The Best Live Vocal Mics - Handheld / Wired

The Highest Rated Handheld 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.

There were days when you'd just buy any handheld looking microphone and that was it; that's your vocal mic. Over the years however, more and more vocal microphones have popped up in a market that it's now saturated with different microphones with vastly differing features and responses. It can get quite overwhelming to select a mic these days and defaulting to a specific mic just because of popularity may not be optimal for the kind of vocal sound you want.

By now, many are familiar with the fabled SM58 and a few of you may want to steer into a different tonal direction. Or perhaps you're looking to get your own mic that complements well with your voice. Getting the right vocal mic for you is the most important upgrade you can get as a singer.

For starters, this guide features a selection of 15 different vocal microphones (out of a total of 85 mics that made it onto our initial shortlist) that are hailed by the market as the best. Each mic has its own pros and cons which we have outlined to give you a better idea of what you might be looking for in a vocal mic.

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. As an added bonus, some of the selected mics are also viable for use with other sound sources like acoustic instruments and amplifiers. Many of them are also 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

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

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

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.

Sennheiser e835

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 1050+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sennheiser e835 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

The Sennheiser e835 is the company's contender in the sub $100 mic category putting it right up against the Shure SM58.

It features an internal shockmount for reduced handling noise and a whopping 150dB maximum SPL for loud sound sources like aggressive vocals and screaming.

The e835 was engineered to have a consistent pickup spot within the polar pattern with minimal change in tone due to proximity effects.

Specifications:

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

Pros

Users that have experience with the Shure SM58 note that the Sennheiser e835 has more of a presence boost than its competitor. While it is a broad statement to declare, the e835 has a boost at a different frequency center than the SM58, it all boils down to where your most sibilant tones are.

Cons

While the pickup levels for the mic are more or less even, some noted that the e835's low end can get muddy or pick up instruments in the background like bass guitar a bit more prominently. The proximity effect was also mentioned by a few to require just a bit of post-eq to manage.

Overall

If you're looking for an alternative to the Shure SM58, or if you find the 58 to not match up to your usual sibilant "s" and "sh" sounds, go for the Sennheiser e835. If you're looking for a version with a switch, the e835-s is available for just a bit more - aside from the switch, they are completely identical.

Sennheiser e835 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e835 frequency response chartSennheiser e835 polar pattern chart

Shure SM58 LC

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 10900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Shure SM58 LC Handheld Vocal Dynamic Microphone

By Jason Horton

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Handheld Vocal Mic Under $100.

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

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

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 4450+ 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 e945

97
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
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

Sennheiser e935

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 1300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
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 Microphones For Live Vocals Under $300

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 87A

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ 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 $300 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 off 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 supercardioid pattern 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

Shure Beta 87C

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$249
Shure BETA87C Cardioid Handheld Condenser Microphone

The Shure Beta 87C is the cardioid variant of the Beta 87A.

In contrast to the "A" variant, the 87C sports a tighter cardioid pattern for better rejection of sound towards the back of the mic. This makes it better for loud stage monitors that may cause unwanted feedback.

Despite the slightly different frequency curve brought on by the different polar pattern, the 87C retains much of the character of its "A" variant sibling.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: : Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 139dB
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

People who liked how their voice sounded on the 87A but don't have in ear monitoring systems were wishing for a cardioid variant for the longest time. The 87C receives great praise for delivering that promise of a less feedback prone version of the 87A. Many were glad to see that the mic can be given more gain compared to the "A" variant.

Cons

Some report a slight difference in frequency response with the 87C, which is natural since it's been engineered with a different polar pattern.

Overall

If you're looking for a studio-sounding stage mic for louder stage volumes with floor monitors, the Beta 87C is a great pick especially if you've tried the 87A but experienced feedback concerns.

Shure Beta 87C Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Beta 87A frequency response chart

Shure Beta 87C Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Beta 87A polar pattern chart

Shure Super 55 Deluxe

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$249
Shure Super 55 Deluxe Dynamic Microphone

Aesthetics are often secondary to function when it comes to microphones but for some creative artists, it's all about image and stage presence.

The Shure Super 55 Deluxe is a vintage looking dynamic microphone with modern sound and functionality.

With an art-deco inspired satin chrome housing, the Super 55 Deluxe features a supercardioid dyamic mic capsule engineered for a clear and modern sound.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response:60Hz-17kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Many users who were drawn to the aesthetic of the mic were pleased to find out that there were no compromises in sound and function along with the form. Some mentioned it to sound better than the SM58. Others noted that it inspired confidence in singing with its looks.

Cons

A few reported the mic had some trouble handling plosives. Some mic technique adjustments need to be made to prevent this.

Overall

If you want to look sharp and sound great on stage or screen, the Shure Super 55 Deluxe is a great, nostalgic looking piece that is sure to turn heads and ears.

Shure Super 55 Deluxe Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe frequency response chart

Shure Super 55 Deluxe Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe polar pattern chart

Heil Sound PR 35

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$269
Heil Sound PR 35 Dynamic Handheld Microphone

In recent years, Heil Sound has gotten a resurgence in popularity. It is quickly becoming a household name in many underground rock and metal scenes all over the world.

The Heil Sound PR 35 is tweaked to have a natural sounding upper midrange with a smooth and even response across the spectrum.

The result is a microphone that captures vocals with great detail and easily augmented with further post-processing.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response:40Hz-18kHz (UP- no filter) / 80Hz-18kHz (DOWN- filter on)
  • Impedance: 370 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 140 dB
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Though many reviews state that the Heil Sound PR 35 works well in any situation, on vocals it gets a particularly large fanbase from rock and metal singers who find the flat and smooth response to be great for harsher singing and screaming without any annoying frequencies. The Supercardioid pattern also helps with singers that prefer to cup the mic - while not an optimal technique engineering-wise, the Heil sound never sounded boxy for many engineers.

Cons

While the PR 35 has a response that benefits greatly from processing, on its own, it sounded bland for some.

Overall

If you're looking for a mic that captures natural vocals and plays well with post-processing, the PR 35 is a great pick. While not as relevant to this guide, it also sounds great on electric guitar amps and snares from my personal experience.

Heil Sound PR 35 Polar Pattern Chart:

Heil Sound PR 35 frequency response and polar pattern chart

Heil Sound PR 35 Frequency Response Chart:

Heil Sound PR 35 frequency response and 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.

Beyerdynamic M 88 TG

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Beyerdynamic M 88 TG

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Handheld Vocal Mic between $300 and $500 along with the Shure KSM8 and Sennheiser e965.

Made popular by Phil Collins, the Beyerdynamic M 88 TG is a Hypercardioid pattern Dynamic microphone designed for rigorous tour usage.

The TG stands for "Tour Group" and is spec'ed with a reinforced basket to withstand rough handling and damage.

Tonewise, the M 88 TG favors a rich low mid and low frequency range without sacrificing higher frequency response.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Hypercardioid
  • Frequency Response:30Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

The M 88 TG was praised by users for its low frequency richness. The mic added warmth and body to female singers while male voices get more authority and depth.

Cons

A few found the mic to be feedback prone with louder stage volumes.

Overall

The Beyerdynamic M 88 TG earned its reputation as the "Phil Collins Mic" but that doesn't mean it only suits his particular voice type. The M 88 TG excels with adding weight to thinner voices and authority to deeper ones.

Beyerdynamic M 88 TG Polar Pattern Chart:

Beyerdynamic M 88 TG polar pattern chart

Beyerdynamic M 88 TG Frequency Response Chart:

Beyerdynamic M 88 TG frequency response chart

Shure KSM8

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$399
Shure KSM8 Dualdyne Dynamic Handheld Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Handheld Vocal Mic between $300 and $500 along with the Beyerdynamic M 88 TG and Sennheiser e965.

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

The design was implemented to reduce its 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

There were no consistently reported complaints, however one owner noted long term durability may be a problem as his unit broke down after a few months.

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

Sennheiser e965

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Sennheiser e965 Large Diaphragm Handheld Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Handheld Vocal Mic between $300 and $500 along with the Beyerdynamic M 88 TG and Shure KSM8.

The e965 is Sennheiser's top tier live vocal microphone.

It was engineered to be able to capture sound sources as close to studio quality as possible in live situations.

The e965 has features more commonly seen in studio condenser microphones such as two switchable polar patterns (cardioid and supercardioid) as well as a low cut switch. These switches are hidden beneath the grille to prevent accidental switching.

Specifications:

  • Type:Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 152 dB
  • Power Requirements:+48v Phantom

Pros

The best studio condensers usually don't need to have much done in post-processing. The e965 is noted to have a similar effect with vocals. A sweet midrange coupled with an almost, post-processed upper frequency range as noted by some reviewers. Not much needed to be done at the mixer to make voices captured by the e965 sound their best.

Cons

The e965 is a particularly sensitive and revealing microphone. Many who relied on the mic to mask some of their voices' tonal imbalances felt like they sounded "worse" on the e965.

Overall

If you are a confident singer that needs a mic to reveal every nuance of your technique and prowess with studio-level quality, the Sennheiser e965 delivers on all fronts.

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

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.

Neumann KMS 105

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$699
Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Handheld Vocal 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 (link to Sweetwater).

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 Polar Pattern Chart:

Neumann KMS 105 polar pattern chart

Neumann KMS 105 Frequency Response Chart:

Neumann KMS 105 frequency response chart

Earthworks SR40V

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$749
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 for studio recording as well.

Earthworks SR40V Polar Pattern Chart:

Earthworks SR40V polar pattern chart

Earthworks SR40V Frequency Response Chart:

Earthworks SR40V frequency response 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 (see our acoustic guitar mic recommendations here). 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 usually 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 Handheld Vocal Mic Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the latest edition was published on April 30, 2021.

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. We narrowed down our scope to those that are widely available from major US retailers, and we still ended up with big numbers - 85 as our beginning short-list, along with more than 49,000 relevant reviews, ratings and recommendations, including the most recent ones up to the end of April 2021.

All these data were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 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.

About the Author and Contributors

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

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

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

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

Contributors

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

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Shure Beta 87A, Shure SM58 LC, Sennheiser e945, Neumann KMS 105 and Sennheiser e965.

Videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images, frequency response charts and polar pattern charts were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation.

Comments

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!

With the proviso that it's

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

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

This is by far the most

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

It sounds like you want a

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

Very glad you mentioned that

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

This is awesome! Thanks for

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

Thanks for the feedback Jeff.

Thanks for the feedback Jeff.

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

Wondered why you did not

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

At the time when this guide

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

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

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

Hi Ricardo - our guides aren

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

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

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

Excellent write up and very

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

Thank you very much Napoleon

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

Please suggest the best live

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

Traditionally rock bands used

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

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

Hey matthieu, thanks heaps!

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

If you want to stick with a

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

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

Thanks for all the time and

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

Thank you Matthieu, I really

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

I really appreciate the

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

Usually you want to avoid

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

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

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

Thank you for this very

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

Thanks AZNguy. Please feel

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

Thank you Dan - many many

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

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