Top 10 Best Budget Recording Microphones

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

As you set out to build your gear collection, you’ll start with your discipline, of course. If your plan is to become a singer, you’re pretty much set, though a piano or keyboard is usually helpful in learning. Otherwise, you’ll be looking into a guitar (options for acoustics or electrics here) or perhaps a bass or drums.

Once you’ve kitted out everything you need to actually play, your thoughts will soon turn to recording. Musicians love two things above all else: playing live with other musicians and working on songs. You’ll either convert a space in your house to your personal gear domain or you’ll seek out a space where your prized equipment can safely live. After the space is decided, it’s only natural to begin considering how you could record yourself there. Besides, you can’t invite the whole world into your practice studio to show them what you’re working on, so recording yourself on some scale becomes almost inevitable.

The first thing on your list is probably the computer interface. If you’re going for that direct-in, amp-modeled sound, you can stop here. But you spent all that money on your amp and probably a few bucks on pedals, so shouldn’t these make an appearance? And, yeah, what about the vocalists and acoustic players out there?

The fact is, you’re going to need microphones. More than one, even. While you likely have no plans to open a top flight recording studio in your home, you want to get a few decent, purpose-built mics to cover a variety of uses. True, you won’t be springing for that R-121 any time soon, but you don’t want the hunk of plastic attached to your kid’s karaoke machine to outshine your microphone.

When you start to look, you’ll quickly realize that there are a few decisions you need to make about your microphone purchase. While just about any mic can work for just about any purpose, there are several popular choices loosely fitting into just a few categories. The most obvious of these is Dynamic and Condenser. Dynamic microphones are passive, requiring no outside power, generally relying on heavy diaphragms whose movement generate the necessary voltage. Condenser microphones require phantom power, usually supplied by your interface or mixing board, though occasionally from a dedicated source. This concept should be familiar to anyone who read our post on DI boxes.

Because of the additional power, condenser microphones can record softer sounds since they have more gain available. That’s a good general guide: if you have soft sounds, try a condenser. For powerful sounds, go dynamic. You’ll almost certainly want to own at least one of each so you can try both for every application.

Beyond that, there is the question of the polar pattern, which determines the direction in which the mic is most sensitive. The most common of these is the cardioid polar pattern, which is a unidirectional (one focus point, that is) pattern with a 131-degree angle of pickup, while nearly completely ignoring anything from behind it. There are others, too, and the blog on the Shure website has a great explainer. This won’t be super important to the novice recorder, but it’s good to know what you’re buying. There are even mics that will let you switch between patterns, if you like.

Then there’s frequency response, which will give you an idea of what that particular microphone will excel at recording. Usually, condenser microphones have a higher frequency response, making them better for piano or cymbals, and usually vocals. Dynamic mics are usually better for low-frequency things like drums. There are no real rules here, especially if your normally high frequency source happens to be unusually low.

Finally, a couple last considerations. One is address direction, or basically, what direction you situate the mic to pick up the sound. This largely depends on your use as they make all sorts of mics in all sorts of form factors. The last thing you might want to know about your microphone is whether it can be used live. If you only want to use one type of mic for everything, including on-stage, you may make a different decision. Read up on that Shure link, too, because your polar pattern choice could be effected by the number of high-volume sources you have going on around you.

For this list, we’ve set the maximum budget at $300. You don’t need to spend anything like that much, but since there’s no upper limit on how much you can spend on a microphone, we’ve left ourselves enough room for options along the spectrum. Simply figure out the answers to the questions above and get shopping.

In order to record the best possible version of your music without breaking the bank, consider our list of the top ten best budget recording microphones.


1. Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(Shure)

Is there a more popular microphone than the absolute workhorse SM57? You could make an argument for its vocal-tuned brother, the SM58. In reality, at the prices both sell for, you should probably start here and get one of each. The SM57 has a very wide frequency response and can cover a good chunk of tonal territory. It really shines in relatively low-frequency, high-sound pressure situations, like in front of guitar amps and drums. You can use it for vocals, too, but you’ll want a pop screen since it’s uncovered. If you think you’ll record vocals a lot, the SM58 is just as widely used and just as durable and has that screen built in. You can’t go wrong with either. Absolutely pick one of these up to start your journey.

Why you would choose this one: It’s renowned for strong performance for beginners and professionals alike.

Need more options? Browse more Shure products here.

Price: $99

Buy the Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 to 15,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Guitar amps and drums

Find more Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone information and reviews here.



2. Sennheiser e906 Supercardioid Dynamic Mic

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(Sennheiser)

Sennheiser makes some amazing gear at very reasonable prices. We included their HD 280 Pro studio headphones in our gifts for musicians post because of how unbelievably good they are for the price. This guitar-focused mic is no different. Using a unique form factor, this mic requires no stand — simply drape it over your amp with a standard XLR cable, centered on the best spot on the speaker. I had one of these for a number of years and used it to mic a Marshall stack with great success.

As you can tell from the frequency range, it captures a bit more high end, and with that, Sennheiser has included a three-way switch to filter the presence level depending on your particular setup. The Bright, Moderate, and Dark modes are essentially high-pass, flat, and low-pass filters, which means you get three voicings in the same microphone. It’s also excellent at reducing hum and interference due to the humbucking coil design, just like a guitar pickup. It’s not afraid of high sound pressure, either, and can easily handle over 150 dB.

If you don’t need the presence switch, the e609 Silver is the little brother and can save you $50, putting it squarely in the territory of the Shures above.

Why you would choose this one: You’ve dialed in your guitar tone exactly perfectly coming from your amp and just want to capture it.

Need more options? Browse more Sennheiser products here.

Price: $149

Buy the Sennheiser e906 Supercardioid Dynamic Mic here.



Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 to 18,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Front
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Guitar amps

Find more Sennheiser e906 Supercardioid Dynamic Mic information and reviews here.



3. AKG D112 MKII Large-Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(AKG)

The lineage of the D112 begins in 1952 with the introduction of the D12 meant for speaking broadcasts. This version of the venerable device is every bit as indestructible as the Shures above and is therefore often used in live settings. The key to this is that the enclosure enhances bass response while also delivering a boost at 4 kHz to give the low-end instrument better cut and clarity. Like the Sennheiser, it also has a hum-cancelling coil and can handle sound pressures of over 160 dB. Stick it on the bass drum, of course, but this will also be useful in front of your bass cab.

Why you would choose this one: Industry-leading low-end response.

Price: $199.99

Buy the AKG D112 MKII Large-Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Large-diaphragm dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 to 17,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Kick drums, floor toms, and bass amps

Find more AKG D112 MKII Large-Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone information and reviews here.



4. Shure KSM 137/SL End-Address Cardioid Condenser Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(Shure)

If you want to step it up a little bit, Shure makes this extremely versatile condenser option. This would be best used in the studio for very detailed recordings of a wide range of sounds. Inside is a Class A discrete preamp that gives you superior transient performance. Though some of the detail is thanks to the ultra-thin diaphragm, this microphone includes a three-way selector for flat, -15 dB and -25 dB to handle higher sound pressure applications, too, so you don’t have to worry about distortion or damage. There’s also a three-way high-pass filter to reduce background noise, since this excels at recording instruments where the room ambiance plays a role, like woodwinds, acoustic guitars, and even vocal ensembles. It’ll also do a great job of micing cymbals, too. This is a lot of microphone, which is why it just barely comes in under budget.

Why you would choose this one: You’re recording a lot of things where transient and ambient response is key.

Price: $299

Buy the Shure KSM 137/SL End-Address Cardioid Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes (but better for studio)
  • Best for: Acoustic and wind instruments, overhead drum micing

Find more Shure KSM 137/SL End-Address Cardioid Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.



5. SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(SE Electronics)

Also creeping in just under budget is this option aimed at vocalists. It features a one-inch diaphragm, which the manufacturer notes is “gold-sputtered.” Since they brought it up, we’ll just let you know now that this is pretty common (the practice by which a thin layer of gold is applied to create a very strong and very electrically-responsive diaphragm) and has been in use for decades, especially by the big names. But since this isn’t a big name manufacturer with years of pedigree, you can get that higher-end treatment at this fantastic price point. Choose between -10dB or -20dB to control low frequencies, as well as a low-cut filter. This is meant for vocals, so the sound pressure limit is a bit lower at 135dB.

If you want the break the price cap and you find yourself experimenting with polar patterns, the SE2200a II Multi-Pattern allows you to choose between omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-of-eight patterns.

Why you would choose this one: You want an excellent vocal mic without paying premium prices.

Price: $299

Buy the SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Large-diaphragm condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Side
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals

Find more SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.



6. MXL 990 Condenser Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(MXL)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Similar to the Shure, most people who have set foot in a home studio have laid eyes on one of these. The MXL 990 is almost assuredly the first condenser mic you’ll have come across simply because of its extremely reasonable price. If not the 990 itself, perhaps you’ve seen the 550/551R pair, which is about as ubiquitous as the EMG 81/85 pickup set. But I digress.

The 990 has a slightly limited frequency response compared to the SE Electronics option, and the (yes, gold-sputtered) diaphragm is only 3/4 of an inch. Still, with world-renowned Mogami cable and a FET preamp inside and a relatively rugged construction outside, you wouldn’t be wrong to make this your first foray into vocal condensers. It also comes with a shockmount, a hard mic mount, and a handy plastic carrying case. I’ve used one of these on several occasions and didn’t hate the results. It’s particularly good combined with one of the dynamic mics at the top of the list. Again, this is meant for vocals, so the sound pressure level tops out around 130 dB before you start getting some distortion.

You could also try its little brother, the 770.

Why you would choose this one: You’ve never used a vocal condenser before and you want to try it out before spending more.

Need more options? Browse more MXL products here.

Price: $107.89

Buy the MXL 990 Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Large-diaphragm condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Side
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals and acoustic guitars

Find more MXL 990 Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.



7. Audio-Technica AT2035 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(Audio-Technica)

A slight step up from the MXL would be this Audio-Technica unit. Like the MXL, it comes with a few goodies like the shockmount, a soft case, and in this instance, an XLR cable and a pop filter. All that together might make this a touch cheaper than the MXL, and it’s a little better loved, too. This is again squarely aimed at vocal recording, with some use on acoustic guitars or other stringed instruments, though with the -10dB pad, this will handle up to 158 dB of sound pressure. There’s also a high-pass filter to remove rumble and noise, if needed. I’ve seen this in a couple of studios I’ve visited because it makes a great and inexpensive option.

For the price of the next microphone on this list, you can grab this mic in a bundle that includes the Focusrite 2i2, which we wrote about in our audio interfaces post.

Why you would choose this one: Maybe you don’t love the MXL, but still don’t want to spring for something more expensive. This could turn out to be your old reliable.

Need more options? Browse more Audio-Technica products here.

Price: $149

Buy the Audio-Technica AT2035 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Large-diaphragm condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Side
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals or stringed instruments

Find more Audio-Technica AT2035 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.



8. Rode NT1A Vocal Condenser Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(Rode)

Were money no object, I would write about the Rode NTK tube condenser here, which is amazing. But since we’ve got a budget to work with, we’ll go with the next best thing, which is the NT1A. If you remove the NTK’s Class A tube preamp, you’re left with something that looks an awful lot like the NT1A. All Rode products focus on ultra low noise operation, which make them ideal for vocal recordings. With a maximum SPL of 137 dB, we’re right in the range of the other options, though on this one you get a one-inch diaphragm. This anniversary bundle also helps it compete with the cheaper alternatives and includes a shockmount, cable, pop filter, and soft case.

Why you would choose this one: You find other vocal mics noisy and need something virtually silent.

Need more options? Browse more Rode products here.

Price: $229

Buy the Rode NT1A Vocal Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Large-diaphragm condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Side
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals and guitars

Find more Rode NT1A Vocal Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.



9. CAD M179 Variable-Pattern Condenser Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(CAD)

So, you’ve been recording for a little bit and you’re getting comfortable with different mic styles. What if you had one condenser that could handle any situation? This is just such a microphone. With a dial on the front, you can choose any polar pattern out there. Omnidirectional? Yep. Hypercardioid? You bet. Bidirectional? That, too. Turn the knob until you’re getting the response you want. There’s a center detent on cardioid, so you can easily return to the standard setting whenever you want.

Aside from that, you get a -20dB pad switch, a high-pass filter and the shockmount. There’s a 1.1 inch dual diaphragm and an internal pop filter. It’s especially flat and won’t color your sound at all, giving you an excellent, pure signal.

Why you would choose this one: You want one solution covering all polar patterns.

Need more options? Browse more CAD products here.

Price: $199

Buy the CAD M179 Variable-Pattern Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Large-diaphragm condenser
  • Polar pattern: Variable to all
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Side
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals and drum overhead, but good for just about anything

Find more CAD M179 Variable-Pattern Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.



10. Heil PR-20 Large Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone

best recording microphone, microphones for recording, best budget microphone, microphone for singing

(Heil)

If you like the idea of a dynamic mic that can be used both onstage and in studio along the lines of the SM57/SM58, but you’re holding out for a bit more, consider this option. As with the SM58, this is a super-rugged microphone that can more than handle the abuses of life on the road. It excels at capturing guitar amplifiers, but can be used for most things with midrange focus. With an SPL of 145 dB, you probably won’t be sticking it on your bass drum, but for just about everything else, it’s a solid option.

Why you would choose this one: You’re ready to graduate from the Shure workhorses to something warmer and more present.

Need more options? Browse more Heil products here.

Price: $157.94

Buy the Heil PR-20 Large Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 to 18,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Vocals, snare drums, guitar amps

Find more Heil PR-20 Large Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone information and reviews here.


Now that you have your microphone sorted, don’t forget that you need to plug it into something to record. Check out our list of the best recording audio interfaces here. If you creation is complete and you just want to listen to it, we’ve got a list of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers, too.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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2 Comments

Anonymous

Nice piece. How about an article on mics under 50 quid? or Dollars, if you will.

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