The 14 Best Studio Microphones For Vocals
You may have been asking yourself, which microphone should I get to record my vocals? Which is the best studio microphone in 2020? Whether you’re recording a demo at your home studio, or a masterpiece at a professional studio, you’ll want your recording to have the best sound possible. And, to get that best possible sound, you’ll need a microphone of high quality, high enough to capture your audio’s essential frequencies & character.
Below are some of the best microphones known within the recording industry. These microphones are some of the most fundamental recording equipment within some of the most successful music studios ever known. There is a fundamental price difference also but there is something here for every musician, including those with a smaller budget.
1. Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 has been at the top of the priority list for some most of the renowned musicians all over the world for a pretty long time. Musicians like Henry Rollins or Patti Smith are the biggest fans of this great vocal recording microphone. This microphone is considered to be the best for studios and live performances on the stage, known for its rugged casing, ergonomic capsule, and its reliable resistance to feedback. Not to mention, the tailored vocal response within the sound of this microphone is extraordinary. It comes with a built-in spherical filter which is useful to diminish wind, breath and “pop” noise. The pneumatic shock-mount system of this mic decreases its ‘handling’ sound, which makes the mic more convenient and effective for live performances. You also have a break-resistant stand adapter with this mic, which rotates 180 degrees. The microphones rugged construction, and sturdy steel mesh grille, make it perfect for gigging or taking on the road. This mic is a great choice for those who are planning on using it both indoors and outdoors.
2. Rode NT1A
Are you looking for a mid-priced vocal mic? If yes, then Rode NT1A may just be the microphone for you. We say ‘mid-priced’ vocal microphone, but it actually has a lot of features that aren’t available on even highly-expensive mics. We would vote for this mic first if you asked us, “what’s the best cheap vocal mic?”. The sound quality, versatility, and price range make this mic one of the best choices for any musician. We’d even go as far as to say that the quality and performance of this microphone is equal to any mic available at any price. The transducer within the Rode NT1A, is made on the same line as the capsules of tube mics worth $3,000. The sound quality of this mic is something that tempts you to purchase immediately. As this microphone comes with a self-noise level of 5 dB-A, it can be a great ‘hybrid’ choice for those looking to both record vocals and instruments. The mic, a shock mount, pop filter, and drawstring pouch – you have everything you need for professional vocal recording with this low-priced but high-quality studio microphone!
3. Shure SM7B
The Shure SM7B is a great choice for both Rock & Pop vocalists alike, it was even used in Michael Jackson’s legendary album, ‘Thriller’. This dynamic microphone comes with a smooth, flat, and wide-range frequency response that is eligible for any type of music and speech in audio applications. With the SM7B, you get a cardioid polar pattern, bass roll-off, midrange emphasis controls, and shielding against broadband interference. You are likely to have no mechanical noise with this microphone as it comes with internal air suspension shock isolation. It also features a yoke mount, which is useful when it comes to mounting the mic. Moreover, you have full control over the mic’s position.
4. Sennheiser MD421
The Sennheiser MD421 is considered as one of the best dynamic mics all around the world. It is a multipurpose microphone, as it does more than just recording great vocals. You can make very good use of this microphone whilst taking various instrumental recordings, including electric guitars, bass, drums, percussion, etc.
The Sennheiser MD421 comes with flexible bass control, which is sufficient for handling various applications. There is a 5-position bass roll-off switch on this mic. The frequency response of this mic is 30 to 17,000 Hz. You do not have to worry about the off-axis noise with this mic, as it comes with a cardioid polar pattern.
The MD421 is known for its versatile quality, and is highly regarded by many professional musicians all over the globe.
5. Rode NTK
A tube mic is king when it comes to the warm vintage sound for vocal recording. As per the preferences of millions of vocalists, we couldn’t not include this great tube mic. People often frown when they notice the price of tube mics, because they generally cost around $3000. Thankfully, The Rode NTK comes in at a way lower price, only costing around $700. This mic is great if you want that warm vintage tube effect in your vocals and it comes with a cardioid polar pattern, making it convenient for multipurpose recording purposes. In conclusion, the Rode NTK is an affordable and versatile tube microphone adored by many vocalists.
6. SE Electronics sE2200a II
Some people may wonder what on earth is this microphone doing on this list, it’s considered to be neither a classic studio microphone nor a traditional vocal microphone. Well, that’s right, but you cannot deny that every studio needs a super-versatile mic, which is why this multi-pattern, large-diaphragm condenser microphone is included within this list. This SE Electronics mic is a flexible mic, that works great on vocal recordings as well as stereo recordings. The clarity and crispness that this microphone provides is astonishing! Even in areas where you may have heightened background noise (for whatever reason), the sE 2200a II almost completely removes any background noise or interference. If you are looking for a studio condenser microphone for under $300, we would highly recommend the ‘SE Electronics sE2200a II’ for you.
7. Neumann TLM 102
The Neumann TLM 102 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, is styled in a nickel finish, and operates within a Cardioid polar pattern. No matter how high your sound pressure level is, this microphone will withstand it. You may have heard of the Neumann Company before. After all, it is the mother company to some of the world’s greatest microphones. Neumann mics can be pricey, as the flagship models cost more than $3000. Thankfully, the latest classic mics are more affordable for any musician on a reasonable budget. Rest assured the Neumann TLM 102 is one of the best studio recording microphones that you can get from this legendary microphone brand.
8. Shure KSM44A
Shure is one of the most highly regarded audio products corporations worldwide, which is why we’ve included more than one Shure microphone within our list. The Shure KSM44A microphone is extremely adaptable and can synchronize with any type of recording situation. Sound engineers such as Joe Barresi are some of the KSM44A’s biggest fans. The Shure KSM44A microphone was used for the production of the fourth album for Queens of The Stone Age’s ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’. The Shure KSM44A comes with a very large-diaphragm, which makes this microphone ideal for vocal recordings. The Shure KSM44A even has an internal pop filter, transformer-less output, and Prethos Advanced Preamplifier Technology. But there are more great features found within the impressive microphone, such as dual-diaphragm 3-polar pattern design, a switchable attenuation pad, and a high-pass filter. All of these outstanding features are what lure us to make sure this microphone was featured within this definitive guide.
9. Electro-Voice RE20
The Electro-Voice RE20 makes use of the feature called “Variable-D”, this feature restricts the microphone from over-emphasizing lows, particularly useful for when vocalists are using the ‘up-close’ technique. Electro-Voice RE20 is also a great microphone for countering the proximity effect and ensures that you have a crystal-clear vocal recording. The clearness and crispness of the Electro-Voice RE20 is undeniable and is what contributes to its popularity among recording artists. This microphone allows you to intimate certain vocal styles without ever overloading the low frequencies. Thom Yorke, the vocalist of Radiohead, has publicly stated his love for this microphone, mainly for its extraordinary characteristics. Moreover, you have full control over bass attenuation with this microphone, as it comes with a bass ‘tilt down’ switch. You can also record louder instruments other than your voice, such as bass amps, guitars, kick drums, and so much more.
10. Rode NTA2
The impressive sound quality and technical characteristics of Rode microphones cannot be denied when looking for a fundamentally great vocal microphone. If you have a Rode NTA-2 at your studio, then you may not need a classic studio mic. The Rode NTA-2 is a large type HF1 dual 1” capsule condenser microphone. There are a lot of built-in features in this microphone, such as variable attenuation control, switchable pickup patterns, and high-pass filters. These features allow the Rode NTA-2 to be extremely versatile, synchronizing with all types of vocal styles and musical instruments. You can even make use of the Rode NTA-2 for multipurpose sound recordings on the stage. When purchasing the Rode NTA-2, in the box you’ll receive a cable, dust cover, and a shock mount as well.
11. Audio-Technica AT2035
Audio Technica is another highly respected and recognised brand within the recording industry. The Audio-Technica AT2035 is one of the highest-rated microphones priced around $200. Those with a bigger budget may think the AT2035 has no special qualities for the price, but you’d be wrong to assume that. The AT2035 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone that comes with many premium features. It has a metal exterior, and most importantly, it comes with a custom shock mount as well. For your voice-over work, studio projects, live-streaming, or whatever purpose it may be, this microphone makes sure that you have audio quality of the highest standards and impressive premium features. The Audio-Technica AT2035 comes with a maximum SPL of 148dB, and -10dB pad, it even has a switchable low-frequency roll-off as well. With These kinds of audio enhancing features accompanied at such an affordable price, this mic is definitely worth buying.
12. AKG P220
This is another excellent microphone that comes in at a very affordable price, accompanied with jaw-dropping features. The AKG P220 is widely-recognized for its versatility, the AKG P220 easily manages loud sound sources because of its staggering 155 max SPL. This is very useful as there are times when musicians have to deal with unwanted distortion when using condenser mics, due to loud sound sources. The P220 microphone, smoothly handles the issue of recording loud noises and keeping distortion to impressively low levels. The built-in pad switch and low-frequency roll-off switch make this microphone a viable option for recording a variety of sound sources. If you need a microphone that can handle high-volume pressure, then this microphone is a great choice. The AKG P220 impressively picks up subtle and sensitive sound whilst at the same time capable of withstanding high volume pressure. IT’s an impressive microphone to say the least and we’re certain that it’s a microphone that will make you a fan of AKG.
13. Heil Sound PR40
The Heil Sound PR40 is a dynamic microphone, a great microphone choice for musicians and ‘podcasters’ alike. Achieving a sound-treated, isolated, and soundproofed space to record your audio can be a very difficult task. A dynamic microphone is a little more forgiving than a condenser when trying to minimize recording background noise and other unwanted audio. Condensers tend to pick up everything in the room as well as any other noise around you or close by, they’re very sensitive to sound. The Heil Sound PR40 is priced at around £300 in the UK, and just over $300 in the USA. We advise you to get the Heil PR 40 with its accessories, including the PRSM-B shock mount. The PL2T microphone boom arm is also a great addition and accessory for the PR40. The PL2T boom arm conveniently attaches to a desk or table top surface, it’s really simple to do and convenient to use. Least but not least is the pop filter, to help stop those pesky plosives from getting through. The Heil Sound PR40 microphone comes with all the necessary features that a vocalist may need, and is without a doubt a great choice of vocal microphone.
14. Audio Technica AT4050
The Audio Technica AT4050 microphone is considered to be top-rated among retailers all over the world. The AT4050 microphone boasts dual gold-plated, large-diaphragm condenser elements, with a low-noise transformer-less design and floating construction. All these features make this microphone very convenient and versatile at recording audio for a multitude of purposes. The sound quality of this microphone is of high and professional studio recordings standards. The AT4050 boasts a ‘studio quiet’ operation as well as ‘pro-level’ isolation from vibration and noise. This Audio Technica microphone is not only an outstanding vocal mic, but records an extensive range of musical instruments just as well. Prominent artists from all over the globe such as Kenny Garett, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Ruby Amanfu have used the AT4050 microphone and have all given extremely positive reviews.
Things To Consider Before Buying a Microphone
Before buying a studio microphone for vocal recordings, there are some things that musicians or voice-over artists may need to consider:
Choosing a Condenser or Dynamic mic
Most musicians or vocal artists generally prefer to use condenser mics for their vocals. But, dynamic mics have a lot to offer vocalists too. A condenser mic is a piece of staple equipment, but a dynamic mic can be used for many creative and unique recording purposes too. For average sound pressure handling, you should purchase a condenser mic, but, for a loud sound pressure handling, nothing can beat a dynamic mic. However, it depends on your requirements, and you should get a microphone that matches your specific sound handling requirements.
You should always check the frequency response of the microphone while buying one. The frequency response is always included within the microphone’s list of specification details. If you happen to be a low-pitched vocalist, then you should get a microphone that comes with strong frequencies below 200Hz. And, if you have a high-pitched voice, you should get the one that can synchronize with your higher frequencies. Before switching mics, it is recommended to begin with a flat EQ and make only necessary adjustments as and when they are needed.
The quality of capturing sound depends on the polar pattern of a microphone. For a vocal recording microphone, you should use microphones that come with a cardioid polar pattern with a front capture and rear rejection. There are some other patterns like Omnidirectional, or Figure 8, which are useful and have their own unique benefits as well.
If you’re recording vocals without a pop filter then you are likely then your vocals may have a rough edge within your recordings. Using a pop filter blocks air movement which carries unwanted noise and audio artifacts worth it. When recording vocals, the quality of your audio capture can be negatively impacted by ‘plosives’. Purchasing a microphone that comes with a pop filter either additionally or within a bundle may save you time later on down the road.
The mics that are mentioned above are the best when it comes to versatility. However, you should only get a microphone that comes with premium features that are just as versatile. Dynamic microphones work with pretty much all loud instruments, due to the max SPL of dynamic mics being very high. On the other hand, condenser microphones can be useful for vocals as well as acoustic instruments, as they are best at picking up subtle audio artifacts and dynamic mics simply cannot.
Conclusion & Summary
Different microphones will work best for different recording scenarios and applications. Before deciding on a specific vocal microphone, you should try to understand and be mindful of your unique situation and requirements for the type of microphone that you need. Are you recording vocals in the studio? or are you going to use it on the stage or for live-streaming? Do you believe that you are going to record only vocals with it, or will you want to record some instrumentals at some point as well? These are all fundamental questions and things to consider when purchasing a microphone to capture the audio quality that’s right for you and your project(s).