This post will help you choose the best vocal mic among the many options available out there now. As you can see in this list of home recording studio equipment, the microphone is a tool that you can’t be without. Hence, it’s important that you pick the right one since it could make or break your recordings.
For quite a long time already, Shure’s SM58 is considered as the most popular microphone for vocals. Indeed, if you look at the pictures of music artists, chances are most of them are using the SM58.
That isn’t surprising actually, given the microphone’s ergonomic grip, durable build, and feedback resistance. And so, lots of singers use them in and outside of the studio.
Even most pro studios opt for the Shure SM58. You’d think that given their higher budgets, they are unlikely to choose the $100 mic. And yet they do, because it is literally the best bang for the buck.
The Rode brand of mics are considered the cream of the crop of mid-priced microphones for vocals. That explains why the NT1A is in this list, wherein only 2 condenser mics have been included.
In the not-so-expensive-but-not-cheap category, the Rode NT1A is a popular choice for many. The combination of audio quality and competitive price makes it a great first mic for singers worldwide.
The Sennheiser MD421 isn’t exactly known as a vocal microphone. Rather, it is actually regarded as the top all-around dynamic microphone. It’s kind of like the Swiss army knife of recording studios.
It works very well for vocals, that’s for sure. But it’s also great for almost everything else — drums, bass, guitar or what have you. So if you want flexibility, or you can’t afford multiple mics yet, then the Sennheiser MD421 is the one to get.
sE Electronics sE2200a II
I’ll be sticking my neck out on this one. Among the microphones featured here, the sE Electronics sE2200a II is probably the one that will raise eyebrows. It’s not known as a vocal mic after all.
That said, if there’s a must-have type of microphone for all studios, it’s the likes of the sE Electronics sE2200a. Multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser mics are just so flexible, period. They work great for vocals, and they are also indispensable for stereo recording.
The catch, however, is that most of such mics are too expensive. That’s where the sE Electronics sE2200a comes in. Its price is at the low end as far as multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser mics go.
Neumann TLM 102
In the music recording community, some refer to it as the king of vocal microphones. Because for below a thousand bucks,the Neumann TLM 102 is the best that you could possibly get.
If you’ve been into recording for some time now, you probably heard of the Neumann brand already. After all, they have long been considered as the creators of the world’s best mics. And that includes vocal mics.
But as you might have guessed, the catch is the price. Most of their mics cost $3000 and above, except for the TLM series. And among the series’ lineup, the Neumann TLM102 is the most popular.
How to Choose the Best Vocal Mic
Recording vocals is arguably the most difficult task in a studio. Vocalists usually get tired faster and often, their best takes are usually their first ones. And so, it’s important to capture a vocal performance perfectly and early on in a recording session.
This means that in a short stretch of time, you’ll have to decide on which microphone and signal path to use. In this section, we flesh out a strategy for tackling the first of those two decisions.
Know the Types of Microphones
All mics work the same way. When you sing to them, their diaphragm or ribbon vibrates in response to air pressure changes caused by your voice. These vibrations are then transformed into electrical signals, which in turn are amplified to make sound.
But even though they work similarly, mics can be had in a gamut of sizes and shapes. Understanding how each one differs from the other will help you decide which one to get. Basically, you have 3 kinds of mics to choose from, namely: Dynamic, Condenser and Ribbon.
Dynamic mics are often utilized for up close miking situations, as with the case of guitar cabinets and drums. This is because they can handle higher SPL’s (sound pressure levels) and their sound is generally focused more in the middle range.
Condenser microphones (also called capacitor mics), are more responsive to changes in sound pressure. Generally, they also have greater dynamic range or frequency response compared with dynamic microphones. And so, they are often the default option for vocals. For them to work, condenser mics need a source of power referred to as phantom power. It is required to power or polarize the capsule, as well as for powering the integrated preamp.
That said, condenser mics aren’t exactly be all end all. For example, U2’s Bono actually prefers a dynamic mic like the Shure SM58, because it allows him to move freely in the studio as if he’s on stage performing. Whereas condenser mics, being sensitive as they are, might not even be hand held because doing so could produce noise.
As for ribbon microphones, they are kind of like the odd ball for recording studios. Compared to the other two mic types, their tone is usually richer. But they are quite sensitive to changes in SPL, in contrast to dynamic microphones. Meanwhile, they also generally don’t have a condenser mic’s boosted top-end. And so, ribbon mics have to be handled gently since they are intolerant of noise.
Do A Vocal Mic Shootout
Before buying your own vocal mic, it is wise to compare your options with each other. This is best done in a store or a commercial studio. But if that’s too much of an inconvenience, at least check out some videos online like the one below.
Of course, other people’s mic shootout results are more relevant to their voice than to yours. But still, it’s better than not comparing your options at all. You could also try to look for a vocal mic shootout of a singer whose voice is closest to yours.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
So there you go – the best vocal mics among the many choices that you can choose from. To record your voice, you can hook up your microphone to a USB audio interface with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). The mic and audio interface are basic tools – check out other music production equipment if you think they are not enough.