The Best Studio Microphones under $300 – Updated 2018
The market for recording mics has limitless options but thankfully you can still get one of the best studio microphones for under $300.
If the time has come for your first studio microphone you will probably end up looking at a huge market with limitless options and some very expensive models. Some high-end microphones cost thousands of dollar. If you are not working in a professional recording studio dedicated to vocal and instrument recordings, then there is no need for such a big investment. Today we will see decent mid-range mics that will completely cover your needs in the studio for every available budget.
First things first, a mic by itself will not give you any sound. It relies on a preamp, a sound source, and of course a speaker source. that reference the character of the microphone itself.
Once you have that accounted for, how the mic is set up and positioned in front of the vocalist, amp, or drum set you are recording is also going to have a huge impact on the final sound.
You will quickly notice that there are a few things to consider before you purchase your studio microphone. Two of your biggest concerns will be the microphone type and the polar pattern.
What to consider before buying your studio microphone.
Regarding the features of a good quality studio microphone, the selection criteria are pretty clear.
Condenser microphones are commonly used in a recording studio. Why is that? Simply because with a large diaphragm, you will have a transparent and rich in detail sound. In addition, it focuses more on the sound from the front of the microphone and ignores background noises. Our list is filled with condenser type of recording mics.
Dynamic microphones transform waves of acoustic sound into mechanical vibrations and final into electrical waves. We will not explore any dynamic microphones in our list.
Features may not define the performance and sound of your studio microphone, but they certainly have an impact on its versatility. One very important feature to check on a mic is its polar pattern. Most affordable condenser microphones are using the standard cardioid pattern, however, we have one entry in our list with multi-pattern.
The Polar pattern defines in which direction the microphone is most sensitive.
Cardioid: With a cardioid pattern, the sound that is coming from the front, is recorded louder than from the side. Furthermore, it will pick up less ambient sounds from the room into your recordings. Cardioid microphones with large diaphragm are ideal for vocal recordings. And they can be used on recording guitar, bass, drums or even small orchestra ensembles.
Omnidirectional: It will record sources from all directions.
Figure 8: It is for opposing sound sources, such as two singers facing the mic from the opposite side.
Multi-pattern: Some microphones are multi-pattern. Which means that their polar patterns can be changed (e.g. from cardioid to omnidirectional and more). This capability gives your studio microphone the versatility and flexibility you need in your home recordings.
To get the job done you need a studio mic, with the quality of hardware that will offer great performance and sound on your recordings. A studio quality microphone must record a wide range of frequencies in order to achieve the clear and plain sound. Condenser microphones have higher frequency response than dynamic type’s.
All microphones work just like your eardrums. There are diaphragms that are thin plates or skins that vibrate due to the pressure of sound waves contacting them. Then, the mechanism attached to the diaphragm translates these vibrations into an electrical signal. That signal is sent down to the mic cable and to a speaker or computer so that you can hear and record. Size matters and in that case we choose microphones with a large diaphragm. Microphones with small diaphragm are best known for being more precise and accurate, but you will have limited options of vocal and instrument recordings.
For starters, a $300 microphone is a good budget to search for a reliable choice. Those mics and models we picked below are made to endure the everyday use. Build quality is more than the chassis and other obvious components. In addition, there are a few simple things to do to make sure your condenser mic will last longer.
XLR, USB, and the classic 3.5mm are your choices, but without a doubt, with an XLR you will get a better quality of sound. Our list is dominated with XLR condenser studio-quality microphones.
How to protect your studio microphone to last as much as possible.
Take care of your studio tools and you are halfway there. If you neglect your studio equipment and in our case your condenser microphone, it will give up on you as well.
- Humidity: You can store your microphone in a closet, mic cabinet, or leave it on the mic stand. But one thing you want to make sure of is that the room’s humidity is such that you are not accumulating moisture on the diaphragm.
- Moisture: At some point, you will have a singer or vocalist in your studio that spits a little here or there as they sing. Get a pop filter and you are done worrying.
- Sound Pressure: Each microphone has it’s own maximum safe SPL rating. If you put your mouth right to the grill like you see people do with dynamic mics, there is a real possibility that you can harm your microphone permanently. A pop filter can be used here as well. As it keeps a safe distance from the source and therefore the volume.
Where you will connect your studio condenser microphone
Keep in mind that before buying your studio microphone, you will have to invest in a decent audio interface. Only if you pick a studio microphone with a USB connection, you will not have to buy one. As a USB mic is plugged directly into your desktop computer or laptop.
In any case, an audio interface is or will be a necessity in your home recording studio, and that is for sure. Find how many instruments you will need to record at once, a buy an interface with Inputs/Outputs according to your needs. You can find more details about the best audio interfaces under $200. All our choices below for the best studio condenser microphone with cardioid polar pattern require an audio interface.
Each microphone performs at it’s best depending on the sound source.
- male/female vocals
- loud instruments (drums etc.)
- acoustic instruments (guitars, violins etc.)
- with heavy bass (kick-drum, bass guitar, etc.)
There are a couple of things you will need in addition to start recording. Firstly, the shock mount is essential to absorb vibrations. A fabric pop filter between the sound source and the mic. Lastly, an XLR cable to connect to your audio interface. Happily, many studio microphones come in packages including those items.
Building a proper recording studio requires a lot of planning, searching and a big wallet. If you are also dreaming for your own recording studio check how to build a home recording studio with under $600.
In our list of the best studio microphones, you will find condenser type with large diaphragms and with a cardioid polar pattern.
5 BEST STUDIO MICROPHONES FOR RECORDING
RODE NT1-A is my first quick response for the best studio microphone. Perfect for anybody who is starting music production and needs an affordable microphone to record. There are many characteristics for consideration but this mic is a perfect balance and great addition to any recording studio.
This condenser type of microphone has great clarity in the mids and highs and impressive neutral-sounding. It also offers a wide dynamic range and a large diaphragm. With a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz, you will be able to record a large variety of instruments and vocals.
NT1-A has a self-noise of the only 5dB, making it one of the quietest studio microphones on our list of the best studio microphones. Its characteristics might not overcome others but is a studio standard, sufficient and available at a very good price.
conclusion: If it didn’t convince you yet check the nearly perfect reviews on Amazon store. RODE NT1-A comes in a package with a deluxe Rode SM6 shock mount, a fabric pop filter, a dust cover bag and a 6m XLR cable to give everything you want to start recording. All that for a very affordable price and quality that will tide you over for years.
Musicians who use it: Above&Beyond, B.B.King, Rob Chapman, Madeon, Nicky Romero
|Value for money:||9/10|
2.AUDIO TECHNICA AT2035
One of my favorite brands, Audio Technica produces besides headphones and turntables, high-end microphones as well. One of their most popular studio quality mics is the AT2020 USB. But it is slightly behind on sound and performance compare to our pick AT2035.
The AT2035 by Audio Technica is a large diaphragm condenser microphone that offers smooth and natural sound. As well as the cardioid polar pattern that reduces the ambient sounds from sides and rear while improving the isolation of the desired sound source. You can record great vocals and at some level acoustic guitars or other stringed instruments. In total it is producing a very natural and detailed sound.
Is a bit louder than RODE NT1-A but the 12dB self-noise level won’t be heard in your recordings. The AT2035 features a 10dB pad and an 80Hz high-pass filter that you can switch on whenever you desire.
conclusion: With a beautiful appearance that refers to a studio recording microphone it has collected some excellent reviews. Users praise it’s sound, durability and the sweet price tag. AT2035 comes with a shock mount, pop filter, and a 10ft. XLR cable to connect and record from day one.
Musicians who use it: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Boyinaband
|Value for money:||9/10|
3.SE ELECTRONICS SE2200A II
After the big success of 2200a by SE Electronics, it was next to launch the new SE 2200A II with switchable polar patterns and a nice black appearance. You will have to put your hand deep in your pocket but this is a studio quality microphone that gives you the opportunity to record a wide range of sound sources.
SE Electronics SE2200A II is a large diaphragm condenser microphone with multi-pattern capability. It uses 1″ capsule employed with two center-terminated diaphragms that give you the opportunity to switch between cardioid, omnidirectional or figure-8 polar pattern. The 20Hz-20kHz frequency response of this condenser microphone will get the job done perfectly. There is no doubt that is one of the best vocal microphones out there.
The original SE 2200A had been used by Amy Winehouse to record the “Back To Black album”, and that alone is a quality guarantee. It has a clear natural sound with a little warmth in the low-ends while it keeps the brightness of the highs.
conclusion: If you can get over the fact that SE Electronics is not a popular brand, SE 2200A II is a great option for any studio with switchable multi-patterns to record anything you want. For a limited period, the package comes with a new universal black shock-mount.
Musicians who use it: Amy Winehouse
|Polar pattern:||Cardioid, omnidirectional, Figure 8|
|Value for money:||8/10|
The most budget-friendly studio microphone of our list has the highest user ratings and hundred of superb reviews. MXL 770 has been out for many years now and it’s safe to say that established by musicians and recording studios around the world.
This condenser microphone with large diaphragm and cardioid pattern can record vocals and instruments as well. The overall sound is “raw” but is nicely balanced with solid bass and upfront high-end. It will also perform very well with guitar and string instruments.
The smaller sibling of the well knownMXL 990 has a switchable bass cut and -10dB pad and legendary MXL sonic characteristics. The MXL 770 even uses a high-quality FET preamp with balanced output for a wide dynamic range.
conclusion: MXL 770 is the best cardioid condenser microphone in the market for its price tag. It comes along with a shock-mount and a carrying case. You might not have “wow” recordings but at the end, you will save money for other gear in your studio and still have a quality mic to record vocals and instruments.
|Value for money:||10/10|
5.AKG PRO AUDIO C214
The smallest and most affordable model of the AKG series C (212/314/414) is a superb option for beginners as well as experts. If you desire premium quality with beautifully detailed recording on lead vocals and solo instruments this is for you.
Like the rest of the studio condenser microphones we have seen so far, AKG C214 has a large diaphragm and cardioid polar pattern. It uses the same capsule as the three times more expensive multi-pattern AKG C414. But the existence of only one polar pattern in C214 justifies the more affordable price tag.
It surely delivers highly detailed vocal recordings with very low self-noise. With SPL at 156dB, you won’t have to worry about loud vocalists. The AKG C214 also features a switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter for close-up recording.
conclusion: The top-rated AKG C214 can perform equally well with vocals and instruments. With a nice built quality, it guarantees a wonderful investment. If you decide to go for the full package that includes XLR cable, pop filter and elastic spider suspension you will have to get over budget. One of the best studio microphones for those who want a career from it.
|Value for money:||9/10|
When you know what you are looking for, you can own one the best studio mic with under 300 dollars. Choosing the right condenser studio microphone is an easy job with our suggestions above. All options will fit perfect in any home recording studio, and no matter which one you go with, you won’t be disappointed. In case your pocket can afford more, check the best studio recording microphones under $1000.
Do not forget that the ambiance and room conditions (sound isolation / soundproof) have a crucial impact on recording quality. You can see you how to soundproof your room at a reasonable price.
Do not hesitate to post your comments and questions. I and my team would be happy to help!