Condenser mics are prevalent in the studio recording circles. The novelty of these cutting-edge gadgets has surpassed my initial expectations of acoustic quality. It revamps subpar audio by streamlining (or should I say condensing) it to finer details matching the high-end sound quality of radios. It’s for this reason that engineers and music producers prefer them in studio recording. These types of vocal mics have flooded the market each with unique specs, design and of course price. Just like no two human voices are the same, no two condenser mics have the same exact features. Bearing this in mind, this guide will delve deeper to round up the best condenser mic for achieving desired audio quality for both high-end and low-end sounds. This guide caters for all you overly thrifty folks in search of the best condenser microphone. Believe me when I say, expensive doesn’t always mean better. A few gems you ought to consider buying are listed below. Let’s try to find the best condenser microphone!
Best Condenser Microphone – Quick Overview Table
Best Cheap Budget Condenser Mic Under $100
- Side address condenser microphone with USB output for easy connection to your computer
This is a new invention of Audio Technica with features suited for those who are new to the studio recording scene.
It has the convenience of a large-diaphragm as well as side-address with USB port connection allowing for a seamless link-up to your computer.
The polar cardioid pattern renders the microphone suitable for not just home studio recording but also field recording and voiceover use. How? You ask. The technology wards off distracting noises often picked on the rear.
It has built in headphones jack that not only allows you to keep an eye on audio output but does this with no audible delay.
Audio Technica ATR2500 has a decent sound isolation spanning about 180 degrees. It captures low-end sounds and has made up for lack of high frequencies with a good EQ. I recommend it for recording electric and acoustic guitars as well as deep voices.
Best Condenser Mic Under $200
Blue Yeti USB
- Tri-capsule array - 3 condenser capsules can record almost any situation.
This is a multipattern mic made by Blue Microphones that runs on both Windows and OSX without drivers.
This large diaphragm mic has four polar patterns. Stereo mode is principled in capturing a realistic general sound image. Then there’s cardioid that delivers a rich, full-bodied sound by putting the unwanted rear noises at bay.
Omnidirectional puts you at the center of experience by equally picking up sounds from all directions. Bidirectional takes the day when interviewing two people as it records from both the rear and front. It’s also best suited in obtaining the tone of a musical instrument.
The setup is hassle free with an easy plug and play USB connection for both Mac and PC compatibility. It’s user-friendly with features such as tri-capsule array and clear-cut controls for volume and headphones.
Blue Yeti is a multipurpose device because of its multi-pattern design. Its sound is rounded and rich. Its bass is balanced with trebles and mids suited for recording low-frequency sounds. It’s also less likely to boom, enhance or hiss male/female voice disparities. It is good for podcasting and recording vocals.
==>> You might also be interested in getting pop filter for blue yeti.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS
- Condenser microphone with USB output for digital recording
It’s been dubbed the no-frills mic by Audio Technica engineers.
This is a side address USB-condenser microphone with a smaller 16mm diaphragm that is a great deal for those frugal voice artists looking to produce excellent recordings. It has the expediency of headphone monitoring with no voice latency.
The cardioid pattern is useful for off-axis rejection as it enhances isolation of preferred sound source. To boot, it has a high-end Analog to Digital converter with specs of 16 bit and 44.1/48 kHz ensuring high quality sound production.
AT2020USB+ is favored for its ability to merge microphone signal and pre-recorded audio in a flawless manner. It also prides itself with a Hi-fi internal headphone amplifier that carries quite a big punch in volume as well as clarity. This is a great asset when monitoring quality of audio output.
It has a mature sound on both instruments and vocals. Its lower midrange warmth will flatter most vocalists. The presence peaks deliver clarity without blundering on the side of sibilance. It can work well with a broad range of singers as it does not overhype the original voice. It delivers clarity of acoustic guitars.
AKGP420 High-Performance Dual-Capsule True
- One-inch dual-diaphragm microphone with three selectable polar patterns for the perfect setting
This mic falls under the Perception line of AKG but with a few distinctions from the rest.
AKGP420 has a one-inch dual membrane capitalizing on a seamless transduction of sound waves to electrical signal.
With three selectable patterns, this vocal condenser mic has diversified its use. Its design accommodates Omnidirectional, figure 8 and cardioid polar patterns. The AKG engineers crammed a ton of versatility in this one mic. It triples as a home studio recording, podcasting as well as voiceover microphone.
Its sensitivity is up to 155 dB SPL (Decibel Sound Pressure Level); this means the mic’s electronics can handle a very high sound before the onset of distortion. The microphones body is cottaged within a shock mount that isolates shock and vibration for higher quality sound. It also has a bass cut filter that does away with low-frequency noises such as wind.
It comes off as solid mic capable of capturing shrills without hyping it up too much. It will provide a balance of warmth and detail when an acoustic guitar is recorded.
Best Condenser Vocal Mic Under $300
Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Package
- as the seller is the only authorized fulfilled by dealer, and purchases from unauthorized dealers carry no
Rode engineers rave that this is one of the most hushed microphones, so if you are in dire need of a quiet mic they recommend this one.
Being a large 1-inch diaphragm mic, it has such a rich and warm tone that any guitarist or vocalist would appreciate. The cardioid polar pattern elevates vocals to studio-quality.
RodeNT1A has invested in maintenance by gifting you with a microphone dust cover and shock mount with an integrated pop shield. With a *whopping 10-year warranty for those registered, you know the mic will wither a lot of storms before you have to trade it in for a new upgrade.
It has an XLR cable according you a better range of sound quality. Its ultra low noise feature deserves its due respect too. In conjunction to capturing sound from a distance, it can get hold of quiet sound sources too. It also allows you to use EQ to shape tone without fretting about noise penalties.
It’s keen on delivering high-end detail devoid of sibilance. The lower end is well balanced and sounds believable. These features render it to do a good job on hand percussion and acoustic guitar.
When looking for the best microphone for rap vocals, this might be a good choice for you.
Best Condenser Microphone Under $500
Rode NT2A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package
- ENSURE YOU BUY GENUINE RØDE PRODUCTS! Products from sellers which say ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ under the price are NOT authorized resellers, and may not be selling genuine product.
This Australian made mic has a couple of other goodies for us such as a tutorial DVD, dust cover, shock mount and cable. A great bargain or what?
This professional XLR mic strikes a good balance between detail and warmth. In addition to sounding fantastic when it comes to vocals, it boasts of very low-noise transformless circuitry. No cause for worry about paying noise fines when fine tuning sound with EQ.
The design has incorporated three switchable patterns all controlled on the mic body. You can easily swap from figure 8 to cardioid then switch to Omni without stepping away from the mic.
RodeNT2A has a large 1-inch diaphragm slotting in three different positions for both PAD and High pass filters (HPF) all expediently located on the mic body. The HPF variables are; Flat, 80Hz or 40Hz whereas that of the pad are; 0dB, -5dB or -10dB. These options offer better versatility and creative control.
The top end is detailed without hisses whereas the vocal range on the lower end comes off as solid well focused with the intended degree of authority and depth. Quiet instruments come off with a lot of clarity.
MXL GENESIS Flagship Tube Condenser Microphone
It is a visually captivating tube microphone with a gold grill and a glossy red body.
It has a narrow cardioid pattern essentially making it one of the best condenser mics for vocals. Acoustic guitars come across with a great tonal balance. Unlike most large diaphragm mics that have a noticeable peak, MXL Genesis has a nominally flat response.
This makes it more resourceful than one made to exhibit deliberate coloration.
The manufacturers have been more than generous by adding a power supply, shock mount with a fitted pop shields as well as heavy duty Mogami XLR cables. This is at no extra cost; it’s all inclusive the retail price. Talk of a mic destroying the price/performance barrier.
It’s received international acclaim for its tight low pitches, warm mids, and clear shrills. Well, what would you expect from a genuine hand selected 12AT7 tube?
Best Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Under 1000$
In this price range, my best pick would be…
Neumann TLM 102
- Large Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone
This is a small design mic with a nickel or matte black finish. Its cardioid capsule houses a large diaphragm only found in Neumann’s next generation microphones.
Staying true to the transformless series, TLM 102 brags of a low noise circuitry that seizes sound sources without the addition of extensive color. This transformless technology not only prevents interference that may distort the balanced audio signal but also ensures good common mode rejection.
It’s very high maximum SPL (sound pressure level) of 144dB allows the recording of extremely high output such as amps, percussion, and drums.
It has a frequency response of up to 6 kHz making it a genuinely all-around microphone. Additionally, Neumann incorporated a slight boost to augment the presence of the voice. The overall result is an incredibly linear sound with minimal coloration and a distinctive extended bass range. This is a perfect way to sweeten vocals smoothly.
t’s suitable for vocals and speech recording. It can be used in home and project studios.
There is a sense of clarity and closeness created when recording the mids and lows. On studio tests, it works well on hand percussion, acoustic guitars, and sung vocals.
To any broadcaster or voiceover artist looking to break bread in the professional league, I would recommend Neumann TLM 102.
Recording Studio Microphone: Best Vocal Mic
If you care more about quality and simply getting best condenser mic rather than about your budget, you should definitely consider getting one of products mentioned below:
Neumann TLM 103 SET w/EA1 Shock Mount and Aluminum Case
- Large diaphragm capsule cardioid microphone
This is a higher generation microphone in the Neumann TLM series and as such has more refined features.
This is the ultimate large-sized diaphragm microphone fitting for professionals who demand a very high sound quality. The TLM (transformless) tech translates to a dominant bass broadcast all the way down to the very low-pitched frequencies. It also generates a clear sound when in proximity to the sound source.
It has a cardioid capsule that soothes distracting rear noises while naturally holding back off-axis sounds. On top of the 5 kHz flat frequency response, there’s an additional broad 4dB flat presence boost. These features are incorporated without compromising on resonance. It, in turn, produces speech and music details devoid of coloration. The capsule is protected from plosives and pop sounds by a large wire mesh hand grille.
Since it can effectively handle an SPL of 138 minus sound distortion, this mic offers a dynamic sound range. Other goodies in the 103 package are a swivel shock mount wooden briefcase and stand.
This TLM 103 mic does justice to nuanced vocals. Almost all voices sound great on it, and this may explain why many musicians swear by it. It cuts across male crooner and rap as well as female jazz and bass.
Neumann U 87 Ai MT
Neumann pulled out all the stops when creating this precision crafted mic that is claimed to be the best. It is essentially the embodiment of a modern mic with an old soul. It retained the U structure of the initial Neumann U 87 made in 1967 but with a couple of fresh embellishments.
It marshaled a new age of audio dependability with three exclusive polar patterns; Cardioid, Omnidirectional and bidirectional (aka figure 8).
With swappable 10dB pre-attenuation pad and high-pass filter (HPF) the mic is unbelievably adaptable to a wide range of recording techniques. Neumann U 87 Ai set the standard for a large-diaphragmed condenser mic. The updated advanced circuitry enhances the mic’s headroom by minimizing the resistance supplied by the capsules bias voltage.
The meticulousness employed in assembly is out of this world. The space between the diaphragm and the capsule is less than the thickness of a single strand of human hair. It is for this reason that its sonic characteristics are adored by engineers and musicians alike.
It would serve well any engineer recording guitar drums wind & string instruments as well as vocals. It has no sibilance and records with a lot of clarity.
Best Condenser Microphone For Recording Vocals Reviews: Summary Chart
|Audio-Technica ATR2500||USB||Low||Extremely affordable, perfect for beginners.|
|Blue Yeti USB||USB||Low/Medium||Affordable, four polar patterns, great for streaming, youtube, podcasts, etc.|
|Audio-Technica AT2020||USB||Low/Medium||Great value for money, good build quality and sound, capable of recording instruments on a decent level.|
|AKGP420 High-Performance Dual-Capsule||XLR||Low/Medium||Extremely versatile, great sound pressure levels, good overall mic.|
|Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Package||XLR||Medium||Great quality, decent value-for-money, bundle provides you with all necessary accessories you need.|
|Rode NT2A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package||XLR||Medium/High||Light-weight, well-made, on body controls, great build and sound quality|
|MXL GENESIS Flagship Tube||XLR||Medium/High||Tube warmth for a decent money, rich vintage sound|
|Neumann TLM 102||XLR||High||Great and rich sound quality, small size, clear mids and highs, punchy lower mids|
|Neumann TLM 103||XLR||High||Low noise, high-end sound, great build quality, perfect for voice overs.|
|Neumann U 87 Ai MT||XLR||High||Bright, extremely detailed, and polished sounding, sits perfectly in the mix, especially good for smoother vocals and acoustic instruments.|
Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Cardioid Condenser USB MicrophoneBlue Yeti USB Mic for Recording & Streaming on PC and Mac, 3 Condenser Capsules, 4 Pickup Patterns, Headphone Output and Volume Control, Mic Gain Control, Adjustable Stand, Plug & Play – BlackoutAudio-Technica AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone, BlackAKG Pro Audio P420, Sliver Blue, 9.80 x 5.50 x 9.00 inches (3101H00430)Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone PackageRode NT2A Anniversary Vocal Multi-Pattern Dual Condenser Microphone Package$74.80$119.99$149.00$199.00$227.00$399.002,066 Reviews9,486 Reviews546 Reviews75 Reviews391 Reviews36 Reviews Blue Yeti USB Mic for Recording & Streaming on PC and Mac, 3 Condenser Capsules, 4 Pickup Patterns, Headphone Output and Volume Control, Mic Gain Control, Adjustable Stand, Plug & Play – Blackout$119.999,486 ReviewsRode NT2A Anniversary Vocal Multi-Pattern Dual Condenser Microphone Package$399.00-36 Reviews
What Is a Condenser Mic?
The name condenser mic is synonymous with studio recording and for a good reason. But what actually is a condenser microphone? It works by using a capacitor with two plates. When sound waves hit it, the lighter plate also called diaphragm vibrates changing the distance between the front plate and the back plate. This will, in turn, change the capacitance that will result in a change in rhythm.
It is for this reason that it records everything with exceptional detail. To draw maximum benefit from this baby, it is often used in an ideal studio recording room.
The mics have a superior frequency response. This essentially means they are better served in reproducing speed of a voice or an instrument compared to other types of microphones. Its sound output is louder too.
To provide rich and full tones, a condenser mic needs to be powered from an external source referred to as phantom power. This is so because its internal circuitry requires a current to function.
Consequently, you’ll need an audio interface adept to offer this. No need to be up in arms of where to get this kind of interface. Any audio interface you purchase will supply phantom power. Just be sure to turn it on.
Condenser mics are considered sensitive mics that produce a bright and warm sound. They are less affected by electrical faults like hum and magnetic interference.
What Is a Dynamic Mic?
The build of a dynamic mic resembles that of a tiny loudspeaker. Sound is produced with the aid of an inductive coil linked to a diaphragm which sits within a magnetic field.
When sound strikes the mic, the coil moves in conjunction with the diaphragm in varying voltage. The final output is as a result of the shifts in the voltage of the mic.
It is rugged reliable and sounds good. It does a terrific job of only remitting sound right in front of the mic while rejecting ambient noises. This makes it a great fit for podcasters, radio announcers, musicians, and broadcasters. No much hustle is needed in post production.
The sound output is straightforward and flat fitted for speech. As opposed to a condenser, it’s much less sensitive begging for much more gain to read a signal. Then again it does not require any phantom power needed by condenser mics.
A good audio interface will prove handy since you’ll be able to crank the gain up high without launching noise into the signal.
Most have a tight frequency range. To get one that matches the frequency response of condenser mic, you’ll have to part with good money. This is not a big deal for podcasters since speech lies within a narrow frequency range.
It doesn’t do well as a studio mic since it’s susceptible to magnetic interference and will, in turn, produce audible hums. Fortunately, those made for stage work are guarded against this and can wave off the worst electrical concerns.
Types of Microphones
Microphones can be divided into three main categories; dynamic, ribbon and condenser. Of these three, dynamic and condenser are better known and have in turn been divided into further subcategories by features. To avoid monotony, I will only cover ribbon and the subcategories of condenser and dynamic.
- Ribbon – This is a delicate microphone with the same working principle like that of dynamic mics. There’s slight tweak, though; it has a thin aluminum ribbon in the place of the diaphragm. The ribbon is what will vibrate to create voltage variation. It has coupled the high-frequency sensitivity of condenser mics to the durability of dynamic mics. They use a standard bidirectional pattern. They are utilized in studios to record both instruments and voices.
- XLR mics – XLR is an audio connector with three pins carrying an analog signal to whatever it is plugged into. They provide a good sound quality and are durable. On the connectivity front, most microphones use XLR.
- USB- It differs from traditional mics by having two circuits. It can be linked directly to a computer for reading and recording with software. The ease of use is welcomed by those dabbling in home recording.
- Large diaphragm condenser mics– This is the standard microphone for recording vocals. It’s housed in a larger capsule that can cater for the 1 inch or more membrane. It not only delivers vocal clarity but also does justice to nuanced tonal balance of musical instruments.
- Small diaphragm condenser mics- It has a compact design hence the name pencil microphone. The diaphragm is smaller with a width of around 14-16mm thus better suited to capture that high-end shrill.
- Multi-pattern mics- These microphones have a large capsule that accommodates for more than one polar pattern. The most common patterns are; Cardioid, Omnidirectional and bi-directional also called figure 8.
- Omnidirectional works best in situations you want to pick up a wide sound field like a beautifully reverberant church choir. Bidirectional backs up vocals with two people on either side of the mic for example in a duet or an interview while ignoring sounds coming from the sides. Then there’s cardioid ideal for sound source isolation with nuanced musical instruments or vocals. This primarily increases the mics versatility, especially in studio recording.
- Bass mics/kick drum mics- The frequency response of these mics is made to capture the very low pitched sounds. It’s characterized with a presence boost of about 4 kHz, a low-end boost plus a small scoop in the mids. You’ll seize both the attack of the beater as well as the low-end punch with this mic.
- Shotgun mics- Commonly known as tube mics and are unique for their ability to isolate sound. It captures sound by pointing it in a particular direction. They are used for outdoor activities such as wildlife filming and in filming movie.
- Boundary mics- PZM mics aka boundary mics are mounted on a flat surface as opposed to placing them on a mic stand. This makes them impervious to the comb filtering when reflected and direct sound merges out of phase.
What Is a Cardioid Microphone?
Cardioid mics are designed to focus on the sounds right in front of them regardless of whether it is a side address or front address mic. This is aided by the heart-like pattern with a small indentation in the middle which picks up the primary sound source ignoring off-axis noises in the rear.
This unidirectional pattern is suitable for capturing one source of sound Supercardioid or hypercardioid mics reject ambient noises better since their shapes are squeezed in for narrower sensitivity. They, however, need better mic technique as drifting away will lead to an alarmingly fast drop of your voice.
You should be wary of pointing a supercardioid mic directly to your computer as it will give your voice a run for its money. The rear facing bubble of sensitivity becomes more pronounced with a tighter polar pattern.
Tube Mic vs. Condenser Mic
Tube mics are essentially condenser microphones that use a valve amplifier in addition to the capacitance circuit found in other condenser mics. The valve amplifier is also called the interference tube. It is attached to the face of the long hollow slotted mic.
The interference tube works in such a way that only the intended sound will go down the length of the tube to the diaphragm unencumbered. The off-axis sound will enter through the slots and substantially cancel each other since they will arrive with varying phase relationships in the diaphragm. This makes it a guru at sound isolation owing to its fixed hypercardioid pattern.
This arrangement differs from the conventional condenser microphones that can at best achieve a cardioid pattern on a solid capsule with no slots. Unlike tube mics that have a standard pattern, condenser mics also double in Omnidirectional and bidirectional patterns.
Most standard tube mics have a null effect below 2 kHz whereas typical cardioid condenser mics cater for sound below that frequency.
In essence, a tube mic should be used where the off-axis and on-axis sounds are inherently different while condenser mics can work well in small rooms with similar on and off axis sounds.
Due to its high-powered sound isolation properties, tube mics are used for film sets, nature recordings and interviews in public arenas. Condenser mics are the standard vocal microphones in studios.
What Is Needed For Recording With Condenser Mics?
A good microphone needs a suitable environment and the right accessories to maximize potential.
One of the must-haves for a condenser mic is a power supply since its diaphragm cannot charge itself. While some will permit the use of batteries most professional mics will require phantom power. The power is streamed down one of the mic’s connectors pins. If you’re wondering why the three pinned XLR connector is adored in professional circles, there goes your answer.
The endorsed voltage is 48, but it’s often much lower than that. The most common mistake is forgetting to counter check whether the unit you are sending a signal to supplies phantom power. Be sure your soundcard, preamplifier or mixer has these specifications before purchasing a phantom-powered condenser mic.
Best Vocal Mic – Audio Interface & Recording Software
For those working with a computer, you will require a way to plug in your mic. The audio interface comes in handy by processing the sound you’re recording. It will convert the analog input to digital data for easier manipulation by your software.
I’ll advise you to choose an interface stocking all the connection types you’ll need and is compatible with your computer or the device you are recording with. Focusrite is what most musicians go for. It delivers a delightful instrument and preamp input at a bargain.
Suitable Recording Space
The room you’re recording in affects the tone you capture. If only you could run a de-roomifier plugin, then life would be so easy. Recordings in a quiet room have the edge over those in noisy ones.
If you can’t afford to treat a room you, I suggest you up your mic technique game. Place it in a way that it will solely focus on the primary sound source. Another tried and tested hack is recording in a room full of couches, carpeting, bookshelves, and blankets to absorb and disperse the sound waves.
Most studio mics are supported by shock mounts (those spindly things resembling a spider). They are not for aesthetics; they minimize the rumble the mic will pick when you knock the stand. Here’s why you should invest in a shock mount if your condenser mic is lacking one.
Headphones are necessary when listening back to your recordings. You’ll need a pair that will deliver great accuracy. Closed-back ones are indispensable when it comes to recording instruments or vocals over existing audio.
They prevent leakage of pre-recorded sound into the mic as you oversee the overdubbing of new parts of the audio.
How To Take Care of Your Microphone
A microphone can wither many storms if properly maintained and stored. These are regular practices employed when dealing with electrical appliances known to every average Joe. To be on the safe, I will reiterate.
• Refrain from placing your hand over the capsule of the mic.
• When disassembling the mic, pull the plug and not the cord.
• For those with long cords, loosely coil the excess and gently secure with a twist tie
• Clean the exterior parts of your amp with a dampened cloth dipped in a disinfecting spray such as Lysol.
• Do not drop the mic on a hard surface (or any other surface for that matter). It is better to invest in a shock mount stand with a pop shield.
• Be wary that the cords are sensitive and can easily be damaged when stepped on or pinched by drawers.
• As with any electrical appliance, moisture and high temperatures are a bad combo. Store it in a cool, dry place.
• Over handling will transmit unwanted sounds. The mic will pick up on any touch vibration and bending. Resist the urge of fiddling the cord or rubbing your hands up and down the mic.
• Use the dust cover provided and if not given, buy one to protect the capsule.
• Use a surge-protecting power-conditioning power strip to ensure the current is free of any fluctuations
• For minimal magnetic interference keep the XLR cable away from the power strip and other electrical devices.
Have You Found Your Best Condenser Microphone?
Finding best condenser microphone that’s economical, and features top of the line specs is no little hustle. Lucky for you, you’ve stuck around up to this point. I can now explicitly guarantee you are fully equipped to purchase the best condenser mic that will fit your needs to a tee. Be sure to carry on with the due diligence when using it too. Happy shopping! Hope I helped you select best condenser microphone that’s perfect for you!
Last update on 2020-02-19 at 22:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API