Updated on Apr 15, 2021
Finding the best cheap microphones can be a challenge, as the affordable market is flooded with poor quality choices, and who can make heads or tails of all these brands? Fortunately, the Musician Nerds know a lot about finding a good cheap microphone, as we’ve tried and tested a massive selection, from household names to new start-up brands.
Despite what you’d think, there are a handful of amazing options for the best budget microphone, with companies developing better and better mics for beginners with studio-grade materials. Whether it’s used for live performances, voice-overs, YouTube, or even recording your next single, you can get professional-sounding audio for under $100.
We’ll start by reviewing the best budget microphones and then dive into the specifics. We understand the many use cases people need microphones for and will touch on the different categories of microphones after. So let's get into the best cheap microphones!
First on our list is the The Shure SM48-LC Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone. If you’re looking for the best microphone for live vocals on a budget, this one should be given careful consideration. Coming in under $50, the Shure SM48-LC Cardioid Dynamic offers incredibly clear quality with a brightened midrange and bass roll-off for that extra emphasis on your vocals. This makes it one of the best cheap microphones on the market right now.
If you’re ever looking to find the best vocal mic under 500, Shure is always a solid choice, as their SM-series of microphones range offer outstanding quality in every price range. Just like the Shure SM7B beats out others in the $400 range, the SM48-LC is going to be one of your best buys under $50.
While it’s dubbed as a vocal mic, you can use the Shure SM48-LC for recording purposes as well, if you’re on a tight budget. The dynamic capsule with the cardioid polar pattern eliminates extra background noises, and so while the audio is not the richest, you’ll still find it's one of the best cheap microphones in this price range.
Another one of the best cheap microphones we have for you is the Samson Go, which is essential for those on the go making videos. When it comes to cheap microphones, this is a fantastic choice. The versatility of the Samson Go helps make it really unique, and in general, I love Samson microphone for my budget-friendly purchases.
The first aspect of the Samson Go that I love is the portability. If you’re doing Vlogs or any other travel-based / outdoors work, this microphone should probably be your last stop because it’s the best on the list for that type of work, hands down. The small size is competitive given the power this microphone is capable of.
This USB Microphone also offers two polar pattern modes, cardioid and omnidirectional. The cardioid pattern will be great if you’re speaking directly into the microphone, whereas Omni will capture the whole “room”. For Vloggers and alike, this Samson very well may be one of the best cheap microphones for you.
Third on our list of the best cheap microphones is the Snowball Black iCE USB, a favorite amongst beginner & hobby YouTubers. The sound offered by this (very) interesting-looking USB microphone is really impressive for this price point, which is not surprising coming from Blue. I first purchased this microphone when recording videos and found it to offer a massive quality boost over the typical built-in computer microphone.
The Snowball iCE is certified by both Skype and Discord thanks to its innovative design, with a custom cardioid condenser offering crystal-clear audio. The shape and size make it a perfect fit for any desktop, with a tri-fold design offering a sturdy balance. As a USB microphone, you don’t need to worry about extra equipment to get started, which is another bonus for a condenser mic.
The frequency range is a little narrower than we like to see, but what it lacks in frequency it gains in sensitivity. This desktop mic is sure to provide a competitive level of depth to your audio one way or another, and some would argue it’s the best condenser mic under 100. Overall, definitely one of the best cheap microphones.
The next choice on our list of the best cheap microphones is the Jlab Audio Talk Go USB Microphone, a feature-rich & affordable USB condenser microphone. The way I look at this microphone is like an affordable alternative to the Blue Yeti series. We’ve compared the two in the past and found a lot of similarities though Blue came out on top with a quality edge.
One of the first things that jumps out to most people is the resolution of this budget microphone. With 96kHz/24Bit-depth, the accuracy transmission from mic to computer is industry standard, which is amazing for a condenser mic under 100.
The Jlab Audio Talk Go offers both a cardioid mode and Omni mode for recording a single voice or the whole room. It also has a volume adjuster and zero-latency monitoring via aux cable. And my last favorite feature about it is they use USB-C instead of Micro-USB. This brand is a lot newer, and I'm happy to have it on our list of the best cheap microphones!
Another one of the best microphones for live vocals is the Shure SM58 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone, the older sibling to the SM48-LC mentioned earlier. There's no way I can have a list of the best cheap microphones without mentioning this legendary & affordable vocal mic! This microphone is a little more expensive, though the quality is impeccable and it’s one of the most popular & widely used live microphones in the world.
As we’ve said before, when you’re looking for the best cheap microphone, Shure is always a good option because they know how to over-deliver quality. The Shure SM58 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone offers a lot of useful features for live vocals, such as an internal shock mount to reduce handling noises, and a built-in spherical wind with pop-filter.
If you’re looking for the best microphone for vocals, the Shure SM58 features a brightened midrange and bass roll-off, giving the illusion of depth and accuracy. However, I’ve personally had success using it for voice-over work and YouTube videos. This is one of the best cheap microphones featured on the list, and we can’t say enough great things about it.
For podcasting and videos, you must check out the Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Medium-diaphragm Condenser Microphone, easily one of the best cheap microphones. In the podcasting space, this microphone is one of the most popular choices for both beginners and professionals, as the quality is incredible for this price point, and it’s really easy to work with.
This side-addressed condenser microphone is visually stunning, giving you the confidence of working with a quality mic. Audio-Technica is another brand that has set the stage for affordable microphones, and while this is an XLR mic (as opposed to USB), the inconvenience is going to be worth it for those who are serious about getting the best quality.
With a high SPL, the AT2020 provides a wide dynamic range of versatility, ideal for home studios and video audio. There’s also a wide-range frequency response for serious depth in your audio, with crisp highs and warm lows. If you're looking for one of the best cheap microphones for podcasts, this is an essential choice.
The last microphone on the list of the best cheap microphones is the AKG P120 High Performance Recording Microphone, which some home-studio aficionados would call the best condenser mic under 200. The sensitivity of this microphone is similar to what you’ll get from a studio microphone, with superior accuracy and depth.
The AKG P120 works as both a vocal mic and instrument mic. We wouldn’t recommend using it for live vocals, but for home studios, it makes a fine addition. When it comes to finding the best condenser mic under 200, I always include this one because of its sound quality which is comparable to mics almost double the cost.
While a bit more expensive, the AKG P220 is similar but a little more power, and is also one of the best AKG microphones on the market. Both microphones were developed for home studios on a budget, and they do a fine job at that. They’re a little less versatile in my opinion, as I wouldn’t choose to use them for voice-over work, but for singing and instruments, this is one of the better choices for the best cheap microphones.
We could go on and on about the best cheap microphones, but who are the Musician Nerds, and why are we qualified to talk on this subject? As our name suggests, we are very passionate musicians. We have been working with audio equipment from a hobbyist standpoint from an early age, and our founder, Adrian, has been recording music since he was a little kid. He has experience from both a budget home-studio perspective and being in professional-grade studios, allowing for unique insights on the importance of audio equipment. Furthermore, as "nerds", we love gaming, streaming, and listening to podcasts, and so we have an even deeper love for microphones used in those settings.
We know what it's like to have a dying passion for music but no funds to fulfill your every desire. I can't tell you how many cheap microphones I've been through in my life, giving me a lifetime of experience on this topic. I use my knowledge now to help people like you find the best cheap microphone on the market because I know it's not that easy in a space that's flooded with bad options.
Finding a quality condenser microphone on a budget typically proves to be more challenging than finding a good dynamic. The complexity of condenser microphones requires fine craftsmanship, which is why a lot of people think the best cheap microphones are dynamic, but that's not always the case. As we've discussed at great lengths in our article What Is A Condenser Microphone, the accuracy of these microphones depends on capacitance recorded by the sensitivity of the inner components.
Finding a condenser microphone under 200 that is high enough quality to impress can be a bit challenging, but not impossible. As we've seen on the list above, there are a few good choices such as the AKG P120 High Performance Recording Microphone or the Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Medium-diaphragm Condenser Microphone. Both of these microphones have the potential to bring studio quality to your home setup, and with extra equipment, you can further enhance the experience.
A misconception people make is that sensitivity is bad. I often get asked how to lower mic sensitivity, and I stop dead in my tracks because that is the opposite of what you want. If you want to know how to make your mic sound better, you should first look at your environment before anything else.
Microphone sensitivity captures the depth of your audio with extreme accuracy, which is why studio mics are famously sensitive. If your microphone picks up echoes or other unwarranted noises from your environment, it will corrupt the audio making it useless. But this is not the microphone's fault.
While a preamp can help, the best solution is noise-proofing. After you take a look at this article on How To Reduce Echo In A Room, you may realize it isn't all that hard. A lot of this can be done as a DIY project with items you already own. Touring artists have been known to use their hotel beds and pillows to make soundproofing.
So popular to contrary belief, it's not all that hard to find the best condenser mic under 200, you just have to consider the other factors of recording audio.
Finding the best cheap microphones does not always mean you're going to get poor quality. There are so many good options in this day and age no matter what your budget is. It's important to understand what you need it for as every microphone is different. The best microphone for live vocals can be drastically different than what you use in your home studio.
We hope to have provided some value in your microphone buying decisions. What did you think of our list? Do you think we missed a great choice? We're always open to feedback on our selections, and will test out any recommendations!
Let us know in the comments below if you purchased one of these microphones and how you're liking it!
Posted on Oct 16, 2020
Have questions for us? Email us at email@example.com