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The Press Desk 11th September 2016 10:23 AM

Ten of the Best Microphones under $300 for Recording Vocals
 
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Ten of the best microphones under $300 for recording vocals

We asked the Gearslutz hive-mind for their favourite microphones under $300, specifically for recording vocals and here’s what they recommended - in alphabetical order:


 Warbler

3U Audio Warbler

This mic has taken Gearslutz by storm since this particular thread popped up last year - they’ve been quickly gaining in popularity. The Warbler is 3U Audio’s most "numerous" line of microphones with ten (!) variations available but here we have the more affordable “vanilla” version. This is a large-diaphragm condenser (LDC) with fixed cardioid pattern and an “airy sound style”, according to 3U. The microphone is equipped with a vintage-style transformer, three selectable voicings that slightly boost the top end, LF roll-off (flat/150Hz) and gain (0/-10 dB) switches. The Warbler’s frequency is generally flat but it shows some dips around 7kHz and variable boosts on the 12kHz area (depending on the selected voicing). With so much praise across our discussion forums the Warbler is definitely one of the most tempting microphones in recent years.



 A6

ADK Microphones A6

Enter the ADK A6, a cardioid side-address LDC that is considered to be a very neutral sounding microphone that can be deployed in a variety of situations. ADK equipped the A6 with an updated version of the FET circuit found on their A-51 microphone in order to give it a cleaner sound and minimise the noise floor. The A6 is a very simple and straightforward to use microphone, it doesn’t have any switches or further 'complications' in the signal path which ensures foolproof operation and maximum reliability. If you’re after a very natural sounding microphone that will deliver great takes without burning a hole in your pocket make sure you consider the A6.



 CM47fet

Advanced Audio Microphones CM47fet

Based on one of the most iconic microphones of all time, the CM47FET is Advance Audio’s way of making a classic design available to all at a relatively affordable price. This microphone features a clean and well defined sound, using Class-A electronics and a 'de-emphasis' circuit which helps to reduce sibilance while still keeping the top end very much 'alive', with a prominent boost past 10kHz. The CM47FET is equipped with a -10dB gain pad and features two polar patterns (cardioid/omni), making it very versatile. Advanced Audio also offers a tube version of the CM47, but it’s basically twice the price of the FET version, which demonstrates that AA has managed to reconcile quality with cost in a very sensible way.



 Origin

Aston Microphones Origin

A unique microphone with some very distinctive looks that will also impress when recording. The British-made Origin is Aston’s most affordable LDC microphone and features a fixed cardioid pattern, a stainless steel body, 'waveform' mesh head design with built-in pop filter, a custom molded base with integrated XLR connector and a stand adapter at the bottom, which is very convenient for easy mounting. It also comes with switches for the -10dB attenuation pad and low cut filter (80Hz). The Origin’s frequency response is mostly flat, but it shows a subtle shelf-style boost past 2kHz which drops a bit after 10kHz, which in theory should add some clarity for vocals. Overall the Origin is a very interesting choice if you’re looking for a microphone that is distinctive in all aspects and doesn't even come close to breaking the bank.



 AT4040

Audio-Technica AT4040

A widely recommended microphone on Gearslutz, the AT4040 has built quite a following amongst our membership. This side-address LDC features a transformerless circuit and it’s designed to handle high sound pressure levels while still keeping the sound free of distortion. The frequency response of this microphone shows some interesting bumps around the 6-7kHz and 10-12kHz areas with a small dip in between at 8-9kHz, which might help to explain why it’s often recommended for recording vocals. The 4040 also features a low cut filter (80Hz) and attenuation pad (-10 dB) switches and it comes with Audio-Technicas’s trademark shockmount. Easily a “hall of famer” in the budget-friendly microphone category, you’re very likely to have a AT4040 in your mic locker at some point!



 M 69 TG

Beyerdynamic M 69 TG

The handheld M69TG is an elegant yet simple dynamic mic with a hypercardioid pattern for ultimate 'focus'. Despite being widely used for live sound applications due to its high feedback rejection, this microphone has found its way into collections around the world as it turns out it can actually provide great studio recordings too. The M69TG shows a frequency response from 50Hz to 18kHz, with a lift in the 2-10kHz area that will definitely benefit vocals and it also displays a boost in the lows past 200Hz when used in close proximity to the source. A high sensitivity means that won’t require much from a mic preamp, so it’s basically good to go regardless of the situation, and you don't need a tonne of gain to get great results. A very appealing choice and a great all-around mic that will deliver very good results anywhere.



 Bluebird

Blue Microphones Bluebird

The Bluebird is Blue’s best-selling mic, a very popular choice and it arrives on our list with many favourable recommendations from our members. The Bluebird is a distinctive looking LDC with a cardioid polar pattern, a hand-crafted proprietary capsule and a clean, transformerless circuit without any switches or further controls interrupting the signal path. The frequency response stretches from 20Hz to 20kHz, showing interesting yet subtle curves in the mid-range and a prominent top end peak around 15kHz that will grant some extra 'air'. The Bluebird can take a hefty amount of sound pressure and will graciously handle pretty much any source, making it a very safe pick for a “workhorse” vocal microphone for any style. The Bluebird ships with shock mount, a custom pop-filter and it's also available in stereo matched pairs.



 RE320

Electro-Voice RE320

The RE320 continues the legacy of the RE20, one of the top recommendations when it comes to capturing the human voice and an industry standard for broadcast, voiceover, stage performance and studio recording. The RE320 is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern, featuring a very recognizable steel body and two operating modes accessed by the switch located near the XLR connector. The first mode is designed for kick drums with a frequency response from 30Hz to 18kHz, featuring a some dips in the low mids and a boosts at the mid-high range. The second mode is meant for vocals and instruments, and ranges from 45Hz to 18kHz (in a more linear fashion) up until 5kHz where it peaks by a few dB, enhancing clarity and detail. The RE320 is also known for its proximity effect, which is basically the same on both modes - it considerably boosts the low end under 200Hz, adding heft and girth. The RE320 is basically a "consensus tool" among our members and is a safe choice when a reliable and efficient dynamic mic is required.



 NT1-A

Rode NT1-A

When 'affordable mics' are the topic, this must be one of the most commented and discussed microphones of recent times. The NT1-A is a large diaphragm condenser with a cardioid polar pattern, very low noise and a wide frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz, with some peaks over the mid-highs and a subtle high-frequency lift. This is a rather simple to use mic with no switches or extra features, it deals well with high sound pressure levels and will take almost any vocal style. If you've got some extra budget available you might also want to try the more refined (and more expensive) NT1000. They’re all well regarded LDCs for vocals and definitely worth considering.



[PRODUCT=17560]Our list wouldn't be complete without one of the most famous dynamic mics ever made and it’s rightfully recommended by many members for recording vocals. Famous for its tight unidirectional cardioid pattern and very prominent proximity effect, the SM57 is a "no-brainer" that will likely be available in most any studio, so you have no excuse for not trying them at least once! The same things can be said about its sister, the SM58 - they’re essentially the same microphone with a different grill design. The SM58 will have a bit less proximity effect since the grill puts more distance from the capsule than on the SM57. Never rule them out!

It’s interesting to note that both condenser and dynamic microphones were mentioned on this list, indicating that there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” and it shows that a vocal recording can be done with a wide variety of available tools. There are surely many other great mics out there, so please share with us what you’ve been using and enjoying lately - and for what styles!

bill5 10th November 2016 08:01 PM

The Shure 57 over the 58 for vocals?

Nice thx for this...and good point about how both dynamic and condensers can both work well for vocals, but would have like to have seen fewer which aren't barely/technically under $300 (ie the $299.99 types).

yolo123 11th November 2016 04:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 12247107)
The Shure 57 over the 58 for vocals?

Nice thx for this...and good point about how both dynamic and condensers can both work well for vocals, but would have like to have seen fewer which aren't barely/technically under $300 (ie the $299.99 types).

depends on where you buy it from. ebay sells legi sm57 with clip for 72 bucks. re320 sells new on ebay for 199 but sometimes theres sales from big retailers selling it at 199 etc. the at4040 i usually buy for 250 from pitbull audio on ebay for example. you just gotta ask them. the middle man overcharge price for 300 dollar mics is almost 150 dollars. blue bluebird you can easily get for sub 200 as well. i would never buy any of these mics i jsut listed for 300. thats insane.

Killerkiwiattak 1st November 2017 03:19 AM

Hey I'm stuck between the Sennheiser MK4, Blue Baby Bottle and SE Electronics sE2200a. What is the best condenser for recording rock clean vocals and screaming vocals? I bought the AT4040 but found it a bit too "dark" and "closed" sounding for my liking. Any recommendations? So far im closer to buying the MK4

[email protected] 1st November 2017 05:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Killerkiwiattak (Post 12934771)
Hey I'm stuck between the Sennheiser MK4, Blue Baby Bottle and SE Electronics sE2200a. What is the best condenser for recording rock clean vocals and screaming vocals? I bought the AT4040 but found it a bit too "dark" and "closed" sounding for my liking. Any recommendations? So far im closer to buying the MK4


For screaming rock vocals you might try a Shure SM-7, Beyer M88, or a sE Electronics V7... on the condensors, find a store that has all three and will let you try them out? Only real way to know whats best for your voice...IMO. You really have to try mics on vocals to know what it is best IMO.
We [fingerpintaudio] offer a loaner service if that helps [for the sE 2200 and any sE mic]. Also a new 2200 debuted at AES 2017, that's a bit different in a good way.

*Good luck on your search!

cyjanopan 1st November 2017 09:23 AM

Yesterday I compared U87Ai to Shure SM81 on vocals and liked Shure more. I'm not saying it's better vocal microphone (it was though), but not seeing any SDC in this list here makes me wonder just how much people are set on using LDC or LDD based mostly on the looks, and not even considering SDC on voices (me too!). There are a lot of good sounding SDCs in this price range (Line Audio CM3, Oktava MK-012, AT2031 etc.)

Rolleum 1st November 2017 08:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cyjanopan (Post 12935204)
Yesterday I compared U87Ai to Shure SM81 on vocals and liked Shure more. I'm not saying it's better vocal microphone (it was though), but not seeing any SDC in this list here makes me wonder just how much people are set on using LDC or LDD based mostly on the looks, and not even considering SDC on voices (me too!). There are a lot of good sounding SDCs in this price range (Line Audio CM3, Oktava MK-012, AT2031 etc.)



Thats a good idea to use SDC Mics. I made a comparison of Neumann KM184, Beyerdynamic M80 and the new SE Electronics SE 8 with stunning results. The SE8 is a relly good pair of SDCs, and not far away to the Neumann KM 184.

bill5 2nd November 2017 01:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rolleum (Post 12936060)
Thats a good idea to use SDC Mics.

? Because? It depends on the specifics, but generally speaking, I disagree. There's a reason LDCs are far more popular for vocals.

elegentdrum 2nd November 2017 01:44 AM

I have almost never liked the sound of SDC's vs LDC's. I must admit I have never used a KM84 or Sanken SDC. But they do have there place like high hats and ride if you want spots there. And sometimes they are the right choice for guitars.

For drum overheads and rooms and vocals most of the time a SDC is not the best choice.

Once you talk about SDC, you also have to consider if it's an electrete or not.

bill5 2nd November 2017 02:30 AM

? Not relevant since this is about vocals....

[email protected] 2nd November 2017 05:24 AM

FYI- Well the Neuman KM series [KM 53, KM54, KM56] were created for German Radio [Brown Book] to record vocals...and be mobile/portable mics for interviews. Many more vocals were done with SDC's than you might think historically, but generally we do think about LDC's for vocals in the modern era. Re Electrets, or as modern marketing now calls them "permanently polarized", the Shure KSM series are all Electrets, and nobodies going to tell you the KSM 44 and KSM 32 are bad vocal mics, just saying. The other place you see them these days is almost all the USB mics are Electrets- ok that's not a good example lol. In the 80's not many people were using dynamics to record vocals [except Mick Jagger, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Bonnie Raitt, later U2, but they all clearly struggled to sell any records...], and only recently [last ten years] did the SM-7 usher back in the era of value priced dynamics as vocal mics. Frank Sinatra was an early revolutionary, when he wasn't using a Capitol u47 or C-37a, he was singing into a variant of the 545! The point of this ramble is that the best vocal mic is the one that sounds good on that particular singer on that day for that song. It might not be the obvious one, or the most expensive one. Experiment and listen to a lot of choices, you will find your best match. Happy recording to all!

cyjanopan 2nd November 2017 09:18 AM

Keep in mind that we are talking about $300 range, and LDCs in this range are generally not the LDCs that we know from the recordings. Yet there are a lot of dynamics here, and none SDCs. Also electrets have a very bad rep around here and that's really unfair, I use DPA 3521 set which was what, $4000 set at the time (they still go for $3000 used, so probably even more!)? They sound amazing and as neutral as it gets, they're electrets. I also love KSM32 and SM81, also electrets, I could almost say I actually prefer electret capsules to the externally polarised ones :lol:

DistortingJack 2nd November 2017 01:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bill5 (Post 12936513)
? Because? It depends on the specifics, but generally speaking, I disagree. There's a reason LDCs are far more popular for vocals.

To be honest, the reasons they are more popular aren't about sound, or relevant today.

First, old small-diaphragm condensers were noisy. The circuitry to make them quiet just didn't exist. If you wanted to record a full-size orchestra and didn't want to have both inherent noise and preamp noise (since old SDCs were noisy and less sensitive) was to use a LDC.

This isn't the case anymore. Yes, all in all they will be 2-4 dB noisier, but it's further down than on most old LDCs, and anyway in a mix nobody is ever going to hear that.

Also, there is a difference between single and dual diaphragm's proximity effect. Single-diaphragm mics have more of it, which can be a bit disconcerting to the singer if they move about and emphasises pops, and a bit annoying to deal with at mixdown. But it can just be fixed through EQ. And many LDCs are single-diaphragm anyway.

For a highly-technical treaty on the differences, here is a Shure tech paper on that subject:

http://cdn.shure.com/publication/upl...m_paper_ea.pdf

Another thing is that some people like the distortion that LDCs add to the sound. Let's be completely honest here: LDCs are less accurate, on both bass and treble frequencies. A larger diaphragm causes all sorts of problems; from an acoustic shadow and mic body reflections causing weird off-axis responses, to the inherent distortion of a diaphragm moving diagonally, which happens with LDCs exponentially more. This shows up as a pleasing sort of "hair" or "weight" to the recording, but it's something we're just used to, not a natural aspect of the original sound.

I actually absolutely hate the "eshy", artificial-sounding sibilants most LDCs give you, even expensive Neumanns and Telefunkens. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Listen back very carefully at many, if not most albums you know and love, and pay attention to the esses. Most sound slushy and nothing like a real person saying one. It drives me nuts.

But I think the main reason why they are definitely less used in studio environments, is just the look. SDCs just look a bit funny in front of a singer behind a pop shield, compared to the imposing, expensive-looking side-address LDCs. It just doesn't look as cool. And that matters a lot in a commercial environment. In your bedroom, less so.

Don't be afraid of SDCs for vocals. They are used in classical music almost exclusively, including for spot mics for opera singers, at even the highest level of recording.

https://i.imgur.com/eJvYVy3.jpghttps://i.imgur.com/pP8AM9b.jpghttps://i.imgur.com/V7XyXzn.jpghttps://i.imgur.com/GlFBFRt.jpg

RKeefe1032 2nd November 2017 05:03 PM

Since the Aston was mentioned, you can probably pick up a used Spirit under the $300 price tag. A nice vocal mic with some color from a transformer and patterns.
I'd also keep an eye out for used EV RE20s and Shure SM7s. These are studio standards that are often used along side $10K mics.

Yummerz 2nd November 2017 05:22 PM

I have a Miktek MK300 and a Blue Bluebird. The Miktek is much nicer.

Diogo C 2nd November 2017 05:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Killerkiwiattak (Post 12934771)
Hey I'm stuck between the Sennheiser MK4, Blue Baby Bottle and SE Electronics sE2200a. What is the best condenser for recording rock clean vocals and screaming vocals? I bought the AT4040 but found it a bit too "dark" and "closed" sounding for my liking. Any recommendations? So far im closer to buying the MK4

Quote:

Originally Posted by [email protected] (Post 12934918)
For screaming rock vocals you might try a Shure SM-7, Beyer M88, or a sE Electronics V7... on the condensors, find a store that has all three and will let you try them out? Only real way to know whats best for your voice...IMO. You really have to try mics on vocals to know what it is best IMO.
We [fingerpintaudio] offer a loaner service if that helps [for the sE 2200 and any sE mic]. Also a new 2200 debuted at AES 2017, that's a bit different in a good way.

*Good luck on your search!

I agree with the SM-7, M88 and sE V7 tips. Screaming "screams" dynamic mics. Sorry about that bad pun, couldn't resist! cooge

@Killerkiwiattak: you might want to consider two mics since screaming is a bit too specific. Not a bad idea to have one good dynamic mic and one good condenser mic around.

Mr Funk 3rd November 2017 12:09 AM

Interesting that 3U and ADK share the top places as I heard 3U Audio mic's owe a lot to ADK. Won't say anymore.

Diogo C 3rd November 2017 02:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Funk (Post 12938428)
Interesting that 3U and ADK share the top places as I heard 3U Audio mic's owe a lot to ADK. Won't say anymore.

Keep in mind that the list is in alphabetical order. ;)

brockorama 3rd November 2017 02:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RKeefe1032 (Post 12937566)
Since the Aston was mentioned, you can probably pick up a used Spirit under the $300 price tag. A nice vocal mic with some color from a transformer and patterns.

I picked up the origin in the summer, and I must say I really like it. Nice on acoustic gtr too.

Killerkiwiattak 5th November 2017 01:42 AM

Good advice using a dynamic mic for the "screaming" vocals. I still do want a LDC mic for everything else. Can anyone recommend between the Sennheiser MK4, Blue Baby Bottle and SE Electronics sE2200a? I'm leaning more towards the MK4 but I don't want to regret the purchase and end up having to ship it back like i did for the AT4040 lol.

Killerkiwiattak 5th November 2017 01:42 AM

I really like the airy open mic sound

Brent Hahn 5th November 2017 04:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by [email protected] (Post 12936722)
FYI- Well the Neuman KM series [KM 53, KM54, KM56] were created for German Radio [Brown Book] to record vocals...

Neumann's main problem has always been their pursuit of accuracy. To those guys, proximity effect and transformer grind were inaccuracies and bad and needed to be engineered out.

synthguy 7th November 2017 01:11 PM

Not having any Studio Projects mics in there is a real oversight in my opinion. They're solid good sounding mics, and even the "cheapie" B1 is an amazing performer on everything, not just vocals. I got great acoustic guitar and drums with some of those killer Bs without having to use fancy preamps.

DanArt 11th December 2017 10:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by synthguy (Post 12945609)
Not having any Studio Projects mics in there is a real oversight in my opinion. They're solid good sounding mics, and even the "cheapie" B1 is an amazing performer on everything, not just vocals. I got great acoustic guitar and drums with some of those killer Bs without having to use fancy preamps.

I have one and always prefer the 57 over it for vocals.

Diogo C 13th December 2017 01:07 AM

Had both the B1 and the SM57 - I'd say "horses for courses", but both equally boring mics that i don't regret selling. :lol:

On the other hand the M69TG...now that's a cool mic. cooge

wetwest 13th December 2017 01:36 AM

The Aston, it's sultry, sassy and sweet.

Paired with the right pre it is pure silk and shine yet without the harshness, and of course, less de-essing required.

Mr Funk 18th December 2017 02:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wetwest (Post 13012369)
The Aston, it's sultry, sassy and sweet.

Paired with the right pre it is pure silk and shine yet without the harshness, and of course, less de-essing required.

Many on GS seem to say the Aston LDC's are thin and scratchy and nothing but hype yet others love them. I keep thinking there must be some bad ones out there?

DistortingJack 18th December 2017 04:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Funk (Post 13021949)
Many on GS seem to say the Aston LDC's are thin and scratchy and nothing but hype yet others love them. I keep thinking there must be some bad ones out there?

A lot of people have very different ideas about what good sound is. What is scratchy to one is clear to the other. What is warm to one is dull to the other.

The Aston LDC mics are firmly in the "flattering" camp. They're not designed to be accurate. You wouldn't want to use them for orchestral recording maybe, but you can certainly make pro recordings with them.

You either like the sound or you don't.

But "scratchy" is not a good description of either of the mics.

wetwest 19th December 2017 05:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Funk (Post 13021949)
Many on GS seem to say the Aston LDC's are thin and scratchy and nothing but hype yet others love them. I keep thinking there must be some bad ones out there?

I was using on vocals. It would sound nice on a lot of things.

With a Focusrite ISA1 compared to a Neuman with a great river me1, the Aston was better. The Neuman was crisper. However you could get away without even deessing 8 vocal stacks on the Aston, whereas heavy deessing is required on the Neuman.

It certainly is flattering, however lush. I prefer it, found it easier listening and easier mixing. Made for better songs.

bill5 28th December 2017 05:54 AM

Just re-looked at this list and thinking "wtfo" even more. The 57? The NT1-A? And not a single ribbon? You kidding me?