The Best Live Vocal Mics - Handheld / Wired

The Highest Rated Handheld Live Vocal Mics
Sweetwater

Sponsorship Announcement

This gear guide is sponsored by Sweetwater and you can click through to their website to read customer reviews, check prices, or make a purchase, however all of the recommendations below have been made by the Gearank team.

From spoken word performance to rapping, to singing, and to screaming, selecting the right vocal mics for your singer or for your venue is very important as there are many on the market may or may not work with all vocal styles. Depending on your venue or style, you may want to select a mic that complements your voice or the style of music in your venue perfectly.

If you are a user of the fabled SM58 and are looking to upgrade or if you're looking for your first mic that complements your voice better than the standard, then this guide can help you make the right choice.

To keep the guide focused, we prioritized rating mics that are good for live music vocals, as opposed to ones that are suited to speaking conferences or making announcements over PA systems, and miking instruments. Still, while all the mics below are great for vocals, some of them are also viable for use with other sound sources like acoustic instruments, amplifiers, and some of them are also well suited for studio use.

This guide is about wired mics (although some can be adapted for wireless use), so if you need to go wireless then read our Wireless Microphone System Guide.

If you're looking to buy your first good microphone then don't be put off by all the technical jargon - just find one in your price range that is highly rated, like the ones below. Over time as you gain more experience you'll start to understand microphones a lot better and down the track you'll be able to buy higher performance mics with confidence.

If you're still unsure which mic to get, post a question in the comments below and describe the type of music you sing, and other instruments you might want to mic, and we might be able to help you with some personalized advice.

The Best Live Vocal Mics

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $100

While not exactly the cheapest, most "industry standard" microphones start at this price point. If you do want to look at cheaper options, then see our guide to The Best Microphones Under $50.

Shure SM58 LC

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 7550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Shure SM58 LC Handheld Vocal Dynamic Microphone

By Jason Horton

Shure launched the SM58 way back in 1966 and the basic design hasn't changed since then.

Although there are a growing number of audio engineers who think it's about time we all moved on to more modern mics, and despite all the advances in microphone design over the last 50+ years, the SM58 remains extremely popular.

These were the first serious microphones I ever had and my bandmates and I put them to good use both at gigs and for recording demos, and I have to say that after the years of abuse we put them through I can't ever remember one breaking down or failing in anyway - these are built to last.

More modern mics don't have the SM58's severe drop between 7 and 8 kHz, but strangely enough this 'deficiency' has become part of the mic's trademark sound. When you sing through one of these you sound like many of the rock stars from the last few decades and I think this is part of the reason why the SM58 still tops the best seller lists at so many music stores.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz to 15kHz
  • Impedance: 300 Ohms
  • Applications: Live vocals, also good for live instruments and amps
  • Power Requirements: None

Some people get confused over the different versions of the SM58 but it's quite simple - this is the SM58-LC which doesn't have an on/off switch, there's also the SM58S which does have a switch, and finally the SM58-CN which has no switch but comes bundled with an XLR mic cable.

Pros

With so many mics now available, it's impressive how the Shure SM58 continues to be the industry standard vocal microphone. Undoubtedly the most common positive mentioned in both customer and expert reviews is the durability and high build quality of the SM58. This is followed closely by its versatility as people use it not only for vocals but also for miking amps and even drums at live shows.

Cons

There were no consistent complaints about this version - the SM58-LC, although some people reported problems with the switch becoming 'scratchy' on the SM58S version. Some people remarked that they had unwittingly bought a counterfeit SM58 and some say they had this confirmed by Shure. To avoid this problem only buy from a well known retailer.

Overall

If you want that classic rock vocal sound then this is a great mic to get. Even if you out-grow it later it will probably out-last your singing career and you'll find plenty of other uses for it if you get a more expensive mic at a later stage.

Shure SM58 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure SM58 Frequency Response Chart

Shure SM58 Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure SM58 Frequency Response Chart

AKG D5

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
AKG D5 Vocal Dynamic Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Handheld Mic Under $100 along with the Sennheiser e835-S.

AKG describes the D5 as a mic "designed to cut through the mix" while offering maximum feedback and handling noise suppression.

The Laminated Varimotion diaphraghm, coupled with a dual internal shock mount ensures the mic stays silent on stage even with lots of movement.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response:70Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 600 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 147/156dB SPL (for 1% / 3% THD)
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Users note that this mic feels like a definite upgrade from their previous mic (which is usually a Shure SM58 in many of the reviews). They note that the sound can be described as a 'cleaner, more present Shure SM58'. They also loved how resistant it is to feedback and handling noise. One mentioned that this is their go-to mic for live performance recording. The low frequencies also pick up well with the mic, which makes it excellent for Bass and Baritone singers.

Cons

While it is resistant to feedback with proper handling, due to the design and polar pattern, habitual mic cuppers will make the mic even more prone to feedback. Users do not recommend the mic for people who have poor mic technique or derive their vocal sound from cupping the mic.

Overall

If you're looking for pristine vocals with a strong, but controlled low end, excellent handling and feedback suppression for singers that don't cup mic globes, the AKG D5 is a reasonably priced pick.

AKG D5 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern Chart:

AKG D5 frequency response and polar pattern chart

Sennheiser e835-S

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sennheiser e835-S Dynamic Cardioid Handheld Vocal Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Handheld Mic Under $100 along with the AKG D5.

150dB is loud. For comparison, a jet engine during takeoff produces 120dB SPL. There aren't many mics that handle this range of SPL confidently despite being advertised as able to.

The Sennheiser e835 is a mic designed to handle even the loudest of vocals (or other sound sources you might want to record).

The mic capsule is designed to minimize the frequency response change from singing close to far from the mic.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern:Cardioid
  • Frequency Response:40Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 350 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150dB
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

One thing to note about the e835 is that the high SPL handling makes it a great choice for aggressive and screamed vocals. User mentioned that it's their go-to mic for live performance venues that handle metal bands. Its relatively affordable price makes it easily replaceable when some singers get too rough onstage.

Cons

The on-off switch is the first thing to go for one user. Other than the odd preferential review, no other negatives can be found.

Overall

Like to scream and sing loud during gigs? Do you own a venue that hosts bands that do? The Sennheiser e835-S is a great pick for aggressive vocals.

Sennheiser e835-S Frequency Response and Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e835-S frequency response chart

Best Microphones For Live Vocals Under $200

In this price range there is a genuine step up in quality compared to those above, so if this is your price range, take a good look at the options below.

Shure Beta 58A

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 3350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$159
Shure Beta 58A

This is Shure's more upmarket brother to the SM58.

The Shure Beta 58A is a dynamic mic with a supercardioid pattern, which allows for improved feedback and noise resistance. But what separates it from the SM58 is its brightened midrange, which is due to a presence boost within 4kHz and 9kHz.

There is also a bass roll-off to further beef up the highs, making the resulting sound clearer, and viable for many different vocal timbres and styles.

Finally, the mic capsule is supported by an internal shockmount to prevent handling noise.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 350 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Those who are not too happy with the rounder sound and bass emphasis of the SM58, found themselves at home with the Shure Beta 58A's clearer sound. Many of the high ratings are from singers who prefer its supercardioid pattern, which allows them to play an instrument and sing at the same time, with less bleeding compared to regular cardioid mics. Durability is also well appreciated, with some even saying that you can use the mic to hammer a nail.

Cons

With so many different vocal timbres, the Beta 58A is simply not enough to cover them all. As such, there are some who are not happy with the extra highs.

Overall

If you are looking to add clarity and presence to your vocal sound or find that he SM58 makes your voice sound boomy in the low end but want to shift that with some more upper mid presence, then the Shure Beta 58A is ideal for you.

Shure Beta 58A Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Beta 58A frequency response chart

Shure Beta 58A Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Beta 58A polar pattern chart

Sennheiser e935

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$180
Sennheiser e 935 Vocal Dynamic Microphone

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Handheld Mic between $100 and $200.

Sennheiser design and manufacture their microphones in Germany and their mics are regarded as being very well engineered. The e935 is no exception. Aimed towards natural sounding vocal captures, the e935 is designed to be relatively flat in the midrange with a slight high frequency boost.

This makes it perfect for vocals that need to sit well with genres like Jazz where vocals need to be as natural as possible.

The e935 has a shock-mounted capsule for low handling noise and a hum compensating coil to reduce electrical interference.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 18kHz
  • Impedance: 350 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 155 dB
  • Applications: Live vocals, some use it to mic acoustic guitar
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Many customers who have reviewed the e935 say it sounds very 'natural' - this is due to the relatively flat frequency response it has across most of the vocal range with no pronounced dips and a bit of a boost at the high end. They also frequently mention how well built and durable it is.

Cons

It's really hard to find anyone seriously criticizing this microphone - if you do know of any complaints about this mic then please post in the comments below.

Overall

Sennheiser have earned their high reputation for quality and many owners say the e935 is not only the best dynamic mic in this price range, but equal to the highest rated mics even when compared to the condenser mics it competes with.

Sennheiser e935 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e935 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e935 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e935 polar pattern chart

Best Live Microphones For Singing Under $500

These are great mics that are starting to implement more upscale technologies and better build quality.

Sennheiser e945

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Sennheiser e945 Dynamic Supercardioid Handheld Microphone

The Sennheiser e945 has a hum compensating coil to reduce electrical interference and is shock mounted to reduce handling noise.

Proximity effects are reduced and the rugged, precision German engineering adds to its long term durability.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 18kHz
  • Impedance: 350 Ohms with the minimum terminating impedance recommended to be 1000 Ohms.
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Customer reviews consistently mention how clear the sound is. Many also attest to its versatility because you can also use it for miking instruments and even amplifiers. The build quality and its ruggedness also came up many times in reviews and comments.

Cons

There weren't any consistent complaints other than a few people who were used to the SM58 who had difficulty finding the correct EQ settings when they changed over to this one.

Overall

The Sennheiser e945 is German designed and built to high standards. If you want a high quality microphone that's plug and play, and complements a wide range of vocal styles then this is one of the most suitable options for you. It's also versatile enough for miking instruments with great success.

Sennheiser e945 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e945 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e945 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e945 polar pattern chart

Shure Beta 87A

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Shure Beta 87A Handheld Supercardioid Electret Condenser Mic

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Handheld Mic between $200 and $500.

The Shure Beta 87A is a condenser mic that's built for the stage, with its comfortable handheld profile, quiet operation and noise reduction feature.

Right of the bat, this mic comes with a super cardioid polar pattern that better rejects stage / background noise.

In conjunction with its built-in low frequency roll-off feature and pop filter, the Shure Beta 87A also does away with problems like proximity and plosives.

While it's a common assumption to expect condenser mics not to be as reliable as dynamic mics, the Beta 87A is reliable enough to be used by many popular singers and sound engineers.

Specifications:

  • Type: Electret Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 140.5 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals and even live broadcasting
  • Power Requirements: 11v to 52v phantom power

Pros

More and more singers are switching over to the Shure Beta 87A from the SM58, thanks to testimonies from former dynamic mic users who are very impressed with the improvements that this mic brought to their sound. Quiet operation and clarity comes up quite often in reviews, while others thank Shure for making this mic solid and reliable despite being a condenser.

Cons

Not much to report, other than a few who caution that improper mic handling like covering the capsule may cause feedback, which is expected given that this is a condenser mic.

Overall

Some say you can't buy peace of mind, but the Shure Beta 87A comes quite close to it. Get it if you're curious about the condenser mic sound but don't want to stray too far from the Shure house sound.

Shure Beta 87A Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Beta 87A frequency response chart

Shure Beta 87A Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Beta 87A polar pattern chart

Sennheiser e865

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$250
Sennheiser e865 Handheld Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

Sennheiser aims to bring the studio sound to the stage with the e865 handheld condenser microphone.

The e865 was tweaked to bring that broad spectrum large-diaphraghm sound to a handheld mic without feedback by using a tight supercardioid pickup pattern. This ensures only the sound in front of the mic gets picked up to minimize bleed and avoid feedback.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance:200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150dB
  • Power Requirements:+48v Phantom Power

Pros

Users report the mic delivers on its promise to bring studio sound on stage. Many are happy with how their vocals sound and the frequency response makes them easier to distinguish in front and on their monitors. Male and female vocals are handled equally well and the low frequencies don't get bloated with proximity.

Cons

Might thin out some already thin sounding vocals with its frequency response. Tight polar pattern absolutely requires the singer to have good mic technique and placement.

Overall

If you have a disciplined mic handling technique and the pitch of your voice doesn't need excessive warming up, then this could be a good mic for you to get into higher quality condenser sounds.

Sennheiser e865 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e865 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e865 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e865 polar pattern chart

Shure KSM8

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Shure KSM8 Dualdyne Dynamic Handheld Microphone

With its dual diaphraghm design, the KSM8 isn't your run-of-the-mill handheld vocal microphone.

The design was implemented to reduce proximity effect -- making it perfect for singers that get right up close with the microphone.

A large sweet spot enables singers who also play instruments to be able to be picked up consistently when the mic is on a stand.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dual-diaphragm dynamic
  • Polar Pattern:Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

One thing users consistently praise the KSM8 for is its consistency both in proximity and axis. They mention their voices sound consistent in tone even off-axis. Vocalists with instruments love the mic for this reason as moving around, looking down at their instrument, and basically operating around a static mic position on a stand still sounds consistent.

Cons

One noted long term durability may be a problem as his unit broke down after a few months. With the price, it may be expensive to replace.

Overall

If you're looking for a mic that handles dynamic singing, or if you want a mic for a vocalist/instrumentalist that sounds consistent, the KSM8 by Shure is a great pick if you can get past the price of admission.

Shure KSM8 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure KSM8 frequency response chart

Shure KSM8E Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure KSM8EE polar pattern chart

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $1000

These top of the line mics get some of the best tech and build quality that you can find and will find applications both live and in the studio. If you are a singer that is looking to improve and make refinements on your live, or even recorded sound, this is the best range to look at.

Shure KSM9 Dual Diaphragm

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$699
Shure KSM9

The KSM9 is Shure's premier live vocal mic and with it's dual diaphragms can be switched between Cardioid and Supercardioid polar pattern modes.

As well as having a shock mount system to reduce handling noise, it also has a 3 stage grille to reduce pop and breath noise.

This microphone is highly regarded by live sound audio engineers due to it's feedback rejection, resistance to popping, quality of construction, and it's transparent sound.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser (Electret Biased)
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid and Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 152 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Some owners compare this to the Shure Beta 87A and say the KSM9 has a clearer sound and has much less of a proximity effect. The positive reviews consistently talk about the overall quality of both its sound and construction, and its good handling of sibilance issues. Many reviewers also say this is a professional recording microphone.

Cons

As you may have guessed by its high Gearank score, we could not find any consistently reported negative comments about the KSM9.

Overall

If you're looking for a top-of-the-line microphone that will give you a transparent sound both on stage and in the studio then this is a great option for you. Get it and your sound guy will thank you.

Shure KSM9 Supercardioid Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Supercardioid KSM9 frequency response chart

Shure KSM9 Supercardioid Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Supercardioid KSM9 polar pattern chart

Shure KSM9 Cardioid Frequency Response Chart:

Shure KSM9 Cardioid frequency response chart

Shure KSM9 Cardioid Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure KSM9 Cardioid polar pattern chart

Neumann KMS 105

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$699
Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Handheld Mic between $500 and $1000.

The Neumann brand is very highly regarded with studio microphones and that reputation carries over into their live handheld mics as well.

The supercardiod polar patter of the KMS 105 makes it exceptionally good at rejecting sound from a full 180° behind the mic.

Although the KMS 105 works well for most kinds of vocals, Neumann also have the similar KMS 104 which is optimized for female rock and pop singers.

It also uses electronic compensation to control the proximity effect - it has a 120Hz high-pass filter.

Michael Buble and Norah Jones are two well known singers who use the Neumann KMS 105 in live concert.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 Ohms - Load impedance is 1000 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals + recording acoustic guitar
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Many positive customer reviews talk about how 'natural' this mic sounds and that it's the best live performance mic they've ever owned. Noise and feedback rejection are other features reviewers cite very positively.

Cons

Several owners report that unless you have a high-end PA system with good mic preamps then you won't get the full value out of this mic and you may as well get a cheaper one instead.

Overall

The Neumann KMS 105 is best suited to jazz, middle of the road, pop, and acoustic artists where the crystal clear sound can really shine as opposed to heavy metal or hard rock artists where the fine nuances of this mic are lost on stage.

Neumann KMS 105 Frequency Response Chart:

Neumann KMS 105 frequency response chart

Neumann KMS 105 Polar Pattern Chart:

Neumann KMS 105 polar pattern chart

Earthworks SR40V

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$999
Earthworks SR40V Handheld Hypercardioid Condenser Microphone

James Taylor has been using the Earthworks SR40V in his concerts since he was first introduced to them in 2011. Other Earthworks SR40V artists include Foreigner, jazz singer Candice Hoyes, and many more.

One of the reasons it is so well liked by talented singers and their audio engineers is because it has the most incredibly flat frequency response across the vocal range - you never need to EQ this mic for any reason other than a desired effect, no compensatory EQ is needed. In fact, the Earthworks SR40V has the widest frequency response range of any of the microphones for singing live that I found when researching this gear guide.

Earthworks stand behind the quality of this mic because they offer a 15 year warranty.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Hypercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz to 40kHz
  • Impedance: 65 Ohms with the min output load being 600 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 139 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Expert reviewers who have put the SR40V through its paces are unanimous in saying that this mic really does reproduce a studio quality sound on stage. They also say the feedback rejection is excellent and that it has low handling noise characteristics. Most of them said this was the best vocal mic they have ever used live.

Cons

A few expert reviewers pointed out that you must have an excellent signal chain from the mic preamps to the FOH speakers otherwise you simply won't realize the benefits of a high-end mic like this.

Overall

If you're a singer who works with high quality PA systems then this is a top choice. The SR40V squeezes out every bit of potential from you and your entire setup and may be the last thing you need for absolutely perfect performances It works great with studio recording as well.

Earthworks SR40V Frequency Response Chart:

Earthworks SR40V frequency response chart

Earthworks SR40V Polar Pattern Chart:

Earthworks SR40V polar pattern chart

Things To Consider When Buying A Live Singing Microphone

  • On/Off Switch

    This might seem like a trivial issue, but it isn't. In general you do not want handheld microphones with switches that can be easily accidentally turned off. Many live audio engineers don't like on/off switches because it's really difficult to trouble shoot a mic drop out in the middle of a performance and frustrating when you track it down to the singer turning it off. The exceptions are mics that have switch locks so they can't be turned off by mistake, or if you only intend to use them for karaoke where it's better to turn the mic off in between singers.

  • Dynamic vs Condenser

    If you go back 20 years or so you would usually only find Condenser mics in recording studios, and mainly only Dynamic mics on stage - particularly for vocals. This was largely because condenser mics were very fragile and prone to feedback. But times have changed and advances in microphone design have meant that Condenser mics that are specifically designed to be hand held are now capable of delivering 'studio quality' results at live shows. Dynamic mics typically have a lower frequency range but sound 'warm' whereas condensers typically have a much higher frequency range and tend to sound 'brighter'. Condenser mics typically require their own power supply to work properly - either from a battery or phantom power supplied by a mic preamp or mixing desk. Dynamic mics are generally still a bit sturdier than condenser mics, but if you look after your microphones well then this shouldn't be much of an issue. If after reading this you're still unsure which type of mic would be best for you, then get one of each and spend time singing through both of them until you find which type suits your vocals.

  • Polar Pattern

    Cardioid polar pattern This is which direction(s) a microphone absorbs sound from. For singing live you generally only want microphones that accept sound from directly in front while suppressing sound that comes from the back or the sides - this is to reduce problems with feedback coming from your stage monitors or front of house speakers. Most microphones used in live performance have a Cardioid polar patter, or a variation of that, to help prevent feedback. The image on the right is an example of a cardioid polar pattern.

  • Frequency Response

    Each microphone has its own characteristics in terms of which frequencies it emphasizes or de-emphasizes. An ideal microphone has a flat response across the entire range of frequencies it responds to, however that is only found in high-end mics. That said, some mics have their own idiosyncratic frequency responses which give them a signature sound musicians have come to really love in certain styles of music - the SM58's classic rock vocalist sound is a great example. If you have a high pitched voice then you might want to be careful using a mic which emphasizes the highs because without proper EQ'ing this could lead to your singing sounding harsh. If you have a low register and you really want to emphasize that then you might look for mics that are strong below 200Hz. If you know your vocal characteristics well then you'll find the frequency response charts to be quite helpful. If all this sounds a bit too technical leaving you uncertain, then get a microphone that is often used in the style of music you perform and you shouldn't have any trouble.

  • Proximity Effect

    When you get very close to any kind of directional mic, one with anything other than an omnidirectional polar pattern, you will notice an increase in volume of the low frequencies. This can make your vocals sound 'warmer'. Typically cardioid dynamic mics have the strongest proximity effect and you see it put to good use live often by male singers and rappers. Some manufacturers supply data on the proximity effect of their microphones and when they do you'll see an extra line showing it in the frequency response chart for the mic.

  • Impedance

    Without getting too technical, impedance can be best thought of as the amount of resistance an electronic device has to electric current flowing through it. A microphone should only be plugged into equipment that has the same or a higher impedance rating otherwise you'll get a loss of signal. Most handheld mics are low impedance (below 600 Ohms) so they generally don't have any issues when used with 'pro' sound gear. If you're unsure about the equipment you'll be using your mic with, such as a low-cost 'consumer' karaoke machine, then it doesn't hurt to check to make sure the mic you want to buy has the same or a lower impedance than the system you're going to plug it into - you can check the manuals or specification sheets of both devices to make sure.

  • Max SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

    This indicates the maximum volume, measured in decibels (dB) you can expose a mic to before it starts having problems like distortion. Very few people can sing loud enough to ever worry about this, but if you're also going to use your mic on amplifiers or loud instruments like drums, then you should opt for a mic with a high Max SPL. If you're unsure how loud something is then you can measure that with an SPL meter - I have an app on my phone that does that which is accurate enough for this purpose, alternatively you can buy hardware SPL Meters (link to Sweetwater) which tend to be more accurate.

  • Applications

    This gear guide is primarily focused on microphones for singing live. Some good live vocal mics can also be used for other applications such as recording or miking some kinds of instruments and/or amplifiers. Typically a good live condenser microphone will also serve you well for recording vocals or even acoustic guitar. Good dynamic mics will sometimes work well for miking amplifiers both live and for recording. If you also like to record at home, getting a versatile mic that can serve multiple applications will allow you to get more bang for your buck.

  • Power Source - Phantom Power

    Dynamic microphones don't require any power to work but Condenser mics do. Some of them take batteries and others need phantom power. Most live mixing desks these days do provide phantom power, but not all do. If your mic requires phantom power and your mixing desk doesn't provide it then you'll need to get a mic preamp or a vocal effects processor to provide the power. Note that for Dynamic Mics you can get a device like the Cloudlifter CL-1 to boost the mic's signal, but they in turn usually require phantom power to operate.

Best Vocal Mic Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on March 16, 2016 written by Jason Horton and the latest major update was published on April 2, 2020 written by audio engineer Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Jason Horton & Alexander Briones.

We first scoured the market for popular and highly rated wired handheld microphones that can be used for live vocals, including popular dynamic and condenser microphones. For this update, we again narrowed down our scope to those that are widely available from major US retailers, and we still ended up with big numbers - over 70 as our beginning list, along with more than 33,000 relevant reviews, ratings and recommendations, including the most recent ones up to the end of March 2020.

All these data were then fed into the Gearank algorithm to produce the scores you see above. We broke them down into price brackets and selected the highest rated in each price range. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

This is by far the most

This is by far the most research-based article I've found. Thank you for sharing your expertise! I'm a female vocalist looking for a mic that will allow me to sing live with my naturally soft-medium volume voice and will be able to pick up otherwise unheard nuanced inflections. My sound is much like Christy Nockels. Any suggestions would much appreciated! Thanks!

It sounds like you want a

It sounds like you want a good condenser mic like the Sennheiser e965, Shure KSM9, or Neumann KMS 105/104. Just be aware that although these mics will pick up "otherwise unheard nuanced inflections" they will also highlight imperfections too, but if you can sing as well as Christy Nockels that shouldn't be a problem for you.

Very glad you mentioned that

Very glad you mentioned that there are counterfeit mics out there. I had the misfortune of buying a counterfeit Shure SM58 (it certainly was not Shure's fault) off of an online auction site. Great advice you offer to buy from a retailer you trust. Great article all around.

This is awesome! Thanks for

This is awesome! Thanks for posting! I am a little annoyed that Neumann KMS 105 and an SM58 are tied...that's crazy. But still an excellent overview

Thanks for the feedback Jeff.

Thanks for the feedback Jeff.

One thing that's important to know about Gearank scores is that you can't use them to compare different products or similar ones that are in very different price brackets. When people review and rate the SM58 they're only rating it for what it is and not comparing it to more expensive options like the KMS 105 - we explain this in a bit more detail in How Gearank Works.

Wondered why you did not

Wondered why you did not include Telefunken M80? These are exceptional live mikes. Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent were using them last time I saw them. I immediately purchased one and have had numerous positive comments every time I use it. Folks liked it better than Neuman 105 through a Eureka Pre and QSC through Klipsch professional.

At the time when this guide

At the time when this guide was published the Telefunken M80 didn't have a high enough Gearank score to be included.

It has received more online feedback and reviews since then so I processed its Gearank score today and made it available in our public Music Gear Database.

Based on it's Gearank score of 91 it would have a reasonable chance of being included if we reprocessed this category and updated this guide today.

Hi Ricardo - our guides aren

Hi Ricardo - our guides aren't intended to be a list of every product available but rather they're meant to be as useful as possible and give a very good overview of the category.

I decided to include the Shure SM86, which is a condenser mic, instead of the Shure Beta 58A which is a dynamic mic.

Both mics have similarly high ratings - here's the Gearank score of the Shure Beta 58A.

Excellent write up and very

Excellent write up and very useful from beginner level to pro ones. Great job and really appreciate your effort.

Thank you very much Napoleon

Thank you very much Napoleon - comments like yours inspire us to work hard at providing the best research and advice we can.

Please suggest the best live

Please suggest the best live gig mic for soft and hard rock genre. Should it be condenser or dynamic?

Traditionally rock bands used

Traditionally rock bands used dynamic mics however with the improvements in live condenser mics in recent years many are now using condensers.

If you're unsure which type of mic will work best for your vocalists then use the kind your favorite rock bands use.

Hey matthieu, thanks heaps!

Hey Matthieu, thanks heaps! very useful article. I am playing in a sort of blues rock band and I sing with a low register the other singer is a mid register singer and we are looking for a nice vocal mic which is crisper and more lively than the sm58s we have been using. .What would your picks be? Our budget is around $200-$300, cheers!

If you want to stick with a

If you want to stick with a dynamic mic then a good step up from the SM58 is the Sennheiser e945.

However, if you'd like to transition to condenser mics then the Shure Beta 87A is a popular one to move to from the SM58 for a more lively and crisper sound.

Thanks for all the time and

Thanks for all the time and effort put into this. Always grateful when I find pearls like this on the web.

Thank you Matthieu, I really

Thank you Matthieu, I really appreciate that. Don't forget to tell your friends about Gearank.com!

I really appreciate the

I really appreciate the effort. Well,I am a professional singer. My styles are mainly R"n"B,Blues and Soul. Although, I do these styles in real gospel. My challenge however is, I find it hard recording with the usual large condenser mics just standing in front of me. I want a handheld studio condenser Mic. I want that lively feeling I do have while on stage when in the studio. I shall be going to the studio soon for recording and I want to go with my own mic. Please, I really need your help and recommendations. Thanks a lot.

Usually you want to avoid

Usually you want to avoid holding a microphone in your hands when recording in order to avoid introducing handling noise.

If you're absolutely determined to hold a mic while recording then go for the best you can afford that performs like a studio condenser and has low handling noise.

You didn't say what your budget was, but if you can afford it then the two best options would likely be the Earthworks SR40V and the DPA d:facto II.

Thank you for this very

Thank you for this very informative and helpful article. Nice layout and easy to read. I hope you don't mind me linking your page from a karaoke forum that I frequent. This topic often comes up so I thought your article will resolve some questions.

Thanks AZNguy. Please feel

Thanks AZNguy. Please feel free to mention this on the karaoke forum if it will help the members there.

Thank you Dan - many many

Thank you Dan - many many hours went into the research for this guide, glad you like it!

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