The Best Live Vocal Mics - $99 to $1000

Live singing microphones

Originally published on March. 16, 2016. and updated on August 23, 2017 by Jason Horton & Alexander Briones with additional research by Denise Azucena.

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.

This gear guide is focused on the best microphones for singing and rapping live as opposed to mics best suited to speaking conferences or making announcements over PA systems.

Although all the mics below are great for vocals, some of them can also be used to mic acoustic instruments or amplifiers, and some of them are also very good studio mics. We have updated the list for 2017, to reflect current market sentiment, resulting in a slight change in arrangement, and the inclusion of five mics that were not included in the original list.

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

Contents

The Best Live Vocal Mics - $99 to $1000

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $100

The mics in this section really are the best you'll find for less than $100. If these are out of your price range then I suggest you take a look at the Behringer XM8500 which replicates some of the sonic qualities of the Shure SM58, although it doesn't have the same build quality, and it usually sells for only $20.

Shure SM58 - Dynamic Mic

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 4850+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Shure SM58 LC Handheld Vocal Dynamic Microphone

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 3 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 a 25" XLR mic cable.

Pros

With so many mics now available, its impressive how Shure SM58 continues to be the industry standard vocal microphone. Undoubtedly the most common positive mention 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 definitely the one 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

Audio-Technica AT2010 - Condenser Mic

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$99
Audio-Technica AT2010 Handheld Cardioid Condenser Microphone

The AT2010 is a live vocal mic which has a design based on Audio-Technica's AT2020 studio mic and uses the same 16 mm low-mass diaphragm.

In fact this mic is rated more highly than its studio cousin and tops the rankings for sub-$100 live vocal microphones.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 136 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals & acoustic guitar
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Pros

The most commonly cited comment in positive reviews is that the AT2010 represents great value for money. It is mainly used for miking female vocalists, or male vocalists that sing high notes. An unexpected comment that came up several times is that it's also very good for miking acoustic guitar.

Cons

As you might expect with such a high Gearank score, there aren't many consistently cited negative comments from customer reviews. There were a couple of people who complained about the requirement for phantom power, but they were clearly from people who hadn't done their research before buying it.

Overall

If you only have $100 in your budget and you need a microphone that approaches studio quality, then this is the best mic to get. Not only can you use it live, but it also makes an excellent mic for recording demos.

Audio-Technica AT2010 Frequency Response Chart:

Audio-Technica AT2010 frequency response chart

Audio-Technica AT2010 Polar Pattern Chart:

Audio-Technica AT2010 polar pattern chart

Best Microphones For Live Vocals Under $200

In this price range there is a genuine step up in quality, so if your budget can afford it, take a good look at the options below.

Sennheiser e845 - Dynamic Mic

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$140
Sennheiser e845 Dynamic Super Cardioid Handheld Microphone

The Sennheiser e845 is a dynamic mic with a neodymium magnet element and a supercardioid polar pattern, both of which improve the mic's Max SPL handling (dB). These features also reduce feedback and ambient noise, even at higher volumes.

In addition, the mic's capsule is sitting on a special internal shockmount that helps minimize handling noise.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-18kHz
  • Impedance: 350 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

The most commended quality of the Sennheiser e845 is its natural sound and feedback resistance. Some even describe it as being comparable to the quality of more expensive microphones, thanks to its added clarity in the higher frequencies. The e845's shape and weight also appealed to many singers.

Cons

There's not much to complain about,

Overall

With its enhanced high frequency presence, the Sennheiser e845 is ideal for female and male tenor singers.

Sennheiser e845 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e845 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e845 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e845 polar pattern chart

Shure Beta 58A - Dynamic Mic

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 2200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$159
Shure Beta 58A

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, 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 - Dynamic Mic

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$170
Sennheiser e 935 Vocal Dynamic Microphone

Sennheiser design and manufacture their microphones in Germany and their mics are regarded as being very well engineered.

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 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 the best outright 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

Blue Microphones enCORE 300 - Condenser Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
Blue Microphones enCORE 300

Blue Microphones bill the enCORE 300 as their leading live vocal mic.

It has a floating capsule design which reduces handling noise and its cardiod pickup pattern is very good at rejecting sounds that aren't coming from directly in front of it.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20kHz
  • Proximity Effect:
  • Impedance: 25 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 146 dB
  • Applications: Live vocal and recorded vocals & acoustic guitar
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Many reviewers have pointed out that this mic is excellent for recording vocals as well as for live use - some go so far as to say that it's even better used as a recording mic. They generally report that the sound is crisp and clear and sensitive to the nuances of good singers.

Cons

Some users say the proximity effect is too strong and that the low frequencies are emphasized too much when you put your lips right on the mic. There were also a few who were put off by the mic's flat response, which is meant to make the mic work with as many singing styles as possible.

Overall

This is versatile mic that will serve you well for both live performance and recording - some say they've even mic'd clean amps with it. So if you want a relatively transparent microphone that you can use in multiple settings then this is a great option for you.

Blue Microphones enCORE 300 Frequency Response Chart:

Blue Microphones enCORE 300 frequency response chart

Blue Microphones enCORE 300 Polar Pattern Chart:

Blue Microphones enCORE 300 polar pattern chart

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $300

Sennheiser e945 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ 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.

This is an excellent mic for beginners because being dynamic you don't have to worry about phantom power, it's very good at feedback rejection, and it doesn't have an exaggerated proximity effect like some dynamic mics have - all these things make it easy to use.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 18kHz
  • Impedance: 350 Ohms with the minimum terminating impedance recommended to be 1000 Ohms.
  • Applications: Live singing and home recording
  • 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 easy to use then this is one of the most suitable options for you.

Sennheiser e945 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e945 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e945 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e945 polar pattern chart

Audix VX5 - Condenser Mic

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$249
Audix VX5 Handheld Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

The Audix VX-5 is a condenser mic that features a tighter supercardioid polar pattern, and smoother frequency response. This makes the mic viable for live vocal performances, studio recording and even broadcasting.

Being a condenser mic, it can also double as an all-around mic for acoustic drums, wind instruments, acoustic guitars and more.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-16.5kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 140 dB (with -10 pad)
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals and acoustic instruments
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Pros

Users have plenty of good things to be said about the Audix VX5, specifically regarding its clarity and sound quality. Proximity is also commendable, with many reporting that they don't have to get too close to the mic to get good sounds. Finally, a good number of users appreciate the VX5's versatility in terms of handling different sound sources.

Cons

There aren't any notable complaints about the mic, save for a few that prefer the price to be a bit lower. Sound on Sound gives a nice rebuttal to those concerned about the price: "Though they cost rather more than typical dynamic models, these mics will repay you with greater clarity and a more natural sound."

Overall

If you're looking for a multi-purpose studio ready condenser mic that can handle stage vocal duties, then check out the Audix VX5.

Audix VX5 Frequency Response Chart:

Audix VX5 frequency response chart

Audix VX5 Polar Pattern Chart:

Audix VX5 polar pattern chart

Shure Super 55 Deluxe - Dynamic Mic

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Shure Super 55 Deluxe Dynamic Microphone

The Shure Super 55 Deluxe combines vintage appeal with modern performance and reliability. It doesn't follow the conventional cone shape, rather it features a satin chrome-plated housing that's reminiscent of what Elvis Presley used live in the '50s.

On the inside of its rock and roll friendly exterior is a modern supercarioid dynamic mic capsule that follows after modern mic specifications. The end result being a classic looking mic, with modern ambient rejection and improved sound.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 60Hz to 17kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Sensitivity: -53.0 dBV / Pa (ref. 1 kHz and 1 Pascal=94 dB SPL)
  • Applications: Live vocals
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

One user is on point when he said, "it looks as good as it sounds, and sounds as good as it looks", because this is essentially what the market feels about the Shure Super 55 Deluxe. Chris Kennedy from Voice Council echoed the same sentiment saying, "if you care about your image on stage, but don’t want to sacrifice on sound quality, then the Shure Super 55 could be exactly what you are looking for."

Cons

There were some who cautioned about plosive sensitivity, stating that it will require some technique adjustments when used to more conventional mics. Another common concern from singers is the lack of an on/off switch, but I can see sound technicians being happy with this lack.

Overall

With its combination of sleek looks and reliably good performance, the Shure Super 55 Deluxe is highly recommended. It'll make a great addition to anybody's rig, regardless of musical preference.

Shure Super 55 Deluxe Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe frequency response chart

Shure Super 55 Deluxe Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe polar pattern chart

Best Live Microphones For Singing Under $500

Audio-Technica AE5400 - Condenser Mic

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$379
Audio-Technica AE5400 Handheld Cardioid Condenser Microphone

This is another dual purpose mic that works well live and in the studio, in fact Tony Bennett used this mic on his Duets album - I once met him in person when I was doing audio for a location TV interview and he was a great guy as well as a great singer.

The AE5400 uses the same capsule as Audio-Technica's well regarded AT4050 studio microphone but with additional features built in to reduce handling noise.

Unlike many handheld condenser mics, the AE5400 has a large diaphragm which makes it much more like a studio condenser. It also has a 80Hz high-pass filter to reduce the proximity effect if you like to sing close to the mic, and a 10dB pad which allows you to mic sound sources as loud as 157 dB meaning you can mic just about anything with it.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 147 dB or 157 dB with 10 dB pad engaged
  • Applications: Live and studio vocals, instruments, amplifiers.
  • Power Requirements: 11v to 52v phantom power

Pros

Many customers who reviewed the Audio-Technica AE5400 compared it to the Shure Beta 87A and said that the AE5400 has a more full bodied sound with crisp highs. A commonly repeated phrase is that it "cuts through the mix" without coloring or sounding harsh.

Cons

I couldn't find many negative reviews, although a couple of people said it can be broken if you drop it at few times.

Overall

If you're looking for a genuine studio sound for either male or female lead vocalists to cut through the mix then this is a good option,

Audio-Technica AE5400 Frequency Response Chart:

Audio-Technica AE5400 frequency response chart

Audio-Technica AE5400 Polar Pattern Chart:

Audio-Technica AE5400 polar pattern chart

Shure KSM8 - Dynamic Mic

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499
Shure KSM8 Dualdyne Dynamic Handheld Microphone

While most claims for innovation are mostly hyped, the Shure KSM8's dual diaphragm design moving coil capsule is a genuinely new technology that achieves a wider sweetspot and reduces the dreaded proximity effect. This allows for more freedom of movement and positioning, while keeping the sound quality consistent.

This complex capsule design is a bit more sensitive and prone to damage, but since this mic is developed by Shure, you can be sure of reliability and durability.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic (Dual Diaphragm)
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Sensitivity: -51.5 dBV/Pa (2.66 mV)
  • Applications: Live vocals
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Market response continues to be highly positive, as Shure KSM8 continues to impress users and even experts. Many were surprised by how the proximity effect is virtually non-existent with this mic, allowing them to sing close or further from the mic as they like without muddying or thinning the sound. Sound on Sound wraps up what makes this mic great nicely by writing: "Overall, the KSM8 appears to be a very impressive stage mic, both in terms of its practical sonic benefits, and in its innovative technology and sophisticated engineering."

Cons

There were a few who wished that the mic was more affordable, but are more than happy to still rate the mic highly given the complexity of the mic's dual diaphragm design and its practical results.

Overall

If you have the budget and want a reliable mic with reduced proximity issues, then the Shure KSM8 is highly recommended.

Shure KSM8 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure KSM8 frequency response chart

Shure KSM8 Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure KSM8 polar pattern chart

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $1000

These mics are the cream of the crop and will find applications both live and in the studio.

Shure KSM9 Dual Diaphragm - Condenser Mic

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 it's 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, I could not find any consistently reported negative comments about the KSM9.

Overall

If you're looking for a microphone that will give you a transparent sound both on stage and in the studio then this is a great option for 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 - Condenser Mic

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$700
Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

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 - Condenser Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ 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'd 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 talented singer who works with high quality PA systems then this is the top choice. You'll also be able to use it on professional recordings.

Earthworks SR40V Frequency Response Chart:

Earthworks SR40V frequency response chart

Earthworks SR40V Polar Pattern Chart:

Earthworks SR40V polar pattern chart

Summary

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 above. 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.

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. Most 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 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 Condser 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 channel strip to provide the power.

Methodology

We looked at more than 65 wired handheld microphones that can be used for live vocals and that were widely available from online US retailers. Then we collated 32,751 sources from store ratings, reading customer feedback, forum posts, and expert reviews from audio engineers, and fed those data into the Gearank algorithm to produce the scores you see above. Finally Alexander and I broke them down into price brackets and selected the highest rated in each price range. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Thank you Dan - many many

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Thank you for this amazing

Thank you for this amazing article. I have been singing for a long time. My voice is compared often to Joni Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones. The most important part of my voice is really hearing the quality within it. It is not super powerful and I have excellent pitch so a mic that picks up the nuances and clarity of my voice is really important. Without thinking about the price range, what mic would you suggest? Thank you very much!

With the proviso that it's

With the proviso that it's impossible to give perfect advice without hearing you sing first, it sounds to me that your are a candidate for the Earthworks SR40V.

One important thing to note however, is that the quality of a mic like this is wasted when used with lower quality PA systems - but if the rest of the gear you use is good, then this mic with shine.

Excellent work, this is by

Excellent work, this is by far the best review detailed to the core. Thank you so much, and keep it up.

Thank you for the encouraging

Thank you for the encouraging words Daka - please tell your musicians friends about Gearank.com

Thank you for the excellent

Thank you for the excellent informative article. I am looking for a mic suitable for jazz vocals; preferably something that isn't harsh sounding but will produce a clear sound. Thank you for any advice, and for your incredible research.

There are many different

There are many different vocal styles involved in Jazz so it's hard to provide specific advice based on what you've said.

Some Jazz singers make great use of the Proximity Effect and I've heard stunning performances using old SM58s.

To avoid sounding 'harsh' get a mic that doesn't emphasize the higher frequencies too much (look at the frequency charts for each mic above) - EG in your case I'd avoid mics like the SM86.

Thank you for the in depth

Thank you for the in depth reviews! I recently purchased a Telefunken m80 and have been very impressed! It sounds as good, maybe even better, than my Sennheiser md431ii, which I love. And at a far less price point!

I'm looking to pick up a high-end condenser as well. I have a KMS105, but it is way too feedback prone and not exactly the tone I'm looking for. I play through a Bose L1 Model 2, with a Bose Tonematch mixer. I use reverb, compression, and a little bit of delay on my vocals, and I sing generally pop-rock & country. In your opinion, would the Earthworks sr40v be a worthwhile investment being used through my Bose PA system? Thank you very much!

I'm surprised you have a

I'm surprised you have a feedback problem with the KMS 105 going through the Bose system because that microphone's response is fairly flat across the ranges that usually cause problems like 1kHz and 2kHz and the Bose system is meant to be designed to prevent feedback.

I don't see any reason why you couldn't use the Earthworks SR40V with the L1 Model 2 - just bear in mind that this PA system maxes out at between 12 kHz to 14 kHz, which is 6kHz below most people's hearing range, while the SR40V has a relatively flat response all the way past the top of the hearing range of most people.

Although the high end of the Earthworks SR40V won't be used by the Bose system, you will have those frequencies available when you use the mic for recording.

In live sound the best mike

In live sound the best mike to use depends on the speakers your using A Shure sounds great through d+b, JBL, Cerwin-Vega, etc., but a sennhieser sounds better through EV and QSC stuff. Is the SM-58 the best sounding mic? Maybe, maybe not, but, it's the sound you hear most often in a professional concert system and therefore it's the standard you measure against.

Great page, a lot better than

Great page, a lot better than the similar ones I've seen.
I'm torn between the e935 and e945 to replace the SM58 I use live presently. I sing lead but also playing guitar, I tend to be all around the microphone at times. I get away with that for the most part with a SM58, but being more of a tenor I'm looking at the 900 series. Would you say the the e945 is not the right choice for me or is more forgiving than I've read about?

Thank you for your kind words

Thank you for your kind words Steve - we do try to work hard on our research.

The e935 and e945 are relatively close together in terms of specifications but the e935 is about $50 cheaper.

The main difference between the two for you to consider, based on what you said about being 'all around the microphone at times', are the different polar patterns of the two mics. The e935 has a Cardioid polar pattern while the e945 is a Supercardioid mic. This, combined with the fact that the e935 is the slightly more sensitive of the two, means the e935 is more forgiving when off-axis than the e945 is.

And given that the e935 is closer than the e945 to the frequency response of the SM58 that you're already used to, I'd say save the $50 and get the e935.

You have presented

You have presented information for excellent comparison and decision making.
My voice is bluesy, old and well worn... but interesting. I use a Voice Live 2 for stage performance and come through 2 Bose L1-2s' with Tonematch. I cover everything from Stephen Still's Black Queen to post bop jazz while playing electric and acoustic guitar. Can you recommend a mic to replace my Sure 58. I have a good budget.

Although the Bose L1 systems

Although the Bose L1 systems don't provide phantom power, the Voicelive 2 does so you can use a condenser mic - the Neumann KMS 105 sounds like it would be a good fit based upon the styles you cover.

Thanks! Great and insightful

Thanks! Great and insightful article. Learnt a lot. So I want to know...I am a musician and I have a church choir with a large number. Say 50 plus. I would want a microphone(s) that I can mount above their heads and yet be able to pick up every detail in their voices...this is important for the harmonies. Any help please? Budget shouldn't be problem. I want to know the options available and also are there any roof embeddable microphones for music concerts? Regards

People typically use Overhead

People typically use Overhead Condenser Mics in these situations - we haven't published a guide specific to that topic yet.

I can't really advise you on mounting options because that's highly dependent on the way specific venue is laid out and what kind of rigging or trusses are already in place. It might help if you can get someone with experience in sound reinforcement installations to have a look at the venue and advise you on your best options.

I am a novice at all of this

I am a novice at all of this and know nothing about electronic equipment.

I will be doing some live local singing performances (solo) for the first time and have no idea what kind microphone to buy that's under $300. Since I will be singing outdoors, I assumed that I would need an amplifier (loud speaker?). I bought a 1000W Thump12 loudspeaker. What kind of microphone should I purchase. Does it plug into the back of the amplifier?

Also, I don't understand what phantom power is and what sort of "phantom power" equipment is needed for a mic that runs on phantom power. Sorry for my ignorance but I'm hoping you will help me out.
Thanks.

Before being able to provide

Before being able to provide you with a useful answer, we'll need to know if you'll be singing just on your own with no music, or will you be singing to music and how is that music supplied - will it come from pre-recorded music or will live musicians be playing with you?

I simply wanted to give a

I simply wanted to give a kudos to you guys for providing this info. I'm actually a bass player with a few groups of all different styles of music from blues, to rock, to R&B, Gospel & even a little country and have tasked myself with running sound with little to no knowledge of how to do so, what mics to use, speakers...etc. Few youtube links on speaker setup, and live sound have helped me a great deal, and then today I stumbled upon your reviews on the different mics & their specs and just want to say thank you for this info yet again. It has been a great help. Tip my hat to you guys, and keep doing what you do.

Thank you very much MoBass!

Thank you very much MoBass! Nearly our whole team worked on this guide and words of encouragement like yours are really appreciated by all here at Gearank.

Post a Comment or Question

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <b> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.