It is important to buy the best condenser microphone you can afford. It is one of the single most important microphones anybody can own – whether you’re a professional audio engineer or somebody with a home recording studio looking to get some songs down (or spoken-word audio).
Condenser microphones have a high sensitivity and can pick up the widest range of frequencies of all the different microphone types and will allow you to capture crystal-clear sound. They tend to have a faster transient response and a higher output which in turn creates a more natural and transparent sound. If your budget allows it you could also consider buying a tube microphone which tend to offer a warmer more vintage tone to your recordings.
They are extremely versatile mics and can be used to record pretty much anything if used correctly. They are most commonly associated with recording vocals so every singer you hear in your music collection was almost certainly have been using a condenser microphone. But their limitations do not end there – you can also effectively record guitars (finger-picking acoustic particularly) drum kits and a range of pianos and other string and brass instruments.
They’re not ideal for live situations where you’d be much better off using a dynamic microphone.
How To Choose The Best Condenser Microphone
- Your budget – It’s a pretty obvious one but you should set yourself a maximum budget and try to get the best condenser microphone you can afford. The reassuring thing with condenser mics is that if you buy a reliable and trusted brand you’ll never lose much money on them as they have a great resale value. You should take into consideration the rest of your set-up when buying as there’s no point having a $1000 condenser microphone running through a cheap old laptop. You’ll also need to look at good audio interfaces that will compliment your mic.
- Connectivity – The standard connection for most microphones is the XLR input. This connection type you will see all over the place on PA systems, amplifiers and external sound cards(audio interfaces). If you’re looking to record straight into your PC, Mac or laptop then you will need a USB microphone. These are becoming more and more popular and the quality is always improving with many great options out there.
- Accessories – Some condenser microphones will come as part of a microphone bundle and will include all the bits you need to start recording. If you buy a bare mic then you’ll also need to consider choosing a pop shield, shock mount, stands and cables. As mentioned before you need to make sure you have a suitable audio interface if you choose a mic that uses an XLR cable – and that will supply the phantom power a condenser mic needs.
The Best Condenser Microphones
The Rode NT1-A has been considered the best value condenser microphone for quite some time due to its super clean sound with a high sound pressure level, a warm feeling to its recordings and a remarkably sturdy build with proper care. A microphone that has become an exclusive industry standard; from its warm sound to the dynamic range and overall affordability this microphone easily stands out among others of its class.
Rode is known as a brand to trust, especially when it comes to mics so the NT1-A is certainly no exception. One of the quietest studio microphones with a 5 dBA self-noise level, this mic is especially great for recording guitar, percussion and vocals. The preferred choice for anything from professional to home recording, this mic also includes a large one-inch capsule with a gold-plated diaphragm.
The MXL 770 is one of the most inexpensive microphones out there and yet it’s still worth considering amongst the others. The ideal microphone mix of solid construction and wonderful sound quality; this low-budget mic is just the one you need if you’re looking for a microphone you can afford that offers amazing quality but not at a professional studio level.
Offering a solid bass level, an up-front high end a small diaphragm multi-purpose capsule this mic is especially great for use with vocals, strings and pianos. Somewhat cheap and unable to provide the quality of sound that it’s more expensive counterparts can, this mic is perfect for an inexpensive set-up but probably won’t work well in more expensive situations.
The most recent USB-capable rival of the previously mentioned Yeti, this low price point microphone offers a host of impressive features and capabilities. Capable of being plugged directly into the USB port of your at-home computer, the user of this mic will seamlessly work with your favorite recording software with absolutely no external source of power needed.
Perfect for use recording in an at-home studio for strictly digital work; this mic is also wonderful for podcasting, field recording and voice-overs too. Designed on the base of Auto-Technica’s AT2020 cardioid mic, this unit offers not only a low-mass diaphragm for extended frequency response and superior transient response, but low self-noise as well. A budget friendly condenser mic, this product is the perfect choice if the Yeti is just too expensive.
M-Audio Uber Mic
The M-Audio Uber Mic is listed by many as the best condenser microphone for clear recordings that are truly faithful to the original source of the recording and even free from distortion and unwanted coloration of sounds. An incredibly budget-friendly mic, this product is capable of mixing low-noise Class A electronics due to a high-quality over 1-inch gold diaphragm and will produce amazing quality of sound in such conditions.
The M-Audio Uber has an excellent array of features for reliability and protection with a surprisingly light 2-pound weight and totally solid and durable brass body and capsule; as long as you keep this microphone in a safe place when it’s not in use you can assure it will keep working well for a long time to come. This unit comes with a hard mount and soft case, which means you can even easily carry with you other accessories as well.
Blue Microphones Yeti
The Blue Microphones Yeti is most definitely the best condenser microphone with USB connectivity that is capable of capturing audio in a higher than 16 bit/48 kHz resolution. Complete with an integrated headphone amp with some gain control on the actual unit itself; this mic provides the user with an amazing variety of selectable polar patterns for absolute flexibility in recording as well.
A microphone that also includes a mute function directly on the face of the device itself, the absolute best part about the Blue Yeti mic is its compatibility with both Mac and Windows as well as an included USB cable you can easily use immediately after taking it out of the box. Easily folded down for quick storage or to stand up on its own, this mic is also wonderful for use during podcasting due to its incredible versatility and affordable price.
Moving up a bit in price to the mid-level microphones, this mic offers so much more than other mics of its price point. The Rode NTK is a model that easily stands out from the crowd and offers a level of quality simply unmatched by other microphones. Designed to provide warmth with an amazing level of studio detail; with a cardioid polar pattern this mic is often regarded as the absolute best condenser microphone for the recording of single instruments.
A mic that includes a twin triode 6922 valve and high-quality audio grade components, the outer build of this model is reminiscent of an armored tank and so it will really last as long as it’s taken care of. A remarkable microphone that features low-noise, an ultra-wide range and stunning tube warmth, this mic offers a lovely balance between a clear and vintage sound. Great for use with vocals or a wide variety of instruments.
AKG Pro C214
AKG Pro is an amazing brand when it comes to microphones and the AKG Pro C214 is certainly no exception. A less expensive alternative to the C414 product line, this mic includes a large, professional diaphragm as well as an exclusive 1-inch capsule on the integrated suspension to reduce as much conventional mechanical noise as possible.
Offering a switchable 20 dB attenuation pad that allows the ability to record up to 156 dB SPL; it also include a switchable bass-cut filter ideal for close-up recording that doesn’t include any proximity effect at all. The body of this mic has a bit wider field of recording, great for picking up sounds that aren’t just in front of it and is recommended for vocals as well as almost any instrument in an isolated environment.
The Neumann TLM-102 is a model that moves a bit into a higher price point but provides top-of-the-line quality along with it. Offering an amazingly high-quality cardioid pattern, this large diaphragm condenser mic can handle incredibly high sound pressure levels as well.
Producing a remarkably clear and crisp sound, the capsule of this mic lets you record loud sound sources such as drums, amplifiers and percussion especially. Geared toward recording the louder voices and instruments out there, this unit also has a quick transient response that also allows it to record sounds at a lower volume beautifully too. Featuring an impressive vocal presence and a clear bass range, this mic may seem like it’s priced high but it’s definitely for a reason; this is a near professional-level microphone for both sound and music recording.
Blue’s most popular microphone on the market, the Spark lets you get amazingly wonderful recordings with true-to-original frequencies all in one. Featuring a beautifully bright orange body and stunning chrome accents this style is easily recognizable among others and it looks fantastically vintage as well.
Complete with a large, solid diaphragm condenser capsule and a proprietary pre-amp built-in for exceptional sound though you’ll still require an audio interface as well as a phantom power supply. This mic also includes a ‘focus button’ that allows the use to change to a more up-front sound with a full-range response depending on how you choose to use it; this mic will work wonderfully and its budget-friendly price is simply nothing to ignore.
Sterling Audio ST55
The Sterling Audio ST55 is a uniquely built condenser microphone that allows not only high frequencies and improved details but also extends the depth on instrument and vocal recordings as well. An FET condenser microphone that’s withstood the test of time for the last decade, the longevity of this mic is both well-known and impressive.
Complete with a huge capsule as well as a sleek and thin 3-micron evaporated gold Mylar diaphragm, this microphone also includes impressively advanced technologies that easily separates this mic from the other models out there like it. Capable of recording a smooth and warm sound through high-quality FET Class-A Electronics; if you’ve been searching for a sturdy and dependable mic at the lower end of the middle price point, there is truly no better choice than this.