note: Although this list mainly includes condenser microphones, there are also a few dynamic microphones that are good enough for studio recording).
Budget microphones for vocals don’t get better than the MXL 770. At a price tag of $120 (give or take) and proven sound recording quality, it’s a deal that sounds (pun not intended) too good to be true.
As a testament to its awesomeness, it boasts of a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon from over 1,300 reviews and counting.
While there are cheaper options in the market, few would hold their own against the MXL 770 pound-for-pound. It has a -10 dB bass roll-off switch and does relatively well live or in the studio.
It’s an ideal choice for anyone looking for a cheap microphone to record podcasts or for studio sessions.
Exceptional audio performance, a sleek yet robust all-metal body design, high versatility, a switchable 2dB switchable attenuator, and a legacy behind it—the AKG C214 is a large-diaphragm budget microphone with the qualities of higher-end options. It also has an integrated suspension that improves the clarity of sound captured by reducing vibrations and mechanical noise.
It’s not the cheapest budget condenser microphones at $360—but it’s worth the price. According to the manufacturers, the AKG C214 shines when it comes to recording solo instruments or lead vocals—and I can’t find a reason to fault this claim. It’s great for home studios or touring bands.
If you’re looking for the best budget microphone for vocals and you’re willing to shell a little extra for a premium-quality product, your answer is in the name of AT4040.
This cardioid condenser microphone is simply impressive. You only need to look at its specs to be drool. I’m talking about 82dB signal-to-noise ratio, 133 dB dynamic range, 145 dB SPL maximum input sound level, and 20-20,000 Hz frequency response (now you can wipe the drool off your chin).
To quote one user on Amazon, “The sound is fantastic…If quality vocals are what you are seeking, you won’t go wrong with this. It rivals Neumann mics at a fraction of the price.” I’ll leave it at that!
The dynamic duo (yet another pun), the dream team – these two workhorse microphones have features in countless “best of” lists and they damn well deserved it. They are among the few dynamic microphones that can stand tall with pride among the more complex condenser cousins.
Get this, they have over 2,000 Amazon reviews between them and an average rating of 4.85/5.00—and that’s not a feat you can achieve without a proven track record.
The pickup pattern of the SM57 is tight and it only receives sound waves from one direction. This comes in handy when you want to capture sound from a single source such as a guitar amplifier or snare drums. Good thing it can also take a beating and come out relatively unscathed. The SM58 features a slight frequency response tweak—making it a better option for vocals, but with the same tough hide as its SM57 brother.
It’s a Shure fiesta up in here! They say the third time’s the charm…so I guess the 3rd Shure recording microphone had to be the SM7B.
Some of its features include an integrated pop filter, electromagnetic shielding, wide-range frequency output, mid-range emphasis, and bass roll-off.
For only $370, you get to record your sweet vocals on the same microphone that was used by one of the greatest pop stars of all time (PS: I’m referring to the Michael Jackson).
And if a microphone is good enough to make the hit album “Thriller,” it’s good enough to record just about anything.
Calling all podcasters!
Here lies a contender for one of the best budget microphones for recording voiceovers, eBooks, podcasts, and anything speech-related.
This is courtesy of respectable, crisp sound quality and a USB connectivity—meaning you can plug it to your laptop and record on the spot.
For my fellow sound geeks, the IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio has a 142 max SPL, a sensitivity of -37.5 dB, and a frequency response of 20-20,000 Hz
The small-diaphragm condenser of the SE Electronics sE7 is built for precision—making it a perfect choice for those of you who are after a balanced sound.
It’s not intended for vocals but don’t let that scare you. Maybe you’re looking for something to differentiate those backing vocals.
All factors considered, this cheap microphone exceeds expectations when it comes to capturing specific tonalities such as the sound of strings, cymbals drums, guitars, pianos & more.
Because it so versatile, awesome for acoustics, only $99 and can be used for vocals, it earns a place on the best recording microphones for vocals list.
“A flawless entry level XLR choice!” Not my words, but this comment by an Amazon user (one of over 4.7* 3700 ratings) accurately describes what you can expect from the condenser microphone.
The Audio-Technica 2020 is a piece of affordable general-purpose sound equipment that is hard to fault. It delivers good and well-balanced sound on instruments and vocals alike.
And if none of that sways your buying decision, then keep in mind that Audio-Technica has an enviable reputation for their “bomb” engineering. You can’t wrong with this recording microphone!
The AKG P120 is one of the best budget microphones when it comes to versatility.
For lack of a better description, the high-performance recording microphone is a jack-of-all-trades.
It provides a clear and balanced sound in a solid construction—not that we expected any less from a big player like AKG.
It’s also worth noting that the AKG P120 features a low-mass diaphragm that is perfect for capturing the accurate details of instrument, speech, and vocal recordings—whether at home or a studio. Oh, and it’s only $99. Neat, right?
Dubbed the “World’s Quietest Studio Microphone,” the Rode NT1-A more than lives up to its promise.
It boasts of a characteristic warmth, high SPL capacity, and extended dynamic range that you’d expect from studio microphones above the $1,000 range—only that it’s $230 on Amazon.
It’s ideal for users who want to record percussions, guitars, and studio-quality vocals.
Best Recording Microphone for Vocals High-End Options
Looking for the highest-quality/best microphone for vocals and you’re willing to cash out whatever is necessary to achieve the superior level of sound quality? If so, here are some microphones that are worth every single penny.
From the legendary Neumann brand name comes one of the finest condenser microphones in the game. The TLM 103 is the epitome of versatility and quality. Its top end is sparkly and crisp—while the low end is warm and rich.
One of the mic’s main perks is its impressive ability to capture minute sounds and details that would otherwise get lost on most cheaper microphones. And even with such sensitivity, the Neumann TLM 103 is battle-tested to handle a max SPL of 138 dB—which is well within the best your vocals can throw at it. Other noteworthy specs include an 87 dBA signal-to-noise ratio and a sensitivity of 1 kHz into 1 Kohm – 23 mV/Pa.
This is a great buy for literary anyone who’s after the highest standard from a reputable, trustworthy brand. And of course, users willing and able to pay $1,3000.
Have you reached a new age in your vocalization career whereby you appreciate exceptional performance and nuance? If so, some of the best microphones for vocals such as the Shure KSM444A are designed for you. It’s regarded as one of the most neutral, clearest, and flattest mics for the $1,000 price point.
As one of the best microphones for vocals, it features Prethos Advanced Preamplifier Technology, an internal pop filter, switchable attenuation pad, 3-polar pattern, and a large-diaphragm (side-address). It’s like a delicate and sensitive rose flower encased in the body of a tank.
Fun fact; the Shure KSM44A had the honor of recording some of Queens of the Stone Age’s tracks.
Warm Audio is a brand that has amassed a reputation for their characteristic designs—which boils down to a classic style with a modern twist.
The large-diaphragm condenser boasts of 9 polar patterns that allow you to sing away from any direction.
The Warm Audio WA-47 shuts out background noise as if it was never there, it offers great decibel gains and delivers brilliantly as far as performance is concerned.
It’s a great buy for people who appreciate the retro design and high sound quality for $900.
The AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII is one of the most widely used high-end microphones on the market. It excels in a range of applications from recording drum beats to capturing harmony vocals—courtesy of 9 selectable polar patterns.
To add to its versatility, the C414 XLII has 3 attenuation levels and 3 switchable base filters. This allows the studio microphone to reduce proximity effect, stage vibration, wind noise, and other forms of audio distortion.
Long story short, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive microphone that’s capable of capturing nearly every nuance of your vocal expression. All this is available at a reasonable price point of $1,100.
The Sontronics Aria is one of those microphones that don’t compromise on quality.
The classic condenser microphone—which is the largest valve condenser—is applicable for instruments and vocals at a high-end price of $1,599.
The resulting sound is smooth, crystal clear, natural, sand non-hyped. However, some users pointed out a slight presence lift in the upper mids—but that’s something we can overlook.
It also responds relatively well to forceful vocals. As for the aesthetics, the Sontronics Aria dons a classic look with the well-received clip design. Holding the recording microphone in your hand immediately screams “premium!”
Brauner VM1S – Honorary Mention
And the award for the most audaciously expensive microphone goes to…drum roll…the Brauner VM1S.
At a whopping $7,000-$10,800 price tag, this is a piece of sound equipment that’s reserved for users who have the financial muscle to splurge on their sound equipment.
According to Brauner, the VM1S is “without doubt, the most intricate of all Brauner microphones.”
It’s multi-pattern stereo tube recording microphone that features two VM1 microphones for independent directionality control. You can use it in stereo or mono mode—making it a versatility beast.