The 10 Best XLR Microphones | Musician Nerd

Updated on Mar 14, 2023

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 easy; 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 excellent, and every suggestion on this list has been put to the test. Most of them have been owned and used by us for years.

For those who don't know, XLR stands for External Line Return, and is a type of plug connection, one of the two most common types for microphones, alongside the USB.

One of our most prominent factors in judgment is the price/value ratio of these microphones, so you're sure to find a great option on this list no matter what your budget is. We feature a variety ranging from professional-verified mics to their 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 this end, you will have the knowledge required to make an educated purchase.

The Best XLR Microphones

#1 Recommended

1. Shure SM7B

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.

Shure SM7B Suspended From Stand
Shure SM7B Suspended From Stand

First and foremost, this XLR microphone uses an air suspension shock isolation with a pop filter to eliminate various unwanted noises, from handling to breathing. On top of that, they go a step further by adding advanced electromagnetic shielding so that the humming from your computers and other electronics is 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 this XLR mic!

More importantly, the Shure SM7B produces such a fantastic sound. I was beside myself when I first brought it home and hooked it up. 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.

This microphone is incredibly versatile and used for popular podcasts, rock vocals, hip-hop vocals, and hands down one of the best microphones for YouTube. 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 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!

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Read Our Review: Shure SM7B


2. Audio Technica AT2020

The Audio-Technica AT2020 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 is popular with different crowds, from podcasters to home studio enthusiasts.

Audio Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser XLR Microphone
Audio Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser XLR Microphone

The AT2020 is a side-addressed studio condenser mic, meaning the audio comes in via the openings on the side of its capsule. With high sensitivity, this XLR microphone records your audio with superior accuracy, resulting in a rich, deep, full-bodied sound that will 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.

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Read Our Review: Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser

3. Rode PodMic

The Rode PodMic is one of my favorite podcast microphones, and one of the best XLR microphones made by Rode. The first notable feature I love is the visual aesthetics, with the look of a more vintage broadcasting microphone you'd find in a radio showroom. As the design hints, this microphone was developed with podcasters and other voice-based applications in mind.

Rode PodMic Suspended From Boom Stand
Rode PodMic Suspended From Boom Stand

This microphone is rich in features, helping you obtain the best sound from your recordings. With an internal shock mounting system, the microphone can withstand a level of vibrations without corrupting your audio. The air suspension of the capsule itself contributes significantly 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.

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Read Our Review: Rode PodMic

Shure SM7B Alternative

4. Shure MV7

Last, but certainly not least, is the Shure MV7, an incredibly popular (more affordable) alternative to the SM7B, optimized for vocal use whether singing or speaking, with massive amounts of value. Because of the high cost, they developed the MV7 for those who aren't quite there yet, though I'll be honest, it's still not cheap.

Shure MV7 USB/XLR Microphone
Shure MV7 USB/XLR Microphone

One of the first features offering massive convenience and flexibility is using XLR or USB with this microphone to connect to digital and physical audio interfaces. The MV7 was explicitly designed with podcasts in mind and came with the ability to utilize their proprietary software, the SharePlus™ MOTIV app, which is loaded with unique features.

The notable features provided by this app allow you to control the tone of your vocals and the sensitivity levels, depending on how far you sit away from your microphone. The "Auto Level" feature is even more remarkable, 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 lovely. 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 audio frequencies 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 SM7B, definitely give this one a look.

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Read Our Review: Shure MV7

Best For Guitar

5. AKG P220

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.

AKG P220 Project Studio In Spider Shock Mount
AKG P220 Project Studio In Spider Shock Mount

For a more affordable condenser microphone, it is incredibly rugged and durable. I've owned dozens of studio microphones at this price point, and the P220 exceeds some even more expensive alternatives. 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 warm and clear, perfect for everything. This makes this one of the best microphones for recording 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 microphone. 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!

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Read Our Review: AKG P220

6. Marantz Pro MPM1000

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 many people use this microphone for home projects, such as podcasts and video voiceovers. This is one of the very few XLR microphones on this list that I had to buy specifically to write a review.

Marantz Pro MPM1000 Studio Microphone With Shock Mount
Marantz Pro MPM1000 Studio Microphone With Shock Mount

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 voiceover applications like podcasts. The condenser capsule still utilizes a wide-range frequency response for a richer, full sound, with a transient response that meets our expectations. The overall output from our recordings was easy to work within production and sounded better than many others at this price range.

The 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 also seems to be good, 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.

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7. Shure SM58

By the end of this article, you'll learn that I'm a massive fan of Shure and the reasons behind why. Shure dominates 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.

Shure SM58 Dynamic Vocal Mic
Shure SM58 Dynamic Vocal Mic

The Shure SM58 is a trendy choice 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 excellent, it's also loaded up with necessary features 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.

While there are definitely more high-end options out there for live vocals, the average consumer doesn't need all of what they have to offer. This microphone is a beast and a highly regarded XLR microphone that I couldn’t recommend enough.

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Read Our Review: Shure SM58

Budget Choice

8. Shure PGA48-XLR

The Shure PGA48-XLR 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 SM58, this microphone is certainly the best choice for you.

Shure PGA48-XLR Microphone With Box Contents
Shure PGA48-XLR Microphone With Box Contents

The Shure PGA48-XLR uses a cardioid pattern to limit background noises, as we expect from live singing microphones. 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 this microphone. Look no further if you need a good performance microphone for under $50!

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9. Stellar X2

The Stellar X2 is a large-diaphragm condenser studio microphone that does wonders for any home studio. I recently acquired this mic intending to review it, and have to say it excels in several areas. In my experience, studio microphones under $500 are either really impressive or really disappointing, and so far, I can say the X2 has shown me its value.

Stellar X2 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Stellar X2 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Starting from the internal electronics, the 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 one of the smaller brands I've worked with, but I must say I've been impressed in the short time I've owned this microphone. 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 X2 will not fail you.

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10. Audio Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

The Audio-Technica AT2005USB is one of the most popular dynamic microphones for vocal use, especially spoken based applications. This makes it highly attractive for those in the streaming industry. This is one of my favorite microphones under $100, for the quality and versatility are worth far more, in my opinion.

Vertical Image Of Audio Technica AT2005USB
Vertical Image Of Audio Technica AT2005USB

One of the first features I have to comment on is the USB capabilities this microphone offers, making it one of the most versatile XLR microphones on our list. The Audio-Technica AT2005USB is an all-purpose designed microphone, and I can tell you from experience that it works well for both singing and speaking, though most use it for voiceover 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 fantastic 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 to make your spoken voice sound great, look no further!

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Read Our Review: Audio-Technica AT2005USB


Ranking Factors

Our Expertise

The Musician Nerds have worked with microphones in almost every environment you can imagine, from on the road to the studio. The number of XLR microphones I've gone through would amaze you for sure, and as a specialist, I can confidently say I know quite a lot about the topic.

While I often write about USB microphones, 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.

About XLR Cables

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 be too. The right cable can make a massive difference.

Picture Of Mogami Gold XLR Cable
Picture Of Mogami Gold XLR Cable

The best XLR cable will perfectly balance 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. The reality is a strong cable will last you much longer, making it more affordable in the long run, and you 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.


Hopefully, you were able to find the best option for your needs on this list. Amongst the choices provided, you'll find the best XLR microphones, whether they're used for podcasts, home studios, or 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 also love to debate it!

If you go ahead with one of our recommendations, let us know how it's working out in the comments below. Go make some good music!

Posted on Nov 10, 2020


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