Now there is a question that is very difficult to answer. If you were to ask half a dozen studio engineers, you might get half a dozen different answers. Likewise, if you were to ask some artists, they may all have their own preferences. Whether it be a cardioid, super-cardioid, condenser, or dynamic – they all have their attributes.
Finding the best microphones for recording vocals will depend on many things, even the room where they are used. But there will be some things that will be required for one of them to be considered the best.
So, let’s take a look and see if we can find a studio microphone that would suit most people, one that might be called the best of the best microphones for recording vocals.
- Top 10 Best Microphones for Recording Vocals 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 Buyer’s Guide
- So what are the Best Microphones for Recording Vocals?
Top 10 Best Microphones for Recording Vocals Reviews
1 Warm Audio WA-47 Large-diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone
The WA-47 is a large-diaphragm tube condenser mic that provides a sound-alike to the classic U47 microphone. Large-diaphragm means the capsule’s diaphragm, or membrane is one inch or more in diameter. Having nine polar patterns which can be chosen from the external power supply, it offers great versatility in sounds.
Reproduction of the K47 capsule includes dual gold touched Mylar diaphragms with a single backplate. Component parts have been carefully selected to recreate a vintage tone, including the vacuum tube, output transformer, and the capacitors. Component parts used are identified and used from all around the world to provide the best smooth, uncompressed frequencies.
Even the seven-pin cable is specifically chosen. This is an area often overlooked as being important, but the shielding and wire gauge can alter the sound of a tube microphone.
WA is making no compromises…
The classic U-47 had a unique capsule hole pattern and frequency response, and this has been recreated by an Australian company in this vital part of the microphone. And a lower gain, low-noise tube is utilized to let the sonics of the transformer and the capsule be heard clearly.
An American made transformer with imported laminations from Germany smooths over the top end and adds 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 is.
The WA-47 comes in a wooden presentation box with all that is required, including the external power supply.
A microphone that must be considered great value for money.
2 Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Rode needs little introduction to those that know about microphones and have a reputation for creating quality. And their NT1A is a versatile condenser microphone that not only records great vocals but is equally proficient in front of an amplifier. The nickel-plated body with its satin-like finish gives it a look that says quality, and it is easy to visualize this microphone in any studio.
An externally polarized one-inch condenser with a gold plated membrane it has active electronics and a Cardioid pickup pattern. The frequency response is from 20Hz to 20,000Hz with a dynamic range up to 132dB.
Noise reduced to the minimum…
The circuitry delivers a low noise performance, and quality surface-mounted electronics ensure that there will be little or an absolute minimum of clutter noise. Gold plated connectors ensure that the connections will be of the highest quality.
An internal shock mounting system, pop shield, XLR cable, and dust cover are included. Being a condenser, this microphone will require +48 volt phantom power.
One of quietest available…
The self-noise level is only 5dBA which is exceptionally low and makes this microphone one of quietest studio microphones available. It is also one of the lightest, weighing just four pounds. But don’t let that influence you when you pick it up for the first time.
This might well be considered a start-up microphone for a new studio with its variety of uses, and the price tag gives that impression. It could certainly serve that function, and if you are just looking for a mic upgrade, then it also fits the bill. It isn’t expensive, but it has all the qualities needed to perform at a high level.
Well made with quality components, it represents tremendous value for money.
3 Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
We are all familiar with Audio-Technica in many different areas of sound reproduction. But maybe they are not as well-known at the higher end of microphones for recording vocals.
The AT 2035 is a side-address cardioid condenser microphone that can be used not only in studio applications but also on stage. The cardioid polar pattern design will largely ignore sound not centrally applied to the microphone and attracts a low level of feedback.
No unwanted hum…
It isolates the reproduction from any sounds from the sides and the rear and thus making the capture of the principal sound source prominent. The 80Hz high pass filter switch will remove any unwanted hum from low frequencies and other noises and the pad switch giving -10dB allows more headroom when some signals might peak and cause distortion.
The smooth, natural sound of the AT 2035 is largely generated from the large-diaphragm design, which also means it is very low-noise. The high sound pressure level (SPL) and a wide dynamic range provide the microphone with its versatility to operate in a variety of environments.
What’s in the box?
The microphone is supplied as a package that makes it especially suitable for new studio users/creators. This includes a shock mount, adapter for mounting, a pop filter, and a ten-foot XLR cable. A protective pouch is also provided for when it is not in use.
This is really an entry-level microphone package at a very attractive price, but it still has a quality about its performance. It will not compete with some of the far more expensive microphones, but you wouldn’t expect it to. It does though need a ‘quiet’ room setup for vocal recording as its sensitivity levels are high.
Audio-Technica makes quality products, and for the price, this is an exceptional buy.
4 Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
When you consider the SM7B to be included in a list of the best dynamic microphones for use in studios, then you are considering something very special. But then Shure are very special.
When you need a mic for a live performance, then you will want the best quality available. However, for recording studio work, the level will go up quite a bit, and the SM7B provides that extra bit of quality…
The SM7B is that something special.
It is equally comfortable in the recording studio or in a radio broadcast studio – this microphone excels in all situations.
There is a big difference in using a microphone for recording a vocal track or a quiet speaking tone, and the flat wide-ranging frequency response of this mic makes it perfect for either scenario.
No more filters needed…
It features a presence boost and bass roll-off controls with the response setting shown on a display. And the built-in pop filter removes the need for extra filters to prevent the usual unwanted sounds when doing close microphone vocal work.
And there are filters included to eliminate potential interference from computer screens, or any electromagnetic hum and shock isolation will cancel out any accidental mechanical noise. It produces a clean sound that is devoid of the slightest of background noises and is therefore perfect for all kinds of studio work.
It also comes the A7WS windscreen for use when you are close up recording.
An extra lift…
If you want a microphone that gives your vocals, spoken or sung, that extra lift then this is a microphone will do that. And as with every Shure microphone, it has a rugged construction and is well built.
It has an attractive price for what it can offer.
5 Sennheiser MD 421
There are certain brands when mentioned in discussions in studios around the world, that mean something and nothing more needs to be said. Sennheiser is one of those.
Sennheiser, of course, is German, and brings the excellence of design and manufacture to its sound equipment and in particular its microphones. The Sennheiser MD421 is one of their most popular and respected microphones. It is thought of so highly due to its versatility in being able to work in a variety of situations.
It is great for vocals as well as group vocals, but its versatility extends beyond the vocal booth.
Clear and natural results…
It features a full-bodied cardioid design and has a bass control with five settings. This allows it to work with most instruments. It’s superb for acheiveing clear and natural results when the instrument or vocal source is close to the microphone. Feedback rejection is excellent, and the reduction of unwanted sounds that may be picked up from elsewhere make it a great microphone for studio and live work.
Its hardened glass composite and the steel construction make it a rugged, tough piece of kit.
A variety of tonal options…
Sennheiser prides themselves on the quality of the sound that this microphone provides and it certainly delivers. Versatile and with so many options for use it is great with most instruments and most environments, but it is the crisp and clear reproduction of vocal sounds that this microphone is known for and makes it so widely used.
The five-position selector switch for bass roll-off gives you a variety of tonal options that can add another dimension to how well it performs.
This microphone is a great addition to any working studio and at the price is simply great value for money.
It is though rather large, so some thought should be given to that.
Frequency response 30-17,000 Hz.
6 Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone
We mentioned in our review of the Sennheiser MD 421, that there are some names when mentioned in recording studios, that nothing more needs to be said in discussing their quality. Neumann is another one of those. Another German company, they produce a quality of product that is rare in today’s world.
The TLM-102 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone designed for the studio. It uses a cardioid polar pattern and has the ability to handle high SPL levels. With this high SPL rating comes the ability to record very loud sound sources and due to a fast transient response rate also capable of handling lower volumes. It is though, in the realms of vocals that it excels.
A great vocal presence…
The vocals are given a slight boost of 6kHz which will accent them and give them a great vocal presence in the mix. To achieve a clear and defined bass sound below 6kHz, there is minimal coloration. Being a condenser microphone, it will need +48v phantom power to operate.
The mic has elastic suspension for keeping any accidental noises to a minimum and a pop screen built into the grille helps to eradicate plosives in the vocal performance. The compact, smaller body size of this microphone adds to its popularity.
There is no doubt this is a quality microphone, especially in the world of vocals and voice-overs. It provides a top-end performance level without asking the price of some of its competitors.
7 SE Electronics sE2200a II
The SE2200a 11 is the follow up to the successful 2200a. This multipattern condenser microphone has many similarities with its predecessor with a few extras thrown in for flexibility. More about that later.
They stick with the cardioid design to give you the same sound. And to create that sound, it uses a pair of gold spluttered hand-crafted diaphragms giving three distinct polar patterns.
All are not created equal…
Certain microphones can suit certain environments and not all microphones that are made for the studio sound the same. Many of them might be condenser microphones, but they are not all the same. For example, the SPL’s created by overheads on a snare drum might be far too much for some mics, whereas others might struggle with a soft acoustic sound.
Vocal recording demands that there is a bit of both, a reasonably high SPL, but able to handle the softer aspects as well. We mentioned a few extras thrown in. The new SE2200 can handle both extremes of dB levels whilst also having a low noise floor for the softer moments. This makes this microphone suitable for a variety of studio uses and gives you an extended dynamic range.
Sound shaping is further assisted by a 10dB pad and a high pass filter. Being a condenser mic, it will need +48v phantom power.
A workhorse microphone…
A well-made microphone, the body is finished in a black rubber paint that dampens resonances. It comes with a shock mount but no pop filter. Inexpensively priced it is a quality microphone that is a workhorse and is an excellent buy for starter levels. It is tremendous with vocals or voice-overs with a warm sound — good value for money.
8 AKG Pro Audio P420
AKG is a well-respected manufacturer of microphones and accessories. Founded in Austria in the late 40s, they quickly established themselves as a market leader. They designed the world’s first dynamic cardioid microphone in the ’50s. Harmann bought them in the ’90s and subsequently shut down all manufacturing in Vienna in 2017, and a dynasty came to an end.
It was bought by Samsung in 2017 and now exists only as a brand name based in California.
Anyway brief history lesson over let’s get on with the P420…
This features a 1” dual diaphragm design and is a multi-pattern large-diaphragm condenser microphone. You can choose from omnidirectional, cardioid or figure-8 patterns to work with, thus having plenty of variety in its uses and the sounds produced.
The -20dB pad allows this microphone to work with an SPL of up to 155dB, which makes it great for louder sound sources, and it has a low cut filter at 300hZ. This, of course, opens a door into a variety of uses including drums and orchestral instruments and others that require quality of recording over a wide dynamic range. Vocals it may have been originally designed for, but it will go further than that.
Built to last…
Made with a tough metal body the shell is finished in black and includes a spider shock mount and an aluminum carrying case. It is very competitively priced and represents good value for money.
A word of caution, it can be very sensitive to sound, and the room where it is used may have an effect on its performance so a ‘quiet’ room with lots of absorbent surfaces will work best.
9 MXL Mics 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
This microphone from MXL is designed and manufactured to be very much an entry-level budget microphone. Nevertheless, it is well made, and as we shall see, has the quality components to perform way above its price tag.
The MXL 770 is a pressure gradient condenser microphone. That is a microphone in which both sides of the diaphragm are exposed to the sound and has a cardioid polar pattern. The frequency range extends from 30hZ to 20kHz with an SPL of 137dB, which makes it very suitable for recording those loud frequencies like snare drums.
Being a condenser mic, it will need 48v phantom power. The finish is nice with a matt black body and grill, and it is supplied with a high-isolation shock mount and storage case.
Great for your first studio venture…
If you are looking for microphones for your first studio venture or maybe just thinking about upgrading what you already have then you need to consider the MXL770. It is, without a doubt, a quality microphone.
Many of the qualities you will need are onboard. To start, it is very easy to set up and use, and it creates a very clear and crisp sound. The construction is strong and is going to last, and it is an extremely sensitive microphone. A balanced bass response delivers clarity at the high end, and a low-frequency roll-off will reduce unwanted noise.
The hard case it is supplied with is an added bonus.
Some people, when looking for what we might call higher-end products, skip through the options, and use the price tag as a measure of the quality of the product. There is a certain rationale in that, but if you discount this microphone on that basis, you may be missing out. It’s a quality product at a very competitive price.
10 Blue Yeti USB Microphone
Blue has with the latest Blue Yeti used a tri-capsule design that gives you options for capturing your audio. Depending on the source you can choose from stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid or bi-directional.
An onboard headphone amp with its own gain control will deliver latency-free monitoring, and the gain and a mute control are on the device for easy operation. The stand that is included will allow you to pivot the angle to get exactly the best position for recording, which is an added bonus as it is then able to be folded away after use. The Yeti is Windows and Mac compatible and a USB cable is supplied.
No problems with latency…
The 3.5mm headphone jack lets you listen to your recording without latency in real-time, and the volume of the phones can be adjusted from the microphone.
With the included USB cable you connect it directly to your computer. It will need to be set up within the computer’s operating system, but there are no drivers to download, and operation is easy. It requires a minimum of 64MB of RAM. The quality produced is good using 16-bit/48 kHz resolution.
Don’t overlook its potential…
It is an excellent microphone for vocal work on podcasts, voice-overs, and even dictation and narration. The quality is balanced and even, and because it can be set up in exactly the best position for recording, it produces great results. But don’t overlook its potential as a vocal mic. In the right setting, it will produce great results.
Of course, it doesn’t suit every working environment, but for the spoken word, it will take some beating at this price.
Best Microphones for Recording Vocals Buyer’s Guide
- Time to get serious with the microphone.
Here’s a statement that’s going to scare you…
- No two singers are the same!
They have different ranges, different tones, different volumes of delivery, different pitch, and even breathing patterns. A great vocal mic might be fantastic for one and not so good with someone else. And you want a mic that’s perfect for them all. You won’t find it.
- Scary eh! But what’s the real story?
If you’re still with us, let’s look a bit deeper.
When you decide to buy a new mic, you will be confronted by a range of different types and prices. And the sheer amount of specifications will leave you numb. It’s usually true that the price will give an indication of the quality of the sound you will get, but it’s not always the case. Before you start to bury yourself in finding a way through the jargon, some things will help you narrow down the field a little.
- What will you use it for?
If it is just for recording vocals, then don’t get sidetracked by what else you are told it might do. Just remember you are looking for a great mic to record vocals. Tea making can wait for another purchase. Keep your thoughts firmly fixed on finding the best microphone for your purpose. Vocals.
So let’s move on to another important issue…
- Where will you use it?
You do need to try and buy a mic that is going to suit the environment in which you will be using it. There seems little point in spending a fortune on a mic to produce demos in your bedroom where the acoustics will be much less than perfect. And the mic just cannot give of its best and perform to give you great results. In that environment, you do not need a hyper-sensitive mic which, incidentally, will also bring the cost down.
- Understanding the jargon
Do a little bit of research. Try to find out what polar patterns are and how an omnidirectional mic will respond, for example. If you are recording vocals in a studio, then it helps to have a near-silent environment. Not always possible, so understand why Cardioid, Supercardioid, and hyper-cardioid are excellent because they tend to exclude all unwanted side and rear sounds.
Besides polar patterns, there are multi-pattern microphones with a switch allowing you to change between patterns. And what are frequency responses, and why are they important? This tells you the range in which a mic will pick up the sound. A range of approximately 80hZ to 15kHz some would consider good for vocals.
- And what on earth is SPL?
You will hear it mentioned often. Simply put it means ‘sound pressure level’ and refers to the maximum amount a mic can handle before there are problems. It is expressed in decibels dB’s. You may need on average around 100 dB for a vocal. If it goes as high as 125dB, then it is a mic probably best suited for recording louder instruments, such as snare drums.
- Anything else?
Far too much to list, so let’s just mention a few things. The construction will have an effect on performance, and the type of metals or other construction materials used can also affect the sound.
Dynamic microphones, Condenser, or Ribbon all have their own characteristics and in some cases, further requirements. Condenser microphones, for example, need phantom power to operate.
Dynamic microphones are usually quite rugged and have a high SPL handling rating, while Ribbon mics are more delicate and can be vulnerable.
Whatever you choose, keep your eye on the main requirement. Think vocal!