8 Best Condenser Microphones For Recording Vocals Reviewed [2020]

best condenser mics for recording vocals

So you want an excellent condenser mic to record crystal clear vocals? This guide will help you in your quest to pick the best condenser microphone for you. 

In this article, we’re going to explore 8 of the best bang-for-your-buck vocal condenser mics currently available on the market -- and pick a winner for every budget.

Ready? Let’s jump right in…

8 Best Condenser Microphones For Recording Vocals Reviewed [2020]

1. AKG C214 -- Best Condenser Mic For Most People

AKG C214 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone with Samson Pop Filter and Cable

When you look at the AKG C214, it screams quality from all angles. From the mic itself to the impressive package that it comes with. While pricier than some of the other picks on this list, this condenser mic takes our #1 spot based on the overall features that it comes with. 

AKG C214’s sonic character is extremely detailed thanks to its premium capsule design. The C214 has an outstanding dynamic range, as well as extremely low noise, making it ideal for close miking or recording loud sources

The mic features a 20db attenuator as well as a hi-pass filter -- you won’t find either of those features at this price point usually. The AKG C214 is also extremely durable and the included case makes moving the mic around a breeze.

The C214 also comes with a shock mount for additional noise reduction when recording, and a windscreen that you can attach directly to the mic. You also get a pop filter and an XLR cable in the package

Coming in at $400, the AKG C214 is an excellent choice if you have a slightly higher budget, and our top pick for most people.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable
  • Low self noise
  • Detailed sound quality

Cons:

  • High frequencies can sound harsh in some environments
  • Price
AKG C214 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone | Reverb Demo Video

2. MXL V67i Tube -- Best for Vintage Tone

MXL V67i Tube Dual Diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone with High-Isolation Shockmount, Mogami XLR Cable, and Windscreen

The MXL V67i Tube is, as the name states, a tube mic. 

Featuring a dual-capsule design, the V67i also comes with a 12AT7 dual-triode tube. This means that the mic has two modes that you can use to record -- “warm” and “bright”.

When using “bright” mode, the mic favors high frequencies and harmonics, making it great for recording female voices. 

When on “warm” mode, the V67i Tube brings the oldies to life, coating the sound in velvet-warm, analog goodness. 

The MXL V67i Tube package comes with a 12 pin power supply, a shock mount, and a flight case. What makes this microphone great is the fact that you can choose between two very different sonic characters -- bright and warm -- which makes the mic adaptable for a variety of voices. 

Naturally, the mic’s looks match its tone -- The V67i Tube comes in a stylish vintage design, with a green body and gold accents. 

Pros: 

  • Two recording modes
  • Good vintage tone
  • Decent when recording instruments

Cons:

  • Vintage aesthetic is a “love it or hate it” thing
  • Price
U87 Vs Gemini II Vs MXL V67i - Mic Shootout on vocals

3. Rode NT1-A -- Best Entry Level Condenser Mic For Home Studios

Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package

We spoke highly of the Rode NT1-A before, and we’re about to do it again! This golden budget condenser mic has been the go-to choice for beginner musicians throughout the years.

The NT1-A excels at recording many things but has truly earned its reputation through vocal recording. It is a highly sensitive mic that does very well at picking up low sounds. With a max SPL of 137dB, it can pretty much record anything without distortion

While the NT1-A out-performs its price, it does tend to have some sibilance issues. However, upgrading the pop-filter, which is included in the package, helps with this.

The NT1-A comes with everything you need to get you started on vocal recording. Retailing around $200, it’s an attractive package for anyone looking to upgrade their vocal gear on a budget. It’s an affordable step up from a USB or dynamic primary mic.

Pros: 

  • Detailed sound
  • Very well built
  • Good price 

Cons:

  • Sibilance issues could irritate some
  • On the heavy side
Rode NT1-A Anniversary Condenser Mic Review / Test

4. Neumann TLM 102 -- Premium Pick

Neumann TLM-102 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone (Black) with Suspension Shockmount & Pop Filter

While the TLM 102 isn’t the cheapest option, it’s a grand entry into the incredible world of Neumann. Its crisp, highly-detailed sound at this price point make it hard to ignore.

Retailing around $700, the Neumann TLM 102 is the highest priced condenser on our list. It is also, in our opinion, the best overall mic, and a choice you would not regret if you’re considering it. 

Made originally to be a vocal mic, the TLM 102 can also tolerate high SPL sources, making it a great all-around mic. Its small size makes it an easy-to-place microphone for cabs, brass, and drums.

The sound that the Neumann TLM 102 produces can stand up against its more expensive siblings.

The price is high -- and while you could get a pair of cheaper condenser mics for $700, Neumann TLM 102 will last you a lifetime. It’s a microphone that you’ll never regret getting. 

Pros: 

  • Top-quality condenser
  • Produces great results on different sound sources

Cons:

  • No case included
  • Needs a pop filter
  • Pricey (but affordable for Neumann)
Neumann TLM 102 Review / Test

5. Aston Microphones Origin

Aston Microphones Origin Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone

The Aston Origin is a British-made cardioid condenser microphone that emerged relatively recently in the affordable mic market. 

The Origin features two switches on its body, a 10db pad, and an 80Hz low-cut filter. The Origin’s sound is transparent and unique -- it’s one of those microphones that captures its source as clear as possible without added character.

Some may find this boring. However, it means that the Aston Origin makes a great all-around mic, producing a sound that favors the source rather than fancy processing. Of course, its main strength is vocal recording. 

The Origin has excellent shock protection right out of the box, but you may need a shock mount if you wish to use it on more aggressive sources.

Overall, the Aston Origin is a quality budget all-rounder mic. The lack of coloration to the signal actually gives you more room to explore and get creative in post-production.

Because of this, we consider Aston Origin one of the best condenser mics that you can get under $300. It’s a good option if you’re looking for a decent all-rounder that won’t break the bank. 

Pros: 

  • Good Price 
  • Unique Look
  • Natural Sound
  • Good on Many Sources

Cons:

  • No Shock Mount Included
  • May Need External Pop Filter
Review - The Aston Microphones Origin

6. Audio-Technica AT2020 -- Budget Pick

Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone, Black

Audio-Technica is a well-established brand within the studio equipment scene. From their amazing ATH headphone line to higher-priced condenser siblings, they have solidified their place in the market. 

The AT2020 is Audio-Technica’s popular entry-level condenser mic, focused on the home studio owner who is looking for a quality condenser mic without breaking the bank.

And for the price, this mic is quite impressive. Usually retailing at around $120, it’s no wonder that this mic is the go-to mic for home studios around the world. 

It is a cardioid mic, best suited for voice, but also pretty good at capturing low sound sources. It also comes with a standard swivel mount and a soft carrying pouch.

The AT2020 is an overall well-engineered, inexpensive, and good-sounding condenser mic. As our number one budget pick, we think it gives you the best bang for your buck among mics in this price range.

If you’re looking for a podcast mic, the AT2020 also comes in a USB version. So you wouldn’t need to purchase any extra audio equipment to get it to work – your computer is enough. 

Pros: 

  • Cheap
  • Well-Built
  • Surprisingly Good Sound

Cons:

  • Noise Levels are a Little High
  • Will Require a Pop Filter
  • No Shock Mount
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Mic Review / Test

7. Blue Spark SL -- 2nd Budget Pick

Blue Spark SL Large-Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone

The Spark SL is an affordable cardioid condenser microphone by Blue. Its attractive looks and low price have made it a popular choice for home studio owners looking in this price range.

Coming in at $160, it features the classic “Blue” body design in red along with a hi-pass and pad switch. Blue Spark SL is a natural-sounding microphone that can handle SPL’s of up to 128dB, which means it can effectively record a variety sources

It has a subtle midrange dip and some high-end boost, which enhances vocal sound without making it sound processed.

This mic shines when recording vocals, but it’s also adept as an overhead mic, an acoustic guitar mic, and a piano mic. The Spark comes in a fancy wooden box along with a Blue pop filter and shock mount.

At this price point, the Blue Spark SL is an attractive choice and a direct competitor with the AT2020. 

Pros: 

  • Style
  • Shock Mount and Pop Filter Included
  • Affordable
  • Good Performance

Cons:

  • Mid Frequencies Are Lacking
  • Some Noise
Blue Spark Condenser Microphone Review

8. Audio-Technica AT4040

Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

The Audio-Technica AT4040 is the AT2020’s longer, costlier sibling. It’s a higher class of microphone that produces better sound quality. With a maximum SPL tolerance of 145dB and a wide dynamic range, this is a great all-around mic.

The AT4040 features a hi-pass and pad switch and comes inside a vinyl-wrapped case, along with its own shock mount. The mic itself is attractively styled as well.

As far as sound is concerned, the AT4040 is a well-rounded microphone that produces warm lows and crispy highs. There are some irregularities notes in the high frequencies, but the AT4040 produces a quality, detailed sound overall

This mic works best as a vocal microphone, but its high SPL tolerance also allows it to be used on other instruments. 

With a slightly higher price tag, the Audio-Technica AT4040 is an excellent choice for those who are looking into buying a good all-around condenser. 

Pros: 

  • Warm Sound
  • Includes Shock Mount And Case
  • Sturdy 
  • Exceptional Quality

Cons:

  • Some High-Frequency Irregularities 
  • Pricey 
  • Needs An Additional Pop Filter
AT4040 Mic Review!! Your Next Mic?? Vocal Test and More (You gotta see this)

Best Condenser Microphones Buyer’s Guide

What to look for when choosing a condenser microphone.

Sound Character

Every mic has its own sonic character, so there’s no best pick for everyone. As usual, the right mic for you is going to depend on your needs. Are you dead-set on getting an authentic vintage sound, or are you a cash-strapped bedroom musician? Your particular needs and situation are going to determine which mic is right for you.

Additional Accessories

If you’ve never owned a condenser mic, it’s important to note that you need a preamp and phantom power to use it. It will most definitely need a pop filter as well. It’s essential to keep all this in mind before buying, especially when you’re on a budget. Sure, a pop filter can be cheap, but an interface may cost you an extra $100. 

Application

If you’re thinking of buying a condenser microphone to use as an all-around studio mic, always check its SPL tolerance before trying it out in front of a loud source. Mics with a higher SPL tolerance can be used on a variety of sources.

If you want to know more about SPL check out this awesome short article here: https://www.eminence.com/understanding-spl/.

Budget

A condenser microphone is an essential item for any studio. Make sure not to cut corners when setting it up. 

In most home studios, you’ll use the same mic on multiple sources -- so your new microphone is your only microphone. You’ll want your primary method of live sound recording to last a long time and meet all of your recording needs.

So if you have a little more to give towards your condenser microphone, or can hold out a little longer to raise the budget, it’s definitely worth it.

If you’re not sure on how to budget for your home studio setup, check out this nice article on how to set up a home studio on a budget: https://www.dittomusic.com/blog/how-to-set-up-a-home-recording-studio-on-a-budget.

Noise Levels

Some condenser mics sensitive and pick up self-noise sounds from themselves, as well as ambient noise. This is something else to consider when buying a condenser mic. 

If your home studio isn’t soundproof and you can hear a lot of background noise from outside, chances are the mic will, too. So unless you’re going for the “noisy city room” vibe, you’ll need to soundproof your recording environment and pick a microphone with low self-noise.

More Accessories

We’ve already talked about the need for a pop filter, but we haven’t discussed the need for a heavy-duty mic stand. 

Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are rarely lightweight, which means that you will most likely need a heavy-duty mic stand to go with it. We’re not talking about a $200 stand, but definitely something that can withstand the mic’s weight.

You will also need a shock mount. A shock mount cradles your microphone and absorbs a lot of the vibrations that occur during recording. This will make your mic produce much less noise.

Conclusion

Let’s recap. These condenser microphones are among the best and most popular mics in their class. Whatever your budget, you can’t go wrong with any from our list. 

Our picks:

  • If you’re on a budget, we highly recommend picking up the Audio-Technica AT2020.
  • If you’ve got the cash to spare, definitely get yourself an AKG C214 or Neumann TLM 102
  • If you’re looking for something with a special character, then the MXL V67i Tube will color your signal well. 

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