10 Best Cheap Microphones 2018: Your Buyer’s Guide

microphones for sale

Microphones are an interesting puzzle for the home recording aficionado. While it’s true about any piece of gear, it seems especially true of microphones that the sky is the limit in terms of what you can spend. Industry standard microphones include things like the Rode NTK or Neumann TLM 102. These are pricey for units you’ll need more than one of.

Still, not too bad, and worth it if you’re starting to make some money on your music. It starts to get downright nose-bleed-inducing when you consider the Royer R-121, Neumann U 87, or Sony C800GPAC. If you’re planning to spend $9,000 on your next microphone, you’ve come to the wrong place and I’m sorry to have disappointed you.

If you’re looking to spend around one percent of that, you are definitively in the right place. Previously, we looked at the best budget recording microphones. In that post, we outlined everything the fist-time microphone buyer might need to know about the various forms and specifications. All of those microphones see regular professional use and make excellent options for people at every point on the recording spectrum. They ranged from $99 to $299; cheap enough for impulse buy to expensive enough for a Christmas present.

But what if you don’t even have $99 to spend? What if you have only half that? Given that you will soon likely find yourself in need of multiples of the same mic, the cost of outfitting your home studio can get out of control in a hurry. For this post, we’re focusing on mics that come in under $50. We’ll cover condensers and dynamic mics, but polar patterns, address directions, and form factors will be more limited than in our previous post. Additionally, cheap microphones often call to mind options from Blue like the Snowball, but here we’ve focused on XLR-based mics. If they exist, we’ve mentioned USB counterparts, but USB-only mics aren’t what we’re after here.

Now, it’s true that by and large, these won’t be nearly as sensitive nor detailed as their more expensive counterparts. For one thing, they tend to have smaller diaphragms, which simply equates to less air moving and thus less signal. You may also find that they have narrower frequency response. These two things together can mean that they’ll fare better for louder, more focused sounds like cranked guitar amps and drums, but feel a little lacking when it comes to soft sounds and vocals. This may also mean you’ll have to spend more time finding the optimal placement and settings in your DAW, but again, the cost savings may well be worth it.

In a world where you could easily spend $10,000 on a current-production microphone (feel free to read that in the movie preview voice), having decent options at this price point seems impossible. But here’s the thing: people do it all the time. Folks get great sounds from seemingly inferior gear and have done since the first-ever recordings. Sure, you may upgrade one day, but if you buy one of these and get a sound you like, you’ll have saved yourself a considerable pile of cash.

For those with only a little to spend, here are our best cheap microphones for sale under $50.


1. Pyle-Pro PDMIC78 Dynamic Microphone

Image of pyle-pro pdmic78

Pyle-Pro

On the aforementioned previous list of budget mics, we of course started with the Shure SM57, which is ubiquitous. At $99, it’s already good value for money, but at less than $20, this option from Pyle is too cheap to ignore. For that reason alone, you might as well pick one up and try it. But the interesting thing is that these are actually pretty good.

There’s some anecdotal evidence to suggest that people occasionally struggle to tell the difference between these and the SM57. That’s is likely due to some handiwork with mic preamps or in the DAW, but nevertheless, that it even comes close at all is pretty remarkable. Based on the stated frequency response, you can immediately discern that there’s going to be less low end content from these, but given that a rolling off the lows is a common step in guitar mixing, that might actually be of use in some applications.

Certainly a very fine starter microphone, but equally good as a backup. I have one and use it as a complement to an SM58 frequently in recordings. Speaking of the SM58, Pyle has an ultra-cheap take on that, too, called the PDMIC58. Both ship with a 15 foot XLR to 1/4 inch cable so you can get right to it when they arrive.

Why you would choose this one: Especially for the price, this is way better than it has any right to be.

Price: $12.50

Buy the Pyle-Pro PDMIC78 Dynamic Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 50 to 15,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Guitar amps and drums (they call it a vocal mic, but you’d probably want to look at the PDMIC58 for that)

Find more Pyle-Pro PDMIC78 Dynamic Microphone information and reviews here.


2. Behringer C-1 Condenser Microphone

Image of behringer c-1

Behringer

Like Boss pedals, it is against the unwritten laws of music for novice musicians to fail to own a piece of Behringer gear. It’s true that the brand has virtually no cache in the sense that everyone has preconceived notions about the performance of their products, but realistically, they’re all actually pretty good.

Sometimes they might be lacking in build quality, but that isn’t the case here. The C-1 is a microphone of some heft, being die-cast as it is. It feels quite substantial, which is reassuring, but perhaps not central to its function as a studio tool. The detail and sensitivity on these are both well above the price point, though this does come with the side-effect of a slightly higher noise floor than more expensive options. A little EQ notching or better isolation should account for this well enough in most situations. Still, for beginners or for reference or scratch tracks, this is an excellent choice. I used to have one of these for vocals and even for micing smaller amps.

Behringer offers a few options around this price point, but all exceed our $50 price cap. There’s a USB version of the C-1, as well as the C-2, which is actually two small condensers. If you want an upgrade for the C-1 specifically, look at the C-3, which allows you to choose your polar pattern. All ship with a padded plastic case that can withstand some amount of abuse, which is more than you can say about the common Shure options.

Why you would choose this one: Good build quality and above average sensitivity for the price point make this a foundational starter mic.

Price: $49.99

Buy the Behringer C-1 Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Front
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals, acoustic and wind instruments

Find more Behringer C-1 Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.


3. Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 Dynamic Vocal Microphone

Image of behringer xm8500

Behringer

Behringer also offers their take on the Shure SM58 in its conspicuously-named XM8500. Compared to the Pyle-Pro PDMIC58, it’s a few dollars more and shows it, in my view. The build quality is just slightly better and it has somewhat higher output. Again, you may notice a louder noise floor, but in live applications, this is unlikely to matter. This is a killer practice room mic in particular, but also makes a fine substitute for the real-deal SM58 onstage in a pinch. With a lot of these options, you might consider deploying these when headed off to less-than-secure locales where you have to provide your own gear.

You could have five of these for the price of one SM58, so you probably won’t lose any sleep if this gets lost or stolen and you don’t have to sacrifice much in the way of sound quality for that piece of mind. Where a Shure might withstand 30 years of abuse, this might only give you ten, which is still better than the five or so you might get with the Pyle version.

Why you would choose this one: A decent SM58 take-off with better build quality than similarly-priced competitors.

Price: $19.99

Buy the Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 Dynamic Vocal Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 50 to 15,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Vocals and guitar amps

Find more Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 Dynamic Vocal Microphone information and reviews here.


4. CAD C9 Condenser Instrument Microphone

Image of cad c9

CAD

If you’re looking for something to capture more detail, consider this option. This is a small instrument condenser with a focus on midrange response, which makes it perfect for acoustic and stringed instruments. It can also be used for recording cymbals placed over the drum kit, but the high-end frequency response is rolled off compared to a lot of other condensers. The level of detail these can capture easily exceeds the price point, even considering that.

Additionally, the max sound pressure level of these is 140dB, which means they can endure the high volumes of the kit. If you plan to use them on drums, you’ll likely want at least two of these paired with at least two of the D29s to build yourself a decent budget drum mic set.

Why you would choose this one: Use this for more sensitive and detailed instrument recording.

Price: $29.99

Buy the CAD C9 Condenser Instrument Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 to 13,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Acoustic instruments and overhead drum micing

Find more CAD C9 Condenser Instrument Microphone information and reviews here.


5. Nady SP-4C Dynamic Neodymium Microphone

Image of nady sp-4c

Nady

This one is a complicated pick, but bear with me. When I was very new to recording, one of the first brands I had access to was Nady, by way of a complete set of drum mics. They were, quite frankly, terrible. I avoided the brand for a long time before stumbling upon the SPC-15 condenser mic at a thrift store and finding it to be surprisingly good. I use it from time to time as a second mic in front of guitar amps and it was certainly good value for the price I paid. I haven’t featured it in this post simply because the price to buy it new ($49.99) puts it in an odd position competitively. It’s not a bad mic at all, but it’s just not the mega-bargain some others are.

That said, since Nady have improved in the years I’ve been recording music, I find the SP-4C worthy of consideration for SM58-type jobs (i.e. live vocals). This has a nice, loud, clean response that suits the application well, and augments that with a handy on/off switch that is lacking in most of the higher-end units of this type. Despite the more limited frequency response, this has a certain clarity and crispness that the others don’t, with the trade-off that the mids aren’t nearly as warm and sweet sounding. It isn’t the SM58 killer that the Behringer option might be, but it’s decent and convenient.

Why you would choose this one: You can trade off some frequency response for the handiness of having an on/off switch.

Price: $19.99

Buy the Nady SP-4C Dynamic Neodymium Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 50 to 12,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Vocals

Find more Nady SP-4C Dynamic Neodymium Microphone information and reviews here.


6. MXL 550/551R Microphone Ensemble

Image of mxl 550 and 551

MXL

Naturally, the MXL 990 landed on our last list because it’s a staple of inexpensive microphones. That one retails for just over $100 by itself, but MXL also makes this set available for even tighter budgets. What you get in this set is two condenser microphones; one is aimed at instruments and one for amps and vocals. Both have the same frequency response of 30 to 20,000 Hz, which is quite wide at the price point. Certainly the flexibility of having two mic types is handy for the beginner, as these would likely cover the vast majority of applications in a home recording environment.

To my ears, MXL mics are very flat, which can be a good thing. They don’t impart their own characteristics, but neither do they have a very lively sound. This is acceptable for the most part because it’s easier to add interest either with a nice reverb plugin or by multi-tracking your parts than it is to tune out a sound from a microphone you just don’t like. They are quite low noise, except for one particular habit: every so often, I’ve found that they pick up stray radio signals. This is largely dependent on where you are and how isolated your room is. It shouldn’t stop you from trying them, but don’t be surprised if it happens now and again.

You can upgrade to the 990/991 package later, too. Like the Behringer, these ship in a durable, padded plastic carrying case so you can always have them ready-to-hand.

Why you would choose this one: Wider frequency response than other mics at this price point, not to mention the two-for-one package deal.

Price: $69.48 ($34.74 each)

Buy the MXL 550/551R Microphone Ensemble here.


Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: 550 – Front, 551 – End
  • Good for live use?: No
  • Best for: Vocals, acoustic and wind instruments, overhead drum micing

Find more MXL 550/551R Microphone Ensemble information and reviews here.


7. Marantz Professional MPM-1000 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Image of marantz mpm-1000

Marantz

Marantz makes some pretty high-end audio gear, so it makes sense that they’d offer a few decent pieces in cheaper territory. With the desk tripod and shockmount included in this kit, Marantz clearly aimed this at podcasters, so those of you who do both will want to put it on your shortlist. More to the point, this has the widest frequency response of any microphone on this list, putting it more in league with higher-priced offerings. In the video below, you can hear it put up against options that are just a bit pricier. Certainly, as they go on to say, the more you spend, the more open they sound.

That said, I actually prefer the MPM-1000 to the SE X1; the top-end character of the X1 is less immediately satisfying to my ears. Lots of variables we can’t see could have an impact on that, of course, but it’s a starting place for comparison. This competes more directly with the C-1 above, and is probably the better of the two for some folks.

Why you would choose this one: The combination of excellent detail, wide frequency response, and useful extras make this a strong contender.

Price: $45.99

Buy the Marantz Professional MPM-1000 Cardioid Condenser Microphone here.



Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Front
  • Good for live use?: You could, but probably better for studio
  • Best for: Vocals

Find more Marantz Professional MPM-1000 Cardioid Condenser Microphone information and reviews here.


8. Audio-Technica ATR-1500 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal/Instrument Microphone

Image of audio-technica atr-1500

Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica offers not one but four SM58 alternatives below $30 at the time of this writing, with this being the most expensive of the lot, coming in $7 higher than the Nady above. To that end, this also has a handy on/off switch, a more durable construction, and a slightly wider frequency response. That said, the lower bound of the response is definitely more limited than some of the other options on this list, but is only 10 Hz less responsive than the Shure model it seeks to emulate. In other words, you’re unlikely to notice it. This is a solid option at a steal of a price, but even at full retail would make a strong contender. The clamp and a 16 foot XLR cable are included, as well.

Why you would choose this one: Audio-Technica are known for their quality cost-effective gear, and this should outperform the Nady above for the cost of just a few more dollars.

Price: $26.97 (46 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Audio-Technica ATR-1500 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal/Instrument Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 60 to 15,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Vocals and guitar amps

Find more Audio-Technica ATR-1500 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal/Instrument Microphone information and reviews here.


9. Pyle PDMICR42SL Classic Retro Vintage Style Dynamic Vocal Microphone

Image of pyle pdmicr42sl

Pyle

If you’re looking for something quite different, you might consider this option. In terms of audio performance, it certainly can’t hang with the other options on this list, which is actually kind of true of the much more expensive Shure 55SH and Heil The Fin models it seeks to replicate. These retro-style mics aren’t made for the best sound; they’re made for vibe. These feature a slightly wider frequency response than the Pyle at the top of this list, but the trade off is that these fare a little worse with high sound pressure levels, so you can’t really use them on amps.

They’re also made of plastic, so don’t anticipate these giving you years of performance. You get an on/off switch and a permanently-attached swivel mount for the price, as well as a 16 foot XLR to 1/4 inch cable. If you’re a relatively gentle crooner and you just want something a little fun to add to your stage presence, this is the one for you.

Why you would choose this one: You need that retro vibe.

Price: $27.05 to $29.68

Buy the Pyle PDMICR42SL Classic Retro Vintage Style Dynamic Vocal Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 to 15,000 Hz
  • Address direction: Front
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Vocals

Find more Pyle PDMICR42SL Classic Retro Vintage Style Dynamic Vocal Microphone information and reviews here.


10. Shure PGA48-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone

Image of shure pga48

Shure

Naturally, Shure makes its own competitor at this price point. This mic is primarily designed for public speaking, but for low sound pressure performances, this could certainly do the trick for the budget-conscious. The frequency response is similar to other options on this list, again sacrificing a bit of the low end and certainly narrower than its more well-known cousin. They also skimped on the switch, which doesn’t offer a satisfying click, but does perform the function of muting when needed. Very dynamic singers will probably find this limiting, but again, for absolute novices, this will serve as a fine beginner option.

It’s also a good choice for those who podcast (or sing a lot of karaoke) in addition to their music recording activities. If you want to go a few dollars over budget, Shure also make the PGA-58, which has a slightly wider frequency response. Either way, you’ll get Shure’s legendary build quality and clarity.

Why you would choose this one: You can’t quite swing a full-fat SM58 but definitely want a Shure.

Price: $39

Buy the Shure PGA48-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone here.


Specs:

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 70 to 15,000 Hz
  • Address direction: End
  • Good for live use?: Yes
  • Best for: Vocals

Find more Shure PGA48-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone information and reviews here.


See Also:


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