There was a time when the sole purpose of a microphone was so that a voice could be heard. But that was in the early days with people talking on ancient telephonic systems. Then it became a way of hearing voices and broadcasting the voice over the radio.
On to the stage show, and we couldn’t hear the singer without it. At some point, it turned into a ‘stage prop’ as singers and band members used them as part of the visuals of the show. It was about that time that we needed to find the Best Live Vocal Mic. And not only from a sound point of view, but a mic that could handle what was going on without falling apart.
When and where did this transition take place? When did it also become part of the stage act? A visual.
We racked our brains. As just about everything else in terms of aggressive stage performance started with The Who, so we agreed it must have been Roger. Back in the mid-60s, he had his mic lead taped to the mic itself so it wouldn’t separate and become unplugged. And sometimes it did.
And this, as he whirled it round his head like he was a cowboy at a rodeo. Oh yes. In fact, if you went to a Who concert in London in the 60s, you got near to the front. If you were lucky, you could take home a few bits of the damage as a souvenir. That could be a piece of Townshend’s guitars or a bit of a Marshall amp. Or maybe some part of Roger’s mic as he smashed it into the floor.
Mics on stage are still at risk today…
And they need to sound good. No, not good, they need to sound great! But, they also need to be ‘Daltrey-proof’ and very tough. So, let’s take a look at the Best Live Vocal Mics on the market and find the perfect one for you…
Top 8 Best Live Vocal Mics On The Market Reviews
1 Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone – Best All Round Live Vocal Mic
Not too many better places to start than with Shure’s SM58. This is a professional level mic that was first produced back in 1966. Yes, almost time for it to claim its old-age pension, and it’s still going strong.
Still seen in just about major and not so major studios around the world, as well as on nearly every stage. It is still what many consider as the industry standard for its great sound, but also for its rugged build.
There are some variations on this mic, and to avoid any confusion, the SM stands for Studio Microphone. The LC means there is no cable provided. Cable or not, this will easily be considered as one of the Best Live Vocal Mics you can buy.
So what is it about this mic that has given it the reputation it has?
The quality of the build is tough. You can run a truck over this, and you don’t get a new mic, you get new tires. The rugged build is legendary, but what about the sound?
It has a cardioid pickup pattern, isolating the sound source. This also reduces any surrounding background noise and allows a lot of gain before it will cause any feedback. And the internal shock mount will reduce any handling noise, which is obviously very important for live shows.
It also has a spherical filter to reduce wind and plosive noise. The presence peak gives it warmth and clarity of sound. The frequency range is 50Hz-15kHz, and it has an SPL of 94dB and an XLR connection.
An absolute classic…
We could go on dragging out specs and technical data to support its claims, but there is no need. I think everyone in the world involved in music knows this mic and what it can do. But one important thing sometimes overlooked is this.
They are all made to such a specification of quality that they all sound the same. Even after you’ve got new tires. Therefore they are ideal for use in multiple numbers on stage or in studios.
Did we mention they are excellent in the studio as well?
They are. In fact, they are the go-to recording microphone of singers such as Bono from U2 and Chris Martin from Coldplay, amongst many others.
There is also a story where producer Sylvia Massey lined up 20 different microphones for a blind test when she was working with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. These microphones included $20,000 vintage Neumann U47’s, 67’s, AKG C2’s, etc. etc. And the winner was… the humble SM58, which he then used for the recording of most of that album.
And, it’s Roger’s no.1 choice for the stage…
Get one of these, and you are buying something special. Apart from one or two other Shure mics he has dabbled with, Daltrey uses nothing other than the ’58.
So what does a Shure SM58 give you? In a nutshell, Quality, Durability, and Consistency.
Need anything else?
Just the price point. It is set at a level you might not believe. Value for money or what?
- One of the great performing mics for over 50 years.
- Tough, rugged, a great sound, and at an amazing price for such quality.
- None at all, you must be joking, of course?
2 Sennheiser e945 Supercardioid Dynamic Handheld Mic – Most Advanced Live Vocal Mic
If there is one microphone manufacturer that can go head to head with Shure, and sometimes beat them it is Sennheiser. Our friends from Germany produce nothing but quality at every level. This mic, the e945 is a good example.
They were founded in Germany in 1945, less than one month after the end of World War II. They rose from the ashes of what was left of their country to become one of the world leaders in their field. As well as one of the more unique companies, in that, they haven’t sold themselves out for money and are still owned by the Sennheiser family in Hanover.
This mic has been designed with the working vocalist in mind. It has a tight dynamic supercardioid pattern that produces a smooth sound, as well as reducing the amount of interference from other on-stage noise and signals. It also gives Off-Axis Noise protection and will provide extra rejection of any feedback.
The capsule is shock-mounted. This reduces handling noise and provides low sensitivity to any noise created by impacts.
There are some interesting features built into this mic. The coil is what Sennheiser refers to as ‘Hum compensating’. This is designed to reduce any electrical interference that might create the dreaded ‘hum’. The stability of the sound is maintained by the Neodymium magnet with added boron.
The consistency is ensured by the Falcon ring. It has a frequency range of 40Hz-18kHz that is tailored to produce great vocals.
Built for the road…
It has a tough all-metal construction with a close steel mesh heavy-duty head grille. Not much is going to damage this, no matter what it has to face. No XLR cables are provided, but it does come with a protective pouch for when it is not in use.
This is not a cheap mic and is really only for serious performers. It sounds great and has a tough build, so it ticks all the boxes for suitability for the live show. There are a growing number of people who think the e945 is at least the match of the Shure SM58. Can’t say we are surprised.
We are not going to comment after each mic in this review that any particular mic could be the Best Sennheiser Live Vocal Mic. They all could be. But this one certainly is a top contender.
- Strong all-metal build.
- Some very good features built-in to ensure a good vocal sound.
- Some might think it expensive.
3 Sennheiser e845 Extended High-Frequency Response Supercardioid Microphone – Best Live Vocal Mic for Female Singers
The first question to ask then is what is the difference between the e945 and the e845. In real terms, not a great deal. Some prefer one, some the other.
It is noticeable that female vocalists tend to prefer 845. We think the reason for this is that this mic has a little less natural top end. The high notes can sound a little too bright and shrill on the e945, which tends to suit the deeper tones of the male singer. Whatever, they are both great mics, and this one holds its own.
The Sennheiser e845 is a Super-Cardioid mic with a full dynamic range. It produces a very warm tonal sound and has a presence lift for projection and to give clarity to the voice. It has a frequency range of 40 -16000 Hz and an SPL of 150dB, and the impedance is 350 Ohms.
There is a built-in proximity response, which ensures that the quality of the sound will be maintained, even when you are moving around a stage.
Cancel that hum…
It is made completely of metal and has a rugged steel mesh grille. Inside, the capsule is suspended, and there is a shock mount system to reduce and handle noise. Any electrical interference is reduced by the hum-canceling technology that is common to many Sennheiser mics and was explained in the last review.
This is a high-performance microphone that has similar features to its e945 cousin. One major difference between them is the price point. This mic is significantly cheaper, making it a very attractive alternative. For some, it will be their first choice.
This mic has been around since 2004 and is still popular today. A testimony to its quality. A very good mic at a very competitive price. It comes with an MZQ 800 clamp for the mic and a zipper pouch. The clamp has an adapter for both ⅝” and ⅜” threads.
- Well made all-metal design at a very attractive price point.
- Has all the features to produce a great sound for stage work.
- Nothing at all, a super mic.
4 Shure BETA 58A Supercardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone – Best Value for the Money Premium Live Vocal Mic
There are a lot of singers that like this mic and it isn’t surprising. It is a dynamic supercardioid mic with a frequency response of 50Hz-16kHz. It is a response designed for vocals with a mid-range that is prominent. And it brings out the clarity you need to cut through the sound.
It is a high output mic that has a presence boost at both 4kHz and also 9kHz. The supercardioid pattern reduces background noise and gives a high gain before you experience feedback. And it also has a high level of rejection of off-axis sound. As an extra feature, the bass roll-off will control the effect of proximity.
Internally there is a spherical pop and wind filter. The design includes a neodymium magnet that delivers a high signal to noise ratio.
As rugged as it gets…
It is made with traditional Shure build and is all-metal in its construction. As always, there is a steel mesh grille at the head. It is certainly prepared for whatever its existence demands. Shure’s reliability for reliability and quality of build is, of course, legendary.
To help to remove or at least control any handling noise, there is an internal built-in shock mount system. This is a pneumatic system that also offers a reduction in vibrations.
A more focused cardioid pattern…
This is, of course, another variant of the SM58 we started this review with. The difference between the basic 58, and this model is the polar pattern; with the 58, it is cardioid, and this mic is Supercardioid. Other than a slight design change, there is little difference.
One word of caution we would offer, and this applies to all mics. Ensure you are buying an original model. There are a lot of fakes out there, especially of Shure mics, and most commonly, the SM58’s. An authorized dealer is the best option and avoid second-hand sales unless you know the seller and the history of the microphone.
High quality at a reasonable cost…
It is supplied with a stand adapter. A very good mic for vocals either on stage or in the studio. It has a very attractive price point.
- Well built with a traditional rugged Shure feel to it.
- Some good built-in features at a great price point.
- Some may prefer the Cardioid rather than Supercardioid.
5 Audio-Technica AE6100 Hypercardioid Dynamic Handheld Microphone
We like Audio-Technica microphones and feel at times they are grossly underrated. We are about to change that with this review. This is a very impressive mic. If we were saying, it could be one of the… We would- because it is.
Established in Tokyo in 1962, they have established a worldwide reputation that extends beyond microphones. However, it is the mics we are dealing with here and especially the Audio-Technica AE6100.
The AE in the title stands for Artist Elite. A good description as it is an Elite microphone. Designed to produce an uncompromising performance, the results are just stunning.
The first thing you notice is the quality of a tough and rugged build. This mic is built to go to work. It has good anti-shock systems built-in that will reduce any handling noise. The head of the mic has a hardened steel grille on the outside that has a further fine steel mesh lining.
Handles just about anything…
Inside that a layer of open-cell foam. This provides great protection against the ‘pop’ that can suddenly arise. In studios, of course, a pop filter will probably still be required. But on the road, the mic will handle just about all of the plosives. Also, it is quite capable of handling a hard-touring life and still able to provide a great sound.
It has a hypercardioid pattern that rejects feedback and has a great on-axis response. And it delivers a fast transient response and sound that is clear and clean along with a high output. It has a frequency range of 60Hz-15kHz.
A warm, mellow sound…
As a performance mic, it is gaining an appreciation society that recognizes its capabilities. Where other mics can sometimes be a little bright, this has a warm, mellow sound. An excellent performance mic and one that should be considered before you buy. A reasonable price point makes it worth your consideration. It comes with a stand clamp and a carrying pouch.
- Excellent vocal mic with some very good features built-in.
- Tough build with a strong mesh grille.
- Some may think it expensive.
6 Shure Super 55 Deluxe Vocal Microphone – Best Looking Live Vocal Mic
“Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show…” What else can we say about this microphone and the iconic images it brings to mind. It was already a well-known and respected microphone before he elevated its stature.
Introduced at first in the late 30s, it had some impressive adherents. Billie Holliday being one. But its image changed forever when the then young Mr. Presley picked it up. Ironically it wasn’t his favorite mic. That was an Electro-Voice. But this was the one that just made you not want to step on his Blue Suede Shoes.
As iconic as it gets…
Some musical equipment, be it guitars or amps and even some mics, try to look vintage and authentic. This mic doesn’t need to do that. It is. Just look at it.
Some of the inner workings have changed, of course, but it is basically the same. If you want to add a bit of vintage nostalgia to your performance or studio, you will not find anything better. Modern technology delivers a great sound inside a classic style and shape.
Versatile and practical…
This is a dynamic mic featuring a cardioid pattern. Designed for vocals, it is no poor performer with instruments in the studio either. But it is with the vocal performance it excels. It has a frequency response of 50 to 15,000 Hz.
It is a dynamic mic with a cardioid pattern that is tailor-made for live work but also for studio use. Essentially this is a vocal mic. It will also handle certain instruments quite well. It has a frequency response of 60Hz to 17kHz, very good off-axis rejection, and a high gain before any feedback rears its head.
But what about the build?
A tough-looking 50s like casing made of a die-cast metal and then given that chrome plating we all remember. It has a flash of blue just to promote the right feeling. Can’t think why? It looks like it will take a few knocks as most mics do. But this one looks like it might dish them out as well.
It has a swivel mount that has self-tensioning. It will rotate through 45 degrees forward and 80 back. The mic comes in a storage bag with a zip.
Shake, rattle, and roll…
Measuring 7.5 by 2.18 by 3.1 inches and weighing nearly two pounds, don’t drop it in your foot. I’ll tell you who will come off worse. It won’t be the mic. It is then quite heavy to be handheld, so it is probably best on a stand. Someone else tried that we think.
Underneath that heavyweight grille, there is a pop filter to get rid of those unwanted plosives and fricatives. There is also an internal shock-mount system.
Great sound, Great history. Not cheap, though.
- One of the great nostalgia generating mics that still does the job.
- Tough build and good features in a classic look.
- Expensive for some and maybe not a live performance mic for today’s world.
7 Electro-Voice RE20 Broadcast Announcer Microphone – Most Versatile Live Vocal Mic
From Shure, who probably benefited most from that picture of Presley using one of their mics. To the company that made Presley’s favorite microphone. His choice was the RE15. This model from Electro-Voice is the RE20. Originally founded in Minnesota in 1927, Electro-Voice is now part of the German Bosch organization.
This is a dynamic microphone that has a Cardioid pattern. It has a very defined and cultured sound with its condenser-like performance. It lends itself to the rather unique sound of voices on the radio rather than live with a rock band, but there are exceptions to that as we will find out later…
The sound it generates is smooth and warm; you might almost say friendly. But even though it might not be suitable for fronting a couple of thousand watts, it has a classic sound. Not every mic that is built for live performance involves a band. There are, believe it or not, other important musical and broadcasting disciplines.
It excels at close to the mic work with its built-in heavy-duty filters. These rid the sound of most of the plosives and fricatives that naturally will occur. However, it seems to us this is a mic built for broadcasting and music production performance rather than a full in your face concert.
The design is interesting. We mentioned the built-in filters being heavy duty. That applies to the mic itself. We are not sure what they thought this mic would have to put up with when they designed it. If anyone ever does drop the bomb, all they will find in the rubble will be this mic.
Made from heavyweight steel, it is, how would you describe it? Heavyweight.
Besides the build of the mic, the grilles covering a variety of openings are also substantial. Made from a heavy metal wire, they are protecting the blast and wind filters and the other inward workings.
Inside the steel casing, is a humbucking coil that protects against hum. It has a frequency response of 45Hz-18kHz. It has VariableD technology that reduces bass frequencies when the target source might get too close.
But you can use it live, if you want to…
And now to the exceptions, we discussed earlier, even though they rarely use them live, this is the preferred vocal microphone of Thom Yorke from Radiohead and Joe Strummer from the Clash. In fact, Thom has used them live whenever the vocals are being recorded for whatever reasons, and also for their ‘from the Bunker’ series of live performances.
A very good microphone that produces an excellent sound. It will serve best in its correct environment. However, be warned this is no cheap option for a mic.
- Very tough build.
- Some excellent built-in features.
- Really quite expensive.
8 Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Vocal Microphone – Best Live Vocal Condensor Mic
Back to Shure again to look at the last of the options. This is another good example of how Shure is committed to producing microphones that not only sound great but are also ‘road-ready.’ This one is ready for those night after night concerts and a bit more. To be able to handle that takes a certain quality. The Beta 87A has that.
It is a condenser mic with a super-cardioid pattern. That means it is going to capture and reproduce every little nuance and every emotion in the performance with remarkable clarity. Being a condenser mic, it will, of course, need Phantom Power.
Versatile and practical…
One of the impressive features of this mic is that unlike some, it is not just suitable for one or two genres. This will cover the complete range of musical tastes and styles.
One of the problems that users of condenser mics have is that as a mic, they are very sensitive. They tend to pick up a lot of what is going on around them. Being sensitive is good if you can keep it under control. If not, there will be feedback and a complete loss of control.
Keep it focused…
Being a supercardioid pattern, this mic will pick up only that sound aimed directly at it. There will inevitably be some overspill. You cannot help that. But you will be surprised how little there is. Having said that, you do have to be right in front of it; otherwise, it will reject you as well. Not a good idea in the middle of a song.
Good internal features and a frequency range of 50Hz-20kHz. This is another excellent mic from one of the master microphone builders. However, it is a little on the expensive side.
- Very tough build even by Shure standards.
- Condenser mic with a supercardioid pattern to keep things under control.
- Not a particularly cheap option when compared with some of its competition.
Looking for some more excellent microphones for specific purposes?
If so, check out the Best Condenser Microphones, the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Vocal Mics, the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals, the Best USB Microphones, the Best XLR Microphones, as well as the Best Dynamic Microphones currently on the market.
Best Live Vocal Mic Buyers Guide
Getting ready for the Performance
What makes a good mic for a live performance. Well, first, what sort of performance? As we said already, not every mic is designed to sit in front of The Who. Some are needed for quieter things, some even for live spoken broadcast — all important in their own way.
But they do have some things they all need. Performances are likely to mean travel and use in a number of different places. They need to be strong enough. They will get knocks, and they may even get dropped. Or, in the case of one West London chappie, hurtled into the ground at a rate of knots.
They need to be tough enough. They haven’t got to survive an onslaught. But they have got to be able to take a few knocks.
The pattern, though, be it cardioid or whatever is of some importance. What you choose will be determined by how and where you use it. How much potential external noise do you want to exclude? The louder it gets, the more the mic is at risk from feedback and overspill.
It really isn’t an easy choice to select just one mic. Every mic we looked at could have been considered as the best in its own way. And that is the key. You won’t necessarily find a mic that will do it all, or suit every singer’s voice for that matter. But you can find a mic that will do most of it. And that is what your choice should be based on.
So, what is the Best Live Vocal Mic?
What would we choose?
There will be many that won’t agree with this because we are going to follow a different road. Most will expect the…
…in one of its forms to be the best live mic. It is brilliant; you can’t avoid that conclusion. Its record speaks for itself.
But we are going to buck the trend, and our choice is the…
A fantastic mic. A tough build, great sound, good internals. Just does everything well.
Our choice as the best Best Vocal Mic for Live performance, or you could be like everyone else and buy the Shure?