Updated on Mar 23, 2022
If you're in search of the best studio microphones for you, then look no further. Our team at MusicianNerd have compiled a list of the very best choices on the market, whether you're building a home studio on a budget or looking to enhance your professional space. The price ranges on these options vary greatly, so no matter what price range you're looking in, we've got you covered.
When you're trying to get studio-grade audio recordings, the device you're working with plays an essential role. The wants and needs of a studio microphone will change depending on who's using it. The factors that change these needs can be anything from using an instrument instead of your voice, whether you're just speaking, or even the style of vocal music you sing.
You'll find at the bottom of our list is one of the most legendary microphones ever created, the Neumann U 67. While the Neumann U 47 gets a lot of hype on the vintage market, the U 67 was a big step for Neumann in technical design, and the reissued version is almost identical. However, we didn't pick it for our top two choices due to the popularity of the U 87 AI MT, and the affordability of the TLM 102. We're now going to dive into the list of our favorite options, and then we'll go deeper into each microphone. Afterward, we'll talk more about what makes a good studio microphone and what's right for you.
The Neumann U 87 is easily the best studio microphone on the common market, although the best may have to go to our vintage choice (and it's older brother), the Neumann U 67. It's worth mentioning, however, that it is quite expensive, though not as expensive as the U 67. If you find this is way outside of your budget, our 2nd choice, the Neumann TLM 102 is much more affordable, being one of the only Neumanns under $1000.
Neumann is a leading brand in the microphone space, and the U 87 has been the most widely used studio microphone for over 50 years. The cost is undoubtedly justifiable for those in the more professional space, from the sound quality down to the materials being used. I've enjoyed using it in many different studios, and I'm excited to tell you all about it.
Introduced in 1967, the U 87 has been used on many hit records we know and love. To this day, you're still likely hearing new music on the radio that was recorded behind this legend. This large-diaphragm condenser microphone has a tapered body and iconic headgrille representing a proper studio mic. The level of clarity, the balance of sounds, and true versatility are just part of what makes the U 87 so special.
One of the first things that stood out to me when I worked with this microphone was how incredibly flat the frequency response is. Yet, it sounds right. Recording a vocal session with this Neumann legend for the first time made me feel like I was in the majors. The authenticity of the lower frequencies, carrying powerful warm sound and crisp highs while maintaining a strong vocal presence, is remarkable.
The Neumann U 87 A offers three polar patterns; Omnidirectional, Cardioid & Figure-8. A switchable low cut and attenuation pad provides more versatility when working with instruments. And as we expect from studio microphones, the self-noise level is deficient. I could list all the facts here for you, but instead, let me tell you the one undeniable truth; If you get the chance to use this microphone, you'll never want to use anything else again.
The Neumann TLM 102 is by far one of my favorite studio microphones to use. Many of you may know that Neumann is a leading brand for microphones, often found inside those big and fancy recording studios in the city. The sheer quality they offer would almost be surprising if they didn't come at such a high cost. We chose the TLM 102 as our best overall choice as it's one of the more affordable Neumann microphones.
I want to point out that this is a very versatile microphone right off the bat. It can be used for both vocals and instruments. The Neumann TLM 102 has a SPL (Sound Pressure Level) of 144dB, processing even the loudest sound sources with great clarity. In their own words, they say you can record the sound of a very loud trumpet from just a few centimeters away without distortion!
In terms of the sound reproduction, you'll be pleased to know that this microphone offers the best sound. I'm always blown away by the depth of the audio from this mic, with top-notch vocal presence. The wide-range frequency response gives a very clean sound to the highs with a powerful bass transmission down to the lowest frequencies.
Whether you're looking to build a new home studio, or resupplying for a professional one, the Nuemann TLM 102 is a fantastic choice for your money. It may be one of the more pricey options on this list, but the balance between cost and quality is one of the best I've ever seen.
If you've read some of my previous work, you'd know the Rode NT1 was the first microphone I ever bought. When I was younger, I was ecstatic to get up and running with a more studio-grade microphone, and it came at a reasonable cost. Something prevalent with studio mics is that it comes with a shock mount and pop filter. If you're unfamiliar with those, the shock mount will help absorb any vibrations from your microphone or stand, while the pop filter will eliminate any clipping from more wind-heavy syllables such as Ps and B's.
The Rode NT1 boasts a large diaphragm 1" gold-sputtered capsule, with an ultra-low self-noise of only 4.5dB. The microphone itself is durable, with a rigid build that can survive more than a few drops. One of the first things I look for with music equipment is how strong the materials are on the outside, which indicates a lot about their overall development process.
The sound of the Rode NT1 is a step up from the more budget-ranged microphones. The wide-range frequency response does an incredible job at picking up the full range of your audio. The transducer within the microphone is suspended using Rycote's industry-leading Lyre system. This adds another noise elimination level, ensuring your audio is pure.
Furthermore, the quality of the internal electronics is right on par with what we want from a microphone at this price. It's just another reason the audio sounds so good when working with the Rode NT1. For those looking for a versatile option, you'll find the SPL of 132dB allows you to record other instruments as well as your vocals. Overall a great purchase!
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is the best studio microphone for those on a budget. Audio-Technica is an excellent brand for those trying to save some money and has put a corner on that market. Whether you're looking to record vocals, instruments, or even your next podcast, the AT2020 will be more than enough for you. The side-addressed condenser does a great job giving it the studio look for a microphone in this price range.
As we expect for something studio-grade, the sound balance is perfect. The lows stay warm while the highs shine, with a strong presence in the mid-range. The cardioid polar pattern helps isolate your voice by reducing pickup of sounds from the sides and rears.
As we said before, it's a highly versatile microphone. With a high SPL, you'll be able to record the guitar, drums, and even brass instruments. I've used the AT2020 on many occasions for part of my acoustic guitar setup, and it does a phenomenal job. For many people, especially those in a band, to find a microphone that can serve multiple purposes, the AT2020 does that.
The first thing I want to really emphasize here is the ratio between price and performance. We chose this as our budget option because you really can't get a better studio microphone at this price. It's really just a small step below some of the more expensive microphones out there, and easily worth the money.
The Shure SM7B is one of my favorite microphones of all time, and while it's not suited for everyone, it can make an incredible studio microphone. Right off the bat, I'm going to say this microphone is best suited for vocals, especially rap, pop, and rock vocals. If you recognize this one, it's because you see it in podcasts, including the Breakfast Club, where they demonstrate how powerful this microphone is.
What you may not have known, however, is that the Shure SM7B was also used on Michael Jackson's Thriller Album, one of the most famous records of all time. The solid vocal emphasis this microphone offers stems from their focus on their smooth, flat, wide-range frequency-producing cartridge. What you're getting is a clean & raw vocal reproduction that sounds like you're in the room with the listener.
As a dynamic cardioid microphone, the Shure SM7B does a stellar job at eliminating background noise and only focusing on what matters. The off-axis rejection keeps the audio streamlined to your voice, while the air suspension shock isolation and pop filter eliminate both mechanical noises and breathiness.
The best part is the versatility of how you use this microphone. As we said already, it's one of the most popular podcast mics on the market, and can also be used for streaming and gaming. It will always be one of my favorite microphones and well worth the money.
The Blue Yeti wouldn't be my first choice, but it can make for a good studio microphone. The two most significant advantages are the low cost & USB compatibility. This is another microphone you may have seen from time to time, as it pops up on newer YouTube channels and podcasts frequently. This microphone emphasizes low-cost while still offering a fair amount of studio quality.
As a USB microphone, the Blue Yeti is completely plug-and-play. You can hook it up to your computer and hit record; it's just that easy. The other microphones on this list use XLR connections (although the AT2020 has a USB version), and most require Phantom Power to activate. This means you may have to invest more money into preamplifiers, which do have their advantage. However, for the newcomer who doesn't have a lot to spare, it's a great expense to push off.
One of my favorite features of the Blue Yeti is the multiple pattern modes. As we've mentioned on some of the other microphones, Cardioid patterns do an excellent job eliminating background noise by only taking audio in through the front of the microphone. They also offer a stereo mode, omnidirectional mode, and bidirectional mode, which are unique. These options give you complete versatility for whatever you're trying to record.
And lastly, the Blue Yeti does sound good. Of course it isn't as great as the more expensive microphones on this list, but it's still worth the money, and for the extra features and on-mic functions, you're getting a good deal. This, along with the AT2020, is one of my favorite studio microphones for those just getting started.
The Tonor USB is one of the best studio microphones for those on a really tight budget. As I've said, the AT2020 & Blue Yeti are my two recommendations for budget mics, but I understand not everyone can stretch their wallets that far. If that sounds like you, I can personally guarantee the Tonor USB will be your next best bet.
As we mentioned with the Blue Yeti, having USB compatibility gives you the advantage of plug-and-play without the extra equipment costs. I've known many people to use this microphone for various activities, from gaming to YouTube and even Tik Tok videos. We're currently in the worldwide pandemic as I'm writing this, and I've even noticed colleagues using the Tonor USB in zoom meetings.
However, we're here to talk about studio microphones. It might not be as powerful as some of the other microphones on this list, but the Tonor USB will definitely feel like a big step up from using your phone or laptop to record audio. I would really only recommend it for vocals, whether you're singing, rapping, or even doing voice-overs.
The Tonor USB offers anti-vibration by using an upgraded & concealed shock mount, reducing noise from something moving near the microphone. It also comes with a pop filter, which helps eliminate plosive noises, which are breaks in the wind from certain syllables like your P's and B's. Overall, it's my preferred choice for a mic under $50.
The Neumann U 67 is one of the most legendary vintage microphones on the market. While the original edition cannot be found in most retailers, Neumann was kind enough to release a reissued version of this gorgeous microphone, and I've been lucky enough to try it out myself. If you want the best classic sound, this one's a must.
Back in the 1960s Neumann released the U 67 to replace the U 47. The U 47 was developed using Telefunkens famous VF 14 tubes, and after they discontinued this line, Neumann needed a change. After redeveloping the tube, they decided to reengineer the microphone from the ground up, with a new capsule, known as the K67, a new amplifier, and a new head basket design.
Now let me tell you, one of the biggest marks left in microphone history is the K67 capsule. It's a big reason why the Neumann U 67 is the benchmark for studio microphones. It offers the most legendary sound that has been trusted by music's greatest legends for decades. Whether you're going with the U 87 or the TLM 102, or even another company's high-end studio microphone, you'd best believe they're influenced by the U 67, which defines the Neumann sound.
The Neumann U 67 helped advance technology by offering the ability for new techniques such as "close miking". If you're as interested as I was, the collector's edition is a fine way to go. Sonically it's the same as the original U 67, and the capsule and electronic design haven't been touched. They did make a few technical improvements such as the power supply to meet modern-day safety requirements.
When setting up a home studio, choosing the proper microphone(s) is easily one of the essential pieces. Aside from choosing an excellent audio recording device or DAW (digital audio workstation), I would argue the microphone is the most important. But how do you decide which one? After all, there's a couple of different kinds, each of which come in different shapes and sizes. There's so much terminology involved with each one that it's pretty easy to get confused.
You need to consider two other significant factors your budget and what you're planning to record. The use case for your recordings will play a pretty substantial role in which microphone you choose. If you're doing voiceovers, YouTube videos, or maybe a Podcast, your perfect mic may be different than, say, an opera singer. Maybe you're recording guitar, and having a versatile mic for both instruments and vocals is essential to you.
Also important to remember is many (but not all) condenser microphones will require a preamplifier, so if you're starting with a smaller budget, this is something to consider seriously. Like the Blue Yeti, some microphones allow you to use a USB connection, although, for those who still want the XLR, the Blue Yeti X offers both.
Many factors go into picking out the perfect microphone for your home studio. We love condenser microphones for their wide-frequency response and superior transient response, as they give us a level of depth and accuracy on the sound waves that result in the purest, natural, and raw audio we could ask for. But sometimes, going with a dynamic microphone is a great choice, too, especially the Shure SM7B.
By now, you should have an idea about which studio microphone is right for you. No matter what you're trying to record, our goal is to make sure you find a good microphone for the right price. When it comes to using instruments, you may need to invest in more than one, which is an important consideration to bear in mind. Our article about recording the acoustic guitar highlights some of those situations.
If you decide to purchase a microphone in this list, let us know which one you picked and how it's working out for you! We value your feedback, allowing us to enhance the article for future readers further. If you believe we're missing an important choice, let us know, and we'll look into it.
Posted on Jan 05, 2022
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