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A microphone can be used for a lot of things: podcasting, karaoke singing, voice recording, live broadcasts, live performances, music production, and more. Just like most products in the market, microphones can vary when it comes to price. There are microphones that have a price tag sitting on the higher end of a scale, and there are also ones that come with an affordable price. Maybe you’re thinking that all microphones have the same goal of converting sound waves into signals, so why is there a disparity in price between its different kinds?
Here’s a short simple answer: there are a couple of aspects that dictate the pricing of expensive microphones versus their low-cost counterparts. In this article, we’ll be discussing various types of microphones, their price ranges, and what factors affect their pricing. If you’re just starting out with your home studio or looking for a microphone to use in different settings and unsure of their prices, treat this as your guide on the price range of different microphones in the market today!
Numerous microphones in the market vary in price. It’s nearly impossible to list down each mic in existence along with how much they cost. It would take ages for anyone to read through, and it’s not practical nor does it hold much value for consumers. Instead, it’s better to have an idea of the price range of microphones so that you’ll know how much you’ll need for your budget.
Mics can go as low as $1 and can go as high as $10,000 or even more! You might be surprised that it’s a really huge range. Most microphones at the lower end of the scale are consumer-grade mics, while those that sit on the higher end of the scale are usually professional-quality mics from well-known manufacturers. To illustrate, some mic capsules can cost $1 while professional studio microphones can rack up to $9,000.
A microphone with a USB connection can cost you $50 and above, while XLR microphones can retail around the same price but can be heavier on the pocket as you’ll also need to purchase a preamp to use it. Headsets can start at $70, while handhelds usually have a base price of $30. Type, usage, frequency response, pickup pattern, connectivity, audio quality, construction, brand name are just some of the few things that determine the cost of microphones.
Mics are created with one goal in mind: to convert sound waves into audio signals. While they all have the same objective, microphones come in a variety of prices. Mics are priced according to their intended use. Having a general understanding of mics and their applications can be a great help in understanding their cost. We’ve listed down several types, their estimated cost, and the reason behind their price.
Consumer electret microphone capsules cost around $1 to $10 but don’t let their price fool you. They are very small but are of high quality as they’re manufactured with higher labor costs. These simple mics may cost just a dollar but they’re found in consumer electronics such as cellphones and laptops.
Mics under this category are also referred to as consumer-grade microphones. These are usually ones that you can use on your karaoke machine or sold as toys or used at home. Most microphones made for karaoke singing are dynamic mics. Signals from general microphones are incompatible with most professional mic inputs and are not used in any professional setting. These mics usually cost around $13 to $50 and are rarely above that.
Low-end dynamic microphones are often inexpensive options for jam spaces and multi-purpose room public address systems. While these handheld microphones are bare-bones and basic, they’re ideal for those who just want to modulate their voice and get their message across a crowd.
Condenser microphones can be usually found on the higher-end of the price scale and it can be difficult to make cheap ones that have a great audio quality. Despite that, there are still consumer-grade condenser mics on the market that are priced around $30 to $50. It’s very unlikely to find a professional-quality condenser mic priced lower than $50, though.
There are consumer-grade lavalier mics that are built using simple electret capsules. However, their audio quality can be quite unbalanced. A consumer-grade lavalier mic can still be ideal for those just starting out making YouTube videos or who just want to make simple videos on other platforms. These can cost from anywhere around $30 to $50.
This microphone type is ideal for live performances, singing, speeches, interviews, and the like. Since this particular mic type is usually handled by different people, they need to be highly durable and robust. As such, handheld mics are usually dynamic microphones that are more sturdy and hefty than condenser mics.
A handheld microphone also needs to offer a directional pickup system, usually a front sound pickup one so that it doesn’t capture background noise. Any mic that falls under this category costs around $30 to $300 or even more. One legendary handheld mic is the Shure SM58 which retails for $100 and above.
It’s not impossible to find condenser microphones that are under $100. Low-end condenser microphones can be used for a project studio. Condensers around this price point can sound bright compared to dynamic mics or condensers that are on the higher end. Still, for those who are beginning to build their project home studio, this type of mic can be considered. You can find them selling for around $50 to $100.
A ribbon microphone made for general use won’t have the same sound as a higher-end model but they still work pretty well due to the materials that make up its diaphragm. You can find a ribbon microphone for general use around the $50 to $100 mark.
Suitable for voice recording, podcasting, and streaming, a desktop computer microphone is one that usually comes with a USB connection and a 3.5mm mic-in jack. While most devices have a built-in mic, having external desktop computer microphones is ideal as it can greatly improve the audio quality of your content.
A USB microphone is typically plug-and-play, making them convenient to use. Most desktop computer microphones typically have a price tag ranging from $30 to $75, while higher-end ones can go for $100 and above. Recently, the Blue Yeti has become a wildly popular choice for online content creators due to its affordable cost of $89.
Also called lapel mics or hands-free microphones, lavalier microphones are used in interviews, presentations, and other on-stage applications. Headsets and ear-set microphones also belong under lavalier microphones. A lavalier mic is usually small in size and is clipped onto the user’s clothing. Lavalier microphones generally have directional or omnidirectional pickup patterns, recording sound from every direction. As for its price, a lavalier mic tends to be around $70 to $500.
The Sony ECM44B is a lav mic that comes with a clip holder and an XLR connector, priced at about $200. One example of a headset microphone that’s suitable for concert recording is the AKG C520, costing around $160.
A dynamic microphone can be used for multiple applications but its versatility doesn’t mean that they have a high cost. Priced around the $100 to $250 range, a high-quality dynamic microphone is made with a simple moving-coil transducer. These mics are greatly innovative and can be a bang for your buck. One of the best dynamic mics around is the Shure SM57 which sells for $100.
Microphones used in studio settings are usually condenser mics as they have a great frequency response and can capture a more detailed sound. Condenser microphones used in a professional or home studio are also more sensitive than dynamic microphones and aren’t as rugged as them. Studio microphones are generally used for voice recording, vocal recording, broadcasts, and the like. Because of its sensitivity and range, studio condenser microphones regularly have a price of around $100 to $1,000.
Wireless microphones offer immense convenience and mobility for any person who uses them. They can come in the form of a headset microphone, handheld, or lavalier designs. Wireless microphones come with a transmitter that encodes the mic signal and sends it wirelessly via a matching receiver. Due to the technology, receiver, and transmitter, wireless microphones tend to be priced as more expensive microphones. A wireless microphone can cost anywhere from $120 to $1,000. The Audio-Technica 2000 series is available in both handheld and headset designs and costs $260 and above.
Stereo mics are special in the way that they contain two capsules. Each capsule records audio separately and together, they produce a signal with just one microphone. They can be quite limited in usage but they’re more compact and are easier to set up than other types of mics. These can retail around $200 up to $2,000.
One mic that is generally expensive whether it’s new or old is a tube microphone. A tube microphone is highly-sought after because of its warm, rich, vintage broadcast sound. This is due to the intricacy in its design as well as its premium-grade manufacturing. Additionally, these microphones are usually made in small batches for precision and attention to detail. You’ll find that any tube microphone can cost around $1,000 to $5,000, or even higher than that, especially if it’s a microphone that has a legendary status. The popular Warm Audio WA-251 is a tube mic that’s great for studio use, offering warm and rich vocals.
As technology evolves, so does recording sound. Digital recording and software usage has been on the rise recently and along with that comes a new microphone technology called the modeling microphone system. Used in conjunction with computer software, a modeling microphone system allows users to emulate various mics. You can specify and alter frequency response, polar pattern, and more within the software. Because of the technology used, these systems usually sell for around $1,000 to $5,000.
Aside from microphones themselves, accessories are almost always needed to get the most value of a mic. The cost of accessories depends on the type, quality, specialization, and even the brand name. Here are some accessories that you may need alongside your microphone.
Microphone grilles can be replaced if they get damaged in the studio or during live use, and you’ll have to pay around $5 to almost a hundred dollars depending on the material and the mic that you have. There are also interchangeable grilles available that you can use to change the frequency responses of a microphone. Often, those interchangeable grilles are used with lavalier designs and are sold for around $10 to $50.
If you’re recording outdoors, you’ll need to consider elements such as wind, rain, background noise, and other external sources. Fitting a windscreen on your microphone not only protects it from elements but can also filter out background noise and other external sounds.
Various foam windscreens or fur gloves can be attached to microphones and they cost anywhere from $1 to $30. Some windscreens in the market are combined with a shock mount and a mic stand and therefore sell at a higher cost that can go up to several hundred dollars. If you’re recording in a studio environment, you don’t really need a windscreen.
Microphone clips are universal and can hold dynamic mics in place. Mic clips are also used with lavalier mics. These are fairly cheap and start around $20 however, there are also specialized clips for premium microphones and can sell for $100.
Stage microphones don’t have a use for shock mounts; however, if you have your own home recording studio, your microphone will need one. Studio microphones are usually sensitive to rumble and vibrations; the best way to reduce them is to use a shock mount. Many shock mounts start around $5 but there are also specialized ones that cost more than $300.
A pop filter is a simple microphone accessory that’s typically used in a recording studio. It reduces plosives during voice recording and vocal recording. Pop filters also protect the microphone from saliva during recording. They’re usually valued at $15 to $30, depending on the material and quality used. Some pop filters come in a combination with shock mounts as well. A pop filter-shock mount combo retails at around $100 and above.
Some microphones that use XLR connectivity do not come with an XLR cable in the package. You won’t be able to connect your XLR microphone to an audio interface if you don’t have a cable. A 15-foot XLR cable can sell for around $10 to $20.
Many factors affect and dictate the price of microphones. We’ve established earlier that a microphone price is usually based on their intended use but also, there are more aspects to it. Branding, build quality, and craftsmanship are just some of the components that affect microphone pricing. Check out the following aspects that determine the microphone cost.
Mics that have more sophisticated components tend to be more expensive. Complex and highly sensitive mics, such as condenser microphones, are expensive mics because they offer sensitivity and frequency response that dynamic mics don’t have. Tube microphones are generally one of the most expensive mics around due to their unique structure.
Aside from that, the cost of materials in making a microphone is a factor as well. The difference in prices can vary between ideal materials and less-than-ideal or “good enough” materials. Many mics use materials that are less in quality, while other microphones make use of high-quality materials, adding to their price.
Brand names are very important in the audio manufacturing world. A lot of times, the mere mention of a brand name alone can give you an idea of the microphone cost. Producers, audio engineers, and talents will notice brand names of microphones used in a studio or other applications. Shure, Audio-Technica, Neumann, Rode, and Sony are just some of the popular brands that are known for their high standard, premium sound quality, and legacy.
For example, Shure is well-known for its role in recording important speeches and performances such as that of Elvis Presley or Martin Luther King Jr. A Shure mic was also used in the recording of Michael Jackson’s legendary album, Thriller. Shure has a history that spans several decades, giving its microphones an esteemed reputation in the industry.
A microphone is a piece of delicate equipment that needs meticulous construction and attention. There are mic brands that excel in developing innovative and high-quality microphones with premium components. These brands launch their mics in small batches to ensure that the craftsmanship of each is up to standard. Due to that, the microphones that those brands produce tend to have an expensive price and are highly sought after.
Product-testing is another component that manufacturers do before mass-producing their microphones. Numerous tests are done on mics to ensure that they have the standard and quality that their brand is known for. Product testing a microphone can be composed of a series of tests that may cost a hefty amount of investment, time, and energy. The costs of these tests done on a mic can also add to its price.
One aspect that can add to the price of a particular mic is innovation. Most microphone manufacturers don’t just stop at one remarkable mic model. They invest in innovation and research to further improve their mics and roll out products that can keep up with technological advancements. The amount of research done can also hike up the price of a microphone.
Like most products in the world, marketing and advertising need to be done in order to sell. Microphone manufacturers have to spend on marketing expenditures to make their products known to their target consumers and potential buyers. These advertising costs also increase the microphone price.
Mic manufacturers need to offer reliable customer support to their consumers. Aside from customer support, most mics come with repair services and warranties. Manufacturers tend to recoup the expense of their customer support services by raising the cost of their mics.
Businesses usually have brick-and-mortar services to offer their products to consumers and make a profit. Aside from putting their mic products in stores, they also have offices and headquarters which house employees. Businesses need to pay employees and keep their facilities running. These can also add to the microphone cost.
Generally, expensive mics have a better “sound” than inexpensive mics. However, to the average ear, the difference in the recording will not always be noticeable beyond a certain level of quality. Moreover, the right kind of microphone to use is always specific to a situation. For example, in some cases, a $100 dynamic mic can outperform a $10,000 condenser microphone.
It is logical to say that expensive microphones are better than low-cost microphones because of their manufacturing quality. However, there are consumers who are not willing to shell out money for an expensive microphone that does not work for their situation when they can buy a microphone that won’t cost them a huge dent in their pocket. A microphone choice will almost always depend on what you are recording or what situation you will use it for.
For instance, you may be better off getting a dynamic Shure microphone than a top-end condenser Sony microphone if you’re recording a snare drum. Or perhaps, if you’re a starter at creating online content, you can go for a USB microphone like the Blue Snowball iCE which is affordable and easy to use. For live broadcasts, you can opt for a Rode, Sony, or Sennheiser. Maybe if you’re doing voice work, you could go for an Audio-Technica microphone or a Neumann mic. If you need your hands to be free, you can opt for a lavalier microphone from Rode or use headsets instead.
It’s worth reiterating that getting the right microphone will be according to your usage. Of course, if you have the budget to acquire an expensive mic, you’re more than welcome to purchase them. If you don’t have the budget, there are still affordable microphone options available to you.
The best mics that are worth it will always be the microphone that gives you the value for your money. With the right understanding of microphones and their usage, you can make use of an affordable mic that can give you better audio or be on par with a more expensive mic.
To a great extent, the cost of a microphone is determined by a number of things such as its type, usage, materials, brand, marketing, and more. Whether you need one for studio use, or plug one into a karaoke machine, or clip a lavalier on your clothes to do a presentation, or need a headset microphone for conferences, choosing one can be quite a challenging task, especially when you need to consider the budget that you have. By knowing what affects the pricing of microphones, you’ll be able to find the right microphone that works best for you.