2023's Best Recording Microphones
With the holidays quickly approaching, now is an excellent chance to add some tasty new gear to your home studio. And what could be more significant than a brand-new microphone? A decent microphone can make or break a production, therefore it's always a good idea to have a quality mic in your toolkit for dealing with any recording situation that may arise. That is why, as of 2023, we have compiled a list of the best recording mics on the market. So, without further ado, let's get started!
Introduction to Microphones
Before we get started, let's go over the many types of microphones that are available. Before making a decision, it's crucial to understand what makes each technology and design unique. The following are the most common home studio microphones.
Dynamic microphones have a sturdy capsule with poor sensitivity but good SPL resistance and a tough design. These mics are ideal for picking up powerful sound sources like as guitar cabs, drum miking, and portable voice use.
Broadcast: A dynamic microphone with a relatively big capsule and a unique chassis designed to be positioned on a boom arm. These microphones are great for podcasting and streaming.
Condenser microphones are very sensitive capsules that capture nuance and detail from sung voices, guitars, drum overheads, kick drums, and other instruments with a wide dynamic range.
Large Diaphragm Condenser: With diaphragms larger than 0.75", large diaphragm condensers are meant to provide the expected recorded-in-a-studio sound on vocalists, guitar cabs, and other loud sounds. They feature superior low-frequency responsiveness, higher SPL resistance, and typically lower self-noise than their smaller siblings with a more "fat" sound.
Small Diaphragm Condenser: Any microphone with a diaphragm smaller than 0.75" is considered small, and these (often condenser) microphones are good for collecting an accurate, realistic signal from sound sources, with excellent high frequency and transient capture without excessive coloring. They give their signals a "airy" aspect and are great for cymbals, woodwinds, horns, and percussion.
A tube condenser's circuitry is made out of vacuum tubes rather than solid-state electronics, resulting in a desirable warm and fat tonal quality for vocalists of any genre. These microphones are bulky, expensive, and frequently require dedicated power supplies. These mics are very susceptible to damage or overload.
Ribbon: A traditional microphone design dating back to the early days of radio. Ribbon microphones, like condenser microphones, are sensitive and good at recording high frequencies, but without the harshness that many condensers have. They have ultra-quiet operation with a figure-8 polar pattern, which allows them to capture more room reflections and add more space to a recording. Ribbons are excellent for warmed-up digital recordings. While some ribbon mics require phantom power, the majority are passive with low output like dynamics and will be severely damaged by phantom power, therefore always verify your mic specs before powering up your ribbon.
Classic vs. USB Mics: In the world of microphones, there are two broad categories: classic analog mics with an XLR connector and digital USB mics. USB microphones combine an analog microphone with a digital audio interface to create a compact all-in-one recording device that can be plugged directly into a computer. These are ideal for solo streaming, content creation, and other modern usage scenarios, but not for general recording. Traditional analog microphones have the advantage of being compatible with high-quality audio interfaces for maximum audio fidelity, as well as providing an extensible system that may grow with your skill and demands. A USB microphone is often only functional as a single device because integrating many USB microphones at once can be difficult.
Neumann TLM 102 Studio Set Cardioid Condenser Microphone with Large Diaphragm and Shockmount
The AKG C414 is based on a studio legend and is a fantastic choice for people looking for a versatile tool capable of a variety of tasks, including high-quality vocal capture. The C414 has a wide diaphragm, nine adjustable polar patterns, a switchable pad, a low-cut filter, and a plethora of studio accessories. With perfect EMI immunity and the capacity to handle SPLs up to 154 dB, this mic can easily fill several shoes.
The Neumann TLM 102 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone featuring a treble boost control and an ultra-quiet, transformer-less output stage. The TLM 102 is one of Neumann's most cheap condensers, but don't let that deceive you; it's an exceptionally versatile studio tool that delivers Neumann sound quality in a durable package that can handle any recording circumstance, from silky voices and thick guitar tones to massive-sounding drums.
Large-Diaphragm Multipattern Condenser Microphone AKG C414 XLII
One of the best options in the small diaphragm arena to update your mic locker without having to sell a kidney is the Warm Audio WA-84 condenser, a gorgeous sounding, high-performance microphone based on the renowned and long-discontinued Neumann KM84. This stereo set of condensers is far less expensive than the original and works as an ideal studio partner, capturing creamy smooth top end and meaty mids and bottom with warmth and exquisite detail. These fantastic microphones are ideal for acoustic and electric guitars, drum overheads, pianos, strings, brass, woodwinds, and many other applications.
Warm Audio WA-84 Condenser Microphone with Small Diaphragm
The Audio-Technica AT4041, another excellent entrant in the tiny diaphragm category, is a very versatile mic with a transformer-free design and high SPL capacity, making it ideal for recording drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, and pianos. It has a switchable hi-pass filter, a smooth, extended frequency response, a high audio output, and a tough turned-brass microphone enclosure. The cardioid pattern is suitable for studio situations, and a stereo pair costs less than $600.
Tube Microphones Audio-Technica AT4041 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
The Warm Audio WA-67 Large-Diaphragm Tube Condenser is a delightfully versatile reproduction of the legendary Neumann U67, giving smooth buttery sound, a substantial build quality, and three adjustable polar patterns. This mic is ideal for capturing spoken vocals, but it also works well with guitars, strings, and other moderately loud sound sources. Despite its high-quality components and meticulous attention to detail, the WA-67 is reasonably priced, making it accessible to recordists of all levels. This microphone comes with everything you need to get started, including a cord, shockmount, power supply, and a lovely wooden casing.
Warm Audio WA-67 Tube Condenser Microphone with Large Diaphragm
The Mojave Audio MA-1000, one of the best multi-pattern tube mics available, is a popular mic in studio lockers all over the world. The MA-1000 is based on a famous Telefunken capsule from the 1950s and features a top-quality NOS (new old stock) 5840 tube, four selectable polar patterns, switches for bass roll-off and a -15 dB pad, and an integrated switching power supply, avoiding the bulky external PSUs found in other tube microphones. This product is an almost unequaled solution for professional recording of vocals, voice-overs, piano, orchestras, and almost any other sound source that is less than 120 decibels.
Mojave Audio Signature Series Multi-Pattern Tube Microphone MA-1000
Finally, an honorable mention goes to the Avantone CV-12, a multi-pattern tube condenser that is reasonably priced (by tube standards). The CV-12 is one of the best and most approachable tube mics, with a hand-selected 6072A tube output stage, nine changeable polar patterns, and controls for pad attenuation and low-end roll-off. This microphone is effective for vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and piano, as well as stereo drum overhead or room mic responsibilities.
Avantone Pro CV-12 Multipattern Large Capsule Tube Condenser Dynamic and Broadcast Microphone
The venerable Shure SM57, which tops the list of dynamics, is a mic that every recordist should have at least one (or maybe five?) of in their toolbox. Engineers of all levels adore this practically indestructible microphone for its bright, clean sound, contoured presence, and tight cardioid pattern, making it great for individual drums on a drum kit, percussion, guitar cabinets, and much more. The best part? It's not going to break the bank.
Dynamic Instrument Microphone Shure SM57-LC
The Electro-Voice RE20, a broadcast-style mic with a big diaphragm capable of picking up extra low end and boasting a humbucking voice coil for low noise and great clarity, is one of the most flexible dynamic mics available. This dynamic microphone is a favorite of broadcast announcers, podcasters, and even studio engineers searching for a dynamic mic that can handle kick drums and bass cabinets.
Variable-D Electro-Voice RE20 Broadcast Announcer Microphone
The legendary Shure SM7B is an industry standard for even more broadcast-friendly recording, and is extensively used for voice-overs, podcasting, streaming, and vocal recording in studios. The SM7B is a natural choice for podcasting, because to its smooth, polished vocal sound, rich low-end response, and noticeable proximity effect, which can give a louder, more present vocal sound the closer the mic is to the sound source.
USB Shure SM7B Vocal Microphone
The RDE NT-USB+ conjures the sound of a big diaphragm condenser with the versatility of a modern digital mic and includes some extremely helpful features geared at the modern multimedia creation. The internal Revolution preamp is highly low noise and high gain, with a gain of 20 dB and flowing into a high-quality 24-bit/48 kHz digital converter. You can also process your vocals internally with APHEX-powered DSP without straining your CPU.
RODE NT-USB+ USB Microphone Professional
The Blue Yeti is a simple yet powerful tool for podcasters, streamers, and general content creation that is still going strong despite years of prominence in the realm of digital mics. This mic is compatible with macOS, Windows, and mobile platforms, and it has four customizable polar patterns, including a stereo mode ideal for ASMR. You can easily monitor right on the mic with zero latency and mix control, and you also get VOICE FX software for quickly sweetening vocal recordings.
Ribbon Microphones Blue Yeti USB Microphones
Royer Labs' R-10 is a great midrange ribbon mic that will give professional-quality audio without breaking the budget. It is widely regarded as one of the kings of current ribbon mic design. The R-10 provides ultra-low noise performance and significant protection from plosives and proximity-related bass pickup thanks to its high maximum SPL, wide frequency response, and three-layer windshield. Handcrafted in California, this microphone will perform admirably on voices, drums, loud instruments, and room mic chores, thanks to a long-lasting, vibration-free ribbon element and a completely passive construction that requires no phantom power.
Royer Labs R-10 Ribbon Microphone Bundle with dBooster
Ribbon microphones are frequently utilized in a stereo Blumlein configuration for drums, guitars, horns, and other instruments, and the Golden Age Project R1 ST allows you to engage in immersive stereo recording with just one microphone. The R1 ST takes inspiration from vintage RCA mics, with two figure-8 mic sections and a transformer-balanced output, to create a warm yet musical tone, ideal for handling a wide range of sound sources, including very powerful SPLs up to 160 dB. You can utilize either side of the R1 ST for normal mono miking techniques or record in true stereo.
There are numerous possibilities, and this is only the tip of the iceberg! Hopefully, this post has made your holiday shopping a bit easier, whether you're looking for a great price to upgrade your own studio space or the ideal gift for an enthusiast in your life. The trick is to choose the proper tool for your specific needs and interests, whether you opt with a top-of-the-line performer or a budget diamond in the rough.