We bring you the best microphones for home recording, versatile condenser and dynamic mics that excel in home studio setups.
While big studios have the luxury of using multiple microphones that specialize in capturing particular types of audio, home studios have space and budget limitations to work with. Since audio quality, sturdy build and cost is are obvious factors to consider, we decided to give priority to flexibility - featuring condenser and dynamic microphones that will handle vocals and various types of instruments with ease. We tried our best to stay under $500 for the most part, with an exception made for the Neumann mic which deserves to be on this list.
Condenser Microphones are phantom powered mics that have better frequency response compared to dynamic microphones. Their improved frequency response makes them ideal for capturing the small details and nuances of vocals and both acoustic & amplified instruments. Some condenser microphones also feature multiple pickup patterns that make them useful for capturing multiple instruments simultaneously, i.e. live band or group recording.
The NT1A Condenser Microphone is designed by Rode to be versatile from the get go. With its affordable price, good frequency range (20Hz-20kHz) and its low noise operation, this condenser mic has become a popular low-cost and low-maintenance solution for the needs of home recording studios.
Whether you want to capture solo or group vocals, the NT1A is designed to handle it all with ease. Not to mention that its ability to capture popular instruments like guitar is just as impressive. Many are comparing this mic with more expensive models, especially its super quiet operation, something that is normally not expected from mic in this price range.
Aside from working extremely well, Rode have also bundled the NT1A with very useful freebies that include a premium shock mount with integrated pop filter, quality 6m (20') XLR cable, microphone dust cover and it even comes with a bonus instructional DVD presented by the company president himself, Peter Freedman. This DVD contains some very useful tips and techniques for making the most out of the NT1A and recording in general. You will be hard pressed to find a better deal in this price range. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
AKG C214 Large Diaphragm Condenser
The AKG C214 is a cost effective alternative to the popular and high-end C414 condenser mic, and a favorite pick for home studios. It utilizes the same black-plate technology that gave the original its impressive clarity and performance, but at a more accessible price point.
The C214 is a versatile workhorse mic that has enough sensitivity to handle vocals and orchestra instruments while at the same time it has the durability to take on the high-pressure sounds of amplified guitars. To add to its flexibility, the mic comes with a 20 dB Attenuation pad, 13 dB noise floor, and a low cut switch, all packed in an elegant and rugged package.
AKG knows that its not just about good performance, home studio mics have to also be silent and reliable. In line with this they equipped the C214 with an integrated capsule suspension, which reduces unwanted sonic artifacts. It also features a double mesh metal grille that protects the capsule, and doubles as the mic's RF interference shield. Other features that make the mic worthy include dent-resistant metal grille, scratch-resistant finish, and a gold-plated XLR-type output. The AKG C214 is a worthy investment for any home recording studios. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Audio-Technica AT4033CL Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
If you are planning to do one-mic recording for bands or singing groups, then the Audio-Technica AT4033CL is for you. It has an impressive ability to capture the nuances of multiple instruments and vocals, and it does so with virtually no low-frequency distortion.
Audio-Technica was able to eliminate unwanted low-frequency distortion by utilizing a special "transformerless" circuit. This works in conjunction with the 2-micron-thick, vapor-deposited gold diaphragm to give this mic the ability to capture details that would otherwise be lost. And its good points don't end there, its large diaphragm format allows it to capture all types of instruments with satisfactory results - the mic is known to capture acoustic instruments really well and can even take on the duty of being an overhead mic for drums.
Other features include 30-20kHz response, low frequency roll-off and it comes with an AT8449 shockmount. Although not as affordable as we would like it to be, the results you will get from AT4033CL will make every penny count. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
MXL Genesis Studio Tube Condenser Microphone
In this era where digital recording is now the norm, it is always a breath of fresh air to see old technology still being used, case in point is the MXL Genesis tube microphone. The MXL Genesis gives you top dollar analog features that are attractive for home studio use.
This tube microphone gives you genuine vintage sounds and impressive features that are normally found in mics priced in the thousands of dollars. You can use it on various instruments and on vocals to give your tracks a warm vintage vibe. Satisfied users range from hiphops to balladeers and they commend the Genesis flashy looks and its ability to cut through the mix. The MXL Genesis is equipped with a Mullard 12AT7 tube, which plays a major role in allowing the mic to capture with clean highs, warm mids, and tight bottom-end.
The mic's golden grille and glossy red body evokes a distinctly vintage appeal, matching the way it captures audio. There's simply now way anyone can mistake this for something cheap, both performance and looks-wise. If the features are not enough, MXL bundled this mic with a custom pop filter, shockmount and a 15 ft. 7-pin Mogami cable. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Neumann TLM 102
Although this microphone is above our target budget of $500 for home recording studios, we feel that you will be missing out if we don't list a Neumann. The Neumann TLM 102 is simply a great sounding mic with premium features, and as expected it carries a matching premium price tag.
This mic is actually quite cheap for a Neumann and may still be considered as entry level when compared to other high-end mics. It has impressive quality that makes it a great mic to test the waters when it comes to professional grade microphones. It is no surprise that the TLM 102 has that modern ultra-clean characteristic that Neumann mics are known for, so you can be sure that you will be getting your money's worth, and maybe even more..
It has amazing sensitivity as testified to by various user reviews, and at the same time it is able to handle sound pressure levels of up to 144dB, more than enough to take on the duties normally reserved for tough dynamic mics. As the saying goes, if you want to play with the big boys, you have to play with bigger toys, so start saving for the Neumann TLM 102. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
More Condenser Microphones
If you haven't found what you were looking for above then you might like to check out The Best Condenser Mics Under $100 which presents a range of affordable mics rated by Gearank.
Although these rugged microphones are popular for their reliability on loud stages, they are equally reliable in a home studio setting. Their limited frequency response makes them ideal for recording amplified instruments like cranked guitar amps and drums, essentially turning its weakness into its strength. The robust design of dynamic mics let them ignore unwanted high and low frequency background noise, so that they can capture loud sounds consistently. Having a dynamic mic will complement any type of home recording setup.
Shure SM57 is the most popular and widely used microphone in the world, and for good reason - reliability, thanks to its durable design that have stood the test of countless travels and abuse. The SM57 is without a doubt, one of the most hardworking microphones in the world, used in countless concert venues and professional studios.
Since the SM57 is readily available and reasonably priced, it can also serve as a versatile home studio microphone. The SM57 has a good frequency response of 40Hz-15kHz, which is complimented by its cardioid polar pattern - this enables the mic to handle anything from vocals to close-in milking of guitar and other instrument speakers.
This sturdy and versatile microphone continues to be the go-to jack-of-all-trades microphone in many studios. It sits in an impressively convenient place in the market, where it is sought after by both beginners and professional musicians, artists and sound engineers. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
The Shure SM58 got its legendary status due to its amazing ability to withstand abuse that would simply destroy other microphones. Some even joke that you can use it as a hammer to build stages and it will still perform well! The SM58's frequency response of 50Hz-15kHz is fine-tuned for vocal work, it has a distinct upper midrange that has become a staple sound in rock and other musical styles.
So what does this have to do with home recording - two words - affordability and Bono (which usually does not mix together). It is said that Daniel Lanois always uses the SM58 or a Beta58 to capture Bono's vocals! Considering that they can get the most expensive vocal mics in the planet and still chose the humble SM58, this raises the credibility of the mic regardless if you are a fan of U2 or not.
Like the SM57, it can also be used on instruments to add a bit of retro analog character, although it has to be noted that the tweaked frequencies result in a slightly different sound when compared to the SM57. Finally, the Shure SM58 has the notable distinction of being the main workhorse mic for both live work & recording demos by the two founders of Hitsquad! Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
With the popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube, you will need a mic that can capture your sound - in style - and the Shure 55SH fits that bill perfectly. With a classic eye catching style that was made famous by iconic artists of the past like Elvis, this rugged microphone is sure to inspire both the performer and the listener, pleasing the eyes and the ears.
Aside from looking cool, this mic sounds surprisingly good - especially when paired with a good mic preamp. It is primarily designed for vocal singing, but works just as well with other voice recording applications like podcasting. Although it is not as versatile as other microphones, it's striking visuals make for a useful tool in this age of home made music video sharing. It also helps that this mic is based on the original Shure 55 "bird cage" mic that Elvis made famous.
Note that this mic is directional, which means you have to stay in front of it, but this also helps in reducing unwanted background noise and feedback. If you are looking for a stylish mic that will easily stand out, then you should get the Shure 55SH. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Sennheiser MD421 II
Planning to accommodate acoustic drums or percussions into your home recording setup? Then you should check out the the Sennheiser MD421 II, a popular dynamic mic used by recording hobbyists and even professional sound engineers. It features a large diaphragm that handles high sound pressure levels well, making it ideal for loud instruments like guitars and drums.
And aside from bass drums, users rave about its performance in capturing toms and other percussion instruments. It is also works great with guitar cabinets and can even capture cranked bass cabinets! The MD421 II's most notable feature is its five-position bass roll-off switch which works in conjunction with the mic's 30-17kHz frequency response, allowing the mic to cover an extended array of sounds.
You can use this microphone to capture virtually any instrument and you can even use it on singers or for other vocal applications, especially useful for capturing singing styles that emphasize the lower frequencies. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
The RE20 from Electro-Voice is a versatile dynamic microphone that works brilliantly in home studio settings. Although a bit pricey when compared to the others on the list, the RE20 is well worth saving for, especially if you also do broadcasting or podcasting on the side.
The RE20 is known for its clean sound thanks to its internal pop-filter and element shockmount that reduces proximity and vibration noise. On top of its transparent and quiet operation, users also rave about its versatility. Its frequency response (45Hz-18kHz) and nifty bass roll-off switch allows it to handle various instruments, from wind to violin and for a mic designed primarily for vocals, the RE20 works surprisingly well with bass, drums and guitars.
Its ability to capture vocals is top notch, with many hailing it as the industry standard broadcast microphone. Whether you are using it for spoken words, for capturing your singing or for recording instruments, the Electro-Voice RE20 is up for the challenge. Its versatility, impressive response and durability easily justify its price tag. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
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