Best Microphones for Home Recording- Reviews & Buying Guide

The humble microphone. No other piece of equipment can have such an effect on the overall quality of your recordings. The one place you shouldn’t cut any corners is with your recording microphone.

High-end recording microphones can be seriously expensive. Try the Neumann U87 – a snip at 3 grand…

The good news is that you can get decent quality microphones these days at a reasonable price.

Ideally, you would want different microphones for different jobs – one each for recording vocals, guitars, bass, even the different parts of the drum kit. Unless you’re made of money, this is beyond the means of most home recording artists.

At the very least, you want a microphone for instruments and another for vocals. However, even buying 2 budget microphones might be too much for some, initially at least…

Let’s say you are just looking for one microphone that will do the job for you. What should you choose? There are literally thousands to choose from.

Well, there is no one-size-fits-all recording microphone out there. But let’s keep it simple and suppose you’re looking for a versatile first microphone.

You should be looking in the $100-$250/£100-£200 price range for a decent microphone. At that price, you’ll be getting high sound quality. The more you come down from this range, the more you’ll start to notice it in your recordings.

The recording microphones featured here are some of the best you can find in that range that are versatile enough to use on vocals and instruments.

(Note that when you’re buying a recording microphone, they don’t usually come with an XLR cable, microphone stand or pop filter as standard. You’ll only need the pop filter if you’re recording vocals but you need a cable and a stand. However, you can often find good deals that include these accessories for only a small amount on top of the microphone price.)

When recording you have to know what Mic to use or the recording could end up sounding crazy!

You have three different types of recording microphones and each one serves a totally different purpose. The three types are:

  • Condenser Microphones
  • Ribbon Microphones
  • Dynamic Microphones

    Condenser Microphones – Rap & R&B; Favorite

    Best overall frequency response makes this the microphone of choice for many recording applications. If you are serious about getting the clearest sound with for your vocals though you want this mic. Condenser microphones have very high sensitivity and very low self noise. Most of these mics have switchable polar patterns for placement and application flexibility.

    Especially preferred for recording backing vocals/choir, acoustic guitar, strings and almost all brass instruments. Requires a battery or external power supply to operate. To get a good condenser microphone you will spend a pretty penny they are not cheap. Prices $200 - $4,500

    Ribbon Microphones – Instrument Favorites

    I love ribbon microphones for live instrument recordings. They add warmth to the tone of music by accenting lows when close-miked. The mic can be used to discriminate against distant low frequency noise in its most common gradient form. Careful though…accenting lows sometimes produces boomy bass. Wait, that could be very good…lol.

    Ribbon microphones are very susceptible to wind noise so don’t use them outside unless shielded well. You get a pure natural sound with quick, smooth transients, just as you hear it when you place this mic in the studio.

    Conventional ribbon microphones average 15 to 20 dB lower sensitivity than condenser mics, necessitating the use of high-quality, high-gain microphone preamplifiers for recording softer sound sources like acoustic instruments, vocals and room ambiance. They are also not cheap Mics. Pricing range $500 - $5,000

    Dynamic Microphones – The Work Horses

    These microphones are fairly cheap and rugged. Don’t look for high ended gold sputter tips or vacuum tubes on these! You find most of these mics in churches or large events where there is going o be announcements made by several different people.

    This is what you want to buy just for rehearsals or something like that. If you are going to be around people who will lay the mic down on floors or they will drop it practicing dance moves you are safe with these. Price range $79.00 - $499

  • People who have studios largely prefer condenser microphones for recording, as they are known to have greater ability to reproduce the pace of any instrument or vocal sounds. They also generate output of a higher decibel and happen to be more sensitive to higher sounds.

    Condenser microphones normally cost higher than dynamic ones, though there are cheaper versions too. Many users of condenser microphones for recording are of the view that they invariably are of Chinese make and they hardly vary in performance. They normally need a power supply of 48 volts that can be obtained from much of mixing boards or even external power supply.

    As mentioned above, most studios go for condenser microphones for recording jobs owing to their sensitivity and finer ability to regenerate sounds of higher decibels and may be because they happen to be more delicate as compared to dynamic microphones for recording works.

    Having said that, condenser microphones are a common sight in live music concerts, suspended above the drummers and in chorus programs. They are mostly available with either small or large diaphragms. The former one is more suited for concerts, while the latter one is preferred in studio vocals.

    In comparison with condenser microphones, dynamic microphones for recording works happen to be sturdier and tougher. Owing to their appreciable resistance to moisture and rough use, they are looked upon as ideal ones for onstage shows. They are preferred not for their withstanding ability against abuse of any kind, but also because their fine sound clarity.

    If you visit any rock program, you will notice that there are probably not less than 5 of 6 of these microphones in strategic locations. They reproduce the same kind of quality and clarity no matter how long they have been used for. Unlike condenser microphones, dynamic microphones for recording works do not need a dedicated power supply.

    Their sound quality too may not be as sharp as that of condenser microphones. Most them have low frequency output, and hence users of these microphones aver that they are excellent for high decibels, like in loud guitars, live vocal performances and apparently for drums.

    Now that you have some inputs on both kinds of microphones for recording, you may choose the one which is suited for the kind of work that you do, whether for recording vocals at your home or for recording live performance outside home.

    The Best Microphones for Home Recording Reviewed

    1. Audio Technica Microphones

    Despite their forward-thinking designs and top quality mics, Audio Technica provides a microphone for everyone, in every price range, whether you're a film maker, a gamer, a karaoke fan, or a recording engineer; Audio Technica microphones are the obvious choice.

    Audio Technica has come a long way since long time ago and is a leading provider of all microphones, but especially for television and radio broadcasting. Audio Technica microphones have been used at the Olympic games for the last 16 years, the World Cup, the Super Bowl and the Commonwealth Games as well as providing high quality sound for shows like Deal or No Deal, and Big Brother.

    Audio Technica AT2020

    The Audio Technica AT2020 rightly heads this list – it is one of the most popular microphones around because of its excellent sound quality and affordable price.

    Designed specifically to be an all-rounder for home recording studios, it’s a good choice if you want to record vocals and acoustic instruments with it.

    It’s possible that you might want to upgrade from this one further down the line, but when you’re starting out, this is a great choice.

    You can get a good deal on Amazon at the moment that includes the AT2020, an XLR cable and pop shield for $108.

    There is a USB version of this microphone that is very popular at the moment. While a great option for podcasters, you should really be running through an audio interface for serious home recording.

    Audio-Technica AT897 Line/Gradient Shotgun Condenser Microphone

    The AT897 falls into the category of a "shotgun" mic, and can be used either with a mixer, or with a camera that supplies phantom power. It is a responsive, affordable, reliable mic, that will come to the rescue when all else fails. You will not achieve a better sound as a videographer for the same price as an AT897.

    The Audio Technica lapel mics are also well worth a mention. The ATR35s omnidirectional high-quality condenser is one of the finest "newscaster" style mics on the market; easy to use and reliable. Both broadcasting mics come with a foam windscreen.

    Audio-Technica AT2035 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone

    At the top end of our range but you can find good deals on the AT2035 from Audio Technica, this is an excellent condeser microphone giving oodles of warmth, clarity and detail.

    This microphone comes with a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter and 10 dB pad, which is useful for taming booming or loud sound sources, and it is wonderful for vocals, acoustic guitars and drums.

    This microphone used to retail at $300, but you can now get it for half that price. If you can afford to pay the difference, choose this over the AT2020 or the Magneto.

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    No manufacturer has a more comprehensive range of mics specifically designed to suit certain instruments than Audio Technica. The company has also revolutionized the way microphones are proofed against interference from radio frequency, from cell phones and Bluetooth devices, as well as wireless networks and walkie-talkies using their unique, patented "Uniguard" technology.

    2. Shure SM57 Microphone - For Optimal Performances

    If you're looking for a quality microphone with plenty of exciting features, you should consider the Shure® Pro Audio SM57 Instrument Microphone. It's known for its outstanding performance in gleaning both musical instruments and vocals.

    Another classic dynamic microphone that is as versatile as it is solid, the SM57 from Shure is a durable microphone that performs well for vocals and guitar.

    You would find one of these in virtually every professional studio in the world and, at this price, it’s worth considering for your home recording studio.

    The difference between this and the SM58 is, other than the grill covering the top, is that the SM57 has a flatter frequency response in the high-mid range. Vocals might sound a bit more sparkly on the SM58 but the SM57 beats it as an all-rounder.

    Consider the SM57 especially if you want to record electric guitars and vocals.

    Whether you perform live where the pressure is always on to please your audience, or you have the somewhat more forgiving environment of recording, you'll certainly find the SM57's sound to be clear and lustrous with its delineated frequency reverberation.

    The Shure SM57 microphone boasts an exceptionally productive cardioid pickup pattern. That means it will set aside foreground noise, keeping background noise and interference to a minimum.

    When you're recording, you'll especially appreciate its ability to define your drums from guitars and your guitars from your woodwinds -- so your oboe doesn't blend with your violin for an indistinguishable, possibly annoying noise that's anything but appealing.

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    Over and over, the Shure SM57 microphone has outlasted and outperformed other brands and models of otherwise "good" microphones. It can survive being dunked in water or a fall from a few stories up...so it's bound to withstand the extensive use by busy pros again, whether on stage, in the recording studio, or just about any other place you need a dependable, performing microphone that won't let you down.

    3. Blue Snowball Mic - A Professional USB Microphone

    The Blue Snowball mic is the world's first professional microphone that is directly plugged into your computer's USB. It has a simple and direct interface that makes it the best USB microphone in the galaxy.

    This mic was made for audio geeks and for people that record their own music at home, but don't want or need all the other expensive equipment that goes along with the recording process. The innovative design is what makes this microphone so appealing. Not only for aesthetic reasons for practicality and quality.

    The name says it all, snowball. It is spherical in shape and roughly the size of... you guessed it, a snowball. The features of this USB mic are what make it so impressive. It includes a tripod stand and the mic it's self is round and white. The retro design alone is awesome. Just sitting in front of the microphone, you will feel like a classy 1940’s-night club crooner or a disk jockey from the golden days of radio.

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    The Blue Snowball mic is great for anyone that wants to make quick and easy high quality recordings. The clean and intelligent design makes voice over projects such as, podcasts, live recordings, and open mic compositions easy.

    Being able to plug the microphone into your USB, makes the Blue Snowball mic very versatile and has the capability to go anywhere that your lap goes. It is a necessity for any audiophile or musician.

    4. Studio Projects C1

    The Studio Projects C1 microphone is a middle-end mic in about two hundred and fifty-dollar price bracket. Its marketing boasts high quality for a more affordable price, and customer opinions so far back these boasts up almost without exception.

    As an easy example of what you can expect from the C1, some satisfied customers state that mixing is unnecessary because the raw sound output of the Studio Projects C1 is so excellent in and of itself. Emphasis is placed on the large diaphragm, fixed cardioid capabilities of the Studio Projects C1, which, as stated above, seemingly rival those of more expensive brand-name mics.

    This microphone is versatile in its uses rather than being specialized, however. It's suited to a broad range of recording tasks from the musical to radio or internet broadcasts with equal deftness at all of it. Both professionals and amateurs are likely to feel comfortable with its well-rounded handling abilities with very few recording weak spots and plenty to recommend it in terms of features.

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    It appears that Studio Projects has come up with a real winner this time, although, of course, it will take time to tell if the C1 remains sturdy enough to last for the long haul.

    5. Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Vocal Microphone without Cable

    The SM58 by Shure is a classic microphone.

    I know that I suggested a condenser microphone should be your first choice for your home recording studio… And that’s true. But, if you’re working mainly with vocals or looking for a microphone that you can also use for band practice or live performance, then this is the best choice for you.

    It will also do a great job on guitars – acoustic or electric. Some people might argue the toss, but there’s a reason why these microphones are so widely used – they are good!

    I’d still recommend a condenser mic as a first mic, but if you’re looking for a dynamic microphone, this or the SM57 should be at the top of the list.

    Recording artists from rock stars to amateurs have been using the Shure SM-58 going back for over 10 years now for projects ranging from broadcast and recorded spoken word track content. Keep in mind no microphone is perfect for every situation but this is a great, sturdy dependable microphone for under 100 bucks.

    For vocal recordings where you are putting your mouth very close to the mic the Shure SM58 works quite well. If you have a bad habit of putting the microphone right up close when you sing, then this is a very acceptable microphone because it is a highly directional mic you will get a very evident proximity effect.

    The range does not pick up well past about 8 inches or so. One of the stereotypes of vocalists putting mics right to their lips is due to the spherical type shape Shure mics don’t sound right otherwise. These are very sturdy pieces of equipment that can take quite the beating, from being dropped, banged, dented, etc. and they just keep on going.

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    6. Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package

    A shade pricier than some of the others here, the Rode NT1-A is a fantastic microphone and, in terms of build quality and sound, it’s easily worth double that price.

    This is an all-rounder that you won’t ever need to upgrade from. It is very sensitive and doesn’t perform too well on loud instruments – drums, guitar amps, rock vocals – but anything that needs crispness and warmth – softer vocals, acoustic guitar, piano – will sound as good as microphones twice the price.

    Rode microphones come with a 10 year warranty too – piece of mind when making your investment.

    The NT1-A comes packaged with an XLR cable, pop filter and shock mount as standard, but you’ll need to buy a microphone stand separately.

    7. RØDE M3 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

    So the Rode M3 might not look as fancy as some of the competition, but don’t let that fool you – this is an amazing microphone that can deliver punchy, clear, crisp detail to any recording.

    With an 80Hz high-pass filter and -10dB and -20dB pad, this versatile mic is great for any instruments. Although it is a condenser, it can run off of batteries if phantom power is not available.

    It is at the top of our price range, but this microphone used to retail for $300, so at this price it is a bargain. If you can afford if, and will be recording instruments more than vocals, you should get it! That 10 year warranty is worth bearing in mind too…

    That completes the list of 7 decent recording microphones for your home recording studio.

    Some people might argue the case for other microphones to be included.Sure, there are other microphones that could be included on this list, and I’m sure that you can find other recommendations.

    The fact of the matter is that these are quality microphones that deliver and sound like much more expensive microphones, and no-one can argue with that.

    Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all recording microphone and you should eventually look to pick up the best microphones you can afford for each different instrument you want to record. However, when starting out, stick to one of these and you won’t go wrong.

    Don’t forget to look out for what’s included. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your new microphone delivered only to find that you can’t use it because you don’t have a cable or a stand…

    Things to note when choosing the best microphone for recording vocals

    This of course depends on your budget so will break this into parts. First which type of mic is the best vocal microphone for recording at home.

    The most common type of microphones that are found in professional studios or even home studios is the condenser microphone. They tend to have a better frequency response range and a more sensitive transient response – what this means is the microphones ability to duplicate the “speed” of the vocal or sound being recorded.

    Condensers have a larger output but tend to be a lot more sensitive for recording. This can result in background noises or interference being picked up when you are recording.

    Due to their heightened sensitivity, these microphones are best suited for studio recordings. They also require a fixed power supply of usually 48 volts. These sensitive mics are usually more expensive than the dynamic mics but there are some lower end price ranges available.

    Mostly, the quality will improve with the more money you spend on equipment such as this.

    Small Diaphragm Microphones - These are usually the first choice when you want a reliable, wide frequency and the highest transient response which as mentioned above this is the “speed” of your mics recording.

    These are the first choice for most concert recordings and would be the best microphone for recording guitar for example.

    Dynamic Microphones When you look at the differences between the Dynamic mics, you end up with a tougher, less fragile mic that is moisture resistant and can handle a bit rougher when handling.

    Dynamic microphones such as the Shure SM57 or Shure SM58 are widely known for both recording quality and their overall durability. Any venue with live concerts for example will have a handful of these Dynamic microphones on hand.

    The upside is the power supply isn’t required for these mics but the overall quality is not 100% accurate. Due to their limited frequency response, these mics are more ideal for high sound pressure levels caused from loud live music such as guitar or drums.

    So, that is a bit of technical information but I think it is necessary if you are just learning about recording.

    Large Diaphragm Microphones (LDs) – usually the first choice for studio vocal recordings or any other sound recording that requires a deeper final sound.

    There is a common myth about Large Diaphragm Microphones duplicating lower sound frequencies better than Small Diaphragm mics but this is not the case. Small Diaphragms are better at picking up recordings more evenly, which includes deeper bass sounds.

    Be sure when using any condenser mics that you should have a pop screen available because they are prone to picking up transient noises that end up resulting in distortion.

    Conclusion

    of course, for more perfection, you will want a large diaphragm condenser microphone if your budget allows. Look for the very decent Shure SM7B or if you are looking for a cheaper alternative, you cannot beat the Shure SM58.

    As you already know, microphones range in quality vastly from a under a few hundred dollars to the top end ones that cost thousands of dollars.

    Regardless of if you are going to use the low-end equipment or the high-end products, at the end of the day you want the best recording microphones. Therefore, we made this hobby blog so you can be informed and make the right decision based on your needs.

    Dynamic microphones are kind of a backward speaker that make a tiny bit of electric energy when the diaphragm of the mic goes back and forth from the pressure of the sound waves touching it.

    Condenser microphones are biased (powered) by electricity and a give you a more sensitive mic; they use a lighter diaphragm so they work better at getting more subtle sound recordings. The difference in price between condenser mics is ultimately the size of the diaphragm.