Microphones are a necessary but misunderstood tool in the arsenal of a producer. It’s a common misconception that microphones have to be expensive to be good. Don’t get bogged down by the hefty price tag on some “first-rate” microphones; you can get more than your money’s worth with one of these sweet mics that we’ve selected from a variety of budget-friendly options. Their sonic qualities range from transparent, to crunchy and distinctive. We’re sure you’ll find at least one that fits your personal needs.
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Audio-Technica has been making microphones for over 40 years. Their microphones are known for esteemed quality, durability, and efficacy. Audio-Technica is also renown for supplying microphones for the Grammy Awards for the last 10 years, as well as imparting recording solutions for popular television shows. It’s safe to say you’re in good hands with their products.
Their acclaimed AT2020 is an excellently priced multipurpose microphone. It excels at capturing vocals and string instruments, but can be used for just about anything. However, it does require a phantom-powered XLR input, which is mostly standard on modern home recording audio interfaces. For those of you still without an audio interface, we highly recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which we reviewed last year.
This mic is most suitable for vocals, acoustics, amps or brass.
Blue Yeti USB Multipattern Condenser Microphone
Founded somewhat recently in 1995, Blue Microphones has been making waves across the spectrum of modern microphones. They are perhaps most famous for designing and manufacturing popular and well-liked USB microphones.
Blue’s awesome microphone, Yeti, is an excellent budget multipattern USB microphone. It doesn’t require any software and features 3 condenser capsules. It also boasts four different pattern selections: cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo, for all your recording needs. The Yeti was also the first THX certified microphone, an impressive feat for such an affordable tool! Yeti provides great sound at a reasonable price with minimal fuss. It’s optimal for recording vocals, musical instruments, podcasting, voiceovers, interviews, field recordings, and Skype/conference calls.
MXL 990 Condenser Microphone
MXL is a popular leading manufacturer of professional audio products. Their affordably awesome 990 has a distinct unpredictable sonic character, aesthetically-appealing style, and a memorable champagne finish. We think it’s well worth the price. It also includes a custom shock mount, mic stand adapter, and case. This is a nice bonus, as most microphones in this price range do not include a case or mount. It requires phantom power, like the AT2020.
We recommend the 990 to any vocally-oriented musician. It has a gritty, muddy, and distinct character that’s perfect for crispy vocals or electric guitar.
Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
The Shure SM57 is a crucial facet of the history of microphones. This famed mic is used by legendary performers, home musicians, and the latest stars alike. You may not realize the innumerable amount of SM57s at work behind the scenes of professional recording studios and around the world. In fact, you’ll in all likelihood find it in more studios than any other mic.
If you want a microphone that doesn’t pick up unwanted noise but is great for recording instruments, this is your mic. It works best for loud instruments though, such as guitars, speakers, and drums. It’s not really a vocal mic, but Shure offers another model (the SM58) for those purposes. Both are the same practical price- hell, buy both and you’re probably set for years, provided that you have a decent space to record in.
Sennheiser E835 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone
If you want a transparent dynamic microphone for vocals, the E835 may be the best option for you on our list. Unlike the MXL 990, the E835 delivers consistent, reliable results with microphones renowned for their clarity, projection and dependable on-axis/off-axis response.
This microphone speaks of quality and durability in your hand; it’s obviously well-built and comfortably heavy. The quiet handling noise is also excellent for those of you using this as a handheld microphone. The frequency response of the E835 drops down to 40Hz, making it an excellent choice as an instrument mic as well. It has clean, clear sound, excellent response, yet stellar handling noise rejection, and is forgiving but transparent. Many musicians swear by this mic for their vocal recording needs.
What’s your experience making inexpensive gear work in the studio? Let DMNW know in the comments below!