Whether you’re a music producer, broadcaster, or streamer, you’ll reach this point in your journey where your laptop’s built-in mic won’t cut it. You’ll need to upgrade to a professional recording microphone.
The perfect microphone is hard to find. You need to balance sound quality, fine sonic details, and noise cancellation. All of that at a reasonable price. Quite impossible!
We’ve put in some research to make your decision easier. In this article, we’ll explore 5 of the best recording microphones on the market right now, and we’ll tell you about the most important factors to consider to choose the one that best suits you.
Why Do You Need a Recording Microphone?
Your purpose of owning a microphone should be the first guiding factor towards your choice process. While some microphones excel in producing neutral sound, others thrive in canceling noise in loud environments.
The setting you’ll use your mic in determines which one you choose.
If you need your microphone for studio recording, you should determine your focus. Will you be recording instruments or vocals? Because they require different mics.
In both cases, we’re prioritizing high sensitivity here.
In a live performance, you need a microphone that can take intense sounds while blocking off the noise. That’s a totally different profile.
Less sensitivity, more power. That’s what you need.
Broadcasting includes podcasting, streaming, gaming, and even skyping. Probably anything that produces a neutral sound will do at this point.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Recording Microphone
With too many attractive options and confusing specs, choosing the best recording microphone can be a daunting task. Here are the two most essential specifications you need to look at when you’re choosing a microphone.
The diaphragm is the primary component of your microphone. When sound hits it, the diaphragm moves, generating an electrical wave that travels through the cable to the amplifier.
There are two types of diaphragms.
Dynamic diaphragms sport a basic construction with no extras, limiting their risk of damage. While condensers are dominant, dynamic microphones are the mics of choice in live settings. They have robust diaphragms, require less power, and have less sensitivity.
On the other hand, condensers capture more elaborate sound details. Condensers rely on capacitors to be more sensitive to sound, but they won’t tolerate louder sounds.
A polar pattern refers to the directions that the mic accepts incoming sounds from, which defines the mic’s field of sensitivity. This field might be narrow or wide. It affects sounds noticeably and can actually be used to produce specific sounds.
Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound from all directions, resulting in a crisp sound with deep bass, but on the negative side, it does pick up noise as well. Thus, ‘Omnis’ are a perfect choice in a studio or closed-room setting, but they’ll perform terribly in a live concert.
The cardioid pattern is very popular among musicians and DJs. It has a heart-like shape that takes most of the voice from the front side of the mic and picks up sound from both sides, but it won’t receive much sound from the rear of the mic.
This type is affected by the sound source’s proximity to the mic, which is desirable by those who love some velvety bass.
Supercardioid & Hypercardioid
The supercardioid pattern also focuses on voice from the front side, but it picks up sound from the rear part of the mic and ignores the sides. That is to say, it has a 180-degree focus, whereas it rejects the 90 and 270-degree angles.
Hypercardioid has an even narrower focus; it’s basically supercardioid on steroids. It picks up sounds from the 180-degree access with a narrower angle in an attempt to reduce noise.
Both are perfect for on-stage settings, where you need to isolate the vocalist’s voice from the surrounding noise environment.
Best Recording Microphone – Our Top 5 Picks
We’ve scoured hundreds of web pages and tried dozens of microphones to save you time and effort. Here are our top 5 picks for the best recording microphones on the market right now!
- Shure SM58 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone – Editor’s Pick
Shure is a big player in the microphones and audio electronics industry. There’s a huge chance that your favorite artists use their microphones live because they’re highly resistant to feedback and reduce noise significantly.
The SM58 is a favorite among musicians, and it’s easy to see why. Thanks to its pneumatic shock mount, the SM58 produces a sound that’s free of vibration with minimal noise. On top of that, it has a spherical mesh grill and a built-in pop filter that leaves all the noise out of the mix.
- EXEPTIONAL VOCAL PERFORMANCE - The SM58-LC delivers high-quality vocal reproduction, thanks to its tailored frequency response and brightened midrange for clear and present vocals.
- INDUSTRY STANDARD - The first choice for performers around the globe, the SM58 Dynamic Vocal Microphone is ready to bring any performance to life. From the club to the stadium, Shure has your back.
- CLARITY & CARE - The uniform cardioid polar pattern reproduces every note as it was intended, delivering warm, crisp sound time after time.
- LEAVE BACKGROUND NOISE BEHIND - The SM58 has a spherical mesh grille and built-in pop filter to keep any unwanted noise out of the mix.
- DROP THE MIC - The durable construction and break-resistant stand adapter makes the SM58 the perfect companion on the road, going strong through the toughest performances.
In one of Amazon’s top reviews for the SM58, the reviewer said that, unlike her previous mic, the SM58 didn’t produce distorted sound in the highs. The voice she heard from it sounded “exactly the same as she felt and heard while she was singing.” That is the marker of a great microphone!
The only downside to this mic is that it’s a dynamic vocal microphone, so it’ll work for specific types of music, while other types demand you get a diaphragm condenser.
The price point of Shure SM58 is what seals the deal for us. You get premium quality at such an affordable price.
- Rode PodMic Cardioid Dynamic Podcasting Microphone – Runner Up
Next on our list is Rode’s Cardioid Dynamic Mic that’s claimed to be a ‘podcasting’ microphone, but it has a whole lot more to offer!
- Cardioid Dynamic Broadcast Microphone with Integrated Pop Shield
Rode’s PodMic is on par with Shure’s most famous pod mic, the SM7B, which is probably one of the best microphones for broadcasting. The Rode Pod is a strong contender in this category, and it doubles as a broadcasting and recording microphone, giving it an edge over competitors in both categories.
The robust metal construction of the Rode PodMic alongside the internal pop filter help minimize plosives efficiently. The produced sounds are crisp with minimal noise and almost pre-processed at the highs, making it the perfect choice for streamers.
Reviewers agreed that investing in this affordable mic alongside an okay mixer produces superb results for broadcasting, gaming, streaming, and podcasting.
If we have to point a negative side to the Rode, it’d be its heavyweight that might tilt the holder a bit. However, you can easily work around that by purchasing a sturdier holder.
- Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone – Best Value
If you’re looking for a microphone that provides you with the best value on the market or if you’re just starting off your studio project, Audio Technica’s AT2035 is your guy!
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The AT2035 is a robust condenser with a big diaphragm and a rugged shock mount that offers excellent isolation. It sports a cardioid polar pattern that reduces noise and focuses on picking up sounds from the front and rear sides of the mic.
“It’s equivalent to high-end condensers at a stellar price!” Amazon reviewers conceded. A lot of them particularly praised it for sounding neutral when working in a conditioned room. It’s probably why the AT2035 is a hit among gamers.
If we’re 100% honest, we’d say that the arm starts off strong, and its quality diminishes over time. Yet, we find this quite tolerable given that the microphone’s quality is sustained.
- Stellar X2 Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser – Rising Star
TechZone’s Stellar is a low-profile microphone that’s a big hit among broadcasters and amateur musicians.
This mic aims to sound neutral and reduce the harsh treble, and it succeeds in doing so. The microphone embodies TZ’s proprietary high-grade gold capsule and Japanese Mylar.
- Carefully Tuned Sound: Balanced and Neutral frequency response. Unlike most condenser microphones, this microphone does not sound harsh and will not stand out in your mix or sound fatiguing over time.
- High Quality Diaphragm: Our capsules are made using high-grade brass and Japanese imported mylar. They are manufactured with the most precise machinery to achieve higher sensitivity making them able to reproduce subtle sounds. This makes it the perfect for a vairety of sources.
- Low Noise Circuit: Our custom transformer less JFET circuit is made with German capacitors and components with a tolerance as low as 1%. It features gold traces for high conductivity, great performance without distortion, and a noise floor of less than 13dBA.
- High Strength Iron Body: Our microphone body and frame are made out of high-grade iron with a durable grill to protect the capsule and ensure that every of our microphone will last a lifetime.
- NOTE: To connect to a computer, please use a proper USB audio interface that can supply 48V and an XLR to XLR cable.
The Stellar X2 excels in its build quality, where it’s made of sturdy iron externally and has a robust german capacitor internally for its low noise circuit.
John and Joe, who reviewed the mic for Amazon, swear by its phenomenal sound quality, and they assure you, “No production filters are needed!”
Overall, the Stellar X2 is a great recording microphone for broadcasting and voice-over work, but there are better options out there when it comes to music recording.
- Neumann TLM 103 Large-Diaphragm Condenser – Luxury Option
Since we’ve explored four options that belong to the ‘mid range’ price category, we thought to end this list with one of the industry’s big names. Neumann’s TLM 103 is the one microphone you should consider if you’re willing to go a step further in the prices ladder.
- Large diaphragm cardioid microphone
- Extremely low noise: 7 dB-A. Supply voltage (P48, IEC 61938): 48 V ± 4 V
- Straightforward handling for homerecording and professional studios
- Set includes microphone, shockmount and briefcase.Dynamic range:131 dB
The TLM 103 sports a large condenser diaphragm with a cardioid polar pattern that offers prime noise reduction and produces crisp sound across its frequency range.
Neumann’s TLM103 and 102 are considered to be the best entry point to high-end microphones by many professionals. Their sonic clarity, strong build, and small size make them too hard to resist!
However, it takes a pro to make the best use of this microphone given its high sensitivity to sound. You need to know how to make the right adjustments and preferably use a high pass filter to block unwanted sounds that it might pick up.
Owning a decent recording microphone is an indispensable step to take your music work to a new level. As we’ve discussed, you need to assess your needs and choose a diaphragm and polar pattern accordingly. Then, pick the microphone that suits you best from our recommendations.
If we have to pick a winner, we will vote for the Shure SM58 because honestly, given Shure’s experience in the industry, premium quality is guaranteed, and the price is a plus!