Skip to main content

Best vocal mics 2021: 8 top vocal microphones for stage and studio use

Best vocal mics 2021: 8 top vocal microphones for stage and studio use
(Image credit: Getty/MachineHeadz)

When it comes to buying the best vocal mic for you, the decision is a hugely personal one. The way in which you’d like to use it, and the type of vocal mic you choose, depends entirely on the voice it’ll be capturing. Frankly, it can be hard to know where to start - especially when there are so many to choose from.

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 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 won’t set you back five figures, 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.

Looking for a great deal on a vocal mic? Check out our Black Friday music deal page for all the latest news and the biggest offers. 

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. Balancing performance with cost, the Shure comes out in front on account of its glorious, rich vocal sounds and high levels of build quality.

We’d also highlight the exceptional performance delivered by the Aston Spirit. This growing British brand is producing microphones with a level of class which far belies their relatively low price tag.

Best vocal mics: Product guide

Best vocal mics: Shure SM7B

(Image credit: Shure)

The best vocal mic – it was good enough for MJ

Specifications
Launch price: $399/£369/€366
Type: Condenser
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+A lot of mic for the price+Perfect for podcasting and voiceovers+Choice of the stars
Reasons to avoid
-Not great for live use

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

Best vocal mics: Aston Spirit

(Image credit: Aston Microphones)

The best of British engineering

Specifications
Launch price: $449/£289/€329
Type: Condenser
Pickup pattern: Cardioid, Omni, Figure 8
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+Amazing value+Bomb-proof construction+Versatile
Reasons to avoid
-Not much!

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

Best vocal mics: AKG C414 XLII

(Image credit: AKG)

3. AKG C414 XLII

Versatility and very high quality are order of the day

Specifications
Launch price: $1,099/£699/€777
Type: Condenser
Pickup pattern: 9 switchable patterns
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+One mic to rule them all+Built to last a lifetime
Reasons to avoid
-You’ll struggle to find anyone with a bad word to say about this mic

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.

Best vocal mics: Shure Super 55 dynamic microphone

(Image credit: Shure)

4. Shure Super 55

One of the best vocal mics for the stage

Specifications
Launch price: $249/£205/€220
Type: Dynamic
Pickup pattern: Supercardioid
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+Oodles of vibe+Simple as they come
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most versatile

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.

Best vocal mics: Rode NTK

(Image credit: Rode)

5. Rode NTK

This solid mid-range tube condenser is one of the best vocal mics

Specifications
Launch price: $529/£449/€449
Type: Tube condenser
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+Build quality+Tube adds something unique tonally
Reasons to avoid
-Some users have reported a slightly boxy mid-range

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.

Best vocal mics: Shure SM58

(Image credit: Shure)

A scene veteran, still going strong

Specifications
Launch price: $99/£99/€98
Type: Dynamic
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+Hard to fault+Reliable as they come
Reasons to avoid
-Not particularly versatile

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

Best vocal mics: IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)

Bus-powered condenser for the home studio

Specifications
Launch price: $149/£139/€156
Type: Condenser
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Connection: USB
Reasons to buy
+Small but mighty+Great results from vocals and acoustic instruments
Reasons to avoid
-Better suited to smaller studio setups

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

Best vocal mics: AKG C636

(Image credit: AKG)

A great vocal microphone option for speech

Specifications
Launch price: $499/£336/€409
Type: Condenser
Pickup pattern: Cardioid
Connection: XLR
Reasons to buy
+Commanding speech mic+Great handheld performance
Reasons to avoid
-Musicians might look elsewhere

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

Best vocal mics: Buying advice

Woman sings into a microphone in the studio

(Image credit: Getty/Simon Winnall)

What type of microphone do I need? 

The first thing to consider when trying to figure out which type of vocal mic you need is where exactly are you going to be using 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 noise, a dynamic mic will provide more robustness, while the slight decrease in sensitivity of the mic’s pickup means it won’t be damaged by sudden changes in volume or humidity – both common issues in the live environment.

For capturing vocals in a studio, however, the condenser is king. Condenser mics are more sensitive than their dynamic counterparts and, as a result, are capable of picking up much more nuance from a human voice or acoustic instrument. In a studio environment, this equates to a cleaner, more detailed signal that will result in your recordings sounding as good as they can possibly be. 

 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 no matter 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 pick up sound from one specific place. These mics have a set axis, and if the audio source (in this case, you) moves off this axis, a loss of signal is the result.

Pickup pattern is important for a number of reasons; if you’ve chosen a specific room to record in because of its reverb or ambience, an omnidirectional mic will probably be a solid choice, while if you’re performing on a loud stage or in a booth, you’ll likely favour a cardioid mic. 

When doing your research there are plenty of brands you’ll come across, the larger of which – Shure, AKG and Rode – have decades of history in the music and broadcasting worlds, 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. 

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.