Best condenser mics 2024: Our expert picks for budget and pro use

Close up of the Aston Microphones Spirit condenser mic
(Image credit: Future)

Any producer worth their salt will know that there are certain situations in which only a condenser mic will do. Sure, dynamic mics have an inherent ruggedness which means they easily win when it comes to live performance, for example, but for top-quality studio recordings - particularly with vocals and acoustic instruments - you’re going to want to employ a condenser. 

The best condenser microphones will capture every harmonic and nuance of a delicate acoustic guitar part, and every subtle detail of a singer’s vocal performance, elevating your sounds and making them sound at their best. It can be confusing, however, to know where to start. Especially now, when the majority of entry-level USB microphones are condensers, which can lead to them being seen as a lower-cost alternative to ‘proper’ studio mics. The truth is quite different. As we’ll outline in this guide, the very best condensers mics are serious bits of kit, often with price tags to match, but the results you’ll get more than justify the financial outlay.

Using a high-quality condenser does require a bit of skill and some additional equipment, and has more of a learning curve than a simple dynamic mic, but the benefits are clear: higher-quality sounds and a level of detail which can’t be easily matched. If you want to know more, head to our buying advice section, where we also detail how we test and select the products for this guide. 

Looking for a microphone bargain? Explore hand-picked savings on gear we rate and stay updated with this year's best Prime Day music deals.

The quick list

Best overall

Best condenser mics: Rode NT1

(Image credit: Rode)
A taste of Champagne for Prosecco money

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals but versatile enough for all but the loudest sources
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value 
+
Very quiet 
+
Versatile 

Reasons to avoid

-
No pad or filter 

Rode claims that its recently revamped NT1 is the world's quietest one-inch cardioid condenser, with a self-noise level of just 4.5dBA. We certainly found it ultra-quiet and versatile enough to mic a wide variety of sources. Its smart, sleek design and dark-grey livery look über-cool, but the minimalist form factor does lack switches for a bass roll-off or pad. At this price point, that's hardly surprising.

What the NT1 does offer is exceptional performance. Vocals are crisp and detailed with plenty of warm low end, nothing amiss in the mid-range and a wonderful airy clarity to the top end. That silky top end provides fantastic results when recording acoustic guitars and hand-held percussion. We've no doubt the NT1 would perform admirably as a drum overhead or on a piano

The lack of pad probably procludes it from close-miking loud drums and guitar cabs, but it's heartily recommended for almost every other studio application. A suspension shockmount and pop shield are included in the box, making the NT1 exceptional value.

Read the full Rode NT1 review 

Best budget option

Best condenser microphones: Audio-Technica AT2020

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

2. Audio-Technica AT2020

The best condenser mic for musicians on a budget

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals, drums, guitars, strings…
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing value
+
Well put together
+
Great on a variety of sources

Reasons to avoid

-
Noisier than others

If your budget’s tight but you need a mic, the Audio-Technica AT2020 is a brilliant option for first-timers or the cash-strapped. Despite being cheaply priced, it’s a hefty bit of kit that will definitely put up with studio life, and it’s got the sound to match.

The AT2020 delivers the full 20Hz-20kHz bandwidth, with plenty of bass response. It’s got that mid-range warmth that flatters many vocalists and a slight presence peak that doesn’t push things into harsher or sibilant territory.

It works fantastically well on a variety of instruments like acoustic guitars, delivering the natural sound of the instrument in a room with a little tweaking. There is a little bit of noise here, so it might not do as well recording quieter instruments from further away, but for close micing, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Best for vocals

Best condenser mics: Neumann TLM 103

(Image credit: Neumann)

3. Neumann TLM 103

A stripped-down version of the legendary U 87 Ai at a pared-down price

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals, instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
'Cheap' for a Neumann 
+
Doesn't sound 'cheap' 
+
Close to U 87 Ai performance 

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic feature set 

Neumann is one of the most revered names in microphones, but the breathtaking sonic character of its products is usually matched by heart-stopping prices. To address this, some years ago the manufacturer introduced a range of more pocket-friendly, TLM-branded models – one of which was the TLM 103. Originally aimed at home studios, the mic has since found its way into the hands of many pros. So, how does it stack up against a 'proper' Neumann?

Very well, as it happens. The TLM 103 is billed by Neumann as an affordable version of the venerable U 87 Ai, one of the best-loved studio microphones in the world. Its capsule design is derived from the U 87 Ai but, instead of offering three polar patterns, the TLM 103 is a fixed cardioid. Both mics share a similar sonic character, but the TLM 103 has a slightly wider presence boost for frequencies above 5kHz. This lends its voice a touch more clarity. Despite the lack of pad, filter and switchable patterns, this is more than just a great vocal mic. Try it with acoustic guitars, drum overheads, piano, classical strings and even lightly driven electric guitar cabs, and you won't be disappointed.

Some will dismiss the TLM 103 as a budget Neumann, but if you don't need the additional features of the U 87 Ai, then ignore the haters and save yourself a bundle.

Best for versatility

Best condenser mics: Slate Digital VMS

(Image credit: Slate Digital)
Every mic you’ve ever dreamed of, at a price that isn't going to keep you awake at night

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals, instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Accurate-sounding models of classic mics
+
More versatile than a single mic
+
Inexpensive   

Reasons to avoid

-
No high-pass filter in the analogue chain 

Let's face it, equipping your studio with a fine quiver of classic mics is going to cost you a five-figure sum, which for many of us just isn't feasible. But before getting too disheartened, it's worth considering whether modelling technology might help you realise your dream.

Slate's take on this technology is to provide studios with an entire system – mic, preamp and plug-in – so that the integrity of the entire audio signal is guaranteed. This should mean the end result more closely matches the audio characteristics of the original mics. The manufacturer’s system mic, the ML-1, is a large-diaphragm FET that promises to provide a flat, clean response, and the bundled hardware preamp is similarly neutral and pristine. The perfect blank canvas, if you like. 

The magic happens when this transparent signal is processed by one of the eight included mic models loaded into Slate's Virtual Mix Rack software. The models are the FG-47 (Neumann’s iconic U 47), the FG-800 (Sony’s C-800G), the FG-251 (Telefunken’s ELA M 251), the FG-67 (Neumann’s U 67), the FG-12 (AKG C12), the FG-M7 (Shure’s SM7B) and the FG-269 (Neumann’s M 269 c). Two software preamps are also bundled with the VMS – the FG-73 (Neve 1073) and the FG-76 (based on Telefunken’s V76).

Flicking between the mic models opens up a whole new world for us. The characters are very distinct and entirely in keeping with what we expect. There's so much on offer here, it’s a very seductive package.

Read the full Slate Digital VMS review

Best mid-price

Best condenser mics: Aston Microphones Spirit

(Image credit: Aston Microphones)
A mid-priced condenser that punches well above its weight

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Switchable
Pad: Yes
Low-cut filter: Yes
Application: Vocals, instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Great value 
+
Superb sound 
+
Strong build quality 

Reasons to avoid

-
No shockmount or pop filter as standard 

The Aston Spirit may not offer any groundbreaking features or revelatory new tech, but it does stay true to the original spirit of Aston, which is to develop fine-quality instruments that punch above their mid-range price point. And, of course, it's made in Britain with pride.

The Spirit has a very strong aesthetic, a 'look' shared by its sibling the Origin. Their wave-shaped, sprung mesh guards and solid stainless-steel casings mark them out as something a bit special in a crowded market. A rather smart, black textured version is available, too, as part of the Spirit Black Bundle, which comes complete with a much-needed shockmount and pop filter. 

Three switchable patterns are on tap: cardioid, omni and figure-8. There's also a pad with selectable -10dB and -20dB attenuation, plus an 80Hz low-cut filter. It performs wonderfully for vocals and acoustic guitar, displaying a smooth mid-range, a high top and agreeable brightness. The proximity effect response is well-tamed, so close-miking vocals in cardioid mode isn't a biggie. With its switchable polar patterns and low noise characteristic, it also suits room mic and distant miking roles. 

The Spirit is great value for money, the slightly more expensive Spirit Black Bundle even more so.

Read the full Aston Spirit review 

Best tube condenser

Best condenser mics: Lewitt LCT 940

(Image credit: Lewitt)

6. Lewitt LCT 940

The warmth of tubes and the clarity of FET at your fingertips

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Switchable
Pad: Yes
Low-cut filter: Yes
Application: Vocals, instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Endless opportunities for sound shaping
+
Very easy to dial in the right sound
+
Solid build  
+
Fun!  

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest option here 

If you love the idea of shaping sound with a microphone, or instantly being able to dial in a faithful tone, then the Lewitt LCT 940 is worthy of a place on your shortlist. Fancy the warmth of a tube mic one minute and the purity of a FET mic the next? Well, the LCT gives you both at a twist of a dial, plus the ability to blend them together.

The LCT 940 is two quality mics in one, and everything in between. To help you access its myriad features, Lewitt provides a decent-sized combined PSU and remote-control unit. Turn the left-hand dial to choose between FET and tube circuitry, or any blend of the two. Twist the right-hand dial to select one of nine polar patterns – omni, broad-cardioid, cardioid, super-cardioid and figure-8, plus an additional four intermediate patterns that sit between them. Pad settings range from -6dB to a substantial -18dB, enabling this mic to pick up some seriously loud sounds. A low-cut filter operates from 40Hz right up to 300Hz – well into the lower mid-range.

These features add up to one very versatile studio tool. Whether you're looking for an instrument to record a faithful rendition of a sound source, or you want to creatively enhance it, the LCT 940 fits the bill. Talking of bills, this mic may carry a relatively high price tag but it offers a heck of a lot for the money.

AKG C12 alternative

Best condenser mics: Austrian Audio OC16

(Image credit: Austrian Audio)

7. Austrian Audio OC16

A cut-down OC818 at a cut-down price

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, strings…
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible sound and build quality
+
Marvellous value
+
Superb C12 inspired capsule

Reasons to avoid

-
Reduced feature-set, but look at the savings

Rumour has it that Austrian Audio had to have a custom XXL cabinet built to house all the awards it’s won for its flagship microphones, the OC818 and OD18. OK, we made up the bit about the cabinet, but it’s true that the company has received nothing but accolades for these fabulous mics. At the core of both lies Austrian Audio’s take on the vintage AKG C12 capsule, this time built using ceramic rather than brass for more consistent performance.

Incredibly, neither of these mics can be described as super expensive, with the feature-packed OC 818 carrying a street price tag of around $1,200 and the OC18 coming in at about a third less. That said, they’re not exactly cheap either, which is where the new OC16 comes in.

Imagine the same mics stripped of all their non-essential features? That’s the OC16. The Austrian-built CKR12 capsule is the same, except it’s single rather than dual, and there’s no pattern switching or pad. You do get the same airy grille design and non-reflective surfaces but, by its own admission, Austrian Audio has smoothed a few corners with the circuitry. However, the only consequence appears to be slightly higher self-noise, which really isn’t a biggie.

We think Austrian Audio is on to something here. We’re sure that most users, if pressed, would prioritise sound quality over features, making the OC16 a very attractive bargain.

Oh, if that AKG C12 capsule sounds familiar, it’s because two other mics in this guide also use capsules inspired by it – the AKG C414 XLII and the Telefunken TF11 FET.

Best for drum overheads

Best condenser mics: Neumann KM 184

(Image credit: Neumann)

8. Neumann KM 184

Small-diaphragm condenser mic that excels as drum overhead

Specifications

Diaphragm: Small
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Faithful, transparent sound
+
Unobtrusive  
+
Low impedance enables long cable runs 

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't flatter vocals 

Vocalists love mics that flatter their voices by adding a little low-end warmth or some top-end presence. Large- diaphragm condensers are just the job because they sprinkle a touch of sonic fairy dust over the sound.

But when it comes to miking instruments, audiences expect to hear faithful renditions of the original source without anything being added or taken away. This is where small-diaphragm condensers come in, because they have a relatively flat response that yields a very transparent sound. Their tiny size means they are also very easy to place and visually unobtrusive.

The Neumann KM 184 is one of the best-regarded small-diaphragm condensers, especially for miking drum overheads. Usually bought in matched pairs or sets, for stereo or surround-sound applications, it is also a popular choice for piano, acoustic guitar, violin, woodwind and brass. Small-diaphragm condensers can be used for vocals but usually only where complete authenticity is required.

Also tested

The above condenser mics are for us, the ones you should be spending your money on. They aren't the only ones we've reviewed however, so if you didn't quite see what you were looking for above, here is a selection of other condenser microphones we've reviewed.

Best condenser mics: AKG C414 XLII

(Image credit: AKG)

AKG C414 XLII

Nine switchable polar patterns afford immense flexibility

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Switchable
Pad: Yes
Low-cut filter: Yes
Application: Vocals, instruments, reference
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Nine switchable polar patterns 
+
Presence boost for 'C12' sound 
+
Versatility
+
Build quality  

Reasons to avoid

-
None 

The C414 XLII is AKG's valiant attempt to reproduce the sound of its iconic C12 microphone from the 1950s. Its frequency curve has a slightly more pronounced lift above 3kHz, which gives it an airier top end than its close sibling the C414 B-XLS.

The headline feature is its nine – yes, nine – switchable patterns, which harks back to the original C12. There are five base patterns – omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, hyper cardioid and figure-8 – but these can be combined with one another for sonic experimentation. Pad settings provide -6dB, -12dB and -18dB attenuation levels, and three different low-cut filters can be employed.

This comprehensive feature set means the C414 XLII can tackle just about anything. As a C12 soundalike, it's outstanding for vocals, but it can also handle piano, strings, horns and woodwind with aplomb. Build quality is excellent.

Best condenser mics: Telefunken TF11 FET

(Image credit: Telefunken)

Telefunken TF11 FET

Vintage voice sings out from a thoroughly modern package

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, strings…
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Very good value for a Telefunken condenser
+
Handmade in small quantities
+
Excellent sound and build quality 
+
Vintage sound, modern FET circuitry

Reasons to avoid

-
Will still be too expensive for many of us

Telefunken produces two lines of large-diaphragm condenser microphones. Its Diamond range is hand-built by a small team of engineers and comprises about half-a-dozen meticulously accurate recreations of vintage vacuum tube mics. If you need to ask the prices then you can’t afford them (OK, they’re about $10,000 and up). 

Recognising that, nice though they are, these mics aren’t for everyone, Telefunken recently introduced its less expensive Alchemy line. These mics are also handmade in the same facility by a small number of skilled technicians and their voicings too have been inspired by vintage mics. Pricewise, let’s just say they are relatively affordable!

The compact TF11 FET is the latest mic to join the range, and it recently picked up a TEC award at NAMM 2022. Telefunken says its voicing is ‘Austrian inspired’, a loose interpretation of the legendary AKG C12 capsule but with contemporary FET circuitry.

The result is a small, beautiful looking mic – we love the blue – that sounds open, balanced, exhibits fast transient response and can handle high SPL numbers. Its response curve is mostly flat with a very smooth bass roll-off below 130Hz and a presence boost from about 2kHz to 8kHz. Consequently, it records with plenty of high end detail, making it perfect for anything from drum overheads to acoustic guitars, including vocals.

If you want that subtle, yet characterful, vintage tone in a highly detailed mic with all the advantages of modern FET circuitry, this one should definitely be on your list.

Teenage Engineering CM-15

(Image credit: Teenage Engineering)

Teenage Engineering CM-15

One of the most versatile condenser mics

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals and acoustic instruments
Connection: USB-C, Mini XLR, 3.5mm jack

Reasons to buy

+
Tiny footprint
+
Multiple ways to power
+
Crisp recordings

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Doesn't have much sonic character

Easily the smallest and most portable condenser mic in this guide, the Teenage Engineering CM-15 is a lesson in seductive industrial design. As part of TE’s wider Field range, the CM-15 is designed with portability in mind, coming in around the size of a standard deck of cards. It features an internal battery, so can be phantom-powered on its own, along with three different ways in which you can connect it to your interface or mixer. 

While we liked the simplicity and ease of use, and the fact it has three switchable levels of gain onboard, we did find the CM-15 didn’t impart any form of unique sonic character onto your sound. This might be desirable, depending on how you intend on using it though, so isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Overall, however, it’s a superb piece of forward-thinking music technology which might take you to places you’d never considered recording before. 

Read the full Teenage Engineering CM-15 review

Best condenser mics: Shure SM27

(Image credit: Shure)

Shure SM27

Sounds sensitive, acts tough – even out on the road

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: Yes
Low-cut filter: Yes
Application: Vocals, instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Rugged construction
+
Faithful reproduction
+
Good feature set   
+
Integrated pop shield 

Reasons to avoid

-
Ruggedness irrelevant for studio-only use 

Condenser microphones rely on their thin, often fragile, diaphragms to deliver outstanding frequency response. They sound sublime right up until the point when they're dropped, kicked, soaked in beer, left out in the rain or sat on by a fat roadie. Which is why many spend most of their life shut safely out of harm's way in the haven of a warm studio.

The Shure SM27 is an altogether more rugged beast. If it had arms, they'd be tattooed (old-school hearts and anchors), and if it had friends they'd look and talk like Jason Statham. Shure's entire SM range, including the SM27, is designed to take the kind of punishment that live performance inflicts.

You'd think that its sonic characteristics would be compromised in some way, but the SM27 has a flat, neutral frequency response and very low self-noise. It's perfect for reproducing faithful, natural renditions of delicate sound sources such as tender vocals, acoustic guitar, strings, cymbals, woodwind and saxophone. A -15dB pad means it's equally brilliant for miking up screamers and guitar cabs. The SM27 is a proper all-rounder that's equally at home in the studio or on the stage. 

Best condenser mics: Sennheiser e 965

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

Sennheiser e 965

Large-diaphragm condenser microphone developed for stage use

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Switchable
Pad: Yes
Low-cut filter: Yes
Application: Vocals, performance
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Brings performance vocals alive
+
Built-in pop filter  
+
Excellent at handling noise rejection 

Reasons to avoid

-
Better choices available for studio use 

The e 965 is a rare beast in that Sennheiser has specifically developed it for handheld stage use. Ordinarily, this is not comfortable territory for a large-diaphragm condenser mic – these prefer to be cosseted in a shockmount and protected by a large pop shield. Condenser mics are also very susceptible to handling noise, so this is an impressive feat for Sennheiser to pull off.

Dynamic mics rule on stage for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they're inherently robust. Unfortunately, they cannot come close to matching the frequency response of a good condenser mic, so audiences listening to talented singers with good range risk being short-changed.

Enter the e 965, which transmits even the finest nuances in impressive detail. Polar patterns can be switched between cardioid and super-cardioid to reject unwanted sounds; there's a low-cut filter to omit rumble; and a built-in pop filter handles plosives.

If you want your audience to hear every detail, this could be the mic for you.

Best condenser microphones: Lewitt LCT 440 Pure

(Image credit: Lewitt)
A brilliant sub $/£300 condenser microphone

Specifications

Diaphragm: Large
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Pad: No
Low-cut filter: No
Application: Vocals, instruments
Connection: XLR

Reasons to buy

+
Sturdy build quality
+
Outstanding value
+
Versatile sound profile

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic feature set

If you’re after a condenser microphone that punches above its price point, the Lewitt LCT 440 Pure is a great mid-range option for recording vocals and other instruments. A favourite of YouTubers and home recording enthusiasts, the mixture of quality components and performance makes it an enticing choice.

It’s a simple microphone without many bells and whistles, but it does a fantastic job on vocals and acoustic guitars, with a signal-to-noise ratio that is really quite good. Considering the cost of this mic, the recorded sound you get from it is exceptional quality.

The mic itself feels nice and hefty, with a slick design that features minimal branding giving it a more premium allure than the price implies. It also comes with some great extras as well, including a shock mount and pop filter that is equally sturdy, and definitely feels as though it would put up with some abuse.

Read the full Lewitt LCT 440 Pure review 

Buying advice

Best condenser mics: Condenser mic in front of recording software

(Image credit: Future)

How do condenser microphones work?

Fundamentally, condenser microphones - like any mic - are fairly simple devices. At a basic level, they work by converting sound waves into electrical signals through a capacitor. Inside the microphone, a diaphragm vibrates in response to sound, causing changes in the distance between it and a backplate. This variation in distance alters the capacitance, generating an electrical signal proportional to the sound waves which, when converted back at the interface or mixer, creates the sound you hear through your headphones or monitor speakers. Condenser mics do require a power source, typically provided through batteries or - more commonly - via phantom power from a mixer or audio interface.

Compared to dynamic microphones, condensers offer greater sensitivity and wider frequency response, making them ideal for capturing detailed sound in studio settings, such as recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and intricate sound effects. Dynamic mics, on the other hand, are rugged and better suited for live performances or high-volume environments.

Condenser microphones really shine in situations where capturing nuances and subtleties is crucial, providing clearer, more accurate recordings with less background noise, hence the reason they’re usually preferred for capturing studio-quality recordings.

What is a condenser microphone used for?

There are certain studio jobs which are better suited to condenser mics. As we’ve outlined, this includes - but is by no means limited to - anything that can be considered acoustic or natural. 

Vocals: Condenser microphones excel at capturing the nuances and details of vocal performances, making them ideal for recording singers in studio environments. We’re looking for subtle changes in tone, dynamics, and timbre, with the condenser able to deliver clear and expressive vocal recordings with minimal distortion.

Acoustic guitar: Condenser mics are commonly used to record acoustic guitars due to their ability to faithfully reproduce the instrument's natural sound. Through a condenser, a great guitar can sound magical. Condensers capture all those rich harmonics, intricate fingerpicking, and subtle nuances of acoustic guitar performances, delivering warm and detailed recordings.

Piano: When recording piano, condenser microphones are often preferred for their ability to capture the instrument's full range and dynamics, i.e. those subtle changes in volume and percussiveness. They capture the nuances of each note, right across the frequency spectrum, resulting in a balanced and expressive piano sound suitable for classical, jazz, or pop recordings.

Orchestral Instruments: Condenser microphones are frequently used to record orchestral instruments such as strings, brass, and woodwinds, capturing the full range and tonal characteristics of each instrument and allowing for detailed and lifelike recordings of symphonic performances.

Best condenser mics: Condenser mic in recording studio

(Image credit: Future)

What's the difference between a dynamic and a condenser microphone?

Rather than mistakenly believe that one kind of mic is better or worse than another, we’d suggest reframing your creative expectations. The truth is that all mics - dynamic, condenser, large-diaphragm, small-diaphragm and so on - will colour or affect your sound to some extent. On the face of it, this trait may seem undesirable but it can reveal huge creative opportunities.

Consider the sound you are trying to achieve and then think of a mic as an instrument that will help you to realise it. Different mics and different applications will yield different results. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. 

This explains why pro studios have a legion of different microphones at their disposal, and why so many producers, engineers and artists favour particular models to reproduce their signature sounds. It also helps us to make sense of the huge variety of condenser mics on the market, and narrow our choice down to the model or models that will best fit our sonic ambitions.

What are the 3 types of microphone pickup patterns?

Different polar patterns not only dictate how directional a mic is, they also have different frequency responses, resulting in different sounds.

Cardioid mics have what’s called a unidirectional pickup pattern, which means they are good for isolating the singer or instrument being miked up. Their pickup pattern faces a single direction.

Omni-directional mics pick up sound from all around, but their character is more open, natural and less nasal than cardioids. Omnis also suffer less from the proximity effect - the low-frequency boost that appears when close miking.

Bi-directional mics, more commonly known as the ‘figure of eight’ pattern are sensitive to sound from the front and back, but reject sound from the sides. These aren’t the most popular but they can be useful for picking up two different sources positioned side-by-side.

So, although it seems logical to reach for a cardioid when miking up a vocalist, you may be better off using an omni in a well-treated room where reflections have been minimised. This could be an expensive studio or a spare bedroom with judicious placement of duvets and blankets!

How we choose the best condenser microphones

At MusicRadar, we understand the pivotal role that condenser microphones play in capturing pristine audio recordings. With our team of experienced audio enthusiasts, we've delved into the world of condenser microphones, rigorously testing various models in real-world scenarios to offer you practical and reliable reviews and recommendations.

Our curated selection of condenser mics embody exceptional sonic clarity and the versatility required by a modern recording studio. We meticulously assess factors such as sound quality, sensitivity, polar patterns, build quality, and adaptability to ensure that these microphones stand out as prime examples of recording excellence.

With MusicRadar as your trusted source, explore our recommended condenser microphones, whether you're a studio professional, content creator, or live sound engineer. Our real-world expertise ensures that you'll discover the microphones that elevate your recordings, capture nuanced performances, and unlock the full spectrum of sonic possibilities.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

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Simon Fellows

When Simon's childhood classical guitar teacher boasted he 'enjoyed a challenge', the poor man had no idea how much he'd underestimated the scale of the task ahead. Despite Simon's lack of talent, the experience did spark a lifelong passion for music. His classical guitar was discarded for an electric, then a room full of electrics before Simon discovered the joys of keys. Against all odds, Simon somehow managed to blag a career as a fashion journalist, but he's now more suitably employed writing for MusicRadar and Guitar World. When not writing or playing, he can be found terrifying himself on his mountain bike.

With contributions from