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Pass the Mic: Best Vocal Mic for Rappers

There may not be a genre where microphone choice is more important in relation to the human voice when it comes to clarity beyond the dynamic range than rap and hiphop. Though not all microphones are created equally, a muddy vocal in rap or hiphop equates to the value of the genre being mostly lost on deaf ears.



Characteristics of the Best Vocal Mic for Rappers

The type of microphone is important

Most of the microphones mentioned below are condenser microphones, as it is well known that a large-diaphram condenser microphone are a great choice when it comes to recording rap vocals. There are exceptions to the rule however, like the Shure SM7. For the most part, dynamic microphones are better for performing, and these microphones were picked for their response pattern for the different type of rappers.

What’s the key to picking the correct microphone?

The key to picking the correct microphone lays within knowing the type of voices you will be working with, and even more ideally the exact type of voice you’re working with. Does the rapper you’ll be working with have a really deep tone, are they an aggressive spitfire rapper, will they be mumbling, will they flow with a singsong type style, will their dynamics run the spectrum? These are all questions to ask yourself long before the session has begun, and if this is going to be your first outing buying a mic or even just a long-term collaboration, these questions should be thought of before you hit your local or digital music retailer.

Though no one mic can be all things to any one man, woman or otherwise, the microphones in this list are the best vocal microphones for rappers:

The top 7 microphones for recording rap in 2018 

Price Range Microphone Picture Feature
Best Under $200 RODE NT1-A RODE NT1-A Great for those that won’t be using an EQ
Best Under $400 Shure SM7B SHURE SM7B Given you have an EQ and a great audio engineer on your team, this is the best microphone to get you that professional sound at an affordable rate
Best Under $500 Electro-Voice RE20 ELECTRO-VOICE RE20 more aggressive flows, and it’s dynamic range mixed
Best Under $700 Neumann TLM 102MT/TLM 103 Neumann TLM 102 Rappers that like their mics to be able to hear a pin hit the carpet.
Best Under $4000 Neumann U87 AI Mic with a very smooth bump for presence, and no-self-noise to worry about.
Best Under $9000 Telefunken U47 Telefunken U471 A microhpone with transparency across all of its polar patterns.
Best Under $10,000 Sony C-800G Includes a heat sync faceted to the microphone to keep the internal tube at the optimal recording temperature

Best Microphones for Rappers: Top Picks


RODE NT1-A Condenser Microphone

Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package

Many a bedroom producers first mic, the Rode NT1-A, is a versatile yet affordable mic that comes packaged with everything you need in the form of a shock mount, cabling, and a metallic mesh pop filter. In comparison to it’s newer counterpart, the RODE NT1 (which is priced at about $250), the NT1-A’s frequency response gives users brighter and airier feel by including a few bumps in the low end and the mid to high range, which both adds presence and coloration that the Rode NT1 does not with its virtually flat frequency response that waterfalls in the mid to high range.

Though having your vocals immediately cut through may seem like a blessing, the Rode NT1-A is more ideal for someone who won’t be carving their sound exactly to their own taste with their favorite EQ.

Features

      • Type: Condenser
      • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
      • Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz
      • Pad: No
      • Presence Boost: No
      • HPF: No

Shure SM7B Compressor Microphone

Used by Logic

“I have my [Shure] SM7, my compressor and EQ, and my Apollo and that’s all I need to make an album” – Logic
sm7bShure’s SM7B is one of my favorite general purposes studio microphones because it gives precise reproductions without being overly sibilant. Originally created as a broadcast microphone, the transformerless SM7B lends itself to the art of spoken word, unintentionally making it one of the perfect budget microphones. This the pragmatic dynamic cardioid microphone comes on a yoke mount that allows for pretty exact mic placement which is great for its unusual cone shaped style, which also brings us to the main issue with the SM7B.

The biggest issue with the SM7B is what happens when the proximity effect is taken into account. Though the SM7B’s humbucking [ or for the newbs moving] coil can deal with a higher SPL, the proximity effect states that the closer a sound source is, the more bass frequencies will be heard, which can cause a loss in clarity. To make matters worse for the proximity effect, the mic’s sensitivity is pretty low, so this might not be a mumble rapper’s best friend unless he mumbles really loud. To combat both of these issues, the SM7B includes switches for both HPF and Presence.

Features

    • Polar Pattern: Cardioid (unidirectional)
    • Freq response: 50 to 20,000 Hz
    • Type: Dynamic
    • Pad: No
    • Presence Boost: Yes
    • HPF: Yes

Electro-Voice RE20

RE20
RE20
Used by Kendrick Lamar on DAMN

Electro-Voice’s RE20 is a mic so specific that I would recommend using it conjunction with something else simply because it’s unique tone and styling and features may be more than you bargained for. The second microphone on the list that is meant for broadcast is also a uniquely shaped large-diaphragm dynamic microphone but excels where the previous fails.

Built around Electro-Voice’s patented Variable D technology that EV includes in all of their mics, the proximity effect doesn’t affect this microphone. Unlike it’s cheaper competitor, the RE20 is not transformerless nor does it include a presence boost, though an HPF is still included. This mic is the consummate announcer mic, so it works best on more aggressive flows, and it’s dynamic range mixed with the Variable D technology allows it to get up close and personal with your rapper.

Features

    • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
    • Freq response: 45 – 18,000 Hz
    • Type: Large-diaphragm Dynamic
    • Pad: No
    • Presence Boost: No
    • HPF: Yes

Neumann TLM 102MT

Used by Noah “40” Shabib for Drake’s control room vocals.

Everyone in music knows the name Neumann, and though they make another appearance in this list, rather than going for the expected TLM 103, I’m going to recommend the TLM 102 due to a few key factors, the price being one of them. Both the TLM 102 and 103 can hear a pin drop in carpet, so this isn’t for your rapper who has on chains, this is for your soft-spoken giants and the calmer of your collaborators.

One key differentiator between the two mics are their response curves, where the TLM 102 has adjustments for presence starting at about 5kHz and dropping at 15kHz, the presence boost in the TLM 103 has a noticeable boost that starts at about 4kHz and stays almost constant until 17kHz which could become extremely annoying for anything sibilant moments for any quiet rapid-fire rappers. One thing to take into consideration when looking at the TLM 102 or 103 is that they both have a pretty self-noise because of the way the cartridges are shock mounted inside of the actual capsules.

Features

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Freq response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Type: Condenser
  • Pad: No
  • Presence Boost: No
  • HPF: No

Neumann U87 AI

Used by Chance the Rapper & Future

Not to be outdone by its former collaborator, Neumann’s latest incarnation of the U87 is a favorite for rappers looking to have that same full presence of voice, without the extra harmonics forced from a required tube pre. The U87 pickups with the 847 left off, but in lieu of having a tube, includes another polar pattern. With a very smooth bump for presence, and no-self-noise to worry about, with a pad feature just in case the Neumann U87 is a mic that should be in the roster of any and every engineer’s mic team.

Features

  • Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional, cardioid, figure-8
  • Freq response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Type: Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Pad: Yes
  • Presence Boost: No
  • HPF: Yes

Telefunken U47

Used by Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly

People always say there’s nothing better than the original, but Telefunken doesn’t seem to believe that, and it shows with their recreation of Neumann’s iconic U47, and it really shows when you hear the two microphones in a side-by-side taste test. If you’ve never heard this microphone, you should. It is one of the best microphone recreations of all times, with some people preferring it over the vintage original.

One of the things that made Neumann’s original special was that it was the first multi-pattern condenser microphone, and not only was it multi-pattern, but it was a large-diaphragm condenser meaning it could change uses. Though being first doesn’t always mean your the best, and it has allowed manufacturers, namely Telefunken, to recreate and better their original concept. Where the original U47 doesn’t have transparency across all of its polar patterns, the Telefunken U47 does. This warm tube production is great for a microphone for artists with a higher register, simply because of the Telefunken tube and capsule which add real body to both then and thick performances.

Features

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omnidirectional
  • Freq response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Type: Pressure Gradient Condenser
  • Pad: No
  • Presence Boost: No
  • HPF: No

Sony C-800G

Used by Drake, Kanye West, and Travis Scott

Sony C800g
Sony C800g

I’m not saying that you need to spend a full car payment, house and tuition payment on a microphone but if you’re going for the best, there’s not much better for any type of rap vocal than Sony’s C-800G. The second Neumann clone on the list, the C800G is a tube mic, not like many others. Modeled after the Neumann K67, the C800G is a dual-diaphragm multi-pattern tube microphone. Beyond including the typical tube within its power supply, the C800G includes a heat sync faceted to the microphone to keep the internal tube at the optimal recording temperature.

Though there are many advantages to getting this monster of a microphone, this is one piece of hardware I’d leave to the pros and move beyond the bedroom.

Features

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omni-Directional
  • Freq response: 20 Hz – 18 kHz
  • Type: large-diaphragm condenser
  • Pad: No
  • Presence Boost: No
  • HPF: No