The XLR connection has been with us for coming on seventy years. And today, the majority of quality microphones feature the connector. Therefore, because of the wide range currently available, it is no easy job finding the Best XLR Microphones.
It was first invented by the founder of Cannon Electric, James Cannon, in Los Angeles in the mid-50s. This is where it gets its alternative name, a Canon connector, and they are available with a varying number of pins. However, three-pin is the most common for audio, and are designed to work with low frequencies as well as a 75-ohm low impedance cable.
In studios and with quality sound systems, they have become the standard format, and as a result, the majority of the best microphones are fitted with XLR connections.
So, let’s take a look at the Best XLR Microphones on the market and find the perfect one for you…
Top 11 Best XLR Microphones On The Market 2021 Reviews
1 Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone
Audio-Technica are a Japanese company well-known for its quality microphones, headphones, and other associated accessories. Founded in 1962, they are still based in Tokyo and have become a worldwide respected manufacturer. The AT2020 is one of their flagship microphones.
This microphone has been described as the ‘Swiss Army’ knife of condenser microphones. And that’s a good and relevant description. If you happen to be looking for that first studio-quality condenser microphone, then you may have found it. It excels in every area placed in front of it, which puts in contention as being one of the Best Affordable XLR Microphones around.
It has wide-ranging applications, which makes it a popular studio mic. And it is more than capable of capturing the small nuances of acoustic instruments and vocals. But it can also handle the louder aspects of getting the sound from guitar speaker cabinets.
It has a low-mass diaphragm, which gives a good transient response as well as an extended frequency range. The high SPL rating of 144dB and frequency range of 20-20,000 Hz gives great performance and versatility. Its cardioid polar pattern cuts down on external sounds from the rear and sides. This gives the target sound source a high level of isolation.
As a further advantage, it has reasonably low self-generated noise. Being a condenser mic, it does require +48v Phantom power.
It has a tough, rugged build that allows it to take a few accidental knocks as they occur. And the heavyweight wire mesh grille protects the fundamentals. The fittings for the stand and its support are threaded and also pivot to allow you to get the exact position to record.
This is a quality mic that makes a great workhorse for a variety of applications. At this price point, it represents excellent value for money.
- Audio Technica quality throughout the design and build.
- Great sound capture and a variety of applications.
- A great price
- Nothing at all considering the cost.
2 Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Staying with our Japanese friends, let us have a look at another of their mics, the ATR2100x. This is a microphone with a set of different application options. It, therefore, has a slightly different design to some of the other Audio-Technica products.
This mic is designed to allow podcasting and Youtube recording as well as stage performances, streaming, and studio recording. To be able to handle such a variety of recording options, it is able to connect via USB as well as XLR. As a standard mic, the ATR2100x has a balanced 3-pin XLR output. This connects to a mixer or an audio interface.
In its other guise, it is a digital mic. It will connect straight to a computer or other device. It has a USB type C plug and play facility. There is a high-quality analog to digital converter (A/D) with a resolution to 24-bit/192kHz. To assist with its digital duties, there is a 3.5mm socket for headphones with a volume control. The control is located on the bottom of the mic for ease of use. It is both Mac and Windows compatible.
For both operations, it has a Cardioid polar pattern. This helps to target the sound source by rejecting sound from behind or to the sides of the mic. That is an asset for all of its functional options. It has an off and on switch that acts as a mute if required.
It fits neatly on a stand, but it can also be handheld and comes with a small collapsible but stable tripod stand that is especially for podcasts, interviews, or recording vocal soundtracks. It also has a mic clip with a standard thread that fits the supplied stand or to a full-size stand or boom.
As with all Audio-Technica mics, it has a rugged all-metal design. It is supplied with cables to cover the various connection options. These include a USB-C and a USB C to USB type A and also an XLR microphone cable. It is a dynamic mic, and so no phantom power will be required. Another great mic at a very cost-effective price point.
- Rugged build with USB and XLR connections.
- Supplied with all cables and a small stand at a great price.
- Its digital performance is its high point, and the analog a little flat by Audio-Technica standards.
3 Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone
The clue is sometimes in the name, and it certainly is with this mic from Rode. This Australian company has a reputation for building rugged microphones. Here is another example.
It has a tough stainless steel body that makes it robust. It is also quite heavy at two pounds. As the name suggests, this mic is built for applications like broadcasting, podcasts, and interviews. For that, you need low levels of distortion and a frequency response that is a little wider.
The design is taken from Rode’s Broadcaster mic, which has been proved to be very popular. That mic received several awards for the quality of sound for live applications on air.
Everything is built for optimum voice-based frequency response. It is a dynamic mic with a high output capsule and a balanced low impedance output. To reduce any handling noise, there is a built-in shock mounting system and also internal pop filters. These will reduce any accidental plosives during use. It also has a switchable high pass filter that allows the high frequencies to be captured whilst filtering lower frequencies.
The Cardioid polar pattern has a 180-degree rejection of unwanted and ambient noise. Thus allowing the sound to be efficiently captured from the target with little interference. It comes with a stand mount, a zip pouch, and a ⅜ inch adapter. No XLR cables are included.
It certainly won’t suit some applications, but for those it is designed for, it is a ‘get the job done’ mic. Even in some ‘interview’ functions, it might struggle, though. It is definitely at its best when aimed at a single speaker. Due to its cardioid pattern, it would not do very well as the mic for three or four people in a group discussion.
So in that respect, the uses might be considered a little limited. It is also not the cheapest you will find. It is going to suit a defined application and do that job very well. But is not what you would call a mic with too many user options.
- Good tough Rode build.
- Designed for recording single voices.
- Is limited in its variety of potential applications.
4 AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large
Time to bring out one of the big guns. AKG has a long and rich history of manufacturing quality world-class microphones. One, of course, is the AKG C414. This mic we are looking at today is its younger cousin, the C214. Much the same as the revered 414. but the 214 is a much more affordable mic.
This is a large single-diaphragm condenser mic. The diaphragm is suspended to reduce any mechanical noise. It has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, as well as a very impressive SPL of 156dB. There is a switchable low-cut filter and an attenuation pad of 20dB. The options on the 214 are obviously not as high level as the 414, especially in terms of the number of polar patterns.
It has a sturdy typical AKG build quality that means it is going to stick around – it is built to last. The surfaces are made to be scratch-resistant, and there is a toughened metal grille. How does it look? More on this later.
The rugged build means it is deceptively heavy for its size. It is only six and a half inches long, but it weighs over three pounds. Make sure your mic stand is up to challenge, especially if you are using a boom extension. Being a condenser mic, it is going to require +12v to +52v Phantom power.
The performance is very AKG with well-defined mids that give this mic the edge over most of its rivals. Also, a crisp top end with warm bass frequencies. You can not help but be impressed. Absolute quality.
We were talking about how it looks. From our point of view, one of the great things about this mic is its looks. It has a real retro feel about it. There is just something very vintage about the design, which is very similar to its more expensive cousin – we like that. There are other large-diaphragm condenser mics, but somehow they don’t look like this. In our view, this is a deal clincher.
This is a great opportunity for everyone to get a slice of the AKG action. It is not as cheap as some, but if you want quality? However, it is a lot less expensive than a 414. Are we going to consider the AKG Pro Audio C214 as one of the Best XLR Microphones? We’ll give you one guess. It is designed, engineered, and built in Austria.
- Rugged build with a great vintage look.
- Exceptional built-in features and performance.
- Nothing at all, apart from maybe thinking that you should have saved more and bought a 414?
5 Shure SM58S Vocal Microphone
From one legend of microphone manufacture to another. Shure haven’t got a bad reputation, have they?
Originally from Chicago, they have evolved into a worldwide manufacturer and now make their mics down Mexico way. And the SM58 is one of their most famous mics. The SM58S is an SM58 but with an off/on switch. It might not be an exaggeration to say that for years when a band comes on the stage, there are likely to be a lot of Shure mics around. Quite a few will be SM58s.
They are also the most counterfeited. So, only buy from registered Shure dealers, also as with everything, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is!
Bur what can we say about this mic that hasn’t already been said or that you probably don’t already know. Another contender for one of the Best XLR Microphones. The none switch version is the preferred vocal microphone of everyone from Bono from U2 to Sheryl Crow, and from Buddy Guy to Iddy Pop! So you’ll be in very esteemed company singing through one of these.
In fact, you’ll be hard pushed to find a live album or DVD where the live vocals were not recorded with an SM58. Look at the picture and click to a video of your favorite band performing live, and 99 times out of a hundred, the singer will be holding this microphone from Shure.
The cardioid pattern isolates the target sound and cuts out any unwanted noise. It has a built-in spherical filter that reduces any wind noise if used outside or any ‘pops’ from the singer. The frequency response is set up for vocals but handles just about everything. There are brighter mids than most mics provide, and there is also bass roll-off.
The sound is not just produced; it is tailored for its use. It has a shock mount system to reduce handling noise and comes with a 180-degree revolving stand adapter. Oh and not forgetting the off and on switch which separates it from other SM58’s
There is another aspect to this mic, though, and that is how tough they are. It is built like a tank. In fact, in a head-on collision, the tank wouldn’t stand a chance. It is this rugged build and great performance that has made this mic what it is. You might think you have to pay a fortune for it. Not at all. All this at an incredible price point, and to be honest, everyone should own one, or more…
- Typical Shure build quality and design from a legend of a mic.
- Great sounds and built-in features at a superb price.
6 Heil Sound PR-40 Dynamic Studio Microphone
Founded in 1966 in Illinois, Heil Sound produces a range of quality microphones and accessories. The PR-40 is one of them.
This is a dynamic mic with a Cardioid pattern. It has a large diaphragm, and a copper wound NdFeB magnet design, which allows it to produce a wide dynamic range. Also, having a high SPL makes it suitable for higher volume sounds like recording a kick drum. The frequency response range is 28Hz to 18kHz.
It is designed with four ports at the rear to assist in the rejection of off-axis noise. This reduces what they refer to as the proximity effect and gives a tight cardioid pickup pattern.
It has a tough steel body with a Zinc die-cast bottom ring. And it has an internal shock mount made of Sorbothane to reduce handling noise. It also has a humbucking shield protecting the coil to enable it to be used near monitors or lighting, which could otherwise cause interference.
The smooth frequency responses create a very defined and accurate mid-range. This lends itself to voice over and vocal applications. It is, therefore, a good mic for podcasts or interviews or other applications involving the voice.
It has a lot of design procedures built-in to assist the screening of unwanted sound. There are two separate mesh screens, and also an internal plosives filter keeping these issues to a minimum.
A very good microphone that has very defined features that make it suitable for recording the voice. Not the cheapest but sits about mid-price range.
- Well-built with some good built-in screening features.
- Sound design is set up for vocal and voice-related recording.
- Some may find it a little expensive.
7 Rode NT2A Anniversary Vocal Multi-Pattern Dual Condenser
Another mic from our Aussie friends, but this a multi-pattern condenser mic. The NT2-A has a sizable one-inch capsule that is gold spattered. It has three separate polar patterns – Cardioid, Omni-directional, and Figure 8, which are controlled ‘on-mic’. This, of course, makes it very versatile in its options for use.
Also located on the body are switches for the pad and high-pass filter. The high-pass filter has three settings, Flat, 80Hz, or 40Hz. The options for sound control are expanded by the Three-position Pad. The settings are – 0dB, -5dB or -10dB.
Rode has made great efforts with the levels of transient response and frequency range to design a mic that is compatible with most of today’s recording techniques. But they have still kept the character of mics from days past. This is what makes this microphone so versatile.
It offers a lot of control over the sound and how it is created with a variety of patterns and filters. It weighs just over two pounds, so might need a decent mic stand, especially if used on a boom. And it will, of course, being a condenser microphone, require phantom power.
The all-metal build is rugged and able to withstand a few knocks. And the body has that very familiar brushed steel effect finish to the casing.
The mic comes as part of a package that includes a pop filter, shock mount, and a dust cover. A good mic that has some excellent sound management features. The realistic price point makes it a very attractive option. This mic is designed and made in Australia.
- Good solid build with some impressive sound control features.
- Three separate pickup patterns make it a very versatile mic at a very affordable price.
- Nothing to complain about with this mic.
8 Electro-Voice RE-20 Cardioid Microphone
Another company with a big reputation for the manufacturer of microphones, Electro-Voice, was founded in 1930 in Minnesota. It is now part of Bosch.
The RE-20 is another legendary dynamic mic with a cardioid pattern. It has a frequency range of 45Hz-18kHz. It is built like it is preparing to be hit by something. Not quite sure why the designers thought it would need this level of build. It is made of steel, and everything about it is heavy-duty.
Its design is cardioid, but it features a number of acoustic openings. Behind each opening is a rugged metal wire grille, which is protecting the built-in wind and blast filters. They are very efficient in that you can use them in close proximity without picking up any plosives. The filters have a secondary purpose reducing the level of unwanted external noise.
Electro-Voice has designed a system whereby the sound is kept at natural levels when the mic is used in a close situation. This might be for acoustic instruments or vocals, or at any time, the mic is close to its target source.
Being too close though can affect the overall sound. The variable-D technology included in the mic reduces the effect of the bass frequencies in that situation. To reduce the effects of any localized magnetically induced interference, it has a special coil to eradicate any hum.
It has some potential in its use and is well-suited for working with kick drums or bass guitar cabinets. In fact, part of its legendary status is due to the fact that it is one of the top three choices for kick drum mics in 99% of recording studios.
But what makes it even more incredible, is that even though it is so good at the low frequencies, it is also the vocal mic choice of numerous singers from Thom Yorke from Radiohead to Joe Strummer from The Clash. However, they only used it in the studio; if you used it live, you probably wouldn’t see the singer’s face!
And on top of that, if you see a picture of any professional radio broadcast studio worldwide, the DJ will be talking into either a RE-20 or a Shure SM7. This is one mic that can do kick drums, vocals, the spoken voice, and just about anything else at the highest professional levels, very impressive!
The downside, it is quite expensive, but as always, quality doesn’t come cheap.
- Very rugged build and a variety of uses.
- Some good internal design features.
- Quite expensive.
9 Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z
Neumann microphones have had an interesting history, to say the least. Founded in 1923 in Berlin, its factory was firebombed in 1943 and was moved out of the city. At the end of the war, it fell into the Soviet sector and became a ‘state-owned’ business of the Communist East German regime. After reunification, the company expanded and produced its first internationally respected microphones.
The Telefunken assisted U47 was their early success and was used by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles. Not a bad CV.
This was followed by the U67 approximately 20 years later, and nowadays, they are recognized for the U87. These three microphones are undoubtedly the most used vocal microphones in the history of recorded music, with good examples of U47’s now selling for upwards of $20,000. But it’s the U87 that has been used on more recorded vocals than the other two, or in fact, any other microphone.
It is a large-diaphragm condenser mic. It has a double-membrane capsule and a pressure-gradient transducer. There are three directional patterns with Omnidirectional, Cardioid, and Figure-8, all available. It has a switchable roll-off for low frequencies and a 10dB pre-attenuation that is also switchable. Being a condenser, it does require +48 volt phantom power.
It is an ideal microphone for most applications in the studio. It is great as a lead vocal mic but also excellent when used with others in a support role. Its performances on a piano, or just about any acoustic instrument is renowned.
First introduced in 1987 where it instantly became a firm fixture in many studios. It brought in a new era of excellence, and it is still doing it today. It comes with a shock mount, pop filter, a cable, and a wooden box for it to be stored safely.
However, yet again, not many mics cost this much. No, it isn’t cheap, but it is a classic. For that reason alone, it has to be included as one of the Best Vocal XLR Microphones.
- Recognized as being one of the most popular studio microphones.
- Great design, build and features.
- The price is going to scare a lot of people away.
10 Telefunken M82 (M82 Kickdrum Mic)
Another German company with a more than interesting history. We won’t go into too much detail, but it was the radio force behind the Zeppelins in World War 1. They survived both wars and were merged with AEG. They achieved a worldwide reputation in consumer electronics, developed and worked with Neumann on their mics, and eventually went bust.
It has been acquired and re-acquired and still carries on to this day. Just about. It has been quite a story.
The M82 is a dynamic microphone that fills a space in the current Telefunken line-up. This is a mic that, whilst it could have a variety of uses, is designed to record the kick drum.
This mic has a 1.37-inch over-sized moving-coil diaphragm that provides an excellent low-frequency response. Telefunken has designed this from the bottom up for recording low frequencies. Great for the kick drum, but put it in front of a bass cabinet, and it will perform as well.
But let’s not undersell it. As with the EV RE-20 we just reviewed, the performance of this mic with its fat, punchy tones is great for the low-end, but it will excel with vocals as well.
Built-in are some great features with an EQ filter that is switchable and also a switchable high boost option that gives you the option for greater top frequency clarity. It will also emphasize the attack sound of the beater when used with the kick drum. Plenty of sound management options for getting the sound of whatever you are recording exactly right.
Many engineers will tell you that it is a good idea to get the sound as near as you can to the finished sound when recording if possible. Then you don’t have to over-rely on post-production work, “fix it in the Mix” is not usually the best option. The built-in kick EQ allows you to get the sound you want, ensuring that you don’t get mushy and flabby kick sounds.
It has a tough metal build for the shell of the mic and the grille. A great mic if you want something that specializes in the low frequencies, but don’t think that’s all it does. It isn’t. A mid-range price point makes this an attractive option.
- Tough build with a very attractive price point.
- Designed to work and specialize on the low frequencies.
- Some may want a more versatile mic.
11 Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
It is only appropriate that we finish with another legend of the microphone world. You only have to mention the name Shure and put SM after it, and you know it is going to be a quality mic. And so it is.
The SM7B is a dynamic mic that is suitable for a range of professional studio applications. It has a flat, smooth frequency response that makes it a good option for a variety of uses. It has a cardioid pattern and a bass roll-off. The cardioid pattern isolates the sound source and improves the gain before feedback occurs. It also has a midrange boost.
With so much technology that is used in studios these days, extra shielding has to be introduced. So it is with this mic that is given extra shielding against interference from any broadband signals. There is also a built-in air suspension system that goes a long way to cutting out any noise caused by mechanics.
The shielding also comes in useful in its other common role, which we mentioned in the Electro-Voice Re-20 review. This is the ‘other’ mic that you will see in professional radio broadcast studios, as well as being used by successful Youtubers and Bloggers/Vloggers.
Plus, it has a yoke mounting that helps with getting the position of the mic exactly right. Therefore it can be hung upside down from a desk mounted broadcast boom arm for excellent cable management and a professional look.
The frequency response is flat with an enhanced mid-range consistent with the sound of the human voice. It has an internal pop filter to protect against plosives. However, we would still recommend using an external pop filter at the same time when recording vocals to be sure.
We mentioned the various uses to which this mic can be put. There aren’t many mics that can be handling screaming vocals one minute and then doubling up on a guitar or bass amp, and then some quality reproduction of the spoken voice for narration or a radio broadcast. This mic can.
In fact, it’s the vocal recording microphone choice of such superstars as Anthony Kiedis from Red Hot Chili Peppers and James Hetfield from Metallica.
Built with typical rugged Shure design, it is an excellent option. A little more expensive than some, but it gives you so much.
- Typical Shure build and sound quality.
- Great features and varied use options.
- Some might think it is expensive.
Microphones For Specific Duties
Looking for a mic for a certain job? No problem, check out our reviews of the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals, the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best IOS Microphones, the Best Vocal Mics, the Best USB Microphones, the Best Dynamic Microphones, or the Best Microphones for Youtube currently on the market.
So, What Are The Best XLR Microphones?
Whatever your needs in a mic, we have seen enough to know that there is no requirement that can’t be met. There are some that have specialties. Voice, kick drums, broadcasts, but they can all turn their hand to other things as well. There are some that are just very good at just about everything.
There are some great names, and there are many mics that some would consider legendary. And there is quite a range in the price tag. One thing is for certain there are plenty of very good options to choose from.
If we had to choose we would go for the…Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone.
A mic that can handle just about everything you can throw at it and produce real quality. And who’s going to argue with James Hetfield anyway? If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for anyone, making it our choice of the Best XLR Microphone currently available.