cheap microphones

Cheap Microphones for Home Music Producers

There’s a saying that goes, “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.” Well, in the case of cheap microphones, you can find very good ones. It just takes a bit of research.

This article is going to point you in the right direction.

We’ll take a look at how home music Producers can use the following quality, cheap microphones:

  1. Audio-Technica AT2035
  2. sE Electronics sE7
  3. AKG PERCEPTION 170
  4. Shure SM58
  5. Sennheiser E835
  6. MXL R144
  7. APEX 205 Ribbon Microphone

What to Look For in a Low-Budget Microphone

It’s really hard to pick a microphone when your budget is tight — I know firsthand. If you have $1,000 to blow on a new mic, almost anything you choose will sound great. But if you’re looking to spend $100-200, you have to be much more careful.

The first factor to think about is obvious: the quality of the mic.

This is the trickiest thing when you’re choosing a budget mic. It has to sound as good as it can while staying under what you can spend. That’s what this post will help you figure out.

The other consideration is if the mic is meant for home recording use.

Any company who makes budget-friendly microphones is most likely trying to target home Producers. But you have to think about each mic’s sensitivity, especially if you’re in a room that’s not soundproofed or treated properly.

If the mic is too sensitive, it will pick up unwanted reverberations and even the next-door neighbors.

Condenser, Dynamic, and Ribbon Microphones

Before you buy a mic, it’s important to know about the three different types: condenser, dynamic, and ribbon.

A condenser microphone is typically pretty sensitive and captures clear recordings. These are definitely meant for recording studios as opposed to the stage[1].

Dynamic mics, however, do well in both the studio and on stage, mainly because of their durability. They’re not as sensitive to sound, so they work well on louder instruments and need to be closer to quieter instruments[2].

Ribbon microphones are probably the most fragile out of the three. They’re known for being super detailed in what they capture without being too sensitive. This means they can do well recording closely to an instrument while not picking up too much room sound[3].

For a more detailed look at condenser and dynamic microphones, check out this guide we put together.

How Many Mics Do I Need?

If you have just one microphone in your home studio, that’s totally fine. You can record an entire album with one mic. But at some point, if you’re serious about becoming a legit Producer, getting a second (or third) microphone will definitely allow you to record more detailed recordings.

That is, as long as you choose the right mics.

With two mics, you at least have options when you’re deciding what sound you want to capture. Also, some instruments can sound better when you mix two mic sources together, like acoustic guitar and percussion instruments.

All-Purpose Condenser Microphones

With these condenser mics, I chose the best in the $100-200 range. You can use these on any source that’s not ridiculously loud (like an electric guitar amp or drums), so they’re best for vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion.

Audio-Technica AT2035[4]

This is one of the mics I own, and I highly recommend it if you’re a home Producer. The Audio-Technica AT2035 is both budget-friendly and high quality.

It has low self-noise, a low-cut roll-off switch to reduce the low-end rumblings, and a -10 dB switch for use on louder instruments and singers. The high-end is surprisingly smooth and the mid-range is warm and compressed.

All these things make it a great first mic for recording at home.

Features:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • -10 dB pad
  • 80Hz high‑pass/low-cut filter
  • Phantom powered

sE Electronics sE7[5]

The sE7 is what they call a “pencil microphone,” meaning it’s shaped like a pencil. This is a common design for small-diaphragm mics.

It has a low-cut filter and a switchable -20 dB pad to help prevent overpowering. Also, it runs on phantom power, which can give you an extra 28 dB of gain.

sE Electronics calls it “the quietest pencil mic in its class” because of its short signal path. It seems to deliver decent sound quality that’s clear and full, making this an ideal mic for acoustic guitar, piano, and even drums.

Features:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • -20 dB pad
  • 80Hz high‑pass/low-cut filter
  • Phantom powered

This is one of the mics I own, and I highly recommend it if you’re a home Producer. The Audio-Technica AT2035 is both budget-friendly and high quality.

AKG PERCEPTION 170[6]

The AKG P170 is also a pencil microphone with a small diaphragm. This makes it good for acoustic instruments, but, thanks to its -20 dB switchable pad, it can also handle loud instruments like drums and percussion.

In general, this is a good mic, especially when used close to the sound source. Typically, it captures an airiness and balanced high-end sounds.

However, it’s not as quiet as some others in this price range. But for a home studio, this mic is a solid choice.

Features:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • -20 dB pad
  • No phantom power

All-Purpose Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are just that — dynamic. It’s very common to use them on stage, but they also work very well in the studio. Plus, they’re very durable, so you can drop them and they’ll be fine. None of these mics require phantom power.

Shure SM58[7]

The Shure SM58 is the standard in stage mics and is also commonly used in the studio. It can handle really loud noises and it’s nearly indestructible — two reasons people love it.

In fact, its durability has been tested — people have dropped it out of a helicopter, submerged it in beer, shot it with a shotgun, ran it over with a bus, and many other ridiculous antics. All to show you it would still work good as new[8].

It captures clear sounds and cuts out background noise, and its metal grill helps keep out unwanted air. As far as dynamic mics go, it’s the industry standard.

Features:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • Very durable
  • Clear sound with little background noise

Sennheiser E835[9]

The E835 is designed specifically for vocals, and Sennheiser’s website says it’s “intended for home recording” studios.

It seems to capture clear audio and provide a lot of presence. And like any good dynamic mic, it’s consistent, it can deal with high volumes, and it’s super tough.

It’s definitely a good choice if you’re looking for a dynamic mic.

Features:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • On/Off switch
  • Good feedback rejection

All-Purpose Ribbon Microphones

Like I mentioned earlier, ribbon mics are the most fragile of the three types. But they also record the most detailed sounds out of the three. They’re known for picking up highly detailed sounds, clear high frequencies, and decent low frequencies.

MXL R144[10]

The MXL R144 does best on guitar amps, bowed string instruments, and vocals because it delivers a less harsh sound than other mics.

The sensitivity on it is low, so you’ll definitely need a mic preamp, but nearly all audio interfaces come with built-in preamps. And it will most likely need some EQ in post-production to help the sound.

Features:

  • Figure-of-eight pickup pattern
  • Clear high-end
  • Can handle loud volumes

The Shure SM58 is the standard in stage mics and is also commonly used in the studio. It can handle really loud noises and it’s nearly indestructible — two reasons people love it. In fact, its durability has been tested — people have dropped it out of a helicopter, submerged it in beer, shot it with a shotgun, ran it over with a bus, and many other ridiculous antics.

APEX 205 Ribbon Microphone[11]

The APEX 205 uses a figure-of-eight pickup pattern and is sensitive enough to record gentle acoustic guitar, although it does have some self-noise that may show up in the recording. It sounds great when recording an electric guitar amp, and it works really well as an overhead mic for drums.

However, because it’s so sensitive, you’ll need to make sure your room is treated properly.

Features:

  • Asymmetrical figure-of-eight pickup pattern
  • Works well on loud instruments like drums and guitar amps

Other Equipment You’ll Need

You’ll need some other accessories to use these microphones. You may find these obvious, but just to be safe, let’s cover all our bases.

Assuming you already have a computer and an audio interface, you’ll also need a pop filter. This is a mesh or perforated metal screen that goes between your mouth and the mic. It helps prevent plosives from hitting the mic.

You’ll also need an XLR cable, which is the standard microphone cable that goes from the mic to the audio interface. All of the mics on this list use an XLR cable.

And lastly, you’ll need a mic stand, preferably a boom stand. They allow you to get the mic positioned exactly how you want.

Where to Buy Microphones

Once you pick a microphone that you think would fit your needs and your home studio, I highly recommend finding these mics on Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend, or a reliable seller on Amazon. If you have a local music store, that’s also a safe bet.

References

  1. “Microphone Basics: What is a Condenser Microphone?” Neumann. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  2. “Microphone Basics: What is a Dynamic Microphone?” Neumann. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  3. “Ribbon Mics — How They Work and When to Use Them.” Sweetwater. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  4. “AT2035.” Audio-Technica. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  5. “The sE7: A compact & classy condenser.” sE Electronics. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  6. “P170.” AKG. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  7. “SM58.” Shure. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  8. “10 Things You Might Not Know About the SM58.” Shure. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  9. “e835.” Sennheiser. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  10. White, Paul (May 2011). “MXL R144.” Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  11. “Apex Electronics 205.” Gearslutz. Retrieved 4 September 2019.

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