The BEST Condenser Mics of ALL TIME, EVER. In Every Price Range.
Why find your best mic here? Because I completed the Never Ending Search for the BEST Condenser Mic so you don’t have to…
I remember when I first started researching microphones, I spent an exhaustive amount of time learning and using every mic I could find. My 2 goals:
- Not waste my time
- Not waste my money
Fast Forward Nearly 2 Decades…
After recording hundreds of hours of music and using every condenser mic in sight, today I would say I know a little more than I did when I started…
…So I thought I would share information I wish I had when I was trying to find a condenser microphone for myself.
I have taken my nearly 2 decades of experience and created the table below, showing the best condenser mics from every price range. – See my individual comments on each mic below the graphic!
I have included only the most pertinent information about each condenser mic.
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Speaking the same language – What do the table headings mean?
- Frequency – The range of Hz/sound the microphone is able to capture (20Hz – 20kHz is the range of human audible frequency, you generally don’t want anything less than this range.)
- Polar Pattern
- Cardioid – records sound in front of the mic only
- Omni – records sound all around the mic (front, back, and both sides)
- Figure-8 – records sound in front and back of mic only
- Self Noise – the amount of noise the mic produces (usually this is barely audible and can be removed with EQ after recording)
- SPL (Sound Pressure Level) – the highest amount of volume (dB) a mic can handle before distorting. The higher the number, the more volume the mic can handle (loud guitar amps and drums).
I don’t want to just share the mics and pricing, but I want to share the reason why you are really here – “the WHY”.
Below I’ve included “why” I selected each one of these mics as truly “BEST in class” within their respectable price range out of the thousands available on the market.
The AT2020 is the standard for inexpensive condenser microphones. It is definitely NOT a “cheap” microphone and it gets the job done well. With very little EQ alterations you can get your recordings to sound excellent. – GREAT podcast mic!
This condenser mic is hands down the best condenser mic under $200. With multiple polar patterns to choose from you have the ability to record a broad range of instruments and performances. This is also one of the best mics for podcasts. With the “Figure 8” capability, this mic is able to record 2 people at the same time: 1 person on each side of the mic. Perfect for podcast interviews or 2 man podcasts!
I have used the Rode NT1-A for many years and it has never failed to deliver quality recordings. The NT1-A has only 5 dB of self noise, which is less than alot of mics double, triple and even quadruple its price! For $199, this is definitely the biggest bang for your buck. If you have the funds, go for it, you will not be disappointed.
Although the AKG C214 has a broad application as a recording microphone, it sounds AMAZING on vocals and with a high SPL (156 dB) you can record amplifiers that “go to 11!” Not to mention it is a beautiful looking piece of gear and has an all-metal die-cast body with a shock and scratch resistant finish!
This is the only tube mic on the list, but it definitely stands out in its remarkably detailed and rich sound. The Genesis brings clarity to vocals and spice to guitars. Check out Ryan Knorr using it for his cover of “Mary Me” by Train. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TecSNaSIxwA
The AKG C314 is truly a stunning recording microphone that is very dynamic and can be used to record not only any instrument, but any sound one desires. The AKG C314 does it all with precision and beauty. Definitely one of my all time favorite microphones and a MUST HAVE if it’s in your budget.
Neumann TLM 102
With a slight presence boost above 6 kHz the Neumann TLM 102 can bring out the shine in any lead instrument. I personally think it sounds EXCELLENT as a room mic for drums. It has a very nice spacious sound that blends well with the other closer drum mics. The TLM 102 also sounds exceptional with vocals and acoustic guitar as well. The Neumann TLM 102 will definitely last for decades and will not be outdated.
AKG C414 XL II
The AKG C414 XL II is magic. It is one of the best all around studio microphones available. The AKG C414 XL II has the standard Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8, Wide Cardioid, and Hyper Cardioid patterns, but it also gives you the option to use 4 intermediate polar patterns as well, allowing for even more freedom and flexibility to record a much more broad set of sound.
Shure KSM44A Multi-Pattern
The Shure KSM44A will be money well spent. If you are a piano player the KSM44A is the mic for you. The KSM44A does a phenomenal job at recording acoustic instruments and with its multi polar pattern versatility it records ensembles flawlessly. At 4 dB of self noise, this is the quietest condenser microphone available!
Neumann TLM 49
Although the Neumann TLM 49 has a broad application it was created for vocals and voice overs. This is a singer’s microphone that will sound amazing with any vocalist. The Neumann TLM 49 is, in my opinion, the best vocal mic you can buy. It will make good singers sound incredible, and incredible singers sound God like!
Q: What is 48v phantom power?
A: 48v phantom power is the power needed to run most condenser microphones.
Q: Do the condenser mics on this page need 48v phantom power?
A: Every condenser mic on this page needs 48v phantom power.
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