When you’re spitting those bars for the world to hear, you need a proper microphone for recording those rap vocals. I’ve heard of numerous options available to a lot of rappers nowadays, and after doing tons of research as well as merely asking my friends who still record rap vocals I’ve narrowed it down to a few in order to help your shopping adventures. The first thing you need to know is that yes, there is a difference in microphones for performing and recording. If you’re looking for the first, we recommend reading our best microphone for performing on stage article. Otherwise, continue reading here.
Important factors for finding your rap microphone
- What’s your budget? Let’s be real for a second: if you want to have a relatively high-functioning setup, you’re going to have to spend a few dollars, not only on a solid microphone, but some accessories as well, such as a mic stand, popper stopper or shock mount.
- What type of microphone to buy? We’ve seen some use dynamic microphones, but we’re going to be strict here and recommend you only look for a condenser microphone. Most models in here connect via XLR to audio interface, but we also have a list of top 10 best USB microphones if you’re interested in that route (they get their power from the computer so you won’t have to buy a separate power source, although they’re not quite the same quality as condensers). We’ve heard of a lot of home USB mics, but when it comes down to it, we still recommend a condenser for all types of vocals, especially rapping.
- Other stuff you’ll need. There are some accessories and additional gear you will need to optimize your setup as well as keep in mind to get a true feel of your overall budget. How about some music software? Pop filters, mic stands, etc. What about some studio headphones to tie it all together?
The type of microphone is one of the biggest questions we get asked. There are basically two prominent mic types available, dynamic and condenser. So what’s the difference between a dynamic microphone and a condenser microphone?
We really like this article by crown audio, helping to spell out the main difference between dynamic and condenser microphones. If that seems a bit technical and hard to follow, we’ll sum it up for you: dynamic mics are better for performing due to it’s larger pickup pattern whereas condenser microphones are better for recording because of the power they hold when hooked up to an audio interface. We are choosing condenser microphones here because they’re just better for recording and give you better sound quality, overall accuracy of the vocals, as well as a more ideal sound for studios in our opinion.
Some additional studio gear is mandatory, such as a mic stand, pop filter, or shock mount. Before buying your accessories individually, double-check to see if there are any special packages available that include the microphone you want as well as accessories. Otherwise, for a mic stand, we recommend a standard but solid one, such as the Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand.
For pop filters, we really like the popular Nady MPF-6 6-Inch Clamp On Microphone Pop Filter. You may also need a shock mount, depending on if your mic comes with one or not (please double-check). If you do, we love the Neewer Black Universal Microphone Shock Mount.
Lastly, when you’re using a condenser microphone, you need an additional source of power (called phantom power supply) to help optimize its full capacity. If you’re looking for one to go along with your mic, check out our best audio interface article where we list the top 10 best. Once you get one of these, you’re good to go and now you only have to choose the microphone you’ll be using.
The best microphones for recording rap vocals
We’ve chosen the top 5 best for now as we wanted to choose one within the various budget ranges that are possible. Unfortunately we can’t give you one best due to the wide budget ranges condenser microphones come in, so choose which one best suits your wallet.
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is about the lowest we will go in terms of a mic for rapping, and because we love Audio-Technica so much we’ve chosen their very popular AT2020 model to win the lower-end price range. This is a great budget-friendly microphone that offers a lot of power and clear sound quality. It is a standard condenser microphone that connects via XLR, so you’ll need an audio interface or separate phantom power supply to truly power this thing up. Once you do, the audio quality is very clear and natural, quite surprising at its price nonetheless.
Like all condenser mics, the cardioid polar pattern isolates the sound in front of it to eliminate the sides and rear. The frequency response is very wide, handling 20 to 20 kHz, perfect for rapping. You can’t go wrong here if you only want to spend around a Benjamin (albeit you’ll need a few more bucks for accessories, unless you go with a bundle). There are definitely some more powerful and advanced mics out there if you have the budget, but if you needed a simple solution and are on a strict budget, this won’t let you down.
If you can take a step up from the AT2020, the Rode NT1-A is the mic to go with for rap vocals. It’s a very durable microphone, giving us a gold-plated diaphragm and a nickel-plated body which will last you for years if you take care of it, a great investment. The sound is very warm and has been used by a lot of rappers since it’s release way back when. The link we’ve provided comes with the necessary accessories, so you’re looking at a pretty nice package for the price for everything except the audio interface.
What I’ve heard about it is the ability to turn this baby up as loud as you can without getting any hiss or distortion, giving your verses a lot of power and true strength over your beats. This is especially great for those who have stronger voices or like to put a lot of emphasis on their verses. You can also use it to record some instruments for your beats if you intend on doing so as well.
The AKG C214 is a classic mic, and what’s cool about this one is the capability of recording instruments as well if that’s your thing. Other than that, the SPL (sound pressure level) is very high, going up to 156dB, giving us a lot of power for a thick, warm sounding vocal track. You can also switch a bass-cut filter if you need to. Lastly, the build is extremely solid with an all-metal die-cast body. A great investment if you have the money. This is when you start to get into the professional quality of microphones for rap vocals.
The only thing some may complain about is the need to EQ it after you record, as some state that it records on the lower end in terms of frequency (but I sometimes like that “bassy” sound in voices, use your own judgment for how you want your sound to be). AKG microphones give us one of the most solid microphones here at the mid-range price point. The body is also very wide to help pick up everything that’s being thrown at it.
The Rode NTK is one of the best microphones for rap vocals if you have the money, period. Most professional studios use this one, with a handful of my friends who still record a wide variety of vocals as well. This thing is a beast and it feels like a grenade when you hold it. It’s specifically best for rapping because it picks up lower frequencies very well — and let’s face it, a lot of us have lower voices so we want the most optimal low-end frequency pickup possible to really catch our complete cadence.
Rode‘s NTK actually comes with its own phantom power supply, although I like using my audio interface along with it as it keeps my gear organized and I can put some more filters and gain on it. Regardless, the NTK has amazing sound. Very clear and smooth, giving us a full-range of frequencies being flat throughout. Warm, warm, warm is what I like to hear, and this one has it. It’s been used by many artists out there, even full orchestras. It has a high-end frequency boost option but I wouldn’t use it as it messes with the natural sound we all love about it. If you were debating on saving up some more money after reading this guide, we’d recommend it if it meant you eventually buying an NTK.
The Neumann TLM-102 is definitely a step up when it comes to price; however, if you can afford one, you’re up at the top. There’s a lot to choose from when you have a budget for this, especially when browsing through Neumann mics. However, the TLM-102 is one of the most popular, so we’ve chosen this because of the positive reviews we’ve read around the net. This gives you some of the clearest rap vocals possible, with an SPL above most we’ve listed at 144 dB.
There’s a slight presence boost with this one, which is stated to help mid-range frequencies (typically where voices are) to sound more…you guessed it, “present” (to help all frequencies remain equal for a more full sound). We love the sound it gives us, as it’s one of the professional mics out there, and one to look at because it’s the best under about a grand, especially for rapping. Neumann microphones are like the Ferrari of audio equipment.
Have any other recommendations for the best microphone for recording rap vocals? Which model are you currently using? Let us know in the comments!