Despite the inconsistent advice, I am here to help you. There is a sweet spot between professional and consumer microphones. This is the place where you will find the most affordable microphones.
It’s not necessary to have a USB microphone that is designed for a child who wants to become a podcaster. It doesn’t matter if you spend $500 or $2,000 on a purchase.
A few mics are entry-level in the professional studio world that can compete with some of the most expensive.
You can also find mixing and recording tips in other articles on LedgerNote. I’ll be linking you to them! You can produce studio-quality work while saving money on more gear.
No matter what genre you are, it is important to know how to pick the right mic for your needs and set realistic expectations about the results.
While you can get top-of the-line quality from any of these mics, it is not as easy as just plugging the mic in and pressing record.
But don’t worry. You have my back. Before and after you make a purchase or decision, there are three things you need to know:
- What type of microphone do you want?
- What additional gear do you need?
- How to reduce your tracks into a final product
Each one will be covered as fast as possible, so that we can get right to the mic reviews.
Which type of microphone is right for me?
This can be a confusing can of worms. The patterns of pickup are often mentioned, as well as all other attributes that can be used to identify mics.
A stage mic is not the same as a studio microphone. Different pickup patterns can be used on different mics, and some can switch between up to five.
There are only two types of microphones, and that’s all you need to worry about.
Ribbon mics, large and small diaphragms, boundaries mics, and other issues are not necessary. You only need to worry about dynamics and condensers.
I will start by saying that both can produce the results you desire. There are very few differences between them and they will yield diminishing returns when used for the “right” applications. Recording is not a hard task.
It is an art and not science. There are physical differences that make certain options more suitable for some people than others for certain uses. Professionals aren’t concerned in any way.
Large diaphragms are the most common configurations for condensers, however there are smaller diaphragms. The short version is that sound waves travel through air and collide with the diaphragm. This vibrates back and forth much like skin stretched over a drum when struck.
The mic diaphragm transmits electrical signals to the computer in the same way that your eardrum vibrates and sends electricity to your brain. This is done by passing a magnet on top of a powered coil.
However, condensers have larger diaphragms than dynamic mics. This allows them to produce finer details and be more sensitive.
However, they are lower in sound pressure level (SPL), than dynamics. This should not be a deceit. To cause damage to a condenser by pure volume, you would need to be extremely loud.
This is not possible with vocals for normal purposes. If you place it in front of an electric guitar amp, you can manage it. Tubes in condensers can also be damaged by being thrown around or knocked over.
Although this is not universal, many people prefer condensers to be used on instruments and voices that are higher in frequency.
Common Uses for Condensers: Voices, Acoustic Guitars, Piano, Violins, Mandolins, Banjos, Oboes, Flutes and all other stringed or winds instruments.
Two things are unique about Dynamics: They can withstand louder sounds and are almost indestructible. These mics are what you would use to put in front a kick drum or bass guitar cabinet.
They can withstand the loud volume, and they don’t have tubes to allow for more shaking and accidental drops. You will often see them on stage at live shows in bars or stadiums.
While condensers diaphragms are pointed to the side, dynamics diaphragms are oriented towards top of mic. This is a minor physical difference, but it’s a convenient one for vocalists who like to hold the mic in their hands.
It’s not universal but many people prefer to hear dynamics on lower frequencies and with instruments that are darker.
Common Uses for Dynamics: Voices, Electric Guitar, and Bass, Close Miking Brass Instruments Drums, Percussion instruments, Radio DJ’s.
A WORD ABOUT VOCALS
Most people want to record vocals and I understand that. Here is my suggestion…
A condenser is a great tool for singing. It picks up every nuance. This is perfect for R&B, Gospel, and other soft vocal styles. A condenser can be used for most Rock and Metal, but you should consider a dynamic if you are using a loud and screaming sound.
A condenser is recommended for speaking roles like voice-over work or reading audiobooks. A dynamic is best for informal situations like podcasting, radio disc jockeying and interviews. This is key to getting the “radio voice” sound. Take advantage of the proximity effect.
Rapping can be a completely different animal. Depending on your voice and style, you can choose either one. You can use both the proximity and dynamic effects to create a more intimidating, aggressive sound. This effect works well with most East Coast styles, especially the street sound or classic hip hop vibes.
A condenser is a better choice if you are looking for something intimate, like what you hear on most singles and pop records. Compression can bring it closer to a dynamic, while still retaining a lot of openness. These qualities are hard to describe, but you rappers will understand what I mean.
What else do I need to record?
This could be a lengthy discussion. Let me just summarize. You’ll need:
- Analog-to-Digital Converters
- Digital Audio Workstation Software
- All this stuff can be connected with cables!
We are fortunate that companies have learned to produce audio interfaces which include preamps, convertors and even DAW software.
A recording interface is required. It is not enough to simply plug a microphone into the sound card of your computer. To boost the signal to usable levels, it must be run through a preamplifier. You will get a very noisy recording if you increase the input volume. This is because you are increasing the noise floor and not the main signal.
Acoustic treatment is another consideration, although it is not a necessity. This prevents sound from bouncing around and muddying your recordings. Although close miking can help block out some sound, it is not necessary to record the source louder. However, you will get crystal clear results.
Professional vocal booths include acoustic treatment in the walls. Although it is not essential at the beginning, it is something you will want to think about as you move forward. Reflection filters are also a good option, as they can be carried around and require less effort. Auray Reflection filter
This is the best option for those who don’t have the funds to purchase or build acoustic treatments. This is like having your microphone in its own little vocal booth. Pop filters, windscreens, and microphone stands are also items you should consider. If your mic does not include an XLR cable, you may need one.
How to Clean Up and Mix Your Tracks
These articles will help you avoid missing out on the fun of actually looking at mics. These mixing tips and tricks will help you get the best sounding recordings for your listeners.
- Home Recording Vocals: Clear & Clean
- 14 Tips to Record & Mix Vocals – The Right Way…
- 13 Other Vocal Recording Tips
- Fundamental Audio Mixing Tips & Techniques
- Audio Mixing For Dummies
These tips and tricks will help you get to the next level in quality. You will learn tricks and tips about techniques that you might not have known existed.
Basic mixing is necessary if you want your results even to resemble the music you hear on radio or in album releases. These articles will help you to make it as easy as possible.
Now for the fun part… Microphone Reviews by Budget Range.
The Best Cheap Microphones
We’ll be listing them by price, starting with the most affordable (but still very good) and ending with the most expensive. While we will mix dynamics and condensers, I will tell you which one is which from the photos.
As your first microphone purchase, I don’t recommend that you go beyond the options listed here. It won’t leave you with bad results or a microphone you don’t want to keep around forever. It will keep you from over-spending.
Note: Every image and text link takes you to Amazon.com, where you can read additional reviews and find technical details listings and make your purchase.
You may be on the lookout for something inexpensive, but resist the temptation to buy a better microphone on the second-hand market. This sensitive equipment is not recommended to be purchased used. It is impossible to know whether the diaphragm has been damaged by moisture, volume, spit, damage to the tube, cable jack, or any other factors.
Keep an eye out for my personal favourite from the list!
The Best Studio Microphones For Home Recording
In no particular order…
This is the cheapest option for those who are really tight on cash. Although it is more expensive than some other options, the condenser comes with a shock mount and mic stand adapter. A nice carrying case, along with a mic capable of performing like its big brothers, is also included. You save money in the end.
This mic is the best value for money. This is the entry-level to professional quality results. While there are many mics for half the price that can be visually impressive, you will need a high-quality diaphragm as well as electronics. Your mic is invisible to your listeners. They can only hear it. These other microphones are meant to be sold and not used.
You will be able to grow this mic and the others on your list. It is possible to stop worrying about upgrading mics and instead focus on preamps and acoustics. The mics will continue to perform better as you surround them in better gear.
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON The real entry-point to high quality…
- Favorite LedgerNote
RODE NT1 – A
My opinion is that if you are going to grab any mic from this list, it should be this one, The Rode NT1A.
Although this baby is the most costly on the list, it’s still within the realm of affordable. A group of friends released their first international professional album and the voices were amazing.
I asked them which mic they used to record their conversations and they said it was the NT1A. This is one of the lowest-end options, but it’s hard to know without asking.
I have used the NT1-A a lot and even snagged a Rode NTK. It’s still my favorite mic for vocals and string instruments. Rode doesn’t play around.
My friends did not even use a high-end preamp to run their mics through. It was one in your standard recording interface. It is the most affordable condenser available.
An A stands for Anniversary. The anniversary package comes with a shockmount and pop filter. There is even an instructional DVD that includes mixing and recording tips. This is the best deal on this list.
This is how you get professional results at home
SHURE SM57/ 58
The Shure SM57, and the SM58 are known as “The Industry Workhorse.” They can give you great results even with less expensive home studio gear, but they can also deliver flawless results if you have to surround yourself with costly preamps, equalizers and compressors.
This applies to more than just vocals. These can be used by studio engineers on guitars, drums, or even live on stage. These have been used in 90% of the live performances that I have seen at bars, stadiums, concert halls and other venues.
They are tough and transparent. You can make them as strong as you want them to by putting them in better gear. Two SM57’s are my current favorites.
The SM57 and SM58 mics internally are identical, to clarify the confusion. Both dynamics use the same electronics and capsules. Visually, the only difference is in the top shield that protects the diaphragm. Mix and match, it’s all the exact same… audio goodness!
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON The Industry Workhorse Everybody Uses…
The Audio-Technica At2035 is extremely useful. It’s so transparent that I don’t have any “wow!” factors to report. It’s a good thing. It spews out every detail it hears. This is the purpose of its transparent condenser.
This condenser is great for vocalists and other loud source material. It can also mic up amps for electric instruments. This is due to the condenser’s unusually high SPL ratings. The 10 dB attenuation pads switch can allow you to adjust volume. The filter can be switched to 80 Hz for live events and prevents bass and mic stand rumbles making it into the PA system.
You can save some money by purchasing the bundle that I linked to in the picture. It includes a pop filter, XLR cable and an XLR cable. This is a great deal!
Transparent with high SPL ratings…
BLUE MICROPHONES SPARK
Blue Mics are a part of my love/hate relationship. They are amazing mics that remind me of 1950s construction. I also love their sound.
I hate the fact that they sell tons of USB microphones to podcasters. Musicians who want to record at their home often end up buying them. It’s a disservice to musicians, but it doesn’t matter. The studio mics sound amazing and the build quality is incredible.
The Blue Spark condenser microphone comes with a custom shock mount and metal pop filter. It also includes a wooden carrying case. It has a built-in phantom power amp to power it, and a high pass filter button similar to the AT2035.
This bad boy is used by many people on all kinds of music, including vocals, handclaps, and acoustic guitars. You can use it on any surface. Blue is a well-known brand. This is a great purchase for any home studio.
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON For high frequency sources, it is a beautiful and shrewish idea…
These are the best cheap microphones available.
I would recommend any of the five options above to anyone starting out or someone who has experience and needs a cheap alternative to using at home. My favorite is my number one.
There are many more options, however these are the ones that I feel can compete with mics twice as expensive.
To get high-quality recordings at home and in the studio, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can save money on other gear and buy the best microphone for your budget.