26 microphones for recording vocals

20th Jun 2014 | 13:45

26 microphones for recording vocals
Mics rounded-up

When it comes to buying a microphone for recording vocals, there are myriad options out there, so how do you choose the best one for your needs?

You can spend thousands on some of the highest-end models, but unless you've got a purpose-built studio for recording vocals, with a dedicated vocal booth and outboard equipment costing a small fortune, you're unlikely to truly benefit from a mic of this nature.

For that reason, the recommendations we're making here are for great lower-priced and mid-range vocal mics that will deliver decent results without breaking the bank or requiring the perfect recording room.

We've listed the mics in ascending price order so that you can quickly browse to the models that fit your budget, and you'll find a description of each mic that explains its key strengths.

NEXT: sE Electronics Magneto

26 microphones for recording vocals
sE Electronics Magneto
£79/$119

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

For vocals, the Magneto supplies plenty of detail with quite a neutral character. There's an airy top end present but not over-emphasised, while lower end warmth is not quite as prominent as in some more expensive models. If you're on a tight budget, it offers good value for money.

Read sE Electronics Magneto review

26 microphones for recording vocals
AKG D 5
£90/$139

Type: Dynamic
Polar pattern: Supercardioid

A direct competitor to Shure’s famous SM58, this full and detailed dynamic microphone is a good choice if you want something that’s equally at home on the stage as it is in the studio. Its supercardioid pickup pattern helps tame feedback, too.

Read AKG D 5 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Røde M3
£90/$149

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

This inexpensive small-diaphragm condenser is an all-rounder, being equally good for recording vocals and instruments. It can also run off phantom power or a 9V battery, making it highly portable and a strong choice as a versatile first mic.

Read Røde M3 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Shure SM58
£105/$124

Type: Dynamic
Polar pattern: Cardioid

This affordable mic is a regular feature of the live music scene, especially for vocals. This is due to its near-indestructible construction, internal pop filter and resistance to feedback. It’s also a good beginners’ mic for home recordists, especially male rock singers, though it lacks a little in the top end, rolling off at 15kHz.

Find out more about Shure SM58

26 microphones for recording vocals
Audio Technica AT2020 USB
£122/$129

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

This USB mic offers a similar spec to the standard AT2020 but with the added benefit of a direct-to-computer connection. It offers tonal consistency across a wide dynamic range and has a a subtle sweet-spot, enhancing the upper mid-range and lower treble signals. As 'no fuss' as it gets, the AT2020 USB should appeal to podcasters and home musicians alike.

Read Audio Technica AT2020 USB review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Røde NT1-A Recording Pack
£197/$229

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

With a mild lift in the presence region and a small bump around 120Hz, this is a flattering though still impressively neutral-sounding vocal mic. Its renowned for its quietness, which translates to a signal-to-noise ratio of 88dB.

Find out more about Røde NT1-A Recording Pack

26 microphones for recording vocals
SE Electronics X1 USB
£199

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

The X1 USB is aimed at voiceover, video presentation and singer/solo instrumentalist applications, and the sound quality fits the bill admirably. It's a solid and self-contained solution for the lone recordist, and has a nice tone.

Read SE Electronics X1 USB review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Avant Electronics Avantone CR-14
£220/$259

Type: Ribbon
Polar pattern: Figure-8

This affordable, retro-style mic is packed full of character, with a warm, ‘dark’ tone that responds well to EQ boosting in the top end. Being a ribbon mic, though, it needs to be handled with care.

Read Avant Electronics Avantone CR-14 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Rode NT1
£239/$269

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

This NT1 model looks very similar to the NT1A but has actually been completely redesigned from the ground up, the only component in common with the NT1A being the mesh grille. Its vocal sound is crisp and detailed with plenty of warm low-end body, nothing missing or exaggerated in the midrange, and an airy clarity in the top end. It's one of the best we've used in its price bracket.

Read Rode NT1 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Sontronics STC-2X
£239

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

This is a mic that turns in an assured vocal recording performance for the asking price, with plenty of clarity and detail, a top end that offers presence without sounding overly enhanced, a tightly controlled lower end without any woolliness and a cardioid pattern that is sharply implemented with strong rejection from back and sides. An affordable and assured all-rounder.

Read Sontronics STC-2X review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Lewitt LCT240
£250/$289

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

Austrian mic brand Lewitt's LCT640 is modern classic that's right up there with AKG's C414 for all round flexibility and performance. And the great news is that this less expensive, Chinese-made 240 goes a long way towards duplicating its all-powerful timbre. With a solid, edgy modern tone it sounds great on loud male vocals, and is a fine inexpensive all-rounder.

Read Lewitt LCT240 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Maroon Audio MT100
£275

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

As you’d expect from a decent tube condenser, this is a very warm-sounding mic. It comes with a rather hefty cradle and power supply unit, so it’s not exactly portable, but its adjustable polar pattern makes it a real class act at this price point.

Read Maroon Audio MT100 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
MXL V69 ME
£299/$299

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

With a slight lift in the top end, providing plenty of sheen, yet still giving the warm characteristics of a high-quality valve mic, the V69 ME requires very little EQ to make a vocal sit just right in the mix.

Read MXL V69 ME review

26 microphones for recording vocals
sE Electronics sE2200T
£299

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

Building on sE’s successful sE2200A condenser, this tube version boasts a slightly hyped top end that makes it ideal for recording vocals - and at this price, it’s hard to beat if you’re after your first valve mic.

Read sE Electronics sE2200T review

26 microphones for recording vocals
sE 2200a MkII
£335/$399

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

The 2200a is known for its reasonably bright sound, and the MkII is very similar. However, there's also a solid fatness to the output and, overall, the balance works well for vocals. Combine this with the multi-pattern option (a more affordable fixed-pattern cardioid version is also available), and the 2200a MkII is more desirable than ever.

Read sE 2200a MkII review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Shure SM7B
£349/$436

Type: Dynamic
Polar pattern: Cardioid

A bit of a hidden gem - billed as a broadcast and studio mic for spoken voice, the SM7B is particularly good for rap vocals. It has an unusual hanging yoke mount and ‘air suspension’ shock isolation to reduce mechanical noise.

Find out more about Shure SM7B

26 microphones for recording vocals
M-Audio Sputnik
£420/$599

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

M-Audio has designed this tube mic with both the relatively bright AKG C 212 and the warmer Neumann U 47 in mind, and the results are very smooth indeed. It can be a little dull at the top end on occasion, but it responds kindly to an EQ lift in this region.

Read M-Audio Sputnik review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Audio-Technica AT4040SM
£422/$495

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

Audio-Technica’s mics aren’t usually called ‘classics’, but we’d have to argue that this model produces just as characterful a sound as the others included here. The main thing that stands out is its warm low end, which makes it ideal for backing vocals, though it can be used for lead vox if a little EQ is used to sweeten the top end.

Find out more about Audio-Technica AT4040SM

26 microphones for recording vocals
AKG C 214
£458/$469

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

Seen as the more affordable cousin of the company’s truly excellent C 414 family and sounding similar in terms of tonal character, this large-diaphragm condenser delivers highly detailed vocal recordings.

Read AKG C 214 review

26 microphones for recording vocals
sE Electronics sE4400a
£538/$649

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

This distinctively retro, large-diaphragm condenser can adapt to a variety of applications thanks to its multiple polar patterns. When it comes to vocals, its clear and transparent sound makes it absolutely ideal for EQ and compression treatment.

Read sE Electronics sE4400a review

26 microphones for recording vocals
AKG Perception 820 Tube
£564/$699

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

The flagship model in AKG’s Perception range, this tube mic is well built, offers an extremely smooth sound and comes with a remote control for switching polar patterns and engaging the filters/pads - useful for tweaking things without moving the mic.

Read AKG Perception 820 Tube review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Violet Design The Wedge
£579

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

The distinctive shape and retro style of this mic will instantly appeal to some, and its crisp top end makes it a fine choice for recording vocals, with a slight presence lift being an added boon. Good value for money.

Read Violet Design The Wedge review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Sontronics Saturn
£699/$1099

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

Considered by some to be on a par with the vastly more expensive Neumann U 87 and AKG C 414, this retro-style, large-diaphragm condenser boasts a full, smooth yet airy sound that’s brilliant for both lead and backing vocals.

Read Sontronics Saturn review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Lauten Audio Horizon
£839/$1199

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

This impressive valve mic oozes warmth and has a pleasingly coloured sound. It performs well with a variety of instruments, but its forté is vocals, as it will gently smooth any volume spikes or rogue frequencies.

Read Lauten Audio Horizon review

26 microphones for recording vocals
Sontronics Aria
£899

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

With the Aria, Sontronics has set aside the creative visuals and gone for a classic look with a tried and test clip design. What's more, it delivers a smooth and natural non-hyped sound. It's a winning combination, and although it's not cheap, it's still more affordable than the Austrian and German mics it takes some of its inspiration from.

Read Sontronics Aria review

26 microphones for recording vocals
AKG C 414 XL II
£959/$1099

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

Although the list price might seem astronomical, this can be found for much less online (around £700 to £800), and it really is a professional studio standard for vocals. A highly detailed, crisp sound with very little colouring.

Find out more about AKG C 414 XL II

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