Getting your vocal tracks “right” is essential, and that’s why choosing the best microphone for recording vocals is so important.
Vocals need to shine and be crisp, but they also need to be warm and rich. Finding the best microphone for recording vocals requires you to find an option that meshes well with your voice while still capturing all of its best qualities.
Microphones are a very personal choice in terms of sound quality, so it’s always best to test out multiple options before making a final decision. The best microphone for recording vocals in a home studio is going to depend on the individual. That being said, there are a few common features that most vocal microphones have: Transparent sound, good frequency response, and low noise. This article will go over some of the best microphones for recording vocals at home.
Here are our 9 best microphones for recording vocals in your home studio.
- Shure SM58
- Rode NT1
- Shure SM7B
- AKG C214
- Aston Spirit
- Audio-Technica AT4050
- Warm Audio WA-47
- Neumann TLM 103
- Neumann U87 AI
Here are the top 3 picks that I believe will get you the professional results you are looking for.
This mic is a complete redesign of the classic NT1-A. The Rode NT1 is the perfect microphone for anyone who wants to capture beautiful sound quality. Its large-diaphragm capsule and cardioid polar pattern provide amazing detail and clarity, while its internal capsule shock mounting system ensures that any noise from the mic itself is kept to a minimum. And with its ultra-low noise level of only 4.5dB (A), you can be sure that your recordings will be distortion-free.
The Shure SM7B is the perfect microphone for any singer, broadcaster, or other vocal artists that needs the rich sound quality of a professional mic. This low-mass diaphragm transducer offers all of the functional benefits of other studio microphones, plus excellent shielding against electromagnetic hum generated by computer monitors, neon lights and electric devices. With its cardioid (unidirectional) pickup pattern optimized for close-proximity recording applications like lead vocals and announcers’ mics; you’ll feel confident knowing there’s little risk of picking up background noise even if your subject moves around in front of the transmission area. If you are looking for a “do-all” vocal mic, this is it.
Looking for a microphone with a modern sound and classic Neumann character? Look no further than the TLM 103. With its wide presence boost and authoritative midrange, this cardioid mic is perfect for vocals and solo instruments that demand to stand out in the mix. Plus, its large-diaphragm condenser capsule, derived from the classic U87, ensures smooth, detailed sound reproduction that will make your recordings shine.
What To Look For In The Best Microphone for Recording Vocals
Microphones come in 3 general categories:
- Dynamic Microphones
- Condenser Microphones
- Ribbon Microphones
Each of these types has advantages and disadvantages. You can also find a variety of price points in each category. Not any one of these types of microphones is better than the other, they are just different and are for different applications.
Dynamic microphones are known for their durability and ability to withstand high sound levels. As an added bonus, they also produce warmer recordings than other types of mics because it has less clarity in higher frequencies which make them perfect if you’re looking for more depth on your vocals or instruments instead.
A dynamic mic has a cardioid pattern, meaning that the sound is very focused on its front end. This type of microphone picks up little noise from either side and back, which makes them perfect for home studios where you’re trying to record an acoustic environment with less-than-ideal conditions in place.
Dynamic microphones are the best microphone for recording vocals that are loud, like in rock or rap. They are also more suited for recording vocals for podcasts or broadcasting.
Condenser microphones are complicated and delicate. They have a thin diaphragm that’s positioned in front of metal plates, making them good at capturing the true essence of sound (they’re exceptional even when compared with dynamic mics). The downside: condensers can be damaged easily; this will reduce their life span if you use them often or loudly without taking care of their well-being first.
Condenser microphones come with a variety of polar patterns. They include cardioid, omnidirectional and bidirectional options for all sorts of sound capture needs you might have.
Condenser microphones require an external power source. This is called “phantom” and comes from 48 volts of electricity, which must be sent to them through your audio interface or another device like a soundboard.
Ribbon mics were used a lot in the past before the advent of dynamic and condenser microphones. They use very thin ribbons to capture sound, which results in warm clear sounds that can’t always be replicated by other types.
Ribbon mics have a bidirectional polar pattern so they should be used in a treated room. When used in well-treated rooms, these can produce rich-sounding recordings with that retro vibe you’re going for! For those starting out though I would avoid them as ribbon mic durability is often an issue which means more expensive replacement costs down the road if something goes wrong – not good when we’re just getting started!
Tips for Recording Vocals in Your Home Studio
With whatever mic you choose to buy first, there are some tips that you can use to get the best out of the microphone. These tips will help you to minimize the factors that lead to bad recordings.
Use a Pop Filter
When we speak and sing there are some consonants that create a puff of air from our mouths. These are called “plosives”. The consonants B, P, and T are mainly the worst offenders. These plosives can make your recording sound terrible and amateur. The air makes a huge pop and these pops are almost impossible to remove in editing.
However, using a pop filter will stop these unwanted sounds. They are relatively cheap and easy to install on your mic stand.
Using a pop filter will help you to make cleaner and more professional sounding recordings for sure.
Many 1st-time home studio builders overlook the importance of acoustic treatment in their room. Actually many long-time home studio enthusiasts ignore it too because it is an extra cost that is not as sexy as a new piece of gear.
Honestly, treating your room to get rid of unwanted reverb and bass build-up will drastically change your recordings for the better. Without treatment of some kind, your recordings will have abrasive reverb that you can’t remove.
There are ways to do it on a budget. You can make the panels yourself which will save money. Or you can make a DIY recording booth for really cheap. A recording booth will eliminate the reverb entirely. Either way, I would highly encourage you to put acoustic treatment as a high priority in your home studio.
Here is a tip that doesn’t cost you any money at all! By changing the position of the mic, you can change the sound of the recording drastically. Here are a few quick tips to get a better sound.
First, when you are recording vocals with a condenser mic, position the mic about 6 inches from the singer to start with. Based on the singer and the mic you are using you can move closer or further away to get to that sweet spot. 6 inches is not the rule, it’s the starting point.
Second, make sure you are pointing the mic towards the most absorptive area in your room. This will help to minimize the reverb that comes back into the mic. On cardioid pattern mics the back of the mic is not sensitive and will not pick up as much of the reverb.
When recording an acoustic guitar, you can change the sound of the guitar by where you place the mic. If you want a warmer, more bassy sound, then place the mic where the fretboard meets the soundhole. Consequently, if you want a thinner, more aggressive sound, place the mic closer to the bridge.
Experiment with mic placement in all circumstances. Much of the heartache of fixing a bad recording can be stopped simply by putting the mic in the right place.
Do I Need A Preamp?
In most cases, you are not going to need an external preamp for your home studio. The reason for this is that audio interfaces these days are equipped with pretty good quality preamps. Obviously, some more expensive interfaces will have better preamps, but by and large, the internal preamps will get the job done.
There are 2 reasons why you might want a preamp. The first reason is that you are using dynamic mics that are just not picking up enough through your interface, Then you will want something that will give you the volume you need.
The second reason will be for the sound. External preamps colour the sound of the mic. Many people want the warm, rich sound of a certain preamp and that is totally great. These “good” sounding preamps are expensive so keep that in mind.
9 Best Microphones for Recording Vocals At Home
Here are some of the best mics on the market today so that you don’t have to search around for the answers.
It’s said that if you’ve ever heard someone speak or sing into a live microphone, there’s a good chance it was an SM58. With its iconic grille and world-standard engineering and durability, this legendary mic is sure to keep turning up at legendary performances.
A staple among professionals and musicians, the Shure SM58 gives you a frequency response tailored for vocals with brightened midrange and bass roll-off to control the proximity effect. Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source and reduces background noise. The pneumatic shock-mount system cuts down on handling noise, while an effective built-in spherical wind and the pop filter ensure that high frequencies aren’t overdriven by plosives or pops from your mouth. Its frequency response is tailored for vocals at 50 – 15000 Hz.
Though this is normally a live-performance microphone, it is still well suited for studio applications. For a budget entry into vocal recording, the SM58 is one of the best microphones for recording vocals. Every studio needs at least one of these.
The Rode NT1 is perfect for anyone who wants the classic sound of a vintage microphone with all the modern amenities. This mic exhibits extremely low noise, making it great for detailed midrange response and smooth high frequencies. Plus, the warm, round bass reproduction will make your music sound amazing.
This incredible mic features active electronics and a cardioid polar pattern, making it perfect for capturing vocals, guitars, and other acoustic instruments. With an output impedance of 100Ω and a maximum SPL of 132dB SPL, the NT1 can handle just about anything you throw at it. Plus, its sleek design makes it easy to integrate into any recording setup.
The Rode NT1 has a frequency response that is exceptionally flat allowing for transparent representation of your vocals. It has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20000Hz so you will have all the frequencies present in your recording.
This is a fantastic mic that will be part of your studio for years.
The Shure SM7B is an iconic microphone with a wide range of applications which puts it in the running for the best microphone for recording vocals. Broadcasting, recording vocals for podcasts or music – the microphone captures and enhances fine details without picking up any outside noise.
The Shure SM7B is a top-notch studio microphone with rugged and professional construction. This stylish recording tool has a clean, flat frequency response that delivers exceptionally natural sound when used for speech or music. The wide range of frequencies delivered by the SM7B will render your voice surprisingly warm without picking up any distracting rattles, resonances, or breath noises. There are also controls for bass roll-off and presence boosts so you can tailor the mic to your vocal needs; ensuring that all your words will be heard clearly in almost any situation where sound quality matters. You’ll appreciate this sculptured beauty too: It tidily reduces vibrations and noise transmission thanks to an internal air suspension and shock isolation pack.
It is a great mic to bring warmth to your recordings.
The AKG C214 is not your average microphone. It’s a high-end, versatile mic designed to handle almost every sound thrown at it – vocals, guitars, drums… you name it. Its wide frequency range (20 to 20000 Hz) and ability to withstand high SPLs make the AKG C214 one of the most professional microphones ever created.
The C214 offers a supreme one-inch capsule on an integrated suspension to reduce mechanical noise. A switchable 20dB attenuation pad allows recording of loud sources up to 156dB SPL, while the bass-cut filter reduces the proximity effect for close-up recordings. This combination makes the C214 perfectly suited for capturing audio in any scenario without being too expensive, especially considering its excellent performance.
This all-around mic gives you great vocal recordings and will be essential in all your other recordings as well.
The Aston Spirit is a professional microphone that delivers stunningly natural recordings with the perfect amount of detail in the high range. This switchable pattern design creates transparency unmatched by other condenser microphones, making it one-of-a-kind. With an accurate balance, you can trust for vocals.
The Aston Spirit mic head has a patented wave-form spring head which is not only designed to look great but also to provide unprecedented protection. If your mic’s been knocked or hit, the design allows for damage without compromising its performance. Plus, off-axis rejection ensures you’re recording top-quality audio with all those surrounding noises removed.
Made with an exclusive mesh-knit pop filter built into the wave-form head, these microphones can reduce unwanted plosives at the source – making it a runner for the best microphone you could ever have for crisp sounding vocals.
With its cardioid, Omni, and figure-8 polar patterns, you can choose the perfect setup to achieve the sound you’re looking for. Plus, the 1″ gold evaporated diaphragm ensures premium sound quality with crystal-clear detail and rich resonance. And with a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz and up to 138dB SPL max output, this mic is capable of capturing even the most powerful voices.
Audio-Technica’s AT4050 studio condenser microphone is the perfect way to capture every nuance of your music. Its three switchable polar patterns provide consistent performance in any situation, while its dual large diaphragms deliver high-SPL capability and rich low-end qualities. With its precision-machined baffle and nickel-plated brass acoustic element, the AT4050 provides rock-solid stability and exceptional sensitivity.
This versatile mic boasts transformerless circuitry that virtually eliminates low-frequency distortion while providing signal consistency. With an unsurpassed degree of versatility at hand, you’ll have no trouble capturing pristine vocals thanks to this remarkable microphone’s frequency response of 20 Hz – 18 kHz.
The sound is very transparent because of the flat frequency response. At this price point though, it is outmatched by the Aston Spirit.
The WA-47 is a microphone that any serious professional needed in their arsenal. Whether it be for recording vocals, acoustic instruments, or podcasts, the WA-47 has you covered with unparalleled sound quality and an incredible range of applications.
Looking for an accurate ’47 replica? The Warm Audio WA-47 is modelled after the classic 47. Featuring a custom K47-style capsule, this mic is faithful to the original in sound and construction. Plus, with 9 patterns, 130dBA dynamic range, and a frequency range of 20 Hz-20 kHz, it’s perfect for any recording application.
This is a perfect mic for those who want their vocals to recreate that vintage sound of the 60s and 70s.
The one drawback is the price is not in the budget realm for home studios but the price is worth it for what you get.
Looking for an amazing vocal or instrument mic? Look no further than the Neumann TLM 103. This cardioid mic has a large-diaphragm capsule derived from the classic K67/87 capsule of the legendary U 87, and its voicing is updated for a wide presence boost in the high frequencies. It’s perfect for adding that extra bit of detail to your tracks, making them sound more polished and professional. Plus, with that midrange famous to Neumann mics, you’ll be able to get great recordings every time.
The great thing about the TLM 103 is that it is a professional mic at an affordable price.
Designed with the studio in mind, this mic balances technical performance and low noise floor. With a sensitivity up to 139 dB (SPL), you’ll always get crystal clear audio without needing a pad function. Finally, if you’re using vintage equipment, don’t worry about your recordings sounding distorted; the TLM 103 has been designed to handle vintage gear as well as sounding great even with inexpensive audio interfaces.
If you are looking to upgrade to a real professional vocal mic, this is near the top of the list for the best microphone for recording vocals.
The Neumann U 87 Ai offers an unparalleled degree of flexibility and sonic control. Its three polar patterns—cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-eight—allow you to tailor its sound to your specific needs. Plus, the pad and low-cut options give you even more flexibility in terms of what it can be used for. Whether you’re recording vocals, speech, or instruments, the Neumann U 87 Ai is sure to deliver stellar results.
The Neumann U87 AI is the studio microphone of choice since its warm sound and well-balanced characteristics are unlike any other. Equipped with a dual-diaphragm capsule that can use three directional patterns, the U87 AI gives you 6dB improvement in signal to noise over its successor, plus it has a 10dB attenuation button for your louder singers. Finally, the U87 has an awesome low-frequency response.
You will get absolute clarity and warmth to your vocal tracks. The frequency response is super honest across the spectrum from 20Hz to 20kHz.
The only trade-off is that it carries quite a hefty price tag.
The Bottom Line
A great vocal recording is fundamental to making a track that stands out. It all starts with the vocal mic. Choosing the best microphone for recording vocals is a crucial decision. This article has attempted to make that decision simpler for you.
Our top 3 picks are the Rode NT1, the Shure SM7B, and the Neumann TLM 103. Now some of these mics are rather pricey but don’t worry. We have an article that gives you our picks for the 8 Best Microphones For Home Studios On A Budget so there is something for everyone.