Top 5 Best Studio Microphone

The best microphones are versatile and work hard. They’ve got your back no matter what you’re recording. Still, with so many great microphones out there, how do you know which one is for you?

A basic requirement for a microphone is accurately capturing a quality audio signal. However, how well a microphone does this will vary.

Investing in a microphone is a worthwhile endeavor, but if you’re on a budget that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice high-quality audio.

Below, you’ll find five of the best studio microphones, no matter what your budget, and no matter what you’re looking to record.

The microphones selected cover a wide range of budgets and ability levels, so there is sure to be something to suit your needs.

You’ll also find a handy buyer’s guide that tells you all you need to know ahead of purchasing a new mic for your studio set up, as well as the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Rode NT1 Microphone

Rode NT1 Microphone

First released 20 years ago, the original NT1 was followed a few years later by the NT1A. But the company has gone back to its roots with the latest NT1.

As well as sharing a name with the original mic, the design is also incredibly similar but on the inside it has been rebuilt from the ground up. In fact, the only component that the new NT1 has in common with the original is the mesh grille.

But what has exactly been redesigned with the new NT1? Well, firstly there’s the new HF6 capsule that is designed to emulate the sound of favorite vintage microphones but with very low noise.

Also, the transducer is suspended inside the microphone thanks to Rycote’s Lyre system that should reduce external vibrations.

According to Rode, the NT1 is also the quietest 1-inch cardioid condenser mic in the world, thanks to its high-grade electronics keeping the self-noise level at 4.5dBA.

Pros

  • Produces low noise.
  • Excellent sound quality.
  • Integrated shock mount.

Cons

  • Some customers reported durability issues with the mic, but as this is a condenser mic this is hardly surprising.

Also Available At:

Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package
  • Large diaphragm 1” gold-sputtered capsule
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Ultra-low noise, self-noise of only 5dB (A)
  • Includes Rode SM6 shock mount, pop filter and dust cover
  • Internal capsule shock mounting

Shure MV7

Shure MV7

Shure is a beloved microphone manufacturer in podcasting and vlogging circles, and it’s easy to see why with the MV7.

Its cool features make your recording experience as easy as possible, and I’m particularly impressed with the complimentary MOTIV app that lets you choose certain vocal presets to give your sound a more professional quality.

True, if you’re a mic musician or a singer this mic might be lacking in some features. But for a speech-specific microphone, the MV7 is more than capable and truly a reliable option.

Pros

  • The dual output makes the mic more versatile.
  • Incredibly handy MOTIV app.
  • Great for speech-specific recording.

Cons

  • It would have been useful to have a USB C-connection.

Also Available At:

Shure MV7 USB Podcast Microphone for Podcasting, Recording, Live Streaming & Gaming, Built-in Headphone Output, All Metal USB/XLR Dynamic Mic, Voice-Isolating Technology, TeamSpeak Certified - Silver
  • USB OR XLR CONNECTIONS: Dual USB;XLR output allows digital or analog recording
  • CLOSE MIC APPLICATIONS: Great for podcasting, recording, live streaming, and more
  • INTUITIVE TOUCH PANEL CONTROLS: Intuitive touch panel for control over gain, monitoring volume, headphone mix, and mic muting
  • BUILT-IN HEADPHONE OUTPUT: The Built-in headphone output allows for direct headphone monitoring while recording
  • RICH and NATURAL VOCAL REPRODUCTION: Optimized frequency response for rich and natural vocal reproduction

AKG C214

AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Grey

While the above microphone we would recommend for a specific usage, the AKG C214 is a true all-rounder. The C214 is a large diaphragm condenser microphone that will make excellent work of recording acoustic instruments, pianos, guitar amps, and vocals.

The quality of its all-metal body is astounding, and it has a pleasing heft. The switchable 160 HZ bass roll-off is responsible for the in-built attenuation.

If you’re a home studio owner who wants to invest in a sturdy, all-rounder studio microphone, you can’t go wrong with the AKG C124 which is exceptional value for money.

Pros

  • Attractive design.
  • Well-built.
  • Multi-pattern design is flexible.
  • Produces a solid, bright sound.

Cons

  • While the C124 is undoubtedly value for money, it is a tad more expensive than its MK1 predecessor.
AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Grey
  • Sonic Character Of The C414 Xlii For Beautifully Detailed Recording Of Lead Vocals And Solo Instruments
  • Outstanding Dynamic Range And Ultralow Noise For Close-Up Recording Of High-Output Sources Of Up To 156Db Spl
  • Switchable 20Db Attenuator And Bass-Cut Filter For Close-Up Recording And Reduction Of Proximity Effect
  • Integrated Suspension To Reduce Mechanical Noise And Vibration From Stage

Neumann TLM 102 Microphone

Neumann TLM 102 Microphone

You know you’re getting a good quality microphone if it has the Neumann name on it, and the TLM 102 is no exception. It is also a large diaphragm condenser that guarantees incredible capturing of vocals.

It also offers crystal clear reproduction across a range of frequencies, with a pleasant bump around the 6 kHz mark. The TLM 102 is an excellent specialist mic that will work magic on your mixes.

However, the TLM 102 isn’t a one trick pony. It features a rather high sound pressure threshold, so it can handle loud drums and guitar amplifiers too.

All in all, this is an ideal investment if you’re looking to upgrade your recording equipment and push your sound to a new level.

Pros

  • Excellent for recording vocals.
  • Provides astounding clarity.
  • High sound pressure means it’s also a match for drums and guitar amplifiers.

Cons

  • Does not come with a cable.

Also Available At:

Neumann Vocal Condenser Microphone, Black (TLM 102 MT)
  • Large-diaphragm microphone with cardioid directional characteristic (pressure gradient transducer)
  • Compact Neumann design
  • Very high maximum sound pressure level (144 dB)
  • Slight presence boost above 6 kHz helps vocals to shine in the mix

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio

While not everyone’s budget can accommodate the professional-level prices demanded by some microphones, as home studios only grow in popularity so too has the need for high-quality yet simple bus-powered microphones.

While there are excellent budget USB microphones out there, this IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio has made it onto the list due to how easy it is to set up, its decent sound, and the variety of apps on offer for recording and production.

The iRig Mic Studio works just as well with a portable device as it does on a computer or laptop, and its value for money makes it an appealing option for anybody who is setting up their first home studio and is looking for a mic on a budget.

Pros

  • Simple set-up.
  • Produces a decent sound.
  • Excellent suite of apps.

Cons

  • Not really designed to produce pristine audio.

Also Available At:

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Studio Digital Studio Microphone for iPhone, iPad, Android and Mac/PC (Black)
  • Professional studio microphone with large-diaphragm capsule
  • Ultra-compact size that’s easy to carry around
  • High-quality 1” back electret condenser capsule
  • Includes iOS Lightning, Android Micro-USB and a USB cable for Mac and PC
  • Includes portable tripod tabletop stand

Buyer’s Guide

Just like with any audio gear, before you buy a studio mic you need to pinpoint what sound you want to achieve.

Figuring out your sonic ambitions early on in the selection process will allow you to choose the right kit for you, and this includes microphones.

Of course, it’s hard to predict just how your final recording will sound, but even having somewhat of an idea of the direction you want to take gets you off to a good start.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some key features to consider when looking for a mic for your home studio.

Dynamic VS Condenser Mics

The job of a dynamic mic is simple. It’s pretty much a conductive coil in a magnetic field, attached to the rear of a diaphragm.

When sound waves enter the microphone the diaphragm will flex, moving the coil and this is what produces an electrical signal. While this is a fairly simple process, it more than gets the job done.

Dynamic mics are just what you need when performing live. Their simple, unfussy build means they’re reliable, and they come equipped with heavy-duty, sturdy diaphragms to support the coil.

They are also passive devices, meaning that, unlike condenser mics, they don’t require phantom power in order to work. It’s all of these qualities that make them great microphones to take on the road.

Due to their thick diaphragm, the frequency response of the dynamic mic is limited, but again, this isn’t a big deal for live performance. After all, when performing live you don’t want a sensitive mic that picks up all the background noise.

They’re also great at handling loud sound sources that would damage a condenser mic.

Condenser microphones are a lot more sensitive and considerably more complex as they rely on capacitance to create an electrical signal.

Two conducting plates are required to create the signal, therefore the condenser mic needs a solid backplate combined with a thin diaphragm that acts as a second conducting plate.

When the diaphragm moves, the distance between it and the backplate changes, causing a variance in electrical charge or capacitance which creates a signal.

The diaphragm of a condenser mic can be extremely fine, and this lets it vibrate quickly and freely. This lends condensers a wide, relatively colorless frequency response, which is ideal for faithfully reproducing sounds.

They’re great for catching delicate sounds that are on the higher end of the frequency spectrum. These are areas that dynamic mics are unable to reach. This is normally why condenser mics are used to mic up acoustic guitars, hi-hats, and vocals.

Since condenser mics are pretty complex, they tend to be more expensive than dynamic microphones. They’re also less sturdy and more suitable for a warm, dry studio rather than being taken on the road.

They require phantom power in order to operate, but this does provide them with higher output levels, meaning they don’t need as much potentially noisy grain at the preamp to create a good signal.

Large diaphragm condensers, especially of the tube variety, are known for bringing a pleasant warmth to vocals.

Meanwhile, small diaphragm condensers are typically very transparent, making them ideal mics for drum overheads, hi-hats, strings, or any instrument where you would want less coloration.

There really isn’t a loser in the battle of dynamic mics vs condenser mics. Dynamic mics are more suited to some applications, whereas for other applications you will need a condenser mic.

Every mic model has a unique frequency response curve, and this determines whether it will seriously color the sound source or barely color it at all.

If you have a few mics, it’s worth appreciating and knowing their characteristics and using them effectively to get the best out of them.

Polar Patterns

Polar patterns relate to how a microphone captures sound, and the area or direction in which it does this. A microphone can have a wide polar pattern, or a narrow one.

This comes in handy when you need to make sure certain sounds get captured, or when you need to make sure that some sounds don’t get picked up.

This also has an effect on tone, and it’s best to try out different mics to see what noise is captured and the coloration of the sounds captured.

  • Omnidirectional Mics

Otherwise known as omnis, these mics pick up sound from all directions. They are open, with a beautiful bass response, which makes them ideal for vocals. However, they are also sensitive to room noise and are feedback-heavy which doesn’t make them great for live performance.

  • Cardioid Mics

These mics are more sensitive to sounds in front of the mic, and capture little sound from the rear. Cardioid mics are incredibly popular for semi-isolating vocals and other sound sources, both during live performances and recording in the studio.

They are sensitive to the proximity effect, which is an increase in bass frequencies as the mic is brought closer to the action, but this can be a good thing depending on what sound you’re going for.

The proximity effect is much loved by radio DJs and voice-over artists because it gives their vocals a smoother tone, but it can make instruments sound muddy.

  • Supercardioids

Also known as hypercardioids, these mics have increasingly narrow patterns, which makes them ideal for isolating vocalists on stage, provided you stand still! The proximity effect is even more present here, but the risk of picking up feedback is virtually non-existent.

USB VS XLR Connections

Even if you’re new to the world of home studio recording, you’ve probably heard of the term USB. Everyone has a box or drawer full of USB cables at home, and all modem computers have some kind of USB functionality. They are super convenient.

XLR cables and connectors on the other hand, are less well-known and are less likely to be something you have at home, but they are excellent for professional audio equipment.

XLR connectors should be favored over US because they are balanced, meaning they ward off unwanted noise. Many also carry 48v of phantom power and can take a good battering.

So while a USB will do just fine, for the most professional set-up possible, opt for an XLR connection instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Microphones Work?

This is actually an important question to ask when trying to decide which microphone you should incorporate into your home recording studio.

Basically, whether you are generating sound waves via vocals or an instrument, it will hit a flexible diaphragm inside your microphone.

The diaphragm will move to create an electrical signal that travels through a cable and into your amplifier, desk, or recording interface.

Normally, this signal will reach a speaker or a pair of headphones, where it will cause a speaker cone to fluctuate. These movements will change the air pressure, creating sound waves that match your original source.

While that is a very basic explanation, it shows that a microphone and speaker work in a very similar way.

The diaphragm and the speaker cone are doing practically the same job, but just in reverse order. One is converting the sound into an electrical signal, and the other is converting it back again.

How well the mic’s diaphragm handles the conversion will have an effect on the characteristics of the sound we’re creating, so this is why it’s so important that the microphone we’re using is capable of achieving our sonic ambitions.

How Much Should You Spend On A Microphone?

When it comes to buying a microphone, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true, but there are some important sidenotes to add to that.

For one, dynamic microphones are usually considerably cheaper than condenser mics, yet they have advantages in certain areas, such as capturing live performance.

If you’re on a budget then it might be worth buying a high-quality dynamic mic, rather than a ‘cheap’ condenser.

Famous, beloved condenser microphones are a thing of beauty, and are probably on every musician and vocalists’ wish list, but they are definitely not the most affordable, or attainable option.

If you’re building your own home studio, it might be better to spend your money on sound treatments and training rather than breaking the wallet on a coveted mic.

Following the rule of diminishing returns, you’ll need an excellent studio space to hear the slight difference between a good condenser and a great condenser.

How Can You Prevent Unwanted Noise When Recording?

There are a few, simple ways to prevent unwanted background noise from creeping into your recording.

You can place a pop shield between yourself and the mic to prevent ‘bumping’ on ‘b’ and ‘p’ sounds.

Nylon stockings stretched over a wire hoop or wooden ring is a great, budget-friendly alternative to a pop shield. Placing the shield midway between your mic and the mouth also works.

External pop shields – and the removable foam inserts found inside the basket of some dynamic models – can be cleaned with warm water mixed with a small amount of antiseptic mouth, like TCP.

Also, a good way to prevent unwanted noise is to make sure mic cables are secure. It’s surprising the amount of vibration that travels to a mic if a hanging cable is knocked over or kicked by accident.

Taping the cable to the mic stand can help with this, leaving a loop of cable at the end of the mic that you can adjust.

The low-cut filter on the mic or mixer may help to decrease extremely low-frequency vibrations, but always make sure the signal is as clean as possible at the source before switching these in.

You can also clean mic connectors and cable connectors using Caig Deoxit. Compared to line signals, mic signals are remarkably small, meaning the effect of noisy connectors is extremely noticeable.

Most connector problems are caused by an oxide film that builds up on the pins, which makes for contact resistance that’s higher than usual and varies whenever the connector is moved.

Some microphone cable is microphonic due to how the spacing between the conductors alters when the cable is bent or has vibration travelling through it.

In a worst case scenario, this creates audible noise whenever the cable is bent or moved. High-quality cable that is designed for microphone use should be quiet, so if this issue arises, repurpose the cable for something that’s less demanding, and get yourself a new mic lead.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to creating a professional sounding home recording studio, never underestimate the importance of the mic. After all, the mic is responsible for capturing the audio you create in there!

However, while a microphone is a worthy investment, if you’re new to recording or are on a budget you don’t have to break the bank to find a high quality mic. I hope the above picks have given you plenty of inspiration, so you can take your sound to the next level.