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The modern mic market is filled with hundreds, if not thousands of vocal microphones. Vocal microphones are the backbone of the recording industry and are often the central piece in both home and professional studio setups. The human voice, after all, is one of the best instruments available to society, and it makes no sense to not invest in capturing it at its best.
To truly find the best mic for vocals might be close to impossible, since every performer, sound engineer, producer, and listener have their personal favorite microphones. Still, there’s a ton of variety available today. While certainly a good thing, it also makes finding your preferred microphone for vocals a little more complicated than it should be. The best live vocal microphone won’t always be a good fit for the studio and vice versa.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of what we think are the best live vocal microphones and studio microphones available today. We’ve got mics at a range of prices, some for stage use and some for professional studios. The unifying factor is that they’re all high-quality mics that would be a credit to mic cabinets and recording setups everywhere. Read on and find the best microphone for vocals that’s right for you.
Neumann U87 AI
Considered one of the best microphones around, Neumann U87 AI is a top choice among professional vocalists, instrumental players thanks to their exceptional quality and great sound output.
Warm Audio WA-87
The Warm Audio WA-87 can record anything from string instrumentals, percussions, and even vocals. This highly versatile mic offers excellent sound quality for different users.
Warm Audio WA-47
Warm Audio WA-47 Tube mic is favored for its sonic characteristic when recording voice and instruments in the studio.
Sound Quality: Design: Features:
Sound Quality: Design: Features:
Sound Quality: Design: Features:
If you’re looking for the best microphone that comes with an excellent lineage, Neumann microphones may be the perfect fit for you. The Neumann U87 AI is the latest version of the world’s favorite large-diaphragm versatile condenser microphone. The U87 is the classic microphone line, and the U87 AI is just one more mic in a long legacy of great mics.
While a successor to the U87, the large-diaphragm U87 AI is a fantastic mic all on its own. It replaces the U87’s 48V phantom power with a DC-DC converter, for one. The end result is a high-end that sounds more open and airy. It’s also got fantastic versatility, good for miking instruments and recording vocals.
The U87 AI has a balanced audio response and a sensitivity that allows you to get up close and personal with your source. It’s also got that fabled U87 warmth, creating a recording that’s rich, vibrant, and lush.
Even without the U87 pedigree, the U87 AI is just one of the highest-quality studio microphones around. It’s the crown jewel of any recording setup, coming with its own pop filter and shock mount for more convenience. It’s one of the best condenser microphones available today. While it’s certainly an investment, it’s one that you’re going to be pleased with for decades to come.
ARTISTS WHO USE NEUMANN U87 AI – J The Beatles (U87), Ray Charles (U87), Amy Winehouse (U87)
|✔ Best studio microphone for vocals|
✔Great for recording electric guitar amplifiers
|✖️ Expensive |
Despite Warm Audio’s relative youth as a company, it quickly became an industry favorite. It’s not hard to see why, as it consistently puts out incredible quality products for affordable prices. Warm Audio aims to bring classic favorites into every studio, and that’s exactly what it does with the Warm Audio WA-87.
A tribute to one of the greatest condenser microphones of all time, the Neumann U87, the large-diaphragm tube condenser WA-87 brings vintage sound to a new generation. Put frankly, it’s the closest you can get to that legendary mic without shelling out thousands of dollars. The WA-87 has a tone that’s detailed and bright without being in your face, with three polar patterns including figure 8.
The WA-47 can record a range of different sources such as string instruments, percussion, and of course vocals. It updates the U87 tone for the modern ear, retaining a vintage warmth in its tone but adding brightness and smoothness. Overall, the effect is a fuller output that puts a 21st-century twist on nostalgia.
ARTISTS WHO USE WARM AUDIO WA-87 – James Bay
|✔ High-quality recording microphone|
✔ Has significant flexibility
✔ Best for vintage sounds
|✖️ Installation may be challenging |
The best thing that mics can create is a sonic legacy, and the classic Neumann U47 did just that. Warm Audio decided to recreate that timeless warmth almost seamlessly with their Warm Audio WA-47. If the U47 defined a generation of music, the WA-47 is bringing that back right into the 21st century.
What sets the WA-47 apart from other vocal mics is its warmth. This mic keeps close to its inspiration while creating a unique tone on its own, and the effort shows. Studio vocals on the WA-47 are beautifully balanced, with a subtle distortion that adds character as the source gets louder. It has a detailed midrange and a low range that’s subtle but not too muffled.
Warm Audio’s WA-47 also allows for more flexibility, with a whopping 9 polar patterns including cardioid polar pattern, Omni, figure 8, and six additional mixed patterns. You can also adjust patterns remotely at the power supply instead of going between your sound source and the mic. While the magic of the original U47 mic might be something else, the WA-47 turns homage into an art form.
ARTISTS WHO USE WARM AUDIO WA-47 – Chris Thile, Margaret Glaspy
|✔ Large-diaphragm tube mic|
✔ Has 9 polar patterns
✔ Great for vintage sounds
|✖️ Shock mound tends to slip |
One of the best condenser vocal microphones on the market today, the Røde NT2A is an extremely versatile dual-diaphragm mic. This studio workhorse mic offers enough features to do the work of five mics, with options to spare. This mic is a prime example of Røde going bigger and better. It’s not hard to see why this would be a welcome addition to any mic cabinet.
The NT2A comes with a three-position variable high-pass filter, a three-position pad, and three pickup pattern options. It has a smooth, neutral sound and an impossibly low self-noise level of 7 dB. This allows it to capture the subtleties of voice sounds without engineers needing to resort to post-processing.
With its incredible range of features, it’s a given that the NT2A is a popular microphone for recording vocals in studios worldwide. Its transparent, neutral sound makes it easy to adapt to different vocal styles, and when it comes to overall flexibility, no other mic even comes close.
ARTISTS WHO USE RODE NT2A – Crywolf, Conor Maynard
|✔ Offers great studio quality vocals|
✔ Low self-noise
✔ Built-in PAD and high-pass filter
|✖️ Bulky and heavy |
✖️ Recordings can sound bright sometimes
While Neumann has built a reputation for expensive microphones, the company’s put in the work to make their microphones available to more people. The Neumann TLM 102 is one such microphone. Certainly, the company’s most recognizable, affordable condenser vocal microphone, the TLM 102 also has the honor of being one of the best studio vocal mics around.
This mic has a build that’s on the smaller side but still made of the same top-quality Neumann materials. It has a fixed cardioid pickup pattern that nonetheless offers top performance for instruments and human voices.
It can hold up to high sound pressure levels without distorting or losing clarity and has a rich sound that doesn’t lose detail. Vocalists don’t have to worry about tricky plosives, because the TLM 102 is designed with an integrated pop filter to ensure optimum performance.
If you’re looking for microphones for recording vocals that offer top audio quality without breaking the bank, then the TLM 102 might just be it. Clarity, definition, and rich sound are all parred for the course of this mic. If excellence is the name of the game, then TLM 102 is winning.
ARTISTS WHO USE NEUMANN TLM 102 – Mac Ayres, Andy Othling
|✔️ Excellent vocal quality and clarity|
✔️ Can be used as a dual-mic amp setup
✔️ Wide-range frequency response
|✖️ Pricey |
Sound engineers know that nostalgia is one of the top-selling points in the modern sound industry today. Many manufacturers spend up to millions of dollars in research and development in order to recreate the classic sounds of the 20th century. Few, however, do it quite as well as Warm Audio. Warm Audio is a company devoted to creating the perfect homage mics, and the Warm Audio WA-251 is one of their best.
The WA-251 is based on the beloved Telefunken ELA M 251. It aims to bring the same classic sound at a more affordable price. An all-vacuum tube, large-diaphragm condenser microphone has a smooth, rich sound that flatters the voice. It has a natural presence and a buttery sound, making it a great choice for recording vocals.
One of the top choices for studio recording, the WA-251 is a powerhouse mic that can handle both loud instruments and strong vocal performance. Still, it shines brightest when recording vocals, and remains one of the best vocal mics available on the market. Plus, its multiple polar patterns like cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-of-eight give it the flexibility and versatility that not many cardioid mics can offer.
ARTISTS WHO USE WARM AUDIO WA-251 – Fitz and the Tantrums, Garth Brooks
✔ Large-diaphragm condenser mic
✔ Great to use with an acoustic guitar
|✖️ The build quality could be better|
The jewel of live performances is the Neumann KMS 105. It’s not a secret that Neumann microphones are expensive, but any sound enthusiast will tell you they’re well worth the price. The KMS 105 has captivated audiences since its release in 1999, and it’s not hard to see why.
The KMS 105 stands out because of its incredible sound quality. Precision, richness, and natural sound: this microphone has it all. It can also handle a sound pressure level of up to 130 dB, making it a top performer no matter the sound source. Plus, the KMS 105 has the classic Neumann quality build which means it’s designed to last.
With its wide frequency response, transparent sound, and natural character, it’s not hard to see why the KMS 105 is still a favorite choice despite its high price point. While this microphone is certainly a bit of an investment, you won’t find as many microphones that offer the same, timeless Neumann quality.
ARTISTS WHO USE NEUMANN KMS 105 – David Gilmour, Matthew Bellamy
|✔ Steady frequency response|
✔ Excellent build quality
✔ Consistent and smooth polar pattern
|✖️ Not for rappers or rock singers |
Carefully engineered and meticulously designed, the Audio-Technica AT2020 is the beginner’s ultimate cardioid condenser microphone. A favorite for home studios everywhere, it’s cold-hard proof that affordable microphones can sometimes outperform expensive options.
The AT2020 is one of, if not the best vocal microphones under 200 US dollars. It has a warm, solid sound with a cardioid pickup pattern, an extended frequency range, and a high-quality build. One of the condenser microphones with a condenser on the smaller side, it’s nonetheless able to compete with recording studios’ sound in even the humblest home studio.
Setting up is easy as it comes with a secure shock mount, allowing it to fit on any regular mic stand, ensuring it is safe during daily use. Add in a pop filter and you have yourself a recording experience that’s convenient, affordable, and high quality.
Audio-Technica’s AT2020 is an all-rounder that can capture sound from any source, from drum overheads to the human voice. In fact, it’s so good that it’s almost a necessity in every home studio setup. Its clean, warm sound makes it a natural choice for recording vocals. Definitely, a must-have for home recording studio setups.
ARTISTS WHO USE AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020 – Mac DeMarco, Billie Eilish
|✔️ Aesthetic vintage design|
✔️ Perfect for desktop use
✔️ Wide frequency response
|✖️ Can be fragile |
✖️ Will need a separate shock mount or stand to prevent noise vibrations
If popularity is your main jumping-off point, then there’s no better place to start than the Shure SM58. One of the best vocal mics for live vocals around, the SM58 is the quintessential dynamic mic. With its iconic silver, ball-shaped metal grille, and black barrel, it’s no wonder this is the first mic that comes to mind when you think, well, “microphone.”
More than its iconic look, however, what makes the Shure SM58 so universally beloved is its performance. Priced affordably at less than USD$ 100 SRP, it nevertheless is able to produce a sound that brings richness and depth in live performances. With a neutral frequency response optimized for vocal performances, it also has a warm, natural mid-range that flatters most voice types.
A pop filter is a great investment for top results, although the SM58 does well without it. In terms of build quality, it exceeds expectations, with a shock mount system that makes it perfect for the stage.
Overall, you’d be hard-pressed to find a vocal mic that achieves the same quality as the Shure SM58 for an equally affordable price. There’s a reason that this recording microphone has had such enduring popularity for over half a century — it’s simply worth every penny.
ARTISTS WHO USE SHURE SM58 – The Killers, Patti Smith, Public Enemy
|✔ Dynamic microphone|
✔ Automatic setup out of the box
✔ Comes with several transmitter options
|✖️ Has no on/off switch |
With a natural sound, strong presence, and affordable price, it’s no wonder that the Sennheiser E835 has made such a splash since its debut. A favorite for both podcasters and musicians, it has a simple yet robust build quality that might be surprising given its affordable price.
Originally designed for stage use, the E835 puts in one of the best vocal performances for live musicians around. A dynamic mic with a balanced low end, bright response, and solid performance, it’s probably one of the best choices for live vocals. Plus, with a little bit of adjustment, it works just as well with home studios, making it a mic that shines both on and off the stage.
Despite its cardioid pattern, the E835 is forgiving even when the sound sources move off-axis. Plus, its high SPL allows it to work well with loud sounds like kick drums or percussion. It also works on batteries, so you don’t have to worry about complicated setups that require phantom power. Overall, it’s a solid, reliable microphone, and an asset to any musician on the road.
ARTISTS WHO USE SENNHEISER E835 – Lady Antebellum
|✔ Easy to set up and use|
✔ Affordable price range
✔ Well-balance low end sound
|✖️ No mic stand |
Among numerous dynamic microphones out there, the Shure SM7B is one that’s specifically tailored for vocals. If you belong to a rock band or do hip-hop, this mic should be your go-to as it’s the industry standard. The Shure SM7B is based on the SM7, a microphone that numerous rock artists have most certainly used since its first release in 1976.
The newer Shure SM7B offers an astounding sound quality, allowing vocals to pop with a well-rounded sound. It delivers crisp highs and warm lows, adding definition to any user’s voice and making it one of the best microphones for vocals like singing. This cardioid dynamic mic also features a low-end response and an onboard EQ to tailor the mic’s sound when needed.
Moreover, the Shure SM7B is a durable mic that features built-in protection against electromagnetic hum to prevent your computer monitor from interfering with the signal. Like all other microphones in Shure’s SM range, the SM7B is highly durable and built to withstand any performance. Aside from its rugged housing, it also comes with an extra-thick removable windscreen to help keep your vocals pure and uninterrupted by any noise.
ARTISTS WHO USE SHURE SM7B – Michael Jackson, Dave Grohl, Billie Joe Armstrong
|✔ Easy to set up and use|
✔ Affordable price range
✔ Well-balance low end sound
|✖️ No mic stand |
There are a billion and one different sounds in this world, so why is picking a microphone exclusively for vocals so important? Put simply, the human voice is your first and most convenient instrument. There are tons of factors that can affect a recording, but the right vocals can elevate it into something fantastic. If you’re looking for that magic factor, a good vocal mic can get you there.
To start with, vocal mics are versatile. Sure, most vocal mics tend to have a little color, so they might not all be appropriate for different sources. But the best vocal mics with the right kind of features and tweaking can be a fantastic replacement if you don’t have a mic for instrument recording.
Vocal mics are generally adaptable and can be used for recording soloists, choruses, handling noise, live performances, and more. The best vocal mics, for example, can be used both on stage and in a professional or home studio.
Put frankly, no mic cabinet is complete without one. Sure, there are mics optimized for speaking, outdoor use, instruments, and other recording sources or situations, but at the end of the day, you’ll always need a good microphone for vocals. Even if you’re gunning for a simple, home studio setup, vocal microphones are still worth the investment.
Finally, it’s important to look into buying good microphones because they’re some of the most reliable equipment you’ll have. Instrument microphones can be finicky and expensive, outdoor microphones won’t always have the richness you need, and podcasting mics can lack certain features.
At the end of the day, a quality vocal mic can give you a consistent, reliable performance to reproduce an audio signal that’s pleasing to the listener’s ears no matter what.
While deciding that you need a good vocal mic can be easy, getting there is a whole other ball game. Figuring out what features to invest in or whether you’re willing to pay higher can take a lot of thinking, especially if you’re new to the microphone game. Here’s a short list of things to look out for.
The first thing you’ll need to look at is the frequency response. This is one of the deciding factors that determine your mic’s overall performance. The frequency range can be dependent on engineering — condenser microphones, for example, are more likely to give a flatter response.
Flatter frequency responses are more versatile, but some may prefer mics that offer a little bit of presence boost. Look for a mic optimized for the human vocal range, typically from 85 Hz to 255 Hz, although it can vary.
The pickup or polar pattern determines the “active” area of your microphone, or what parts of your microphone will be recording. If you have a microphone for recording vocals, this is typically set to cardioid, which is preferred since it offers great background noise rejection. Not all recording situations are the same, however, and a cardioid mic won’t always be the appropriate one for a setting.
A figure 8 pattern might be better to record vocals of a choral group, or if capturing ambient noise is what you want to do, an omnidirectional mic is the best one to pick. Some mics even offer a mix of different patterns to be more effective at capturing sound.
With vocal microphones, having enough dynamic range and headroom is essential. Dynamic range, which is the difference between the lowest recordable level and highest recordable level on your microphone, can differ among models.
Some microphones may have a weaker bass response, for example, or lose space in the high end. High-quality condenser mics can give you consistent performance across the entire dynamic range.
Some commonly asked questions among musicians are “What is the best microphone? Which microphone should I buy?” The truth is, there isn’t a clear-cut answer to those questions. The best microphone for vocals depends on the person’s unique voice. What works for one person may not work for another.
A critical element that you should consider when selecting a microphone for vocals is the type of microphone capsule that you select. Microphone capsule styles can be divided into three main categories:
Dynamic microphones have a warm and full sound. They’re highly durable and are capable of picking up sound waves that are higher in frequency. Most dynamic mics have an internal shock mount to allow hand use, and their polar patterns also reject off-axis sounds. Due to that, they’re ideal for live applications and noisy environments. You’ll see them commonly used with guitar amps.
However, some dynamic mics are also regularly used for recording vocals. If you’re more of the rock vocals type, a dynamic microphone is the most suitable for your live shows. Additionally, dynamic microphones are also the type that is traditionally used by radio announcers, being the key to having that polished “broadcast” sound.
If you want a brighter and more detailed sound, a condenser mic is something that you should consider. Condenser mics are more sensitive than their dynamic mic counterparts and have a wider frequency response range. Since a condenser mic can pick up honest and true sounds, they’re favored as studio mics for vocal recording.
Condenser mics also require external phantom power which travels through a preamp, powering up the microphone. They can be difficult when used in live settings in terms of feedback, particularly with noisy performances. However, they can still be used in live sound applications such as overhead miking of choirs, pianos, acoustic instruments, and some percussion instruments such as cymbals.
Ribbon microphones operate in the same vein as dynamic mics but they differ in the way they employ a thin ribbon that vibrates to varying voltage. They’re mostly used in studios to record vocals and a broad range of instruments, especially when you need to tame high-end sources like a guitar amp, drum overheads, or brass. Ribbon mics can soften the sound and offer warmth to recorded material.
Now that you know the general main types of vocal microphones, it’s time to know how to use them. Here are the steps you should note when using a dynamic microphone or a condenser mic.
The rise of content creation on numerous online platforms has revolutionized computer-based recording. Routing music through the soundcard of a computer can be done via a host of avenues now, such as a sophisticated digital audio workstation (DAW), digital mixing boards, or simple audio interfaces that offer connections for a single mic and/or instrument. Among them all, however, the most simple and most convenient solution is a USB microphone.
A USB mic contains all the elements that a traditional microphone has, such as a capsule, diaphragm, and the like. It separates itself from traditional mics with its inclusion of two additional circuits: an onboard preamp and an analog-to-digital (A/D) converter.
As USB microphones already have an onboard preamp, it doesn’t need to be connected to an external preamp or a recording interface. The A/D converter conveniently changes the mic’s output from analog to digital once plugged into a computer. Due to that, the USB microphone has become the go-to mic of a lot of beginners testing the recording waters or those who just want a simple, straightforward recording microphone.
There are a lot of USB mic options available in the market, and most of them are condenser mic types. Since condenser mics offer a detailed sound, this makes USB mics good for vocal recording, as well as recording acoustic guitars, and other instruments. There are also some dynamic USB mics available that are geared towards vocal recording, but a number of them can also handle instruments too.
Professional singers use a variety of microphone types, depending on the specific performance or recording situation. Here are some of the most commonly used microphone types for vocals:
Ultimately, the best microphone for a professional singer will depend on the individual’s vocal characteristics, the type of performance or recording, and the specific microphone’s attributes and features.
Which mic is best for singing beginners?
While we’ve listed out the best microphone for vocals in this guide, it can be a little overwhelming for those who are just starting out in singing. The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a good choice for beginners as it is an all-arounder. Not only can it record vocals, but it’s also good for acoustic guitar use.
Another microphone that you can look into is the Shure SM57. It’s typically recommended for newbies, and it also sounds great when used with an electric guitar.
What mic does Billie Eilish use?
Popular singer Billie Eilish has been seen using a variety of microphones. For her song “Ocean Eyes,” Billie used the Audio-Technica AT2020 as her recording microphone. In her 3FM exclusive performances, Billie made use of the Shure SM58. Billie was also seen using a Blue Yeti USB microphone at one of her demo vocal recording sessions.
What is the number 1 microphone?
It’s difficult to determine a single “number 1” microphone, as the best microphone for a particular use case depends on various factors such as the sound source, recording environment, and desired sound quality.
That being said, some microphones have become synonymous with high-quality sound and are widely regarded as some of the best in the industry. For example, the Neumann U87 and AKG C414 are both popular choices among professional recording engineers and are often used in recording studios for vocals, drums, and other instruments.
Similarly, the Shure SM7B is a highly regarded dynamic microphone often used for radio and broadcast applications, while the Rode NT1 is a popular choice for home studio recording due to its affordability and high-quality sound.
Ultimately, the best microphone will depend on the specific use case and individual preferences, and it’s recommended to try out multiple options before making a final decision.
Why are condenser mics better for vocals?
Condenser microphones are generally considered to be better for vocals because they capture more detailed and nuanced sounds than dynamic microphones. This is due to its higher sensitivity, flatter frequency response, directional pickup pattern, and fast transient response.
However, it’s worth noting that while condenser microphones are often preferred for vocals, there are also many successful recordings made with dynamic microphones. Some singers may like the sound and feel of a dynamic microphone for live performances. Ultimately, the choice between a condenser or dynamic microphone will depend on the specific requirements of the recording environment and the singer’s preferences.
What is the best USB microphone?
USB microphones are the most convenient solution for any mic woes. They’re easy to use and their setup is pretty much a plug-and-play method, which is why a vast range of individuals, especially online content creators, use them. Aside from vocal recordings, a USB mic is usually used as a broadcast mic, making it ideal for podcasts, interviews, and voiceovers.
One of the best recording microphones that utilize USB technology is the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ model. Based on the original AT2020, the AT2020USB+ offers an extremely high-quality sound and a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. It’s equipped with a built-in headphone jack, mix control, and a fixed-charge back plate permanently polarized as a cardioid mic. This helps keep the sound input focused on you and your voice.
Picking the best vocal microphone can take a lot of work and research. Not all microphones are created equal and finding the right model that creates exactly the performance that you need can be a struggle.
Buying any kind of microphone is an investment, so it’s important to take the time and effort to study your options. The above list is just a small sample of all the different models available today. Hopefully, it goes a way towards helping you pick the best vocal microphone for live performance and the best microphones for recording vocals.
If price isn’t a factor in your mics and you want to invest for the long term, then you need a Neumann U87 AI. The U87 AI is the latest iteration of the fabled U87 and recreates that legendary performance while adding a modern spin.
It has a lush, vibrant character with a balanced sound and three different polar patterns, which means you get the perfect tone exactly how you want it.
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