When it comes to buying the very best vocal microphone, the decision is hugely personal. It really does boil down to the qualities of the voice it will be capturing and whether it’ll be used in the studio or on the stage. It can be hard to know where to start – especially when there are so many mics to choose from – but don’t worry, this handy guide to the best vocal microphones will point you in the right direction.
It’s easy to take our gear cues from our favourite artists, but on finding out the cost of high-end recording and live equipment, it can bring us back down to earth with an almighty thud. Fear not, however, as there are plenty of superb quality mics out there that don’t cost a fortune but will still do your vocals the justice they deserve. In this guide, we're looking at some of the best vocal mics available today, aimed at a variety of situations and budgets.
We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide. If you’d like to read it, click the ‘buying advice’ tab above – or if you’d rather get to the products, keep scrolling.
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Best vocal mics: Our top picks
When you're shortlisting a new vocal microphone, one of the main considerations should be the sound. Capturing an accurate representation of your voice is the sole job of a vocal mic, and for this reason alone we’d happily put our name behind the Shure SM7B (opens in new tab) dynamic mic. Balancing performance with cost, the Shure comes out in front on account of its glorious, rich vocal tone, high levels of build quality and its uncanny ability to suppress room noise. Surely one of the best vocal mics out there.
We’d also highlight the exceptional performance delivered by the Aston Spirit (opens in new tab) condenser mic. This growing British brand is producing microphones with a level of class which far belies their relatively low price tag. The Spirit offers superb value for money.
Best vocal mics: Product guide
As an all-rounder vocal mic, the Shure SM7B takes some beating. Over the years it’s been adopted by some of the music world’s biggest names – Michael Jackson swore by them – while its rich, balanced tone has found it adopted more recently by the podcasting community.
For home recording it’s a great choice as it features in-built protection against electromagnetic hum, meaning your computer monitor isn’t going to interfere with your signal. It’s also, as with all the Shure SM range, built to withstand all manner of performance situations without letting you down.
Read the full Shure SM7B review
Aston Microphones has quickly become one of the music equipment industry’s rising stars, on account of a growing portfolio of high quality, yet affordable, microphones. Made in Britain, the brand has picked up multiple NAMM ‘Best in Show’ awards for its gear, and we’re huge fans here at MR.
The Aston Spirit, the company’s flagship model, boasts a 1” gold-evaporated capsule, along with a variety of pickup patterns. What surprised us most, however, was the price. For a shade under $500 you get an incredibly well made, great sounding microphone. Highly recommended.
Read the full Aston Microphones Spirit review
As the most expensive mic in the line-up, the AKG C414 XLII has a lot to live up to. It’s also just about one of the most versatile microphones we’ve come across, excelling at everything from speech to vocals, via acoustic instruments and even drums.
A total of nine pickup patterns are available, including combining two different patterns, meaning there is no application where this mic won’t suit, while the overall levels of quality, durability and construction are exemplary. Oh, and it sounds incredible too.
The Shure Super 55, known affectionately as the ‘Elvismic’ on account of its most famous user, proves microphones don’t need to be dull. The Super 55 is a sturdy, eye-catching dynamic microphone built for a lifetime on stage.
A mic has to sound good though, and there are no complaints from us regarding its audio performance. The lack of an off/on switch will irk some, and the sheer weight of the thing will give roaming vocalists something to think about, but as a hard-as-nails workhorse, the Shure Super 55 is definitely worth your consideration.
Australian brand Rode is one of the best-known microphone specialists operating today. The Rode NTK is their flagship mid-point condenser, delivering exceptional performance for vocals and other speech-related applications. Part of the NTK’s magic comes from the twin-triode 6922 tube, which adds a touch of vintage warmth to recordings.
We particularly like the build quality of the Rode NTK, which offers easy access to replace the tube, should you need to. As with the rest of the Rode range, there’s a lot of quality on display here at a great value price point.
It would be remiss not to include the Shure SM58 in this list, right? We did consider omitting it, but couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. After all, for a large number of live performers this mic has been the go-to choice for decades now. You don’t become one of the best-selling vocal mics in the world by accident.
As a specialist live performance mic, the Shure SM58 offers the perfect combination of reliability, performance and durability, and all for a price which sits very nicely under $100.
Read the full Shure SM58 review
Rounding off the list, we nod to the growing list of condenser microphones designed never to leave the comfort of your home. The IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio is a large diaphragm, bus-powered condenser mic which performs well in a variety of situations.
We liked the way it was equally at home on a computer or with a tablet device, making it an ideal solution for portable recording studios. The USB mic market is becoming ever more saturated as streamers, YouTubers and the like seek ways to elevate their performances, but the iRig Studio stood out for us on account of its compact size, clear sound and bundled software.
Read the full IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio review
Not every vocal application involves singing. Some of us, naming no names, have singing voices which resemble the noise a burning pet shop might make. If you can picture that scene. Yet there are plenty of other scenarios where a quality vocal microphone is required; think podcasts, voice-overs, speeches and broadcast. For this, the AKG C636 is a superb choice.
The AKG C636 features a uniform cardioid pattern, designed to accentuate only what it’s meant to, while its design is geared towards reducing the vibrations caused when hand-holding the mic. Sure, music and singing situations may require a different tool, but for speech tasks this is a great choice.
Read the full AKG C636 review
Jagger, Bowie, Beyonce, Rihanna, Sheeran, Drake, Eilish – all are legendary for their magnetic live performances. Why? Because they know how to use every inch of the stage.
If you’re a live performer looking to up your game then you simply must go wireless. Come on, unleash yourself from the shackles of your mic stand and liberate your creativity.
Sennheiser is one of the best trusted names in wireless mics and the EW 500-935 kit is the place to start if you want to invest in a pro system that can be expanded as your requirements, fame and earnings grow. It features an SKM 500 G4 handheld transmitter (the mic body) armed with a dynamic MMD 935-1 cardioid capsule. This can be swapped out for any capsule in Sennheiser's G4 range, including condensers, supercardioids and so on. It’s also compatible with some Neumann capsules, making it a great value gateway to that legendary sound.
The EM 300-500 G4 rack mountable receiver can handle up to 3,520 frequencies, and it’s true diversity too for ultra-reliable, stable performance.
Neumann is a premium German mic brand, and the TLM 102 is pitched as its most inexpensive large diaphragm condenser. Frankly, it’s not cheap but it is a more affordable option for producers, musos or vocalists working out of modest studios to buy into the famed Neumann tone. Neumann clearly understands this market because, very sensibly, its engineers have developed the TLM 102 to be both small and versatile. So, while it’s perfect for vocals it’s also very capable of covering a lot of other ground too – everything from acoustic guitar to light percussion.
Its frequency response is authentically flat across the mid-range which gives it a transparent, open character that’s perfect for faithfully capturing vocals without adding any colour. The lower frequencies do have the kind of richness that’s expected from a large diaphragm condenser, but fortunately it doesn't muddy up when close-miking.
If you’re happy investing the money, you’ll find the TLM 104 is a wonderful mic for vocals and a lot more besides. If you work with clients, they’ll appreciate the premium branding too.
The M80 is a flamboyant stage mic that’s available in no less than 15 colours including fluoro pink, yellow, orange and a handful of metallics. Need a mic to match your Elvis-inspired gold lamé suit? Step forward the M80. If you’re the kind of performer who lives on the very edge of good taste then you can even mix and match the colour of the body and grille to go full-on ’80s neon. Or you can rein it back in and go traditional black and chrome for sophisticated appearances. It’s your choice.
However, the M80 is much more than just a pretty face. Despite its potential for looking like a colourful toy, Telefunken’s engineers have succeeded in their quest to give it the robustness of a solid dynamic mic but with the wider frequency response of a condenser. The holy grail of performance mic tone.
They’ve achieved this by arming the M80 with a lightweight capsule that features a thin yet tough diaphragm. The resulting character is open, airy, detailed but strident. Despite its elevated sensitivity, transients are well tamed and handling noise is subdued.
Build quality is top-notch and, although it’s not cheap, it’s a real step up from less expensive mics such as the Shure SM58. Just be aware that this is a super-cardioid mic with a focused pattern, so if you’re a lively performer be careful not to move too far off-axis.
Best vocal mics: Buying advice
What type of microphone do I need?
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The first thing to consider when trying to figure out which type of vocal mic you need is where you plan to use it. Vocal performances on a stage will require one of the best live vocal microphones, whereas work in a studio will require something quite different. On a loud stage, with lots in the way of ambient sound, a dynamic mic will provide more robustness, while the slight decrease in sensitivity of the mic’s capsule means it will reject unwanted noise and won’t be damaged by sudden changes in volume or humidity – both common issues in the live environment.
However, for capturing vocals in the controlled environment of a well-treated studio, the large diaphragm condenser is king. Condenser mics have active circuitry, are more sensitive than their dynamic counterparts and, as a result, are capable of picking up much more nuance from the human voice. In the studio, this will provide you with a cleaner, more detailed signal that will result in your recordings sounding as good as they can possibly be.
That said, if you’re working in a largely untreated home studio, where ambient noise and reflections can be a major problem, then it’s time to reconsider using a dynamic mic. Dynamic mics tend to be less expensive, which makes them a better fit for most home studio budgets, and their low sensitivity makes them ideal for rejecting background noise. The result won’t be as nuanced, particularly the top end, but the sound quality will still be excellent, and you won’t have to spend hours cleaning up your recordings.
Dynamic mics are also wonderfully robust for recording ‘screamers’, so they’re very popular in many of the metal genres.
Talking of robustness, drop an expensive condenser mic and it’ll likely be toast (you won’t do it twice). Drop a dynamic mic and the floor will come off worse.
Which pickup pattern do I need?
When it comes to the characteristics and sound of your microphone, the pickup pattern is of huge significance. This essentially dictates where the mic will pick up its signal.
Omnidirectional mics pick up audio from all around, meaning the signal will be the same regardless of from which direction you sing into it.
Figure-8 mics pick up very poorly from the sides, but strongly from the front and back, while cardioid mics are more directional. Cardioids are very popular for vocal applications, but they can have a narrow pickup axis, so if the vocalist moves off it a loss of signal will result.
Pickup pattern is important for several reasons. If you’ve chosen a specific room to record in because of the quality of its reverb or ambience, an omnidirectional mic will probably be a solid choice. Whereas, if you’re performing on a loud stage or in a booth, you’ll likely favour a cardioid mic.
Cardioid mics are prone to a phenomenon called the proximity effect, which can be a blessing or curse depending on the audio characteristics of the mic and the talent. As a vocalist moves closer to a cardioid mic it will exhibit a boost in the bass frequencies, which can sound pleasantly warm and rich. Or just muddy. It’s a technique worth trying on thin, high-pitched vocals, but we suspect Barry White stepped back a bit.
Generally speaking, Omni mics sound fuller and open while cardioids sound more enclosed. However, cardioids are a better choice where leakage – sound bleeding from neighbouring instruments/vocalists – is an issue and they don’t feedback as readily. However, when they are finally coaxed into feedback the result is an immediate unpleasantly high-pitched squeal. Ouch.
When doing your research there are plenty of brands you’ll come across, the more established of which – Shure, AKG and Rode – have decades of history in both music and broadcasting and can be relied upon to deliver quality mics. There are a good number of younger brands vying for your attention too though, with names like Aston and IK Multimedia providing excellent alternatives.
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