21 microphones for recording vocals

16th May 2011 | 15:00

21 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 strengths and weaknesses.

NEXT: AKG D 5

21 microphones for recording vocals
AKG D 5
£90

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

www.akg.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Røde M3
£114

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

rodemic.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Shure SM58
£127

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.

www.shure.co.uk

21 microphones for recording vocals
Røde NT1-A
£197

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.

rodemic.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
MXL V69 ME
£279

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

www.mxlmics.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Avant Electronics Avantone CR-14
£282

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

www.avantelectronics.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
sE Electronics sE2200T
£349

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

www.seelectronics.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Maroon Audio MT100
£375

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

maroonaudio.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
AKG C 214
£396

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

www.akg.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Audio-Technica AT4040SM
£399

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.

www.audio-technica.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
sE Electronics sE4400a
£459

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

www.seelectronics.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Shure SM7B
£474

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.

www.shure.co.uk

21 microphones for recording vocals
Newmann Retro MkII Tube
£495

Type: Valve condenser
Polar pattern: Multi

This gorgeous, hand-built valve condenser produces a lovely sense of depth and clarity. It’s also pretty decent at taming sibilance and responds very well to EQ, making it a great choice for recording vocals.

Read Newmann Retro MkII Tube review

www.newmannretro.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
AKG Perception 820 Tube
£564

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

www.akg.com

21 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

www.violet-design.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Lauten Audio Horizon
£599

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.

Lauten Audio Horizon

www.lautenaudio.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Sontronics Saturn
£599

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

www.sontronics.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
M-Audio Sputnik
£600

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

www.m-audio.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
sE Electronics G3500
£715

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

This high-quality condenser is great for recording vocals, as it’s full of depth yet also pleasingly crisp and detailed in the top end. It also doubles up nicely as a go-to mic for recording a variety of other sound sources.

Read sE Electronics G3500 review

www.seelectronics.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
Violet Design The Junior Flamingo
£725

Type: Condenser
Polar pattern: Cardioid

Best suited to vocals, this gorgeous mic presents an articulate and detailed sound with slight hyping in the top end. It’s very good for recording instruments close up, making its price tag a little more justifiable.

Violet Design Flamingo Junior

www.violet-design.com

21 microphones for recording vocals
AKG C 414 XL II
£1,344

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.

www.akg.com


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