For most of us putting together a home or project studio, cost dictates the gear we choose. In a perfect world we’d all have a locker full of $3000+ vocal mics, but that’s wildly impractical for the average bedroom engineer.
Realistically, when piecing together a studio it’s advised to get the best equipment you can afford at the time. Should the opportunity arise to upgrade further down the road, then do so! For the sake of this article, let’s pretend we’re shopping for vocal mics on a budget of $500 or less.
A great vocal mic doesn’t have to cost more than a secondhand car. We’ll take a look at some of the best options for budget-conscious studios.
Austrian microphone manufacturer Lewitt produces amazing sounding equipment. We’re fans of theirs at Produce Like a Pro, but the mics truly speak for themselves–no pun intended.
At just $269 USD, the LCT 440 is a versatile large diaphragm cardioid condenser. The 440’s frequency response is flat until around 1 kHz where it begins to slope gently upwards, with a maximum boost of 5 dB at 13.2 kHz. Additionally, a 3.4 dB boost at 4 kHz is a nice presence bump to make a vocalist shine. The 440’s sound defies its price tag and competes with microphones many more times its cost.
It’s a fantastic vocal mic, but–as we’ll see with most entries here–it performs well for a variety of sound sources. A robust 140 dB maximum SPL means it can handle the loudest sources you can throw at it.
An alternative to the immensely popular NT1-A, the only thing the NT1 and 1-A share is a mesh grille. The mic features an entirely new capsule redesigned exclusively for the NT1, and an internal Rycote Lyre shock mount suspending the capsule to minimize handling noise.
While the NT1-A is no doubt a favorite budget condenser, some have described it as harsh in high end. Conversely, the NT1’s frequency response is almost entirely flat, save for a very gentle boost around 4 kHz. Like the Lewitt, Røde’s NT1 can handle a whopping 132 dB SPL, so feel free to mic up a guitar cabinet after vocal tracking!
The NT1’s capsule was designed with a focused midrange in mind, making it particularly suitable for vocals. At $269 with an external shock mount and pop filter, the NT1 is an excellent budget-friendly vocal mic.
The SM7B is a popular dynamic vocal/broadcast microphone. Some of its key features include:
- Flat, wide-range frequency response for exceptionally clean and natural reproduction of both music and speech
- Bass rolloff and mid-range emphasis (presence boost) controls with graphic display of response setting
- Improved rejection of electromagnetic hum, optimized for shielding against broadband interference emitted by computer monitors
- Internal “air suspension” shock isolation virtually eliminates mechanical noise transmission
- Highly effective pop filter eliminates need for any add-on protection against explosive breath sounds, even for close-up vocals or narration
At $399, the SM7B approaches the higher end of our imposed budget but is an incredible mic for the money. If you’re leaning toward a dedicated vocal/broadcast dynamic mic in the price range, look no further.
Another viable option for an all-around, vocal-friendly studio condenser is Blue’s Bluebird SL. The company touts the Bluebird as having “modern, crystal-clear sound,” which is wonderful for capturing every nuance and detail of a vocal performance.
You’ll likely find yourself taking advantage of the 100 Hz high-pass filter when tracking vocals, and a -20 dB pad comes in handy should you take on louder sound sources.
Likewise, the Bluebird’s high-end clarity and smooth midrange make for an incredibly pleasant-sounding vocal microphone. It lists for $299, so it’s well below the $500 limit!
As we’ve established, there are plenty of inexpensive, high-quality large diaphragm condensers on the market, and the AT4040 is no exception. Designed to have a smooth, natural frequency response, Audio-Technica’s hat is most definitely in the ring of affordable vocal mics.
The 4040 sports a fairly steep boost around 6 and 7 kHz, which may be perceived as harsh to some ears and on certain vocalists. However, it’s also a unique characteristic among the aforementioned vocal mics.
An 80 Hz high-pass filter and -10 dB pad are great features well, and an included shock mount, dust cover, and case means the AT4040 has earned its place on this list at $299.
Another wonderful choice at the $299 price point is Roswell Pro Audio’s Mini K47 condenser microphone. We’ve previously had the opportunity to review this mic and give one away, thanks to our dear friend and Roswell founder, Matt McGlynn!
The K47 plays particularly well with vocals; the frequency response is full-bodied and balanced with a natural top end. The capsule provides a vintage vibe and feel, while its modern circuits keep the noise floor and distortion value low.
All in all, the K47 lends itself to vintage tone and modern performance!
Vocal Mics Under $100
While the previous entries are undoubtedly inexpensive relative to say, a Neumann 87, they aren’t the cheapest out there. For just $99, you can score a pretty fantastic vocal mic of the dynamic or condenser variety.
So, let us not forget the Shure SM58–perhaps the most popular stage dynamic microphone of all time. Despite it’s rugged, road-ready design, the SM58 has a home in the studio, too. A built-in metal pop filter means one less expense on a tight budget, and you can count on it to still perform after a solid drop or a hundred.
If a condenser better suits your taste, the Audio-Technica AT2020 is a no-brainer at only $99. A slightly stripped-down AT4040 at a third the cost, you can count on tremendous recordings for the price.
Amazing vocal mics don’t have to be a fortune!