The Best Live Vocal Mics - $79 to $1000

Live singing microphones

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.

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.

Methodology

We looked at more than 60 wired handheld microphones that can be used for live vocals and that were widely available from online US retailers - then I narrowed that down to a list of 26 most popular for detailed analysis. That involved collating store ratings, reading customer feedback, forum posts, and expert reviews from audio engineers, then I compiled all the information and fed it into the Gearank algorithm to produce the scores you see below. Finally 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.

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.

  • Your Budget

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.

Audio-Technica AT2010 - Condenser Mic

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ 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. 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

Shure SM58 - Dynamic Mic

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 3850+ 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

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

Electro-Voice N/D767a - Dynamic Mic

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Electro-Voice N/D767a Dynamic Supercardioid Vocal Microphone

The Electro-Voice N/D767a has a supercardioid polar pattern which makes it very good at rejecting noise and feedback, however this means you also have to be very careful to sing directly into the mic because as you move off-axis the volume will drop sharply.

It has Electro-Voice's VOB (vocally optimized bass) technology which is designed to reduce low-end distortion and the proximity effect, although as you can see from the frequency chart below it still does emphasize the 100Hz to 200Hz range when you get close.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 35Hz to 22kHz
  • Impedance: 300 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 144 dB
  • Applications: Live vocals
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

It is frequently described as being very good for the price and has a much brighter sound than the SM58 does. Many owners who have reviewed it say they prefer it to the SM58.

Cons

One issue that came up in several customer reviews is that this mic has failed or broken down after 2 or 3 years of constant use - it's definitely not as durable as the Shure SM58.

Overall

There are a lot of singers who prefer the N/D767a over the SM58 and at such a low price you really can't go far wrong adding these to your collection.

Electro-Voice N/D767a Frequency Response Chart:

Electro-Voice N/D767a frequency response chart

Electro-Voice N/D767a Polar Pattern Chart:

Electro-Voice N/D767a 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 e935 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ 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 200+ 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.

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

Shure SM86 - Condenser Mic

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$179
Shure SM86 Cardioid Condenser Vocal Microphone

To reduce handling noise the Shure SM86 has a three-point shock mount and it has an internal windscreen which effectively reduces wind and breath sounds.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser (electret bias)
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz to 18kHz
  • Proximity Effect:
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms - recommended minimum load impedance: 600 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 147 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: 11v to 52v phantom power

Pros

An often repeated statement in positive reviews of the SM86 is that it is "crisp and clear". Almost everyone who upgraded from an SM58 to the SM86 were quite impressed with how much brighter they sounded. Many also report that they are impressed with the sound they get when recording with this mic.

Cons

Some singers in loud hard rock bands report problems with bleed and feedback. Some owners who had been used to the SM58 before getting this report that it is not as rugged as the SM58.

Overall

Shure designed this mic to take on the road so if you look after it you shouldn't have problems with durability - and that claim is backed up by most customer reviews, just remember you can't throw it around like you might with the SM58. If you really like the Shure brand and want to take a step up from the SM58 then this is a good mic for you.

Shure SM86 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure SM86 frequency response chart

Shure SM86 Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure SM86 polar pattern chart

Rode M3 - Condenser Mic

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Rode M3 Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Although the Rode M3 does have an off switch, the same switch can also be used to engage a high-pass filter kicking in at 80Hz to reduce the proximity effect if you like to sing with your lips on the mic - and the switch takes effort to move so you shouldn't have to worry about accidentally turning it off.

Rode initially designed the M3 to be an instrument mic, but it has also found wide use as a vocal mic and that's one of the applications that Rode list on their website for it.

It also has the option of being powered by a 9v battery so you don't need to worry about phantom power if you don't have it.

The Rode M3 also has a fool proof pad switch on the inside of the mic - it offers a 20 dB cut for using on loud sound sources.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 142 dB
  • Applications: Both live and recording singing and speech, recording acoustic guitar, and some even use it as an overhead mic on drums
  • Power Requirements: 9v battery, or 24v or 48v phantom power

Pros

Reviewers often talk about how versatile the Rode M3 is - just as at home on the stage or in the recording studio, and can be used on just about any musical instrument. Owners also talk about how rugged and reliable it is.

Cons

Some reviewers complained that it's heavier than most other live condenser mics, but other than that there were no consistent negatives reported.

Overall

This is quite a handy versatile microphone, and Rode will also give you an extended 10 year warranty when you register it on their website. Many people also use this a speech recording mic for podcasts and even outside recording. Rode build to a high standard so you should expect years of use in just about any context you'd want to use a mic in.

Rode M3 Frequency Response Chart:

Rode M3 frequency response chart

Rode M3 Polar Pattern Chart:

Rode M3 polar pattern chart

Best Live Microphones For Singing Under $500

AKG C535 EB - Condenser Mic

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
AKG C535 EB Handheld Condenser Stage Microphone

An interesting characteristic of the AKG C535 EB is that is has a mainly flat response over the mids and then a 2dB gain from 7kHz to 12kHz that helps your vocals cut through the mix.

It also has a 4 position switch for controlling the amount of bass roll-off you want.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 200 Ohms - Recommended load: 600 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 137 dB
  • Applications: Live vocals and recording, many also use it as a snare / hi-hat mic.
  • Power Requirements: 9v to 52v phantom power

Pros

Many reviewers talk about how they've used this mic on stage for years and never had any problems with it. A very common comment is that this mic helped their singing cut through the mix and allowed their voice to stand out. It has also received many positive comments from people who have used it for miking snare to capture a bright sound when recording.

Cons

A few people complained that the bass roll-off switch is hard to move, but I see that as a positive because it means you won't accidentally switch it while you're singing.

Overall

This mic is particularly popular with male singers with a low register due to it's brightness on the high-end and the level of control it gives you on the low-end, but it is highly regarded by singers of all types. At the time of writing the AKG C535 EB is the most highly rated live singing microphone I've seen as reflect by its exceptionally high Gearank score.

AKG C535 EB Frequency Response Chart:

AKG C535 EB frequency response chart
The colors above are the same as in the legend for the polar pattern chart below.

AKG C535 EB Polar Pattern Chart:

AKG C535 EB polar pattern chart

Sennheiser e945 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 350+ 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 - it's also the most highly rated dynamic microphone I found when doing my research for this gear guide. 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

Shure Beta 87A - Condenser Mic

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Shure Beta 87A Handheld Supercardioid Electret Condenser Mic

The Shure Beta 87A has a built-in pop filter and a low-frequency roll-off that reduces the proximity effect so you can get your lips up close to this mic.

This mic is used live by Kris Allen who won the 8th season of American Idol.

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

Many customer reviews compared this to the SM58 and were almost unanimous in saying this gives them a much clearer sound. A lot of owners say they use this with flat EQ because it already has a very good frequency response for vocals.

Cons

Some users report feedback problems if you cup the mic with your hands.

Overall

Although not well suited to hard rock singers and rappers who like to cup the mic, it is very well liked by most other types of singers.

Shure Beta 87A Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Beta 87A frequency response chart

Shure Beta 87A Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Beta 87A polar pattern chart

Audio-Technica AE5400 - Condenser Mic

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ 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

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $750

All of the mics in this price range and above are very high quality and can all be considered true professional live singing microphones.

Shure KSM9 Dual Diaphragm - Condenser Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ 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

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ 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

Sennheiser e965 - Condenser Mic

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$700
Sennheiser e965 Large Diaphragm Handheld Condenser Microphone

The e965 is Sennheiser's top-tier handheld microphone for live singing - it has large dual diaphragms designed to get as close as possible to the sonic qualities of their studio mics.

It has a shock mounted capsule and built in pop and wind shield. It also has a low cut switch to reduce ambient and wind noise.

Both the polar pattern and 10 dB pad switches are located under the grille which you have to unscrew in order to access the switches - this makes it impossible for the singer to accidentally switch them on stage.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Switchable cardioid/super-cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 Ohms with a min terminating impedance of 1000 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 142 dB or 152 dB with switchable pad
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Positive reviews focused on the quality of the mic's build and the clarity of its sound. Several reviewers compared it to the Neumanns KMS 105 and said that the Sennheiser e965 was the superior option.

Cons

The only complaint was that it's an unforgiving mic - if you have any problems with your singing voice then this mic will faithfully capture those flaws.

Overall

This is a good choice for talented lead singers, both male and female, but is probably over doing it for backing vocalists who don't need to cut through the mix as much.

Sennheiser e965 Supercardioid Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e965 Supercardioid frequency response chart

Sennheiser e965 Supercardioid Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e965 Supercardioid polar pattern chart

Sennheiser e965 Cardioid Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e965 Cardioid frequency response chart

Sennheiser e965 Cardioid Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e965 Cardioid polar pattern chart

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $1000

At these prices there are relatively few customer reviews available due to fewer people having the budget to buy them. So in order to produce a reliable Gearank score I tracked down expert reviews by audio engineers and mic technicians from printed magazines as well as online sources. After all the analysis and then feeding the data into the Gearank algorithm, I found these are the only microphones that I can recommend in this price range.

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

DPA d:facto II - Condenser Mic

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$980
DPA d:facto II Handheld Condenser Supercardioid Vocal Mic

DPA are credited as being the first mic manufacturer to bring full studio quality microphone sound to the live performance arena.

Sting is one of the many top-tier artists that use DPA d:facto condenser microphones in their live performances.

Royal Blood, the English duo who topped the UK charts with their self titled debut album in 2014 also use this mic for live vocals as well as other DPA mics for instruments.

It features a 3 stage pop filter and a high-pass filter at 80Hz.

The stand-out feature of the DPA d:facto II is that it has a modular design which allows the capsule to be removed, and with the help of adapters from DPA, inserted into other company's wireless systems which can save you up to 75% of the cost of buying a wireless version - it's compatible with Lectrosonics, Sennheiser, Shure and Sony wireless systems.

Specifications:

  • Type: Pre-polarized condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 100 Ohms with a min load impedance of 1000 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 160 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Expert reviews praised this for its clear and uncolored sound, its warm bottom end without being boomy, and the quality of the build. The fact that you can get adapters to insert the capsule into other wireless mics was also rated as a huge positive.

Cons

Very few reviewers had anything negative to say other than commenting on the high price.

Overall

If you need a high-end live mic which you can also use in the studio, and you can make use of the ability to drop the capsule into other wireless systems, then this is the best your option.

DPA d:facto II Frequency Response Chart:

DPA d:facto II frequency response chart

DPA d:facto II Polar Pattern Chart:

DPA d:facto II 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.

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.

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