The best microphone under $500 is going to give us a great balance of affordability and overall mic quality. As many of our guides thus far have covered a variety of different types of microphones, we’ve seen truly how many shapes, sizes, sounds and personalities are out there in the mic game today. For our guide in particular you’re reading, we wanted to make sure we had a specific price-point as our backbone of the decision for the “best”, considering budget is typically the number one priority in selecting a mic to buy.
Before we provide our list, are you able to decide what type of microphone you are looking for? This will also combine with our other factor to be aware of — the intended use of your mic. For example, grabbing a condenser microphone is recommended for those recording in a studio — particularly vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, and a few other “softer” instruments. Dynamic microphones on the other hand provide us great versatility for louder voice or instruments such as drums in the studio. They’re also the perfect mic for performing in live venues, big or small.
For smaller studios such as home studios or non-musical applications such as podcasting, voice overs, gaming, YouTube videos and more — grab a USB microphone. They’re ideal due to their plug-and-play ability straight into your laptop, Mac or PC to get you going as soon as your mic arrives in the mail. We tried to find a few of each type in here to give you some options.
The best microphones for under $500
First we will dive into the AKG C214, one of our absolute favorites as a pick for the best microphones under $500 for people who are in need of something for recording lead vocals or solo instruments. The C214 is a professional large-diaphragm condenser microphone that is both cost-effective and regarded as one of the better microphones for catching close-up recording. It offers a solid one-inch capsule on an integrated suspension to reduce any mechanical noise and also features a 20 dB attenuation pad that allows recording louder voices or instruments of up to 156 db SPL. A switchable bass-cut filter helps the mic catch close-up recording with little-to-no proximity effect. The C214 sets itself apart from the other mics in this guide by combining one capsule of the high-end C414 dual-capsule system and the patented AKG “Back-Plate” technology, which results in a very similar performance to its’ far more expensive competitors. This microphone sits on the middle price-point of our guide, and if you are in need of the standard diaphragm-condensed model and intend to record some vocals or instruments, this may fit you just right.
Next on our guide, we have another one of our favorite mics ever, the Rode NT1-A. It is a 1” cardioid condenser microphone that serves as one of the best microphones under 500 bucks for people looking to record their vocals, guitars, or percussion instruments. This Rode model is constructed with active electronics like a JFET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer to deliver the warmth, extended dynamic range, clarity and high SPL capability − all of which are the reason for being one of the first to be listed in here. The NT1-A contains a self-noise level of only 5 dBA, which is widely regarded as one of the quietest studio microphones − key if you’re recording vocals. 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 the home studio setting. The Rode NT1-A is very affordably-priced, and considering all it comes with, this might be the biggest steal in our guide.
Sennheiser MD 421-II
Here we feel one of our more versatile models, the Sennheiser MD 421-II. The cardioid pattern offers very solid feedback rejection, which makes it an ideal choice for live situations or recording environments where bleed, or crowd ambience, can be a hassling issue. It features a 5-position bass control setting which helps manage proximity effect, so you are able to use the Sennheiser in any miking situation and still get clean, clear response without an unnatural bass boost. The MD 421-II has a glass composite body and a hardened stainless steel basket for durable and long-lasting performance on stage or in the studio. It also has a sound inlet basket which is refined for capsule protection. The versatility the Sennheiser MD 421-II has to offer is the reason why it is one of the best mics under $500, and you will be pleased to know that is lays on the middle price-point. It is a full-bodied cardioid pattern microphone that is great for just about anything − instruments, group vocals, or even radio broadcast announcing.
Blue Yeti Pro
Now to the jack-of-all-trades, the Blue Yeti Pro! The Yeti serves as one of the best microphones for $500 or less for anyone who needs a hi-definition USB microphone. The Yeti pro is a dual-system, high resolution mic that is ideal for your desktop as it captures a very solid 24-bit / 192 kHz for digital recordings, while still being able to be connected to professional recording equipment in the studio. It features 3 custom condenser capsules and 4 different pattern settings − cardioid, omni-directional, stereo, bi-directional − the Yeti Pro is like having multiple hi-definition mics all in one. This will also allow you to record multiple sources or settings and fine-tune the pick up patterns accordingly. The proprietary capsule is designed to deliver rich, detailed sound, while the A-D converter enables the high-resolution 24-bit / 192 kHz audio recording to go directly to your laptop or computer. The Blue Yeti Pro is also one of the only USB mics that offers a dual XLR breakout cable so you may connect to mixers, preamps, and other professional studio gear. Grab the Blue Yeti Pro if you’re in the market for one of the more solid USB microphones.
Avantone Pro CV-12
The Avantone Pro CV-12 brings us into a bit more of a rare ‘type’, a tube microphone. As some others may call this a “pencil mic”, this large diaphragm mic is equipped with 9 polar patterns to handle a variety of sound sources including the human voice, strings, acoustic guitars, and drum overheads to name a few. The CV-12’s rugged body and capsule assembly are precision machined of durable brass − ideal for an onstage mic. The ruby-red finish combined with the polished nickel trim and grill gives the mic an aesthetically-pleasing-to-the-eye look. It also comes with dual 32mm gold-sputtered Mylar capsules to respond quickly to transients to capture the true, natural sound of vocals, or any instruments. The PS-12 power supply provides access not only to the omni, cardioid, and figure 8 patterns, but also 6 “in-between” settings if you need a combination of sounds when recording. The Avantone Pro CV-12 is for people who have a little more of a budget, but when putting into perspective the features and how the CV-12 fares against many of its more expensive competitors, it should not be hard to drop the money on this bad boy. It is one of the best microphones under $500 that offers the classic tube-type condenser design.
Apogee MiC 96k
The Apogee MiC 96k is another model that is one of the best microphones under $500 for people looking for a small yet highly capable USB microphone. It is a professional studio quality cardioid condenser microphone that can be directly connected to your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Windows computer. It is also tiny − about the size of an iPhone! With the “PureDIGITAL” USB connection, the Mic 96k is able to easily capture your best takes with great quality, and you can take it anywhere − studio, beach, you name it. The Apogee’s cardioid polar pattern design is ideally designed for vocal and acoustic instrument recording. It has a steel mesh housing on the microphone capsule, as a well as a die-cast zinc body to give it a durable finish. You can also use the MiC for voiceovers, podcasts, and interviews due to its portability! The Apogee Mic 96k offers a reliable sound and compact design that can be obtained at a very friendly price. This one has been in countless “best” guides around the internet, not only for those seeking a USB mic but an overall high-quality laptop or PC small studio setting solution.
Here we have one of the best microphones under $500 for broadcasting and recording. The Shure SM7B mic has a smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response which is appropriate for music and speech in any professional audio applications. It has a natural bass rolloff and mid-range emphasis bass controls with a graphic display setting. The Shure SM7B also has an improved rejection of electromagnetic hum, which is optimized for shielding against any broadband interference when recording. The internal air suspension shock helps the mic eliminate any mechanical noise transmission − key when recording in a broadcast environment. The SM7B has an effective pop filter to help reduce the need for any add-on protection against heavy breath sounds. This mic also has a cardioid polar pattern, uniform with frequency and symmetrical with axis, to provide maximum rejection and minimum coloration of off-axis sound. Overall, the Shure SM7B is moderately-priced, and offers a rugged constructed mic with features that can be best suited for radio and TV broadcasting.
The Audio-Technica AT4033 is another large diaphragm condenser model, similar to a few of the mics we talked about earlier, which is known to be ideal for everything from brass instruments, vocals, acoustic guitars, stringed instruments, loud electric guitar amps, and anything else you can think of. The AT4033’s symmetrical and transformerless circuit not only give it a fast transient response, but helps keep the mic quiet by reducing any low-frequency distortion. The mic is composed of a nickel-plated brass element baffle to provide stability and sensitivity while recording. It also has a 2-micron-thick gold diaphragm to give you consistent performance. Its quick response, low noise, and wide frequency range make it one of the most versatile choices on this guide. Audio-Technica offers industry standard studio equipment and is in our opinion one of the best out there, and the AT4033 specifically offers a moderately-priced versatile mic for any recording application. This is one of the best microphones under 500 dollars for someone in the market for a traditional studio mic
Sennheiser MK 4
Coming to the end of our guide, we look at another Sennheiser, this time the MK 4. The Sennheiser MK 4 is a large-diaphragm true condenser model that is also one of the best microphones under $500 for professional studio recordings. The 24-carat gold-plated diaphragm provides fine resolution and very clear and warm quality for the price you are paying. The MK 4 is also easy to handle and fairly good value for the money − making this a great fit for home recordists or professional project studios alike. It features a 1” true condenser capsule based on the acoustics of the e 965 high-end vocal mic, which is optimal for recording. The Sennheiser offers a durable and compact design, as it is composed of full metal housing. Its capsule shock is mounted internally to help minimize structure-borne noise or vibrations. Finding quality studio equipment that doesn’t break your wallet is often tough, but you will be happy to know the Sennheiser MK4’s price is a bargain for what it supplies.
Electro Voice RE-20
Last but not least, here is the Electro Voice RE-20. This true cardioid voice-over mic is smooth across a wide spectrum of frequencies, and with its “Continuously Variable-D” mic, it is free of bass boosting proximity effect when used close. The RE-20 is a large-diaphragm dynamic microphone that offers greatest rejection at 180 degrees off-axis − directly rear of the microphone. During recording session or on stage, singers can “close talk” the microphone, singing with their lips almost touching the grill without having to worry about “P-pops” and unwanted sibilance. The Electro Voice RE-20 also has an easy “bass tilt down” switch to correct spectrum balance for use in long reach situations or other bass attenuation applications − perfect for acoustic and electric bass, as well as kick drum. Although the RE-20 is a little more pricey, it is widely regarded around the microphone game, and is one of the best microphones under $500 for both studio and broadcasting.