Choosing the best vocal microphone, one that suits your recording needs, vocal style, and budget can be a real challenge. You’ll find hundreds of models online to choose from, available in different polar patterns, connectivity options, and styles.
If you’re a seasoned performer or have experience in the studio, then picking out a mic will be much easier considering you know what type of specs to look for.
But if you’re new to singing and laying down tracks, or you need a mic for your first live performance, then shopping around for the right mic can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, our goal was to create a site dedicated to finding the best vocal mics on the market. We took a closer look at dozens of models ranging from wireless systems and USB mics to the top condenser and dynamic vocal mics. Each model we’ve chosen is at the top of their class in terms of quality, sound, and performance.
If you’re a newbie, then you can also take advantage of our extensive buying guide, which discusses, in-depth, the different features to look for, how vocal mics work, and what type to choose based on your vocal and recording needs.
If you’re a vocalist, our article on how to sing higher is packed with tips and techniques that can increase your singing range, easily.
Basically, our site has all the information you need that will help you on your path to becoming a pro vocalist, and with the right tools and gear, there will be no stopping you.
Our Top Picks For 2019
Shure has been a big player in the industry for decades. They produce a wide range of mics, headphones, mixers, and more. But their line of dynamic mics have become legendary in the music industry and they’re often used by the top vocalists.
Surprisingly, despite the company’s rise in popularity and their reputation for producing top of the line mics, they still manage to keep their prices reasonable, and without sacrificing quality.
So, it should come as no surprise that the SM7B is rated as one of the best dynamic mics around.
This popular vocal mic by Shure features a wide-range, and a flat frequency response for a natural, clean sound. It also comes equipped with a pop filter, which works to reduce breathy vocal sounds.
This is a cardioid dynamic mic, that’s perfect for studio recording. The mic’s natural-sounding low-end features a balanced, deep bass and a distortion-free sound without any boominess.
In fact, the mic’s midrange is said to be just as neutral across its entire frequency range. Yet, there’s no visible dip. The highs are described as very transparent and incredibly smooth. This is partially due to the overall quality of the mic, in addition to the dynamic capsule.
Most musicians feel that it sounds much better than the average flat condenser because even top of the line condensers often have a certain degree of harshness or graininess.
The mic’s flat response has a range up to 12 kHz, which should be more than sufficient for most vocalists.
We felt that the mic was much easier to use compared to studio-grade condenser mics.
The mic features an internal shock mount that provides excellent absorption.
The integrated pop filter works to eliminate the need for an external pop filter.
The presence boost feature works perfectly to compensate for the mic’s lack of brightness.
This model offers a natural sound with rich lows that are crystal clear.
The highs are described as exceptionally smooth.
The mic isn’t as hot as a condenser and offers better than average sound isolation.
Some musicians felt that the mic wasn’t quite as crispy as a condenser mic. It also doesn’t offer the same type of extended response.
The mic’s transient response just can’t compete with that of a condenser’s, which means it’s unable to capture as much detail.
During use, you’ll notice that the mic tends to soften and smoothen the highs, so it won’t sound quite as bright as a condenser.
Requires the use of a high-quality preamp or mixer.
While the SM7B is one of the best dynamic mics on the market it requires about sixty DB of clean gain. This probably won’t be an issue in a professional recording studio, but for your home recording studio, you’ll need to use a decent mixer or preamp with sufficient horsepower. Failure to do so can result in a very low output. You can try to place an extra preamp in the chain to solve this problem.
Overall, with the right setup, this is the perfect dynamic microphone that can take your vocals to the next level.
This package comes with the popular Rode NT1A cardioid mic, which is equipped with a large capsule complete with a gold plated diaphragm, a studio shock mount and pop filter, a twenty-foot mic cable, instructional DVD and a dust cover that’s designed to protect the mic when not in use.
This is a side-address condenser that features a self-noise level of just 5DBA, which makes it a good choice for recording vocals, or acoustic guitars. The mic’s design is very clean and basic with no filters or pads.
It offers a standard frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with a max SPL of 137 DB.
The mic features a nickel-plated body with a satin finish and a gold-plated XLR output. The capsule is well-protected by a tough grill made of stainless steel.
The manufacturer currently offers a ten-year product warranty.
This mic offers a crisp, bright sound and features a presence peak of 12 kHz. There’s a slight lift at the low end around 120 Hz, resulting in a sound that isn’t overly colored.
It also doesn’t skimp on the lows and still manages to produce excellent detailed sound.
The mic’s response helps it to reproduce crisp sounds nicely.
This mic features impressively low self-noise at just 5 DBAs, which makes it one of the quietest models of large diaphragm condensers around.
This mic’s low noise and high sensitivity make it the perfect choice for capturing quiet sources.
The mic can be powered by twenty-four volts or forty-eight volts of phantom power.
Musicians will love the crisp, smooth, detailed sound.
Perfect for acoustic instruments and vocals.
This package comes with everything you need to get started, making it a great buy for beginners.
Musicians reported that the mic does have some issues with sibilance. Because of this, you’ll need to pair it with a decent pop filter.
The included pop filter is nothing to write home about.
Some users felt that the mic’s highs were too small and overly harsh. You can address this issue by either placing the mic off-axis or with the use of EQ.
The NT1A by Rode is a popular model for a very good reason. It’s affordably priced and can produce detailed, clear results for acoustic instruments and vocals. It can also be used on loud sources, thanks to its high SPL rating.
Whether or not you truly enjoy the mic’s high-end sound is more a matter of personal preference. However, we feel that the NT1A is a mic that can truly shine for both acoustic instruments and vocal recordings.
Considered one of the best podcast mics on the market, the PR40 can add some richness to any vocals, although there have been reports that the mic tends to work the best with deep male vocals.
The PR40 is designed for crystal clear studio recording. When it comes to the type of sounds and instruments this mic can capture, there really are no limits.
The PR40 looks like a typical condenser mic with a large capsule, but it’s actually a dynamic mic. This mic provides nearly perfect rear sound rejection.
The majority of dynamic mics on the market are designed to capture low instrument sounds, but this Heil mic works double-time as both a vocal mic and an instrument mic.
Considering the manufacturer has a history of creating mics for ham radio users, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that they’ve mastered a way to capture higher voice registers and lower frequencies.
The mic’s body consists of a two-screen basket design, allowing the mic to expertly pick up sounds without sibilance. The mic’s steel body features an elegant satin finish, for a classic look.
The cardioid polar pattern is often used to record sounds that come directly in front of a mic, with limited noise from the sides. A standard cardioid mic should not capture any noise from behind, however, with some models that isn’t always the case.
But with the PR40, you’ll get a tight polar pattern that works to completely eliminate all of the sound coming from behind the mic.
With a solid bass response, the mic can be placed near either an electric bass amp or kick drum. You’ll notice an increased smoothness on high notes that gives the mic a sound that’s similar to top of the line ribbon mics. Bottom line, this mic works to beautifully color sound.
When it comes to deep bass recordings, this model is fantastic.
During an interview or podcast, the mic will provide the speaker with a rich, deep sound that will sound great online.
Built tough, the mic’s exterior consists of satin finished steel. The steel provides the type of durability you need in a mic that you can take with you to and from the studio or with you when you travel.
The mic’s low-mass diaphragm was designed using a neodymium, boron, and iron mix, complete with an aluminum coil.
The built-in shock mount will keep deeper sounds from causing the mic to shake.
Because it’s a dynamic mic, it doesn’t require phantom power.
Perfect for full, rich voiceover work.
This mic must be used with a good preamp, otherwise, the vocals can sound too soft.
Some podcasters reported that the mic will work best for people with deeper vocals.
This mic is a fantastic choice for pros and beginners who need to cultivate their broadcaster voice, take on voiceover work, or capture their kick drums, or electric bass. It can be used in both a home studio for podcast recordings or by professionals in a studio environment.
The Super 55 Deluxe vocal mic from Shure features a classic design combined with modern vocal microphone technology. The mic features a matte black housing, topped with dark foam. But on the inside, this mic offers only the latest in vocal mic technology. This is a super cardioid dynamic mic that rejects outside noise while providing excellent sound. Essentially, this model offers the best of both worlds.
The mic features a tailored frequency response for natural sounding vocals, offering excellent rejection of outside noise. The swivel stand mount is integrated, providing you plenty of tilt adjustment options while eliminating the need for a microphone clip.
In addition to the tight pickup pattern and durable design, the mic is said to work well for a wide variety of sound applications including voiceover work, podcasts, and vocal recording.
You’ll enjoy quiet operation thanks to the shock mounted internal cartridge which is designed to minimize handling noise.
The mic’s frequency response comes in at 17 kHz. It also features a smooth, controlled bass response, while still allowing for clear, clean vocals with the 7-kHz presence boost.
With a sensitivity rating of -53 BV/PA, the mic allows for increased gain before feedback.
The 55 doesn’t come with an on and off switch, which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. You’ll no longer be able to easily switch the mic off away from the board, although you can run the mic through a footswitch. Some musicians appreciated the change because the mic offers a more streamlined design.
Equipped with a small diaphragm, you might expect the mic to provide a somewhat nasally sound, but the mic actually offers, a nice, surprisingly bright sound, which is unusual for a dynamic mic.
This mic features perfect, performance-ready vocal sound.
While slightly heavier, the Super 55 is the same size as the classic 55.
The cartridge shock mount works to reduce stand noise. The mount also allows you to tilt the microphone up to forty-five degrees toward you and eighty degrees away from you.
The XLR connection is placed too close to the connecting threaded hole found on the bottom of the mic, so you’ll have to remove all of the threaded washers in order to plug in the XLR connector from a mic cable.
The Super 55 is a brilliant take on the Shure 55 of long ago. Offering the same eye-catching vintage look but with a number of modern improvements, this mic sounds as good as it looks. We would recommend this model for in-studio or live vocal performances only, considering the singer must be carefully positioned in front of the mic in order to get the best sound quality.
This mic just may be the best thing to ever happen to you. Highly adjustable and packed with features, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another top of the line multidirectional mic in this price range.
The AKG C414 is a vocal condenser mic designed for lead vocals and instrument miking. It features a total of nine polar patterns, three attenuation levels for high-output sources and close-up recording, three bass-cut filters, and an overload warning features that comes complete with audio peak hold. Basically, this mic has it all. It also has a reputation as the best vocal mic for female vocalists.
The model is very versatile, thanks to the wide range of onboard controls. The face of the mic features five selectable polar pattern options. The first is omnidirectional, so it’s sensitive to sounds from every direction. The wide cardioid pattern offers half-omnidirectional sensitivity. The most common polar pattern-cardioid is also present, offering focused center and front sensitivity. The hyper cardioid polar pattern offers a narrower version of cardioid, with the added benefit of improved side rejection. A bi-directional polar pattern means that the mic is equally sensitive to the back and front.
The mic features additional settings between each of the major polar pattern settings. These settings represent a type of intermediate point between the major settings.
The C414 has a low-cut filter with three settings including:
-12 decibels per octave at 40 Hz
-12 decibels per octave at 80 Hz
-6 decibels per octave at 160 Hz
In addition to these settings, the mic also offers three attenuation settings: -18 decibels, -6 decibels, and -12 decibels.
In terms of cardioid response, the mic is flat up to 1,000 Hz. When adjusted to the omnidirectional polar pattern you’ll find that the mic offers the flattest response.
All of the mic’s controls can be disabled for live-sound applications.
The peak hold LED lights will display even the subtlest overload peak.
This model comes with a windscreen, carrying case, spider shock mount, and pop filter.
You can choose from a variety of polar pattern options
Simple to use, perfect for both pros and beginners.
Highly versatile and adjustable.
The perfect choice for the mic geek who loves more control over vocal tone and quality.
The mic comes complete with a pop filter and shock mount.
The high-quality shock mount allows you to make adjustments quickly and easily.
The mic will not work with cheap LXR cables.
Designed as a pro-quality studio mic, initially, newbies may have trouble adjusting the settings.
The C414 offers a truly warm sound that will work well for any vocalists, although many musicians did report that the mic truly shines for female vocals. The mic provides the perfect neutral sound that can give any vocals a more distinct tone. Highly adjustable and offering amazing sound quality, you’ll fall in love with this mic’s performance, how it can transform your vocals, and you’ll have fun experimenting with the different controls to get the perfect sound for solo instrument recordings or vocal tracks.
Sennheiser is another well-known brand in the music recording industry, and they’re one of Shure’s top competitors. Their Evolution series mic consists of condenser and dynamic mics designed for quality studio recording and live performances. Sennheiser offers some of the best pro-quality mics in the industry, but the e865 condenser mic is hands down one of the best leading vocal mics you’ll find on the market to date.
The e865 by Sennheiser is one of their leading models in the Evolution line. It’s considered a rugged condenser mic that offers a full, rich, and precise sound that can cut through even high stage level noise, effortlessly, which is what makes it the go-to choice for a lead vocal mic.
Able to easily handle high levels of sound, the mic features a super-cardioid pickup pattern, with an impedance rating of two hundred OHMs, and a frequency response of 40 to 20,000 Hz.
The mic’s innovative design works to reject feedback using a low off-axis coloration. It can also handle sound pressure levels up to one hundred and fifty decibels.
The mic really shines with vocal reproduction. It both exposes and captures subtleties in vocal timbre and tone, basically turning even an average vocalist into a pro by providing a rich, warm sound that’s not overly bright.
In terms of quality, this model is by far one of the best vocal mics on the market, and it rejects off-center sound like a champ. If you frequently play live performances and sing and play guitar, then the NT1A will prevent your guitar sound from bleeding through the vocals. This is a big deal if you normally play acoustic sets.
This model measures in at ten inches long and two inches wide.
This condenser mic is among one of the only models on the market that has the ability to easily work in 40 to 20,00 Hz.
The mic’s super-cardioid pattern allows the mic to produce clean, clear sounds.
This is a well-built condenser mic that makes it simple to get a rich, clear sound.
The mic offers better than average plosive protection, it’s very versatile, and provides excellent sound isolation.
Musicians recommend this mic for live performances considering it has a reputation for rejecting feedback.
Extremely durable and tough enough to handle daily use.
Some vocalists felt that the mic’s tone lacked warmth.
According to most musicians who rely on this Sennheiser for nightly performances, it not only provides the right amount of smoothness and warmth, but it can also reject any type of off-center sound better than any other condenser mic around. On stage, you’ll no longer have to worry about your guitar bleeding through your vocals. The NT1A is not only powerful, but it’s versatile as well. Perfect for on-stage performances, vocal recording and acoustic miking, this model by Sennheiser will be the last condenser mic you’ll ever need to buy.
This wireless package by Shure operates with the BLX range of receivers, which provide ninety-six frequencies to choose from. This set can be used with up to twelve compatible devices at the same time.
If you need a wireless mic system for a standard band setting, then you probably don’t need a wireless system that can handle more than twelve devices at the same time. For a traditional band setup, this Shure system works perfectly. This set is also offered at a more affordable price compared to other top selling wireless systems of this size.
The mic has a frequency response of 50 Hz to 15 kHz. The wireless system offers an impressive range of up to three hundred feet.
This wireless package is easy to set up and easier to use.
Shure has made big improvements to their wireless systems, so you’ll won’t have to struggle to find the best frequency setting. This package comes with a BLX 4R rack mount receiver and kit and a handheld transmitter with a dynamic mic.
The system’s transmitter is reliable and easy to adjust. When it comes time to choose a frequency, the manufacturer makes it easy with the addition of the channel and group buttons, so you can simply match frequencies with other members in the bad, quickly.
A versatile set, users can choose single channel half-rack, single channel, and dual channel receivers, in addition to lavalier, headset, guitar, and vocal options.
The ability to use up to twelve wireless devices is a huge selling point for the musician on a budget.
This wireless set offers a longer range compared to other systems in this price range.
The system itself is simple to use and set up.
You can expand the set and use up to twelve wireless mics.
This is a wireless system that’s ready to go, right out of the box.
The system provides up to forty hours of use and is powered by AA batteries.
The one-touch quick scanning feature will allow you to find the best frequency to transmit on, wherever you go.
Most musicians reported that signal drops were very rare.
The three-hundred-foot range is perfect for smaller vocal/band setups.
Musicians have reported that the set doesn’t connect correctly at times, failing to send the audio while continuing to pick up sound.
Most models of Shure wireless mics come with a mute feature located right on the mic, which is why some vocalists were disappointed that this wireless mic system does not.
This wireless set by Shure comes with everything you need for a small vocal setup. The ability to expand the system later down the line makes this package perfect for beginners or musicians on a budget. Rated as the top wireless vocal mic on the market, for the price we felt this set was a total steal.
The XSW vocal microphone set from Sennheiser is a wireless kit that’s designed for smaller venues, band practices, and live performances.
The SKM35 transmitter e835 cardioid mic and EM10 receiver provide about ten hours of use. The transmission range comes in at two hundred and fifty feet. Unlike other wireless sets in this price range, the mic comes with an illuminated mute button.
The mic features top of the line feedback rejection for improved performance.
The receiver itself offers up to 960 frequencies and a total of eight frequency banks that feature twelve channels each. The remote channel sync feature will allow vocalists to coordinate the frequency channel with other members in the band from a distance. The scan feature is powerful, yet simple, and works to identify any available channels within a determined bank.
When it comes to wireless mic systems, aside from the mic, one of the crucial components that vocalists tend to pay special attention to is the transmitter. The transmitter must be highly durable and have some heft to it. Fortunately, the XSW fits the bill.
Of course, signal strength and reliability are just as important, if not more so. With the XSW transmitter, you can just take the device out of the box, plug it in and sync it with the receiver to begin sound checks.
With many wireless systems, despite the specs provided by the manufacturer, the best range is often just one hundred feet. But staying within a hundred feet of the receiver can be difficult if you or your bandmates tend to move around on stage, or you end up playing at a larger venue.
As we mentioned, the XSW offers a range up to two hundred and fifty feet, which most users reported as the true range. This allows you to move around as you sing, without worrying about dropping the signal.
This is one of Sennheiser’s affordably priced wireless systems. It’s also one of their leading models thanks to the system’s overall quality and reputation as a reliable wireless system that’s perfect for small live performances.
The longer range makes this system perfect for small or medium-sized venues.
Users will have up to 960 frequencies to choose from.
The powerful e835 vocal mic provides crystal clear sound without being overly bright.
The bread and butter of any mic system is sound quality. With the e835, you’ll get an incredible sound, backed by a reliable wireless system.
Many vocalists reported that the mute button is very touch sensitive, causing the user to accidentally activate the feature during a performance.
The transmitter lacks a backlit display, which can make it difficult to view the battery levels or frequency setting in low lighting conditions
This wireless mic system sounds just as good as higher priced models. Offering strong signals, clear tones, and a price that’s affordable, this package is the perfect choice for live performances. We would definitely recommend this set to any first-time wireless mic user or the pro who’s in need of a wireless system that can really deliver.
The Yeti USB mic by Blue is the best USB microphone for podcasts and voiceover work, primarily due to its low price and impressive recording capability. It’s also available in eight different color options including gray, white, black, and silver.
The mic’s exterior is made entirely out of metal. The mic’s base is also made out of metal, giving the mic some serious heft. On the base you’ll also find thick rubber pads designed to keep the mic securely in place during use. On the base, there’s both a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack and small USB port. The threaded base will allow users to attach the mic to a compatible stand. It can also work with most shock mounts, which can further keep the mic stabilized while also preventing any unwanted noise.
When paired with headphones, you’ll enjoy real-time monitoring. This means you’ll be able to hear yourself through the headphones, which can give you a realistic idea of how you sound during your podcast.
There’s also a mute button that’s lit up with bright LED lighting. On the opposite side of the mic are two knobs. The first knob works the gain. Gain simply adjusts the amount of sound the mic captures. The second knob allows you to choose from four different patterns. The cardioid mode is perfect for podcasts when you’re sitting directly in front of the mic. Stereo mode is designed for use during a live music session. The omnidirectional option is a good choice for situations in which you want to capture more than one voice, such as when you’re interviewing a group of people. The two-way mode works best for one on one conversations.
The Yeti really delivers when it comes to excellent sound quality.
The mic offers a sixteen-bit sample rate, which is perfect for streamers and podcasters.
The sound is described as rich and well-rounded. The crystal-clear quality is perfect for recording voiceovers.
Most users recommend the omnidirectional mode for best sound quality during a podcast.
The mic’s plug and play design makes this model very versatile and beginner friendly.
This is a high-quality USB mic that can capture both highs and lows.
The mic uses a Type A to Mini B USB port connector, which is a downside for some podcasters considering this type of port isn’t very common, so you may have trouble finding compatible cables if you misplace the stock mic cable.
Some Mac users reported that the mic struggles to connect at times.
For the price, this isn’t the cheapest USB mic on the market, but it does offer some of the best sound quality. If you’re a serious podcaster, then broadcasting clarity is essential and the Yeti can definitely deliver. Easy to use, versatile, and offering a variety of pickup patterns to choose from, this mic should be on every podcaster’s must-have list.
The ND967 was previously produced in the late 1990s and became one of the go-to mics for live-sound engineers. It gained a reputation for its powerful vocal quality when it came to environments with high SPL. But for one reason or another, the manufacturer discontinued it, breaking the hearts of vocalists, musicians, and sound engineers all over the world. Now, with the reintroduction of the ND967, this legendary flat-topped microphone is back, offering better than ever sound quality and the highest gain before feedback performance of any other model we reviewed.
The mic’s impressive performance is achieved by a variety of features such as a high-output neodymium magnet element, tight super-cardioid polar pattern, reduced bandwidth frequency, and low-profile grille cage and pop filter, both of which are removable.
The mic’s EQ altering switch located on the side of the mic reduces the low midrange by three decibels, which will further prevent feedback while working to clarify vocals.
This mic set comes with a pop filter, carrying pouch, and mic clip. The rubber-coated grip makes the mic more comfortable to use and won’t slip out of your hands even if you’re sweating.
The mic offers an excellent boost in the bottom end, superior clarity, and a power that can rival even higher priced dynamic mics.
The vocal personality switch will respond differently with every vocalist, based on timbre.
Singers can get right up on the mic and enjoy a different tone/sound that tends to fill out reedy vocals.
This mic features a characteristic low-mid warmth, making the mic the perfect choice if you need a powerful model that has a knack for filling out thin vocals.
The mic’s frequency response has been specifically tailored to vocals.
The presence boost switch works to cut through a mix, minimizing the mic’s proximity effect.
The internal shock mount will reduce handling noise.
The washable front grille is easy to clean and remove.
A tight super-cardioid pattern reduces the pickup of ambient sounds.
The mic’s narrow frequency range reduces spills from drums on stage.
The two-stage pop filter works to reduces plosive sounds.
Reasonably priced and a great mic for the live performer.
For some vocalists, the very tight pickup pattern can take some time to adjust to, especially if the singer prefers to move around a lot while they sing.
The mic doesn’t come with an on/off switch.
When you’re performing on stage, if you find yourself fighting feedback often, then this model by Electro Voice might just be the perfect mic. However, other mics may sound better if gain before feedback isn’t an issue.
Bottom line, this is a well-designed mic that’s perfect for live vocal performances. It offers a defined, clear sound that will work well with most voices.
Back by popular demand, the ND967 is a total workhorse that performs just as well in the studio as it does on stage.
Vocal Microphone Buying Guide
There are literally hundreds of vocal mics to choose from, making it a challenge to find the right mic that will best suit your needs. This buying guide is designed to teach you about the different styles of vocal mics available, so you can narrow down your choices and find the right type of microphone based on a number of factors including polar pattern, microphone type, power source, and vocal style. Of course, many types of vocal mics can also be used for miking certain types of instruments, such as acoustic guitars or drums, so if this is your goal you’ll also want to pay special attention to a mic’s polar pattern and whether or not it’s recommended for live performances or studio recording.
Dynamic: For a live vocal performance, you’ll want to go with a dynamic mic. Encased inside the microphone you’ll find a light, slim diaphragm that moves based on changes in pressure. Suspended in a magnetic field is a voice coil, which moves based on the motion of the diaphragm. This, in turn, results in electric current. Dynamic mics are often priced more affordably compared to condenser microphones, yet they feature a more durable construction that’s designed to handle higher sound pressure. This is why most artists choose dynamic mics for live performances. But in the studio, they can fail to capture and reproduce the type of detail that a condenser can, making them a poor choice for recording.
Condenser: This style is the go-to mic for studio recording. Yet, they can also be used for certain types of live performances as well. Inside, the mic consists of a stretched, narrow diaphragm that’s positioned next to a metal disk, creating what’s known as a capacitor. The capacitor is used to transform acoustic energy into electrical energy. The mic’s backplate receives a charge from a phantom power source. When sound reaches the diaphragm it causes it to vibrate, causing the capacitor to change, resulting in varying output voltage. The voltage variation is the mic’s signal output.
Ribbon: A type of pressure gradient mic, the ribbon mic features a very simple design that consists of a paper-thin sheet of metal that’s placed within the field of a magnet. Changes in air pressure cause the ribbon to move. This movement creates a type of current within the ribbon, which is sent down the microphone cable. The sound a ribbon mic produces can be best described as warm.
These microphones were very popular in the 1920s and were considered the high-performance mic of that time period.
USB mic: This type of microphone features the same elements of a traditional mic, with the addition of two circuits. These circuits include an analog to digital converter and an onboard preamp. The preamp is what makes it possible for this style of mic to connect to an external mic preamp or a mixer. The analog to digital converter will change the output from the microphone from analog to digital, so it can be plugged into a PC and used with recording software programs. The introduction of the USB mic has made it easy for amateur vocalists and producers to record, edit, and create their own tracks.
A microphone’s polar pattern describes a mic’s response to sound that comes from different directions with fluctuating degrees of sensitivity. The polar pattern is what can tell you how directional a specific model is or whether or not it’s able to reject sound for specific directions. Most mics are available in a few options: cardioid, omnidirectional, and bi-directional.
During a recording session, if you want to record just the piano and none of the other instruments in the setup, the microphone’s polar pattern can determine what sound sources it picks up.
Cardioid: A cardioid microphone will pick up sound that’s coming from directly in front of the mic. Microphones with this type of polar pattern are more commonly used for single instrument miking and vocals.
Omnidirectional: This type of mic picks up sound using a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree radius. A mic with this polar pattern is typically chosen if you want to record room ambiance combined with the sound source.
Bi-directional: A bi-directional mic can equally pick up noise from in front of the mic and behind it. This style of polar pattern is perfect if two vocalists share the same mic.
Mic Sensitivity A mic’s sensitivity refers to how a mic responds to changes in air pressure. Microphones that are highly sensitive are commonly used to record vocals or acoustic guitars. But these same mics aren’t exactly versatile and shouldn’t be used for certain instruments. As an example, a mic with a higher sensitivity rating can make drums sound muddy, flat and unfocused. In this case, you would be better off miking the drum set with a mic that has a lower sensitivity rating.
On the spec sheet, the rating will either be measured in terms of volume or voltage. A higher number translates to a higher sensitivity rating.
Small and Large Diaphragm Microphones
For recording vocals, studio-quality mics are available as large and small diaphragm types. So, what are the sonic differences? Does size really matter?
A large diaphragm often means the diaphragm has a diameter of one inch or more. Small diaphragm mics will measure in at half an inch or smaller. Realistically, there are models that are classified as small diaphragm mics that have a diaphragm that’s larger than half an inch, especially when it’s a vocal mic that’s designed for recording purposes. You’ll also find some models of large diaphragm mics with a diaphragm that’s just under an inch. What’s even more confusing, some manufacturers will measure the mic’s diameter differently than others. Instead of including just the measurements of the diaphragm itself, they often measure the entire capsule.
Keep in mind that the distinction between large and small diaphragms generally only applies to condenser mics.
The size of the diaphragm often affects the style and construction of the microphone. Models labeled as small will operate end-fired, featuring a slim design, while large diaphragm mics operate side-addressed and feature a more durable design.
When it comes to whether you should go with a small or large diaphragm mic, it can often depend on the application and personal preference.
By far, the main advantage of the large diaphragm condenser is noise performance. The small diaphragm mic offers a much better transient response and high-frequency response, not to mention a more consistent pickup pattern.
At lower frequencies, the large diaphragm mic produces a lush sound even as the vocalist moves. Basically, vocalists love these mics because they tend to shape the vocals, offering a richer, fuller sound.
Small diaphragm mics are a perfect choice if your goal is to capture natural, detailed sound. These mics can be used for pretty much anything, thanks to their neutral sound.
Must-Have Accessories for Vocals
Right off the bat, you’ll quickly learn that a shock-mount is essential when you’re recording vocals. The shock-mount works by preventing low-frequency sound from getting into the mic. Many newer models of vocal mics will come with a stock shock-mount. Some are better than others, especially when it comes to stock models. Fortunately, this component can be easily upgraded based on user preference.
A pop filter is used to prevent unwanted sounds that occur when a vocalist is standing too close to the mic. Usually, they work to minimize plosive speech sounds such as a heavy B or P sound. They also minimize sibilance. This type of mic filter can also make recording and editing easier because it minimizes issues on the low end and high end. These filters are sold premade, but the old recording pro can easily make their own using an old pair of stockings.
A portable vocal booth is a shield that’s placed behind a mic and made from a type of sound absorbent material. It’s designed to prevent sound from reflecting off the surfaces of other objects in the room. This type of vocal booth can provide a number of benefits when you’re recording when it’s paired with the right microphone.
Vocal Mic Buying Tips
By now, you know more about how microphones work and which type can offer the best sound for your recording setup or a live performance. However, there are some additional factors to considers before you hit that buy now button.
Let’s sum up the factors we’ve already discussed.
- Type: Do you need a new mic for a live performance or to record vocals in the studio? For studio recording purposes you’ll want to choose a high-quality condenser mic that can capture details and enhance the vocals. For live performances, you’ll need a rugged mic that can really make your vocals pop, but one that can also handle rough use on the road, so go with a dynamic mic.
- Polar pattern: The type of polar pattern you choose will depend on several factors. For a live performance, a cardioid would be a great choice. In the studio, if you want to pick up multiple sound sources, then you’ll want a mic that offers more open directional sensitivity.
- Frequency response: Often, most pros claim that the flatter a mic’s frequency response the better, but if you want to use a mic for a live performance then you may need one that can offer more kick. Remember, with a bit of EQ you can always enhance frequencies later, even if you can’t change a mic’s inherent response. Because of this, most musicians argue that a flat response is often the best option.
- Noise canceling: There are some mics out there that come equipped with innovative features that are designed to help control noise, including transducer components that are designed to isolate any unwanted vibrations. These mics are often on the pricey side, but if you’re not on a tight budget, a mic with noise canceling capabilities is usually worth the extra cost.
- Sound quality: By far, this is the number one factor you’ll want to consider before you buy a new mic. If you’re ordering a mic online, then you won’t be able to try it out before you buy. Take some time to read the best vocal microphone reviews to find out what sound engineers and musicians had to say regarding any model you’re interested in. This will give you some great insight on how a mic performs, sounds, and what you can expect in terms of overall quality.
If you’re serious about your music and the quality of a mix, or how your vocals sound during a live performance, then you can expect to pay more. If you’ve ever tried recording with a budget-friendly condenser mic or played a gig with a cheap condenser, then the odds are you already know that in order to get a mic that can be a total game changer when it comes to accentuating vocals you need to go with a pro-quality mic.
Bottom line, you get what you pay for, and this is especially true when it comes to vocal microphones.
We hope our reviews of the best vocal microphones on the market and our buying guide have helped you to find the right type of microphone for your home studio setup or for your next gig. Our goal is to teach our visitors everything they need to know about microphones in order to help them make an informed decision and purchase a mic that can really bring out the best in any vocals.