The Best Condenser Mics Under $100 - XLR & USB - Over 70,000 Rating Sources!

The Highest Rated Condenser Mics Under $100

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The current musical landscape has changed significantly over the past year. More and more musicians are starting to not only record at home, but create music-focused content and streaming performances. Musicians like Matt Heafy from the metal band Trivium has taken to streaming platforms like Twitch to give his fans live performances, lessons, and even Q and A.

We noticed a shift in trends with more USB microphones being popular for most people who don't plan to get an audio interface or prefer to work with less equipment. Standard XLR condenser microphones still offer better options and better quality as previous generation tech gets trickled down to more affordable tiers. Technology that was only available to high-end microphones 10 years ago are now commonly found in even the most budget-oriented microphones.

This rapid growth in interest is evidenced by the fact that this March 2021 edition of the guide features more than twice the number of rating and review sources from the previous edition, which had over 31,000 sources.

In order to keep up with the big increase in user reviews and changes in market sentiment, we present you with an updated look at the best condenser microphones that you can get for under $100.

Looking for premium mics? Then head over to our guide for The Best Condenser Mics - $100 to $1000.

The Best Condenser Mics Under $100

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

The Best XLR Condenser Microphones Under $100

These are condenser mics that use a traditional XLR connection. Because condenser microphones use internal circuitry for the diaphragm to function and send signals, they require phantom power to operate. Most modern preamps, mixing consoles, and USB adapters provide phantom power.

MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 1700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$80
MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated XLR Condenser Mic Under $100 along with the Neat Microphones Worker Bee.

The MXL 770 is a straightforward studio-quality workhorse mic at a very affordable price.

It features a 6-micron, 20-mm gold-sputtered diaphragm, and it has a frequency response of 30Hz-20kHz.

It has a nice balanced sound that works great for just about anything, be it vocals or instruments, as long as the SPL does not exceed 137dB.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 30Hz - 20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 137 dB
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power (+/- 4V)
  • Best For: Recording, Voiceovers, Podcasts

Pros

While some reviewers prefer the more expensive MXL 990, the MXL 770 continues to perform better in the market as evidenced by its continued higher ratings and higher sales volume. Many reviewers speak of this mic dearly, specifically pointing to its quality, value for money, and how it is versatile enough to work with common instruments and sound sources in home recording situations.

Cons

There were concerns about long-term durability; they recommend careful handling when moving the mic around or when transporting.

Overall

The market continues to hail the MXL 770 as one of the best budget-friendly condenser mics, so we highly recommend it, especially for home studio use.

Neat Microphones Worker Bee

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$89
Neat Microphones Worker Bee

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated XLR Condenser Mic Under $100 along with the MXL 770.

Neat microphones is a relative newcomer in the pro audio scene. Founded by former founders and senior members of Blue Microphones along with industry veterans and fresh talent.

The Worker Bee is a medium-diaphraghm, cardioid pattern condenser microphone made for use with high-SPL sound sources.

It features discrete, class A circuitry, an internal shockmount (plus additional "beekeeper" external shockmount) keeps handling noise at bay.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 145 dB
  • Power Requirements: Phantom Power 48V (+/- 4V)
  • Best For: Vocal recording, Instruments, Orchestral/Brass

Pros

The competitively priced Worker Bee amazed many users who bought it out of curiosity. It is noted as a warm, but clear sounding microphone that handles high SPL without distortion. It was found to sweeten female vocals, brass and string sections; as well as giving body to drum overheads and room mics as a stereo pair.

Cons

The external shockmount is proprietary and some felt that some of their units didn't feel secure enough to keep the mic in place.

Overall

If you're looking for a great do-it-all mic with a tonality that sweetens usually shrill sound sources and adds body to thundering drums, the Neat Microphones Worker Bee has a place in your mic locker.

Shure PGA181

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$94
Shure PGA181 Condenser Microphone

The Shure PGA181 is a side-address cardioid condenser microphone designed with versatility in mind.

The design allows the PGA181 to even be used dangling in front of a guitar cabinet: something not usually recommended with top-address microphones like the SM57.

It has a max SPL of 138dB which allows it to be used on even the loudest of sound sources.

Features

  • Frequency Response:50Hz-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 138 dB
  • Power Requirements: Phantom Power 48V (+/- 4V)
  • Best For: Vocals, Instruments, Percussion, Amplifiers.

Pros

"Desert island microphone" is what forum discussions and reviews hint at when they describe the PGA181. The frequency response is even and clear and versatile enough to work from vocals to orchestral percussion.

Cons

It is a "Jack-of-all-trades, master of none" type microphone according to some reviews. It might also be too heavy for some mic stands as some users said their booms were not able to support the mic properly. This can be remedied by using a good Mic Stand.

Overall

The PGA181 is a versatile microphone that gets the job done and is a great pick if you're looking for a first mic to get your music production projects rolling.

Audio-Technica AT2020

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 8950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

"Often imitated, never duplicated" is an adage that applies to the AT2020.

It is Audio-Technica's offering on the lower-priced segment.

Despite this, it still offers much of Audio-Technica's signature sound, build quality and reliability.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 144dB
  • Power Requirements: Phantom Power 48V (+/- 4V)
  • Best For: Voiceovers / Vocal recording, Instruments, Podcast / streaming

Pros

Many praise the AT2020 for its smooth response and great transient handling. A few reviews mentioned that not only is it a great entry point to the Audio-Technica "sound", but it is also a great microphone for its price to performance value.

Cons

Numerous complaints about the mic not including a cable or stand extension. Upon research, we found that some retailers may use photos that show the mic on a stand with a cable. It is best to check the specifications to see if you are buying a bundle or just the microphone. Performance-wise, some people report some static and popping on their units. There are a few who have received fake/damaged microphones. To avoid this, order only from reputable sellers/distributors.

Overall

The AT2020 is an excellent microphone capable of handling many scenarios from vocals to percussion to streaming. Just be sure to get one from a major retailer to ensure you get the real thing!

MXL V67G

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
MXL V67G Large Capsule Condenser Microphone

The MXL V67G is a deceptively affordable, vintage-style microphone that aims to give tube-like warmth to your recordings.

Thanks to how it's tuned, vocals get more body and richness. The mic itself has a wide frequency range extending into 30hz in the low frequencies.

All wiring is done by class-leading cable maker Mogami to couple a Class A FET design with a Transformer-coupled output stage similar to vintage condenser microphones.

Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 30Hz - 20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 130 dB
  • Power Requirements: Phantom Power 48V (+/- 4V)
  • Best For: Voiceovers, Vocal recording and Drum overheads/rooms

Pros

Users who liked vintage tones and were looking for a mic with the response and character of mics from yesteryear were pleased to find that sound with the V67G. They love the warmth and tube-like response of the mic, even at the price point. Some reported that the basic tonality they got felt more "mix ready" than their other recordings from other mics. Deep voices were also noted to be enhanced by the V67G; giving emphasis for podcasts, voice overs and audiobook recordings. A pair of the mics also sounded great for overheads, according to forum discussions.

Cons

Its diaphragm is sensitive to humidity and condensation from breaths as reported by a couple of users. Using a proper pop filter alleviates this.

Overall

Looking for a mic with a vintage vibe and gives depth to low frequencies with great harmonic sweetness? The MXL V67G is an amazingly affordable pick. Using it as a room mic for drums also gives you thundering drum sounds reminiscent of 70s recordings.

Blue Ember

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Blue Ember Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone

The Blue Ember features a compact form factor with a tight cardioid polar pattern.

Primarily designed for streaming but also equally adept for vocals and voice overs, the Ember has a custom, side address diaphragm and a slightly scooped midrange for a more "open" sound that's ready for broadcast.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 38Hz-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 132dB SPL
  • Power Requirements: Phantom Power 48V (+/- 4V)
  • Best For: Voiceovers / Vocal recording, Podcast / streaming

Pros

Many users praise the Ember for its clarity for voices. Since it's designed as a broadcast mic, vocals sound present without being sibilant. Others liked the slim form factor as it does not get in the way of their vision whether during streaming or reading scripts and lyrics in front of them.

Cons

Needs a pop filter or screen. Plosives tend to get emphasized without it.

Overall

For streaming, voice recordings, singing and other general recording duties, the Blue Ember is a clear sounding, compact mic that does the job well.

The Best USB Condenser Microphones Under $100

These are condenser mics that feature USB connectivity, which lets them draw power from your computer and stream captured audio for direct recording. These are for direct to computer recording, and are ideal for musicians who are looking to set up a basic home studio without the need for a separate audio interface. USB condenser microphones are designed to run on lower power compared to regular condenser mics. This is usually reflected in a difference in their frequency range and dynamic range. The convenience of these microphones has given them great value for content creation and recording.

Blue Snowball iCE

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 28300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Cardioid Microphone

Not to be confused with its similarly named brother, the iCE version of the Snowball by Blue has a fixed cardioid pattern rather than the original snowball's multi pattern feature. This omission enables the Snowball iCE to be positioned at an even more affordable price point than its sibling.

The Blue Snowball iCE features a cardioid polar pattern, tripod desktop stand and a USB cable.

Specifications:

  • Frequency Response:40hz –18 kHz
  • Polar Pattern:Cardioid
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48 kHz
  • Bit Depth:16 bit
  • Best For: Home Recording, Podcasts, Content Creation, and Streaming

Pros

Many users note the great sound quality at the price point. From streamers, podcasters, musicians, and producers, the Snowball iCE gets equal amounts of praise for its no-nonsense setup and quality.

Cons

The stand is noted to be flimsy as well as lacking in stability and protection against accidentally knocking it over. A few users have resorted to mounting it on a suspension boom stand. Pops and plosives are easily picked up at close proximity and several reviewers recommend the use of a separate pop filter.

Overall

For the price, the Blue Snowball iCE is a safe choice for your first USB condenser. With its sound quality, it will be a while before you feel any need to upgrade your setup.

Mackie EM-91CU

84
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$50
Mackie EM-91CU USB Condenser Microphone

Released in late 2020, The Mackie EM-91CU is a USB version of the company's Element Series EM-91C Condenser Microphone. The Element series was designed with sound quality, long-term durability and serviceability and affordability in mind.

Designed as a "do-it-all" mic, the EM91CU strikes a balance between warmth and brilliance for anything from vocals, acoustic guitar and even amplified electric guitar.

It also features onboard Onyx preamp circuitry for low noise, and high dynamic range.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-17kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 132dB SPL
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB power
  • Device / Operating System compatibility: Class - Compliant USB , Windows 7 SP1 or later , Mac OS X 10.11 or later or higher with USB 2.0
  • Sampling Rate: 48kHz
  • Bit Depth: 16-bit
  • Best For: Home Recording, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Light Percussion, Streaming, Podcasting

Pros

Users found that the EM-91CU excels with spoken word, voice overs, podcasts and streaming. It enhances most voice types with a subtle low frequency harmonic boost that gives body to female vocals and authority to deeper baritone voices.

Cons

While the mic is noted to tame sibilance, others found that some voices sounded too muddy and needed low cuts to sound right in the mix.

Overall

The Mackie EM-91CU is a great value mic for its durability and rich sound. Get it if you want some more warmth to your vocals and have a tendency to emphasize sibilant "s" and "f" sounds.

Samson C01U Pro

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$90
Samson C01U Pro Large-diaphragm USB Condenser Microphone

The Samson C01U Pro comes with a large (19mm) internal shock mounted diaphragm and a hypercardioid polar pattern that allows for good sonic detail capture and good background noise rejection.

It also comes with a built-in headphone amplifier for no-latency real-time monitoring.

It's is housed in a solid die-cast form factor with a heavy gauge mesh grill.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz–18kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardiod
  • Max SPL: 130 dB
  • Phantom Power: 5v USB
  • Device / Operating System compatibility: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7/Win 8/Win10, Mac OS X 10.4.9 or higher, iPad
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1/48kHz
  • Bit Depth:16-bit
  • Best For: Home Recording Studios, Mobile/Field recording, Voice-overs, Podcasts, Streaming, and Content Creation.

Pros

Users describe the C01U Pro as being super easy to use, and good sounding. They are happy that there is nothing to complicate the recording process, just load up your DAW, plug it in, and record away. There are many reports of it working well in various musical styles like rap, rock, and even metal-style screaming, and it has also worked well when recording acoustic instruments.

Cons

The most common concern is regarding monitoring latency, which can be a deal-breaker for those who want to listen to what they are recording in real-time. Thankfully, the mic comes with a built-in headphone amplifier so you can listen-in without latency at the cost of not being able to hear the effects that you apply.

Overall

If you're looking for a mic that can get you started while being versatile and clear enough for more professional applications, the C01U Pro will take you a long way before needing any sort of upgrade.

Rode NT-USB Mini

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Rode NT-USB Mini USB Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated USB Condenser Mic Under $100 along with the Blue Yeti Nano.

Not to be confused with the original NT-USB, the Rode NT-USB Mini is Rode's answer to the demand for a studio-quality microphone in a compact, easily transportable format.

Initially designed with podcasters, streamers, and voice over artists in mind, the Rode NT-USB is equally as adept at recording instruments and field recordings.

It also features plug and play functionality and zero-latency monitoring.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 20-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Max SPL: 121dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB power
  • Device / Operating System compatibility: Class - Compliant USB ,Windows 10, Mac OS 10.10 or higher with USB 2.0
  • Sampling Rate: 48kHz
  • Bit Depth: 24-bit
  • Best For: Home Recording, Podcasts, Content Creation, and Streaming

Pros

The NT-USB Mini is hailed as a "do-all" microphone according to several positive reviews. Users that bought the mic initially for specific use like streaming found that they were able to get great quality instrument recordings as well. Some were even inspired to write an album for the first time because the mic sounded so good.

Cons

Some report the unit being damaged out of the box as well as not working at all. This may be due to improper shipping and handling. We highly suggest purchasing only from verified distributors.

Overall

There is not one thing that the NT-USB Mini can't do. Even now, more and more users are finding creative ways of using this little mic. If you want a USB Mic that is capable of handling many different use case scenarios with great results, the NT-USB Mini is an amazing pick.

Blue Yeti Nano

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 1450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Blue Yeti Nano USB Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated USB Condenser Mic Under $100 along with the Rode NT-USB Mini.

The Blue Yeti Nano is more than just a diminutive version of its larger counterpart. Instead of compromising with a digital algorithm based polar patterns, the Yeti Nano utilizes two separate capsules to provide cardioid and omni polar patterns.

It features a headphone out and a Multifunction knob to microphone gain, headphone output, and functions as a mute switch.

Features

  • Frequency Response: 20-20kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid and Omni (selectable)
  • Max SPL: 120dB
  • Power Requirements: 5V USB power
  • Device / Operating System compatibility: Class - Compliant USB ,Windows 10, Mac OS 10.10 or higher with USB 2.0
  • Sampling Rate: 48kHz
  • Bit Depth: 24-bit
  • Best for: Podcasts, Content Creation, Streaming, Vocals and Voice overs.

Pros

User reviews note that having two selectable polar patterns in such a small device is a godsend for interviews, field recordings, rehearsal recordings and dialogue. Users note that the Yeti Nano carries over the "broadcast sound signature" of its larger counterpart especially well.

Cons

Some users wished for a separate knob for gain adjustment rather than the multi-function knob.

Overall

If you like the sound of the original Yeti and always wanted a USB version for on-the-go purposes, or if it's your first time buying a condenser mic and don't want to get a separate audio interface, the Blue Yeti Nano is a great pick.

Things to Consider When Buying a Budget Condenser Mic

If you're not overly familiar with budget condenser microphones, then have a read below to help you decide which mic to get.

  • Diaphragm Size and Sound Pressure Handling

    Condenser mics often come with large diaphragms and capture more detail from the sound source. They also work well with different instruments. For high SPL (Sound Pressure Level) applications like miking drum kits, wind instruments, or guitar amplifiers, ones with smaller diaphragms are more ideal. Small diaphragm cardioid mics are ideal for high SPL applications because they can withstand loud volumes. Large-diaphragm mics reproduce more detail but may also capture unwanted reflections and distort when the diaphragm is overloaded with levels beyond the mic's rated maximum.

    Recently, more "Medium diaphragm mics" have been getting more popular. These are usually found on compact designs or USB Condenser mics. They usually have less low frequency extension than large diaphragm condensers but offer a more compact silhouette. This is useful for screen visibility during streaming or for reading scripts and lyric sheets.

  • Polar Pattern and Background Noise Reduction

    For single instrument and vocal recording, the Cardioid polar pattern is ideal because of its noise reduction capability. This pattern captures everything in front of the capsule and rejects background noise from the back and sides. Omnidirectional and Figure-8 patterns are useful for capturing multiple instruments and sound sources. This also means that background noise can seep in, so consider proper placement and the acoustics of the location first. Some budget microphones come with polar pattern switching, allowing you to switch between Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Figure-8, and more. These versatile mics give you more value for your money, but because of the moving parts required, they are more fragile.

  • USB vs XLR

    The biggest considerations between going for USB vs XLR are convenience and upgrading. Having a USB condenser is more convenient since you won't need XLR cables and an audio interface to get started. This is great for those who are on the go or those that want a minimal setup. The downside is, in order to upgrade, you will need to buy a new USB mic. You won't be able to use hardware vocal effects with a USB mic.

    Though XLR mics inevitably require an interface and cables, they are more flexible with regards to routing and upgrade paths. Most XLR condenser mics outperform similarly priced USB mics as well. If you have plans to upgrade your studio in the future, there are no barriers to that when you use an XLR mic.

    USB mics draw their power from your computer or tablet. This can sometimes cause problems if your device can't supply enough power (a common issue on the iPad). USB ports on the front of many computers have less voltage and current than ports directly connected to the motherboard. Insufficient or inconsistent power may cause malfunctions or damage. This can also cause your device's battery to be drained. If this happens you'll need a powered USB hub. XLR condenser mics take their electricity from phantom power, usually from mixing desks or audio interfaces.

  • Phantom Power

    Condenser Mics that operate via XLR require a power source which is usually from a standalone preamp, mixing console, or audio interface. In our research, we have encountered users who mistakenly thought an XLR-to-USB cable is sufficient to power these microphones. Condenser mics require up to 48v of power while a USB port is only capable of outputting around 5v. USB condenser mics have different circuitry such as a charge pump to increase the voltage running through the microphone. If you purchase a condenser mic with an XLR connection, make sure you have a preamp or input with a switch for phantom power. If you don't have an audio interface, we have made a guide for choosing The Best USB Audio Interfaces - 4 / 8 / 16 Channel.

  • iPad USB Power Issues

    As of the time of writing this gear guide, iOS limits the current that can be used to power to USB devices. This can cause a USB mic not to work at all on the iPad, or more commonly the mic will work but as soon as you plug headphones in it will draw too much current and the iPad will cut the power completely. You may need to provide additional power via a Powered USB Hub to solve these problems.

Budget Condenser Microphone Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2015 an the latest edition was published on March 27, 2021.

We looked at popular and highly rated condenser microphones in the sub $100 price range and to ensure that you can readily buy the mics recommended in this guide, we only considered those that are widely available from US-based retailers. For this 2021 edition, The number of review and rating sources doubled from the previous edition. We gathered over 70,000 relevant review and rating sources and came up with a shortlist of 29 condenser mics - you can see them all in the Music Gear Database. These rating sources were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to provide the rating scores our of 100 we used to rank the mics according to their XLR or USB connection type. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the MXL 990, Mackie EM-91CU, MXL 770 and Shure PGA181.

The individual product images were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation.

Comments

What's interesting is that 6

What's interesting is that 6 months later, the MXG is no longer made and those that do stock it want considerably more than $100 (you're looking more like $200)
How come the AT2020 fell off the list? it's still regarded as the "Go To" but I'm looking for a mic with a bit more warmth (I have a fairly high-pitched thin voice for a bloke).

Love that for once the lower

Love that for once the lower-end mics are getting their due somewhere. Be nice to see an update on this article...also I suggest (to the author and others) to check out the Behringer C1 and MXL 67, both in the $50-60 range.

Thanks for that - when I saw

Thanks for that - when I saw your post I also wondered why we didn't have the MXL V67G recommended above and when I looked into it I found there was a glitch in our database which I've now fixed. There is a good chance that one or both these mics will make it onto our recommended list when we next update this guide.

do i need to buy the power

do i need to buy the power supply? can you tell me if the mic is still good with no power supply?

A great list! thank you! I

A great list! thank you! I used Blue Microphones Snowball and was satisfied a lot! Has anybody tried M-Audio Nova? My friend advised me to buy it because of its benefits.

There's nothing wrong with

There's nothing wrong with the M-Audio Nova but it's out of production and no longer sold by most of the major online music gear retailers - M-Audio removed it from their own website store back in 2015.