7 Top Microphone Brands (Every Musician Should Know)

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  • Over the years, we’ve seen countless microphone designs grace our studios, sound stages, live music venues, and more.
  • Discover the biggest names behind the best microphones!

Microphones can be found absolutely everywhere these days – virtually every smart device comes equipped with one. But when it comes to recording, we still need studio-quality mics for the best results. Over the years, we’ve seen the best microphone brands come and…stay.

All of these brands have existed for decades, or branched off from other successful brands. All of them offer classic models that are a part of recording history, and have remained virtually unchanged since their debut.

With the options listed in this article, you can easily build a dream mic closet. You will find models suited for specific applications (like vocals and guitar cabs) as well as several workhorse mics that sound good on any source.

What Are The 7 Best Microphone Brands?

Neumann holds the title of the most legendary mic brand. Their microphones are regarded as the cream of the crop to this day. Interestingly, Neumann’s history is closely intertwined with AKG’s and Tefelunken’s, two of the most respected and legendary mic brands in history.

On the other hand, Audio Technica and Sennheiser also offer incredible solutions and value to all kinds of studios, while Shure produces the ultimate cardioid dynamic mic, as well as other great choices. Finally, Royer is the undisputed leader when it comes to ribbon mics.

We won’t lie — this was tough to condense the list down to 7, and we feel bad leaving some of our favorite brands out. That being said, here are our picks for the 7 best microphone brands!

  1. Neumann
  2. AKG
  3. Telefunken
  4. Audio-Technica
  5. Shure
  6. Sennheiser
  7. Royer

Neumann

Few brands throughout history have the pedigree of Neumann. For many, this is the ultimate microphone brand, the gold standard, the be-all, and the end-all.

Neumann’s mics are so highly regarded that they have become a “status symbol” and lend credibility just with their presence. If a studio is spending money on Neumann microphones, it shows that they want the absolute best, even if it means spending thousands on a single mic.

Their models, especially their studio condenser microphones, have been used in countless recordings by some of the greatest musicians ever.

Neumann U47 FET

Neumann went back to the schematics and production notes from the original U47 FET to bring you the wide dynamic range, detailed sound, and fast transient response of the original. 

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Noteworthy Microphones

Neumann U67 (Nickel Reissue)
$7,225.00

This reissue of the U67 has almost the exact construction and power supply as the original, with a feature switch to toggle between Cardioid, Omni and Bi-Directional polar patterns. This makes the mic incredibly versatile and perfect for different use-cases in the studio.

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Overview

Let’s take for instance the U 47. It is still being sold today, over 70 years after it was first released. Countless legends have recorded iconic music with this mic, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, and the Beatles.

The Neumann U 47 FET Collector’s Edition commands a steep price, but this is nothing compared to vintage U 47 models. These can sell into the five figures if you’re even able to find one in good condition today.

The U 47 was intended to be replaced by the U 67 in 1960 and with the latter becoming Neumann’s flagship large-diaphragm condenser. The U 47 used a vacuum tube that had ceased production, so Neumann had to find another option.

The U 67 was based on the readily available EF86 pentode tube and incorporated a K67 capsule and transformer-balanced tube circuit along with other novel innovations. This in turn produced significant sonic and operational improvements from the U 47.

The U 67 was quickly put into use by the best studios worldwide, and it defined the sound of the ’60s. However, the U 47 remains one of the top vintage mics in history and is highly sought after to this day.

And of course, the Neumann U 87 is regarded as the king of all microphones for being superior in quality, sound, and durability to its predecessors.

Neumann TLM 49

The TLM 49 is a large-diaphragm studio microphone with a cardioid directional characteristic and a warm sound that is specially optimized for vocal performance. It is supplied as a set, with an elastic suspension. 

Why We Love It:
  • Ideal for vocal applications
  • Transformerless design for low noise
  • Great retro look
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Other desirable Neumann microphones include the TLM 102/103 (TransformerLess Microphone). It costs much less than the U87 and still delivers stellar Neumann quality.

The TLM design replaces the typical output transformer with an electronic circuit, allowing for both lower noise and a higher SPL. The TLM102 and TLM103 are two of the most popular vocal mics on the planet.

When it comes to small-diaphragm condensers some of the most highly-regarded mics in the market today are the KM183 (Omni), KM184 (cardioid), and the KM185 (hyper-cardioid).

Additionally, Neumann also offers the large diaphragm condenser TLM49, the BCM705 (dynamic, for broadcasting), and the KMS 105 for vocals onstage. Simply put, no other brand has the pedigree, tradition, and market veneration that Neumann has.

AKG

AKG was founded in Austria in 1947 by physicist Dr. Rudolf Görike and engineer Ernst Pless. Its main business was to provide loudspeakers, film projectors, and light meters for movie theaters.

With the creation of the D12 microphone in 1953, AKG achieved international fame, setting the standard for voice transmissions.

Today it’s one of the most respected and reputable microphone brands.

AKG Pro Audio C214 Condenser Microphone
$349.00

The AKG C214 Large Diaphragm Microphone is a premium-grade condenser microphone designed for multiple recording applications.

Why We Love It:
  • 143dB dynamic range
  • Versatile
  • Brilliantly constructed
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10/23/2021 12:44 am GMT

Noteworthy Microphones

  • C414
  • C214
  • P170
  • C1000S
  • D5

Overview

The AKG C414 is regarded as one of the top condenser mics of all time. It’s the mic that every pro studio possesses, and every home studio wishes for.

It offers fantastic sound and great versatility. The 414 features 3 bass filters, 3 pads, and 9 switchable polar patterns including cardioid, Omni, figure-8, and 6 intermediate settings. In other words, you can use it in a variety of ways and a plethora of sources, with incredible results. These mics also work great as a pair!

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII
$1,004.98

The AKG C414 multi-pattern condenser microphone needs no introduction. Because of its ability to handle many different sources, it's been used in some of the world's leading broadcast facilities, recording studios, and performance stages.

Why We Love It:
  • Ideal for classical music or drum ambiance miking
  • Fantastic sound
  • Great versatility
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10/23/2021 11:21 am GMT

For the home studio or those that can’t afford the 414, AKG also offers the C214. It costs a fraction of the 414 and delivers similar quality.

Moving on, the AKG P170 is a very popular small-diaphragm condenser, offering fantastic sound while remaining affordable on a modest home studio budget.

Next, the AKG C1000S is very possibly the most versatile small-diaphragm condenser on the market today. It features 2 gain settings, 3 frequency settings, optional battery power, a “low battery” warning light, and a cardioid to hypercardioid converter.

AKG D5 Vocal Dynamic Microphone
$95.00

The AKG D 5 dynamic vocal microphone for lead and backing vocals delivers a powerful sound even on the noisiest stage. Its super-cardioid polar pattern ensures maximum gain before feedback. The D 5 stands for a crisp sound that cuts through every mix.

Why We Love It:
  • Crisp sound
  • Great for live vocal performance
  • Dual shockmount ensures trouble-free live use
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10/23/2021 12:50 pm GMT

Moving on, the AKG D5 is a great handheld dynamic vocal mic which inevitably leads to comparisons to the Shure SM58. It’s considered one of the top options for vocal live performance. It features a “Laminated Varimotion Diaphragm“, which is the first diaphragm ever to use a varying thickness across its diameter.

Next, the AKG D112 is the industry standard for miking kick drums. It features a low-end boost, a presence boost to emphasize the “click”, and a solid frame to withstand the beating of all that vibration.

Telefunken

Telefunken has a deep and interesting history, that is intertwined with Neumann’s and AKG’s.

Throughout the 1900s Telefunken produced wireless radio communications, television sets, electronic video cameras, vacuum tubes, preamplifiers, microphones, etc. In 1947, Telefunken was chosen as the distribution company of the Neumann U 47.

Noteworthy Microphones

  • ELA M 251
  • C12
  • U48
  • TF29
  • M80

Overview

The U 47 was a Neumann mic with the Telefunken logo. What happened? Despite its popularity and success in sales, U 47 designer Georg Neumann decided to not renew his distribution contract with Telefunken, and the U 47 was pulled from distribution.

Telefunken sought to replace it with a model of equal caliber and contracted AKG to develop a new series of microphones for their product line.

The ELA M251 was in that bunch, and the rest is history. The design stemmed from AKG’s already in-production C12, with the CK12 capsule at the heart of the design. In 1959 the ELA M 251/251E was introduced to the world.

Telefunken ELA M 251E

The Telefunken ELA M 251E large-diaphragm tube condenser mic is a faithful rendition of a legend. The original, introduced in 1960, is considered to be one of the most gorgeous sounding mics ever made.

Why We Love It:
  • Glorious sounding reissue of a classic
  • Meticulously crafted to historic detail
  • 138dB maximum SPL
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Even though it was only produced from 1959 until 1962, the ELA M 251 became one of the most legendary mics ever created and is a coveted collector’s item today.

Telefunken also produces the U48, which is the most important variant of the original U 47 design. Telefunken uses the same M7 capsule, BV8 output transformer, and VF14K used for the U 47 for their reproduction of the U48.

The U48 has bidirectional recording capabilities, something George Martin used to his advantage when using the mic to record The Beatles back in the day. The U48 was one of Martin’s favorite mics of all time.

Telefunken M80 Dynamic Microphone
$249.00

Promising condenser-like performance, the Telefunken M80 dynamic microphone lets you set a new standard for high-quality live performances..

Why We Love It:
  • Wide and balanced response
  • Consistent
  • Detailed sound
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10/23/2021 02:20 am GMT

Another great mic by Telefunken is the C12, which was originally an Austrian design viewed as the alternative to the U 47 in its original time of manufacture.

It would later go on to be the basis for the ELA-M 251’s design. This mic features a tube-based design and choice of several pickup patterns. The C12 works wonders on female vocals, drum overheads, acoustic guitars, and more.

Audio-Technica

In the early ’60s, curator Hideo Matsushita used to host LP listening sessions at Tokyo’s Bridgestone Museum of Art.

People would gather to experience vinyl records played on high-quality audio equipment and Matsushita was moved by the positive impact this created. However, he also grew frustrated with the fact that high-fidelity listening was cost-prohibitive for most folks.

Matsushita took matters into his hands and founded Audio-Technica in 1962 with the idea of producing high-quality audio for everyone.

He created the first truly affordable phono cartridge, the AT-1, in the company’s small flat in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Fast forward to 2021, and Audio-Technica has become one of the most respected names in microphones, headphones, and more, with a wide array of models for every budget and application.

BEST VALUE
Audio-Technica AT2035
$149.00

Audio-Technica's stringent consistency, reliability and quality standards bring professional performance to this extremely affordable line of home/project studio microphones.

Why We Love It:
  • Extremely versatile
  • Consistent
  • Reliable
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10/23/2021 12:08 am GMT

Noteworthy Microphones

Overview

Audio-Technica AT2020
$99.00

The AT2020 gives you classic Audio-Technica sound quality at an incredibly low price! Capture the subtleties and nuances of vocals and acoustic guitars, then take on screaming guitar amplifier cabinets - all with one mic.

Why We Love It:
  • Ideal for home studios
  • Superior transient response
  • Great dynamic range
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10/23/2021 05:00 am GMT

Perhaps the most popular Audio Technica mic is the AT2020. It is one of the most affordable large-diaphragm condensers on the market, as well as one of the best sounding in its price range.

The AT2020 is a workhorse that can be used on a great variety of sources, from vocals to acoustic guitars, percussion, and more. The AT2020 aligns perfectly with Matsushita’s idea of offering affordable products that also had high quality.

Audio-Technica also came up with an upgraded version of this mic, with the AT2035. It adds an 80Hz hi-pass filter, a –10dB pad, plus the shock mount, pop filter, and mic cable.

(We put the AT2020 against the AT2035 to see what makes them different! Check out the results in Audio-Technica AT2020 vs AT2035 (Side By Side Comparison))

Another popular model in Audio Technica’s arsenal is the ATR2500 USB. Despite the tremendous competition in this category, the ATR-2500 USB remains one of the best-known USB microphones on the market.

Audio-Technica ATR2500x
$119.00

Ideal for podcasts, home studio recording, field recording, and voiceover use, the ATR2500x-USB plugs into your computer and other devices.

Why We Love It:
  • No audio interface required
  • Built-in headphone jack and volume control
  • Ideal for home use
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10/23/2021 06:45 am GMT

The AT4050ST is another of AT’s best mics and is known as a “stereo microphone”. It offers a convenient way to record in stereo without having to use two mics.

Within the mic are two separate cardioid and figure-8 capsules. Additionally, the output of this mic is a unique 5-pin XLR which uses a special cable that transmits 2 channels of balanced audio.

Shure

Founded by Sidney N. Shure in 1925 as a supplier of radio parts and kits, Shure became a consumer and professional audio-electronics manufacturer of microphones, wireless microphone systems, phonograph cartridges, and more.

The company also manufactures listening products, including headphones, and personal monitor systems.

This company is particularly known for creating three of the most used dynamic microphones in history: the SM57, SM58, and the SM7.

Shure SM58
Was $99, Now $89

The legendary Shure SM58 dynamic vocal microphone is an industry-standard for both lead and backup vocals on stage and in the studio.

Why We Love It:
  • World's most popular handheld dynamic mic
  • Legendary Shure quality
  • Versatile
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Noteworthy Microphones

Overview

Let’s start with the Shure SM57. Simply said, the 57 as known in inner circles, is the ultimate microphone. Every pro studio in the world has a handful of SM57s, and along with its sibling the SM58, these make up the most used microphones ever.

Besides its sound, the greatest feature of this mic is its durability. You can severely mistreat it, yet they rarely ever break.

Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
$99.00

When you buy a Shure SM57, you've got a great dynamic microphone for life. Accounts of its heroic toughness lie at the center of countless music-industry legends, most of which are perfectly true.

Why We Love It:
  • Pristine sound
  • Extremely versatile
  • Perfect for studio applications
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10/23/2021 08:50 am GMT

And of course, the Shure SM58 is the mic you’ll use most of the time on stage, almost always for vocals. This mic is virtually identical to the SM57, the only real difference between the two being the grill design.

Staying with dynamic microphones, we have the Shure SM7B. It is part of history as it was Michael Jackson’s vocal mic on the Thriller album (as the Shure SM7).

The Shure SM7B is the go-to dynamic mic for vocals in pro studios around the world and it’s also extremely popular for all varieties of broadcasting.

Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
$399.00

The SM7B dynamic microphone has a smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response appropriate for music and speech in all professional audio applications.

Why We Love It:
  • Dynamic versatility
  • Brilliantly built
  • Built to list
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10/23/2021 12:41 am GMT

The Shure Beta 52A is a favorite of many engineers around the globe. It’s great for kick drums, bass cabinets, and all low-frequency instruments.

The Beta 52A is known for enhancing both the low-end “thump” and high-end “click” that all engineers are looking for.

Moving on, the Shure SM81 has been a top industry standard for recording hi-hats since the ’80s. This mic is one of the most sought-after small-diaphragm condensers of all time and it’s equally useful in both studio and live settings.

Despite all these accolades, its price is still within reach of most home studios as well. Get a pair of them for your acoustic guitar, and you’re covered for pretty much all stringed instruments and cymbals.

Sennheiser

Sennheiser was founded in 1945 in Germany, at the end of World War II, by Fritz Sennheiser and seven fellow engineers from the University of Hannover in a laboratory named Laboratorium Wennebostel.

Its first product was a voltmeter. Lab W began building microphones in 1946 with the DM1 and began developing them in 1947 with the DM2.

Sennheiser is still an independent family business today, as well as one of the most respected microphone companies.

Sennheiser E835 Microphone
$99.95

The Sennheiser e835 handheld dynamic vocal microphone gives you incredible performance and dependability at an equally incredible price!

Why We Love It:
  • Amazing SPL handling
  • Great for live performance
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10/23/2021 12:42 am GMT

Noteworthy Microphones

Overview

The most popular mic in Sennheiser’s renowned e800 series of handheld vocal mics is the e835.

This mic is among the top industry standards for live performance and is often compared to the omnipresent Shure SM58.

Just like the SM58, the e835 has an internal shock mount design to minimize handling noise on-stage. It works excellent in the studio as well and can be utilized on a broad variety of other instruments besides vocals.

Another great mic in their collection is the MD421. It is very likely Sennheiser’s best-selling microphone of all time and has been regarded as one of the top industry standards for decades now.

Sennheiser MD 421-II Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
$429.95

One of Sennheiser’s most popular microphones! It’s the MD 421-II’s versatility that has made this mic so widely acclaimed.

Why We Love It:
  • Effective feedback rejection
  • Clear sound reproduction
  • Extremely accurate and versatile
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10/23/2021 12:09 am GMT

The MD421 sounds great on almost anything and besides being great for the studio, is also fantastic for radio, tv, podcasting, field recording, live recording, etc.

Continuing, the Sennheiser MD441 U is just as legendary as the MD421. However, it is also one of the most expensive dynamic mics currently in the market, making it rare for home studios and more commonly found in professional facilities.

It’s regarded as one of the most accurate and versatile dynamic mics around, so you get what you pay for.

Next up, the Sennheiser MK4. This mic is the first large diaphragm condenser produced by Sennheiser, aimed at budget-conscious home studios, but can be compared to similar mics in the same category costing several times as much. Say no more!

Sennheiser Pro Audio MK 4
$299.95

Representing Sennheiser's first large-diaphragm side-address condenser microphone, the MK 4 is designed to offer you the best possible sound quality for the money, rather than technical extravagance.

Why We Love It:
  • A maximum sound pressure level of 140dB
  • Made for the studio
  • Powerful sound
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10/23/2021 11:45 am GMT

If you’re a guitar player, you probably know the next one. The e609 is arguably the first choice for guitar cabinet miking for discerning engineers. Simply said, it’s a fantastic choice for that application.

Royer

The ultimate ribbon mic brand, Royer has managed to combine the traditional warmth of vintage ribbon microphones with modern output levels.

While older ribbon microphones had a great sound, the ribbons were weak and would break easily.

Royer Labs made it possible to have ribbon mics that are still strong enough to be placed in front of electric guitar amps, a placement that certain older ribbons could not have tolerated.

PREMIUM OPTION
Royer R-121 Studio Ribbon Microphone

The R-121 is a wonderful studio must-have whether you're looking for just one microphone to do it all, or another flavor to add to your locker.

Why We Love It:
  • High SPL Capabilities
  • Natural sound
  • Consistent frequency response
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Noteworthy Microphones

  • R-121
  • R-122
  • SF-12
  • R-122 MKII
  • SF-2

Overview

When it comes to ribbon mics, the R-121 is the paradigm and the one that earned Royer their reputation.

If you could have only one microphone to record guitar amplifiers with, the R-121 is probably your best bet. It offers amazing detail and a wide, balanced response that gives a vibe and a true room sound to your guitar tracks.

Royer R-122 MKII Active Ribbon Microphone

Royer has enhanced one of their most popular ribbon mics with the R-122 MKII active ribbon microphone. This version packs the same impressive output and flexibility as the original R-122, with the addition of a 15dB pad and a bass roll-off switch.

Why We Love It:
  • High SPL capabilities
  • Outstanding frequency response
  • Fast transient response
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The R-121 also is an outstanding choice for acoustic instruments, vocals, and brass, offering no sonic coloration or distortion up to the maximum SPL rating, along with fast transient response.

Next, the R-122 was the world’s first active ribbon microphone. The active electronics give the R-122 a hotter output and impedance-matching capabilities, which make it easier to pair with some mic preamps.

Ribbon microphones have a reputation for needing some more preamp gain than others, but the R-122’s enhanced output ensures you won’t need to crank your preamp beyond its sonic sweet spot.

Royer SF-12 Stereo Ribbon Microphone

The Royer SF-12 stereo coincident ribbon microphone combines high-quality audio performance with outstanding stereo separation and imaging.

Why We Love It:
  • Superb transient response
  • Perfect for nearly any stereo miking application
  • Low residual noise
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Continuing, the SF-12 is a stereo ribbon microphone that is perfect for nearly any stereo miking application, especially classical recordings. The SF-12 is an outstanding choice for overhead drum miking, percussion tables, and other distant-miking applications.

If you consider yourself a “vintage microphone fiend” then you really need to have a Royer mic in your collection, and we bet you will also love our roundup of the 7 Best Vintage Microphones (Classic Sound, Legendary Status).