14 Of The Best Microphones Money Can Buy

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  • A pro guide to the best microphones for vocals and other studio needs
  • We review 14 top-rated mics across price points with the best alternatives
  • Our top picks include Neumann, AKG, Blue Yeti, Telefunken, and others
  • Also, check out this article on the best podcast microphones of 2023

From utilitarian dynamic mics to spiffed-up condensers, the “best” mic is a slanted, idiosyncratic beast.

Some buyers want a hassle-free USB condenser, and others lust for singing microphones with tough casework and every conceivable polar pattern.

But every studio pro knows mic closets are ravenous, GAS-inducing creatures.

If you have an LDC, you need an SDC. If you have both, you need a matched stereo pair. Got that too? How about a sister tube mic?

And, if analog signals are not sacred, you’ll also chew on the best mic modeling systems. Then, when you’ve got one each, it’s time for round two.

Choosing a mic is such a rabbit hole. It’s a competitive, crowded market at every price point, and buyers want champagne sounds for the price of beer.

Still, with self-perpetuating confidence and an appetite for blue light, we created a guide to the best microphones for various studio needs.

Our top picks have a sterling reputation, spit-shined with mushy praise from audio mags and studio owners.

We’ve also included the best alternatives for each model, covering 3x of what’s advertised.

Some of our favorites couldn’t make the cut for brevity, but you can use this guide to find the (next) best microphone to spend your money on. 

The Best Microphones Of All Time: Our Top Picks

Need a high-quality condenser but can’t spend a thousand dollars?

You’re in luck because the Aston Origin costs roughly $200 and is easily the best recording microphone for producers and musos on a budget.

Designed for broad applications and pro use, the Audio Technica AT4050 is our pick for the best-value microphone.

It doesn’t cost a fortune and consistently delivers a good day in the studio, no matter how and where you perch it.

If we could only rescue one microphone from a burning studio, it would be the AKG C414 XLII.

This multi-pattern condenser excels in every imaginable recording situation, making it our top choice for the best recording microphone if you can spend four figures.

Lastly, the Neumann TLM103 has our vote for the best premium condenser microphone money can buy.

It’s a prized possession of every major studio and the finest thing to point at singers and instruments.

Here’s the TL;DR of the best microphones before we move on to the product reviews:

  1. Shure SM57
  2. Shure SM58
  3. Aston Origin
  4. Blue Yeti USB Condenser Microphone
  5. Avantone PRO CV-12
  6. sE Electronics sE8
  7. Shure SM7B
  8. Electro-Voice RE20
  9. Audio Technica 4050
  10. Neumann TLM103
  11. AKG C414 XLII
  12. Telefunken TF29 Copperhead
  13. UAD Sphere Mic Modeling System 
  14. Neumann U87 AI

1. Shure SM57

Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

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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“This best-selling dynamic instrument microphone is a must-have for audio projects.”

Shure SM57 is an old chestnut that still cuts the mustard.

This thoroughbred workhorse is tailor-made for recording loud sources like drums and amps, regardless of the physical setting.

The microphone has an XLR output, does not need phantom power, and comes with a swivel adapter, a pneumatic shock mount, and a nifty zippered carrying case – all for roughly $100.


  • Sleek and portable with solid construction
  • Exceptional off-axis rejection
  • Perfect for recording loud sound sources
  • The pricing works for amateurs and pros alike


  • Slight proximity-effect


The Shure SM57 is a cardioid instrument microphone with class-leading off-axis noise reduction and low self-noise.

Its tailored response attenuates sub-bass frequencies and adds presence to make instruments sound fantastic.

The mic is lauded for its drop-resistant construction, clear audio, and ability to capture loud sounds in live and studio environments.

Simply put, this is the perfect microphone to point at noisy snares, blaring cabs, and loud percussions.

Its swivel adapter makes placement easy, and the integrated shock mount keeps vibrations at bay. However, you’re better off with a Shure SM58 if you want a vocal mic.

Lastly, there are SM57 alternatives to consider, but the cheaper ones are plagued with harsh hype, and the others cost 2-3x or more.

So, if you’ve only got hundred dollars to spare, this industry-standard instrument microphone offers the best cost-value ratio.

Best Alternatives:

The Audio-Technica AE2300 and AKG C636 are excellent SM57 alternatives to handle high SPLs at close range.

Likewise, the SM58 would be a foolproof choice if you prefer singing microphones.

2. Shure SM58

Shure SM58

An industry-standard choice for both lead and backup vocals on stage and in the studio.

Why We Love It:
  • Built like a tank
  • Legendary Shure quality
  • Versatile
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 “The best microphone for vocalists and podcasters pinching pennies in untreated rooms.”

The SM58 is an old studio staple that impressed us two decades ago and is still a great piece of hardware to own.

Its best known for its rugged construction, vocal-enhanced frequency response, and unequaled aptitude to handle noise and feedback in live or studio settings.

At roughly $100, it’s also one of the best dynamic microphones for singers and upcoming podcasters.


  • Economical, functional, and built like a tank
  • Vocal-enhanced mid-range works excellent for vocals
  • Uniform response with a bass roll-off to control proximity effect
  • Reject background noise + little-to-no handling noise
  • Excellent price-to-performance ratio


  • Slight proximity-effect
  • Not the best choice for close-miking


The SM58 is a well-weighted hand-held mic with an internal shock mount, removable grille, and cardioid pickup pattern.

It comes with a mic-stand adapter and zippered case, but since it’s a dynamic microphone, you’ll need an XLR cable and audio interface to jam out or record with it.

This function-over-form microphone is excellent at rejecting feedback and background noise, which makes it a top choice for live performances.

Additionally, the frequency response has a midrange emphasis that enhances vocals and narration.

The mic also boasts a spherical internal filter to reduce plosives/fricatives and an internal shock mount to reduce handling noise.

To cut the chase, this classic microphone is a great piece to add to your arsenal.

It’s a bargain no-brainer for touring musicians, performers, songwriters, and everything but close-mic applications.

Also, we’d push singers to couple it with a pop filter for better results in a studio.

Best Alternatives:

If you don’t mind the plastic casing, the Shure PGA48LC costs half as much and comes with an on/off switch, which is handy during ‘private’ on-stage moments.

Other singing microphones include the colorful Telefunker M80s and Sennheiser e845-S supercardioid dynamic mics. 

3. Aston Origin

Aston Microphones Condenser Microphone

The Aston Microphones Origin is a unique-looking, high-performance large-diaphragm condenser mic with a 1-inch gold-evaporated capsule.

Why We Love It:
  • Innovative design
  • Satisfying sound
  • Unique
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05/29/2023 09:02 am GMT

“The best condenser microphone for bedroom producers, budding musicians, and modest studios.”

The Aston Origin’s stellar reputation is backed by its Briisht origin, innovative design, and artistically satisfying sound.

This cardioid condenser features a 1” gold-evaporated capsule, a lived-in body, a stainless steel mesh, a Rycote shock mount, and two switches: 80Hz roll-off and -10dB pad.

We’re convinced it’s the best condenser microphone (in its price range) to record guitars and vocals.


  • Looks like a high-end boutique microphone
  • Ingenious mesh and ‘spring’ cage design
  • Works well on speech and acoustic instruments
  • Excellent value for money


  • Slight coloration 


If you club the Aston Origin with cheaply-priced singing microphones, it’ll sass you with its boutique looks, ingenious design, and pleasing low-end character.

Thie high-value mic dared to reimagine the traditional design and outclasses everything in its price bracket.

With the proper placement, the mic delivers stellar depth and detail without harshness.

Its natural tonality has a tinge of forgiving and ear-flattering warmth, which makes it an excellent mic for recording vocals and single-source instruments.

We also appreciate the built-in pop filter, shock isolation, and mechanical design that protects the microphone from knocks and bumps.

No matter how we slice it, the Origin remains an absolute no-brainer for project studios.

Its superb performance, high-quality construction, and competitive pricing outmaneuver its rivals, which is no easy feat given the sheer number of competitors in the entry-level market.

Best Alternatives:

You can audition the 5th Gen Rode NT-1 microphone, frequently touted as the best condenser microphone at this price point.

If you want a studio all-rounder and can pay 50% more, the Aston Spirit’s switchable polar patterns and smooth frequency response will not disappoint.

4. Blue Yeti USB Condenser Microphone

The Blue Yeti

Easy to use USB mic, perfect for podcasting and streaming. Features 3 condenser capsules, 4 pickup patterns, headphone output and volume control, mic gain control, plug & play.

Why We Love It:
  • Extremely flexible
  • Has stayed a favorite for over a decade
  • High-quality condenser capsu
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“A ubiquitous name in every best podcast microphones article on the web.”

If you want a hassle-free experience for vocal applications, the Blue Yeti is a go-to mic that consistently delivers great results.

You can plug the USB condenser microphone into a laptop and start recording immediately.

Plus, the four polar patterns, onboard controls, and other cool appointments make it one of the most versatile podcasting microphones money can buy.


  • Top-notch construction and sound quality
  • Four polar patterns make it highly versatile
  • Streamlined and customizable on-board control knob
  • One of the best microphones for streaming and podcasting


  • Somewhat large and bulky
  • The mounting stand feels wonky at times


With all-metal construction and elegant curves, the Blue Yeti looks as good as it sounds.

It features customizable lights, an adjustable gain knob to fix peaks, LED metering for visual reference, and the VO!CE recording software (PC only) to add vocal effects. 

There are a handful of reasons why we love this USB microphone: a) Plug-and-play functionality, i.e., it’s easy to set up and use; b) You don’t have to invest in an audio interface; and c) All four pickup patterns (cardioid, omnidirectional, bi-directional, or stereo) deliver usable results.

The Blue Yeti is one of the best USB podcast microphones based on versatility, sound, and on-mic features to make changes on the fly.

It’s a top choice to record and stream at home but too unwieldy to record instruments, and you’ll need a good windscreen to go with it.

Best Alternatives:

The Rode NT-USB is identical to the Yeti but has a lower SPL and costs more.

The Hyper X Quadcast is also one of the most popular streaming and podcast microphones thanks to its sleek styling, four pickup patterns, and customizable RGB lighting.

5. Avantone PRO CV-12

Avantone CV-12

Avantone's CV-12 brings classic tube mic sound to professional and project studios everywhere - and at a price that truly means anyone can own one of these ruby-colored beauties.

Why We Love It:
  • Full-bodied tone
  • Great price
  • High-quality accessories
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Looking for vintage tube tones on a budget? This is the best condenser microphone under $500.”

The Avantone PRO CV-12 lets you dip your toes in delectable warmth at a competitive price.

There’s more value when you factor in the add-ons – a power supply, cables, a retro shock mount, a wooden box, and a metal road case.

But don’t let the name mislead you. The CV-12 takes after the Sony800G, not the AKG C12.


  • Excellent first large-capsule tube condenser
  • Full-bodied tone with slight treble lift
  • Incredibly competitive pricing
  • High-quality accessories add a ton of value


  • The figure-8 mid-scoop is hit-or-miss


The price point and modding potential of the PRO CV-12 make a compelling case to pull the trigger.

It’s essentially a ‘budget’ tube mic with bright tonality, so you can expect smooth lows, mid-range clarity, and airy highs.

The mic has switchable patterns for room/distant miking and two switches (80Hz roll-off, 10dB pad) to prevent premature saturation.

Overall, the PRO CV-12 is chock-full of value if you care for a full-bodied sound with ample detail.

Its rounded warmth is laced with a hint of harmonic overdrive, which works best for recording vocals in cardioid and omni.

However, you can also use the CV-12 to soften up other sound sources or pair it with another tube mic to record in stereo.

Best Alternatives:

There’s nothing identical to the CV-12 in this price range, but a bump in your budget can lead you to the Rode NTK, famed for its twin-triode 6922 tubes and vintage warmth.

6. sE Electronics sE8

Runner Up
sE Electronics sE8

The sE8's short, efficient signal path doesn't employ ICs or transformers, and this is key to the mic's remarkably natural performance in capturing acoustic instruments such as guitar, piano, strings, woodwinds, and percussion.

Why We Love It:
  • Great for small studios
  • Low noise floor
  • Class-leading components
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“Used singly or as a pair, the high-value sE8 is the best recording microphone in the SDC realm.”

Need a high-quality pair of pencil mics for a wide range of sources? The sE8 is the best candidate for the job, especially for small studios.

This SDC boasts low noise, a smooth, natural sound, a dual-value pad, and low-cut filter switches.

The factory-matched pairs have near-identical output levels and frequency response and come with stand clips, foam windscreens, and a stereo bar.


  • Class-leading components and construction
  • 10dB and 20dB pads, 80HZ and 160 Hz Highpass filters
  • Impressively low noise floor
  • Clear, natural captures without harsh highs


  • None for the price


Fitted with a half-inch capsule, versatile attenuation, and highpass switches, the sE8 is one of the best mid-tier SDC microphones for recording situations.

It’s available singly or as a factory-matched pair with a fixed-cardioid or omni-polar pattern, and the mic ships with foam windscreens, stand clips, and a stereo bar.

Essentially, the sE8 is super-quiet, open-sounding, and reasonably flat if you’ll pardon the slight top-end bump.

The factory-matched pair (cardioid) brilliantly captures the nuances of acoustic instruments.

Moreover, the mic’s healthy self-noise levels and SPL-handling ability make it perfect for recording percussion, brass, woodwind, or rowdy Rototoms. The mic also does a reasonable job on vocals

So, if you own a good LDC, the sE8 is a high-value and practical solution to expand your mic closet.

It’s a positive step up from entry-level options and almost as skillful as models costing 2x or more.

Best Alternatives:

Rode NT5 and M5 are the best alternatives to the sE8 in this price bracket.

You can turn to Schoeps, Neumann, and Telefunker for high-end matched pairs. Also, the Neumann KM 184 Set is undoubtedly the best-matched stereo pair if money is no object.

7. Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

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 last
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“This broadcast legend still reigns as the best microphone for voice applications.”

The SM7B’s reputation is bolstered with multi-generational praise from producers, pop icons, podcasters, and American Presidents.

This cardioid dynamic’s robust construction, switchable frequency settings, and stellar noise rejection make it one of the best microphones for vocal applications.

But the mic also delivers satisfying vocals, amps, and kick drums results.


  • Iconic looks and rugged construction
  • 3 onboard frequency response settings
  • Low noise and natural reproduction
  • Rich legacy and a proven reputation


  • The cardioid polar pattern has limits
  • May need a mic activator for gain boost


The Shure SM7B is the touchstone of sound quality when it comes to dynamic mics, the go-to choice for broadcast, podcast, and content creation.

It’s hard not to fall in love with its warm, clear, and natural reproduction of the human voice.

Plus, there’s a massive aftermarket of SM7B accessories to hang, hoist, or prop the mic on your desk.

The SM7B is also a popular mic for recording vocals and close-miked applications in controlled environments.

Its off-axis rejection checks background noise while yielding the same crisp reproductions in untreated rooms.

Moreover, the mic’s heart-shaped cardioid polar pattern handles loud noises like a champ, so you can point it at guitar amps, kick drums, and brass.

The price point can lead novices and generalists to look elsewhere, but if you want the very best, allow us to quote from our full-length SM7B review – “It’s an investment you won’t regret.”

Best Alternatives:

The EV RE-20 (reviewed below) is a good alternative if you prefer the variable-D response.

The Shure MV7 is also one of the best podcast microphones if you want the luxury of simultaneous XLR and USB outputs.

Read our Shure SM7B vs. MV7 shootout to find the best fit for your needs.

8. Electro-Voice RE20

Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20 is the broadcast studio voice-over mic used by pros for years.

Why We Love It:
  • A cult figure in audio
  • The best mic for voice applications
  • Tight low-end
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“The best recording microphone for voice applications and high SPL sources.”

The RE20 belongs to a league of studio legends, earning high praise like “condenser killer,”  “best dynamic microphone pretending to be a condenser,” and “best podcast microphone.”

This cardioid mic features a large diaphragm, bulky steel casework, a robust grille, and a large dynamic diaphragm.

It’s designed to resist magnetically induced hum and reproduce high signal pressure levels without distortion in treated and untreated studio environments.


The RE20 is a cult figure in audio circles thanks to its neutral sound and background noise rejection.

It’s best known for its rich sound, wide sweet spot, background noise rejection, and variable-D response that ensures uniform sound even at close quarters.

Overall, the dynamic mic is the next best thing to a condenser for vocals and voice applications.

Its tight low-end and extended frequency response works well on uprights, kick drums, amps, floor toms, and other strong sound sources.

So, despite being one of the most expensive dynamic mics, the RE20 is a desirable and enduring workhorsea wise and worthwhile investment.

Best Alternatives:

The mic’s consistent response and zero coloration make it an exciting alternative to the SM7B

However, podcast microphones like the Shure SM7B and Electro-Voice RE20 benefit from added clean gain, so check out this article on the best Cloudlifter alternatives.

9. Audio Technica 4050

Audio-Technica AT4050

Utilizing a low-noise transformerless design and multiple polar patterns, the AT4050 is ideal for use in the most demanding recording situations. 

Why We Love It:
  • High-value workhouse
  • Crisp sound
  • Robust casework and premium components
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 “Versatile and economical, this the best ‘first’ studio all-rounder you can buy.”

The AT4050 belongs to Audio Technica’s 4000 series of studio microphones.

Its crisp sound, high SPL capability, and switchable polar patterns have earned it an enthusiastic following.

Ultimately, this multi-pattern condenser delivers excellent results in various recording situations, so we recommend it as a high-value workhorse that you can flog at any sound level.


  • Robust casework and premium components
  • Well-suited for nearly all recording applications
  • Neutral sound with a low noise floor
  • Excellent ‘first’ multi-pattern all-rounder


  • The 4033 is better for vocals and cardioid-only use


The AT4050 has all the green checks you’d expect from a multi-pattern condenser mic at this price point.

This multi‑pattern condenser has tough casework, a dual‑diaphragm capsule, a true capacitor design, and a custom shock mount for superior isolation.

It features cardioid, omni, and figure-8 components, a switchable 80Hz roll-off, and a -10dB pad.

The mic is neutral with an unhyped top-end and rich low-end. It impresses on vocals and acoustic guitars, and the low noise floor works great for room and close miking.

Moreover, the mic’s high SPL handling makes it apt for percussion, guitar amps, and everything in between.

So, we tout it as the best multi-purpose microphone for studio use based on value and versatility.

If you need a do-it-all multi-pattern large-capsule condenser, the AT4050 will expand your creative arsenal radically and at a price point that won’t make your eyes water.

Best Alternatives:

The AT4033 is a better choice for cardioid-only use and one of the best microphones for recording vocals (under $500).

The Aston Spirit, AKG C212, and Shure KSM32 are other popular all-rounder studio microphones in this price range.

10. Neumann TLM103

Neumann TLM 103 Condenser Microphone

The Neumann TLM 103 large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic boasts a capsule drawn from the U 87 and transformerless circuitry — not to mention classic Neumann sound! 

Why We Love It:
  • Extremely low noise
  • Robust
  • Classic design
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 “The best ‘first’ top-tier all-purpose microphone to level up your mic closet.”

For all intents and purposes, the TLM103 is an attractively priced version of a classic U87 left in cardioid mode.

It’s identical in character and sports the same stubby conical body with a wedge-shaped mesh grill but has a fixed cardioid polar pattern and no switchable filter.

However, the TLM103 has a wider dynamic range, lower noise floor, and comes at a third of the price.


This Transformer-Less Microphone (TLM) uses an electronic circuit to drive output and extract power from a balanced line.

Ditching the transformer keep costs low while retaining the U87’s penchant for making sources sound more musical.

So, the TLM103 is just as capable of detailed recordings with an open, natural character and a pristine top-end response.

In other words, the TLM103 delivers the smooth highs and midrange prominence associated with Neumann.

With stellar off-axis rejection and low self-noise, the mic renders faithful reproductions on almost every source in a treated studio.

Every top-end studio owns one of these for vocals and voice applications, but it’s frequently used on pianos, upright bass, acoustics, light percussion, and even Foley work.

The Neumann TLM103 epitomizes pristine sound and translation of nuance.

It’s pricey, no doubt, but the value is buying into an esteemed tone and a logo that universally impresses clients.

Best Alternatives:

 The Shure KSM44 is another respectable clean-sounding condenser in this price range.

The no-frills Neumann TLM102 is considerably cheaper but lacks the TLM103’s flattering high-end.

P.S. – We’ve compared the differences in the sound, features, and build quality of Neumann TLM 102 and TLM 103 microphones. Check out that article to find the best fit for your needs.

11. AKG C414 XLII

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

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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 “This gold-standard workhorse is arguably the best studio microphone on the market.”

The AKG C414XLII is instantly recognizable thanks to its gold-sputtered diaphragm, multi-pattern capacitor, 4-point suspension, and soft-touch switches linked to status LEDs.

This large-diaphragm condenser champions sound quality and versatility with its wide frequency response and nine switchable pickup patterns, making it a top choice for a range of recording scenarios.


  • Top-notch construction and componentry
  • Superior performance in demanding studio tasks
  • Flexible and versatile thanks to the customization options
  • Proven reputation and an industry-standard
  • Comes with a superb selection of accessories


  • Slight learning curve
  • Pricey for home recording and small studios


If we could pick only one studio mic to work with, it would be the AKG C414 XLII.

From buttery vocals to fingerpicked acoustics, this multi-pattern condenser impresses with its sensitivity, wide dynamic range, and low background noise.

It’s wildly popular for vocals and equally obliging on drums, amps, acoustics, and pretty much anything you can think of.

All things considered, the AKG C414 XLII is an industry classic modernized with lovely practical and technical enhancements.

It’s sophisticated clarity and shimmery top-end yield detailed and textured sounds in mono and stereo recordings (with a matched pair).

So, if you need a top-tier condenser microphone in your arsenal, the C414 is undoubtedly a foolproof investment.  

Best Alternatives:

The AKG XLS mic is a better choice for recording instruments, and the XLII has an edge for recording vocals.

Moving away from the brand, the Austrian Audio OC818 is one of the best-known AKG-style mics, though it’s closer in character to the AKG XLS version.

12. Telefunken Copperhead TF29

Telefunken Copperhead TF29

An evolutionary update of the CU-29 Copperhead, an original Telefunken Elektroakustik design that amassed legions of fans for its natural, unhyped sound and amazing value, the Telefunken TF29 Copperhead continues the tradition of outstanding sonic performance and value

Why We Love It:
  • Meticulously selected parts
  • Cleverly-voiced frequency response
  • Excellent ‘first’ top-tier tube microphone
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“If you are a fan of German tube mics, this is probably the best microphone for vocals. .”

The Telefunken TF29 tube mic strikes the best balance between vintage, teaming up beautifully with singers, guitars, drums, and a wide range of sources.

The mic features a brass capsule, a copper head grill, a NOS 5654 vacuum tube, and a Lundahl transformer.

Other notable features include a 130dB max SPL and a 20Hz – 20kHz frequency response.


  • Top-notch construction and components
  • Cleverly-voiced frequency response
  • Excellent ‘first’ top-tier tube microphone


  • None for the price


The TF29 takes after the CU-29 Copperhead tube mic, known for its natural sound with clear lows, airy highs, and detailed midrange.

Its refined lows, pleasing mids, and unhyped top-end come together beautifully to capture vocals, regardless of genre.

This cleverly-voiced mic can also handle amps, drums, and acoustic guitars with proper placement and distancing.

There are singing microphones that cost 2 to 3x, but the TF29 is the perfect ‘first’ top-tier tube condenser for mic closets.

It’s capable of upper-mid present and forward-sounding audio recordings that are easy to finesse with minimal adjustments.

Given the first-rate construction, timeless looks, and premium componentry, it’ll be an excellent long-term investment.

Best Alternatives:

You can move upstream to the Telefunken Deluxe TF39, which has identical components with the addition of a dual-membrane capsule and switchable cardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns.

13. Universal Audio Sphere Microphone Modeling System

Universal Audio Sphere DLX Modeling Microphone

The Universal Audio Sphere DLX microphone modeling system consists of a high-quality large-diaphragm condenser mic.

Why We Love It:
  • Delivers reliable imitations of legendary mics
  • High-quality sound
  • Great features
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“If software plug-ins of classic hardware do it for you, this modeling microphone will, too.”

The UAD Sphere modeling mic system delivers convincing recreations of the C12, U47, C414, SM7B, RE20, and other orgasmic alpha-numerical sounds.

The package includes a dual-channel mic, a plug-in, a shock mount, cables, and a black storage case.

The Sphere plug-in interaction involves selecting models, a dial to cycle through nine patterns, 3 high-pass filters, and knobs for Axis and Proximity.


The Sphere system delivers reliable imitations of the most legendary mics on its roster, and everything sounds high-quality and nuanced, even when inaccurate.

But there’s a learning curve to understand the system and its competencies, and you’d need a full review to unpack something this complicated.

Luckily, much of the magic takes place under the hood without overwhelming the user.

The most notable features, for us, are Dual mode and Off-Axis Correction.

The former lets you blend two modeled mics, and the latter enables you to alter the off-axis response without changing the tone of the on-axis pickup. 

That said, this mic modeling system costs a king’s ransom, the amount you’d pay for a vintage in the used market.

The UAD Sphere definitely has a lot more to offer, but it’s not for everyone.

Approach it with a fresh mind, deep pockets, and a busy studio to get your money’s worth.

Best Alternatives:

The Slate Digital VMS ML-1 ($799) uses very different technology to offer virtual mic swaps with bang-for-buck affordability.

The mic brand also offers VMS expansion packs, virtual mix racks, and the ML-2 – which is a small-diaphragm modeling microphone.

14. Neumann U87 AI

Neumann U87 AI

The Neumann U 87 Ai is the modern incarnation of a classic microphone. 

Why We Love It:
  • Incredible fidelity and silky sound
  • Industry-standard large-diaphragm condenser
  • Switchable polar patterns
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“This mic of legendary provenance is our pick for the best recording microphone money can buy.”

The Neumann U87 AI is a big deal in audio circles, praised for its performance in practically all recording situations.

A microphone of this caliber needs no endorsement, but we’ll still recommend it because there’s no reason to own it if you can afford it now.

If you do pull the trigger, it grant wishes like a genie every time you summon its dual-diaphragm capsule out of the wooden box.


  • Incredible fidelity and silky sound
  • Superbly accurate and detailed vocal captures
  • Works in just about any situation
  • The gold standard in high-end studio microphones


  • Costs serious dollars
  • You’ll need a high-quality preamp/ADC


The Neumann U87AI is a master class in accurately representing a source, and it’s a highly sought-after mic for voice applications in high-end studios.

Moreover, the mic’s midrange presence and strong bass response make it a top choice for capturing pianos, cellos, bass/guitar amps, and orchestral instruments.

In a nutshell, the U87AI consistently delivers realism, depth, and exceptional clarity with a balanced response.

The high-definition results reduce if not wholly eliminate, the need for cleaning or EQ.

So, it’s easy to tout as one of the best condenser microphones money can buy.

But it’s a lot of money, and you’ll need an aristocratic front-end recording chain to rub shoulders with it, which can lead to loosening the wallet to upgrade more stuff.

Best Alternatives:

The sE Electronics Rupert Neve RNT is another top-tier microphone in this price bracket.

While it’s not exactly an alternative, the Mojave MA1000 can serve as a ‘tube sister’ to the U87AI.


How much do microphones cost?

Microphone prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

You’ll find dynamic mics under $100, workhorse condensers priced in high three figures, a studio-grade ribbon for a few thousand dollars, and highly regarded vintage mics that go for upwards of $10,000.

If you are buying your first microphone, you’ll find excellent cardioid-only condensers between $200 and $500.

A good multi-pattern condenser will cost twice as much, and top-tier mics like the Mojave-300, AKG C414, and Neumann TL103 cost $1000 to $1500.

What is the best microphone for podcasting?

The Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone is the best microphone for podcasting.

If you want a USB alternative, the Blue Yeti and Audio-Technica AT2020 are hassle-free podcast microphones that eliminate the need for an audio interface and separate XLR cable.

What is the best microphone for recording vocals?

From a cost-value perspective, the AKG C212XLII is the best condenser microphone for recording vocals.

From lowest to highest price-order, we recommend the following singing microphones: Shure SM58, Telefunken M80, Shure SM7B, Audio Technica AT4030, Rode NTK, Neumann TLM102, Shure KSM44, and Neumann TLM103.

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