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

Is it possible to get a good

Is it possible to get a good affordable micro mic (maybe attached to headphones) for singing, with guitar accompaniment through an acoustic guitar amp, in small venues - say 30 people or less.

Hi there, what a great

Hi there, what a great article. Thank you so much.
At the moment, earhtworks prices dropped to $749.
I was looking towards the d:facto 4018V and was almost ready to purchase a B stock for $725 and one year of warranty.

I’m a countertenor artist, using my voice in a very intense performative way, from operatic vocals, to shamanic voice drone and animal voices, looping vocals Live. I play with the Apollo Twin X Duo, Altiverb7 and Ableton. I need exactly what these two mics are supposed to be offering: studio sound on stage.

What would you do if you were me?
Thank you

Hi Lalito,

Hi Lalito,

I checked the frequency response of the D:facto 4018V and found that it has an excited high frequency range might cause a countertenor voice to sound shrill. The Earthworks' flatter high frequency response would work more to your advantage and give your sound engineer more control. A flatter frequency response is also better for tone shaping with processors as you have mentioned.

-Raphael

Could you tell me what I

Could you tell me what I would need to use for a simple choir, made up of people with disabilities, who regularly perform at functions. I need something to enhance the sound, without it costing too much. I am thinking a condenser microphone, speaker etc. Would be grateful for your help.

Hello from Sydney, Australia.

Hello from Sydney, Australia. I am an ETA artist and use Sennheiser e935 also ew500-965 vocal-set, and they are both great and suits my bass /tenor voice.
I was wondering whether or not either the "Neumann KMS 105" or "Earthworks SR40V Condenser Mic's would be suitable as I would like to try something different. Maybe even Audio-Technica AE5400 might be suitable. I thought that I knew something about Microphones, but after reading all your info I was blown away. Thanks for sharing your expertise greatly appreciated guys.

The sE Electronics V7 has a

The sE Electronics V7 has a lot of fans, including Paul White at Sound on Sound, but it didn't have high enough ratings for us to include it in our recommended list above.

I've just published our ratings which you can see here: sE Electronics V7.

Thanks for the comprehensive

Thanks for the comprehensive guide! Yet, having read some reviews and discussions on live microphones, I'm confused. What is said about some microphones seems to contradict what the frequency response curves seems to say.

I'm singing a big variety of styles and my experience with recording vocals at home tells me a few things to look for: The microphone should have a flat frequency response down to 100 Hz. Parts of my low vocals (which contain frequencies down to 30 Hz) are quite low volume, so some proximity effect could be good to boost them. On the other hand, the volume varies along in my vocals, so I have to change the microphone distance a lot anyway and I don't want to have too much of an artificial change in the timbre associated with that. Most of all, I don't want the most powerful parts, where I have to back up, to sound thin.
Beyond that, I've found that a boost around 5 kHz benefits the sound of my voice, while a boost around 2 kHz gives it an unpleasant nasal quality. The clarity, especially the quality of high distortion, screams and "breathy" passages suffers if the frequencies at > 12 kHz are not captured by the microphone well. A slight amplification of the region at 8-15 kHz would be desireable.

I've read that Sennheiser 945 is superior to the 845, has a clearer sound etc. Looking at the frequency response, however, I'd say just the opposite. As I read it, the frequency response is better for 845 in all mentioned aspects. The curve of 945 makes a plunge even at 13 kHz, which would. Is my voice type just different or does the frequency response chart not tell the whole story?

Besides Sennheiser 845 and 945, I'm also considering the following options:
Sennheiser 935
Audio-Technica AE6100: Seems to have a very nice frequency response, but maybe the boost of the highs is too extreme. Also not sure, if it's really robust.
Rode S1: Are the two curves near/far field or on/off axis?
Heil Sound PR35: Not listed here - it is both said to have a very nice sound and the frequency response looks amazing, although some say the bass is too extreme (in the near field??) and it is very sensitive to handling noise and low frequency consonants.

Could you recommend a microphone for my purpose?

Hi Fid,

Hi Fid,

Based on your style, I'd recommend the Sennheiser e935. It has a nice lift at around 4-5khz with a steady taper onwards so it will sound more "hi fi" without being sibilant. I've had experience with the Heil PR35 but as a snare mic (which it does a surprisingly great job at).

The S1's curves are near/far not accounting for excessively close proximity due to poor mic technique.

The AE6100's 5khz spike might present a problem if your voice is overly sibilant. But that's just the nature of the tradeoff between high frequency response and icepick "s" and "sh" sounds.

-Raph

What about Audio Technica

What about Audio Technica ATM710 and Lewitt's like LCT series and MTP 350 (condenser), MTP 550 (dynamic) ??

Hi Anil,

Hi Anil,

The ATM710 did not make it to our list because of its rating of 89 on our database. Though I have personally mixed a live session (rock) with ATM710 mics, I still much prefer dynamics like the SM58 as the bleed from stage noise was more manageable. Handheld condensers like the ATM710 work best with quiet stage volumes and/or in-ear monitoring.

As of writing, we haven't examined Lewitt microphones in detail yet. The LCT series consists of large diaphragm condenser mics better suited in a studio environment or overhead mics in a live setting. Should there be new information, there may be a chance that it will be included in a future update.

-Raph

I'm hesitating between

I'm hesitating between Sennheiser e835 and e935, and I'm very seduced by all the reviews on e935. The price is not important for me. But I heard that e935 has not a good feedback rejection. Our band have a practice room is very small, with speakers all around the place. Can I trust the e935 ? Or e835 would be better ? Thanks !

When I researched both the

When I researched both the e835 and e935 I didn't find consistent reports of the e935 having a feedback problem, however that research was done last year so I'll pay close attention to this possibility when we revise this category. Can you provide a link to any reports about feedback problems with the e935?

No. That's my problem. All

No. That's my problem. All reviews I found on the net were positives. It's 2 sellers from a music store said to me that the e935 can have feedback rejection problem compared to e835.

Thanks for the follow-up. I

Thanks for the follow-up. I'll still keep an eye out for any other reports of feedback issues.

FYI - Hi, I've bought

FYI - Hi, I've bought sennheiser e935 yesterday, and after 2 hours testing with my rock band, no feedback issue, in a small room with 4 speakers around us. Case resolved. :-)
Thanks.
Steeve

Outstanding. I use both the

Outstanding. I use both the Shure beta 58 and the 55 in live performance. I had a very frustrating experience last night where the sound guy at a large outdoor venu would not let me use then 55 due to feed back issues. He said I need to use an in ear monitor with it. What do think about that? I’ve never had this issue before...

The AKG D5 is a very good

The popular AKG D5 is a good $100 mic with an innovative variable thickness diaphragm and I wouldn't be concerned if we had recommended it.

It was short-listed for the $100 price bracket above and we decided to base our selections on the ratings. Here are the top 8 mics on that short-list, sorted by their ratings, and you can see that the 2 we selected for recommendation stood out well above the rest.

I am an Opera singer with a

I am an Opera singer with a considerable large dramatic soprano voice and range, I sing many times outdoor, and only once did I have a good experience with a mic, I wished I would have asked what system and mic they used. I have tried Shure beta 58, but it does not represent my voice well, like a live acoustic, I am not sure which mic would be best for outdoors, any suggestions? So hard to find the right mic. I have a Bose Amp system, mixing board, and a preamp

The Shure Beta 58 is a

The Shure Beta 58 is a dynamic microphone, however condenser mics are generally better suited to operatic voices.

I would recommend getting the best condenser mic you can afford - the Shure KSM9 would be a good choice.

The d:facto II was on our

The d:facto II was on our recommended list but it has been discontinued so we removed it last year.

Currently we don't have a rating on the d:facto 4018V which is still available.

What should be the difference

What should be the difference besides a name change, between a DPA d:facto II" and a "DPA d:facto 4018V" (with product ID 4018V-B-B01 for the same capsule 4018V and a XLR handle in black).

It seems like DPA changed product names to follow a more systematic system, that better reflects the combinations of modular components they offer.

PS: The d:facto variant offered in a short period before "d:facto II" became available (introducing the interchangeable set of adaptors for wireless transmitter handles), was not called "d:facto 4018V", and I have first seen this name after DPA stopped using the name "d:facto II".

Although this article is

Although this article is extremely helpful, I was wondering if you could advise me further on what mic to get.
I sing at Restaurants and will soon be singing on cruise ships, and am needing a new mic to take along. My amp is relatively simple so I think that I should stick with a dynamic mic. I have a very strong voice and a loud belt but need a mic that will be able to pick up my softer falsetto. I really like the look of the Shure SH55 Series II but because I will need my mic for recording at home, I was unsure of this option.

I can't advise you on your

I can't advise you on your voice, I'm alto,to light soprano and if you ever want to hear my voice you can email me. just put in the subject Bianca to let me know to accept the email. elladitsa@mac.com. I sing internationally as well. My engineer recommended me a condenser for it enhances our voice better and I do like how my recordings sound with it. I'm saving up for this audio Technica 5400 but I have the shure55 deluxe and its awesome. but I can't walk around with it, I have to stand in one spot so I'm selling it on ebay to have enough money to go a little higher in value. The more you pay the better you get. I also need advice on what phantom power I need for this. what cable and so on. I have the 48 presonus I got from sweet water + mogami cable and a beheringer box I forgot in Europe. Lets see if those are good enough. The shure 55 is excellent but you have to stand there, where I like to have a hand held so I can walk around a little on the stage . Its like expressing yourself. In anycase I wish you the best of luck!!!! :D Hope you get the right advice very soon

Great info thanks. Btw, I’ve

Great info thanks. Btw, I’ve used a Blue Encore 300 as a drum overhead before. It did a great job. Better than some Senn overheads I’ve used.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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!

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