Now that is a question that is very difficult to answer. If you asked half a dozen engineers, you would probably get half a dozen completely different answers. Likewise, if you asked some artists, they would all have their own preferences.
Cardioid, super-cardioid, condenser, dynamic all have their attributes.
Finding the best studio microphone will depend on many things, even the room where it is used, but there will be some features and sound qualities required to be considered the best.
So, let’s go through the best microphones for recording vocals currently available and find the best one for you…
- Top 10 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals 2020 Reviews
- 1 Warm Audio WA-47 Large-diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone
- 2 Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- 3 Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- 4 Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
- 5 Sennheiser MD 421
- 6 Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone
- 7 SE Electronics sE2200a II
- 8 AKG Pro Audio P420
- 9 MXL Mics 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- 10 Blue Yeti USB Microphone
- Best Microphones For Recording Vocals Buyers Guide
- But, What Are The Best Microphones For Recording Vocals?
Top 10 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals 2020 Reviews
1 Warm Audio WA-47 Large-diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone
We’ll start off with the WA-47, which is a large-diaphragm tube condenser mic that provides a sound-alike to the all-time classic U47 microphones. Large-diaphragm applied to all microphones whose capsule’s diaphragm, or membrane, is an inch or more in diameter. The WA-47 features nine polar patterns that can be chosen from the external power supply; therefore, it offers great versatility in sounds.
The capsule features dual gold touched Mylar diaphragms attached to a single backplate. And the component parts have been carefully selected to recreate a vintage tone, including the vacuum tube, output transformer, and the capacitors.
The component parts used are sourced from all around the world and provide a smooth, uncompressed tone across the frequencies. Even the 7-pin cable is specifically chosen for the microphone. Such attention to detail is often overlooked, but the shielding and even the gauge of wire can alter the tone of a tube microphone.
The classic U-47 featured a unique capsule hole pattern and frequency response, and the Australian company has recreated this vital part of the microphone.
A low-noise, lower gain tube is utilized to enhance the sonics of the transformer and the capsule. And an American made transformer with laminations that have been imported from Germany is used to smooths over the top end and to add power to the bottom.
The manufacturers have pulled out all the stops to produce some real quality, and the sound this microphone delivers sounds like a product costing many times the price. Weighing nearly 14 pounds, it feels substantial, and it is.
It comes in a wooden presentation box that includes everything required, down to the external power supply.
With such great features, this microphone must be considered great value for money. An if you’re looking for that classic vintage vocal sound, this is easily one of the best microphones for recording vocals to achieve it.
- Includes quality components.
- Very attractive price for a quality mic.
- Power supply cable is a little short.
2 Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Rode needs little introduction to the people that know about microphones and have a reputation for creating quality. The NT1A is a versatile condenser microphone that not only records great vocals but is equally proficient in many other duties, including in front of an amplifier.
The nickel-plated body with a satin-like finish gives it a look that says quality, and it’s easy to see this microphone in any studio.
It’s an externally polarized one-inch condenser featuring a gold plated membrane, and it has active electronics and a Cardioid pickup pattern. In terms of frequency response ranges from 20Hz to 20kHz, with a dynamic range to 132dB.
The circuitry delivers low noise performance, and the quality surface-mounted electronics ensure that there is an absolute minimum of clutter noise. And the gold plated connectors ensure that the connections are of the highest quality.
An internal shock mounting system, XLR cable, pop shield, and dust cover are included. And being a condenser, this microphone will require +48 volt phantom power.
The self-noise level is only a very low 5dBA, which makes this microphone one of the quietest studio microphones currently available. It’s also one of the lightest, weighing only four pounds. But don’t let that influence you as you pick it up for the first time.
This might be considered a start-up mic for a new studio with its wide variety of uses, and the price tag also gives that impression. And it could certainly serve that function. Therefore, if you are just looking for a mic upgrade, then it perfectly fits the bill. It isn’t expensive, and it has all the qualities needed for performing at a high level.
It is well made with quality components and represents tremendous value for money.
- Good value for money.
- Quality build.
- Very sensitive to any external noise.
3 Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
We are all familiar with Audio-Technica in their many different areas of operation in sound reproduction. However, maybe they are not as well-known for their higher-end microphones for recording vocals.
Their AT 2035 is a side-address cardioid condenser microphone that is superb not only in the studio but also on stage. Its cardioid polar pattern design largely ignores sound not centrally applied to the microphone and attracts a low level of feedback. It isolates the reproduction from sounds from the sides and the rear of the microphone, therefore making the principal sound source prominent.
The 80Hz high pass filter switch can be used to remove any unwanted hum from low frequencies, and the pad switch removes 10dB, which allows more headroom when signals peak and may cause distortion.
The AT 2035’s smooth, natural sound is largely generated by the large-diaphragm, and it’s very low-noise design. While its high sound pressure level (SPL) and the wide dynamic range give the microphone with the versatility to operate in a large number of environments.
The microphone comes as a package that is very suitable for new studio users/creators and includes a shock mount, a pop filter, an adapter for mounting, and a 10-foot XLR cable. A nice protective pouch is also included for when it is not in use.
This is an entry-level microphone package at a very attractive price; however it still has a quality about its performance. But, understandably, it will not compete with some of the more expensive microphones. But, to be honest, you wouldn’t expect it to. However, it does, though, need a ‘quiet’ room setup to record vocal to the best of its ability, as its sensitivity levels are high.
Audio-Technica continually makes quality products, and for the price, it is an exceptional buy, making it one of the best Microphones for Recording Vocals you can spend your money on.
- Great value price.
- Well made with good sound.
- Very sensitive.
4 Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Whenever you consider the SM7B in a list of the best dynamic microphones for use in studios, then you are most definitely considering something very special. But then Shure is very special.
When you need a microphone for live performance, then you will want the best quality you can get. But for work in a recording studio, the level will go up quite a bit, and with an SM7B, you get that extra bit of quality.
Equally comfortable in any recording studio or a radio broadcast studio, the SM7B excels in any environment.
There is a difference in using a microphone for recording a vocal track or for a quieter speaking tone, and the flat wide-ranging frequency response of this mic makes it perfect for either scenario.
In terms of adjustments, there are presence boost, as well as bass roll-off controls with a display showing the response setting. While the built-in pop filter eradicates the need for extra filters to prevent against the usual unwanted sounds of close microphone vocal work.
Further, there are filters included to eliminate interference from computer screens or electromagnetic hum. And, an in-built shock isolation will cancel out all accidental mechanical noise.
It, therefore, produces a very clean sound that is devoid of background noises and is perfect for all kinds of studio work. It also includes the A7WS windscreen for when the user is close up.
However, it is quite power-hungry, and you may need to use a more powerful preamp than with a few of the other choices. If you need some more information on this, please check out our best microphone preamp reviews.
If you are looking for a microphone that will give your vocals that extra lift, then this microphone will do that. And as with all Shure microphones, it features a rugged construction and is incredibly well built.
It also has a very attractive price for what it can offer.
A few of the microphones in this review have some major credits in terms of the artists who have used them and recordings they have been used on. But none in this list beat the trusty relatively affordable SM7B. It has been the main microphone choice for singers as diverse as Anthony Keidis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to James Hetfield of Metallica.
But, it’s biggest claim to fame is that it was the microphone used by Michael Jackson, when he recorded the biggest selling album of all time, Thriller!
- Loaded with great onboard functions for unwanted noise elimination.
- Excellent sound for vocal applications.
- If it’s good enough for the greats, it’s good enough for you!
- Quite power-hungry and needs a powerful preamp.
5 Sennheiser MD 421
There are certain product names when mentioned in studios around the world that mean something, and nothing more needs to be said. Sennheiser is one of those names. They are, of course, German and bring the excellence of design and manufacture to their sound equipment and in particular, their microphones.
The MD421 is one of the most popular and respected microphones currently available and has been for many decades. It is thought of highly, due to its versatility in being able to work in a variety of situations.
It is great for solo vocal as well as group vocals; however, its versatility extends beyond the vocal booth, it’s even a great kick drum choice, as well as being the universally accepted best tom mic you can buy.
A full-bodied cardioid design, it features a bass control with five settings that allow it to work with most instruments. This means you will get clear and natural results when the instrument or vocal source is close to the microphone.
Feedback rejection is superb, and the reduction of unwanted sounds make it a great microphone for studio and live work. While its hardened glass composite and steel construction make it a rugged, tough piece of kit.
Sennheiser, though, prides itself on the quality of the sound that this microphone provides, and it certainly delivers.
Versatile and with numerous options for use, it is an excellent choice for most instruments and most environments. However, it is the crisp and clear vocal reproduction that this microphone is best known for and makes it so widely used.
The five-position selector switch for bass roll-off actually gives you a variety of tonal options that adds another dimension to its performance. This microphone, therefore, represents a great addition to any working studio environment, and considering the price is just fantastic value for money.
However, it is rather large, so some thought should be given to that. The Frequency response 30-17,000 Hz.
These superb features make the 421 one of the best dynamic microphones you can buy.
Regardless of how amazing this microphone, there is one thing that lets it down, and we mean literally! The microphone clip. It is ridiculously over-engineered and is more than prone to accidentally un-fastening whenever it is adjusted, leading to the microphone plummeting to the floor.
In fact, you will struggle to find any 421’s in major studios that don’t have dents in the windscreen. Luckily the microphones are built like a tank, and these frequent falls rarely leave anything more than physical damage.
Some manufacturers produce third party clips that are designed to fit around the whole microphone in the normal sensible manner, but buying one of those will entail additional cost and hassle. Or you can do what most studios do, which is either gaffa tape the clip to the mic or tie string or laces around the microphone at either side of the clip to make sure it never comes off.
We know this is a lot of hassle, and not exactly ‘cool’ looking, but the microphone is so good, it really is worth it!
- Versatile for working in many environments.
- Strong, rugged build.
- Feedback rejection.
- Rather large in build.
- Worst clip design in the entire history of microphones!
6 Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone
As mentioned in the review of the Sennheiser MD 421, there are some names, that when mentioned in recording studios – nothing more needs to be said regarding their quality. Neumann is another one of those. Another German company, they produce a quality of product that is rare in today’s world.
Their TLM-102 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone that has been specially designed for the studio. Featuring a cardioid polar pattern, it has the ability to handle very high SPLs. This high SPL ability allows you to record very loud sound sources, such as snare drums. However, due to a fast transient response rate, it is also excellent at handling lower volumes. Regardless of these impressive abilities, it is in the realms of vocals that it excels.
The microphone gives vocals a slight boost of 6kHz, which will accent them and give them a nice presence in the mix. This is also used to achieve a clear and defined bass sound down to below 6kHz, and there is minimal coloration.
The mic comes with an elastic suspension cage for keeping any accidental noises to a minimum, and a pop screen has been built into the grille to help eradicate plosives in any vocal performance. The compact body size of this microphone also adds to its popularity. And as with all condenser microphones, it will need +48v phantom power to operate.
Obviously, there is no doubt that this is a quality microphone, especially in the world of vocals and voice-overs. And it performs at a top-end performance level without asking the price of some of those competitors and easily one of the Best Microphones for Recording Vocals currently available.
- Well made, compact, and sturdy.
- Great for vocals and voice-overs.
- Some may want a greater presence boost.
7 SE Electronics sE2200a II
The SE2200a II is the follow up to the highly successful 2200a. And this multipattern condenser microphone features many similarities with its predecessor, but with a few extras thrown in to improve on the proven formula.
SE stick with the cardioid design giving you the same sound, and to create the sound and shape, the polar patterns actually uses a pair of gold spluttered hand-crafted diaphragms giving three distinct polar patterns.
Certain microphones are best suited for certain environments, and obviously, not all studio microphones sound the same. Many of them may be condenser microphones, but they are not all built the same way. For example, the SPL’s created by a snare drum might be far too much for some mikes, whereas others might struggle with a soft acoustic sound.
However, vocal recording needs a bit of both, a reasonably high SPL but also being able to handle the softer aspects as well. As mentioned, there are a few extras thrown in. The new SE2200 can handle both these extremes of dB levels whilst also featuring a low noise floor for the softer moments. This makes it suitable for a variety of studio uses and gives you an extended dynamic range.
Sound shaping is further assisted by a10dB pad and the high pass filter. Being a condenser mic, it will need the usual +48v phantom power.
The well-made microphone body is finished in a black rubber paint that dampens resonances. And it comes with a shock mount but with no pop filter.
Inexpensively priced, it is a quality workhorse microphone that is an excellent buy for your first or second microphone. It is tremendous for vocals or voice-overs with a warm sound — good value for money.
- Wide dynamic range.
- Well made internal components.
- No pop filter
8 AKG Pro Audio P420
AKG is a highly-respected manufacturer of microphones and accessories. They were founded in Austria in the late 40s, where they quickly established themselves as the market leader. In fact, they designed the world’s very first dynamic cardioid microphone back in the ’50s.
Harmann bought them in the ’90s and then subsequently shut down all manufacturing in Vienna in 2017, and the dynasty came to an end. It was then bought by Samsung in 2017 and now exists only as the brand name, based in California.
Features a 1” dual diaphragm design, this is a multi-pattern large-diaphragm condenser microphone. And it allows you to choose from omnidirectional, cardioid, or figure-8 patterns, thus giving you plenty of variety in its uses and in the sounds produced.
The -20dB pad allows it to work with an SPL of up to a very impressive 155dB, which makes it superb for louder sound sources, and it also features a low cut filter at 300Hz. This, understandably, opens the door for a variety of uses, including drums and orchestral instruments, as well as others that require a high quality of recording over a wide dynamic range. It may have been designed for Vocals, but it will do a lot more than that.
Made with a very tough metal body, the shell is finished in black, and it includes a spider shock mount and a quality aluminum carrying case. It’s very competitively priced and definitely represents excellent value for money
However, a word of caution – it is very sensitive to sound, and the room where it is used may well have an effect on its performance; therefore, a ‘quiet’ room is where it will work best.
- Well made tough metal construction.
- Wide dynamic range.
- Very sensitive.
9 MXL Mics 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
This MXL microphone is designed and manufactured as an entry-level microphone. Nevertheless, it is well made and has the quality components to perform way above its price tag.
The 770 is a pressure gradient condenser microphone. That means it is a microphone in which both sides of the diaphragm are exposed to the sound and features a cardioid polar pattern. Its frequency range extends from 30hZ to 20kHz with an SPL of 137dB, which makes it suitable for recording loud sound sources, such as snare drums.
The finish is very nice with a matt black body and grill, plus it comes with a high-isolation shock mount and storage case. A hard case is also supplied, which is a nice bonus for the price. Being a condenser mic, it will need the usual 48v phantom power.
If you’re looking for a microphone for your first studio venture or maybe just thinking about upgrading from a cheap microphone, have then you definitely need to consider the MXL770, because it is, without a doubt, a quality microphone.
Many of the qualities needed by most are onboard. For starters, it is very easy to set up and use, and the sound it creates is very clear and crisp. The construction is strong and is built to last, and it’s an extremely sensitive microphone. The balanced bass response delivers clarity at the high end, and a low-frequency roll-off will reduce unwanted noise.
Some people, when looking for higher-end products, skip through the options, and just use the price tag as the measure of the quality of a product. There is a certain rationale in that, however, if you discount this microphone on that basis, you will be missing out. This is a quality product at a highly competitive price.
- Clear and crisp performance.
- A very competitive price.
- Very sensitive to external noise. Therefore the positioning is important.
10 Blue Yeti USB Microphone
Blue has, with the latest Yeti USB, used a tri-capsule design that gives you numerous options for capturing audio. Depending on the sound source, you can choose from a stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, or bi-directional recording.
An onboard headphone amp featuring its own gain control delivers latency-free monitoring, and the gain and a mute control are located on the device for easy operation. The included stand allows you to pivot the angle to exactly the best position for recording, and this is an added bonus as it can be folded away after use. The Yeti is both Windows and Mac compatible, and a USB cable is supplied.
The 3.5mm headphone jack allows you to listen to your recording in real time without latency, and the volume of the headphones can be adjusted from the microphone.
With the included USB cable, you can connect it directly to your computer. Understandably, it will need to be set up with the computer’s operating system, but there are no drivers to download, and set up is easy. It does, however, require a minimum of 64MB of RAM. But, the quality of audio produced is good using 16-bit/48 kHz resolution.
It’s an excellent microphone for vocal work for podcasts, voice-overs, and even dictation and narration. The sound quality is balanced and even, and because it can be set up in the best position for recording, it will produce great results. But please don’t overlook its potential as a vocal mic – in the right setting, it will produce great results there as well.
Of course, it won’t suit every working environment, but for the spoken word, it will take some beating at this price. All these superb features not only make it one of the best microphones Youtubers, but also one of the best USB microphones you can buy.
- Great onboard facilities for sound management.
- Well made with some good directional options.
- Picks up the sound of a computer keyboard when in use.
Best Microphones For Recording Vocals Buyers Guide
Time To Get Serious With The Microphone
Here’s a statement that’s really going to scare you…
No Two Singers Are The Same!
They all have different ranges, different tones, different volumes of delivery, different pitches, and even different breathing patterns. An excellent vocal mic might be fantastic for one, but nowhere near as good with someone else. Therefore, if you’re looking for a mic that’s perfect for all vocalists. We are sorry to say, but you won’t find it.
That’s scary, eh! But what is the real story?
If You Are Still With Us, Let’s Look A Little Deeper…
Whenever you decide to buy a new mic, you will be confronted with a range of different types and prices. And as you have already read, the sheer number of specifications will leave you numb. It’s normally the case that the price will give you an indication of the quality of the sound you will get, but that’s not always the case.
Therefore, before you start struggling to find a way through the jargon, here are some things that will help you narrow down the options a little.
What Will It Be Used For?
If it is only for recording vocals, then don’t get sidetracked by what else it might do. Just remember that you are looking for a great mic to record the best vocals you can. A microphone that can also make the tea can wait for another purchase. Always, keep your thoughts firmly fixed on finding the best microphone for your purpose – Vocals.
Let’s now move on to another important point…
Where Will You Use It?
You need to buy a mic that is going to suit the environment in which you will be using it. There is very little point in spending a lot of money on a mic for producing demos in your bedroom when the acoustics will be less than perfect. Therefore, the mic cannot give its best and perform to give you the great results you want.
In that environment, you will not need a very sensitive mic, this incidentally, will also significantly bring down the cost.
Understanding The Jargon
It is well worth doing a little bit of research. Find out how different polar patterns affect the sound and how, for example, an omnidirectional mic will respond. If you plan on recording vocals in a studio, then it helps to have a near-silent environment. This is not always possible, so it is important to understand why Cardioid, Supercardioid, and hyper-cardioid are used, because they will exclude all the unwanted side and rear sounds.
There are also multi-pattern microphones with a switch allowing you to change between the polar patterns. Also, consider frequency responses, and why they are important? This tells you the range in which the mic will pick up the sound. A range of approximately 80hZ to 15kHz, at a minimum, would be considered a good option for vocals.
And… What On Earth Is SPL?
You hear it mentioned often. But, in simply terms, it means ‘sound pressure level’ and it refers to the maximum amount of sound a mic can handle before you start to get problems. It is expressed in decibels dB’s, and you need, around 100 dB for a good vocal recording. If it goes up as high as 125dB, then the mic is probably best suited for instruments, but this is not necessarily the case.
Far too much for here, so let’s just mention a few final things. The quality of the construction will have an effect on performance. As will the type of metals or other construction materials used, which can also affect the sound.
Dynamic microphones, Condenser, and Ribbon microphones all have their own characteristics and in some cases, further requirements. For example, condenser microphones need phantom power to operate. While dynamic microphones are usually quite rugged and have a high SPL handling rating. And ribbon mics can be very vulnerable if you don’t know how to treat them.
Whatever you choose, remember to keep your eye on why you are buying this microphone. Think vocal!
Also see: Top 10 Best Studio Chair On The Market
But, What Are The Best Microphones For Recording Vocals?
We have covered so many incredible microphones that the decision is nearly impossible. They all provide so much value, and some of the names involved, such as Sennheiser, Neumann, Shure, etc. simply leave you in awe of their performance because we all know of their quality and their world-wide studio reputations.
We had to pick one, and we decided on the…
It does everything a great vocal microphone should, and Shure sets the bar in microphones that the others try to equal. Sometimes they do, but this time we are sticking with the SM7B.
It’s great quality at a great price, and if it’s good enough to record Thriller and numerous other classic albums, then it’s probably good enough for you!
Our choice as the best of the best microphones for recording vocals.