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Shoestring budget but itching to record quality vocals?
We compare 10 of the best vocal microphones money can buy.
3 price points to guide your decision.
10 Best Vocal Microphones Under $700
It’s pretty self-explanatory that if you want to record vocals, you need a microphone! In order to create a digital version of you or someone else’s singing, you need to find a way of converting sound into an electrical signal – which is essentially what a microphone does.
The Samson CO1 is the cheapest mic on our list. Despite the insane price, the mic itself is actually sturdy and provides a fairly flat frequency response, making it a good ‘all-rounder’ for the aspiring beginner.
The mic itself comes with a cardioid polar pattern, which you can’t change, however, it does include an LED which illuminates when phantom power is switched on (and also helps if you are unsure which side to sing into!).
It is worth bearing in mind that this is a budget mic and it does generate a certain amount of noise compared to higher budget microphones.
This isn’t an issue if you are singing close to the mic itself, but if you are a quiet singer (or even singing far away from the mic) this can cause some problems.
It’s a great entry point if you are looking to purchase your first condenser mic (so long as you aren’t expecting the sound of a Neumann).
An SM58 utilizes a cardioid polar pattern and is great for producing a warm but clear vocal sound. With excellent rejection to the base of the mic, it is a good choice if you wanted to record vocals at the same time as another instrument such as a guitar.
The SM58 also has its own grille, eliminating the need for a pop shield.
The mic is extremely sturdy as well (which is one of the many reasons why they are so popular in a live setting) and whilst they may lack a certain amount of crispness that you would get with other condensers, they are still fantastic for vocals.
You’ll often hear the SM58 referred to exclusively as a ‘live mic’ however it’s still a great choice for studio recordings. In fact, Andy Johns (producer for the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart) often chose an SM58 in the studio for vocal takes, as did Mike Frondelli, engineer for Billy Idol.
This mic includes an 80Hz High Pass Filter and a -10dB pad, and on purchase, you also receive a custom shock mount and protective pouch.
Audio-Technica themselves are one of the more reliable brands of budget to mid-range mics both in terms of sound quality and reliability, though I have found that the build quality does suffer (just don’t drop them and you should be fine).
The mic has a fairly flat frequency response, meaning it won’t add much in the way of ‘character’ to your vocal recordings, but it will still give you a crisp and clear response with a warm mid-range.
The mic is capable of handling higher levels of SPL due to its pad option, meaning should you need a mic for recording a guitar amp as well as vocals, for example, then this is a good choice for you.
The X1 A offers first-class sound & specifications at an even better "home studio" cost, featuring an extremely natural frequency response, massive SPL-handling capabilities (150dB!), switchable attenuation and low-cut filters, and a perfectly balanced sensitivity level.
The X1 itself was praised for its ability to compete with more expensive models, whilst retaining a budget price. As a result, the X1A is an excellent entry-level choice for recording vocals.
The X1A is a cardioid condenser mic and is an update to the original SE Electronics X1 model. It comes with a -20dB pad, meaning you have an added level of control should you be recording a particularly loud singer, and a High Pass Filter of 100Hz helping you can eliminate a large amount of ambient room noise.
The mic can become quite boomy due to the proximity effect (where the closer you get to the mic the more low end is present), however, this is easily countered by positioning your singer a little further back from the mic or using the HPF.
As a bonus, you’ll also get an SE Electronics swivel mic clip and thread adapter.
RODE has truly made the NT1-A the complete recording solution by including a premium shock mount with integrated pop filter, high-quality 6m (20') XLR cable, microphone dust cover and even a bonus instructional DVD.
The Rode NT1A is a very popular condenser mic. This model is an updated version of the original NT1, with the main difference being the circuitry and wider frequency response in the newer model.
The design is simple, with a cardioid polar pattern. Whilst the higher end Rodes do offer more in terms of extra options such as high pass filter, this is still a fantastic choice if within your budget.
The mic itself is extremely quiet with a high sensitivity, which eliminates any issues should you be recording a quiet vocalist giving you a clean signal from the outset, but it’ll also mean you can capture the finer details in their voice. The only downside is some will find the low end of this mic may require some correcting in the mix.
The NT1A will give you a well-balanced sound and is capable of handling high levels of SPL, should you need to record louder instruments as well as vocals.
Check out Bryson Tiller’s vocals on ‘Don’t’ which were recorded using an NT1A. In fact, Bryson was even known to record in hotel rooms with a simple setup, which shows that you don’t necessarily need a multimillion-dollar studio to get great results!
The sE2200a is one of the most popular SE Electronics condenser mics in this price range. This model allows you to switch between cardioid, omnidirectional or figure of 8 polar patterns.
For vocals, this is great as you have the option to capture more of the sound of your room or even experiment with multiple vocalists singing at the same time.
Whilst the sE2200a can also be used on instruments, you’ll really feel the value for your money when recording vocals. You’ll get a crisp and detailed recording throughout the frequency spectrum (with a little warmth in the low end) and the -20dB pad means there is more flexibility when recording a louder vocalist.
In exchange for your hard-earned cash you’ll also get a shock mount and pop filter.
If your budget can stretch to a pair of C214s, they are not only a great option for vocals but a hugely popular option for drum overheads. Purchasing a pair will aid you, in the long run, should you start to record drums (or any other instruments).
The SM7b is an iconic microphone and heralded as one of the best dynamic microphones. It can be heard across countless hit albums by Michael Jackson, Metallica and more.
You’ll struggle to find much negative to say about the SM7B, in fact Michael Jackson himself swore by this mic. Whilst it is in the more expensive range of mics in this review it is well worth the investment.
As it is a dynamic mic, you will need to apply a fairly high amount of gain to your preamp, but the mic is great at eliminating unwanted mechanical noise and the cardioid polar pattern rejects off-axis sound really well.
You’ll also find a bass roll-off and mid-range emphasis controls and a pop filter included which helps eliminate any unwanted vocal pop sounds. The mic will give you a warm, smooth tone that is great all round.
The SM7B performs particularly well with louder vocals, such as metal or punk, as well as rap. It’s also a great option for voice over or podcast recording.
Watch any footage of Metallica in the studio and you’ll often see James Hetfield holding an SM7B. It was also the mic of choice for most of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.
✔ Industry-standard mic
✔ Great at off-axis rejection
✔ Full sounding
✘ High level of gain needed (some users combine this with a cloud lifter for an extra gain boost)
The RØDE NT1-A 1" cardioid condenser microphone has become an industry-standard; delivering the warmth, extended dynamic range, clarity and high SPL capability typically only featured on some of the world’s most expensive microphones.
Because of the use of the NTK’s valves (or tubes) in its circuitry, the microphone offers a distinctively warm and smooth sound. Again, a cardioid polar pattern giving excellent rejection to the sides of the mic, you can’t really go wrong with an NTK in your vocal setup.
The capsule of the microphone is internally shock-mounted, which means its good at eliminating unwanted sounds caused by knocks or vibration. Its sound is rich and is great for adding more coloration to your recordings and its low level of self-noise means you’re hearing an accurate signal without and interference.
Typically valve microphones are high priced, however, the NTK gives you a much more wallet-friendly option. You can hear it in action on Nickelback’s ‘The Long Road’ album.
The TLM 102 combines technical excellence with a beautifully balanced sound for silky vocals, crisp guitars and powerful drums. With its cardioid pattern and an integrated pop screen the TLM 102 is a joy to use, even for novices.
The Neumann TLM102 is a crisp sounding condenser that sounds great with vocals due to its signature sound, which musically accentuates the range of 8 -12 Khz.
The mic has a cardioid polar pattern but doesn’t offer any pad or high pass filter switches. This does enable Neumann to cut the sale price of the microphone but that doesn’t reflect on sound quality at all.
The mic is made with an in-built pop filter, although it would still be recommended to use one, and it gives a well balanced overall tone that is really suited to vocals.
The mic is noticeably smaller than most other condensers and comes with a very sleek black design. You’ll find a warm tone to the mic, with a crisp top end presence that sounds pleasant without becoming too harsh.