I'm very new to digital music making and have been experimenting with the Mixcraft software for the past couple of months. The software is so amazing and easy to use that I've decided not to waste money on replacing my real instruments.
However, I do want to purchase a microphone to add vocal tracks to my music. I'll probably record myself singing in the car with my laptop for now until I can build up some self-confidence. Since I'm just a beginner, I don't want to spend much money while experimenting. I'm hoping I can get some recommendations for a great starter mic I can purchase without breaking the bank--cheapest, minimum acceptable quality.
My vote goes to the SM57 or SM58. They're studio workhorses and if you don't like them they have a solid resale value since they are always in demand. Depending on the country you're in they're also offering a $15 mail-in rebate until the end of the year.
Since you're just getting started and apparently have no external interface, it's likely that you are planning on recording using the 3.5 mm mic jack on your computer as your input. If you by chance have an external interface with a powered, balanced XLR input jack, the following does not apply, if you are planning on using a laptop 3.5 mm input, please read on:
Most computers with 3.5mm audio input jacks don't have enough gain on the microphone input to use a mic like a SM58 with it's low -54.5 dBV output-level or a SM58 clone which will probably be even lower. The typical 3.5 mm laptop mic jack is designed to work with a much higher output mic like a battery-powered electret, not a low output dynamic.
An appropriate microphone for use with a laptop 3.5 mm input is the Pyle PDMIC-45 Electret SDC (small diaphragm condenser). Its built-in mic preamp (impedance converter) is powered by a 1.5 volt battery and the mic comes wth a 20ft. XLR to 1/4 inch cable and a foam wind/pop filter for vocal use. You will need a 1/4 inch TS to 3.5 mm TS adapter to plug it into a 3.5 mm laptop mic jack. Do not use a more common 1/4 inch TRS to 3.5 mm TRS adapter. That will not work properly with the Pyle mic. Using the 1/4 inch TS to 3.5 mm TS adapter will connect the mic to the left channel of the stereo laptop input.
The battery-powered Pyle mic produces a signal level 16.5 dB louder (a lot!) than a SM58 or a SM58 clone. It's enough for a low-gain laptop mic input and is a decent sounding SDC for a very reasonable price. If in the future you ever get an external interface, the Pyle mic can be connected with a normal XLR/XLR cable and run from phantom power.
A SM58 is a great starter vocal mic, but it's simply not a good match for a typical laptop mic input jack.
I'd get something that you don't have to resell later, I'd also start with a SM57 or SM58. You can always find a use for those. If you're versed in soldering there are some really nice kits out there, my first kit was the Mojave Audio mod for the MXL2001, unfortunately it's not available now but there are some others that are supposed to be very nice.
$120? Are you sure that's the absolute cheapest that can be found?
Anything less than that is probably a waste of time and money. The price/quality ratio on an SM57 or 58 is probably the best of any mic and with care it will last a lifetime...most pro studios have them. Perhaps you could find a second-hand one?