The Best Microphones

Before diving into the guide, I will save you some reading time:

1. If you have a budget of around $100, then buy the Shure Beta58A. You can’t go wrong with this mic. You can use it inside and outside the studio for vocals and instruments.

2. If you have a budget of around $300-$400, the Rode NT-1 is your best option. It offers crisp recordings and can be used on vocals and instruments.

3. And lastly, if you prefer a darker sound or have a lot of background noise in your room, buy a Shure SM7b for about $400.

  • (Note: the Rode NT-1 and the Shure Sm7b are not suited for on-stage performances).

In the early days of recording, Microphones were very costly. Only high-priced production studios had the best models. Fortunately, this model has evolved dramatically over the past decades, and today there is a broad array of quality microphones available for home applications. No matter if you have a small or large recording budget, there are many reliable microphones you can choose from.

The Three Main Mic Categories

There are three main categories of microphones used for recording: dynamic microphones, ribbon microphones and condenser microphones.

  • Dynamic microphones are the most popular model for most music fans. They’re the vocal mics you see at most of the rock concerts at the front of the stage. Audio engineers praise them for being durable and capable of handling extremely large volumes.
  • Ribbon microphones use ancient technology: they create sound when audio waves meet a moving ribbon within the speaker. They also have the reputation of being delicate. Many antique ribbon mics are unable to manage high volumes; sound waves literally snap the ribbon. Today’s models are more flexible and are beloved by many studio engineers.
  • Condenser microphones are known to be the most flexible studio microphones and can be used to record almost any instrument. They are much more delicate and sound sensitive than dynamic microphones, and require a small electrical current to work. They are less common in a live environment. 

The Best Dynamic Mics for About $100

1) E609 Sennheiser

Sennheiser is a reliable and successful audio company based in Germany. The e609 is designed to record electric guitar amps but can be used for many applications.

Why we recommend the E609: The E609 is very different from the SM57. It is a good addition to any mic arsenal because it has a much warmer and fatter character, making it a great choice when you want a darker sound.

What they could do to improve: Nothing that I can think of.

Compared to the competition: No, it’s not an SM57. But is it better? Well, that would be like a Ford vs. Chevy competition.
The E609 is a solid mic that you can use for various genres, including Pop, Rock, Big Band, Oldies, and also horns and strings. Don’t expect to get the sound of a Shure SM57. This mic has its own signature character!


The Best Dynamic Mics for About $100:

2) Shure SM57
3) SM58,
4) Beta 58A

The SM57 works very well on vocals but is typically used micing instruments such as drums or guitar amplifiers.

The SM58 is the typical “vocal mic” most singer uses, and you can see it in music events worldwide.

The SM57 and SM58 are basically the same microphones with a different head. The SM57 has a flat head, and the SM58 has a round head. Both cost around $100 new and are the industry standard for live outputs. The SM58 is the typical “vocal mic” most singer uses, and you can see it in music events worldwide. The SM57 also works very well on vocals but is typically used micing instruments such as drums or guitar amplifiers.

The Beta 58A has a higher degree of sensitivity and uses a different pollar patters than the SM57 and Sm58.

I have owned the SM57 in the past, but I currently use the SM58 and the Shure Beta 58A. The Beta 58A has a very similar sound to the previous two, but I find that the Beta 58A has a brighter high end. Therefore this mic may be a better choice for people who have more bass in their voice.

The Difference Between the Shure SM58 and the Shure Beta 58a

The most crucial difference between the SM58 and the Beta 58A is the polar pattern. The SM58 has a cardioid (apple-shaped) pattern, and the Beta 58A has a supercardioid pattern. Mic’s pickup patterns explain the sensitivity to noise from different directions.

The first picture is a cardioid pattern and the second picture is an supercardioid pattern.

As stated on Shure’s website:

“A cardioid microphone will reject best from the back while a supercardioid microphone will reject better from the sides. Both microphones pick up sound best from the front, but a supercardioid polar pattern has the added advantage of being more directional and therefore, less susceptible to feedback when using correctly placed stage monitors”.

  • This means that the SM58 picks up less sound from the back but is more sensitive to sound coming from the mic’s sides.
  • In contrast, the Beta 58A picks up more sound from the microphone’s back (compared to the SM58) but rejects better from the sides. 

I own both microphones. My favorite is probably the Beta 58A since it responds better to my voice’s timber since the Beta has a broader frequency response in the high and mid-range – (it’s brighter). 

This is excellent for people like me with more bass in their voice since the added brightness the Beta 58A offers compensates perfectly for the lack of highs my voice has.

Both mics are good, and both mics are used best in different situations. 

For example, the Beta 58A has a higher sensitivity and is brighter. These are advantages that the mic possesses, but they can turn into disadvantages in some situations.

For instance, if the Beta 58A is used by a metal singer that does screamos, the added sensitivity may work against his performance.

If you can’t choose between the four, I recommend to opt for the Shure Beta58A since it will be the best choice for most of you.

Why we recommend the Shure SM57, SM58, and Beta 58A: Because they are build as a tank, they offer supreme sound quality and they are very reliable.

What they could do to improve: Nothing that I can think of.

Compared to the competition: These are top of their price-range and used by professionals alla round the world but a good competitor that has a different character-sound is the Sennheiser E609.


The Best Dynamic Mic For About $400: Shure SM7b

The Shure SM7 Dynamic mic was launched in 1973, and according to Shure, seven years of research went into designing this extraordinary microphone. Since then, the SM7 has been replaced by theΒ SM7B.

Important Facts About The Shure SM7b

  • The SM7b is much bigger than the SM57 or SM58. It offers a different (and often a better) recording experience.
  • The SM7b shines when used for recording vocals and can compete with much more expensive models. Most singers find that their voice translates much better with an SM7b and that they don’t need to buy an $1,000-$2,000 mic.
  • The SM7b is designed for indoor use. If you’re looking for a mic to perform onstage, the SM7b is not suited for that task.
  • Same as the SM57, SM58, and Beta 58A the SM7b is also great for recording: Kicks, snares, hi-hats, electric & acoustic guitars, electric bass guitar, saxophones, and most brass instruments!

Here are two videos that compare and explain the sound quality of the SM7b

List of artist and bands that used the Shure SM7 or the SM7b

  • Jack White
  • Michael Jackson (Billie Jean)
  • Red Hot Chillie Peppers
  • James Hetfield
  • Dave Grohl
  • John Mayer
  • Skrillex
  • Kevin Parker
  • Billie Joe Armstrong
  • Lamb OF God

Why we recommend the SM7b: The E609 is very different from the SM57. It is a good addition to any mic arsenal because it has a much warmer and fatter character, making it a great choice when you want a darker sound.

What they could do to improve: Nothing that I can think of.

Compared to the competition:

Comparing the Sm7b to the Neumann U87-Ai

The Shure SM7B is considered an excellent studio vocal mic that can compete with much more expensive mics such as the Neumann U87-Ai that costs $2,900. I have heard comparisons of both mics, and while the Neuman admittedly is a bit crispier on some occasions I can NOT justify the $2,500 price difference!

Comparing the Sm7b to the Sm57, Sm58, and Beta 58a

If I compare the SM7b to the Shure SM57, SM58, and Beta 58A for recording vocals inside the studio, I can’t deny that the SM7B sounds better.

I find that the SM7B has a much fuller sound. Almost everything that I record on that mic sounds more superior and more detailed. You simply can’t go wrong with this mic. Period.

  • No matter how much I love the SM7B it still remains a substantial investment compared to the SM57, SM58, and Beta 58A.
  • My opinion is that if you are just starting out in the world of recording & producing, you will probably be better off with an SM58 or a Beta 58A since they are “good enough” and much cheaper. 
  • It’s much better to invest the $300 difference in a good pair of studio monitors than to buy a $400 mic if you’re going to use it barely.
  • But if you have a large budget and plan to record a lot, then the SM7B is one of the best mics you can own.

The Best Condenser Mic for About $300: Rode NT-1

If you had to buy only one mic, this is the mic I’d recommend you buy. It is budget-friendly, it has an excellent build quality and a great sound, all for less than $300!

Condenser microphones are studio cornerstones for both voice and instruments. Some of them may need an external power supply and can cost much more than a comparable dynamic microphone. Also, condenser microphones are the most popular choice for vocals and for many instruments. At the $200-$700 price point, you have a lot of great choices.

WHY WE RECOMMEND THE Rode NT-1: Because this mic offers is the best in its price range.

WHAT THEY COULD DO TO IMPROVE: Nothing that I could think of for the price.

COMPARED TO THE COMPETITION: The Rode NT-1 is brighter than the Shure Sm7b, and it offers more detail. Keep in mind that in order to use it properly, you must be in a quiet room without background noises (such as computer fans or street noises) because the Rode picks up even the smallest sound.

on the other hand, if you prefer a darker sound, or if you’re not in an acoustically treated room or simply have too much background noise, the Shure Sm7b is the best option for you since it does a better job dealing with background noises.


What is the Best Mic You Can Get?

The best choice for most of you will be a large-diaphragm condenser mic, such as the Rode NT-1, given you will not use it for live performances. If you prefer a darker sound or have a lot of background noise in your room, buy a Shure SM7b.

And if you have a low budget or want to use your mic on-stage then buy a Shure Beta 58A.

As I mentioned above: “If you had to buy only one mic, this is the mic I’d recommend you buy. The Rode NT-1. It is budget-friendly, it has an excellent build quality and a great sound, all for less than $300!”