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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!
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.
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.
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 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.
The TLM design replaces the typical output transformer with an electronic circuit, allowing for both lower noise and a higher SPL. The TLM102 and TLM103are 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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
ELA M 251
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.