My dear producers, there comes a point in life when samples are just not enough, and you start feeling the urge to record your own sounds. If you are reading this, I believe you are in this situation right now. We all have gone through this, and we haven't always had a good producer friend to advise us on the do's and don'ts of researching and buying gear.
This article is meant to make it easy for you to navigate the sea of information available online, without overdosing on data and technical specs, and keeping a clear price range ($200 - $500).
There's an infinity of decent to great microphones available online, and this recording microphones list will boil them down to 10 options for you.
Keep in mind that while we can recommend and talk about certain models, at the end of the day you will have to think about what it is that you want to record and check which of these options fits your needs in the best possible way.
Review | 10 Best Microphones For Recording
Comes with shock mount and wind sock.
Industry standard mic at an affordable price range.
There is no feature to change polar patterns.
Does not ship with XLR cable and pop filter.
The AKG C124 is quite the versatile microphone, not only good for vocals but also really useful for recording instruments and even using it as an overhead for drum recording. This cardioid-only AKG C214 has the same capsule, character, and cardioid polar pattern pickup of the classic, even legendary C414 B-XLS for a really decent price. This microphone has a really crisp and clear sound, with a little boost on the higher frequencies (around 14kHz). Its impressive 156dB SPL handling makes the C214 a safe choice for guitar cabs, too. This mic ships in a metal carry case with shock mount and windscreen.
Basically this is a great sounding microphone, with a really solid build from a well-known and respected brand such as AKG and covers quite a lot of ground as a multipurpose mic.
The one aspect of this microphone that you might dislike a bit is its brightness, coloring quite a bit on the higher end, other than that I can get behind recommending this piece of gear for an all around go to microphone.
Great quality build.
Faithful and flat response.
Excellent for voices and guitars.
Lack of torque selector for MS or equity ROOM.
Continuing on the road of well-known and respected brands, I present to you the AT4033, with a price of $399. This microphone is solid for recording anything you can imagine, it has a clear and faithful sound (not retro-vintage nor super crisp on the highs) and has a Transformerless circuitry that virtually eliminates low-frequency distortion and maintains fidelity in high-speed transients (big plus for percussive sound recordings)
The main advantage of this microphone is its outstanding durability, it's been around for over twenty years and a lot of producers have been using their 4033 for over fifteen. Any piece of gear capable of such longevity will eventually pay itself off.
The only area where the AT4033 would kind of fail you, is if you are looking to create a particular sound right off the bat. Recordings on these microphones will sound fairly familiar and standard. But hey, if you are planning on having just one microphone, it's better for it to be faithful and "standard sounding" and just get to the EQing in post.
Easy to use
Great for short transients
Not feature rich
Lacks polar pattern selectability
Rode is known for affordable and well-built mics, and this is one of the models that really helped build this reputation. For $329 the NT1000 offers a truly high-end feel. The metal is heavy and machined well and the welded diaphragm basket gives the top quality feel.
The polar pattern is quite typical of a cardioid condenser microphone, getting most of the sound from the front and a bit from the sides, isolating the back.
The fidelity of the sound of this model is quite above average, minimally lacking response in the low end (20 - 150 hz) which can be useful for avoiding bass proximity effect and slightly over responding in the high mids and high end, peaking at about 3,500 Hz, 5,400 Hz and 12,000 Hz. Which can also be really useful to add clarity and air. I strongly recommend this microphone for voice recordings and percussive instruments (mainly hats, cymbals and crashes)
Great feedback rejection
Five bass rolloff options
Sturdy & reliable
Great for live recordings
Cheap clip construction quality
Off axis response is not so good
Once again, we present a brand that is one of the more (if not the most) respected and used for professional sound recording, both in studio as well as live and even on location sound for films.
Here we have one of our most versatile models, with a price of $379: the Sennheiser MD 421-II. The cardioid pattern offers very solid feedback rejection, which makes it an ideal choice for live performances or recording where you can't control the noise levels (such as crowds), . It features a 5-option bass control setting which helps manage proximity effect, so you will be able to change the distance between this microphone and the source of the sound and still get clean, and faithful 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 main reason for its presence on this list.
Really good price
Easy to use
Innovative and beautiful design
Case and shock mount are not included
This will be our first dive in though the realm of the not so known. Aston is a relatively new British brand on the market, and this product has garnered some outstanding feedback from consumers and pro reviewers, at a price of just $299.
The origin is a Large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a Fixed-cardioid pickup pattern, it comes with a -10dB pad and an 80Hz high-pass filter. It has a frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz at +/- 3dB and a Max SPL: 127dB. having said this; we can check al the boxes of the basic microphone requirements. Its frequency response is mostly flat, and the sound that this microphone produces I quite standard, flat and predictable. It has no noticeable low end color or high end boosts.
The most unique trait of this microphone is its design, you can say it looks weirdly random. As every good design choice, form must answer to function: Randomizing the structure of the grille improves its pop filtering capabilities (really important for vocals and short transients) and scatters reflections inside the basket. I must confess that after quite a lot of research I could not find a negative review for this kind of unknown brand. Props for the Aston team. At such a modest price, the Aston origin is a really strong quality for price option.
Excellent, sturdy construction
Lots of polar patterns to choose from
Three tube selections for tonal variety
Great tone and dynamic response
Long warm-up period for tube mics as compared to solid-state
The avantone Pro CV-12 is the most versatile, feature rich and expensive microphone that we will mention on our top ten. At $499, this large diaphragm microphone comes with 9 polar patterns to handle a plethora of sound sources, including the human voice, strings, acoustic guitars, and drum overheads to name a few. Wowzers...
The design might part the sea of opinions, I'm not a fan myself but I see why some might prefer this flashy boy. It comes with dual 32mm gold-sputtered Mylar capsules to respond quickly to transients, in order 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 the most expensive of the microphones in this list but when putting into perspective the crazy polar pattern options and how the CV-12 fares against many of its more expensive competitors, it could be sensible to drop the cash. It is one of the best microphones under $500 that offers the classic tube-type condenser design.
Simple and easy to use
Good value for the price
No bass rolloff or inter-changable polar patterns
AT $269, the LCT 440 Pure is a beautiful minimalistically designed large diagram condenser microphone with impressive electronic circuit and a truly admirable sounding 1 inch capsule.
The microphone features exciting specs with self noise of 7dB (A) and a sensitivity of 27.4mV/Pa which means it will not allow any noise in the signal chain. You'll need less preamp making it suitable for recording quiet sources such as Foley.
On the other end, it can handle the SPL of 140 dB, so you can throw it in front of the loud guitar amp or drums without worrying it will distort.
Frequency response is very smooth, with little emphasis on the upper region.
This is not a feature rich microphone, it just aims to be a simple option with the goal of getting you the very most bang for your buck. No multiple pattern switches or filters. No back/front figure 8 recording available — just an attempt at the best basic large condenser for the price.
The sound you'll get with this mic is quite faithful and clear, and will be more than decent for recording Speech, Vocals, Acoustic Instruments, Sound Effects and Foley.
USB & Firewire connections
Incorporated analog to digital conversion
Limited Android compatibility
Lacks a mic stand and pop filter
The Sennheiser MK4 digital is the first microphone in our list that can be connected directly to any iOS device or to any computer by USB cable, and it's available for the accessible price of $299. Its analog components are modeled on the Sennheiser MK 4, so it features the same 24-carat gold-plated diaphragm, rugged metal housing, 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, and a high SPL, making it suitable for guitars, vocals, amplifiers, percussion, and more.
Where this microphone differs is on the digital side: Sennheiser has teamed up with Apogee to build a PureDigital converter directly into the microphone. This converter captures audio at high resolutions and sample rates-up to 24-bit/94 kHz-and transfers audio directly into computers and iOS devices, utilizing a digital preamp to ensure a quality signal.
I'd recommend this microphone if you are just beginning and don't want to get an audio interface. (which you totally should)
Best microphone for recording vocals
Great for kicks, toms and bass
Easy to use
Bigger and heavier than most similar microphones
At $399 the Electro Voice RE20 is a broadcast studio and voice-over microphone that has been used by pros for quite a while.
The RE20 is smooth across a wide spectrum of frequencies, and because it's a Continuously Variable-D mic, it's virtually free of bass-boosting "proximity effect" when used close. An easy "bass tilt down" switch corrects spectrum balance for use in long reach situations or other bass attenuation applications, making it great for acoustic and electric bass and kick drum.
This microphone should be the number one pick if you know that as a music producer, you will be recording mostly vocals, and even spoken word instead of classical singing.
Basically this is the way to go if you are planning on doing podcasts, voice over, and/or vocals.
Warm sounding, yet remains flat and neutral
Comes with a good case and shock-mount
Longevity. This mic will last you for years given proper care
Silky smooth high end
Using a regular pre-amp will cause the mic to sound a bit harsh.
This microphone is quite similar to the AT-4033, with a couple of slight differences. The published frequency response suggests that the mic is extremely flat between about 20Hz and 4kHz.
Above 4kHz there are a couple of significant boosts in the frequency response, mainly at 6.5 and 11kHz, reaching about 5dB at their peak. It is interesting to note that similar peaks can also be found in the AT4033a and SE models — although slightly less pronounced — and are hinted at on the plot for the AT4047. One could conclude that these are probably a characteristic of the capsule or housing design of the AT4040.
This particular model works quite well when used to close-mic a grand piano, providing good weight and excellent transient detail. It was also effective on six-string acoustic guitars and general percussion duties — again, because of the decent transient response.
Guide & Recommendation | Microphones For Recording
If you've reached this far along the article you must have realized that while all the microphones reviewed thus far are quite similar, they all have their particularities.
To pick a microphone of off this list i recommend to first think about your budget and what kind of sound you are looking for, and in what kind of environment you are going to record.
If your main purpose is going to be recording the human voice, I think the right choice for you will be the Electro Voice RE-20.
If you are looking for a good all around microphone that will allow you to record vocals, instruments and SFX or Foleys, I'd definitely go with the almost $500 Avantone Pro CV-12. It is by far the most versatile and feature rich microphone in the list, but it is also the most expensive one. If you need a less expensive option you'll be more than fine with the Aston Origin, AT-4033 or the LCT440.
If you'd prefer to keep it simple and not buy an audio interface (which i totally don't recommend) you should go with the Sennheiser MK 4 Digital
Truth be told, any of these microphones will be a good buy, you just need to keep in mind how much you'd like to spend and what you are planning on recording.
Now that all the information is out it's up to you to decide which microphone you are planning on getting. My most honest recommendation is that you try to go the extra mile, and consider this as an investment, try not to get the cheapest one on the list. Instead, why not going for the best possible option? Having said that; any of this microphones will provide an excellent audio quality. The research I've done and the experience I've gathered during the years is the basis for these recommendations. All of these brands and products are well-known to deliver quality on a regular basis.
Having said all this: The most important element for producing great music will never be your gear, it shall always be your creativity and how much effort you are willing to put into it, if you don't believe me just ask Steve Lacey, who only uses his iPhone and garage band, and has casually produced PRIDE. for Kendrick Lamar, or this couple of french guys who go by the name Justice who produced this kind of OK album called Cross entirely on Garage Band.