By Michael Hahn 12.17.18
But for sounds that live outside of the digital world, the only way into your DAW is through a microphone.
Microphones are the main tools we have to interface with sounds in the real world, and they’re some of the most exciting pieces of equipment for recording engineers.
But there’s so many mics out there. Sifting through hundreds of pages to find the best mics for your project can be pretty frustrating and uninspiring…
Of course, the right microphone depends on so many factors. This list includes mics that are available on the market today and focuses on some of the best choices to get you started on your microphone journey.
Here’s the thirty best microphones currently in production—why they’re good and what they do best.
1. Shure SM57
The Shure SM57 is an indispensable studio and stage classic dynamic microphone. No list of the best microphones would be complete without the versatile Shure SM57.
This is the go-to mic for guitar cabs and snare drums and should be in every engineer’s mic locker.
2. Rode NT1A
The Rode NT1A has the reputation of the first choice entry-level condenser microphone for all applications.
It’s full-range frequency response, high SPL handling and warm sound make it an excellent choice for a wide variety of sources and uses.
3. AKG C414 XLS
The AKG C414 XLS is unmatched in terms of versatility. The classic multi-pattern design with selectable pad and low end roll-off makes this mic suitable for almost any task: from airy vocals to pianos to drum overheads.
One of the great dynamic designs from Sennheiser, the MD421 is another studio staple.
It’s particularly effective on toms, guitar and bass cabs and kick drums.
The Neumann U87 is probably the most legendary name on this list when it comes to recording vocals.
Neumann’s modern take on the classic with the U87ai sounds just as great for that classic 70’s and 80’s pop sound.
6. Shure SM7B
The Shure SM58 is another all time classic based on the design of Shure’s SM57. Where they differ is The SM58’s basket which is specifically tailored for live vocals making this mic perfect for that application.
No venue is complete without a few of these!
8. Rode NTK
The Rode NTK is the tube driven big brother to the workhorse NT1A. It brings even more detail and warmth with its distinctive tube sound. It’s an overall versatile mic that’s useful in many recording scenarios.
The Electrovoice RE20 is the industry standard professional broadcast microphone for radio and TV—but it’s also amazing for recording! It’s particularly great on vocals and kick drum.
10. AKG D112
The AKG D112 is specifically designed to capture the punch and low end of kick drums. It’s many engineers’ first choice when it comes to inside kick mics.
Sennheiser’s other enduring dynamic design is the MD441-U. With its distinctive styling the MD441-U sounds extra detailed anywhere you would reach for a dynamic mic.
12. Oktava MK-012
Russian manufacturer Oktava is known for its small diaphragm condensers. The MK-012 normally come in a pair for stereo applications.
The airy, detailed sound of small diaphragm condensers can be great for capturing acoustic instruments and environments naturally and accurately.
The Cascade Fathead II is part of a new wave of affordable ribbon microphones. Ribbon mics give you naturally smooth top end and warm character.
The Fathead II is perfect for taming edgy sources like brass, drum overheads or guitar amps.
14. Neumann TLM 102
The TLM 102 is Neumann’s foray into the medium budget market. This large diaphragm condenser is small in stature but packs all the detailed performance of the more expensive Neumann mics.
The Beyerdynamic m160 is a unique dual ribbon microphone with a hypercardioid polar pattern making it great for precise positioning and off-axis rejection.
It also has slightly more upper midrange than other ribbon mics, giving it a punchy, forward tone great for recording guitar cab, brass sources and other edgy sources.
16. Royer R-121
The Royer R-121 has acquired a reputation as the number one ribbon mic for guitar amps.
It’s not cheap, but it’s been the first choice of pro studios since the mid 90s—especially when paired with a nice dynamic mic!
18. Mojave MA-200
Mojave microphones are designed by David Royer, whose R-121 ribbon took the #16 slot in this list.
The MA-200 is a tube large diaphragm cardioid condenser that’s believe to outperform mics that cost almost twice as much.
19. Shure KSM32
Shure’s KSM32 cardioid large diaphragm condenser handles high sound pressure level with ease and has the wide frequency response to make it suitable for all kinds of sources. It’s at home on kick, toms or rooms.
20. Telefunken M80
The M80 is Telefunken Elektroakousitk’s handheld dynamic offering. It’s unique design brings condenser-like performance to the handheld format for live and studio use.
21. Blue Baby Bottle
Blue Microphones eye-catching designs sound as good as they look. The Baby Bottle is a budget conscious large diaphragm condenser with a warmer, vintage voiced sound.
22. Aston Origin
Aston is another new microphone manufacturer making a splash with distinctive sound and aesthetics.
The Origin cardioid condenser has garnered a reputation as a great sounding all-around choice.
23. sE VR1
sE Electronics is another builder leading the charge on affordable modern ribbon mics. Their VR1 model has a strong following for its great sound on guitar cabs.
24. Rode NT-5
The Rode NT-5 is another solid choice for a stereo small diaphragm condenser. These mics yield a realistic, detailed stereo capture when used as a pair.
25. Neumann TLM 67
Neuman’s modern transformerless take on the classic U67 design offers the same warm and smoky top end of the original.
The TLM 67 is a fantastic choice for dark, moody vocals, or any situation where you need to tame some highs while keeping things detailed.
26. Heil PR30
The Heil PR30 is a sleeper hit dynamic microphone for instruments and vocals.
It easily holds its own against staple dynamic mics and brings something unique to the table.
27. Royer R-10
The R10 is Royer’s latest entry into the mid-price category.
This mic promises all the electric guitar goodness of the more expensive R-121 at an affordable price—and it doesn’t disappoint!
Audio Technica’s budget-friendly small diaphragm condensers like the AT4041are a huge hit in the microphone world.
They’re a versatile unit but are especially well known for capturing hihat and acoustic guitar.
29. CAD m179
The CAD m179 is one the best value-for-money microphones out there. It’s robust and versatile working especially well on toms and guitar cabs.
30. Shure Beta 52
The Beta 52 is Shure’s flagship kick drum microphone.
It’s extended bass response captures all that important low-end energy of the kick that you need for a good recording.
Microphone it in
There’s a huge amount of great microphones available to modern recording engineers.
These thirty barely scratch the surface of what’s out there.
Still, the mics on this list are among the finest and most useful that are currently being made. This list will help you get a start on your mic’ing journey.
One of these might end up being your next big studio purchase—so get educated and get excited!