Finding the right microphone is crucial for any singer, whether you’re performing live or recording in a studio. Your choice of mic can significantly impact the quality of your sound, capturing the nuances of your voice in all its glory.
To help you make the right decision, we’ve curated a list of the best vocal microphones for singers available to suit various budgets. This guide covers top picks suitable for both stage and studio, ensuring you make an informed choice to take your performance to the next level. Read on to find your ideal microphone match.
Best Microphones for Singing Live
The Shure SM-58 is probably the most iconic live vocal microphone. It may have been out for decades, but it still a great choice for a stage microphone at any price. It is particularly well suited to male singers (especially rock singers) and has a reputation as one of the toughest mics ever made. Its cardioid polar pattern is great at rejecting feedback, and it has a flattering proximity effect when you sing close to the pop-filter. Although some singers prefer Shure’s newer Beta 58 mic (which has a super-cardioid pickup pattern and a slightly more forward sound), the original SM58 is still the top choice for thousands of singers on stage, whether it be for headlining a festival or playing a small local gig.
Durability: This microphone is nearly indestructible, making it a trusted choice for performers who are on the road frequently.
Sound Clarity: The SM58’s cardioid pattern and tailored frequency response deliver vocals that cut through the mix, providing clear and crisp sound.
Limited Frequency Response: While excellent for vocals, the SM58 doesn’t offer the broadest frequency range, which may not capture the full detail and nuance of certain voices or instruments.
Ubiquity: Due to its widespread use, the SM58 might not offer a unique sound signature for those looking to stand out acoustically.
Sennheiser’s live microphones have been used on stages across the world and are especially popular with female singers. Although the e835 is at the more budget end of their microphone line, it is still a very capable mic that lets your vocals easily come through the mix with a natural sound. It has a well-balanced low end that does not get as boomy as some other dynamic microphones do when you get close to the grille.
Value for Money: The e835 offers a balanced and clear sound at a more affordable price point, making it an excellent choice for emerging artists and smaller venues.
Forgiving Polar Pattern: The cardioid pattern on this mic is less stringent about positioning, so it’s easier to maintain good sound even if you move off-axis.
Feedback Rejection: While decent, the e835 doesn’t isolate vocals as effectively as some of its higher-end counterparts, making it more susceptible to feedback in louder settings.
Sound Detail: Although it provides a balanced sound, the e835 may lack some of the sonic detail that more expensive microphones can offer.
This entry-level live microphone from AKG has become a bit of a modern-day classic. Despite its low cost, it has a forward and clear sound that helps vocals cut through a mix at gigs. It offers great feedback rejection and is built to withstand years of use on stage. The D5 has a natural boost in the higher frequencies that gives it a crisp vocal sound that often requires no additional EQ.
Exceptional Feedback Rejection: The AKG D5’s supercardioid polar pattern excels at isolating vocals and minimising background noise, making it ideal for live stage performances.
Clear and Powerful Sound: The microphone’s patented Varimotion diaphragm provides a robust sound profile that allows vocals to cut through the mix.
Weight: Some performers find the AKG D5 to be a bit heavy, which could be a consideration if you prefer to hold your mic during a performance.
Brightness: The microphone has a bright sound profile, which may not be to everyone’s liking and could require additional EQ adjustments to tame the high frequencies.
This is the first condenser microphone on our list, giving the mic a more studio-esque sound on stage than the dynamic microphones mentioned previously. Although this is Sennheiser’s entry-level condenser, it is still a great sounding mic that is particularly well suited to pop and jazz singers. It has excellent feedback rejection and a slight presence boost to help your voice cut through the mix.
Superior Sound Quality: Being a condenser microphone, the Sennheiser e865 offers a fuller and more detailed sound compared to many dynamic mics, capturing the nuances of the human voice remarkably well.
High Sensitivity: The e865 excels in picking up softer vocal nuances, making it a great choice for singers who employ a wide dynamic range in their performances.
Fragility: As with most condenser mics, the e865 is more fragile and sensitive to moisture and extreme temperatures compared to dynamic mics, making it less ideal for harsh touring conditions.
Requires Phantom Power: Unlike dynamic microphones, the e865 requires phantom power to operate, which could limit its usability in some live setups.
Shure Beta 87A
The Beta 87A is one of Shure’s most popular mics. Due to its condenser capsule, it is capable of picking up detail and nuances in vocals that an SM58 would not. It is a bright-sounding mic, but remains smooth and vocals come through clear and defined. It is available as a supercardioid (87A) or as a cardioid (87C) microphone, depending on your preferred microphone technique, and is a great choice for both male and female singers.
Exceptional Sound Clarity: The Shure Beta 87A features a smooth frequency response and high sound pressure level capabilities, making it ideal for both lead and backup vocals.
Built-in Pop Filter: The microphone comes with an internal pop filter that effectively minimizes plosive sounds, reducing the need for additional accessories.
Sensitive to Handling Noise: Due to its condenser element, the Beta 87A can be more sensitive to handling noise, which could be an issue for performers who like to move around with the mic.
Price Point: The Beta 87A is on the more expensive side when compared to other microphones designed for live vocals, which might be a consideration for budget-conscious performers.
Neumann KMS 105
Neumann make some of the best studio microphones in the world, so it is not surprising that they also make one of the best live mics for singing too. This live condenser microphone is the choice of many top professional singers around the world (Norah Jones and Michael Buble, to name a few). It has a well-balanced and detailed sound that comes about as close as you can get to a studio vocal sound on stage.
Superior Sound Quality: The Neumann KMS 105 is renowned for delivering studio-grade sound quality in a live setting, capturing the full spectrum of vocal nuances.
Excellent Feedback Rejection: Its supercardioid pattern isolates the vocals exceptionally well, minimising feedback and ambient noise even in loud environments.
High Cost: The KMS 105 comes at a premium price point, making it a significant investment for any performer or sound engineer.
Sensitivity to Environment: While it offers unparalleled sound quality, this microphone is sensitive to its surroundings and may require careful handling and placement to maintain its optimal performance.
Don’t let the price of this microphone fool you. The Sontronics SOLO is an impressive sounding dynamic vocal microphone with a rich low end and excellent off-axis rejection. It is slightly larger than a typical handheld microphone but still feels comfortable in your hand and comes with a clip if you prefer to use it on a stand. The SOLO has a sonically pleasing sound that requires little or no additional EQ and feels natural to sing with. It comes with a lifetime warranty and performs well above the level its price suggests.
Versatile Application: The Sontronics SOLO is designed for both handheld and stand-mounted use, making it versatile enough for a variety of live settings.
Robust Construction: Built with an aluminium casing and finished with a rubber paint, the microphone is well-suited for rigorous touring and live performance conditions.
Limited Availability: As a British brand, Sontronics microphones might not be as readily available worldwide, potentially making servicing or replacement more challenging.
Tonal Differences: The SOLO has its own unique sound signature, which might require some adjustment or EQ tuning to fit into a specific mix.
If money is no object, DPA’s 4018 is an exceptional mic that is built to the highest standards. It is available in a few different versions that offer varying sound characteristics and polar patterns; and you can even buy additional capsules and switch them on the body of the mic for different singers.
Pristine Audio Quality: Known for its incredibly clear and natural sound, the DPA 4018 captures every nuance and detail of vocal performances.
Modular Design: The microphone’s modular nature allows for a variety of capsules and accessories to be attached, offering unparalleled flexibility for different recording or live situations.
Premium Price: The high quality comes at a cost, making the DPA 4018 one of the more expensive options on the market.
Requires Skilled Handling: Due to its sensitive and detailed capture, the microphone requires careful setup and skilled sound engineering to fully utilise its capabilities.
Best Studio Microphones for Singers
What are the best studio microphones for recording vocals? Ultimately this is the one that best suits your voice and the song you’re singing. Typically, large-diaphragm condenser microphones are the first choice for recording vocals as they’re more sensitive and capture more detail in your singing than a typical live mic would. Whether you’re recording vocals at home or in a top studio, there is a massive range of studio microphones available to choose from to suit all types of voices, styles and budgets.
In this list, we look at some of the top microphones you can buy right now to record great sounding vocals at home or in the studio.
The Shure SM7B is a classic. Despite its modest cost, it has been used on countless hit records over the past few decades. Unlike all the other mics on this list, the SM7B is a dynamic mic. Although the sound may not be as bright as a typical condenser mic, it has a tone that is well suited to styles such as Rock and Americana, where you want more of a mid-range focused sound to the vocals. It requires a decent quality preamplifier to get the best out of it; however for many professional singers it is the go to mic of choice and yet is affordable enough for most people with a home recording studio setup.
Versatility: Originally designed as a broadcast microphone, the Shure SM7B has found a home in both recording studios and live setups, thanks to its flat, wide-range frequency response.
Excellent Noise Rejection: The microphone’s narrow cardioid pattern and air suspension shock isolation system work together to reject ambient noise, making it ideal for both studio recording and live use in noisy environments.
Low Output: The SM7B is known for its low output level, often requiring a preamp or a cloudlifter to reach optimal recording volumes.
Hefty and Bulky: Its larger size and weight compared to typical handheld microphones can make it less convenient for on-stage use, particularly for performers who prefer to hold their microphones.
Blue Baby Bottle SL
The Blue Baby Bottle SL captures vocal performances and acoustic instruments with remarkable honesty. Its balanced and transparent audio profile serves as a reliable foundation for any mix, whether you’re recording intimate vocals or a variety of instruments.
Natural Sound: The Baby Bottle SL delivers a clean and natural audio output, closely resembling the original sound source.
Versatile Vocal Mic: Its versatility extends to multiple sound sources, capturing everything from soulful vocals to guitar cabinets with authenticity.
Requires Pop Shield: Its sensitivity to plosive sounds warrants the use of a pop filter, especially for vocal recordings.
Limited High-End: While it captures a balanced range of frequencies, some users may find it needs a touch of EQ on the high end for added brightness.
sE Electronics X1 A
If you are looking for a low-cost condenser microphone to record demos at home with, the X1A is definitely worth checking out. Although not as refined as a high-end recording microphone, it is still capable of decent sounding vocal recordings in a home-studio setting and is a fantastic option for YouTube videos.
Affordable Option: The sE Electronics X1 A offers a budget-friendly entry into the world of quality condenser microphones, making it a popular choice for home studios and beginners.
High SPL Handling: Despite its lower price point, the microphone can handle high sound pressure levels, making it versatile enough for vocals as well as louder instruments like guitar amplifiers.
Build Quality: While the microphone offers good sound quality for the price, its build quality may not be as robust as some of its more expensive counterparts.
Preamp Requirements: Like many condenser microphones, the X1 A requires phantom power and may also benefit from a quality preamp to achieve its full potential.
The ever-popular NT1-A is a fantastic choice for singers starting to record vocals at home. It’s a versatile large-diaphragm condenser mic that works well on recording a wide range of sources, including vocals, guitars and percussion. It’s also available as a bundle with a matching shock mount system, pop-shield, stand and XLR cable, if this is your first home recording setup.
Low Self-Noise: One of the quietest studio microphones available, the Rode NT1-A boasts an incredibly low self-noise level, making it ideal for capturing delicate vocals and quiet acoustic instruments.
Comprehensive Package: Often sold as a bundle that includes a shock mount, pop shield, and XLR cable, the NT1-A offers excellent value for beginners setting up their first recording space.
Bright Sound Profile: Some users find the NT1-A to have a brighter sound signature, which might require EQ adjustments depending on personal preferences or the recording context.
Sensitivity: While its sensitivity allows it to capture fine details, it also picks up background noises easily, requiring a well-treated recording environment for optimal performance.
Blue Bluebird SL
The Bluebird is an attractive microphone that sets a high standard for a budget mic for vocal recording. It features similar design characteristics of Blue’s higher-end mics and feels like a decent step up from lower-cost alternatives. It produces a modern sound that is well suited to pop tracks that require a bit of ‘sparkle’ on the vocals.
Distinctive Sound: The Bluebird SL is known for its vibrant and open sound, making it a go-to for vocalists seeking a microphone with a unique sonic character.
Versatility: With its high-pass filter and -20dB pad, this microphone is versatile enough to handle a wide variety of recording applications, from vocals to instruments.
Fragility: The Bluebird SL’s condenser design and finer components make it more sensitive to rough handling and environmental factors like humidity and temperature.
Price: While offering a unique sound and features, the Bluebird SL sits at a higher price point compared to other microphones geared towards home studio setups.
Neumann TLM 103
Many a hit record has been made on a Neumann microphone and, despite this being one of their more budget offerings this mic is no different. It is based around a capsule design that is derived from their venerable U87 microphone and has a broad presence booth that is particularly well suited to pop music. Compared to the U87 it lacks a little mid-range detail and is a touch more sibilant, however, it is more than capable of producing a professional-sounding vocal recording (Billie Eilish, for example, used the mic on many of the vocals on her 2020 Grammy Award-winning album).
Stellar Sound Quality: The TLM 103 is a favourite among professionals for its exceptional clarity and detail, closely resembling the sonic characteristics of Neumann’s legendary U87 at a fraction of the price.
Low Noise: This microphone boasts an extremely low self-noise level, making it excellent for capturing subtle vocal nuances in a studio setting.
Price: While more affordable than some of Neumann’s other offerings, the TLM 103 still comes at a premium price, making it a significant investment for home studios.
Lack of Onboard Controls: The TLM 103 doesn’t feature any onboard controls like pads or filters, requiring the use of external equipment for such adjustments.
Warm Audio WA-67
Warm Audio have a range of mics that aim to emulate the sound of famous vintage microphones that are out the price-range of most people. The WA-67 is Warm Audio’s take on a Neumann U67 – a mic that has been used on many classic albums – and yet, their version costs around 1/5th of the price of a new one (let alone a good vintage one). It has three polar patterns to make it ideal for a wide range of scenarios and a EF86 tube to add a bit of warmth to your vocal recordings. If you’ve ever dreamed of recording your voice on a U67, then the Warm Audio WA-67 is definitely worth checking out. (It is worth nothing that Warm Audio also do versions of other iconic microphones such as the Telefunken U47 and the Ela M 251)
Classic Tone: The WA-67 is designed to emulate the legendary Neumann U67, offering that vintage, warm sound that’s been sought after by vocalists for decades.
Versatile Applications: With its multiple polar patterns and pad options, the WA-67 is versatile enough for a wide range of recording settings, from vocals to acoustic instruments.
Bulky Design: The microphone’s larger size and the need for its external power supply can take up more space, making it less ideal for compact home studios.
Price: While more affordable than a vintage U67, the WA-67 still comes at a higher price point than many other options, making it a significant investment.
The U87 has been one of the most popular studio microphones of all time and is still made to this day. As well as being a top choice for recording vocals, it is a truly versatile mic that works well for recording most instruments too. If you are looking for a professional-level condenser microphone to for your recording studio, you will certainly want to consider getting a U87.
Unmatched Sound Quality: The U87 is often considered the gold standard for studio recording due to its exceptional clarity, depth, and versatility.
Multiple Polar Patterns: With selectable cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8 polar patterns, the U87 offers unparalleled flexibility for capturing vocals and instruments in various configurations.
Prohibitive Cost: The U87 is one of the most expensive microphones on the market, making it a significant investment that might be out of reach for amateur musicians and smaller studios.
Requires Careful Handling: Given its high sensitivity and cost, the U87 requires a well-controlled studio environment and careful handling to maintain its optimal performance.
How to Choose the Best Mic for Live Vocals
When buying a mic specifically for live vocals you need something that works with you to project your voice to the audience. Unlike a studio microphone, live mics are much more rugged, offer greater rejection of on-stage noise, and are designed to offer maximum gain before feedback.
In general, you have a choice between a dynamic microphone and a condenser microphone. Typically, condenser mics have a more detailed sound; however, they also tend to cost more and require phantom power from your mixing desk. On the other hand, dynamic microphones tend to be a little less clinical sounding, do not require phantom power, and are far more rugged.
Which Live Vocal Microphone is Right for You?
The correct vocal mic for your needs depends on your voice and the style of the music you’re playing. Pop and jazz singers often go for more detailed-sounding condenser microphones, whereas rock singers and rappers tend to prefer more robust dynamic models. Female singers often lean towards brighter microphones that give ‘air’ to their voice, whereas many male singers prefer mics that flatter the lower frequencies in their voice. These decisions are entirely down to personal tastes, however, and ultimately, there is no right or wrong choice as long as it sounds good.
It can be a great idea to audition a range of vocal mics to see which one sounds the best to you and which you feel most comfortable working with at gigs.
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