Best Vocal Microphones: A Comprehensive Guide

Best microphones for vocals

If you’re a singer, podcaster, or audio engineer, you understand the importance of a quality vocal microphone.

Indeed, with countless options available, selecting the perfect mic can seem daunting.

So in this guide, we’ve curated the 10 best vocal microphones to guide your choice.


TLDR

In the realm of vocal mics, diverse options cater to varied needs. Shure SM58, Neumann U87 Ai, Rode NT1-A, Audio-Technica AT2020, and Blue Yeti stand out as the top choices in professional studios and among audio enthusiasts, each distinguished by their specialized attributes.

We take a look at what sets them apart.


Top 10 Reviews of the Best Vocal Microphones

Shure SM58: Industry Standard for Live Performance Setups

Shure SM58

AmazonSweetwater

The Shure SM58 is often hailed as one of the best vocal microphones on the market; the workhorse of the audio world. Its sturdy design and outstanding performance make it a go-to choice for live vocals, be it on stage or in a studio setting.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Cardioid Polar Pattern: This ensures that the microphone captures sound primarily from the front, minimizing background noise and feedback.
  • Built-in Spherical Wind and Pop Filter: Reduces plosives and breath sounds, ensuring clear vocal recording.
  • Durable Construction: The SM58 is known for its ruggedness, able to withstand the rigors of touring.

Pros:

  • Consistently reliable performance.
  • Durable and road-worthy construction.
  • Excellent feedback rejection.
  • Versatile for both live and studio settings.

Cons:

  • While it shines in live settings, some might find it not as detailed for studio recordings compared to other high-end studio mics.
  • Lacks the high-frequency detail of some pricier condenser mics.

Price Range:

Typically falls in the mid-range bracket, between $90 to $130, although prices can vary based on the region and retailer.

Bottom-line:

The Shure SM58 is an icon in the microphone universe for a reason. It’s reliable, robust, and offers quality audio that has stood the test of time. While it may not be the most refined choice for studio recordings, its performance, especially in live settings, is hard to beat. For anyone looking for a dependable microphone that won’t break the bank, the SM58 remains a solid bet.

Neumann U87 Ai: Gold Standard for Studio Recording

Neumann U87 pair

AmazonSweetwater

The Neumann U87 Ai is a legend in the world of studio recording. Revered by audio engineers and producers alike, this microphone has graced countless hit records and is often the centerpiece in premium recording studios.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Multiple Polar Patterns: The U87 Ai offers cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8 patterns, granting flexibility in capturing vocals.
  • Wide Frequency Response: Ensures detailed capture of vocals, from the subtle nuances to powerful belts.
  • 10 dB Pad and Low-Frequency Roll-Off: Tailor the mic’s sensitivity and reduce unwanted rumble respectively.

Pros:

  • Unparalleled clarity and detail in vocal recordings.
  • Versatility in recording thanks to its multiple polar patterns.
  • Robust build quality with a premium finish.
  • Renowned for capturing vocals with depth and warmth.

Cons:

  • High price tag, making it a significant investment.
  • Might be too detailed for some applications, capturing unwanted nuances.

Price Range:

This is a high-end microphone, often retailing between $2,500 to $3,200, depending on the region and specific package or kit.

Bottom-line:

The Neumann U87 Ai isn’t just one of the best vocal microphones in this list; it’s an investment in audio excellence. While its price might be prohibitive for hobbyists, professionals seeking the pinnacle of vocal recording won’t be disappointed. If your budget allows and you’re looking for the crème de la crème of studio microphones, the U87 Ai is a time-tested favorite that rarely, if ever, lets down.

Rode NT1-A: Best Cardioid for Low-Noise Home Studio Recording

Rode NT1-A rap conderser mic

AmazonSweetwater

The Rode NT1-A is often lauded as the quietest studio microphone available, making it perfect for home studios where ambient noise can be a concern. Its clarity and affordability make it a favorite among budding producers and podcasters.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  1. Cardioid Polar Pattern: Ideal for isolating the vocal source and minimizing room reflections.
  2. Ultra-Low Self Noise: At just 5dBA, it’s one of the quietest mics on the market.
  3. Wide Frequency Response: Ensures a clear capture of vocals across the spectrum.

Pros:

  1. Remarkably quiet, perfect for less-than-ideal recording environments.
  2. Provides clear and detailed sound.
  3. Comes with a shock mount, pop shield, and XLR cable – great value.

Cons:

  1. Some users might find its sound slightly bright.
  2. Not as robustly built as some higher-end mics.

Price Range:

A mid-tier option, it typically retails between $220 to $270.

Bottom-line:

For those venturing into home recording, the Rode NT 1-A is among the best vocal microphones offering exceptional value.. Its low self-noise is a boon for quieter environments, and the package includes essential accessories. While it may not match the prestige of industry giants, it certainly punches above its weight in performance and affordability.

Sennheiser e835: Top Pick for Feedback Rejection in Live Settings

Sennheiser e835

AmazonSweetwater

The Sennheiser e835 stands out as a dynamic cardioid microphone built for the challenges of live performances. Its ability to reject feedback while delivering clear vocals has earned it a dedicated following among live sound engineers and performers.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Cardioid Polar Pattern: Prioritizes sound from the front, helping to isolate vocals from ambient noise.
  • High Feedback Rejection: Designed to minimize the chances of those dreaded feedback squeals.
  • Rugged Metal Construction: Built to endure the rigors of live use.

Pros:

  • Excellent feedback rejection, even in challenging acoustic environments.
  • Clear and natural vocal reproduction.
  • Durable and dependable for regular live use.

Cons:

  • Might lack the finer detail desired for studio recording.
  • Some users might prefer a broader frequency response.

Price Range:

Falling in the affordable range, it’s typically priced between $90 to $130.

Bottom-line:

For performers seeking the best vocal microphone and sound engineers who’ve faced feedback issues, the Sennheiser e835 is a godsend.. It doesn’t just cut through the mix but does so without the feedback headaches. While it might not be a studio darling, on the live stage, it’s a reliable workhorse that won’t let you down.

AKG C414 XLII: Versatile Studio Mic with Multiple Polar Patterns

AKG C414 XLII

AmazonSweetwater

The AKG C414 XLII is a revered name in studio circles, known for its rich legacy and versatility. Its multiple polar patterns and detailed sound capture make it a favorite for everything from vocals to instruments.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Nine Selectable Polar Patterns: From cardioid to omnidirectional, it offers unparalleled flexibility in capturing sound.
  • Three Attenuation Levels: Allows for close-up recording or high-output sources without distortion.
  • Overload Warning: An LED indicator for detecting overly loud sound sources.

Pros:

  • Exceptional clarity and warmth in vocal recordings.
  • High versatility due to its multiple polar patterns.
  • Premium build with a legacy of studio excellence.

Cons:

  • Positioned at a higher price point.
  • Might be overwhelming for beginners due to its array of features.

Price Range:

This is a premium microphone, often retailing between $1,000 to $1,300.

Bottom-line:

The AKG C414 XLII isn’t just one of the best vocal microphones; it’s a studio legend.. Its versatility is unmatched, making it a darling for diverse recording needs. While it demands a steeper investment, the results speak for themselves. For those seeking a mix of tradition and top-tier performance, this mic is hard to overlook.

Audio-Technica AT2020: Affordable Choice for Clear Home Recording

Audio-Technica AT2020 USB

AmazonSweetwater

Audio-Technica’s AT2020 is a beacon of hope for home studio enthusiasts on a budget. Without breaking the bank, it delivers a clarity and presence often reserved for pricier mics.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Cardioid Polar Pattern: Focuses on the sound source, minimizing background interference.
  • Wide Frequency Response: Captures vocals with detail and depth.
  • Sturdy Build: Despite its affordability, it doesn’t compromise on build quality.

Pros:

  • Outstanding value for its price point.
  • Delivers clear and detailed sound, especially for vocals.
  • Robust enough to endure regular use.

Cons:

  • Lacks features like multiple polar patterns or built-in pads.
  • Some might desire a bit more warmth in the sound.

Price Range:

Truly an affordable gem, it generally retails between $90 to $130.

Bottom-line:

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is proof that the best vocal microphone quality doesn’t always come with a hefty price tag.. It’s a no-frills, straight-to-the-point mic that delivers where it matters most. For home studio artists or podcasters starting their journey, this is a mic that offers both quality and affordability. It’s a reminder that sometimes, simplicity is key.

Shure SM7B: Smooth Sound for Podcasting and Studio Recording

Shure SM7B

AmazonSweetwater

The Shure SM7B is more than just a microphone; it’s a rite of passage in the realms of podcasting and studio recording. Known for its silky-smooth sound, it’s become synonymous with professional audio broadcasting.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Flat, Wide-Range Frequency Response: Perfect for both singing and speech.
  • Air Suspension Shock Isolation: Eliminates mechanical noise transmission.
  • Integrated Pop Filter: Controls those pesky plosives without the need for external screens.

Pros:

  • Delivers a rich, smooth sound signature ideal for vocals and spoken word.
  • Built like a tank, ensuring longevity.
  • Reputed for reducing ambient noise, focusing on the sound source.

Cons:

  • Might require a decent preamp due to its low output.
  • Pricier than some alternatives, though its performance often justifies the cost.

Price Range:

Positioned in the mid-to-high tier, you’ll find it retailing between $350 to $500.

Bottom-line:

The Shure SM7B is a testament to what impeccable engineering can achieve. Its popularity among podcasters and musicians isn’t hype—it’s a well-earned reputation. If you’re seeking a mic that offers unparalleled smoothness and reliability, the SM7B is a classic that continues to impress.

Blue Yeti: Most Popular USB Mic for Streaming and Podcasting

Blue Yeti USB Microphone

AmazonSweetwater

The Blue Yeti, one of the best vocal microphones for YouTubers, is to the digital age what the mixtape was to the ’80s.. Almost iconic in the world of streaming and podcasting, this USB microphone offers a blend of convenience and quality that’s hard to beat.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Tri-capsule Array: Ensures clear, professional-quality recording.
  • Multiple Pickup Pattern Selection: From cardioid to bidirectional and stereo, it caters to various recording scenarios.
  • Plug-and-Play: No need for extra gear; connect it to your computer, and you’re good to go.

Pros:

  • Highly versatile, ideal for different recording setups.
  • Direct headphone monitoring.
  • Sturdy build with a sleek design.

Cons:

  • Being USB, it lacks the flexibility of XLR connectivity.
  • Some purists might desire a tad more depth in sound.

Price Range:

Very wallet-friendly, the Blue Yeti usually floats around $100 to $150.

Bottom-line:

For those diving into the world of digital content creation, the Blue Yeti is a beacon of accessibility. It’s user-friendly, versatile, and delivers a commendable sound quality that’s perfect for streamers and podcasters. While it might not replace high-end studio mics, the Blue Yeti X, with its superior audio quality, is a trusted companion on their creative journey.

Beyerdynamic M88 TG: Detailed Sound for Live Vocals and Instruments

Beyerdynamic M88

AmazonSweetwater

The Beyerdynamic M88 TG is like that unsung hero in a band—the bassist. It may not always be in the limelight, but its contribution is undeniable. Famed for its detailed sound, it’s an indispensable tool for live settings, both for vocals and instruments.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Hypercardioid Polar Pattern: Offers a focused sound capture, minimizing stage noise.
  • Extended Frequency Response: Ensures both vocals and instruments shine.
  • Rugged Design: Built to withstand the hustle and bustle of live performances.

Pros:

  • Offers a crisp, detailed sound ideal for live settings.
  • Versatile, handling both vocals and instruments with aplomb.
  • Reliable and durable, a real road warrior.

Cons:

  • Might be overkill for simple home recording setups.
  • Its detail might require careful EQing in some scenarios.

Price Range:

Sitting in the mid-to-high range, it’s priced between $300 to $450.

Bottom-line:

The Beyerdynamic M88 TG is a testament to German engineering—a microphone that delivers consistently, night after night. Whether you’re belting out vocals or miking up a kick drum, its precision ensures you’re heard loud and clear. If live sound is your domain, this mic is a worthy addition to your arsenal.

Electro-Voice RE20: Broadcasting Favorite with Reduced Proximity Effect

Electro-Voice RE20

AmazonSweetwater

In the world of broadcasting, the Electro-Voice RE20 is akin to a seasoned anchor—trustworthy, consistent, and unmistakably professional. This dynamic cardioid mic is cherished for its steadfast performance and ability to reduce the proximity effect.

Key Features for Vocal Recording:

  • Variable-D Design: Minimizes the proximity effect, offering consistent tonal performance.
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern: Focuses on the main sound source, rejecting unwanted ambient noise.
  • Bass Tilt Down Switch: Allows for tailored responses, suiting various vocal types.

Pros:

  • A staple in radio and broadcasting for its clear and natural voice reproduction.
  • Robust build, ready for daily professional use.
  • Exceptional at isolating vocals, even in noisier environments.

Cons:

  • Its size and weight might not be ideal for all setups.
  • Premium performance comes with a higher price tag.

Price Range:

Positioned in the premium range, it hovers between $400 to $550.

Bottom-line:

The Electro-Voice RE20 is not just a microphone; it’s a broadcasting institution. When clarity and consistency are paramount, this mic stands tall. It’s a long-term investment in sound quality, and for those in broadcasting or podcasting, the RE20 is like having a seasoned pro on your team.

Vocal Mic Buying Guide

What Makes a Microphone a “Vocal Mic”

vocal mic

The best vocal microphones are specifically tailored to capture the human voice’s nuances and dynamics.. It often has a frequency response that accentuates the vocal range, ensuring clarity and warmth. Additionally, its design minimizes plosives, breath sounds, and background noise, ensuring that the voice stands out crisply and distinctly in a mix.

Understanding the Types of Microphones for Vocals

Dynamic vs. Condenser vs. Ribbon microphones

Dynamic Mics: These mics are robust, moisture-resistant, and can handle high sound pressure levels (SPL) without distortion. They use a diaphragm attached to a coil of wire, placed within the magnetic field of a magnet. Ideal for live vocals and louder sound sources.

Condenser Mics: Offering sensitivity, wide frequency response, and a louder output than dynamic mics, they’re preferred for studio vocals. They use an electrically-charged diaphragm placed close to a backplate, forming a capacitor.

Ribbon Mics: Known for their vintage character and smooth sound, they’re delicate and often used in studio settings for a warm vocal tone.

Lets unpack the different types of vocal mics to get a better view of which to select from.

Dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones are the workhorses of the audio world, renowned for their durability and ability to handle high sound pressure levels. At their core is a simple mechanism: a diaphragm attached to a coil of wire, surrounded by a magnet.

When sound waves hit the diaphragm, it moves, causing the coil to move within the magnetic field and produce an electrical current, which is then transformed into an audio signal. This design imparts a natural compression, making them less sensitive to transient noises and ideal for live stage performances, loud sound sources, and environments where ruggedness is essential.

Their inherent durability and resistance to moisture make them a go-to for on-stage applications.

Condenser microphones

Condenser microphones are the darlings of studio recording, celebrated for their sensitivity, broad frequency response, and accuracy.

Unlike dynamics, condensers use a charged diaphragm placed near a backplate, acting as a capacitor. When sound waves strike the diaphragm, the distance between it and the backplate changes, varying the capacitance and producing an electrical signal. This design captures the nuances and subtleties of vocals and instruments with precision.

However, they require external power (from batteries or phantom power) to maintain the electrical charge between the diaphragm and the backplate.

Ideal for detailed studio work, they’re less rugged than dynamics but offer unparalleled clarity.

Ribbon microphones

Steeped in vintage charm, ribbon microphones are a nod to the golden era of recording. They employ a thin metal ribbon suspended between the poles of a magnet.

Sound waves cause this ribbon to vibrate, generating an electrical signal. Ribbon mics are cherished for their smooth, velvety sound profile, capturing midrange frequencies with warmth and authenticity.

They excel in reproducing vocals and instruments with a character that’s both detailed and flattering. However, their delicate nature demands careful handling.

Historically fragile, modern versions have seen improvements in durability, but they still primarily find their home in controlled studio environments.

Polar Patterns

Diving into the world of microphones, you’ll often encounter the term ‘polar pattern‘. In essence, it describes how microphones pick up sound from different directions. The most common patterns are:

Understanding these patterns helps in selecting a mic tailored to your specific recording environment and needs.

How to Choose the Best Vocal Microphone for Your Needs

How to choose the best vocal microphone for your needs?

Selecting the best vocal microphone is a blend of art and science.

First, define your primary use: live performance, studio recording, podcasting, or broadcasting.

For live settings, a rugged dynamic mic excels, while studio work often benefits from the clarity of a condenser.

Consider the environment: do you need a mic that rejects background noise or one that captures a room’s ambiance?

Factor in your budget; sometimes, an affordable mic can outperform pricier counterparts in specific situations.

Factors to Consider

When diving into the world of vocal microphones, the sheer variety can be overwhelming. However, focusing on a few key factors can simplify the process and ensure you get the perfect mic for your needs.

Sound Quality

Arguably the most crucial factor. The sound quality is shaped by several elements:

Frequency Response: This indicates how a microphone captures different frequencies. A mic with a wide frequency response can capture the full spectrum of human hearing, from deep bass to high treble. For vocals, a response that accentuates the midrange can make voices sound richer and more present.

Sensitivity

A measure of how quiet sounds can be captured. A more sensitive microphone can detect subtle nuances, making it ideal for studio recordings. However, in louder environments, a mic with lower sensitivity might be more suitable to avoid distortion.

Noise Floor

The inherent noise of a microphone when no sound is present. A lower noise floor means the mic produces less self-noise, crucial for quiet recordings.

Durability

Especially vital for those on the road or in live settings. A microphone is an investment, and durability ensures it stands the test of time. Look for mics with a robust build, metal construction, and high quality internal components.

While studio mics can be more delicate, live performance mics should withstand accidental drops, moisture, and the rigors of touring.

Connectivity

Wired: Most traditional microphones are wired, connecting to audio interfaces, mixers and recording devices using XLR or USB cables. They offer reliable sound quality and are generally more affordable. If you work with audio on a smartphone, digital recorders, keep that in mind when selecting a vocal mic.

Wireless: Ideal for performers who move around on stage or in settings where cables can be restrictive. Modern wireless mics have improved in sound quality, but they can be pricier and require batteries or charging.

Price vs. Value

The most expensive microphone isn’t always the best for your needs. It’s essential to balance the price with the value it offers. Consider factors like included accessories (shock mounts, carrying cases), brand reputation, warranty, and the quality microphone you can afford. Sometimes, a mid-priced microphone can deliver performance close to high-end models, offering more value for money. Read reviews, test different models if possible, and determine the features most important to you. Remember, a microphone is a long-term investment in your sound.

Microphone Accessories

Microphone accessories

Alongside your chosen vocal microphone, investing in essential accessories can significantly enhance your recording experience.

One indispensable accessory is the windscreen, a foam shield that fits over the microphone’s head. It helps minimize plosives and breath noises, ensuring clearer vocal recordings.

Another valuable addition is a shock mount, which isolates the microphone from vibrations and handling noise.

Boom arms or adjustable stands provide flexibility in positioning, while pop filters further reduce unwanted sounds from breaths or wind.

Lastly, consider a quality XLR or USB cable, depending on your microphone’s connectivity, to ensure uninterrupted and clean signal transmission.

Together, these accessories complement the vocal microphones, elevating your audio production quality.

Specific Needs & Recommendations

Specific Needs & Recommendations

Aspiring Singers: For those taking their first steps into music, the Audio-Technica AT2020 offers a balance of affordability and quality. Its clarity makes vocals shine, and it’s adaptable enough for both live and studio settings.

Professionals: Studio veterans or touring artists should look to the Neumann U87 Ai or Beyerdynamic M88 TG. Their superior sound quality, versatility, and durability make them worthy of the investment for serious musicians.

Podcasters: The Shure SM7B and Blue Yeti stand out. The former offers a silky-smooth broadcast sound, while the latter provides USB convenience and is a favorite in the podcasting community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a dynamic and condenser microphone for vocals?

Dynamic microphones are typically more durable and can handle high sound pressure levels, making them ideal for live performances. Condenser microphones, on the other hand, offer greater sensitivity and capture more detail, making them perfect for studio recordings and capturing nuanced vocal performances.

Which are the Best Vocal Microphones for the Studio?

The Neumann U87 Ai and AKG C414 XLII are top choices, revered for their clarity, warmth, and versatility in studio settings.

What microphone is best for YouTube voiceover?

The Blue Yeti is a popular choice for YouTubers, due to it has USB connectivity and clear sound. On the other hand, the Shure SM7B offers professional-grade quality for voiceovers and podcast.

What kind of microphone do professional singers use?

Professionals often lean towards microphones like the Neumann U87 Ai for studio recording and the Shure SM58 for live performances.

Are condenser mics good for vocals?

Yes, condenser mics offer sensitivity and a wide frequency response, making them ideal for capturing the nuances of vocals, especially in studio settings.

What type of mic needs phantom power?

Condenser microphones typically require phantom power to maintain their internal electronics’ charge.

Which is the best mic for beginners?

The Audio-Technica AT2020 offers a balance of quality and affordability, making it a great choice for newcomers.

Which is the best vocal microphone to record high-quality videos?

For video recording, the Rode NT1-A provides clear sound and low noise, enhancing video content quality.

What’s the difference between a dynamic and condenser microphone?

Dynamic mics use a coil and diaphragm mechanism and are rugged, while condenser mics use a charged diaphragm and backplate, offering more sensitivity and detail.

How much should I expect to spend on a high-quality vocal microphone?

While prices vary, high-quality vocal mics can range from $200 for mid-range options to upwards of $3,000 for premium models.

Is a more expensive microphone always better?

Not necessarily. While price can indicate quality, the best microphone aligns with your specific needs. Sometimes, mid-priced mics deliver performance close to high-end models.

Conclusion

Venturing into the world of vocal microphones can initially feel like navigating a labyrinth. With countless options, brands, and technical specifications, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, as we’ve journeyed through this guide, it becomes evident that the best vocal microphone isn’t about the shiniest brand or the heftiest price tag—it’s about finding the one that resonates with your unique voice and needs.

Whether you’re an aspiring singer starting in your bedroom, a seasoned professional in a soundproof studio, or a budding podcaster eager to share your voice with the world, there’s a vocal microphone out there tailor-made for you. It’s a blend of technology, art, and a dash of personal preference.

So, arm yourself with the knowledge from this guide, listen closely to your needs, and take the leap. In the vast symphony of the audio world, ensure your voice is captured with the best vocal microphone in its purest, most authentic form.. Happy recording!