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Best Recording Microphones – Part 1: Vocal Mics

When you walk into a studio, there are certain microphones that you always will see. Mics such as a U47, C414, SM7B, and many more. But how do you know which ones to use for what? This article is going to be the first article where we look at some of the best microphones in the business and even some techniques for using them. We will have them separated by instruments.

There are going to be 7 article topics:

  1. Vocal Mics
  2. Snare and Overheads
  3. Kick and Toms
  4. Electric Guitar
  5. Acoustic
  6. Piano and Organ
  7. Best Overall Microphones to Keep in the Studio

As you can see in the title, this first article of the series is about vocal mics. Now the vocals can be the make or break aspect of a great song. I’ve had tracks that I worked on with friends that every single instrument sounded great and the blend of the band was perfect, but the vocals were just lacking. With that being said, we would only listen to it for the band and we tried to not pay attention to the vocals at all. This is just to show how important it is to get the vocals just right. And you are not going to always get a perfect take, sometimes it’s just that the vocalist just didn’t give their best effort. To make sure that that is your only issue, we’re going to take a look at some of the best vocal microphones for condensers as well as dynamics.

There are not many techniques when it comes to vocals. There is always room for experimentation though. I’ve heard of people placing the mics different distances from the singer to get different levels of aggressiveness. There also is the option of room mics for natural reverb depending on the size of the room you record in. There actually is an old method of reverb that I read about where they had a pipe going from the room that the singer would be to another room where they would mic the pipe end to get a natural reverb that had a longer time than if they had just used a room mic.

Best Dynamic Mics

Shure SM7B

Price (before shipping)- $399.00

 

Shure SM7B

Shure- SM7B

This microphone has to be one of my all time favorite microphones to own. I’ve used it on vocals, snares, and guitar amps and it sounds great on all of them. But we are going to focus on its use on vocals. Like most dynamics it has a warmer tone to it but still delivers a wide range of frequency response. Most times, it is used for live recordings such as in the Sam Smith song Too Good At Goodbyes which was recorded live in the Hackney Round Chapel. Listening to this song you can hear the warm tone it accentuates on Sam Smith’s vocals while still delivering on the rest of his range.

Price

Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$399 50Hz-20kHz Cardioid X

 

Electrovoice RE-20

Price (before shipping)- $449.00

 

Electrovoice RE20

Electrovoice- RE-20

I’ve used the RE-20 once or twice not for recording singing, but I’ve seen it used in so many settings like podcasting and professional broadcasting which is recorded and occasionally used for singing. A great example of vocal use is in this video here. This guy gave a wonderful example of how to use this mic in a vocal setting. Again, you can hear the warmth in the track.

Price

Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$449 45Hz-18kHz Cardioid X

X

 

Aston Stealth

Price (before shipping)- $399.99

 

Aston Stealth

Aston- Stealth

I have been a supporter of Aston since I first heard of them and actually have the Aston Spirit. All I have ever witnessed about them is that they provide high quality products over and over again. This microphone is actually very new to the industry and therefore does not have many uses. But you can hear one of the heads of Aston talking about it as well as some application of it here.

Price

Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$399.99 20Hz-20kHz Cardioid X/✓

X

Best Condenser Mics

AKG C414 XLII

Price (before shipping)- $878.99

AKG C414 XLII

AKG- C414 XLII

The C414 is another versatile microphone that I have heard on many instruments as well as voices and every time, I am not left wanting. I know a lot of producers that have this as their go to vocal mic no matter what style. It provides such a clean and accurate representation of the original sound that you cannot not love it. The C414 was actually used for some recordings for Freddie Mercury of Queen.

Price

Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$878.99 20Hz-20kHz Cardioid

Hypercardioid

Super Cardioid

Figure Eight

Omni

 

Neumann U87

Price (before shipping)- $3,599.95

 

Neumann U87

Neumann- U87

This microphone is among the many to be used on a wide variety of famous tracks, as well as many different style tracks. It has proven itself time and again with its use on styles such as Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire all the way to Avril Lavigne in “Sk8ter Boi.”

Price

Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$3,599.95 20Hz-20kHz Cardioid

Omni

Figure Eight

 

Shure KSM44

Price (before shipping)- $999.00

 

Shure KSM44

Shure- KSM44

When I was an intern, I watched them pull thousands upon thousands of dollars in microphones out of their vault. Yet one of the go to microphones for vocals was the KSM44. One of the engineers actually told me he only owns a few microphones and this is one of them. There’s a short video where the engineer talks about using the KSM44 for guitars but it really turns into an advertisement for the mic to be used for vocals. You can watch that here.

Price

Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$999 20Hz-20kHz Cardioid

Omni

Figure Eight