If you’re just starting out and are looking for the best beginner’s microphone to get your recording or performing adventures off to an optimal start, you’ve come to the right place. As we continue to survey the many different microphones in the world today, we’re met with a more directed and specific search for a mic, particularly for those beginning, to offer a budget-friendly yet high-quality solution to recording and performing what it may be in front of you. Whether you’re into vocals, drums, strings, keys in a home-studio or performing on stage for the first time, we’ve got you covered. First, we want to give you a checklist to keep in mind while you read our roundup to ultimately find the perfect solution as the best microphone for beginners.
Choosing the best beginner’s microphone
- Your budget – As we’ve seen many of the best microphones in the world come at a huge range of different price-points, we wanted to make sure you were aware of just how low or high you can go with yours. For beginners, we do recommend sticking at a relatively affordable price, since over-the-top and pricey mics just won’t be necessary for your use at the moment. Of course, if you do want to go super high to take care of the future and be set for life, be our guest. We did however make sure to choose mics from different price-points to give you options, and the cheaper mics we went through ensure you at least have a learning curve while we’re at it. If you do have a specific price-point in mind, we link below to some of our budget-friendly guides just in case.
- Intended microphone use – The next question we will ask is: will you be recording in a studio? Performing? Stage shows and gigs? Brand practices? Or other uses on your computer, such as Skype calls, chats, podcasts, gaming, and more? Perhaps both or all of the above? There are some super versatile microphones out there that appease to more than just one use, even when it comes to music vs. non-music settings. Others on the other hand are strictly just for recording, and in particular certain sources, in a studio or performing on stage. If you’re unsure as of now, we recommend sticking to a USB mic since they’re so versatile. Otherwise, continue to our next factor and we’ll spell it out a bit more.
- What type of mic? As we find out what you’ll actually be using your microphone for, we’ll be met with a decision based on this as well as your own personal preferences. We’ll describe the most common mic types below and what we recommend them for.
- Condenser Microphones: Coming in as one of the most common types of microphones in the market today, condensers can be simply described as the best microphone for recording. Vocalists especially should stick to a condenser, as well as multi-instrumentalists in studios, spanning from pianos all the way to recording drums (some, at least — read that guide if you’re planning on miking drums since they’re a bit tricky) and guitars. Simple put: if you’re recording music, grab a condenser microphone.
- Dynamic Microphones: Recommended for those performing vocals and instruments on stage, dynamics are what their title states — dynamic, versatile, rugged, and spanning across many uses. We’ve seen many dynamic mics also used to record in studios (in particular vocals as well as louder instruments, such as snare drums), but for beginners sake today, we still say stay with a condenser mic for recording, and grab a dynamic mic if you’re performing.
- USB Microphones: Although not necessarily a ‘microphone type’ since most of these are condensers, we do feel they deserve a different category than traditional condensers. As stated earlier, USB mics are extremely versatile and can be used for a wide array of uses — recording vocals or instruments in home studios (only home studios, we however still recommend going with traditional studio condensers that connect using an XLR cable and phantom power\audio interface even if you’re in a budget-friendly studio but it’s up to you), as well as other uses for microphones that don’t entail anything musical. For performing, stick with a dynamic.
- Extra mic gear needed – Before we continue on to the best microphone for beginners, we have a big recommendation: Look for bundles! We’re talking mic stands, shock mounts (aids in noise impact reduction), pop filters (screens those pesky P’s and S’s), carrying cases for traveling, sound proofing in case you want to build a little area for recording, cables to connect it all, phantom power or audio interfaces (a small, external device to provide power for your microphone — only recommended or needed for condenser microphones since they’re so powerful), and more. For those just beginning, we’ll assume you don’t have any of this gear yet. If you do or are able to grab some from a friend or fellow mic user, you’re one step ahead of the game. If not, never fear — just keep in mind (especially when it comes to budget planning) that only grabbing the microphone itself may not be the only thing to worry about today. We made sure to link you to our favorite bundles of the microphones if we were able to find some, or even have an entire guide on the best microphone packages that may entice you instead of this one. Do keep in mind however that the mic you buy may already come with the necessary gear to get you going right out of the box (especially with USB microphones and their plug-and-play capabilities and built-in stands), but we’ll let you know if they do in the write-ups.
The best microphones for beginners
With all of our factors now laid out, let’s begin finding the best beginner microphone for you. First, we have the Audio-Technica AT2020, which is one of our favorite mics ever. As a side-address studio condenser microphone known to great for project and home-studio applications, it’s a great for those starting out their home-studio recording endeavors, regardless of source — vocals, guitar, keys and more. The cardioid polar-pattern has a low-mass diaphragm that is engineered for extended frequency response (20 Hz – 20 kHz) and solid transient response to bring us versatility and effectiveness in our recordings. To explain a little more detailed, the cardioid “polar pattern” of the AT2020 helps reduce pickup of sounds from the side and rear, ultimately improving isolation from the desired sound source that’s directly in front of it – very important when recording vocals. The microphone also combines its rugged construction with a wide dynamic range to be able to handle high SPLs (sound pressure level — higher-pitched and volume sounds) fairly easy. It also comes with a pivoting, threaded stand mount for easy, secure attachment and placement of the microphone — you’ll just have to buy a stand unless you already have something to attach it to. All in all, AT2020 has more reviews than we can count to back up our confidence when making this a solid pick to start recording with — it offers an extended response, solid durability, and good quality sound for the price you are paying. If you are money-conscious, the Audio-Technica AT2020 serves as a reasonable option for beginners and comes in as #1 for a reason in this guide.
Next, we have the Rode NT1A, a legendary microphone at this point for all recording needs. This mic is a 1” cardioid condenser microphone that serves as one of the best microphones for beginners looking to record their vocals, guitars, or percussion instruments in the studio. This microphone is listed next even though it’s recommended for the same uses as the previous AT2020 pick — it’s about double the price, however you’re getting even better sound quality and build, so if you were interested in a beginner’s solution that’s higher in quality, you can’t go wrong here. Although technical sounding, it’s important to note that the NT1A is designed with active electronics like a JFET impedance converter and a bipolar output buffer to deliver the extended dynamic range, clarity and high SPL capability which are important when trying to correctly capture vocals at the next level. The NT1A also contains a self-noise level of only 5dBA –- probably the quietest studio microphone when comparing it to the others on this guide to help give us even more accuracy and clarity in our recordings. It is also constructed with the “Complete Vocal Recording Solution,” – this microphone includes everything you’ll need to get a true professional vocal recording, making this ideal for home or studio recording. The Rode NT1A is pretty pricey when comparing it to other mics on here, but when considering all it comes with, the price is worth the purchase if you wanted to spend some extra cash to grab a mic that will last you beyond your beginning years. Also keep in mind you aren’t getting any extra gear if you grab the microphone-only package somewhere (we found a nice bundle with the links above, however).
Here we have the Shure SM58, which is a handheld model that is one of the best microphones for beginners trying to find a vocal mic, especially if you plan on being on stage performing. It is designed for professional vocal use in live performances, sound reinforcement, and studio recording – needless to say it’s pretty versatile as we had explained that most dynamics are. It comes featured with a cardioid pickup pattern which isolates the main sound source while also minimizing background noise. The frequency response is tailored for vocals, with a solid mid-range and bass roll-off function, which is why it’s so responsive to singing and speech. It also has an effective, built-in spherical filter to minimize wind and “pop” noises you get while singing. The microphone lastly has a very rugged construction (ours has lasted through many drops!), and comes with a shock-mount system and a steel mesh grill to ensure that it can be used in any condition, indoors or outdoors (just don’t get it wet). The Shure SM58 is a solid option for beginners with a smaller budget and need to perform those beautiful vocals or instruments of theirs, as it sits on the lower price point — we know many who own multiple SM58’s in their audio recording and performing toolbox just in case.
Now we move onto to the Blue Yeti, one of the most popular USB mics in the world. The Yeti serves as one of the best beginner microphones for those who want a mic for recording (only recommended for those in very small desk-oriented home-studios who don’t want to fiddle with phantom power or traditional condenser mics in general) or other non-musical uses, such as voice chats, gaming, podcasts, streaming and more. The Blue Yeti is a multi-pattern model that also adequate for any application, as it captures a very solid 16-bit / 48 kHz response for great music recordings, gaming, and video audio. One of the nicest features here and what brings even more versatility to your mic, especially if you’re using it for more than one application, is it is designed with tri-capsule technology and 4 different pattern settings – cardioid, omnidirectional, stereo, bi-directional – all of which can be easily switched to. The proprietary capsule technology is made to deliver rich, detailed sound, while coming with studio controls built on to the mic itself such as headphone volume, instant mute and microphone gain to better your recording or streaming experience. The Yeti is also equipped with a 3.5 mm headphone jack that allows you to monitor and listen without having latency delays. Just like other USB mics, this one is rather easy to use; simply plug the Yeti into your computer’s USB port with the USB cable included, sync it with your operating system and you’re ready to record — no need to buy other gear since it has the built-in stand and can be powered via your laptop, PC or Mac. The Blue Yeti is affordably priced and is a great option if you need a microphone with USB compatibility and don’t want to fiddle with extra gear.
Behringer Ultravoice XM8500
Perhaps the biggest bargain on this guide is the Ultravoice XM8500, which is another cardioid dynamic model, comparable to the Shure SM58B, which makes for one of the best mics for beginners who need an inexpensive vocal mic (and we mean inexpensive, this thing is cheap). The XM8500 is ideally designed to be used in either live performances or home recording due to its pickup pattern which has solid sound source separation (say that 5 times fast) and pretty good feedback rejection. It has a fairly flat frequency response of 50 Hz to 15 kHz, while also incorporating a smooth mid-frequency presence rise for quality voice projection — including a two-stage pop filter to help negate breath and pop noises. The Ultravoice XM8500 combines its decently rugged design, shock mount system, and impact-resistant carrying case to make it pretty portable if you’re ever on-the-go. As we said earlier, this cost-effective mic sits on the lowest price point, and poises to be a solid substitute for the more expensive mics on the market. We only recommend buying this if your budget is very limited.
The MXL 770 is a price-friendly, multipurpose condenser mic that uses patented technology to provide sound that makes it one of the best beginner microphones for home recording studios. It is designed for vocalists, pianos, guitars, and strings, as it has a great low-frequency response and natural, clear high-end to combine for a great range. To achieve the above, MXL uses a low noise EFT pre-amp and transformerless balanced output for a wide, flat dynamic range and minimal noise – important when trying to isolate vocals in the studio. The 770 mic features a low-frequency roll-off to reduce unwanted rumbling and a 10dB pad to facilitate a variety of sound sources. It also comes with a shock mount and rugged carrying case if you are an on-the-go type performer — just grab a mic stand and some phantom power and you’re ready to go. The MXL 770 combines good quality with value, and will work just fine if you’re looking for that warm sound with solid clarity at the top-end of your vox. It’s nowhere near the higher-end beginner mics in here but for the price, it’s quite impressive if you’re looking for a solution under $100.
A little passed the halfway point, we will talk about the Rode NT-USB, which is one of the best microphones for beginners who need a mic that is a little more versatile and powerful than the Yeti. The NT-USB (a USB rendition of the previous NT mic we spoke of) is suitable for recording singing, guitars, pianos, guitars, podcasts, voice-overs or really any PC-related application to name a few. Although we recommend always being wary of the term, it is considered is a ‘studio-quality’ USB mic that is compatible with all mainstream recording applications on both Windows and Mac OS based computers, as well as GarageBand or any other recording software or app that accepts an external mic. As seen in the photo, the NT-USB also features a zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring jack which lets you monitor the microphone input, along with adjust the monitoring level and mix between your computer/iPad audio and the mic input. It also comes with a pop-filter which fits onto the base of the mic – positioning the filter the most efficient from the capsule helps minimize plosives during speech or singing. The Rode NT-USB is pretty price-effective and also comes with a mount, tripod stand, and storage pouch for a solid all-around and plug-and-play deal. We recommend this pick as the best beginners microphone if you wanted a USB connection and something slightly higher in quality than the Yeti.
The Sennheiser E835 is another cardioid dynamic microphone that is specifically designed for speech and vocals. It combines the classic hand-held look with a solid sound that projects well and cuts through high volumes on stage to make it one of the best beginner’s mics for low-budget home recording and live sound applications. The E835 has a uniform frequency pick up pattern that maintains signal quality when moving on and off axis during performance – good for singers who have a tendency to tilt the mic when they perform. It also contains minimal proximity effect for pretty consistently clear bass and performance when singing closer to or farther from the capsule. The Sennheiser’s rugged, metal housing is designed to withstand all types of live applications. The Sennheiser E835 produces not only consistent sound quality, but also sports a very manageable price – two of the most important things for starters if you ask us.
Almost to the end of our guide, we look at the AKG P220 – one of the best microphones for beginners trying to record their lead vocals, acoustic guitar and brass instruments. The AKG combines a large-diaphragm true condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern to give it a warm and clear sound for the user. It features a switchable bass-cut filter to eliminate rumble or football noise and an attenuation pad which makes it ideally suited for use on loud sound sources (like guitars, drums, trumpets, and tubas) with sound pressure levels up to 155 dB SPL. It has a rugged all-metal body and durable design to ensure it withstands tough day-to-day use – making this a solid choice for on-stage applications. The AKG P220 also comes with a spider-type shock mount in a carrying case for easy setup and storing. It sits on the middle price point, and if you need something for your brass instruments, this is your friend.
Shure KSM 137
Finally we have another one of our favorites and to end the guide, a slightly different spin to microphone shape, size as well as intended use. The KSM 137 is one of the best beginners microphones that can be acceptably used on virtually all live applications. The KSM 137 is a single cardioid polar pattern end-address condenser microphone designed for studio use, yet durable enough for live performances. It is pretty versatile – commonly used for applications such as acoustic, wind, and low-frequency instruments, while also being useful for overhead miking, or recording any room ambiance you’re looking to pick-up. It features a very thin, 2.5 micron, low mass Mylar diaphragm for a great transient response and a Class A preamplifier for transparency, no crossover distortion, and minimal harmonic distortion. The 137 also come with a 3-position switchable pad (0 dB, 15 dB, and 25 dB) for handling all different types of SPLs for even further added versatility. If you have a little more money in your budget, the Shure KSM 137 might be the best beginner’s microphone of choice if you have a slightly more advanced and versatile understanding of how to mike your audio sources.