Recording that golden voice box of yours is only doing the world a favor by allowing them to playback those beautiful melodies of yours. Whether you’re in a home studio, semi-pro or even professional environment, the type of microphone you purchase is critical in attaining the best mix possible. You want your listeners to hear all of the important frequencies in your voice as clearly and crisply as possible. We saw in our best microphone for live shows that dynamic microphones are best, but in most cases for studio environments we take a different approach: condenser microphones. Below is the top 10 best microphones for recording vocals.
How to Choose Your Vocal Microphone
- What is your budget? This is a big question for microphone shopping. When you’re building your studio with music recording equipment, it’s always important to plan. We have some affordable, decently sounding mics at under $100, but if you want a near-professional sound you’ll have to pay a bit more for that. Do you have the dough?
- Get a condenser microphone. Time and time again we’ve heard the question; which type of microphone is best for recording vocals? The key is understanding that dynamic mics are great for shows due to their effectiveness in handling loud sound sources without high frequencies. Condenser microphones on the other hand are great for recording vocals because of their sensitivity and wide frequency range. They’re typically built a bit better (albeit more expensive) as well. This article on condenser vs. dynamic mics is great for more info.
- Connectivity. There are only a few types of ways to connect your microphone to whatever you’re recording into; we’ve got the traditional XLR connector, ever-growing USB, and lastly 3.5mm but those are pretty cheap and typically for karaoke-types of uses. We recommend going XLR-to-audio interface instead of USB-to-computer — you just get better quality in the end.
- Pickup patterns. Large diaphragm cardioid pickup patterns of mics are in our opinion the best for recording vocals. You can go smaller, but if you’re recording vocals like in this article’s case here we recommend staying large. This video on large and small diaphragms is pretty informative.
- Additional accessories you’ll need. Keep in mind you’ll also have to buy a few extra parts if you don’t have them already. Some include a mic stand, shock mount, pop filter, carrying case, cables, audio interface, etc. Factor this into your budget. Also note that some of the mics we recommend come in packages that include most of these accessories that may be a great fit for you.
The Top 10 Best Microphones for Recording Vocals
Below is our carefully crafted list of best microphones for recording vocals with. Note that many of these mics we recommend require some phantom power to be used. Read our best audio interface for some recommendations on external sound cards you can use for this. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or feel free to post some of your recordings! You can also read our top 10 best USB microphones article if you want some cheaper alternatives.
Although we have a few that we swear by, the Rode NTK is by far one of the best microphones out there available for home and semi-professional studios. This thing is ruggedly built, gives us a warm and clear sound (too many artists have used it to name), and will last you numerous years if you take care of it so you know it’s going to be a nice investment and worth the price tag. It features a large 1″ diaphragm (gold-plated), class A circuitry (high quality amp make inside), and a wide frequency range that’ll pick up voices spanning from the BeeGee’s to Tom Waits. The package comes with a very nice (albeit plastic but sturdy) case and a phantom power amp in case you don’t have an audio interface. You also get the necessary XLR cables so out of the box you are ready to record those vocals of yours. It was also our pick for the best microphone for rap vocals; you just can’t beat the warm, clear sound we get here. It’s magnificently built and sounds amazing. If you can afford it, this is one of the best out there. Although if you continue on and have more money to spend, there are some that may even be better for you.
Audio-Technica is one of our favorite brands and when it comes to mics they’re not different. They’re usually prized for their USB AT2020 mic but the Audio-Technica AT2035 in our opinion comes with a bit higher quality and it’s XLR connectivity as well so it’s more trusted. This particular model of theirs is one of the most well-known however, giving us a cardioid large diaphragm condenser mic with a great sound pressure level (SPL) for loud noise yet remaining clear and crisp. It’s our choice for best budget-friendly mic for recording vocals. A plus is a nifty 80 Hz high-pass filter you can switch on if you’re up for it as well. You’re getting a nice flat response with true sound — no washy effects or dramatized frequencies. You can also use this for acoustic guitars or string instruments if you have them on standby for your songs. Grab it if you want to save some money as opposed to the NTK previously listed, or continue on if you have even more dough and want a higher-end model.
The Neumann TLM-102 is one of the more expensive microphones for recording vocals and although some call the Neumann brand pretentious, we consider it something like the Porsche of mics in the market. This thing is exceptional when it comes to audio quality, you can’t deny the sound it provides. If you can get past the price tag you’ll feel secure that you’re getting one of the best investments out there. It does manipulate the vocals a bit with a slight presence boost above 6 kHz but in our opinion it doesn’t completely change the sound but more or so polishes it. You have a high SPL of 144 dB so I’d even recommend recording drums with this thing. It’s known to truly capture every frequency available to it. I mean, when it comes down it the TLM-102 is only a few hundred bucks more than the Rode NTK we chose first here in the list. If you can save up a few more bills we’d recommend going with this thing. You just can’t deny the overall quality.
Blue Microphones Bluebird
As the years continue, more and more people are jumping on the Blue Microphones train and we’re totally fine with it. The Blue Bluebird is one of their better overall models of condenser mics. It first noticeably provides us a vintage type of feel to it — like we’re recording vocals straight out of the 50’s. It’s got a Class A amp like the NTK, a cardioid polar pattern and a wide frequency range as well. What’s great is the package comes with a shock mount and pop filter as well as wooden case, so if you’re still looking for those accessories it’ll help you save a few bucks and some time. You can also check out the Blue Spark for a step up. I’ve heard of pod-casters swearing by this thing, but most recording artists will back up Blue when it comes down to it. It’s a bit of a step up from the Audio-Technica but not quite on the level of the NTK or TLM-102, so if you want something in the middle this will work. Great audio quality giving clear sound all-around.
Here’s another popular model, this time by Shure who we’ve all known for the famous dynamic microphones SM58 and SM57. This condenser microphone isn’t an exception when it comes overall quality and clarity. With the Shure SM-27-SC, you’re getting a flat neutral frequency response that some even use for on-stage performances as well. What’s convenient is their low-frequency filter you can switch on as well. This model is always in the comparison talks when it comes to condenser mics within this price point and it falls just below the NTK in our opinion, a little higher quality than the Bluebird. What we recommend doing is buying this if you plan on recording more than just vocals — it’s used a lot with drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitar cabs and more. It’s very versatile and spans across a wide variety of uses, not to mention that Shure brand tag just makes it that much more trustworthy.
One of the best condenser mics typically under a Benjamin, you can say the MXL 770 has stood the test of time as it has been out for a while now. We get the security of the positive reviews and long case studies. Almost out for 15 years, it looks a bit antique-ish which we love. The gold-played diaphragm is solid in terms of build especially at this price. It has a switchable bass cut and -10dB pad, and the FET preamp built-in is a bit different from most Class A mics but that’s too minuscule of a difference to try to dissect. Just know this thing is the best quality mic we could find at this price. If you’re trying to save some money but still attempt to compete with the professional sounding vocalists, this is your mic. It also comes with a shock mount and carrying case for an even more reason to save some money. Grab it if it fits your needs.
Here’s another Rode mic appearance and it’s a lot lower in price as compared to their NTK. The Rode NT1-A is super popular with podcasters and recording vocals on this is exceptional. Their anniversary package comes with just about every important accessory you need (link below). The specs offer a wide dynamic range with a 1″ gold-plated diaphragm, cardioid pattern, and some surface mount circuitry. As you can see it’s pretty standard in terms of specs when compared to others, but that is a blessing in disguise considering the price. The overall package this comes with makes it that much sweeter. We’d recommend this for budget-friendly shoppers and the like. A great microphone for recording vocals in a home studio.
sE Electronics sE2200a II
They may be a bit less popular than the bigger names, but still bring great quality if you don’t let the illusion of reputation get in the way. The sE Electronics sE2200a II is one of their better large diaphragm condenser microphones. It’s a bit newer (2012) so it’s fresh, 1″ gold diaphragm but mostly importantly a “multi-pattern” make which means it has cardioid, figure 8 and omni built in one. It’s a nifty feature but not too groundbreaking, since most of us will just be standing in front of it so the direction isn’t too important. It’d be useful if you were using it to record drums or another instrument that may need a larger pickup pattern from numerous directions. It’s still a solid mic with some clear quality and flat tune. Good brightness. It’s stated to give this price class a run for their money, rivaling the Audio-Technica previously mentioned as well as the NT1. Although we recommend the others first, it may be a good option for you. Check it out and read the reviews for more info.
It seems that AKG always has to be mentioned at least once in gear articles for us. The AKG C214 is a tad bit more expensive than the sE2200a but it’s a tank. The SPL is almost the highest we’ve seen at 156dB, so if you have a loud vocalist it won’t be a problem. You also get a switchable 20dB attentuator as well as bass-cut filter so you can get up-close and personal with it (I like being super close to the mic myself). A solid frequency range for accurate portrayal of your vocals and the entire design is rock solid. Some people swear by the C214 and no other mic out there and we see where they’re coming from. Comes with a carrying case, windscreen and shock mount, too. You’re going to get some professional sounding audio with this baby.
Last but not least we have a super, and I mean super budget-friendly mic. Just above fifty bucks retail, the Behringer C-1 is your friend if you want a cheap, cheap solution but you’re still not getting a stick mic from Best Buy. For home studios or those who just want to practice or have something on hand for traveling to mess around with friends, the C-1 is more than a paper weight. A FET amp built-in, decent SPL, and not many drawbacks at all considering how low it is priced. Perfect for home studios, pod-casters, gaming, etc. Recording vocals won’t sound like a professional pop song, but I guarantee you when somebody hears your mix they won’t know you paid less than $100 for the microphone you used. Grab it if it’s what you’re looking for.