The Best Studio Mics For Vocals - $100 to $1000

The Highest Rated Studio Mics For Vocals

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Once you reach a certain point in your exploration of music production, you will start to feel the limitations of your starter gear. Using a less-than-optimal vocal mic makes you do more things during mixing and inevitably gives you an inconsistent sound, especially with vocals.

Everyone's voice is different. This means that one mic may not be optimal or comfortable for any given singer to use. Using a mic that alters the singer's voice in an undesirable way may get in the way of getting good performances.

If you're not sure which type of microphone to get, then you might find this article helpful: Choosing the Right Type of Studio Recording Microphone for Your Vocal Type.

In this July 2022 edition, we feature pro studio favorites as well as industry newcomers. We limited the price range to exclude both ultra-budget mics and boutique/limited/custom offerings from manufacturers (if you're looking for budget mics check out our guide to Condenser Mics Under $100).

The Best Studio Mics For Recording Vocals

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Best Studio Microphones Under $200

We found three condenser microphones in the $100 - $200 price range that are worthy of our recommendation. They are listed below along with important details as to why users were satisfied with their performance.

Audio-Technica AT2035

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 2750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Audio-Technica AT2035 Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Vocal Studio Mic between $100 and $200 along with the sE Electronics X1 S & TZ Stellar X2.

Cons

  • Does not include many accessories - only a shockmount and a basic pouch

Pros

  • Clarity and detail comparable to more expensive mics
  • Solid feel and metal exterior
  • Also works great with various instruments, including violins and acoustic guitars

Don't be fooled by the budget pricing of the AT2035. It is a large diaphragm condenser microphone with premium features. Aside from its metal exterior, it comes bundled with a custom shock mount.

It has proven to be very popular with project studios, voice-over work and streaming. In addition to vocal recording, this mic can also work with other sound sources thanks to its higher than average maximum SPL of 148dB, -10dB pad and its switchable low-frequency roll off.

This is a great value microphone. I particularly appreciate the clarity and detail that this mic captures, quite comparable to more expensive studio mics. Its overall solid feel and metal exterior is the cherry on top for this excellent offering. And while I would use this mic mostly for recording vocals, it also works great with various instruments, including violins and acoustic guitars.

This mic's weak point is its accessories, or the lack thereof. The package does not come with an XLR cable or a pop filter. Good thing it comes with a shockmount and a pouch. Being geared more towards those just starting out, I like to see these budget microphones come with as many high quality accessories as possible to help you get started recording right away.

If budget is tight and you're looking for a quality microphone that can handle vocal recording well and versatile enough to work with acoustic instruments, then get the Audio-Technica AT2035. Be sure to buy a pop filter and an XLR cable though if you haven't already.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 120 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 148 dB
  • Power Requirements: 11V to 52V DC, 3.8 mA typical
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Audiofanzine JimboSpins 80/100
Sound On Sound Paul White 92/100

sE Electronics X1 S Vocal Pack

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$199
sE Electronics X1 S Vocal Pack
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Vocal Studio Mic between $100 and $200 along with the AT2035 & TZ Stellar X2.

Cons

  • Quite heavy - sturdy mic stand recommended

Pros

  • Musical sound signature - good balance of harmonic richness and transparency
  • High maximum SPL - great for loud sources
  • Feature rich for the pricepoint - 2 volume pad and 2 low cut filter settings

The sE Electronics X1 S Vocal pack includes a shockmount and a pop filter. The X1 S mic itself has a custom, handcrafted capsule made in-house by sE Electronics.

The custom transformerless circuit allows up to 160dB Maximum SPL thanks to its -10 and -20dB pads. Having a high maximum SPL lets you use this mic for louder sound sources like aggressive vocals as well as instruments.

A switchable low cut filter offers two cutoffs at 80hz and 160hz. This makes the mic ideal for use with loud sound sources.

The sound the sE Electronics X1 S captures is quite musical with just the right amount of harmonics to strike a balance between harmonic richness and transparency. The price to performance ratio as well as the build quality is also excellent.

One thing to note, the mic is a bit heavy; best to pair it with a solid Mic Stand.

Whether you're getting it as a first mic or your next mic, the X1 S Vocal Pack is a great all-rounder for your studio.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 125 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 160dB SPL (with pads)
  • Power Requirements:48V phantom power

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Victor Bailey Victor Bailey 90/100
YouTube bigtb1717 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

TZ Audio Products Stellar X2

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
Stellar X2 Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Vocal Studio Mic between $100 and $200 along with the sE Electronics X1 S & AT2035 .

Cons

  • Sounds dull and bloated on dark and low pitched vocals such as baritone

Pros

  • Warm and smooth sound - great for taming high pitched, sibilant and screechy voices
  • High quality chassis and internal components

TechZone (or TZ) Audio Products is somewhat of a lesser-known name in the recording community. Earning a reputation in many gear circles as a hidden gem, the Stellar X2 is a modern condenser microphone with a sound that's tuned to eliminate the usual "harsh treble" sound found on cheaper condenser microphones.

The "k67" style capsule is constructed with high quality Japanese Mylar, and gold sputtered using the company's proprietary tech. The circuitry is rounded out by a transformerless JFET circuit with up to 1% tolerance between components.

I love the warm and smooth sound this mic presents, a tonality usually not found with mics at this price point. I also praise the Stellar X2 for its build quality and taking a peak inside you will see the internal componentry is also done to a very high standard.

In TZ's quest to create a warm sounding mic for less they have sacrificed some versatility. I found the sound to be dull and bloated in the low midrange frequencies of baritone vocals.

The TZ Audio Products Stellar X2 is a mic with a great price to performance ratio. Get it if you want a mic to warm up higher pitched or sibilant voices as well as give a nice midrange push to instruments should you need it.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 18kHz
  • Impedance: 140 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 130dB
  • Power Requirements: 48V Phantom Power ±4

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearspace fried fingers 94/100
Tape Op Jason Ribadeneyra 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Best Studio Microphones Under $500

This price range is where manufacturers can really drive the quality up while balancing cost, resulting in high quality mics that are still reasonably priced, as reflected by their high ratings. Even professionals find some of the mics in this bracket to be of great quality.

Lewitt LCT 440 Pure

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$269
Lewitt LCT 440 Pure Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Cons

  • Cardioid only
  • Can get sibilant

Pros

  • Great neutral midrange with a silky smooth high end usually only heard on ultra-expensive microphones
  • High quality bundled accessories
  • Low self-noise makes it great for recording quiet sources and room tone
  • Excellent for pop vocals, acoustic guitar or anything where detail and brightness are desired

The demand for a more affordable, project studio oriented product from Lewitt saw the release of the LCT 440 Pure. A distillation of their design philosophy into only the most essential pieces. The 440 Pure is a cardioid only LDC with no other features. On paper, this might not sound like much to offer, but the mic comes in an attractive package of both a shockmount, and 2 pop filters (foam and metal mesh).

Lewitt LCT440 Pure Output
The "stem" of the microphone houses the XLR output jack. This is the part that slides into the proprietary shockmount and friction-locked into place.

Because of the streamlined approach to the mic, price is kept low while the capsule, enclosure and circuitry remain top standard. It employs the same capsule as their flagship microphones but distilled into a simple, single pattern mic. The result is surprisingly versatile especially with a max SPL handling of 140dB SPL for 0.5% THD, it won't need a pad at all for some cases.

It has a neutral midrange with a sweet, airy high end that you can only get from classics like the Telefunken ELA M 251e and the Sony C800g (with some examples of the 251e having slightly more harmonically rich low mids vs the c800g). I have been fortunate enough to record audio with these mics and I can easily say the 440 Pure shares the same "pop vocal" sheen that the aforementioned mics offer. What it lacks compared to these mics is the subtle harmonic content that gives a feeling of "compression" on specific frequency ranges.

Many people who have never worked with high-end microphones like the Telefunken ELA M 251e and Sony c800g might not understand what makes the Lewitt LCT440 Pure's timbre and tonality so great. While it doesn't have the harmonically complex midrange of the 251e or the extreme high end detail of the Sony C800g, It fits well within their sound signature at a price most of us can afford.

I should point out that some people find the mic too sibilant; a trait it shares with the two expensive mics I keep mentioning. If you're looking for Neumann smoothness, look elsewhere as the LCT440 Pure has a very modern and airy sound designed to cut through in a modern pop mix. Likewise, if you're in the market for a mic that has multiple patterns and pads, Lewitt's higher end models begin to introduce those features so check those out.

If you're looking for an excellent pop vocal mic or bright condenser to capture nuanced acoustic guitar performances, the LCT 440 Pure definitely brings that big studio sound without the big studio price.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Recording Magazine Paul Vnuk Jr. 98/100
Gearank Raphael Pulgar 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Shure SM7B

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 6650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
The Shure SM7B Studio Dynamic Vocal Microphone
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Studio Vocal Mic from $200 to $500.

Cons

  • Requires a lot of gain to drive properly

Pros

  • Works great for both clean vocals and screams
  • Supreme versatility - practically a do-all microphone
  • Also works especially well for distorted electric guitar
  • High build quality

The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone originally designed for radio broadcast. Among its famous users include Michael Jackson, who preferred using the original SM7 on his vocal takes for Thriller. Modern musicians and producers have found that the SM7B sounds great on aggressive, screamed vocals and distorted electric guitar.

While featuring a similar capsule as their famed Shure SM57/58, the SM7's designers were given freedom to alter it during the design process. Their end goals were a deeper low frequency response, an internal shockmount and an enclosure tuned to accentuate more low end.

After decades of iterations, including the SM7A in 1999 which introduced a hum-cancelling coil and a different yoke mount, the SM7B was introduced in 2001 featuring a new windscreen.

Because it was tuned as a broadcast mic, voice recordings made with the SM7B sound sublime and barely need any additional processing to sound good in a mix. It's safe to say that getting the SM7B might change your recording and mixing experience in a big way. The mic performs well with both clean vocals and screams. And in addition to vocals, the SM7B performs well with distorted electric guitar.

One caveat though, the mic does require an audio interface or mic preamp that can provide at least 60dB of gain, otherwise the mic can be too quiet. I own a Cloud Microphones CL-1 which I use for this purpose.

With decades of legacy behind it, the SM7B lives up to its legend as a "do-all" microphone that performs excellent on voices and instruments. Just make sure you have enough gain on tap to ensure you get the full performance out of this legendary mic.

Specifications

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 150++ dB
  • Bass roll-off control
  • Mid-range emphasis / Presence boost control
  • Power Requirements: None

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Home Brew Audio Ken Theriot 90/100
Audiofanzine Anonymous 100/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Electro-Voice RE20

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$449
Electro Voice RE-20 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

Cons

  • Quite expensive to purchase and maintain

Pros

  • Clear vocal reproduction with minimal proximity effect - suitable for up-close, whispery vocals
  • Reputed industry standard broadcast mic
  • High max SPL makes it also suitable for loud sources

The Electro Voice RE-20 is a large diaphragm dynamic mic that features "Variable-D" technology, which stops it from over-emphasizing the lows when used up-close - in other words, it counters the proximity effect.

This feature allows for clear vocal recordings, which propelled its popularity among professional voice-over and broadcast circles. Its attenuation of the proximity effect enables singers to get up close with the mic for intimate sounding vocals without overloading the low frequencies.

Interestingly, it is also good enough for rock style vocals, since it is Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke's preferred mic.

There's also a bass tilt down switch that further helps with bass attenuation, which makes the RE-20 viable for miking louder sources like guitar and bass amps, as well as kick drums.

I have to commend the mic for working well in both live performance and studio recording settings. Not to overstate: but beautiful sounding, magical and astounding are just a few of the many positive words I would use to describe this mic.

Price remains a barrier to entry for many and a deterrent for fear of maintenance woes. It's a bit more expensive than one of its main rivals, the Shure SM7B, another highly rated and legendary large diaphragm dynamic broadcast mic.

I do have to note the lack of bass response, but this is expected since this mic is designed to counteract the extra bass that regular mics capture.

Especially with the rise in popularity of whispery vocal styles similar to Billie Eilish, the RE-20's ability to capture close sound sources allows for great sounding takes.

Specifications

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: (-3dB) 45Hz-18kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Power Requirements: None

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Tweakheadz Editor 92/100
Pro Audio Files Danny Echevarria 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Author's Pick

Rode NT1

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 2300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$269
Rode NT1 Large-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Cons

    • Heavy shockmount (metal variant)
    • Cardioid only

Pros

  • Vintage sound signature reminiscent of classic German microphones
  • Low self-noise
  • Great build quality and durability
  • Comes with accessories

I am a huge fan of vintage mics. I've been spoiled because I've been in studios with great vintage tube mics and worked with tracks sent to me that were recorded with them. Mixing tracks made with them has always been a good experience especially when they match the singer. One of my favorite experiences was mixing a singer recorded with a great sounding vintage Neumann/Telefunken (it wasn't specified then) U47. My journey to find something that could lean even a little bit towards the U47 direction brought me to the Rode NT1.

Rode promotes the NT1 as having a warm, vintage sound by comparing it with a U47 that was formerly owned by the band INXS.

My first impression of the mic was great. Depending on the package you get, some stores offer the Rycote Lyre-style shockmount with a paddle-like metal pop filter, while others carry a more traditional metal shockmount with elastic bands plus a fabric pop filter. Regardless of the paired accessories, the mic is the same in either. I had the one with the metal shockmount which was built solidly.

Moving onto the mic itself, the finish feels great to the touch. It has a high quality matte black finish with the logo, serial number and other details laser etched on the body. The edge terminated capsule is visible through the headbasket. The one on mine came slightly misaligned but it was only a matter of unscrewing the endcap and realigning the capsule and closing it. Not really a problem for me but it might be for some that are particular with how their products come out of the box.

Plugging it in and firing up the phantom power, I got to do a preliminary mic test with the peaks hitting around -10dbfs. I have to say that I was initially underwhelmed. But this is only because I've grown so accustomed to modern sounding mics like the Aston Origin and Lewit LCT 440 pure that moving to a vintage tuned mic made me aware of my instinct for instant gratification.

Consider the NT1's sound as more of a blank canvas rather than an already finished painting and things will suddenly fall into place. One feature to support this is the NT1's extremely low self-noise. This enables the use of heavy tone shaping without bringing up the mic's inherent noise floor (not counting environmental noise of course). Record in a well-treated room and you will be rewarded with a recording that can take a lot of processing and still sound good.

In essence, the sound reminds me more of the successor to the Neumann U47, the U67. The U67 has less of the midrange harmonics of its predecessor (which honestly can get very cluttered with louder singers) with a slight bump at the high frequencies to help in intelligibiltiy. Like the U67, the Rode NT1 has a natural sounding low frequency range in contrast to the U47's more prominent bass especially with proximity effect in play.

On other aspects, handling noise was actually very minimal. The capsule is internally shockmounted with a Rycote cradle. I use the NT1 for streaming and voice overs and moving the mic around while I do so doesn't result in overbearing thumps and thuds.

Rode NT1 on Shockmount
The heavy-duty metal shockmount and integrated pop filter are included in this version of the kit.

With all this praise, I have to note that I have a few caveats with the kit. The shockmount is solidly built but very heavy. The fabric mesh pop filter is built into the shockmount and it adds to the weight. Unless you're using a straight mic stand, you will need a heavy duty boom mic arm to carry the weight of the mic kit. Rode offers a direct mounting solution in the form of the Rode RM2 ring mount. This is my preferred setup when using the NT1 for voice overs.

The Rode NT1 is a great mic for vintage tones without the vintage price. While the lack of any other pad and polar pattern options limit its versatility, its tonality is enough for it to be useful for a wide array of voices and instruments.

Specifications

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40 to 15,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms (300 ohms actual)
  • Max SPL: 160 dB at 1kHz
  • Applications: Live and recorded guitars, guitar amps, vocals, drums & more

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Sound on Sound Paul White 90/100
MusicRadar Trevor Curwen 90/100
Gearank Raphael Pulgar 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Best Studio Microphones Under $1000

This price range is where the budget boundaries of home recording and professional studios overlap, resulting in premium quality mics that are ready for professional use, while still somewhat reasonable enough for home recording studios to invest in.

Neumann TLM 102

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$729
Neumann TLM102 Studio Microphone with Standmount
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Studio Vocal Mic from $500 to $1000.

Cons

  • Not cheap although it is the cheapest large-diaphragm Neumann condenser
  • No extra features or switches - just a simple cardioid condenser

Pros

  • Premium and clear tonality specifically designed for vocals
  • Solid build quality and design
  • Compact size

The TLM102 gives you Neumann's brand of quality build and sound at a more accessible price point, thanks to its relatively smaller profile and streamlined design. This mic houses a large-diaphragm condenser capsule and it features a transformerless capacitor. This combination is more often seen on their more expensive offerings.

It is especially designed for vocal recording with its slight emphasis on the mids. To keep the cost down, the Neumann TLM 102 comes with a single Cardioid pattern with no extra features. This limits its versatility, but makes it easier to work with since there are no settings to mess with.

The Neumann TLM 102 continues to exceed my expectations and is be a perfect, simple cardioid condenser for many settings from home setups to professionals with big recording studios. It gets my thumbs up for both its solid build and sonic clarity. This may even be the best way to enter into the world of high-end microphones. It's compact size is an added bonus.

Its streamlined design might make you think twice though, especially when considering that there are cheaper ones with more features. But excellent sound quality beats sub-par sound quality with a lot of features in my book.

Balancing great specifications with great build quality is uncommon at this price point. While the TLM 102 trades versatility for specificity, it does its job exceptionally well. It makes it a great mic to have as a first foray into higher end tonalities; granted you've developed an ear for the finer nuances these mics bring to your tracks.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 144 dB
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Audiofanzine chrislieck 80/100
RecordingHacks Paul Stamler 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Shure KSM42/SG

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$849
Shure KSM42 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Cons

  • Pedestrian max SPL - not for use with very loud instruments

Pros

  • Versatile for all kinds of vocal performances and types
  • Large sweet spot - great for animated singers and speakers
  • High quality build and accessories

The Shure KSM42/SG is a package consisting of the KSM42 mic with a shockmount, pop filter, carrying case and pouch. The KSM42 by itself is a mic designed to have a large "sweet spot" and consistent tone within that sweet spot.

Its dual diaphragm design has an active, side address diaphragm for capturing sound and a passive, low frequency cancelling diaphragm to negate bass buildup from the proximity effect.

It might be easy to overlook this mic because of Shure's more famous offerings. The KSM42 records vocals that just "sit right" in the mix. For voice-over work, voice acting and audiobook readings it has a large sweet spot making for more consistent captures of even the most animated readings. It's basically one of the best "sleeper/best kept secret" vocal mics on the market today.

With a max SPL of 139dB its not meant to be used with the loudest of sources, it's best to leave this mic doing what it does best: capture honest vocal performances.

For voice overs, energetic singing, speaking deliveries and streaming/broadcast, the KSM42/SG is a consistent sounding microphone with a wide sweet spot.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 60Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 147 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 139dB
  • Power Requirements: +48V phantom power

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Tape Op Garrett Haines 97/100
MuseWire Danielle Egnew 99/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

United Studio Technologies UT FET47

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$899
United Studio Technologies UT FET47 Large-diaphragm FET Condenser Microphone

Cons

  • Low quality packaging

Pros

  • A faithful recreation of the venerable U47 FET at a fraction of the cost
  • Smooth sound with a lot of harmonic richness - great for intimate sounding vocals
  • Also great for kick drum, bass guitar amps and other low end sources

The original Neumann U47 FET (Field Effect Transistor) was introduced in 1969 when the VF14 tube used in the impedance conversion of the U47 was discontinued. After a decades-long run, Neumann ceased production in 1986. While Neumann issued a "collectors edition" in 2015, it was, and still is very expensive.

Enter: United Studio Technologies. While the company was initially familiar only to forum-dwellers and select discussion groups, they have slowly gathered a reputation for their flagship product: the UT FET47.

The UT FET47 is a modern, relatively affordable recreation of the Neumann classic with custom designed transformer and capsule, vintage capacitors and NOS (New Old Stock) transistors.

I find that this mic sounds eerily similar to the microphone it's paying homage to. On vocals, the UT FET47 sounds smooth but not muffled. Higher frequency harmonics populate the upper registers of the frequency spectrum instead of harsh treble that is usually found on cheaper microphones. For intimate sounding vocals, very few sound better at this price point.

Although it doesn't effect the sound or usage of the mic, I'm a bit concerned about the packaging this microphone comes in which is basically just a carboard box, a plastic bag and some thin foam. Sure, maybe it's to cut cost and to pour it all in to the microphone but this packaging might not hold up well in shipping. Although a bargain for what it is, it's still expensive in the context of budget microphones and deserves protection.

With the Neumann originals starting at over $4000, the United Studio Technologies puts the sound of the iconic U47 FET within reach of many audio engineers.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 160 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 136 dB
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Sound On Sound Neil Rogers 100/100
Tape Op Dan Knobler 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider When Buying a Microphone for Recording Vocals

Diaphragm Type: Condenser vs Dynamic

Condenser mics continue to be staple equipment for recording vocals, but don't brush off dynamic mics just yet because even pros opt to use them for certain scenarios. While the boundaries can be blurred from time to time, the general idea is that condenser mics capture more sonic detail at the expense of having limited sound pressure handling, while dynamic mics can handle louder sources and have better noise rejection. The safest and most versatile of the two would be the condenser, but if you're into recording loud sound sources, or full band performances, then getting a dynamic one is the better choice. Note that condenser mics usually require phantom power or their own power supply to work, while dynamic mics usually don't need any kind of mic preamp or power supply. If budget permits, it is recommended to get one of each so you have a go-to mic for virtually any type of vocal recording.

Polar Pattern

Polar patterns describe how a mic captures sound; to be more specific, the location and direction of the sound relative to the mic's position. Cardioid, with its front capture and rear rejection is the most commonly used for vocal recording. Other patterns like the Figure 8 and Omnidirectional allow more of the ambient sound to be captured, and can also be used for recording a singing group or multiple sound sources. For further information on Polar Patterns see the article The Different Types Of Mics And Their Uses.

Frequency Response

This specification indicates how strongly a mic responds to various frequencies, usually shown in the form of a chart to show the specific frequencies that are emphasized and de-emphasized. The resulting sound should ideally be as neutral and flat as possible, however there are who prefer subtle coloration like additional warmth and low-end. Singers with a low pitched voice will appreciate those with strong frequencies below 200Hz, since they can reproduce the tone of their voice better. On the other hand, you'll want one that can tame some of the highs if your voice tends to be naturally high-pitched. The more familiar you are with the voice that you're recording, the more useful the frequency charts will be to you, and this is the reason why professional studios have multiple mics to accommodate various voice types. A good rule of thumb is to start with a flat EQ and make adjustments as necessary before switching mics.

Pop Filter

Pop filters are essentially "wind screens" that stop excessive air movement while allowing sound to pass through. Sudden air movements from strong "p" pronunciations (AKA plosives) can cause unwanted volume jumps or worse cause signal clipping, which is unwanted in a recording setting. Many mics come with bundled pop filters - but some have expressed concerns about the quality of some of these free filters. More expensive condenser mics have pop-filters built into the casing itself for convenient pop and noise protection.

Max SPL (Sound Pressure Level) and Attenuation Pads

This indicates the maximum volume, measured in decibels (dB), that you can expose a mic to before it starts to distort the signal. This is not a primary concern for vocal recording, but if you want an all-around mic that you can use for louder instruments like drums and amplifiers, then you'll want to look for those with a high Max SPL. Many of the mics mentioned in this guide feature switchable attenuation pad(s), which allows them to handle louder sound sources without distorting the sound. In line with this, an SPL meter is a good tool to have, even for home studios. You can either download an SPL meter app for your smartphone or buy a hardware SPL Meter for more accurate measurements.

Power Source - Phantom Power

Most audio interfaces, mic preamps and studio mixing desks today provide phantom power, but in case you have an old one that doesn't you'll need a separate mic preamp or a channel strip that can supply power to condenser mics. Note that there are some condenser mics that can't run on phantom power, rather they have dedicated power supply to feed them with the power they need, which is usually the case for tube driven mics. Dynamic mics don't usually require any power so no need to worry if you're going that route.

Mic Versatility

While the main focus of this guide is for recording vocals, many of the mics that are listed here also work well with other instruments. Dynamic mics with their high max SPL will usually work well with loud instruments like drums and speaker cabinets, while condenser mics record acoustic guitar and other acoustic instruments just as well. An idea is to consider other instruments that you will also record, and get vocal mics that will also work with them to get more out of the money you're paying.

Best Studio Mic for Vocals Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on July 29, 2022.

Our goal is to feature the best studio microphones that can be readily bought from online American music equipment retailers. As such our initial short list featured 60 popular and top rated mics that are currently being sold in the USA from brands including AKG, Aston Microphones, Audio-Technica, Audix, Austrian Audio, Avantone Pro, Behringer, Earthworks Audio, Electro-Voice, Golden Age Project, Heil Sound, Lauten Audio, , Lewitt Audio, Mackie, Miktek, Mojave Audio, Neumann, PreSonus, Rode, sE Electronics, Sennheiser, Shure, Slate Digital, Studio Projects, TZ Audio Products, United Studio Technologies, Warm Audio.

We then compiled all relevant ratings, reviews, forum discussions and expert recommendations, which for this update tallied to over 37,400 rating sources. All of these were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the rating scores out of 100 that we used to select the top rated for three specific price ranges: sub $200, sub $500, and sub $1000. 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

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Some of the recording gear I use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: based on a stock photograph in the public domain.

The individual product images, frequency response charts and polar pattern charts were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation except for the additional LCT 440 Pure and Rode NT1 photos which was taken by the author.

Comments

So the Akg p220 condenser mic

So the Akg p220 condenser mic can work well in accompanied with what type of mixer and interface?

I'm looking for a Mic plus pa

I'm looking for a Mic plus pa system that will give me a quality sound over a screaming audience without me having to scream into the Mic, and or make adjustments in the middle of a song. While at the sametime picking up the sound from an acoustic guitar. I'm not trying to ruin my vocal cords while singing any type of song. I'm open to suggestions.

the best way learn to sing

the best way learn to sing properly, really. Unless you specifically go there for the quietness (like billie eilish, etc. do nowadays) you should be able to sing loud enough to be louder than any normal crowd, if your singing technique is correct. In fact, singing quietly is a sign of a person not using their lungs and head properly. Singing louder is not about vocal chords at all, but about the resonance of your body, the vocal chords actually play a minor part in the loudness of the sound. If you feel like singing louder makes your vocal chords soar, please, find a vocal couch. It is really dangerous to sing in a vocal-chords-heavy way, even if you sing just a bit louder than just quiet.

If you want me to recomed a mic however, i would go for the shure sm58 for vocals, and a guitar with a pickup. I cannot recommend any more versatile mic, while not knowing how your voice sounds. About the PA, if you are on the budget, i would just recommend any small mixer, and like an RCA, or any half-way decent monitor.

But seriously, make sure your breathing technique is correct, and that you do not overuse your vocal chords. It might me dangerous, and might affect your voice in the future.

i hope this helps... ale the best!

If you're singing and playing

While you can mic an acoustic guitar on stage, it requires more effort to setup. It is also harder to stop noise from bleeding into acoustic guitar mics. This is why miking acoustic guitars are mostly done in recording studios, or intimate/small venue performances.

If you're singing and playing guitar at the same time over a noisy crowd, then you're best option is to have a good acoustic electric guitar that can be plugged in straight to PA, and have a dedicated stage mic for vocals. You can click the links to see our recommendations, based on market response.

Since you mentioned you're looking for a PA system, you can check out our Portable PA System recommendations.