Even though having so many alternatives is a blessing, picking the microphone that’s best for you can be challenging. What’s genuinely “best” will depend on your particular requirements, financial situation, and aesthetic tastes. In light of this, let’s examine the top 13 vocal recording mics for 2023 and talk about what makes each choice deserving of consideration.
Let’s quickly go through how we choose the microphones on this list before we begin. We’ve organized the microphones according to price points (as given new by major sellers for consistency, though shopping for seasonal deals and used gear is definitely a possibility too) first because for many of us, money will be the single most crucial determining factor. Additionally, we tried to incorporate both well-known choices—like the SM58 and U87—and less well-known choices—like the MXL 990 and E100Sx—sourced by our own vocalists and engineers, inside each part.
($99) Shure SM57 and SM58
If you’ve read anything regarding inexpensive microphones, you’ll notice that the SM57 and SM58 are constantly referenced. These mics are strong, adaptable, and of a high caliber; they can be used for almost anything, from lead vocals to kick drums. Every professional studio has at least a handful of these.
As dynamic microphones, the SM57 and SM58 will record a little less information than a typical condenser. In many circumstances, though, this may actually make them a more appealing option. The SM58 is an excellent choice, for instance, if you’re recording voices at home because it will pick up fewer reflections from your unfavorable acoustics.
It’s important to note that the SM57 has a somewhat smaller grille design without a windscreen, while the SM58 has a traditional ball grille with a pop filter that can be useful for singing.
AKG P220 (~$175)
This all-purpose condenser is reasonably priced and provides reliable, straightforward performance for less than $200. The P220 is a fantastic option with a high-quality build if you want to capture the best vocals possible in a moderately quiet situation.
While lacking the SM58’s extreme versatility, this microphone faithfully reproduces the trademark AKG dazzling high-end. Some reviewers don’t like this sound, but if you want a’shiny’ treble, it’s difficult to find a better option for the money.
Equitek CAD E100Sx, around $200
The Equitek CAD E100Sx is an additional excellent choice for vocals with punch and brightness. The E100Sx offers a tone that is smooth, articulate, and vintage, in keeping with the customs and standards established by Equitek’s previous products.
Reviewers, on the other hand, mainly like the mic for its sturdy construction and how well it works for both singing and VO. One thing to keep in mind about the construction is that the E100Sx is a little on the hefty side. If you’re using a boom, make sure it can support the weight of the mic and its built-in shock mount.
($300) Audio-Technica AT4040
The AT4040 from Audio-Technica is a condenser mic that is a fan favorite because it excels at picking up the smallest details due to its high frequency response and low noise. An externally polarized genuine condenser design and a large diaphragm that is specially tensioned to give accurate and realistic sonic qualities are only a couple of its unique features.
The AT4040 is popular among livestreamers in addition to vocalists because it has a minimum proximity effect and can pick up whispers and quiet voices.
Aston Spirit, around $350
The Aston Spirit produces a clear, precise tone with vibrant harmonics. Its switchable polar patterns (omni, cardioid, and figure-eight), which can be hard to find at this price point, are what distinguish it and guarantee its place on this list.
Shure SM7B ($400 or so)
Unquestionably, one of the most well-known dynamic mics on the market is the Shure SM7B. Its renowned air-suspended shock isolation is excellent at reducing mechanical noise and breathiness, and thanks to its detailed profile and smooth sound, it works well for broadcasting and podcasting as well as musical performances. In particular, the Shure SM7B’s low-mid frequency response has made it a popular for louder genres that include screaming.
($900) Telefunken TF11
The Telefunken TF11 is a FET condenser microphone with phantom power that has a “Austrian” sound signature similar to the C12. The TF11 produces a crisp vocal performance because to its quick transient response and bright tone. It may be used for live sound as well as studio work thanks to the sturdy construction.
(1,300$) AKG C414 XLII
Few microphones, according to AKG, are as generally accepted as the C414 as a “de facto element of any professional engineer’s mic locker”—and they’re right. This wide diaphragm condenser mic has experienced it all, from prestigious broadcast studios to the stages and venues where the biggest performers in the world have performed. The AKG C414 can adapt to a wide range of conditions thanks to its amazing nine polar patterns, and the famed AKG C12’s evocative spatial reproduction and mild presence increase are both present in the C414 as well.
(1,500$) Neumann TLM 103
The TLM 103 has evolved into a studio standard in its own right, despite its origins as a more cost substitute for the U87. The TLM 103’s crisp and low-noise sound seems like a contemporary update to the Neumann experience. It is a transformer-less cardioid condenser microphone. Its straightforward yet elegant personality is ideal for making vocals stand out in the mix.
Neumann U87, around $3,300
Speaking of which, the Neumann U87 could be the most adored premium microphone overall. Its classic design and silky sound have won over many voice actors, vocalists, engineers, and everyone in between with its unmatched clarity.
The U87 has a linearity and character that is instantly recognizable, and its three polar patterns (omni, cardioid, and figure-8) provide even more variety to the mic’s already versatile nature. Many people believe it to be a no-brainer addition to any setup, if you can afford it.
Neumann M49 V (8,500$ to 10,000$)
Last but not least, if money is truly not an issue, the M49 V is a choice worth considering. This huge diaphragm condenser, one of the most revered tube microphones ever made, has a distinguished past as the first studio microphone with a continuously changeable directional pattern. Even the finest mic gurus in the world have been persuaded by the ‘V’ reissue’s 1:1 performance against antique models, notwithstanding how difficult it is to get the original mic.
A condenser mic can be ideal if you’re looking for a microphone designed for use in a home studio setting because it can capture the higher frequencies and more delicate sounds that are frequently wanted in a finished recording. In this article, we discussed a wide variety of condenser microphones, including the AKG P220, AT4040, and U87.
There are, however, certain exceptions; as we indicated in the SM57/SM58 section, you may purposefully select a dynamic mic to mute some of the distracting aspects of your environment. You might also reduce them by using a clever directional polar pattern if they’re coming from a specific direction (say a window).