Updated on Nov 20, 2020
Finding the best XLR microphone can be challenging as they dominate most of the market and have such a wide variety of uses. Whether you’re a professional in your industry or an absolute beginner, knowing which microphone works best for what is not an easy task, and the Musician Nerds are here to help you navigate through these waters. Having used hundreds of XLR microphones for home studios, gig tours, podcasts, and alike, we know what makes a microphone good or bad, and every suggestion on this list has been put to the test. Most of them have been owned and used by us for years.
One of our biggest factors in judgment is the price/value ratio of these microphones, so no matter what your budget is, you’re sure to find a great option on this list. We feature a variety that ranges from professional-verified mics to their very best budget-friendly alternatives.
We’ll start by running you through our list of the best XLR microphones, and then we’ll dive into the details. By the end of this, you will have the knowledge required to make an educated purchase.
Out of every microphone on this list, the Shure SM7B is hands down my favorite for anything related to vocals, whether for voice-over, singing, or rapping. I’m not alone in this opinion, as it’s shared by greats such as Michael Jackson, The Breakfast Club, and probably a handful of YouTubers that you watch.
First and foremost, this XLR microphone uses an air suspension shock isolation with a pop filter to eliminate a variety of unwanted noises, from handling to breathing. On top of that, they go a step further by adding an advanced electromagnetic shielding so that the humming from your computers and other electronics are eliminated. And like some others on this list, they use a cardioid polar pattern, allowing your voice to enter, but not the other background noises. It’s safe to say only the best sounds will come through the Shure SM7B!
More importantly, the Shure SM7B produces such an amazing sound, I mean when I first brought it home and hooked it up, I was beside myself. I was replacing a similarly priced microphone with this, but the level of quality made me feel like I got a bargain! This is in part thanks to their mid-range emphasis with bass roll off, giving you a presence boost with a bodied sound. The wide-range frequency response gives your sound the most natural & accurate sound you could ask for, whether singing or speaking.
The Shure SM7B is incredibly versatile and used for popular podcasts, rock vocals, and hip-hop vocals. It does such a great job at bringing the best out of your voice, and I love it. If this is within your budget, I highly recommend you consider it. If it's a bit outside of your price range but sounds like the perfect XLR microphone for you, skip ahead to where we cover the Shure MV7. It was designed as an affordable alternative to this specific mic!
The Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio Mic is one of the absolute best XLR microphones on the market, offering superior performance and sound for both vocal and instrument use. It’s easy to see why this microphone has such a high popularity with all different crowds, from podcasters to home studio aficionados.
The Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio Mic is a side-addressed studio condenser mic, meaning the audio comes in via the openings on the side of its capsule. With a high level of sensitivity, this XLR microphone records your audio with superior accuracy, resulting in a rich, deep, full-bodied sound that is sure to impress you.
The accuracy in recording soundwaves is one of the reasons I used to use two of these microphones for recording acoustic guitar back in the day. Now I have repurposed them as a backup for recording voiceovers & podcasts.
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is custom engineered with a low-mass diaphragm, giving you a wide-range frequency response and a better transient response than other microphones in this price range. It is hands down one of the best microphones, especially for those on a budget. We've also written about the USB Model here.
By the end of this article, you’ll not only learn that I’m a massive fan of Shure, but the reasons behind why. Shure absolutely dominates in both the cheap microphone market and the high end. The Shure SM58 is one of their most popular microphones, and you’ve likely seen it if you frequent live entertainment.
As we’ve discussed in our article Best Microphone For Vocals, the Shure SM58 will be the perfect option for almost all live vocals. You’ll find it brings the best out of your voice thanks to the tailored frequency response with a brightened midrange and bass roll off, creating a fuller sound. While the audio sounds great, it’s also loaded up with features that are necessary when performing live, starting with their cardioid polar pattern. This limits the noise input so it will zero in on your voice and cancel out the rest.
There is also an internal pneumatic shock-mount system that reduces handling noises, such as moving around & bumping your microphone (or the stand it is in). There’s also a built-in spherical wind & pop-filter, which filters out plosives.
The Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone is one of the most popular dynamic microphones for vocal use, especially spoken based applications like podcasts or videos. This is one of my favorite microphones under $100, for the quality and versatility are worth far more in my opinion.
One of the very first features I have to comment on is the USB capabilities this microphone offers, making it one of the most versatile XLR microphones we have on our list. The Audio-Technica AT2005USB is an all-purpose designed microphone, and I can tell you from experience that it works really well for both singing and speaking, though most use it for voice-over purposes.
The rugged design and durability of this microphone offer long-lasting performance. More impressively, this affordable dynamic microphone uses a low-mass diaphragm for amazing frequency response, giving more accuracy to your recordings.
Another feature worth looking at is the headphone jack. This allows you to monitor your audio with ease, with an adjustable volume knob.
It’s easy to see why so many people love this mic. If you’re looking for a cheap microphone that’ll make your spoken voice sound great, then look no further!
The AKG P220 is one of my favorite budget condenser microphones, offering brilliance in how it records your audio, with massive amounts of versatility making it perfect for both vocal and instrument use. From the look to the sound, we’re talking about a full-fledged studio microphone for under $200 offering you everything you’ll need to get started.
For a more affordable condenser microphone, it is incredibly rugged and durable. I’ve owned dozens of studio microphones at this price point, and even some more expensive options feel a lot cheaper than the AKG P220. The visual aesthetics give off a vintage professional vibe, which offers a level of confidence in your product while you’re recording your audio.
Though large, the AKG P220 has a low-mass diaphragm that gives you a wide-range frequency response of 20 – 20000 Hz, which results in highly accurate audio recordings.
You’ll find the overall sound to be warm and clear, perfect for all things including vocals and acoustic guitar. The switchable bass-cut filter & attenuation pad is optimal for loud sound sources, handling sound pressure up to 155dB SPL.
For such a well-priced studio microphone, you’ll get a lot out of it, and it even looks cool. It’s easy to see why it’s many people’s favorite XLR microphones. The fact that it comes with a spider shock-mount and aluminum carrying case certainly helps make it more appealing as well. Definitely give this one a look!
The Marantz Pro MPM1000 is one of the best cheap microphones we have on this list. With studio grade quality at such an affordable cost, it’s easy to see why a lot of people use this microphone for home projects, such as podcasts and video voice overs. This is one of the very few XLR microphones on this list that I had to buy specifically for the purpose of writing a review.
The small price tag is great, but how does this microphone perform? I’ll start by saying it doesn’t offer the best quality in terms of responsiveness or noise-to-signal ratio, but that’s why it’s advertised more for voice-over applications like podcasts. The condenser capsule still utilizes a wide-range frequency response for richer, full sound, with transient response that meets our expectations. The overall output from our recordings were easy to work with in production and sounded better than many others at this price range.
The Marantz Pro MPM1000 uses a cardioid pattern for reducing background noise, which is great for anyone recording at home without a dedicated environment. If you have a playback system while recording, this feature also helps prevent feedback. It sounds great when used in close spaced areas.
The durability seems to be good as well, and the included accessories are way better than I expected for this price. The desktop stand and shock mount are of decent quality, but a happy & welcomed surprise for sure.
If you’re on a budget or just getting started, you should really give the Marantz Pro MPM1000 a try.
The Rode PodMic is one of my favorite podcast microphones, and one of the best XLR microphones made by Rode. The first notable feature that I love is the visual aesthetics, with the look of a more vintage broadcasting microphone that you’d find in a radio show room. As the design hints, this microphone was developed for podcasters and other voice-based applications in mind.
The Rode PodMic is rich in features, helping you obtain the best sound from your recordings. With an internal shockmounting system, the microphone is able to withstand a level of vibrations without corrupting your audio. The air suspension of the capsule itself contributes greatly to this.
On top of that, we get an internal pop filter to minimize plosives. Pair these features with the cardioid pattern and you’ll get a well-controlled sound in your recordings.
What makes the Rode PodMic stand out from some of the other options? The rich, balanced audio it produces offers warm lows with very crisp highs, giving your vocals an impressively professional sound. The wide-range frequency response gives your audio more body & depth, so you sound natural, as if you’re speaking directly to your listeners.
There are too many reasons to check out this microphone, but if you need a great microphone for spoken words, the Rode PodMic is a must.
The Shure PGA48-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone is one of the most affordable options on the market for performers, boasting a tailored microphone cartridge design specifically developed for clarity in speech. If you want an affordable alternative to the Shure SM58, this microphone is certainly the best choice for you.
As we expect from live singing microphones, the Shure PGA48-XLR uses a cardioid pattern to limit background noises. The capsule itself is very well-built with a durable metal protector that can withstand most conditions.
Another cool feature that we don’t always see is the on/off switch. Most of my microphones lack this simple yet effective ability that allows you to cut off all signals through the microphone at the flick of your finger.
The sound the microphone produces is going to impress you for a microphone at this price point. Shure is one of the best companies for getting the most value out of your microphone, and that especially extends to their lower-end models like the Shure PGA48-XLR. If you need a good vocal microphone for under $50, look no further!
The Stellar X2 is a large diaphragm condenser studio microphone that does wonders for any home studio. I just recently acquired this mic for the intentions of reviewing it and have to say it really excels in a number of areas. In my experience, studio microphones under $500 are either really impressive or really disappointing, and so far, I can say the Stellar X2 has shown me its value.
Starting from the inner electronics, the Stellar X2 was built with high quality engineering, offering the best conductivity & performance that we could ask for. Utilizing gold traces & pure brass capsules, this microphone meets professional standards, and it’s no surprise the recordings come out so naturally. There is a slight limitation on the higher end of the frequencies which I worried would give more of an artificial sound, but I found my audio to be just as balanced as I would expect from a condenser.
The low self-noise and high sensitivity produce a strong level of depth in our recordings, and I found the Stellar X2 highly effective for recording both vocals and instruments. It’s definitely one of the smaller brands I’ve worked with, but in the short time I’ve owned this microphone, I must say I’ve been impressed.
The spring shock mount & foam wind cover means this XLR microphone is ready to go as soon as you take it out of the box. If you’re looking for a well-rounded studio microphone at this price range, the Stellar X2 will not fail you.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Shure MV7, an incredibly popular (more affordable) alternative to the Shure SM7B, optimized for vocal use whether singing or speaking, with massive amounts of value. Because of the high cost the Shure SM7B comes in at, they developed the Shure MV7 for those who aren’t quite there yet, though I’ll say it still comes at a cost.
One of the first features that offers massive convenience and flexibility is the option to use either XLR or USB with this microphone, for connecting to both digital and physical audio interfaces. The Shure MV7 was designed specifically with podcasting in mind and comes with the ability to utilize their proprietary software, the SharePlus™ MOTIV app, which is loaded with special features.
The notable features provided by this app allow you to control the tone of your vocals as well as the sensitivity levels, depending on how far you sit away from your microphone. Even cooler is the “Auto Level” feature, which lets the app take the wheel for you! I am a sucker for these types of features and was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the auto mode.
Aside from the cool features, the Shure MV7 sounds absolutely wonderful. While you can custom tune it, I find the mic to excel in the midrange level, with really warm bass tones and crispy highs. As I honestly always expect from Shure, the balance & depth throughout the frequencies of the audio was impeccable, and I highly recommend trying it out for yourself. If it’s within your price range but you can’t stretch to the cost of the Shure SM7B, definitely give this one a look.
The Musician Nerds have worked with microphones in just about every environment you can think of, from on the road to in the studio. The number of XLR microphones I've gone through would amaze you for sure, and as an aficionado, I can confidently say I know quite a lot about the topic.
While I often write about USB microphones as well, I've used many more of the XLR variety, as they're my preferred type for studio and live use. My passion led me from using the cheapest options I could find to working with $1000+ Neumann Microphones, and my explorative nature has helped me learn everything there is to know about the inner workings of these devices.
My only wish now is to help my readers find the best options for their money using the expertise I've dedicated my entire life to.
The Musician Nerds have worked with a massive variety of XLR cables. While a small detail to some, we take our cables very seriously, and if you are on the road a lot, or serious about your studio, then you should too. The right cable can make a massive difference.
The best XLR cable will have the perfect balance between cost, durability, quality, and length. When I was younger, I would go through dozens of cables a year, thinking I was saving money by going after the affordable options. Reality is, a strong cable will last you much longer, making it more affordable in the long run, and may be able to weather outside conditions or handle being flexed in cluttered spaces.
Another factor people don't always consider is that a cheap cable may come with side effects, including electromagnetic humming or buzzing, which can corrupt your audio. This is something I've experienced several times.
If you read our article The Best XLR Cables, we break down some of our favorite options for any budget. Our goal is to make sure you get the most for your money.
You may also be interested in reading about XLR to USB cables, for when you want to plug your XLR microphone into your computer devices. Once again, we focus soley on the best price/value ratio for anyone.
Hopefully you were able to find the best option for your needs on this list. Amongst the choices provided, you'll find the most popular microphones for podcasts & videos, home studios, and live performances. While the Musician Nerds give these mics the seal of approval, a handful of these XLR microphones are used regularly by professionals in those industries.
If you think our list could benefit from another option, you should feel free to email us or comment below. We're always looking to try out new recommendations and add them to our lists! If you disagree with one of our choices, we'd love to debate on it as well!
If you go ahead with one of our recommendations, let us know in the comments below how it's working out for you. Best of luck on your journey!
Posted on Nov 10, 2020
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