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Best Recording Microphones – Part 7: Best Mics to Keep in Studio

So we have reached the end of the series. Congratulations to whoever made it through, or just skipped to the last one for the info they needed. Either way, we have listed some amazing microphones for so many different methods. In the previous 6 articles, we looked at microphones for guitars, drums, vocals, piano, and even organs. In this, the 7th and final article of the Best Microphone Series, we are looking at some of the best overall microphones. For these microphones, I went through and picked out ones that I think would be of the most help to whoever was using them. What I mean is that these microphones have so many uses and will work well in different environments. You should recognize all of them, as they were all mentioned at least once throughout the course of this series.

Selection Process

So I want to explain my selection process as well as give some ideas for you to make your own decisions and calculations. My selection of microphone was based on personal experiences, as well as recommendations from engineers that I look up to. Every microphone I am listing, is either one I have heard in use, or been one that I have used myself. I will say what I love the microphone for, as well as try to mention what it is best at. Sometimes, there will be only one purpose it is best for, but it excels in that area.

Great ways to start making your own decisions about what microphones to acquire, is by doing things like reading this article. Look into what other people think and compare their likes and dislikes to your own as a way to see if you would like using that piece of equipment or not.

If you are looking for a microphone for a specific instrument, look up any professionally recorded covers or in studio performances to see if they show the microphones they used. Or another way is to go to a company’s page and see what they suggest using their microphones for. I mean the best suggestions should come from the people who created it.

And lastly, probably the best way to choose, is by trying them out yourself. You could ask a friend to let you borrow a mic, or find a place to rent a microphone out and use it for a project. After having your own interaction, it is even easier to formulate your own opinion. You will know what editing you need to do to get the sound you want.

Best Microphones

AKG C414

Best at guitar, drums, vocals, piano, etc… (everything)

Price (before shipping)- $948.99

AKG C414

AKG- C414

With how many times this microphone was brought up, you had to expect it to make an appearance in this final article. This microphone makes this final list for its complete diversity. You can use this for so many different sounds as well as instruments. I have heard it used effectively on piano, overheads, toms, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and even orchestras. It has 5 different pickup pattern options to help you capture effectively in any environment. I read an account from an engineer who would travel to different countries and even continents to record cultural music in their own backyard. In this article, he talked about how the C414 was one of his go to mics for its versatility and clarity even in the field.

Price

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

Hypercardioid

Super Cardioid

Figure Eight

Omni

 

Shure KSM44

Best Vocal Mic

Price (before shipping)- $999.00

 

Shure KSM44

Shure- KSM44

So this is one of the top vocal microphones overall. It has a clarity that lets you hear the singer as if they were in the room with you. But do not limit it just to that. The KSM44 can be used for overheads, guitars, or any other acoustic instrument. Although, I think its best environment is in the vocal range. But again, you can use this for more than just that. It has 3 pickup patterns giving it a wide array of uses in the studio.

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

Omni

Figure Eight

 

Shure Beta 52A

Best Kick Mic

Price (before shipping)- $189.00

 

Shure Beta 52a

Shure- Beta 52A

When it comes to kick drums, I cannot think of not using a Beta 52A. Every track I have ever recorded drums for has used a B52. In my opinion, Shure made any other kick microphone obsolete when this came out. It has been used for the drum sets for countless recordings as well as live performances. With its great low end response, you could use it for recording a bass amp, or even throw it on a floor tom if that was the sound you are going for. But if you use this microphone on kick and nothing else, you can get a thick smack backed up with a beefy kick in the chest.

Price Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$189 20Hz-10kHz Supercardioid X X

 

Miktek C5 pair

Best Pencil Condenser for acoustic, overheads, and piano

Price (before shipping)- $1399.00

 

Miktek C5

Miktek- C5

If I had to choose one pencil condenser to use for the rest of my career, I would choose these hands down. I cannot get over how these sound as overheads and acoustic mics. I know many people like the sound of wide diaphragm microphones as overheads, but in my opinion, the C5 pair responds to high frequencies better while filtering out low end frequencies from the rest of the kit. On acoustic they give a rich sound but can easily be eq’d for a cutting tone.

Price Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$1,399 20Hz-20kHz Cardioid X

 

Telefunken M80

Best at Snare and Electric

Price (before shipping)- $249.00

Telefunken- M81

When it comes time for selecting a snare mic, this provides a tone I don’t hear with many other mics. It works well for tight, cracking snares, or fat, splashing snares. At least that is what I have heard it on the most. For guitars, this is amazing for recording amplifiers. I love the sound of this in combination with a ribbon mic for a fat or crisp tone. You could even use this live if you wanted to as a vocal mic because of its great frequency response.

Price Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$249 50Hz-18kHz Cardioid X X

 

Shure SM57

Best for guitar, scratch vocals, brass, and drums

Price (before shipping)- $99.00

 

Shure- SM57

Shure- SM57

So I know we never went into any details on brass or woodwind instruments. When it comes to woodwind, I do not have experience but from what I have done with brass, I would suggest an SM57 almost every time. Here is a project that I worked on that featured saxophone recorded with a 57. If you read the article about snares and overheads, you should recognize this song because of its use of the Glynn Johns miking technique with the overheads. The 57 is always a handy mic to have around. When I was in college, I would actually always have one in my backpack for when I was in a session and just needed something. I would throw it in for talkbacks, snares, guitars, basically everything. It always came in handy. You can imagine also that it took a beating sitting in my backpack all the time. Despite that, I have never had an issue with it malfunctioning, which says a lot about the craftsmanship

Price Frequency Response Pickup Patterns Phantom Power Low Cut
$99 40Hz-15kHz Cardioid X X

 

Shure SM7B

Best for Vocals, Guitars, and Drums

Price (before shipping)- $399.00

 

Shure SM7B

Shure- SM7B

This is another amazing product from Shure that I cannot imagine going into a session without. I have thrown this on snare drums and guitars as well as vocals. The SM7B has been a default mic for snare miking for myself. It works extremely well for cracking, high tuned snares. An example of what I mean is in a cover track I did with my friend that you can find here. He played drums over top of “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake. This recording also featured the Miktek C5 as the overheads in case you were wondering what those sounded like. But this microphone, like every other on this list, has found a way into the studios of professionals and amateurs alike for its great sound and quality.

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

Final Thoughts

Bringing this entire series to a close I want to encourage the engineers reading this. Use these articles as a learning tool and foothold into the pro audio side of recording. This information is stuff I cannot live without when I am working which is why I wanted to pass it on to help whoever I can. The reason I would say what I like to use a mic for is to show that not every mic is limited to one instrument or form of use. I wanted to show you how I am creative with them and hopefully encourage you to be creative with your recordings.