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

The Highest Rated Studio Mics For Vocals

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A good vocal mic is always one of the top priorities in every studio. Investing in a good vocal microphone gives you great raw tracks for mixing and makes your overall mixes better as a result. Singers also perform better when they sound good while monitoring. Whether you're just starting out and want a great vocal mic as a centerpiece of your project studio or want great performing piece of equipment to augment your mic cabinet, we've got your covered with our selections for the best studio mics for vocals, updated in February 2020.

The recommended list below focuses on top rated condenser and dynamic mics that are currently being used in home recording and professional studios. Note that while the main consideration is vocal recording, many of the mics we feature below also work really well with instruments, making them a good value addition to any studio setup.

The Best Studio Mics For Recording Vocals

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

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$149
Audio-Technica AT2035 Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

At publication time the Audio-Technica AT2035 was the Equal Highest Rated Studio Vocal Mic from $100 to $200 along with the AKG P220.

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.

Specification:

  • 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

Pros

The Audio-Technica AT2035 continues to garner positive reviews, with many describing it as a great value microphone. Commonly reported is the clarity and detail that this mic captures, with some even comparing it to more expensive studio mics. The mic's overall solid feel and metal exterior also got a lot of mentions among happy reviewers. And while most are using this mic for recording their voice, many have reported satisfaction when using the mic with various instruments, including violins and acoustic guitars.

Cons

There are a few complaints that point to its accessories, or the lack thereof, some reported that the package did not come with an XLR cable, while others found the quality of the pop filter to be unsatisfactory.

Overall

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.

AKG P220

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$149
AKG P220 Vocal Condenser Microphone

At publication time the AKG P220 was the Equal Highest Rated Studio Vocal Mic from $100 to $200 along with the Audio-Technica AT2035.

Versatility is the name of the P220's game.

With a staggering 155 max SPL, it can handle loud sound sources where other condenser mics would distort. To supplement this, it has a built-in pad switch and low frequency roll-off switch to cater to different sound sources.

These features give it the ability to handle sound sources with high sound pressure levels while being sensitive enough for the most subtle vocals.

Specification:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 155 dB
  • Power Requirements: 44 to 52V DC,

Pros

Many reviewers commend the AKG P220's versatility as its best trait, which is quite special considering the price tag. It continues to be a favorite budget-friendly, all-around mic. Build quality and the quality of the included case also got a lot of thumbs up in user reviews.

Cons

There were a few who noted that the highs were somewhat lacking and had to compensate with equalization to get the sound they wanted.

Overall

With its versatility and price point, the AKG P220 is a great addition to any project studio. It also makes for a great high-SPL mic to keep in a bigger studio's arsenal.

AKG P420

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
AKG P420

The AKG P420 has a switchable polar pattern that lets you switch between Cardioid, Omni and Figure-8 with its dual-element design.

This feature allows for positioning flexibility and allows for live recording of multiple sound sources, i.e. small bands or groups of singers.

This mic comes with a sturdy metal enclosure for added long-term durability.

The feedback we gathered also showed this mic to be popular among home studios and podcasters.

Specification:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 135 dB
  • Power Requirements: 44 to 52 V
  • Attenuation Pad: -20dB

Pros

The AKG P420's value for money and versatility are its main selling points. From home recording of a solo vocalist, to live recording of a vocal group, to capturing acoustic instruments; the mic gets great praise for being able to handle almost any sound source. The mic's sound quality and rugged build also got a number of positive mentions, even experienced users were impressed enough to use one as their day to day mic for quick captures.

Cons

Some users commented that the -20dB pad was a bit too much, they were hoping for a -10dB option. Other issues that were mentioned include concerns about its sensitivity and internal noise, which to trained ears can be a bit too high, but still on par with other mics in this price range.

Overall

If you're looking for your first multi-pattern condenser mic for your home studio, or you're looking for a substitute "beater" mic that you can use in place of your more expensive mic for regular use, then the AKG P420 is highly recommended.

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.

Rode NT2-A

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Rode NT2A Large-diaphragm Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone

The NT2-A is mic by Rode, a company well known in the recording community for impressive sound quality.

It has a large type HF1 dual 1" capsule condenser microphone that replicates the voicing of classic studio mics.

It also comes with a wide array of features built-in, including switchable pickup patterns, high-pass filters and variable attenuation control.

All of these make the NT2-A very versatile, working well with most vocal styles and instruments, and it even can be used to multiple sound sources live at the same time.

Finally, it comes bundled with essentials like a cable, shockmount and a dust cover.

Specifications:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Omni, Cardioid & Figure 8
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 147 dB
  • Attenuation Pad: 0dB, -5dB or -10dB
  • Highpass filter: Flat, 80Hz or 40Hz
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Pros

Users have mostly good things to say about this mic, describing it to be much more fuller sounding than their other vocal mics. Some go so far as comparing it with other, more expensive, vintage mics. Aside from the sound quality, the built-in filters and polar pattern switch earns it a spot on a lot of users' favorites.

Cons

Being a large capsule mic, this can be a bit bulky and heavy compared to others, so exercise caution and use mic stands that can support the weight. While many are happy with the extras included, there are a few who are not too happy with the quality of the pop filter to the point that they gave the NT2-A a slightly lower score.

Overall

With great classic sounding warmth, the Rode NT2-A is a favorite of engineers and singers alike. Just make sure your mic stand is able to support its weight. Need a good mic stand for the NT2-A? Check out our guide for The Best Mic Stands.

Electro-Voice RE20

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$449
Electro Voice RE-20 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

At publication time the Electro-Voice RE20 was the Highest Rated Studio Vocal Mic from $200 to $500.

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.

Specification:

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

Pros

The Electro-Voice RE20 is described by many as an industry standard broadcast mic, citing its great balance of reliability and sound quality as its best traits. A good number of singers/vocalists commended the mic for working well in both live performance and studio recording settings. Beautiful sounding, magical and astounding are just a few of the many positive descriptions that continue to pour in from various users.

Cons

Price remains a barrier to entry and a deterrent for fear of maintenance woes. A few users also complained of the lack of bass, but this is expected since this mic is designed to deal with the extra bass that regular mics capture.

Overall

For intimate sounding vocals, none perform better than the RE-20. Especially with 2020 seeing a trend in whispery vocal styles similar to Billie Eilish, The RE-20's ability to capture close sound sources allows great sounding takes.

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.

Audio-Technica AT4050

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$699
Audio-Technica AT4050 Studio Condenser Microphone

Considered by many retailers as one of their top sellers, the Audio Technica AT4050 is a professional studio mic that features dual gold-plated large-diaphragm condenser elements, low-noise transformerless design, and floating construction. These three features complement each other in giving the mic premium sound quality, studio quiet operation and pro-level isolation from vibration and noise.

Other notable features include its high maximum SPL of 149dB (which is remarkably high for a condenser mic) and its three polar pattern selector for added versatility.

While it is mainly used for capturing the human voice, the AT4050 is a workhorse studio mic that can be used on almost any type of instrument and sound source.

Notable artists that have used this mic include Chick Corea, Jack White, Ruby Amanfu, Kenny Garrett, Stanley Clarke and many more.

Specification:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 149 dB
  • Attenuation: -10 dB
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Pros

Many users describe the mic as having a warm but neutral and overall transparent sound, some even go so far as to say that it is the most honest of the mics they have tried in the same price range. There are also those who appreciate the AT4050's warmth, which they report to work great with different vocal styles. Sound engineers have reported finding quite a lot of good uses for it, saying that it is a great mic to have in studios because it can be used to capture a wide variety of instruments.

Cons

While many prefer transparency, there are those who prefer subtle coloration, including one reviewer who reported that the transparent sound of the mic was unappealing to his preference. It's flat sounding response may make raw tracks sound dull.

Overall

If budget allows, and you're looking for a reliable, transparent and versatile dual-diaphragm mic, then the Audio-Technica AT4050 is highly recommended. It does vintage, raw and neutral sounding vocals best though for modern pop, a little more processing may be required to liven up your tracks.

Neumann TLM 102

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$699
Neumann TLM102 Studio Microphone with Standmount

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.

To make it wallet friendly, 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.

It is especially designed for vocal recording with its slight emphasis on the mids.

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

Pros

The Neumann TLM 102 continues to exceed the expectations of many, from home studio owners to professionals with big recording studios. It gets a lot of complements for both its solid build and sonic clarity. Some experienced even hail it as the best way to enter into the world of high-end microphones. It's compact size also gets a lot of thumbs up. Paul White of Sound on Sound said, "The new TLM102 embodies everything we've come to expect from a large-diaphragm Neumann studio mic — except the price!".

Cons

There are a few people who are not too happy with its streamlined design, especially when considering that there are cheaper ones with more features.

Overall

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 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.

Shure KSM44A

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$999
Shure KSM44 Large Dual-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

At publication time the Shure KSM44A was the Highest Rated Studio Vocal Mic from $500 to $1000.

Sitting at the ceiling of this guide's price range, the Shure KSM44A is a premium quality mic with features that make it viable for almost any recording situation, used by many recording engineers including Joe Barresi who put the mic to good use on Queens of The Stone Age's fourth album.

It's side-address large diaphragm design makes it ideal for vocals, while the internal pop filter, transformerless output, and Prethos Advanced Preamplifier Technology ensure transparent and quiet operation.

Other features were implemented to make the mic more versatile, including the dual diaphragm 3-polar pattern design, switchable attenuation pad and selectable high-pass filter.

Specification:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omnidirectional, and figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 40 to 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 131 dB
  • Attenuation: -15dB pad
  • Filter: -15dB pad
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Pros

Most of the reviews that the Shure KSM44A received are from experienced engineers, and their general sentiment is that this mic is well worth the money. Many consider it as the flattest, clearest and most neutral of the mics in this price range, to the point that some describe it as the best mic in their collection - which incidentally includes mics that are priced above one grand. Its super quiet operation and tank tough reliability were also appreciated, along with its ease of use. As one reviewer puts it: "If you can't make great music with a KSM44A, you're doing it wrong."

Cons

Interestingly, some users commented that the neutral sound of the mic tends to be unforgiving, especially for new singers. There are also those who mentioned that some positioning adjustments were required to flatten the subtle brightness of the sound.

Overall

The Shure KSM44A is a true "end game" microphone. You know you've reached new heights when you've come to appreciate the nuance and exceptional performance that mics like the KSM44A bring to your mic collection. While not the kind of mic to color your sound and make it mix ready, the raw tracks taken from the mic rewards vintage-style signal chains with amazing sound that sits perfectly on top of mixes. Just like a top chef's prized knife, it doesn't do much to augment your skill. What it does is allow you to craft your best, unimpeded.

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 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 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

This guide was first published on October 13, 2016 written by Alexander Briones and the latest major update was published on February 25, 2020 written by recording engineer Raphael Pulgar.

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 27 popular and top rated mics that are currently being sold in the USA from brands including AKG, Aston Microphones, Audio-Technica, Avantone, Electro-Voice, Heil Sound, MXL, Neumann, Rode, Sennheiser, Shure and Studio Projects. We then compiled all relevant ratings, reviews, forum discussions and expert recommendations, which for this update tallied to over 8,700 rating sources. All of these were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the ratings out of 100 that helped us select the cream of the crop from three specific price ranges: sub $200, sub $500, and sub $1000. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

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.

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