Not just any microphone for recording vocals will do. When searching for the perfect mic, it will take some time for you to figure out not only what your budget is, but preferences are in regards to sound, feel and energy of your vocal recordings. Today we’ve found our 10 favorite recommendations as vocal mics, and although it wasn’t easy, feel confident our selections will give you a decent range not only when it comes to price-points, but overall sound as well. You’ll first have to figure out a few of your needs before we give you our picks, so let’s get into some of the details.
Finding a vocal recording microphone
Aside from budget, selecting the best type of microphone for your vocal recordings will be key here. We’ve been able to narrow it down to a few of our favorite “types” specifically for vocal recording applications.
- Condenser microphones: These are the most popular types of mics for recording vocals, let alone record anything, really. The reason is due to their internal builds being most optimal for their sensitivity and detail, which is of course useful when we’re recording vocals for song. They are also built very well and have polar patterns that aid in sound isolation for only recording what’s in front of it, as opposed to some other microphones designed for other uses.
- Tube microphones: Still technically a ‘condenser’ microphone, tube mics are sometimes associated with “the old days”. To us, “old” sound even sounds better than digital-based, super-mastered tracks in this day and age (depends on who you ask). In the end, ‘tube’ mics have different internal builds than normal condensers, and if you can guess, they have ‘tubes’ that handle audio as opposed to transistors. The result is a different ‘sound’, albeit very subject and really depending on the listener and recorder. We recommend giving the microphones a listen to see for yourself and determine whether or not you want a tube instead of a regular condenser.
- USB microphones: Although not considered a ‘type’ since they’re all technically ‘condensers’ as well, we’d still like to keep this direction separate for a few reasons. For one, they’re a lot easier to use and mostly for beginner vocalists since you merely plug them into your computer and they’re powered up and ready to use that way. They’re also a lot more affordable than some professional condenser microphones out there. However, their quality isn’t nearly as on par as standard condenser mics, and you can’t hook them up to a preamp or audio interface for flexibility in your recording settings. It’s all up to what you want and need at this time of your vocalist career. Read our USB microphones for vocals guide if this is where you land. Side note: make sure your USB mic records in at least 24-bit resolution.
Once you’ve chosen which “type” you need, let’s talk about extra microphone gear. For example as stated previously, condenser microphones will need to be powered up by some external source of power (‘phantom power’), and although many do come with a standard 48-volt power box to use them with, there are more options for you to give you some flexibility while you record. For example, many opt into using either a microphone preamp or an audio interface to power up their condenser vocal mic.
The reason is because they do more than just “power it up”, such as providing FX to record with, adjusting gain, being able to hook up multiple instruments and record them at the same time, and much more. Aside from your power and recording capabilities, you’ll also want to look into gear that are typically found in microphone packages, such as pop filters, mic stands, shock mounts, carrying case, and more.
Lastly, let’s highlight what microphone specifications are and mean (in a nut shell). For vocalists, your style will depend on what numbers you want to see. For example, Sound Pressure Level (SPL) will be of a slight concern, but only if you’re one to scream into the mic or have a much louder volume than others — most microphones in here should handle your SPL. SPL is typically concerned for those recording very loud and abrupt, loud and sharper instruments, such as snares. You can also look into the different polar patterns microphones offer, but typically vocal recording will ask for a microphone pick up pattern than picks up what’s in front of it and rejects the others to ensure it’s a clean track without any outside noise (cardioid).
The top 10 best microphones for recording vocals
Warm Audio WA-47
Up first, we have a beautiful tube mic to act as our pick for the best vocal microphone in the market today. Although definitely on the higher-end of the budget-range, if you can afford this one, you’ll have some extremely clear and pleasing vocal tracks in your songs. This brand in particular focuses on ‘vintage’-like compressors, preamps and mics, and this one is no different from their others. The vacuum tube circuitry brings a very natural and unique sound, but one that isn’t over-the-top (used by Sinatra and George Martin frequently — not this particular mic, but a variation and older version of this one).
This one has nine polar patterns built-in available to your liking and flexibility, and it can handle up to 140 dB SPL. You can also use this to record various instruments, such as piano, drums, and guitar. Ultimately however, the biggest standout of the Warm Audio WA-47 is by far simply how it sounds, which to us makes it the best microphone for recording vocals and so worth it if you have the cash at hand.
It was tough trying to pick just one Audio-Technica mic to recommend in here for vocals, but ultimately this one made sense. The AT2035 is a very popular model for recording vocals and the hundreds of user reviews everywhere helps us with confidence in its reliability and performance. It’s a side-address condenser with a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter and 10 dB pad for some extra emphasis in capturing the mid and high-ranges of a voice. Also great sound pressure handling alongside its shock mount included gives us a good feel in its ruggedness.
Ultimately the key with this microphone for recording vocals pick is its combination of great construction, smooth and natural sound alongside its price — we’d definitely consider this one budget-friendly, at least compared to many others in this guide. All in all, we love including the Audio-Technica AT2035 in here for those just starting out in recording and who don’t have too much cash to drop on a high-end and expensive mic to begin their adventures.
Up next, we have a very popular microphone for vocals here with Shure’s SM7B, which is actually a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern. But wait, didn’t you previously say condenser microphones are mostly preferred for vocals? Yes, they are. However, there are quite a few dynamic mics out there that are worth looking at as well, and we wanted to at least include one of our favorites in this guide. Michael Jackson actually used the SM7 throughout his recording days, in particular with “Billie Jean”.
This mic has been out for decades (in the 70’s), so its been a proven heavy-hitter in the recording realm since many of us were even born. It’s known for its smooth, wide-range frequency response with a flat recording output, a great setting for music and speech, and we’ve heard of many broadcasters use this microphone as well. There is also a widely praised bass roll off and mid-range presence in it’s mixes, which gives a nice and distinct sound for vocals. There’s also a built-in shock isolation as well as pop filter to protect our tracks from any pesky distractions.
The Shure SM7B is simply legendary and by far one of the best microphones for vocals.
Blue Yeti Pro
Let’s get into one of our favorite USB microphones of all time — the Blue Yeti, but we want to recommend their ‘Pro’ version not just because it’s more expensive, but due to the audio quality at least coming close to some traditional condenser microphones out there. This one is actually both USB and XLR, so we’ll have flexibility in choosing how we hook up this mic to our studio setup. We have some top-notch (at least some the highest we’ve seen in the USB game) 24-bit/192kHz digital recordings here.
Overall, the Yeti has thousands of user reviews everywhere praising the quality of build and of course, sound. It’s been chosen for all of those “best USB microphone” articles you see flooded around search engines (ours as well), and that is all for a reason. It’s simply the most all-around solid USB mic in the game right now, and although there are some competitors trying their best to come close, we still feel this is worth mentioning first in a vocal recording article if you really want a USB connected microphone. The Blue Yeti Pro is a gem.
Mojave Audio MA-200
Let’s talk more tube mics for vocals, and the MA-200 is one of the best in the game if your budget is in the higher range if we perked up your ears when talking vacuum tube condensers and how they sound. This particular model has been highly reviewed for being a “secret weapon” with its warm low-end and crisp highs. It has a full sound with great detail that’s typically compared to other microphones twice the price. Most widely used for vocals but there are many we’ve read who use this for guitar as well.
David Royer did a great job with this microphone and if you aren’t aware of who the guy actually is, may ring a bell when you think of “Royer Labs” and many other legendary microphones he was responsible for building (along with mic preamps and compressors, too). The insides of this is what’s responsible for the sound, and if you’re into details here are the specs — 3 gold-sputtered capsules, military-grade JAN 5840 vacuum tubes, and Jensen audio transformers. It has a very distinct sound which is why we love the Mojave Audio MA-200 as a pick as the best microphone for recording vocals.
Where do we start with one of our favorite microphone packages of all time? At least for those with a relatively low-budget, the NT1-A is simply remarkable and legendary at this point. Coming with a shock mount, pop filter as well as dust cover, we’ll be good to go right out of the box (aside from phantom power, of course). The large 1″ gold-plated diaphragm brings us a very warm and neutral sound to our vocal recordings.
Also great for instruments such as bass, piano and guitar, this one is just all-around solid and another viable option for those in the beginning stages of recording vocals or wanting to start building their home recording studio. If you do have more cash we recommend scrolling down further, otherwise the Rode NT1-A of our favorite picks as the best vocal microphones, especially if you want an all-around microphone in the lower price-point of this guide.
Apogee Mic PLUS
Let’s talk about another very high-quality USB microphone for vocals. Apogee’s first MiC 96k was a hit when USB microphones first started to really take off, and new for this past year (we checked it out at NAMM 2018) is a new and improved model of their previous hit with even better audio quality and more flexibility. With this vocal microphone, we have 24-bit/96 kHz resolution, three-color LED status, input level and Blend mode indicator, headphone out control for monitoring with zero-latency, and an input gain adjustment/mute control. This thing is also super tiny and weighs about half a pound, sitting nicely on your desk or even allowing you to travel to make music if that’s your thing (such as bringing it to a friend’s studio to record instead).
When it comes to comparing this with our previous USB model recommended, they hover around the same price, and since they have very similar specs (although with the audio quality capabilities, the Yeti Pro does go up to 192 kHz), we’d say grab whomever is priced lower at the time.
If you’re still unsure, keep in mind the Yeti Pro can go XLR as well while the MiC+ cannot. So stick with the Apogee Mic PLUS if you want strictly a USB mic for your studio.
AKG C414 XLII
The C414 is another high-end vocal recording microphone made by one of our favorite brands in the mic game, AKG. This is a large-diaphragm condenser with 9 switchable polar patterns (great for those recording multiple instruments or sources), advanced and high-quality material internal build, and of course, beautiful sound. We love this mic mainly due to the distinct sound it provides but also some of the extra controls we have on the mic itself.
There is a slight presence boost in the vocals here, which means you have a very little emphasis in the mid-range ever so-slightly for a different sound in case it’s what your ear is asking for. This typically makes vocals and other solo instruments stand out a bit more in a layered mix (also great for drums). You also have some more control over your sound with an on-board bass cut as well as pre-attenuation pads filter (three of them at either -6, -12, or -18dB) so you can adapt to whosoever voice is currently being tracked. The AKG C414 XLII is just another one of our favorites as the best vocal recording microphone.
Neumann TLM 103
Neumann is a special brand unlike many others out there. This German-based mic creator focuses on detail, so you’ll be getting a very high-end and luxurious mic that doesn’t spare any part whatsoever — we just hope your budget allows. Regardless, the TLM 103 is one of our favorites made by them (they don’t have a bunch of mics available like many others, but focus on models they’ve had for many years and continue to improve and re-release them). The sound of the TLM 103 is smooth as butter, while coming with a 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range, very low self-noise, and overall rugged build (it’s extremely small compared to many other large-diaphragms out there).
It’s been used commonly for classical recordings that have a big range, but also for sampling, mic amps, live use, and of course, vocals in the studio. It also represents a nice SPL handling if you’re looking to record some drums as well, or perhaps you one to love belting out your vocals passionately. What you’re really buying here is a transformer-less circuitry and pressure gradient transducer that specializes in low noise and attention to detail. The Neumann TLM 103 is a privilege to own.
Last but not least as our final pick as the best vocal microphone, the Rode NTK is our favorite mic in the middle price-range of all of these recommendations. It will always have a place in our heart since we used this during our rapping and beat production days throughout the past decade (we’ve since switched to a different tube mic for more poppy and electronic genres). The highlights of the legendary NTK are obviously the clear sound we love, but also the rugged build (it will last years as an investment), and vintage feel (powered by a twin-triode 6922 tube).
Big recommendation here due to the price — if the thousand dollar range was a bit too steep for you but you still wanted a high-end tube mic with warm sound, we recommend grabbing the Rode NTK as our final pick as the best microphone for recording vocals.