Last Updated on December 30, 2020.
When I was just starting to learn about audio engineering, one of my first questions was;
“which is the absolute best microphone for recording vocals?”
If we take this question literally, then we would need to choose a microphone that costs at least $3000 and still, we would need to figure out which of those is the best one.
To be honest, you won’t find those types of microphones in most studios, even less in small basic home studios.
This is why I think that it makes absolutely no sense to list them in this post since no home studio owner in their right mind would ever spend that kind of money on a single mic.
In this article I will give you my list of the top 14 microphones for recording vocals which won’t make you go bankrupt.
So, for the purposes of this article I will keep all the Microphones under $700.
Important note: Condenser microphones require phantom power to work properly.
Luckily almost every audio interface on the market provides it.
- Here’s a post about the 8 Best Audio Interfaces available right now.
If the Shure SM58 isn’t the best-known microphone of all time, I don’t know which one is…
It’s been the industry standard both for studio recording as well as live performances.
Even extremely famous artists like Elton John use them during their live shows…
If it’s good enough for him, it’s definitely good enough for the rest of us.
The reason so many well-known artists use the Shure SM58 so much is because not only is it built like an absolute tank, but it’s also very resistant to feedback and handling noise.
Plus, the grille works as a pop filter which helps a lot, especially during live performances, to avoid unwanted plosives.
Of course, it can also be used in the studio.
If you do this, it might be wise to use a pop-filter as well to further ensure that no plosives will occur.
The Shure SM58 features a cardioid pickup pattern, which means that it will pick up sound from the front, but not from the sides and the back.
When it comes to sound quality, the Shure SM58 sounds terrific, especially considering how affordable it is.
It comes with a mid-boost as well as a bass roll-off which makes it easier for the vocals to cut through the mix without having to apply too much EQ.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Shure SM58 costs, and you can also check the customer reviews.
I think that the Shure SM58 is a must-have for any home- and even professional studio.
I know what you’re thinking…
“But aren’t condenser mics usually the go-to for recording vocals?”
This is usually true, but dynamic mics definitely have their place for recording vocals, especially for live performances.
Since condensers are used a lot more to record vocals in a studio setting, here’s my next pick…
The AT2020 is probably the best-known budget large diaphragm condenser microphone out there.
You can find at least a couple of them in every studio, which means that they should be more than enough for any beginner who is building their first home recording studio, especially if they’re on a budget.
The build quality is excellent, as you would expect from any Audio-Technica microphone, and it features a Cardioid pickup pattern.
It has a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz and it sounds great, with a slight bump in the higher mids- and high frequencies, for some added crispiness.
Note: I mentioned this earlier, but you will need an Audio Interface that can supply phantom power to record with the AT2020.
Find out more about the Audio-Technica AT2020 here.
The Shure SM7B cardioid dynamic microphone has been around quite some time now.
Artists like Michael Jackson used an SM7, which was practically the same mic (the difference is that the SM7B has a Hambucking coil inside the mic and a larger windscreen), to record “Thriller”, “Off the Wall” and “Bad”.
Other artists that also use the SM7B are The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Willie Nelson, Metallica, and many more.
Its most common uses are;
- Radio broadcasting
- Recording loud and screaming rock vocals
Basically, it’s a phenomenal microphone.
It does, however, cost quite a lot more than the previous ones on this list.
One important thing you should know, if you’re considering of buying one of these, is that it’s a very low output microphone.
It needs a powerful preamp to boost the signal, like the ones in high-quality audio interfaces.
However, it’s one of the best microphones you could ever get, especially when talking about dynamic mics.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Shure SM7B costs, and you can also check the customer reviews.
The Rode NT1-A is a fantastic mic that is built like an absolute tank, sounds fantastic, and even comes with a High-quality pop filter and shock mount, which means that you automatically save $30-$50 since you don’t need to get those.
Most large diaphragm condenser microphones don’t even provide a regular pop filter, much less one that’s even better than most pop filters out there.
It has a fairly flat frequency response with some rounded cuts at 20-30Hz and 16k-20kHz, and a small boost in the presence frequencies, and this help your recordings to sit better in the mix without requiring as much EQ.
The Rode NT1-A offers an amazing value for the price, and you can certainly produce studio-grade music with it.
Find out more about the Rode NT1-A here.
The Aston Origin is designed and built in the UK by Aston, which are quite New to the whole microphone scene and this model, the Origin, is the first of their line.
The Aston Origin has a very interesting look thanks to its waveform sprung steel head which acts like a shock absorber.
This sprung steel head is excellent at keeping the mic from getting damaged if you accidentally drop it… at least that’s what they “assure” you.
Its build quality feels extremely good since it has a very sturdy and durable design.
One really cool thing about this microphone is that it doesn’t really need a pop-filter since it’s got a sort of metal wool mesh that really does a great job at not letting the plosives get through.
This microphone also comes equipped with a -10dB Pad Switch and an 80Hz High pass filter.
The Aston Origin can be mounted directly to the stand, which is pretty cool.
Additionally, it comes with an internal shock mount which works quite well…
This is a great sounding mic and it’s incredibly competitive for its price, plus it looks damn amazing!!
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Aston Origin costs, and you can also check the customer reviews.
Just like all the other AT20’ series, the AT2035 has a great Build quality.
The body and the grille are all metal and it really does feel like a good microphone.
One difference between the AT2020 and this one is that it comes with a -10dB PAD as well as a high-pass filter.
The shock mount is made out of plastic, but it gets the job done and it’s also very durable, so no worries there.
The sound quality is just awesome! It sounds great when recording vocals as well as acoustic guitar.
For how little it costs, I don’t think that you could ever go wrong with the AT2035.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Audio-Technica AT2035 costs, and you can also check the customer reviews.
sE Electronics sE2200a II C
Something very interesting about the sE Electronic mics is that they are hand-made, which is something that I just find mind-blowing.
The sE200a II C model is a large diaphragm condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern that sounds absolutely fantastic.
It also comes with a -10dB PAD as well as a High-Pass Filter which can really come in handy.
When you purchase the microphone you also get a shock mount which, even though it isn’t the best one around, is still quite good.
It does have a very flat frequency response which means that everything you record will sound like the real thing, be it vocals, acoustic guitar, or anything else.
Just like with the Rode NT1, this one provides a pop filter which also has to be mounted on-to the shock mount.
However, the one on the Rode microphone is much better.
Still, the the sE Electronics sE2200a II C is an excellent choice for everyone and it does sound absolutely amazing.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the sE Electronics sE2200a II C costs, and you can also check out the customer reviews.
Next on the list we have another large diaphragm condenser microphone…
The Sennheiser MK4, just as you would expect from all the microphones on this list, has a very good build quality.
The body is all metal and so is the grille, which makes the whole mic feel sturdy and heavy… and I don’t think that anyone likes light microphones.
It’s primarily good for recording vocals, which is why I included it on this list…
But it’s also excellent at recording acoustic guitars.
Sadly, it doesn’t come with a PAD, a High-Pass Filter or a shock mount.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Sennheiser MK4 costs, and you can also check out the customer reviews.
Next on the list we have…
The Audio-Technica AT4040 is considered by many to be the best XLR microphone under $300.
The build quality is extremely good and comes with two switches on the back which are: A High-pass Filter, that rolls lower frequencies off at about 80Hz at 12dB/octave, and a -10dB PAD in case you are recording a really loud source.
If your recording is sounding boomy, engage the HPF and it will clear up instantly.
The great thing about the AT4040 is that it’s already a top tier microphone.
If you invest in one, then you won’t ever need to upgrade, unless you simply want to purchase another microphone to have more.
Having said that, the Rode NT1-A offers a similar recording quality at half the price, and it comes with the pop filter and the shock mount.
Find out more about the Audio-Technica AT4040 here.
Blue Bluebird SL
The curious thing about the Blue Microphones is that they are known both for their extremely high-end microphones like the Blue Bottle, which sells for about $4000, and their extremely budget-friendly ones like the Blue Spark and the Blue Yeti.
One thing I love about these mics, apart from being completely awesome, is how they look.
The Blue Bluebird SL is one of their medium range large diaphragm condenser microphones which features a cardioid polar pattern.
It sounds absolutely fantastic, it looks cool and it also comes with a -20dB PAD and a High-Pass Filter…
What’s not to like?
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Blue Bluebird SL costs, and you can also check out the customer reviews.
AKG Pro C214
The AKG Pro C214 is a pretty impressive microphone which features a cardioid polar pattern.
When looking at its build quality you will immediately be able to notice how good it is.
The body and the grille are all made of metal, although the grille does have a bit of give to it… no need to worry about this though.
It comes with a -20dB PAD switch on the one side and High-Pass Filter switch on the other.
The phantom power requirements for this microphone range from 12v to 52v.
It also has a slight boost to the “air” and upper frequencies.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the AKG Pro C214 costs, and you can also check out the customer reviews.
Next on the list we have…
The Rode NTK is a tube microphone, which means that it will give you that awesome vintage sound we all love.
Of course, if you’ve ever done any research on tube mics you know that they tend to be extremely expensive…
This is why I included the Rode NTK, because it’s a relatively inexpensive tube microphone which just sounds fantastic.
The box it comes in is very big and of great quality.
Since it’s a Tube Mic it does come with its own power supply and a “special” XLR cable which is designed to also feed the power to the mic.
Note: In the box there is also room for a shock mount, but it doesn’t come included, as well as the pop filter.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Rode NTK costs, and you can also check out the customer reviews.
And lastly, we have the best microphone on this list…
Neumann TLM 102
This is by far the best microphone on this entire list… if you have the budget for it, that is.
Even though it might be one the most expensive microphones anyone could ever consider purchasing, it feels like a work of art.
The construction quality is extraordinary, and it just looks stunning!
If you know anything about Neumann, then you know that they have long been known for making the best microphones, period…
Especially if we’re talking about vocal microphones.
Even though the Neumann TLM 102 might seem expensive, if you compare it to most of their other high-end microphones, you’ll notice that it’s way more affordable.
Most of their mics are valued at around $3000…
The point of the TLM series was to make their fantastic sound accessible to everyone.
This would be the best microphone any serious singer should get, especially if you’re thinking about truly recording quality music.
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see how much the Neumann TLM 102 costs, and you can also check out the customer reviews.
I hope this information was useful.
Depending on your needs you might want a cardioid or condenser mic.
For live shows just go with the Shure SM58, but for recording at home I would either recommend the Audio-Technica AT4040 or the Rode NT1 because of the value they offer.
However, if you have the budget and want a microphone that will never need replacing…
Then the Rode NTK or the Neumann TLM 102 are your absolute best options.
I hope you have a wonderful day!