The best dynamic microphones are robust, have limited response and are generally quite inexpensive. By contrast, condenser mics are fragile, highly responsive and often pricey – sometimes ruinously so. If this makes the dynamic mic appear second-rate, that's not our intention. A dynamic microphone is an unbeatable choice when a sound source is very loud, has unwanted background noise or originates in physically demanding surroundings such as on the stage at an outdoor festival.
Dynamic microphones are also less transparent than condensers, which may sound like another negative but is in fact a quality that can be put to good creative use.
If money's tight, you'll be relieved to learn that a dynamic microphone can be yours for the kind of loose change you'll find down the back of an old sofa. Even some of the greats are surprisingly affordable. The Shure SM57, which, according to Reverb, was 2020's best-selling mic, is a darling of the pros in almost every genre, yet sells for under $/£/€100. Dynamic microphones are broadly available, widely used and substantially good value.
Best dynamic microphones: Our top picks
For vocals, broadcasting and podcasting, the Shure SM7B takes a lot of beating. It has a proven track record, is built like a tank and sounds wonderfully smooth and warm when close-miked. But what really impresses is its ability to make any room sound like a well-treated studio. Record in a small, untreated room with a condenser mic and the results will be ugly. Try the same thing with an SM7B and you'll be astounded at how it rejects almost everything but the source.
For stage use, you can't go wrong if you follow the herd and go with a Shure SM57, a Shure SM58 or even an sE Electronics V7. But, if budget allows, our pick is the Telefunken M80. We like the way it mimics the frequency response of a condenser mic with that tell-tale presence boost, and we're reassured by the build quality. We love the wild colours, too!
There's little point in recommending a drum mic to guitarists and vice versa, so there's no clear winner in the instrument category. What we will say is try using a mic specifically developed for a particular instrument. Setup times can be much reduced, and they may reveal a sonic side to your instrument that you've never heard before.
Best dynamic microphones: Product guide
Even if you've never heard of these non-identical twins, we're pretty certain you’ll have heard them in action. They are possibly the most ubiquitous live mics in the world, used to capture everything from presidential addresses and TV broadcasts to raging guitar cabs. It's tempting to believe that such extraordinary success is just down to their keen pricing, but the truth is that they sound really good. A stunning win-win for us cash-strapped musicians.
We considered giving each model its own entry in this buyer's guide, but the two mics are almost identical. The crucial difference is that the SM58 is designed for vocal applications, so Shure fitted a ball-style grille with a built-in pop filter to eliminate plosives. The SM57 has exactly the same capsule, but Shure originally saw this mic as a workhorse for recording instruments, so the ball-style grille and pop filter have been discarded to make it easier to aim. To be honest, this one is more than decent as a vocal mic, too, though it does suffer/benefit (your choice) from a more pronounced proximity effect.
Investing in one of these mics is a no-brainer, but which one? Clearly, it's got to be the one that suits your vocals or application better – but, let's face it, they're so inexpensive, you'll probably end up buying both eventually.
A classic from Sennheiser, the MD 421-II started life as a broadcast mic but has since become a studio and stage favourite for close-miking snares, bass drums and toms. In fact, such is its popularity that you'll regularly find it sat in front of guitar cabs, bass cabs and podcasters, too.
Key to its versatility is its five-position bass roll-off switch that encourages sonic tinkering. There are two primary voicings – 'M' (music) and 'S' (speech) – with an additional three increments sitting between them. As you'd expect from Sennheiser, this is a rugged, well-built, professional piece of kit. Its tight cardioid pattern does an excellent job of rejecting feedback and sounds outside of your source. Handling noise is also successfully suppressed.
The cost is about right for a mic of this quality, but Sennheiser has heavily discounted this model in the past, so watch out for special deals.
Famously the mic that Michael Jackson sang into on Thriller, the Shure SM7B is a close-proximity studio microphone that delivers a warm, midrange-rich sound. It's not the cheapest dynamic mic here, but you'll find it holding its own in the studio against condenser mics that cost more than 10 times as much.
On its standard settings, the SM7B has a relatively flat frequency response from about 100Hz to 12kHz, ramping up smoothly from the bass end but falling dramatically from the high end. Flick a few switches around the back of the mic to instantly hear significantly more bass roll-off or a presence boost – handy options to have when trying to get the very best result from your vocalist or instrument.
The SM7B's design incorporates an integral shock mount, pop filter and electromagnetic shielding to defeat hum from nearby computer equipment. It's also widely praised for making untreated rooms sound great by very effectively excluding noise and reflections. In recent years, these qualities have given it a new lease of life as the go-to mic for podcasters and YouTubers.
Read the full Shure SM7B review
Podcasting was super-popular long before worldwide Covid lockdowns saw the genre go stratospheric. So big is the market that many mic brands now produce genre-specific podcasting microphones suitable for amateur desktop use – these include the well-established Blue Yeti and the more recent Shure MV7.
Most podcasters and YouTubers will want to get a quality broadcast out to their audiences with as little fuss and setup as possible. The PodMic is excellent in this respect. Its form factor is sufficiently chunky to give you something to speak into, yet small enough not to be a distraction for guests or viewers. It’s also discreet, meaning you can dot a few around a table without them getting in the way.
The integrated pop shield and tight cardioid pattern enable podcasters to record or stream a ready-made sound that's well isolated and free from room noise. True to form, mid-range articulation is good, and the mic doesn’t sound overly bright in the higher frequencies. The proximity effect isn't massive, so if you want a deep, rich voice then you'll need to get in close. This is a microphone that’s been developed to bring out the very best from the human voice, but there's nothing to stop you miking up drums or guitar cabs with it, too.
Rode says that the PodMic is optimised for use with its Rodecaster Pro Podcast Production Studio, but it’ll work with any audio interface.
Read the full Rode PodMic review
Many broadcasters like to close-mic because the resulting proximity effect gives their voice a warm richness. But there’s a problem. Many broadcasters also like to fidget, turn their head, move about and generally forget that their lips are supposed to remain as close to the mic as possible. This monkeying about changes the tone of their performance drastically. Warm and rich one second, thin and whiny the next.
The RE20 is a superb, pro-level dynamic mic with a party trick up its sleeve called Variable-D. Basically, on the rear side of the RE20's diaphragm is a perforated pipe that ensures a consistent frequency response whether the source is on-axis or up to 180° off-axis. This frees up a vocalist to move about – deliberately or not – without influencing their sound. An added benefit is that Variable-D microphones produce a tight low-end that's perfect for capturing kick drums, guitar cabs and any other low-frequency instruments.
The RE20 is a good investment if you aspire to produce professional-grade broadcasts or podcasts that your audiences will find pleasure in listening to. If you can put it to use recording instruments, too, then it represents even better value.
The AKG D12 VR is a thoroughly modern take on the company's iconic D12 dynamic model that originated in the 1950s as a general-purpose mic but soon gained popularity for its wonderful kick-drum sound.
Plug the D12 VR into an interface or mixing desk and it behaves just like a good dynamic drum mic should. Its responsive diaphragm captures a very detailed sonic picture, while its optimised bass chamber does a fantastic job of handling the low frequencies. Feed it some phantom power, though, and it quite literally lights up your sound. Three active filters are at your disposal to sculpt, shape and fettle to your heart's content. Dial in the middle filter (red light) to scoop out some of the mid-range frequencies in order to leave space for other instruments in the mix. Using this setting, our kick sounded tight and not quite so 'thumpy'.
Flicking the filter switch to the left (green light) adds a bass boost to the mid-range scoop, producing a wider sound with a fatter, more saturated kick. Switching it to the right (blue light) brought in some high-end boost, giving our sound more presence, more depth and an airiness to the kick. More of a live room sound.
The D12 VR is a fantastic drum mic in passive mode, but power up the filters and it will transform the sound of your kick.
Read the full AKG D12 VR review
The sE Electronics V7 has been developed to sound great whatever you throw at it – or, for that matter, whatever it's thrown at. Its all-metal construction is designed to shrug-off years of onstage use and abuse, letting your vocals shine night after night.
It has some great little design features that prove the sE Electronics engineers must have stayed awake during the R&D meetings. Our favourite is the bevelled strip around the dent-proof, corrosion-resistant steel mesh grille, which stops the V7 rolling away when put down on an amp cab or the stage floor. The integral windscreen/pop shield is coloured in sE Electronics’ corporate red but, just in case you don't like that shade, they've included a black version in the box. How thoughtful.
sE Electronics developed the DMC7 aluminium coil for the V7, which, together with the large diaphragm and neodymium magnets, gives it a voice that's crisp, natural and open. Its supercardioid pattern provides good isolation and feedback protection, while handling noise – always a potential problem on stage – is well suppressed.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the V7 is its price, which puts it head-to-head with the Shure SM58. Some mics are going to suit some singers better than others, so it's a good idea to build up an arsenal of options. The V7 is a worthy addition that's within most people's financial grasp.
The e 609 Silver is a guitar cab mic that delivers a natural, transparent, assertive sound. So far, so Sennheiser-ish. Just as impressive, though, is the ease of setup. If you've ever miked up a guitar or bass cab, you'll know that, while hardly rocket science, it can be a bit fiddly. Just setting up and positioning mic stands for your live set can be frustrating when the clock's ticking. The perfect position is just about trip height, but let's not even go there…
Sennheiser's curiously shaped e 609 Silver completely does away with mic stands. Just throw a cable over the top of your cab and dangle an e 609 Silver from it, making sure that the flat face of the mic sits nicely against the grille cloth. Adjust the 'hang' so that the mic is directly over a speaker and – voila – you're all set. If gravity intrudes, fix the cable to the top of the cab with a bit of duct tape.
Build quality is excellent. Sennheiser has christened the e 609 Silver 'the rugged workhorse with a practical shape', and we can see why. This mic is hum-compensating and constructed so as not to rattle or vibrate, even when capturing very loud volumes. Not just for guitars, it works well on drums too – but you’ll need some stands.
The M80 is an interesting microphone for a number of reasons, not least because it's available in fluro pink, yellow, orange, gold – no fewer than 15 colours, in fact. You can even mix and match the colour of the body and grille in order to fully co-ordinate the M80 with every outfit in your stage wardrobe. That's a show we'd pay to see!
But what does it sound like? Telefunken has worked hard to develop a microphone with the robustness of a dynamic and the sonic characteristics of a condenser. A lightweight capsule and thin diaphragm give the M80 a wide frequency response that benefits from a touch of high-end presence.
The resulting character is open – airy but authoritative. A good choice for lead vocals and snare applications. Despite the high-end presence, transients are well tamed and handling noise is nicely subdued.
Build quality is top-notch. The M80 is hardly heavy but it is reassuringly hefty, tipping the scales at 430g, which is about a third more than a Shure SM57. Its lines are smooth, sleek and look rather sophisticated in black and chrome. In fluro pink with a yellow grille? At least nobody will steal it…
Drums take a lot of miking up. It's not unusual for pro studios to use a dozen or so mics on a drum kit, which takes time, money and patience – especially if things don't quite go to plan. That's why specialist drum-mic kits make a lot of sense. You benefit from having a set of the same models, made for a specific purpose, that can be relied on for consistently great-sounding results.
This set from Audio-Technica has been developed to take the hard work out of capturing the ultimate tom sound. ATM230s can be purchased individually, but you get a much better deal buying in bulk.
These mics have a slightly crazy-looking frequency response. There's a lift in the midrange, another in the high frequencies, but then a fast tail-off from about 10kHz upwards. The polar pattern is pretty focused, and rear rejection is good, so cymbal bleed is minimal.
Close-miking, these ATM230s sound great. Miked just above the rim, toms sound punchy with a nice, fat attack, and the proximity effect delivers plenty of round bottom end without excess boominess. They're not really designed for snare, but we found that they performed well with a few dBs of high-shelf boost.
So, if you have the budget, stop miking up drums with that strange assortment of microphones you found lying around the studio, and instead invest in a few good sets made specifically for the job. You won't regret it.
Read the full Audio-Technica ATM230 review
Best dynamic microphones: Buying advice
A dynamic microphone is a simple beast. Essentially, a conductive coil, sat in a magnetic field, is attached to the rear of a dynamic mic's diaphragm. When soundwaves hit the diaphragm, it flexes and the coil moves, generating an electrical signal that's fed to your amplifier, desk or recording device. Dynamic mics are passive devices, which means that, unlike condenser mics, they don't need phantom power in order to operate.
This simplicity partly explains why dynamic mics are so robust and so reliable. Additionally, in order to support the coil, they're equipped with relatively beefy diaphragms, which makes them doubly suited to the rough and tumble of a life on the stage.
Their no-nonsense construction provides further advantages that make them ideal for many studio applications, too. The thicker diaphragm and weighty coil limit frequency response – they simply cannot move fast or freely enough to pick up every sound within our audio range. Where a condenser microphone will typically have a flat, all-encompassing frequency response curve, a dynamic microphone will struggle at the top end, rarely picking up anything over 15kHz. The bottom end is similarly compromised.
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This gives a dynamic microphone a mid-range punch that's magnificent for recording vocals that would otherwise sound thin, nasally and harsh. The lack of very high and very low frequency response also tames room noise, handling noise and undesirable transients. Dynamic mics won't give you a faithful recording but they may offer you something better – a source massaged into audio that's altogether more flattering.
Because of their hardy diaphragms, low sensitivity and coloured frequency response, dynamic mics are especially useful in the studio for close-miking loud sounds such as kick drums, driven guitar cabs and screaming vocals. High sound-pressure levels can trash a condenser mic, but a dynamic will squat by a cranked amp all day jeering ‘Is that all you've got?'.
Some, such as the Shure SM7B, work exceptionally well close-miking vocals in untreated rooms, because their low sensitivity picks up little more than the subject. Recently, they've been selling like hotcakes to amateur podcasters, but they do require a lot of gain, so a clean preamp or a Cloudlifter is essential.
Dynamic microphones are available with any polar pattern except bidirectional, but unfortunately, unlike some condensers, the patterns are fixed rather than switchable. The vast majority are cardioid, but omnis and figure-8s are also available.
So, if you're looking for a mic that can take a physical battering and a sonic hammering yet still produce a flattering sound with a smooth, warm mid-range, then this guide is for you as we reveal what we consider to be the best dynamic microphones available today.