Condenser microphones are the bread and butter of recording not only vocals but many instruments in the world for musicians of all types. We’ve continued our journey through reviewing more mics than we can count now, and as we pin-point some specific price-specific guides, we came across a common question: what’s the best condenser microphone under $500? We have a great budget-range here to give you some nice power and flexibility when it comes to recording and even streaming vocals and instruments.
The Power of Condenser Microphones
Condenser microphones are commonly found in studios, but with the ever-rising trend of streaming and podcasting, they’re found in many different environments now. They have a louder output but are much more sensitive to loud sounds as opposed to other types of microphones, such as dynamic mics. They capture a large frequency range and have a good transient response; the ability to reproduce the speed of an instrument or voice.
Normally, professional condenser microphones are very expensive, as we do have guides on condenser microphones under $200 or condenser mics under $100 that are a lot more budget-friendly. Today however, $500 hits a mark where we get into some pretty power models some of the pros even use. Let’s jump right in.
The Best Condenser Microphones for Under $500
This condenser microphone under $500 tends to be very flexible and has a reputation for it’s quality and longevity. Vocals sound very smooth and warm for all types of voices, and it’s also great for capturing some strings or keys in case you need to.
Aside from sound quality, this one has some high-end features in terms of numbers. It has a 1” diaphragm, vintage look and most of all, has simply great performance. The AKG C214 has a very intricate built-in system that helps reduce mechanical noise. Its frequency response ranges between 20 Hz – 20 kHz and its polar pattern is cardioid which is standard for any mic in here.
This condenser mic also has a switchable 20 dB attenuation pad and low-cut filter that can be used in applications as high as 156 dB SPL. Just an extremely solid and reliable condenser microphone under $500 to start our list off.
Avantone Pro CV-12
This condenser microphone is designed to capture vocals and instruments with great detail, low noise and low distortion. Since it’s a tube mic, we’re getting recordings with the character, warmth and feel of the 50’s and 60’s. Tube microphones are a bit of a different spin — they have an actual ‘tube’ in the internal skeleton that processes audio, giving it a different feel and “sound”, albeit subjective to the ear that’s listening.
The Avantone Pro CV-12 is a multi-pattern large-diaphragm tube mic. A rotary switch on the external power supply provides nine selectable pickup patterns: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8 and Six intermediate patterns — great for those who will be using this aside from just recording tracks, or perhaps want to podcast and stream with multiple people. It also has a low frequency roll off, an 80 Hz high-pass filter for minimizing low frequency noise and a pad attenuation switch of -10 dB for distortion minimization. A beautiful condenser microphone under $500 if you want that old-school tube feel and sound to your recordings.
Another high-quality condenser mic with very good features under $500 is the Lauten LA-220. This professional and versatile microphone has a nice bass response that can be used for up-close vocals and acoustic instruments, or even drums at times.
The Lauten LA-220 has a 1″ pressure gradient capsule (true-condenser) with cardioid polar pattern and JFET amp (ultra-low noise). It has a pair of switchable 120 Hz highpass and 12 kHz lowpass filters which is useful to control some heavy high-end voices as well as annoying bass from the recording room and a transformer balanced output.
The Sure SM81 is a great unidirectional condenser microphone used for quite a few different uses, such as studio recording, broadcasts, as well as picking up some high SPL instruments. This condenser mic is considered a ‘small-condenser’, with the slimmer body providing some nice response to higher-end frequencies to give us extra brightness (we’ve seen it paired with regular condensers to double it up). It has a wide frequency response, low noise characteristics and low RF vulnerability, an even response curve for accurate sound recording and a cardioid polar pattern for great noise rejection.
Its uniform cardioid pickup pattern offers a great isolation with low off-axis pickup and its response curve gives us great sonic emulation of the sound that’s in front of it. We stuck this one in here because it’s a small-diaphragm condenser microphone, meaning it’s size actually helps with better sound-pressure level and capturing the higher frequencies a lot brighter than normal large-diaphragm.
Warm Audio WA-14
Another favorite pick of ours to be the best condenser microphone for just under $500 is the Warm Audio WA-14. This large diaphragm, versatile condenser microphone has three different polar patterns you can select, including cardioid, omni and figure 8. It has two switches in the front, one of those allow you to switch between polar patterns and the other one is a pre-attenuation switch for decreasing the input level. This mic has a clean and even sound that doesn’t sound too bright or over-the-top.
The Warm Audio WA-14 is engineered with an all-brass capsule with its smooth and natural high-end. It has custom transformer, its frequency range is between 20 Hz – 20 kHz and the self-noise is nice at 115 dB. An all-around solid mic here that’s proven itself for many years.
The Origin is very popular among mic snobs, and it is a high-performance, large diaphragm condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. This mic gives us a natural and detailed sound across a big variety of sources. There are two switches on the mic: a 10 dB pad to prevent distortion and an 80 Hz low-cut filter to cut out that mud.
The Aston Origin captures nice treble detail without a lot of harsh entities to it. It has shock-resistant and mesh head with built-in pop filter. The last pick as the best condenser microphone under $500, but certainly not the least!