The 6 Best Microphones for Recording Vocals

Need some help looking for a good-quality microphone to record vocals? Our recommendations have been tried and tested by the experts. We cover the key elements you’ll need to consider before you buy!
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PRODUCT
PRODUCT DETAILS
Our #1 Rated
Neumann TLM 102 MT
Our #1 Rated

Despite its incredible tolerance for loud stereo settings, we were amazed at how small and lightweight it is. We were producing crystal clear vocal recordings in minutes!

We found it to produce barely any feedback whatsoever and vocals cut through clear and crisp. Even on stage.

Worked particularly well with hard-hitting styles like metal and rock – it’s no wonder it’s been used by legends like Kurt Cobain and Owl City in the past.

The NTK has become known as one of the industry’s leading mics for rap vocals due to its high SPL specs and low noise.

The high-pass filter also did an excellent job at cutting through any low-end tones from acoustic instruments. Something we gave the most marks to out of all the other mics.

The warm sound quality makes it a perfect addition to any home studio set up while the high SPL worked a treat in use with instruments like guitars and drums.

If you’re unsure where to start shopping for your new microphone, consider the basics first.

When it comes to recording vocals, quality is something that should never be compromised.

If the mic doesn’t handle feedback well or you have to turn the gain right up to hear it, your vocals are probably going to sound quite trashy, and not in the good way either.

Plus, decent microphones aren’t cheap. You’ll want to make sure you go for something which will last and be able to withstand a good beating if you’re transporting it around for gigs, or it accidentally slips out your hand and onto the floor.

Here’s some of the technical aspects worth paying attention to before you choose:

  • Frequency Response– The range of frequencies: measured in kilohertz (kHz). The bigger the range in microphone, the better.
  • Sound Pressure Level (SPL)– Threshold of hearing: measured in decibels (dB). A good mic will be sensitive enough to pick up even low-volume sounds without you needing to whack the gain right up.
  • Impedance –Resistance to an electrical current: measured in Ohms (Ω). Most mics pick up some low-level noise, but it’s better to have a low impedance with microphones.
  • Polar Pattern–This is typically found in large diaphragm and ribbon mics. It is essentially the directional sensitivity of where the mic picks up sound i.e. front, sides, both.

We took into account all the above when testing out a range of different mics, both big and small, in the condensers and dynamic categories.

Our Recommendation:

Top Tier

The Neumann TLM 102 MT is a large-diaphragm, 48V phantom powered condenser mic built for both professional and amateur musicians. It has a diameter of 52mm with a length of 116mm and weighs in at around 260g. It produces a frequency range up to 20 kHz (-3dB) with an SPL tolerance of up to 144dB, making it compatible with many loud brass, wind, and string instruments such as guitars and amplifiers. It also comes in a basic, foam-lined cardboard box with a swivel stand mount for easier clipping force and repositioning.

Quality
5/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why we recommend:

Although the TLM 102 might seem a bit pricey, it’s actually one of the most affordable high-end microphones on the market right now. Despite its incredible tolerance for loud stereo settings and fluid viability with guitar amps etc., we were amazed at how small and lightweight it is. And this is a rarity for many other microphones in this price range. It was also extremely quick and easy to set up. We were producing crystal clear vocal recordings in minutes had absolutely no trouble with the gains or having to increase the volume at any point.

Budget Choice

The SM58-LC is a cardioid dynamic microphone, suitable for a range of vocal and performance uses. It produces a frequency response between 50 – 15,000 kHz which is optimized for bassy vocals and vocals with more vibrant mids. Weighing in at 298g, the SM58 has an output impedance of 300 Ohms also comes complete with a microphone clip, 3/8” adapter as well as storage bag.

Quality
4/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend:

Shure are one of the most notable manufacturers of top quality microphones. The SM58-LC is certainly no different, even with the budget price tag. We found it to produce barely any feedback whatsoever and vocals cut through clear and crisp. Even when we tested it on stage. That built-in pop filter also worked great for reducing breath and popping noises, making it one of the best multi-use mics for under $100.

Beginners
High End

Sennheiser’s MD 421 is a cardioid dynamic mic which has been around for several years. Though it has undergone a few changes and improvements in that time! The latest model comes in a sleeker design, producing a frequency response range of 30-17,000 kHz, with a max SPL level of 160 db. It also comes with a unique bass roll-off switch which can be adjusted into 5 different positions. This makes it extremely versatile and suitable for a range of different vocal uses as well as environments.

Quality
5/5
Price
4/5
Our Rating
5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend:

Sennheiser are best known for producing top-quality headphones. Their range of dynamic mics are equally as impressive – with this one sitting close to the top for us. It worked particularly well with hard-hitting styles like metal and rock – so it’s no wonder it’s been used by legends like Kurt Cobain and Owl City. Despite heavy construction going on next door for the last week, we were able to record clear, quality vocals with hardly any interference at all.

Rode’s NTK Tube Condenser mic brings the full package when it comes all of your vocal and general recording projects. It features its own dedicated power supply and hits a frequency range between 20 kHz – 20,000 kHz, on top of an impedance of 200 Ohms. Included is a pop shield and shock mount, 20ft microphone cable, dust cover and DVD guide with tips for recording.

Quality
4/5
Price
5/5
Our Rating
4/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend:

Rode are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to microphones. The NTK has become known as one of the industry’s leading mics for rap vocals due to its high SPL specs and low noise. It also sounds a lot closer compared to other mics, so you don’t need to act like you’re eating it compared to some models. We found it responded incredibly well to compression. It also produced warm-sounding tones throughout all the tracks we used it to record vocals over. Expensive, but totally worth it for the quality and convenience.

Audio-Technica’s AT4050 is a large diaphragm condenser, multi-pattern microphone suitable for a wide range of vocal uses. It produces frequencies between 20-18,000kHz, with a high SPL capacity and impedance of 100 Ohms. The most prominent features include a switchable 80kHz high-pass filter and 10dB pad, alongside a polar pattern switch with 3 different stereo configurations; omnidirectional, bi-directional and cardioid.

Quality
5/5
Price
4.5/5
Our Rating
4.5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend:

We had so much fun with this mic. The pattern feature was especially good for different stereo techniques. We tested it out for both melodic and heavy-hitting vocals. And the high-pass filter also did an excellent job at cutting through any low-end tones from acoustic instruments. Something we gave the most marks to out of all the other mics. This one is definitely an investment for anyone serious about producing quality, diverse vocals and wanting something which won’t depreciate over time.

Also on the list is Shure’s highly-acclaimed SM7B. A condenser mic with cardioid polar patterns that carries bass-roll off and controls for emphasizing the mid-range. It comes with built-in air suspension for isolating noise and produces a frequency range of 50hz-20,000Hz with a max SPL of 150dB. The SM7B is sleek and light; weighing in at 767g. Included is a pop filter and detachable windscreen for clearer tones and eliminating plosives.

Quality
4.5/5
Price
4.5/5
Our Rating
4.5/5
PROS
CONS

Why We Recommend:

There’s a reason a-class performers like Michael Jackson and System of a Down’s frontman Seri Tankjan all use this mic. Artists from various musical backgrounds have praised it since the first model was released in the 50s. Shure have made even more improvements since then. The warm sound quality makes it a perfect addition to any home studio set up while the high SPL worked a treat in use with loud, bass-driven instruments like guitars and drums.

Additional Accessories

Particularly if these items aren’t included, you may want to consider investing in some extras for your mic. These will make transporting, setting up and taking care of it a lot easier. You don’t need to go over the top costs, but ultimately they’ll make the recording and mastering processes much smoother and nicer to work with.

Pop Filter – We were using the Stedman Proscreen Xl to test the mics that didn’t come with a pop shield included. It does a fantastic job at reflecting the noise away from your mic, and the price is well worth it for the clarity. Alternatively if you’re on a budget, you can pick up the On-Stage Stands ASFSS6GB Dual-Screen for under 30 bucks. It did a decent job at stopping those pesky “b”‘s and “p”s coming through but you ultimately get what you pay for.

Mic Stand and Shockmount – If you’re going to be doing long hour recording sessions, you’re going to want to free up your arms and be able to relax properly. The stand will keep your mic in place and at a set distant. That way there’s no scattered range or different volumes going on. The shockmount is designed to soak up any unwanted noise and keeps your vocals clean. It also gives you more flexibility during the post-production phase.

Isolation Shield – Not essential, but vocal booths definitely make a difference. Especially when it comes to reflecting background noise and providing transparency behind vocals. We used the Neewer NW-5 which is especially ideal if you’re recording in a room with little or no soundproofing.

Conclusion

We hardly found faults with any of the above 6 recording microphones.

They all worked exceptionally well when it came to handling environmental feedback and harsh frequencies. Practically all of them produced clear-cut vocals in a variety of different settings.

We tested them in concert halls, next to building sites, and put them right up close to amps which would shatter ears in most normal mics.

It’s safe to say each one passed the test with flying colors! So whether you’re looking to create podcasts, scream satanic poetry at sweaty crowds, or conduct your own hardcore rap battles – these microphones will be more than sufficient in covering all of your vocal recording and performing needs.

FAQs

What is the purpose of phantom power?

In short, phantom power is essentially the the way condenser mics are powered to receive a remote signal from the mixer. Condenser mics do not have an outside source to power them, so the voltage supply must travel up and down the same cables as the audio, meaning the supply from the in-line source (such as a mixer or interface) is classed as “phantom.” 

Why am I experiencing a humming sound in my condenser microphone?

Most mics can emit some kind of hissing or humming noise from time to time, and this doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the mic itself. It could be anything from an effect you’ve added in your DAW, some EQ or compression issues, or if you’re using a wireless mic or external interface – there may be a wiring issue or fault with the preamps. Check these things first and if the problem still persists and is highly noticeable, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. 

What is the roll-off switch on my mic?

The roll-off switch allows you to filter certain frequencies from the audio signal chain, which means you can achieve a better balance of mids and lows during recording and mixing because the switch lets you filter out annoying noises like wind, breath and background rumbles. Sometimes, the roll-off might be listed as bass roll-off, low-frequency roll or low-cut filer on your mic.

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