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Mic Check – The Best Vocal Mics For Any Budget

by | Gear Reviews

Any accomplished studio engineer or producer can agree that owning a great vocal mic is essential for creating top-class productions. A song or mix will only be as great as its weakest element. If your vocals sound sub-par, they’re generally going to overwhelm and tarnish the rest of your mix. Thankfully, there are many vocal microphones on the market that cater to many different recording situations. The list below features a series of microphones that suit various budgeting circumstances, ranging from the affordable to the eccentric. You should find something here that will enhance your home recording setup or give your professional studio some serious recording artillery.

Budget/Beginner Mics

Shure SM58

The SM58 is possibly the most widely used microphone in current music. You can find these microphones in almost every live performance rig, from arena shows to small bars and busker setups. The bulb-shaped grill at the mic’s head acts as a pop filter and blocks out any harsh or heavy consonants that a singer may produce while performing. The mic is also finely tuned to provide bias to the mid to high-end frequencies of the signal input. This microphone is well known for its reliability and is equally helpful when you want to track vocals at home without worrying too much about perfect clarity. You may also need a backup microphone to use in addition to your primary mic for extra texture, in which case this sturdy workhorse is an excellent choice.

MXL 990

If you’re looking for a microphone that can pick up the intricacies of quarter deliveries, it’s best to do some research into condenser microphones. Condenser mics work off of phantom power and have a much higher sensitivity to signal input. The MXL 990 is a beautiful entry-level condenser microphone that is perfect for learning the ins and outs of studio recordings. The 990 is built using a larger diaphragm, and this helps to capture all the nuances that occur around a singer’s pronunciations and inflictions. The microphone comes with a reasonably stable bracing that you can fix onto most mic stands, giving it added portability for different recording situations. The MXL may not be the ideal microphone for professional tier recordings, but it is a worthy investment if you’re still learning the ropes of engineering and recording.

Mid-Range Model Mics

Shure SM7B

Thanks to their forward-thinking designs and fair pricing, the Shure brand is a consistent feature on almost every sound engineer’s gear list. Many bedroom producers and streamers alike have become firm disciples of the SM7B as it gives users stellar quality for money. One of the most valuable characteristics of this mic is its ability to cut out electronic hums or buzzing from any gear or machinery around the singer. The mic also features a high pass switch that filters out any low to sub frequencies that are usually counterproductive to obtaining clear vocal mixes. A windscreen has been placed over the head of the mic to help keep out any harshness caused by excessive breathwork while talking or singing. The SM7B has been used by a long list of musical icons from Michael Jackson and Red Hot Chili Peppers through to Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, and each of them hugely endorses this sleek, versatile microphone for home or professional recordings.

Rode NT1

Given that the NT1 is slightly more affordable than the SM7B listed above, they offer each other serious competition in the race for the best standard studio microphone. The NT1 is one of Rode’s most popular microphones and is a sleek, compact recording companion that almost overachieves on presence and clarity. This microphone is remarkably sensitive and well-suited to recording detail on live instrumentation like harps or acoustic guitars. However, the microphone’s sensitivity can be a bit too intense, and we wish there were a way to dial down the signal bias mechanically. The microphone does not come with any screen; a detachable pop shield is included in the purchase package so that you can dial in your filtering to your taste. Singing styles involving many airy vocals (such as folk or soft jazz) will benefit significantly from the NT1’s capturing capabilities.

Top Shelf Mics

Neumann U87

Ask any well-studied sound engineer what their top 5 microphones are, and the U87 will almost always appear on the list. The microphone has been used on some music’s most historic recordings (Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On, or Sympathy For The Devil by the Rolling Stones, to name a few.) and is trusted for delivering world-class clarity for almost any singing voice. The microphone gives a slight boost to mid to high-end frequencies, which is the optimum range for most singers. The Neuman is also incredibly dynamic for a condenser mic and can pick up soft whispers and extensive belting with equal amounts of quality. The proof is essentially in the pudding. We encourage you to look up vocal acapella done on this mic to give you a proper understanding of its irreplaceable recording ability.

Mojave Audio MA100

Mojave Audio is somewhat of an underdog in the recording world, and their products have never quite reached the recognition they truly deserve. However, this does not dispel their manufacturing quality, and the MA1000 is one of the best-kept secrets amongst both home studio owners and professional gear heads alike. The microphone can switch between three polarity settings to suit a range of vocal styles, deliveries, and rooms. It has a large frequency range of 20hz to 20khz and an omnidirectional membrane for very precise and focused recording. The Mojave MA100 can be utilized to capture a healthy range of instruments from brass and drums to guitar amps and room sound, but it shines when used in conjunction with a great singer. Should you find yourself looking for a unique and diverse microphone to use across different studio situations, the Mojave is an excellent microphone to consider.

Final Thoughts

It may take you some more time and effort than originally planned to find the right microphone for your home or professional studio setup. However, the more in-depth you go with your research, there more appropriate your final choice will be. Also, remember to consider your recording circumstances with your home or pro studio, as your environment will play a large role in determining the quality of your audio recordings. Thanks for taking the time out to read through our list of the best vocal mics for any budget. Hopefully, we’ve managed to provide you with a little more insight into what works best for you. Happy tracking.

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