The Best Live Vocal Mics - $40 to $1000

Live singing microphones

First published on Mar. 16, 2016. and last updated on Nov 2, 2018 by Alexander Briones & Jason Horton.

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.

With so many microphones flooding the market, finding a good one for can be quite tedious and time consuming. This is where we come in with a guide that specifically features the best microphones for singing and rapping live, updated to reflect the most current reviews and ratings up to October of 2018.

To keep the guide focused, we prioritized rating mics that are good for live music vocals, as opposed to ones that are suited to speaking conferences or making announcements over PA systems, and miking instruments. Still, while all the mics below are great for vocals, some of them are also viable for use with other sound sources like acoustic instruments, amplifiers, and some of them are also well suited for studio use.

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

Contents

The Best Live Vocal Mics

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.

GLS Audio ES-58-S - Dynamic Mic

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$40
GLS Audio ES-58 Dynamic Microphone

Thanks to the GLS Audio ES-58-S, it is now possible to own a reasonable quality vocal mic on the cheap. It is said to be based on the popular dynamic microphone Shure SM58, and while it is not a perfect clone, it continues to get really high ratings from those who own it or have tried it.

With its conventional shape and dynamic capsule design, there's nothing unfamiliar with this mic, aside from the addition of a power on/off switch, which can be good or bad depending on how the singer holds the mic.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-15KHz Hz
  • Impedance: 300 ohms at 1KHz
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals, acoustic instruments, percussion instruments

Pros

The GLS Audio ES-58-S continues to exceed the expectations of users, with plenty of commendations on how good its quality is, given its price. Most of the reports are from satisfied singers, but there are also sound technicians who are happy with its simplicity and ease of use. There are also a good number of musicians who are just as satisfied using the mic with their acoustic instrument or even for amplifiers.

Cons

There are some reports of minor cosmetic issues, while others report that the mic sound better with some EQ work.

Overall

If you're looking for a top rated vocal mic that you can get cheap, this is for you.

Shure SM58 - Dynamic Mic

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 6200+ 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 (link to Sweetwater) which doesn't have an on/off switch, there's also the SM58S (link to Sweetwater) which does have a switch, and finally the SM58-CN which has no switch but comes bundled with a 25" XLR mic cable.

Pros

With so many mics now available, its impressive how Shure SM58 continues to be the industry standard vocal microphone. Undoubtedly the most common positive mention in both customer and expert reviews is the durability and high build quality of the SM58. This is followed closely by its versatility as people use it not only for vocals but also for miking amps and even drums at live shows.

Cons

There were no consistent complaints about this version - the SM58-LC, although some people reported problems with the switch becoming 'scratchy' on the SM58S version. Some people remarked that they had unwittingly bought a counterfeit SM58 and some say they had this confirmed by Shure. To avoid this problem only buy from a well known retailer.

Overall

If you want that classic rock vocal sound then this is definitely the one to get. Even if you out-grow it later it will probably out-last your singing career and you'll find plenty of other uses for it if you get a more expensive mic at a later stage.

Shure SM58 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure SM58 Frequency Response Chart

Shure SM58 Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure SM58 Frequency Response Chart

Best Microphones For Live Vocals Under $200

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

Sennheiser e845 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$120
Sennheiser e845 Dynamic Super Cardioid Handheld Microphone

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

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

Specifications:

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

Pros

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

Cons

There's not much that people found to complain about.

Overall

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

Sennheiser e845 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e845 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e845 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e845 polar pattern chart

Shure Beta 58A - Dynamic Mic

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 2450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$159
Shure Beta 58A

The Shure Beta 58A is a dynamic mic with a supercardioid pattern, which allows for improved feedback and noise resistance. But what separates it from the SM58 is its brightened midrange, which is due to a presence boost within 4kHz and 9kHz.

There is also a bass roll-off to further beef up the highs, making the resulting sound clearer, and viable for many different vocal timbres and styles. Finally, the mic capsule is supported by an internal shockmount to prevent handling noise.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 350 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Those who are not too happy with the rounder sound and bass emphasis of the SM58, found themselves at home with the Shure Beta 58A's clearer sound. Many of the high ratings are from singers who prefer its supercardioid pattern, which allows them to play an instrument and sing at the same time, with less bleeding compared to regular cardioid mics. Durability is also well appreciated, with some even saying that you can use the mic to hammer a nail.

Cons

With so many different vocal timbres, the Beta 58A is simply not enough to cover them all. As such, there are some who are not happy with the extra highs.

Overall

If you are looking to add clarity and presence to your vocal sound, then the Shure Beta 58A is ideal for you.

Shure Beta 58A Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Beta 58A frequency response chart

Shure Beta 58A Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Beta 58A polar pattern chart

Sennheiser e935 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$180
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

Audio-Technica AE6100 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$189
Audio-Technica AE6100 Hypercardioid Dynamic Handheld Microphone

The main strength of the Audio-Technica AE6100 is its built-in open-cell foam pop-filter which helps improve overall sound by reducing background noise and vocal plosives.

This works together with its hypercardioid polar pattern and dynamic capsule, making this a good mic on stage, of which reviews attest to.

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Hyper Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 60Hz-15kHz
  • Impedance: 250 ohms
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals

Pros

The Audio-Technica AE6100 most of its high ratings from users who are impressed with its sound quality. And what's interesting is how quiet it works, impressing even experienced singers and sound technicians. Most owners also compare it favorably with other mics, with reports of the AE6100 outperforming most of the mics in its price range.

Cons

There are a few who are not too happy with its aesthetic appeal, while others are not too confident about the mic's long term reliability.

Overall

With its built-in pop filter, this is a good value vocal mic that you won't regret considering.

Audio-Technica AE6100 Frequency Response Chart:

Audio-Technica AE6100 Frequency Response Chart:

Audio-Technica AE6100 Polar Pattern Chart:

Audio-Technica AE6100 Polar Pattern Chart:

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $300

Sennheiser e945 - Dynamic Mic

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Sennheiser e945 Dynamic Supercardioid Handheld Microphone

The Sennheiser e945 has a hum compensating coil to reduce electrical interference and is shock mounted to reduce handling noise.

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

Specifications:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 18kHz
  • Impedance: 350 Ohms with the minimum terminating impedance recommended to be 1000 Ohms.
  • Applications: Live singing and home recording
  • Power Requirements: None

Pros

Customer reviews consistently mention how clear the sound is. Many also attest to its versatility because you can also use it for miking instruments and even amplifiers. The build quality and its ruggedness also came up many times in reviews and comments.

Cons

There weren't any consistent complaints other than a few people who were used to the SM58 who had difficulty finding the correct EQ settings when they changed over to this one.

Overall

The Sennheiser e945 is German designed and built to high standards. If you want a high quality microphone that's easy to use then this is one of the most suitable options for you.

Sennheiser e945 Frequency Response Chart:

Sennheiser e945 frequency response chart

Sennheiser e945 Polar Pattern Chart:

Sennheiser e945 polar pattern chart

Shure Beta 87A - Condenser Mic

97
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$249
Shure Beta 87A Handheld Supercardioid Electret Condenser Mic

The Shure Beta 87A is a condenser mic that's built for the stage, with its comfortable handheld profile, quiet operation and noise reduction feature.

Right of the bat, this mic comes with a super cardioid polar pattern that better rejects stage / background noise. In conjunction with its built-in low frequency roll-off feature and pop filter, the Shure Beta 87A also does away with problems like proximity and plosives. While it's not fair to expect condenser mics 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, 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 as solid and reliable as possible.

Cons

Not much to report, other than a few who caution that improper mic handling like covering the capsule may cause feedback, which is expected given that this is a condenser mic.

Overall

Some say you can't buy peace of mind, but the Shure Beta 87A comes quite close to it.

Shure Beta 87A Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Beta 87A frequency response chart

Shure Beta 87A Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Beta 87A polar pattern chart

Alexander's Pick

Shure Super 55 Deluxe - Dynamic Mic

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$249
Shure Super 55 Deluxe Dynamic Microphone

With its old school appeal, the Shure Super 55 Deluxe will easily make a good addition to any stage gear. It doesn't follow conventional cone shape, rather it features a satin chrome-plated housing that's reminiscent of what Elvis Presley used live in the '50s. This vintage look works together with its modern performance and reliability, making it a true stage worthy mic with bonus points for aesthetics.

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

Specifications:

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

Pros

One user is on point when he said, "it looks as good as it sounds, and sounds as good as it looks", and even up to the closing months of 2018, this is an accurate statement of how the market feels about the Shure Super 55 Deluxe. Chris Kennedy from Voice Council echoed the same sentiment saying, "if you care about your image on stage, but don’t want to sacrifice on sound quality, then the Shure Super 55 could be exactly what you are looking for."

Cons

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

Overall

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

Shure Super 55 Deluxe Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe frequency response chart

Shure Super 55 Deluxe Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe polar pattern chart

Best Live Microphones For Singing Under $500

Rode S1 - Condenser Mic

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$329
Rode S1 Supercardioid Condenser Handheld Microphone

Rode is well known for the quality of their condenser mics, and this same quality is present in handheld form within the Rode S1.

This mic features Rode's well loved condenser capsule in a handheld vocal microphone with supercardioid polar pattern and an internal pop filter that blocks plosives. The mesh head is heat treated for improved strength and reliability, matching its all metal construction and satin nickel finish.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Sensitivity: -46.0dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (5.00mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
  • Applications: Live vocals
  • Power Requirements: +48V

Pros

Many of the reviewers are former dynamic mic users who after switching to the S1 are surprised to find "day & night" difference in sound quality. Clean and crisp are just two of the many ways users describe its transparent sound, while others appreciate its solid feel. One user sums up market sentiment nicely by saying that this mic is very very good.

Cons

There are a few reports of the mic not working with certain cables, but this maybe a different problem entirely, probably a bad cable or wrong phantom power settings on the mixer.

Overall

If you're familiar with the quality of Rode condenser mics, and you want that same quality in a handheld vocal mic, then do check this one out.

Rode S1 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe frequency response chart

Rode S1 Deluxe Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure Super 55 Deluxe polar pattern chart

Audio-Technica AE5400 - Condenser Mic

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$379
Audio-Technica AE5400 Handheld Cardioid Condenser Microphone

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

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

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

Specifications:

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

Overall

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

Audio-Technica AE5400 Frequency Response Chart:

Audio-Technica AE5400 frequency response chart

Audio-Technica AE5400 Polar Pattern Chart:

Audio-Technica AE5400 polar pattern chart

Best Live Singing Microphones Under $1000

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

Shure KSM9 Dual Diaphragm - Condenser Mic

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ 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

99
GEARANK

99 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$699
Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

The Neumann brand is very highly regarded with studio microphones and that reputation carries over into their live handheld mics as well.

The supercardiod polar patter of the KMS 105 makes it exceptionally good at rejecting sound from a full 180° behind the mic.

Although the KMS 105 works well for most kinds of vocals, Neumann also have the similar KMS 104 which is optimized for female rock and pop singers.

It also uses electronic compensation to control the proximity effect - it has a 120Hz high-pass filter.

Michael Buble and Norah Jones are two well known singers who use the Neumann KMS 105 in live concert.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 Ohms - Load impedance is 1000 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals + recording acoustic guitar
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Many positive customer reviews talk about how 'natural' this mic sounds and that it's the best live performance mic they've ever owned. Noise and feedback rejection are other features reviewers cite very positively.

Cons

Several owners report that unless you have a high-end PA system with good mic preamps then you won't get the full value out of this mic and you may as well get a cheaper one instead.

Overall

The Neumann KMS 105 is best suited to jazz, middle of the road, pop, and acoustic artists where the crystal clear sound can really shine as opposed to heavy metal or hard rock artists where the fine nuances of this mic are lost on stage.

Neumann KMS 105 Frequency Response Chart:

Neumann KMS 105 frequency response chart

Neumann KMS 105 Polar Pattern Chart:

Neumann KMS 105 polar pattern chart

Earthworks SR40V - Condenser Mic

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$999
Earthworks SR40V Handheld Hypercardioid Condenser Microphone

James Taylor has been using the Earthworks SR40V in his concerts since he was first introduced to them in 2011. Other Earthworks SR40V artists include Foreigner, jazz singer Candice Hoyes, and many more.

One of the reasons it is so well liked by talented singers and their audio engineers is because it has the most incredibly flat frequency response across the vocal range - you never need to EQ this mic for any reason other than a desired effect, no compensatory EQ is needed. In fact, the Earthworks SR40V has the widest frequency response range of any of the microphones for singing live that I found when researching this gear guide.

Earthworks stand behind the quality of this mic because they offer a 15 year warranty.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Hypercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz to 40kHz
  • Impedance: 65 Ohms with the min output load being 600 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 139 dB
  • Applications: Live and recorded vocals
  • Power Requirements: 48v phantom power

Pros

Expert reviewers who have put the SR40V through its paces are unanimous in saying that this mic really does reproduce a studio quality sound on stage. They also say the feedback rejection is excellent and that it has low handling noise characteristics. Most of them said this was the best vocal mic they'd ever used live.

Cons

A few expert reviewers pointed out that you must have an excellent signal chain from the mic preamps to the FOH speakers otherwise you simply won't realize the benefits of a high-end mic like this.

Overall

If you're a talented singer who works with high quality PA systems then this is the top choice. You'll also be able to use it on professional recordings.

Earthworks SR40V Frequency Response Chart:

Earthworks SR40V frequency response chart

Earthworks SR40V Polar Pattern Chart:

Earthworks SR40V polar pattern chart

Summary

If you're looking to buy your first good microphone then don't be put off by all the technical jargon - just find one in your price range that is highly rated, like the ones above. Over time as you gain more experience you'll start to understand microphones a lot better and down the track you'll be able to buy higher performance mics with confidence.

If you're still unsure which mic to get, post a question in the comments below and describe the type of music you sing, and other instruments you might want to mic, and we might be able to help you with some personalized advice.

Things To Consider When Buying A Live Singing Microphone

  • On/Off Switch

    This might seem like a trivial issue, but it isn't. In general you do not want handheld microphones with switches that can be easily accidentally turned off. Most live audio engineers don't like on/off switches because it's really difficult to trouble shoot a mic drop out in the middle of a performance and frustrating when you track it down to the singer turning it off. The exceptions are mics that have switch locks so they can't be turned off by mistake, or if you only intend to use them for karaoke where it's better to turn the mic off in between singers.

  • Dynamic vs Condenser

    If you go back 20 years or so you would usually only find Condenser mics in recording studios, and mainly only Dynamic mics on stage - particularly for vocals. This was largely because condenser mics were very fragile and prone to feedback. But times have changed and advances in microphone design have meant that Condenser mics that are specifically designed to be hand held are now capable of delivering 'studio quality' results at live shows. Dynamic mics typically have a lower frequency range but sound 'warm' whereas condensers typically have a much higher frequency range and tend to sound 'brighter'. Condenser mics typically require their own power supply to work properly - either from a battery or phantom power supplied by a mic preamp or mixing desk. Dynamic mics are generally still a bit sturdier than condenser mics, but if you look after your microphones well then this shouldn't be much of an issue. If after reading this you're still unsure which type of mic would be best for you, then get one of each and spend time singing through both of them until you find which type suits your vocals.

  • Polar Pattern

    Cardioid polar pattern This is which direction(s) a microphone absorbs sound from. For singing live you generally only want microphones that accept sound from directly in front while suppressing sound that comes from the back or the sides - this is to reduce problems with feedback coming from your stage monitors or front of house speakers. Most microphones used in live performance have a Cardioid polar patter, or a variation of that, to help prevent feedback. The image on the right is an example of a cardioid polar pattern.

  • Frequency Response

    Each microphone has its own characteristics in terms of which frequencies it emphasizes or de-emphasizes. An ideal microphone has a flat response across the entire range of frequencies it responds to, however that is only found in high-end mics. That said, some mics have their own idiosyncratic frequency responses which give them a signature sound musicians have come to really love in certain styles of music - the SM58's classic rock vocalist sound is a great example. If you have a high pitched voice then you might want to be careful using a mic which emphasizes the highs because without proper EQ'ing this could lead to your singing sounding harsh. If you have a low register and you really want to emphasize that then you might look for mics that are strong below 200Hz. If you know your vocal characteristics well then you'll find the frequency response charts to be quite helpful. If all this sounds a bit too technical leaving you uncertain, then get a microphone that is often used in the style of music you perform and you shouldn't have any trouble.

  • Proximity Effect

    When you get very close to any kind of directional mic, one with anything other than an omnidirectional polar pattern, you will notice an increase in volume of the low frequencies. This can make your vocals sound 'warmer'. Typically cardioid dynamic mics have the strongest proximity effect and you see it put to good use live often by male singers and rappers. Some manufacturers supply data on the proximity effect of their microphones and when they do you'll see an extra line showing it in the frequency response chart for the mic.

  • Impedance

    Without getting too technical, impedance can be best thought of as the amount of resistance an electronic device has to electric current flowing through it. A microphone should only be plugged into equipment that has the same or a higher impedance rating otherwise you'll get a loss of signal. Most handheld mics are low impedance (below 600 Ohms) so they generally don't have any issues when used with 'pro' sound gear. If you're unsure about the equipment you'll be using your mic with, such as a low-cost 'consumer' karaoke machine, then it doesn't hurt to check to make sure the mic you want to buy has the same or a lower impedance than the system you're going to plug it into - you can check the manuals or specification sheets of both devices to make sure.

  • Max SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

    This indicates the maximum volume, measured in decibels (dB) you can expose a mic to before it starts having problems like distortion. Very few people can sing loud enough to ever worry about this, but if you're also going to use your mic on amplifiers or loud instruments like drums, then you should opt for a mic with a high Max SPL. If you're unsure how loud something is then you can measure that with an SPL meter - I have an app on my phone that does that which is accurate enough for this purpose, alternatively you can buy hardware SPL Meters which tend to be more accurate.

  • Applications

    This gear guide is primarily focused on microphones for singing live. Some good live vocal mics can also be used for other applications such as recording or miking some kinds of instruments and/or amplifiers. Typically a good live condenser microphone will also serve you well for recording vocals or even acoustic guitar. Good dynamic mics will sometimes work well for miking amplifiers both live and for recording. If you also like to record at home. getting a versatile mic that can serve multiple applications will allow you to get more bang for your buck.

  • Power Source - Phantom Power

    Dynamic microphones don't require any power to work but 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 channel strip to provide the power.

Best Vocal Mic Selection Methodology

We first scoured the market for popular and highly rated wired handheld microphones that can be used for live vocals, including popular dynamic and condenser microphones. For this update, we again narrowed down our scope to those that are widely available from major US retailers, and we still ended up with big numbers - over 65 as our beginning list, along with more than 25,000 relevant reviews, ratings and recommendations, including the most recent ones up to the end of October 2018.

All these data were then fed into the Gearank algorithm to produce the scores you see above. Finally Alexander and I broke them down into price brackets and selected the highest rated in each price range. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Comments

The d:facto II was on our

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

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

What should be the difference

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

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

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

I am an Opera singer with a

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

The Shure Beta 58 is a

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

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

The AKG D5 is a very good

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

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

Outstanding. I use both the

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

I'm hesitating between

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

When I researched both the

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

No. That's my problem. All

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

Thanks for the follow-up. I

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

FYI - Hi, I've bought

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

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