Updated on May 03, 2022
If you're looking for the best condenser microphones on the market, you've come to the right place. As you may already know, the team at Musician Nerd specializes in microphones, whether they're for music, vocals, videos, or more! Some of you might already know the type of microphone you need, but when you're searching for the right choice, it's not always obvious what does what. We've compiled a list of our favorite condenser microphones and even labeled them by what they excel at.
As you may already know, there are two primary types of microphones (some might say there are three). Condenser & Dynamic, although you may include Ribbon as their category. After we dive into the different microphones in today's article, we'll discuss a condenser microphone and why you may need one.
We'll run you through our list of options for this article and then dive into great detail about each choice. You should know exactly which one is right for you by its end. Afterward, we'll talk about what condenser microphones are and whether it's the right type of microphone for your needs. So let's dive in!
The Rode NT1 is one of the best condenser microphones on the market. There are many options, but the Rode NT1 exceeds all the competition in the mid-price range. Is it the best microphone on this list? No, but it has the best balance between cost and quality. If your budget is higher (or lower), then keep reading through the list, but for now, let's talk about the Rode NT1.
The Rode NT1, like many other studio microphones, comes with a full package of accessories. Included with the microphone is a shockmount, pop-filter &XLR cable. The shockmount will help absord any vibrations while the pop filter blocks out Plosive noise.
What matters most, however, is how amazing this microphone sounds. This was the first microphone I ever bought for myself back in the day, and if you've never had a studio-grade mic before, this one will feel life-changing. Using a suspended transducer inside the microphone, you're getting an extra layer of protection from vibrations. The microphone is sonically impressive, with wide-range frequency response, high SPL, and ultra-low self-noise.
Rode uses a cardioid pattern for the microphone pickup, so it'll only record noise coming in through the front. This is especially useful for those who don't have much access to noise-canceling materials. The physical build quality of this condenser microphone is also worth noting, and it's built with a durable, military-grade ceramic layer for scratch resistance.
The Stellar X2 definitely a little underappreciated considering how stunning it performs as a condenser microphone. If you were to ask me whether I'd buy this or the Rode NT1 it would be an impossible decision. The ratio of price to quality is perfection, and if the Stellar X2 is closer to your budget, you won't regret buying it.
The first time you turn on the X2, you're going to be blown away by the sound quality. They utilize a balanced & natural frequency response spanning 20Hz to 18kHz. The range of tones will come through as if the microphone wasn't even there, with rich yet clear lows and crispy highs. The X2 is a unique condenser microphone, offering some of the best vocal presence out of any I've worked with.
They also use a high quality diaphragm, made with brass and mylar. This is what helps them achieve that natural sound, with higher sensitivity able to reproduce subtle sounds. For the price, I'm always blown away by how good it sounds.
On top of that, you're getting the confidence that the Stellar X2 is a well-built condenser microphone, using a strong & durable iron body, with a well-constructed grill. All around this is one of the best microphones for your money.
If you're searching for a condenser microphone that's a little more budget-friendly, check out the Marantz Pro MPM1000. Coming in around $50 on average, you're looking at one of the most affordable condensers on the market, and while that may worry some of you, I'm here to tell you it's well worth the money. In this specific price range, I wouldn't go for anything else.
This studio-grade condenser microphone offers a wide-range frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. This ensures you're capturing everything from the lows to the highs with accuracy. This highly sensitive microphone is built with a low signal-to-noise ratio, so while you can still pick up a wide variety of sounds, you don't have to worry about the softest sounds ruining your audio.
You're getting a shock mount in the box with a bit of desktop stand. These accessories will do a great job absorbing any vibrations from your desk to keep your audio as clean as possible. It uses a directional cardioid polar pattern making the microphone only pick up what you feed through the front. This is great for blocking out other noises, especially if you're gaming or living with people.
I've recommended the Marantz MPM10000 to a lot of people for different purposes. Whether you're building your own home studio on a budget, starting a podcast or even a gaming channel, this microphone is perfect for you. In this lower price range, there are a lot of bad options, and the MPM1000 does a great job rising above them all.
The Nuemann TLM 102 is not the most luxorious condenser microphone on this list, that would actually be the Neumann U87 AI. That being said, you're looking at one of my favorite microphones, offering the legendary quality of Neumann at a relatively fair price. If you're looking for studio-grade without paying studio prices, check this one out.
The Neumann TLM has the signature Neumann look, with a compact condenser that looks like we pulled it straight out of the studio. Fortunately, the quality matches the look. While the 102 offers a wide-range frequency response, there's also a slight presence boost above 6kHz, with a further lift around 10kHz. This allows you to capture those silky highs while also making sure your voice stands out in the mix.
This condenser microphone is also very versatile and can be used with instruments. With an SPL (Sound Pressure Level) of 144dB, you'll be able to record even the loudest sound sources like kick drums without any distortion. You'll also find the Neumann TLM 102 does a great job recording more complex sounds like the acoustic guitar, distinguishing the variety of frequencies at rapid speed.
Despite being a small microphone at a lower price compared to others from the brand, the Neumann TLM 102 has a big sound that's like no other. The added versatility makes it even more appealing to me. I love using this microphone and I'm certain you will too.
The AKG P220 is a condenser microphone that we don't see too often, but offers high quality, versatility, and all at good price. It has such a distinguising studio look to it, with a large capsule & included spider shock-mount. The sound & capabilities match the look!
What makes the AKG P220 stand out compared to other condenser microphones in the same price range is its versatility. I mostly recommend it for people working with both guitars/brass instruments and vocals, as it does an amazing job with both. It has a massive SPL of 155dB, allowing you to record loud sound sources like guitars without any worry of distortion. On top of that, there is a preattenuation pad offering -20dB to further soften the recorded audio for loud sources.
The level of quality for the sound is just as great as the features. The high sensitivity paired with the wide-range frequency response delivers you rich, milky lows with crisp & clear highs. When working with guitars, I'm able to distinguish each and every sound, from the tingy noise of the string to the full audio sound coming out of the body.
Lastly, the AKG P220 has a rugged all-metal body that can withstand day-to-day use. It's important for long-term use that your microphones are built with solid materials inside & out, and I've owned several P220s for years without issue. It's definitely a very reliable & versatile microphone.
Out of everything on this list, you're looking at the very best condenser microphone we could ever recommend. The Neumann U 87 Ai is the most widely used studio microphone for over 50 years! If you're looking for the highest quality microphone & don't care about the cost, well guess what? You've found it.
You're getting a wide-range frequency response that is perfectly balanced in 3 different polar patterns right off the bat. You'll be able to use omnidirectional, which picks up audio from all sides, cardioid, which picks up audio from the front, & figure-8, which picks up audio from the front & rear. The figure-8 pattern is less common but great for recording duets that feel natural. I worked with a Simon & Garfunkel cover band used this microphone with the figure-8 for their recordings.
The level of versatility is unmatched, mainly due to how well this microphone can adapt to different sounds. I've used it for vocals, guitars, and drums on many occasions. What's exciting is how solid the bass response is, making it effective at accurately replicating sounds recorded from bass & guitar cabinets. Many microphones on this list do a phenomenal job at recording all ranges of frequencies, but none of them can adapt nearly as well as this one.
The Neumann U 87 Ai has low self-noise, moderate SPL, and two more features to add versatility. They offer a low-cut filter for cleaning up the low end on your recordings. They also offer an attenuation pad that "pads" down the microphone's output. This helps prevent distortion when working with loud sound sources like kick drums or guitar cabs. Overall, you're looking at the dream microphone for most studio enthusiasts.
The Blue Yeti X is a classic USB condenser microphone that's become a massive success in recent years. The biggest advantage with this microphone is that it is USB powered (though some models allow XLR connection as well) & still high quality. If you're wondering why you might want to use a USB-powered microphone, keep on reading.
A lot of the options on this list are XLR microphones, also requiring what's known as Phantom Power. This type of powering was specifically developed for condenser microphones that require an active charge. To properly power your microphone, you'll need a preamplifier, which further adds onto the costs for getting your setup right.
The Blue Yeti rectifies this obstacle by functioning as a plug-and-play microphone. You can plug it right into your computer and go! Despite simplifying the process & removing the need for external devices, the Blue Yeti still sounds incredible, making it a popular choice for YouTubers, gamers, and home musicians. The model we've linked to below is their best, but they offer even more affordable alternatives.
To make things even more exciting, there are a lot of useful on-mic functions. These include tap-to-mute so that you can quickly turn off the audio, selectable polar patterns to change where the microphone picks up noise, and gain control. With all these features, the simplified process, and great sound, it's easy to see why the Blue Yeti has been making so much noise in the microphone space.
If you're interested in the best condenser microphone for live vocals, I would hands down recommend using the Sennheiser e965, a popular choice for even the biggest stars. The reality is, we don't often see condensers used for live vocals, as they're more traditionally used in studios with high sensitivity for maximum frequency capture. I was skeptical before using the e965 for the first time, but I love it.
What's inspiring about this microphone is how Sennheiser knew the reality about condenser & dynamic microphones and worked hard to develop a decent on-stage microphone with the vocal-reproduction power of a studio microphone. The e965 offers both a cardioid & super-cardioid pattern to fine-tune that sensitivity in a more directional manner. The super-cardioid feature will better keep the microphone focused on you while blocking out noise from the band.
The engineering used for the capsule shock-mount ensures you can move around on stage without any worry you'll disturb your audio. The microphone itself is highly durable with excellent moisture protection. The Sennheiser e965 has the noise control & durability of a proper live-vocal microphone while bringing in the power & depth of a studio microphone.
Lastly, the e965 offers both a low-cut filter & -10dB pad. The low-cut filter will help reduce low-end ambient noise, including wind & rumbling. The attenuation pad will be perfect for those who find themselves singing way too loudly into their microphones. I worked with a woman who had a booming voice, and once I got this microphone into her hands, we were able to help her voice blend in better. It's an amazing microphone, and it's clear why so many professionals use it.
The Neumann U 67 is one of the most famous vintage microphones, inspired by the earlier model, the U 47. When you hear about modern microphones attempting to imitate the sound of a vintage tube condenser, the U 67 is exactly what sound they're trying to accomplish. It's been used by many famous voices throughout music history, and if you ever have the opportunity to buy one, it's well worth it.
Back in the 1960's, Neumann released the U 67 to replace the U 47. The U 47 used Telefunkens VF 14 tubes, and after those were discontinued, Neumann had to redesign their flagship microphone, as well as adding a new capsule, the K67. The K67 has left a mark in microphone history, which is why many believe the Neumann U 67 is the highest standard for condenser microphones.
A phrase you'll often here in the microphone world is "Neumann Sound". The Neumann Sound was the voice of the 60's, 70's and even today. Every major studio has a Neumann microphone, and just like how you see the U 87 everywhere, the U 67 had the same effect back in the day. It's still a popular choice for those with access to one as the vintage tube sound is unbeatable.
If you're eager to try out the Neumann U 67, they offer a reissued version, which is sonically identical to the original 1960's version. The only big change to the microphone since then include improvements to the power supply, which was necissary for modern safety requirements and also allows the microphone to utilize premium-grade tubes.
Condenser microphones are defined by the internal physical design of the electronics, typically using a lightweight diaphragm suspended by a fixed plate. While you can't make absolute generalizations, it's often the case that condenser microphones will offer superior sound quality. Does this statement beg why you would use a dynamic microphone, then? The answer is that the excellent sound quality comes at a cost, and dynamic microphones are better at eliminating unwanted noises, which is why you see them more commonly for performances, unlike condensers.
Let's talk about the engineering behind condenser microphones. They are susceptible to noise, for starters, due to the remarkably light diaphragm within the condenser capsule. When you're recording audio through a condenser mic, the diaphragm moves relative to the backplate component, creating an electrical signal, which will be your audio input. Imagine you suspended a piece of tissue paper from the ceiling. And now imagine that every time the tissue paper moves, it's recording audio, no matter how small the movement.
That's similar to the sensitivity of a condenser microphone. And because of this, it's a common problem in home studios to pick up a lot of white noise. I often tell people that before you go with a condenser microphone, consider any background noise your home may have, the reverberance (echo) in the room you're choosing to record in, and assess whether you'll be able to shell out any extra cash to mitigate those issues.
It's by no means a deal-breaker, and I don't wish to discourage anybody from looking into a condenser microphone because there are many reasons for their popularity and more ways than one to handle the noise.
The worldwide standard for powering condenser microphones is a Neumann invention known as P48 Phantom Power. (+48V, as you may often see on preamps). Phantom power is found in most preamps, and this requirement is a common difference between dynamic microphones and condenser microphones. That being said, not every condenser microphone requires phantom power. Mainly when talking about desktop & gaming microphones.
By now, you should have a better idea of what you're looking for in terms of condenser microphones. Our list include some of our favorite options at MusicianNerd, in all our years of working with microphones. If you still can't find the microphone for your needs, poke around our site as we cover many different topics. And if you're still struggling, send us an email!
If you go ahead and purchase one of the options on this list, let us know in the comments which one you chose and how it's working out for you! We love hearing the feedback from our audience, as it helps us to enhance our suggestions for future readers further.
Posted on Jan 05, 2022
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