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Microphones can be an overwhelming field.

There are so many options, all sorts of different types and they all look fairly similar and yet vary enormously in price. Scrolling through the options on a website can be mind-boggling. But don’t worry, I’ve distilled the choices down to a handful that I’d recommend looking at depending on your budget. There’s no point drooling over a $1,000 microphone if you only have a couple of hundred to spend.
 
But whatever your budget all of these options will do a good job of recording your voice and bringing it into your music. And don’t forget your popper-stopper (if you don’t know what that is I’ll tell you at the end).

The best vocal mics available in 2022 (so far) are:

  • Audio-Technica AT2020
  • Shure SM58
  • Behringer SL 84C
  • Rode NT2-A
  • Shure SM7B
  • Lewitt LCT 440 Pure
  • Warm Audio WA-251
  • Neumann TLM 102

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Vocal Mics

What is the best professional vocal microphone?

Robin Vincent

The Shure SM7B is the best microphone for getting professional results in any given situation. It’s robust yet sensitive, is great to work with and gives a passionately intimate sound that outs everything down on the track. For both singing and speaking roles, the SM7B is perfect.


What mic do most Singers use?

Robin Vincent

For live performance, you are commonly going to find the Shure SM58 as the microphone of choice. It can handle anything your want to throw at it including being spun around your head on the cable and thrown into the bass bins. It’s the hardest working mic in the business.


What microphones make your voice sound better?

Robin Vincent

For capturing the best your voice can offer you’ll need a condenser microphone and a very quiet room. The Warm Audio WA-251 is perfect for this as it will record a great raw performance that you can process to great effect in your DAW or recording software.

Under $100

You’ve got to be kidding right? A studio microphone for under $100? Oh yes, there are loads of great budget microphones out there at the moment that will do a decent job of converting vocals into signals. And not just the cheaper dynamic mics, there are some decent condenser ones too. Check these out.

Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020

Condenser microphones are considered to be the best choice for vocal recording. The large diaphragm responds sensitively to the changes in pressure from a vocal performance. They used to be expensive and many of them still are but in recent times the prices have come down within reach of home and project studios while retaining enough quality to make for surprisingly good recordings. The Audio-Technica AT2020 is one such condenser microphone.

For under $100, you’d expect it to be a light-weight plastic affair but the AT2020 is constructed from metal and has a certain amount of ruggedness about it. It has the wide dynamic range that we love about condenser mics and a cardioid polar pattern that reduces the pickup of sounds from the sides and rear.

One of the downsides of condenser mics is their proclivity for picking up environmental sounds — this is where the vocal booth starts to become a necessity. But the AT2020 could perform well in a quiet space without needing total isolation.

The AT2020 is well constructed and made from metal and manages to feel rugged. It can handle a wide dynamic range and because of the cardioid polar pattern, it’s unidirectional so it only picks up sound from the front, minimizing the pickup of accidental sounds from the sides or rear. The sensitivity of a condenser mic can become a problem with picking up sounds around you. You do have to consider your recording environment and the potential for background noise but in a quiet space, the AT2020 is ideal.

It comes with a microphone stand mount, which is simpler than the usual shock mounts, just be careful not to knock the stand. The AT2020 is a remarkable microphone for the price.

Pros & Cons

  • Great value
  • Large diaphragm
  • Metal construction
  • Wide dynamic range
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Needs a quiet space
  • Lightweight

Street Price: $99
audio-technica.com

Shure SM58

Shure SM58

The SM58 is a classic microphone that you would have seen on stages all over the world. It’s the descendent of the first microphone to feature the familiar ball shaped grill but the SM58 is designed to improve upon the feedback and handling issues of its predecessor. It has become the biggest selling microphone on the planet, it feels good to hold, it’s rugged enough to survive the rigors of energetic live performance and yet is surprisingly useful in the studio.

The SM58 is a dynamic microphone and so not as sensitive to background noise as a condenser. It also requires no powering or additional equipment. It has a uniform cardioid pattern, meaning that it’s focused at the front and cuts down on background noise by isolating the main sound source. It’s going to work great in a larger range of environments like a home studio, garage, or kitchen.

Simple, legendary, and fantastic value at $99. You can get them colored these days but please don’t do that.

Pros & Cons

  • Classic mic
  • Rugged
  • Easy to use
  • Plug and go
  • Good with background noise
  • Not as sensitive as condenser mics
  • Narrow dynamic range

Street Price: $99
shure.com

Behringer SL 84C

Behringer SL 84C microphone on white background

It’s impossible to talk about cheap microphones without mentioning Behringer. They’ve recently released a couple of what are essentially SM58 clones. They are designed to look and work like the famous Shure microphone but for a fraction of the cost.
 
They are remarkably similar in terms of looks and from a stage, it would look like you’re using an SM58. It has a good, balanced XLR connection, integrated pop shield and even comes with a mic stand clip.
 
The sound is decent, it handles feedback reasonably well and if you have no money and need a basic vocal mic then the SL 84C will fill that role. For a few more dollars the Behringer BA 85A clone of the Sure Beta 58 would be slightly better but neither quite stand up to the good old SM58 in terms of sound or build quality.

Pros & Cons

  • Ridiculously cheap
  • Feels good for the money
  • Sounds better than you’d think
  • Doesn’t feel as trustworthy as an SM58
  • But at this price it’s amazing

Street Price: $12.99
behringer.com

Under $500

This is where the choices start to heat up. You’ll find professionally quality wrapped up in satisfying build quality where you know you can’t go far wrong.

Rode NT2-A

Rode NT2-A

The Rode NT2-A manages to evoke the feel of a classic studio microphone while being able to produce a thoroughly modern sound. It’s a professional, large capsule condenser with a variable pick-up pattern and built-in high-pass filter and -10dB or -5dB pad. These things make very versatile from smooth whispers to screaming protests.

Inside is an Australian designed TYPE HF1 dual diaphragm, gold-sputtered capsule. The frequency and transient response have been carefully engineered to match up to modern recording techniques while giving off the warm vibes of classic microphones.

It has a wide dynamic range, a 3-way switch for different polar patterns, 2 high-pass filter options and 2 pads. It feels weighty and solid with a heat-treated steel mesh head and satin nickel finish. The capsule has an internal shock mount but it also comes with a shock mount for a mic stand, cable and dust cover.

The NT2-A is brilliantly versatile, robust and classy. If you can only buy one microphone then the NT2-A is an excellent choice.

Pros & Cons

  • Classic sound and looks
  • Versatile polar patterns
  • Wide range of uses
  • Modern technology
  • Needs a quiet room
  • Can be a bit bright

Street Price: $399
rode.com

Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B

The SM7B has become a modern legend. It seems to appear in everyone’s videos, Tik-Toks and Inst Reels. It’s hanging there at an angle at what looks like too close to the face as if the singer is about to chew on it. It’s a distinctive microphone.

The reason you have to get up close and personal with it is because it’s a dynamic microphone and is designed for close mic-ing. It’s not like the condensor microphones that you expect to find in studios where you stand a foot away singing into a popper stopper. But this is the type of dynamic mic that’s going to give you a great vocal sound while not being sensitive enough to pickup all the background noise, shuffling and noise from the environment that can be a problem with condensers. It hits that sweet spot that’s ideal for people with studios that aren’t exactly sound proof.

The SM7B has a flat wide-range frequency response with controls for bass roll-off and midrange emphasis and has a classic cardioid polar pattern for excellent off-axis rejection. It’s encased with its own electromagnetic shielding, internal air suspension and pop filter. Being dynamic means it doesn’t need phantom power or special cabling; it will plug into anything.

It may have been originally designed as a mic for broadcast and dialogue but it’s become a favorite with Singers and Producers alike.

Pros & Cons

  • Does everything and you see it everywhere
  • Superb vocal mic
  • Best dynamic mic in the business
  • Great for live streaming
  • A bit chunky
  • Not as sensitive as condenser mics

Street Prices:
Shure SM7B$399
shure.com

Lewitt LCT 440 Pure

Lewitt LCT 440 Pure

Here’s an award-winning microphone from Austrian audiophiles Lewitt, taking the components and capsule from their high-end prestige models and cramming it into a more cost-effective, compact yet stylish enclosure. It’s not vintage-looking like so many others in this list, instead, the focus is all on the function, all on the sound and delivering a beautifully balanced and brilliantly clear recording.

The cardioid pattern ensures a focused, low noise response with a satisfying dynamic range and ability to find the sweet spot in any application. Perfectly at home with vocals, it’s also great with guitars, cabinets, instruments, and groups.

The included shock mount and pop shield keep it out of harm’s way and the unfussy enclosure looks nowhere near as dainty or fragile as the others sub-$500 offerings. The LCT 440 Pure would be great with everything. There’s a step-up version called the LCT 540S, which offers a more balanced tone over the entire spectrum and effortless clarity.

Pros & Cons

  • High-end capsule in an affordable package
  • Focused, low noise response
  • Brilliantly clear recordings
  • Very versatile and robust
  • Needs a quiet room

Street Prices:
Lewitt LCT 440 Pure$269
Lewitt LCT 540 s Pure$699
lewitt-audio.com

Under $1,000

Now we’re talking. No need to look for budget versions of great microphones, with $1,000 to spend you can simply buy a great microphone.

Warm Audio WA-251

Warm Audio WA-251

Warm Audio has made a name for themselves building affordable replicas of rare and expensive vintage gear. With the WA-251 they are taking on the legendary Telefunken ELA M 251 which first became popular in the 1960s. The currently available reissued “E” version costs around $9,500, the WA-251 will set you back only $799.

Warm Audio doesn’t claim to have built a clone of the original but rather they based their designs on following the sound and technology as closely as possible. Their capsule is all-brass, edge-terminated that gives all the sonic richness of the original CK12 capsule. The housing is all brass, the diaphragm is 24k gold sputtered 6 micron.

It uses a CineMag USA transformer and a Slovak Republic JJ 12AY7 vacuum tube. There are carefully chosen Wima, Solen French and Polystyrene capacitors and thoughtfully selected Gotham 5 meter GAC-7, 7-pin tube microphone cable.

By all accounts, the WA-251 sounds fantastic, picking up an Editor’s Choice award at the 2019 NAMM show. Quite how they achieve such a gorgeous-sounding microphone is a credit to the intense scrutiny that Warm Audio put into developing their products. Like with any tube-based microphone you do have to put up with the chunky power supply but it all comes in a nice wooden box with a shock mount and it even looks exactly like it should.

Pros & Cons

  • Amazing take on a legendary mic
  • Classic looks
  • Rich, meaty tube sound
  • Very precisely engineered
  • Incredible for the price
  • Needs careful handling
  • Requires special powering

Street Price: $799
warmaudio.com

Neumann TLM 102

Neumann TLM 102

Neumann had to turn up at some point. This famous microphone brand is found in studios the world over. The TLM 102 is compact and unimpressive to look at but beneath that red badge you know there’s something a bit special. It excels at vocals, bringing a sweetness to the party with low noise and high clarity.

There’s a slight boost designed into this microphone after around 6kHz to add presence and focus to the voice as it stands in the mix. Neumann also suggests the diminutive size makes it easier for you to see the vocalist at work and keep connected.

The specs don’t make it stand out from the crowd; many cheaper mics have similar numbers but you just know that having a Neumann in your studio is going to elevate your work.

Pros & Cons

  • The biggest name in microphones
  • Great price for this quality and reputation
  • Excellent sweet spots
  • Low noise and high clarity
  • Designed expressly for vocals
  • You can probably get a similar sound with a cheaper option

Street Price: $699
neumann.com

Over $1,000

If you have a large budget for a single microphone then I would recommend spending some time at a music store trying some out and taking advice from professionals and studios in your area. You could be looking at a proper Neumann U87 microphone, the gorgeously retro Blue Microphone Bottle range, the workhorse AKG C414, or the sublime Earthworks SV33.

But at this level, you need to consider your environment. How good is your recording space? How well insulated and treated for audio? What preamps are you going into and how will it be recorded? Without these things in place then the advantages of a high-end microphone will be somewhat lost in the signal chain.

Conclusion

We have some great options available to us. You can’t go far wrong with an AT2020 or SM58 if you are starting out. But for a few hundred dollars you could be using the same mic as everyone else in the Shure SM7B or get super adaptable with the Rode NT2-A.

Pop shield for recording vocals against white backgroundBut the most important thing will be your vocal performance and a popper stopper. What’s a popper stopper? Originally made from a pair of women’s pantyhose stretched over a coat hanger these circular pop shields prevent plosives from P and B sounds from impacting the microphone. An absolutely vital piece of studio equipment for vocals whether the microphone claims to have it built-in or not.

Pop Shield/Filter/Blocker/Stopper/Screen

Street Prices:
• Generic Popper Stopper: $17
• Neumann Popper Stopper: up to $99

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