What microphone should I buy for recording vocals? Mic buying guide $300-$1,700 price range
Things that I wish I knew about buying mics and getting a good vocal sound. This is a buying guide for large diapragm condenser mics!
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is mics pick up the sound of the room you are in! This concept is confusing. A typical room in a house that has no acoustic treatment will have some amount of reflections or echo. Try clapping in your room and listen closely to how the sound trails off. Recording studios have lots of acoustic treatment and irregular room ratios to pacify this. But just to throw this out there before we get into mics you must know these:
Spending money on acoustic treatment is just as important if not more important than any gear you are thinking of buying. And I am talking about proper acoustic panels that are filled with insulation and scientifically tested. Not foam panels or curtains. And especially not any type of foam panel or ball that hangs on your mic stand. Check out www.acoustimac.com. They have a room calculator tool and make custom panels.
Recording vocals in a closet or a makeshift booth is not the way to go. Unless you have a large closet that is treated with bass traps and acoustic panels. For project studios or hobbyists, I recommend getting acoustic panels for your main room so it sounds better for both recording and listening to music.
Okay now we can get onto the mics!
Legendary vocal mic used by the likes of Lana Del Ray, Michael Jackson, Incubus, and others. SM7B is also used for podcast/radio/youtube work too. They are great for rock vocals, screaming, and singers that like to get really close up and hold the mic while they sing. They are great for songwriting sessions when you want the writer to be in the same room. This mic gets a very focused sound, if you want a more high fidelity lead vocal skip to the other mics on this list that are all condenser mics. This is the only dynamic mic I will cover. This mic needs a cloudlifter.
Wonderful mic that is transparent and works for a wide variety of instruments and singers. You can't go wrong with this mic and it is well priced and likely the best option in this range. Works well for all genres. Also works well for other instruments like guitar and drums.
Rode is a go-to mic brand for people new to recording because they make great mics for super cheap. This NTK is my favorite model and it happens to be a tube microphone. It has a really fantastic sound to it that works well on male and female vocals in defferent genres. Tube mics are generally a bit expensive and have pleasant saturation. If you record hip hop or soul vocals this is the one for you in this price range! You can also swap out the tube for different tones. If you are on a super tight budget, check out the other Rode models. I've had an NT-2A for over ten years and it's still going strong.
This mic got famous recently because of Billie Eilish. But it's been a popular project studio mic. This is Neumann's cheaper recreation of a u87, which is a go-to vocal mic in studios for its versatility and added presence that makes the voice stand out in a mix. Definitely check this mic out if you are serious about recording! Has a nice high fidelity sound. But as we get into mics in this price range, you definitely want to make sure your room is treated!
A wonderful mic. Has such an interesting rich and grainy character to it. Perfect for serious hip hop studios as well as r&b and soul vocals. Definitely check this mic out if you want a nice retro character. Takes effects really well too!
This is a secret workhorse vocal mic that has really cool voicing switch and sounds like a more expensive mic. This is definitely getting into a more serious price range, so check this out if you record a lot of vocals and want to step up your game. Works super well for hip hop and pop vocals!
A couple other honorable mentions. Great mics but not quite as versatile for vocals IMO, or just a little less commonly used but worth checking out for sure:
Telefunken TF Series
Slate Digital VMS