In this post, I will address the question a lot of audio enthusiasts tend to ask often; which is 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.
Then we will go into the different mics in price ranges, ranging from the best under $100 dollars, $200 dollars and up from there. As I said before, I would go into more detail about the differences in mics for both live and home studio recording.
The most common types 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 ouput 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.
Because of their heightened sensitivity these microphones are best suited for studio recordings. They also require a fixed power supply of usually 48 volts. These more sensitive mics are usually more expensive than the dynamic mics but there are some lower end price ranges available. Like most things the quality will improve with the more money you spend on equipment such as this.
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 actually 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.
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.
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 more rough 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 and definitely go the distance.
The upside is the power supply isn’t required for these mics but the overall quality is not 100% accurate. Because of 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.
So – What is the best microphone for recording vocals?
You will definitely 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
What is the best microphone for recording guitar?
I would recommend a decent small diaphragm condenser microphone. Your choices will be Oktava MC012 ($99), Marshall MXL 603S ($99) or the higher end Neumann KM184 ($730).
The best condenser microphones use XLR cables and require phantom power in order to work.
Because of phantom power, condenser microphones do not require the volume on preamps to be turned up really loud. Condenser microphones tend to by crisper and louder than dynamic microphones.
They are almost essential if you’re using a cheaper preamp because cheap preamps tend to make a loud hissing noise when turned up.
Neumann and Sony many high-end condenser microphones while MXL and Audio-Technica make low to mid-end condenser mics. The difference in pricing does not reflect the difference in quality between microphones.
Often, it’s the name on the mic, rather than its sound qualities that determine the price tag.
Dynamic microphones are usually used in live stage settings and broadcasts.
They tend to sound a bit duller and require preamps to be turned up loud.
Many people think dynamic microphones are unprofessional, but little do they know that Michael Jackson even used a dynamic microphone to record his albums.
The main advantage with dynamic microphones is that they usually cost less than condenser microphones and have different sound qualities.