When it comes to microphones, choosing the type you need is the most important. We’ve seen many dynamic vs. condenser microphone debates, but if you’re here you’ve already determined that you need the latter. To review, condenser microphones are best used when recording vocals; however, I’ve seen them used countless times when recording other instruments as well, such as acoustic guitar, violins, drums, and more — they’re basically perfect for recording any instrument you can think of. I’ve even heard of musicians using them to perform with, although in our best mic for performing live we recommend going with a dynamic microphone then.
As we saw in our best condenser microphones article, they can vary within a pretty wide range of price points. If you’re going big, grabbing a Neumann or a very nice Rode microphone will set you far apart from other musicians. However, sometimes you don’t need to go crazy and can find a perfectly suitable condenser microphone that is budget-friendly, specifically under $200 retail, which we highlight in this article. Especially in the last ten years or so, the quality of budget microphones have skyrocketed and are often used by home and even semi-pro studios today.
How to choose your condenser mic under $200
- Your exact budget. When it comes to under $200, each dollar you save up makes a big difference. There’s a pretty noticeable change when comparing an $80 mic to a $200 model.
- What will you be recording/performing? As stated previously, we typically recommend condenser microphones for recording vocals, but you can also use your mic if you’re also performing as well.
- Desired connectivity. You’ve got the traditional XLR port (which you’ll need some phantom power from either a supply or audio interface that will cost you more money if you don’t already have one) or the newer USB condenser mics. We prefer XLR connection with an interface in terms of overall quality but if you’re into the USB stuff those work fine. We mention a few below.
- Do you need accessories bundled up as well? You’ve got a pretty decent list when it comes to additional gear to use your mic properly: a case, stand, shock mount, and popper stopper. If you don’t already have these, it’ll cost a few more bucks so be sure to add that to your budget calculations. There’s also some decent packages of condenser mics out there which we try to include here; some come with not only the mic but all of the above, while others giving you just the mic and perhaps a stand and a case.
Our picks for best condenser microphones under $200
CAD U37 USB
Here’s one of the most popular mics we see purchased time and time again due to it’s cost-to-quality ratio. Around $50 on most sites, the U37 starts off our list at the cheapest we’ll go, but with good measure. You have most noticeably USB connectivity so you’re bypassing purchasing an audio interface or power supply, color choice of black or silver, a nice, wide frequency response for excellent pickup (cardioid), a 10dB protection switch for distortion limiting, and a bass-reduction switch to help with even more custom recording settings. It’s very well made, although it has a plastic body but it’s stable enough to use for years to come. It also comes with a little tripod to use on your computer desk, so if you’re planning on standing you’ll need to purchase a separate stand, let alone a pop filter and shock mount. We recommend this for beginners in a home studio for recording vocals or other more prominent instruments.
A step up from the CAD mic, MXL mics are solid in terms of build despite their budget-friendly price. The 770 is one of our favorites in terms of under $200, giving us a decent quality FET preamp built-in, a switchable bass cut and -10dB pad (very convenient for customizing your sound even further before recording, although you can always adjust the track’s EQ later), and a decent sound pressure level (SPL) to help with eliminating distortion. What’s even better about this in terms of budget-friendly is that it comes with a shock mount and an awesome, hard and rugged carrying case for travel. If you don’t have any accessories, you’ll still have to buy a mic stand and perhaps a pop filter, but altogether shouldn’t run you more than $150.
Here’s another huge hit with the budget-friendly crowd and the USB version is often compared to the CAD U37, although in our opinion it’s a step up and the price will show that as well. The AT2020 is famous, giving us a high SPL for help with distortion control, high quality diaphragm, and the cardioid pattern is great for sound isolation allowing only what’s in front of it to be recorded. We think that Audio-Technica has revolutionized the budget-friendly microphone game with models like this, giving a warm and clear sound that used to only be available in professional studios. This gives a lot of mics a run for their money and is highly rated for a reason everywhere. Grab this if you want a microphone that’s in the upper-middle of the under $200 standard. We love Sound On Sound’s AT2020 microphone review.
Blue Microphones Yeti USB
This is another huge hit that we couldn’t ignore and it gives you another option at USB connectivity. Blue microphones is only becoming more popular as the years continue, and this is one of their nicer, albeit cheaper models of their catalog. The Yeti gives us some nice color choices, a “tri-capsule array” which states to have built-in 3 capsules for a nice puckup. What’s cool about the Yeti is the custom controls on the unit: gain control, a mute button, and a headphone output directly to the mic. It’s #1 on Amazon’s multipurpose condenser mic category with almost 2,000 reviews. It comes with a small adjustable stand that fits on your desk just like the CAD and they offer a two-year limited warranty with it. Grab this if you want one of the best affordable USB condenser microphones out there. Also check out their Blue Spark that hits just under $200 bucks, which is a bit better in terms of quality and is the traditional XLR condenser mic. You’ll have to buy some accessories, though.
AKG Perception 420
AKG mics are some of our favorite, and the perception series of mics are great in terms of affordability. It’s just under $200 but is very, very solid. The 1″ dual-diaphragm mic has three selectable polar patterns depending on how you’re using it. The SPL is nice here, and the higest of the bunch in this article at up to 155 dB. I’ve alot of home studio singers using this for some pretty big uses but just make note that it doesn’t come with a cable or any other accessories for that matter. Regardless, this is an extremely high quality microphone for under $200 is one of the best, you just may have to spend a few more bucks for additives to use it.