Love singing? But recording at home kinda sucks…right? Making music can be one of the most expensive hobbies in the world. Even for Skype, or Hangouts, or you are working from home you need to have a good microphone. Your computer may have one microphone but it’s not that debatable in terms of voice quality, hertz, etc. When you are looking to build your own home studio, it’s hard to find one of the best microphones without ending up with a terrible sound in the budget. Finding good recording mics at a great price seems next to impossible, especially when you have a fixed budget. Here we have a list of the best vocal mics under $1000.
Dynamic vs Condenser Mics
Anyone who goes shopping for microphones can expect to find plenty of people debating back and forth on whether dynamic or condenser microphones are better. While dynamic mics don’t need an exterior power supply the same way that condenser mics do, their sound quality is generally not as good. Condenser mics offer a better frequency response, but they can’t handle high sound pressures. That’s why pretty much every punk band on the planet carries a set of dynamic vocal microphones with them to shows.
Dynamic microphones are also able to hold up more to physical abuse. They’re less mechanically complex than condenser mics, which means there’s less to go wrong. Neither is an all-around better option, however. Dynamic mics are generally better if you’re going to record other sounds in addition to your voice. Condenser models are better for general podcasting and the like.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Vocal Mic
Some designs are made to be vocal recording microphones from the start. Others are shifted more toward the frequencies generated by a musical instrument. In most instances, you’ll want something that boosts frequencies around 5 kHz. Attenuation of frequencies below 100 Hz and above 10 kHz is important to prevent noise. This is especially true of condenser vocal microphones.
Even though it’s not a technical specification, the price of your chosen mic is very important. Set an upper limit as to how much you’re willing to spend. Keep in mind that nothing lasts forever, so you’ll want to consider replacement costs too. You may want to shave a little off your top boundary in order to save money for cables.
An overwhelming majority of microphones accept sound from all directions. Some of the better ones only offer one-way listening, which makes it easier to avoid irrelevant noise coming from one direction. You’ll want to check the sensitivity pattern if you plan on setting up your own booth.
The sound pressure level is usually expressed in terms of decibels (dBs). This metric describes the maximum volume that a microphone can handle. A few of the top recording microphones allow you to adjust this level to some degree. You usually want one that’s not too loud unless you’re also going to be recording instruments as well.
Best Dynamic Mics Under $1000
Rode Procaster Dynamic Vocal Microphone
• Tailored for voice frequency response
• Offers a tight polar pattern
• Only comes with a ⅜ inch adapter
• Doesn’t come with XLR cables
Vocal recording microphones usually come in one of two varieties. Some mics are clearly designed for studio usage, and many of these find their way into radio station booths and the like. Others, like the Rode Procaster, are clearly designed for computer interfaces. For a dynamic mic, it offers an even frequency response.
While the cost of a third-party audio cord will raise the price a bit, the Procaster is otherwise affordable. At nearly 2 lbs., it’s one of the heavier models on the market so it won’t slip out of your hand even if you plan to do a back-and-forth style interview. By adding several decibels of gain, the Procaster should give a professional feel to any podcast or social video. On the downside, you’ll probably want to do a little post-processing of any recording you make with it before posting them.
Telefunken USA Custom Shop M80
• Extremely thin capsule membrane is also durable
• Suitable for instruments, including drums, as well as voice
• Fairly large frequency response
• Not all kits come with a microphone clip
• Requires an audio interface
If the style is every bit as important to you as substance, then you’ll love Telefunken’s revamped M80. It offers a chrome finish that looks equally good on stage as it does in your home studio. It’s not just about good looks, however. The M80 doesn’t suffer from upper midrange feedback, unlike most similar designs. On top of that, it provides more than enough strength as a result of some beefy yet passive onboard electronics. As far as dynamic mics go, the M80 has very nice EQ and sound color levels. As a result, you’ll never hear the kind of honking noises that some people complain about when using mics that are as physically thin as this one.
While you’ll need an audio interface if you plan on recording anything to a computer or phone, the M80 does support a number of protocols once you have one. You’ll be able to transfer sound over USB, Firewire, or generic IEEE-1394 ports. That’s not bad for a microphone in this price class.
Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone
• Internal shock isolation system eliminates noise
• Great bass response
• Comes with detachable windscreen
• Some users have to boost trim and gain
• May record at a lower volume than other mics
While Shure released the original SM7B over a decade ago, they’ve more recently updated it with a detachable windscreen and some other overall build quality improvements. Many audiophiles have flocked to various versions of this mic over the years, and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop anytime soon. The frequency response is among the best as far as dynamic microphones go, and it’s shielded against electromagnetic hums caused by line voltage. It’s also very affordable compared to many other microphones, which should help to continue to attract fans to it for years to come.
The included yoke mounting bar fits an included captive stand nut, so you can position the mic at nearly any angle. On the negative side, this is a slightly quiet mic so you might need to turn up the volume while recording. That being said, some vocalists might consider that a plus. The SM7B will never bleed over as a result, and it won’t pick up noise.
MXL BCD-1 Dynamic Mic
• Tuned grill improves pattern and reduces noise
• Very inexpensive
• Frequency response is slightly aligned to the treble end of the spectrum
For a microphone in its price range, the MXL BCD-1 actually comes with quite a bit. It features an onboard shock-mount and an included swivel. The cardioid polar pattern is good for interior studios, and the -54 dB re 1 V/Pa sensitivity is among the best as far as less expensive mics are concerned. While its 600Ω impedance figures might look a little odd, it should be able to interface with more conventional equipment fairly well.
Clocking in at only slightly over 6 inches long and 1.25 lbs. in weight, the BCD-1 is quite small. Considering that the designers wanted it to be portable, however, this works out well. If you’re just getting started out and you prefer dynamics to condenser vocal microphones, then the BCD-1 deserves a look.
Best Diaphragm Condenser Mics Under $1000
Neumann TLM 102 MT Cardioid
• Very high maximum sound pressure that tops out around 144 dB
• Offers a presence boost that kicks in above 6 kHz
• Includes onboard pressure gradient transducer
• Doesn’t come with a shock mount
• Physically small at less than 10 inches
Some topics sharply divide people into one of two groups. There are some who consider the TML 102 MT to be dated. Neumann hasn’t changed anything about the production in years. On the other hand, it has droves of raving fans who consider it the best diaphragm condenser on the market. With one of the highest sound pressures out there, it certainly offers excellent recordings. A number of top online notables use them, which should say more than enough.
On top of this, they have a cardioid directional pattern that picks up voices anywhere in the room. It’s so sensitive, though, that it’s easy to filter out any ambient noise you pick up. Prices have dropped considerably since the 102 got released, which makes this a better time to buy one than at any other point in the past. While some people might complain about the size, this actually makes it quite portable. Overall, it’s a studio-quality mic at a fraction of the price.
Fortunately, Neumann has recently started packaging this microphone in a new kit that includes a shock mount, though they don’t give the good discounts on that set that they do on their flagship product by itself.
CAD Audio Equitek E300S
• Features an Externally-biased condenser
• Huge 20Hz-18kHz frequency response
• Needs a power adapter
• Rechargeable NiMH batteries can sometimes wear out
While you might see the E300S used for voice-overs on a regular basis, this microphone is clearly the choice of many musicians. It comes with an elastic shock mount and a carrying case. This has made it attractive to traveling acts, but that doesn’t mean it’s not equally as useful online.
Since it features an externally biased diaphragm capsule, it provides great vocals. Three different polar patterns allow you to adjust balance however you want. It includes an onboard hi-pass filter and an attenuation circuit. This makes it easy to cut out background noise when podcasting or shooting your own YouTube videos.
E300S microphones are sensitive down to -34dBV and offer a 220Ω impedance. This puts them squarely in the professional sector. Nevertheless, they’re fairly affordable compared to many comparable models. If you’re looking to record a wide range of sounds, then this is an excellent choice.
Apogee Hype Mic
• Features a high-quality analog compressor
• Records digital audio up to 24 bits
• Only designed to work with digital technology
Apogee has been known for making some of the flashiest computer audio accessories on the market for a few years now. The Hype Mic is the latest in a long line of similar microphones. It’s one of the best if you plan on recording voice-overs directly to MP3, MP4, or AVI files. It natively supports all these and many other formats.
Each Hype unit comes with its own tripod stand, hard case, and pop filter. This makes it extremely portable, which makes sense considering that it comes with USB adapters that also work with smartphones and tablets. Digital frequency response numbers are somewhere around 96 kHz, and that’s really impressive considering that the Hype doesn’t cost that much in the grand scheme of things.
Headphone output jacks make performing mic checks a breeze. Make no mistake, though. The Hype Mic is designed only with digital technology in mind. If you’re looking for a traditional experience, then it’s not for you. Those who have their eye on innovation, though, will certainly appreciate the many sophisticated features it has to offer.
Shure KSM44A/SL Diaphragm Microphone
• Best-in-class specifications, including a 127 dB total dynamic range
• Lowest harmonic values, with around 4 dB of self-noise
• Only sold in multiple packs
• At the upper end of the price range
If you absolutely demand performance, then the Shure KSM44A/SL is for you. This multi-pattern side-address studio mic is among the best on the market, yet it still manages to just skirt the pricing ceiling. It features dual 1 inch externally biased 2.5 µm diaphragms made of 24 karat gold. These provide an incredible frequency response you can’t get anywhere else.
Add to this the premium electronics these microphones are made from and you have yourself a winner. Each internal connector and external jack receives individual gold-plating by the manufacturer. It even includes a subsonic filter that can eliminate mechanical vibrations below a 17 Hz noise floor. Unfortunately, you won’t usually find them for sale by themselves.
As we said before, it’s not really fair to compare dynamic and condenser mics against each other, since they’re designed very differently. If you’d prefer a dynamic one, then it’s hard to go wrong with the time-tested Shure SM7B. It’s comparatively affordable, and many people have it listed among their personal top recording microphones. Take a closer look at some of your favorite acts. There’s a good chance that at least some of them are using one of these.
Those who are more a fan of condenser mics might want to try the Apogee Hype if they’re in the mood for something that will interface with their favorite digital audio package right out of the box. It’s an excellent choice for anyone who doesn’t want to mess with audio cables, and the frequency response is quite good. Higher-end users who don’t mind paying a premium, though, will want to take a closer look at the KSM44A/SL. It’s one of the better microphones of either type currently on the market. Keep in mind that any of the units that made this list are a solid pick no matter what kind of recording you’re doing, however.