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Best microphones for recording

For the record.
By

Published onJuly 10, 2023

Shure MV7
The Shure MV7 in black against a white background.
9.4
Check price
Positives
Vocal reproduction
Easy to use
Great companion software
Simultaneous XLR and USB outputs
Build quality
Versatility
Negatives
Price
Loose windscreen
The Bottom Line.
This mic sounds fantastic regardless of if you're using its USB or XLR output. It comes with a seemingly endless amount of features, and is a great choice for a recording mic.Read full review...
Shure SM57
Shure SM57 microphone placed vertically against a white background.
8.9
Check price
Positives
Can withstand loud volumes
Shape is ideal for miking instruments
Pneumatic shock mount
Dynamic
Price
Negatives
Lacks pop filter; not great for vocals
The Bottom Line.
Whether you’re wailing away on the guitar or rocking a thundering drum beat, the Shure SM57 will record great sound.Read full review...
Rode NT1
A product image of the Rode NT1 product image
8.8
Check price
Positives
Minimal internal noise
Neutral-leaning frequency response
Internal shock mount
Includes many accessories
Negatives
Requires phantom power
The Bottom Line.
The Rode NT1 will give you the most accurate vocal recording. Note that this buy link reflects the price of the whole bundle, not just the standalone microphone.
Blue Yeti X
Blue Yeti X product shot against a white background.
8.9
Check price
Positives
Multiple pickup patterns
Gain knob
Onboard clipping notification
USB so no interface needed
Recording software VO!CE for PC
Negatives
VO!CE not available for MacOS
More expensive than other Yeti mics
The Bottom Line.
For a USB mic, the Blue Yeti X produces impeccable sound, and will be a great addition to your YouTube setup.Read full review...
Shure SM58
Shure SM58 product image
8.5
Check price
Positives
Pneumatic shock mount
Dynamic
Internal pop filter
Price
Durable
Negatives
Need external pop filter
Not great for close miking instruments
The Bottom Line.
While you may not think of this classic stage mic as a microphone for recording, it has studio-quality sound, and works for interviews too.Read full review...

If you’re just starting to dip your toe in the world of recording audio, or if you’re getting ready to build a full home studio, you need to make sure you invest in the proper microphone. In this list, we cover the best microphones for recording — be it instruments, vocals, or YouTube videos.

Editor’s note: this list of the best microphones for recording was updated on July 11, 2023, to highlight the Sennheiser Profile USB microphone and Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP, to add the AKG C212 to Notable mentions, and to update formatting.

The best microphone for recording is the Shure MV7

If you’re looking for a mic that can perform equally well recording vocals for your next song and the voiceover for your next Twitch stream, the Shure MV7 is a great little mic. It has a USB and XLR connection so you can choose what’s best for your particular use case. The ShurePlus MOTIV app is also easy to use and very helpful for your daily recording needs.

Shure MV7
9.4
The Shure MV7 voice band frequency response with the "Dark" setting enabled; all audio frequencies are relayed with nearly the same loudness, save for a de-emphasized range from 170-600Hz.A chart of the Shure MV7 USB microphone frequency response in manual mode with the flat EQ selected; bass notes are slightly de-emphasized.A chart of the Shure MV7 USB microphone frequency response in manual mode with the high pass EQ selected; bass notes are slightly de-emphasized, and treble notes hug the dotted red line which represents the platonic ideal.A chart of the Shure MV7 USB microphone frequency response in manual mode with the presence boost EQ selected; bass notes are slightly de-emphasized, and treble notes are amplified.The Shure MV7 voice band frequency response with the "High pass and presence boost" setting enabled; low frequency notes are half as loud as upper-midrange and treble frequency sounds. Sub-bass notes are more aggressively de-emphasized than midrange and bass notes.The Shure MV7 voice band frequency response with the "Bright" setting enabled; low frequency notes are half as loud as upper-midrange and treble frequency sounds.The Shure MV7 voice band frequency response with the "Natural" setting enabled; low frequency notes are half as loud as upper-midrange and treble frequency sounds.A woman uses the Shure MV7 USB microphone and adjusts headphones as she monitors the recording.The Shure MV7 USB microphone in front of a computer monitor with Adobe Audition in use.The Shure MV7 USB microphone with the XLR input and headphone jack in use as a woman turns the knobs on a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface.

This durable dynamic mic produces crystal clear sound no matter your use case, as you can choose from a plethora of frequency responses in the companion app. The Shure MV7 records in a cardioid polar pattern and houses an internal shock mount. When you purchase the MV7, you get an included windscreen which helps mitigate the plosives and fricatives of speech.

The best recording microphone has a sturdy, all metal build—and it should, considering the cost. Though you won’t need additional accessories if you’re using its USB output, you’ll want to pick up a preamp or interface to use the XLR output to record directly to your computer. If cost is an issue for you and you don’t need multiple pickup patterns, the Shure MV7X offers similar specs but leaves out the extra frills for a much cheaper price ($179 at Amazon).

Shure MV7 microphone demo (Flat):

Shure MV7 microphone demo (Natural):

Shure MV7Shure MV7
Shure MV7
Simultaneous XLR-USB outputs • Excellent vocal • Build quality
MSRP: $249.00
A little mic that can do just about anything.
The Shure MV7 is a versatile microphone for every application. It can be connected through USB, XLR, or both simultaneously and produces a clear recording.

The best recording microphone for instruments is the Shure SM57

If you’ve ever been in a recording studio, it was probably chock-full of Shure SM57 mics. This little dynamic microphone is ideal for loud instruments, such as electric guitars and drums, whether you’re miking a live performance or recording.

Shure SM57
8.9
Frequency response limited to the human vocal range for the Shure SM57 XLR mic.Frequency response for the Shure SM57 XLR mic.The Shure SM57 XLR microphone in full view, profile image.Straight on shot of the Shure SM57 XLR microphone.The Shure SM57 dynamic XLR microphone angled away from the camera.A picture of woman playing guitar and recording it with the Shure SM57 XLR mic.

The capsule of the mic is very small which makes it easy to fit in the crevices of a drum kit or to point right at the driver of your bass guitar amp. You will want to maintain a few inches of distance, though, so as to avoid the proximity effect. The SM57 can handle loud sounds without distortion kicking in, and it has a slight presence boost, highlighting instrumental resonances. Its sub-bass attenuation will ensure that the thud of your kick drum doesn’t overpower other resonant frequencies.

The best recording microphone for instruments has a durable metal build, and comes with a swivel stand adapter for easy placement as well as a zip carrying bag. Shure products have unique Pneumatic shock mounts, which are internal devices that help reduce handling noise. The cardioid polar pattern also means that the mic is good at rejecting off-axis sound. The SM57 is a dynamic mic with an XLR connection, so you won’t need phantom power, but you will need a USB interface for recording into your computer. Anyone miking all of the drums in a drum kit individually will need a USB interface with several ports so you can plug all of the mics in.

Shure SM57 acoustic guitar sample:

Though you certainly can use the Shure SM57 for recording acoustic guitars in a pinch, keep in mind that condenser microphones are better at picking up the subtle details of acoustic guitars. The SM57 is better suited for miking guitar amps or other louder instruments. You shouldn’t use the SM57 for recording vocals because it doesn’t have any sort of internal pop filter, so you might end up with plosives and fricatives (P and F sounds) in your recording. If you like Shure and are recording vocals, go for the Shure SM58.

Shure SM57Shure SM57
SG recommended
Shure SM57
No phantom power required • Die-cast steel construction • Great off-axis noise reduction
MSRP: $170.00
A durable mic with a high loudness tolerance.
If you’re in the market for an instrumental microphone, the Shure SM57 is a great jumping-off point. It’s built to last a lifetime and is able to accompany you on a career’s worth of tours.

The Rode NT1 is the best microphone for recording vocals

If singing is your main game, you should definitely check out the Rode NT1. This microphone has a neutral-leaning frequency response, so it’ll reproduce your vocal sound almost exactly how live listeners hear you. However, this means you need to have skills in the mixing department, if you want to give your voice any effects in post processing (e.g. low-pass filter or treble boost). Another notable thing about the Rode NT1: low self-noise, so you don’t need to worry about any electrostatic noises in your recording. This is due in part to its internal shock mount.

Rode NT1
8.8
A product image of the Rode NT1 with shock mount and pop filter
Rode NT1
Buy now

The Rode NT1 is a condenser microphone that takes +24V or +48V phantom power, and it has a cardioid polar pattern. The best microphone for recording vocals has an all-metal build and comes with an attachable shock mount and pop filter. The mic has an XLR input so it requires a USB interface to be able to record into your computer.

Rode NT1 speaking sample:

Rode NT1 singing sample:

Rode NT1 acoustic guitar sample:

The Rode NT1 also sounds great with the acoustic guitar. Its sensitivity allows it to pick up the subtleties of the instrument.

Rode NT1Rode NT1
Rode NT1
Accurate sound quality • Condenser microphone • Cardioid polar pattern
MSRP: $395.00
This condenser microphone is perfect for recording vocals and acoustic instruments.
The Rode NT1 is a condenser microphone with very low self-noise and a very accurate sound signature. It comes at a decent price and includes a shock mount and pop filter.

The Rode NT1-A ($199 at Amazon) is very similar to the NT1, the main difference being that the NT1-A has a slightly less-neutral frequency response. Some may refer to this sound signature as “colored,” meaning that it subtly amplifies treble frequencies to highlight vocals and instrumental detail. Whether the sound of the NT1 or the NT1-A is better is really a matter of preference.

Here’s an episode of the SoundGuys podcast, which was recorded using the Rode NT1-A:

YouTubers should get the Blue Yeti X

The Blue Yeti X is a durable USB condenser microphone, which means you can just plug it into your computer for easy voiceovers. While any serious mixer will tell you that USB mics aren’t as good of quality as XLR mics, the Yeti X is one of the best USB mics out there. One reason this is the best recording microphone for YouTube is that the USB connection prevents you from needing to invest in an interface or preamp, and you can save that money for investing in a good video camera.

Blue Yeti X
8.9
The Blue Microphones Yeti X standing on a table.An animation of the levels monitoring on the Blue Yeti X.The bottom of the Blue Microphones Yeti X, along with its stand socket, 3.5mm port, and microUSB port.The gain knob on the Blue Microphones Yeti X in the mute state.The Blue Microphones Yeti X in front of sound dampening material.The Blue YetiX microphone grille.

The Yeti X comes attached to its desktop stand and it makes for an easy and attractive mic to have in your videos. You may want to invest in an external pop filter or windscreen though. This all-metal mic has four polar patterns, including cardioid, omnidirectional, bi-directional, and stereo, making it extremely versatile. The Blue Yeti X isn’t great for recording instruments just because it’s bulky and hard to position.

The Blue Yeti X has a lot of fun features including customizable LED lights, LED metering that tells you when you are peaking (being too loud), an adjustable gain knob to fix peaking issues, and if you have a Windows PC, VO!CE recording software with built-in vocal effects. If you want to have a sports announcer sound for a segment in your YouTube video, for example, this software will do that for you. Unfortunately, it is not available for macOS.

Get the Yeti X for a plug-and-play, hassle-free experience.

If you’re wondering about how the Blue Yeti X compares to the older Blue Yeti model, the Yeti X has a higher bit rate, so you’re afforded more wiggle room for edits in post production. Additionally, the Yeti X has more features than the Yeti, such as LED metering, and the VO!CE recording software, thus making it more expensive.

Blue Yeti XBlue Yeti X
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Blue Yeti X
Great sound • Several pickup patterns • Flexible recording
MSRP: $169.00
Blue adds a bigger, badder mic to its Yeti line.
If you want a microphone to stream or record at home with, the Yeti X is probably the easiest one to get usable results from with a USB connection. It won't challenge a studio setup, but it will be a rock-solid desktop companion.

The Shure SM58 is cheap and versatile

I know what you’re thinking: Three Shure mics in one list? Yeah. They’re awesome. While the Shure SM58 may not be advertised primarily as a recording microphone, it’s a great mic for live and studio settings. Its frequency response is designed to limit the proximity effect by attenuating bass frequencies. So, one of few things you shouldn’t use the SM58 for is recording bass guitar or kick drums because they will be de-emphasized.

Shure SM58
8.5
Shure SM58 microphone frequency response chart.The Shure SM58 microphone next to a Zoom H5 handheld voice recorder.XLR input of the Shure SM58 cardioid microphone.The Shure SM58 grille detached from the microphone stem.Shure SM58 dynamic microphone on red surface.A photo of the Shure SM58 on the arm of a couch.

The Shure SM58 has a Pneumatic shock mount that limits handling noise, and its cardioid pickup pattern makes it great for recording vocals and rejecting off-axis sound. Additionally, its bulbous capsule acts as a pop filter, but you may want to install an external one anyways to further limit plosives and fricatives.

Shure SM58 speaking sample:

Shure SM58 singing sample:

Shure SM58 acoustic guitar sample:

Shure SM58 electric guitar with amp sample:

Because the SM58 is dynamic, it doesn’t require phantom power, and it can handle loud outputs before distorting audio. It has an XLR input, so you’ll need an interface to adapt it for recording into your computer. This mic is all-metal and durable, and is definitely a mic you’ll want in your mic closet.

Shure SM58Shure SM58
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Shure SM58
Durable construction • Cardioid pickup pattern • Midrange recording emphasis
Tried and true, rugged and reliable.
Whether you're just starting out or you're a recording veteran, the Shure SM58 microphone will suit your needs. The removable grille and metal construction exude quality and durability. Additionally, the frequency response bodes well for vocalists and podcasters alike. For less than $100, this the mic to get.

The Sennheiser Profile USB microphone works for podcasters and streamers

Sennheiser Profile USB microphone held up close by a hand.
The maximum headphones volume isn’t as loud as I’d like it to be, but you can compensate for it by adjusting the mix knob or changing your computer’s output volume.

Skip the audio interface and plug the Sennheiser Profile USB microphone directly into your PC. If you’re willing to pay the Sennheiser price (which is a bit high, relative to the competition) you get a cardioid polarity pattern and directly accessible controls on the mic. Having hardware controls is a double-edged sword in that if you are recording and don’t have hardware to adjust volume and other settings, it’s nice that the Profile USB mic has those. The downside is that if you’re adjusting controls on the fly, the mic will definitely capture handling sounds. However, if you set your controls before beginning your recording, it should all go fine.

Sennheiser Profile USB micSennheiser Profile USB mic
Sennheiser Profile USB mic
Sound quality • Monitoring input • Gain and volume knobs
MSRP: $199.00
The Sennheiser Profile USB microphone has great sound quality and convenient features, including onboard gain control, volume control, mix control, and mute. The mic has a monitoring input as well and is generally very easy to use.

Try the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP for noise reduction

The AT2020USB-XP sitting on a wooden desk next to a keyboard and mouse.
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP is easy to get set up and connected with the included USB-C cable, it even works on Linux.

The standard Audio-Technica AT2020 ($99 at Amazon) is still a good choice with an XLR connection. Packed with a few more goodies, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP uses a USB-C to USB-A connection for recording the cardioid condense mic directly to your computer. It records 24-bit/192kHz, which is a good quality for editing purposes. The mic has optional automatic gain control and noise reduction to make your life easier, and it comes with a pop filter and a stand.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XPAudio-Technica AT2020USB-XP
Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP
Noise reduction and gain control • Included accessories • Build quality
MSRP: $169.99
While no microphone is ideal for every situation, the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP does a lot to improve on the sound of its predecessor. It can tackle a broader range of environments thanks to its new features while still delivering the same great build quality as the rest of the AT2020 series.

The best microphones for recording: Notable Mentions

beyerdynamic M70 Pro X attached to a microphone stand with an armchair and curtain in the background.
The Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X is a dynamic microphone and doesn’t need phantom power to operate.
  • AKG D112 MKII: If you’re miking a drum kit, you’ll need a designated kick drum mic. This cardioid bass drum mic has embedded technology that mitigates self-noise, and its dynamic nature means it can withstand a lot of volume for $27.99 at Amazon.
  • AKG C214: This mic is great with a built-in 20dB pad, built for vocals and good as drum overheads. It’s pretty professional for an enthusiast price ($11.99 at Amazon).
  • Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X: This dynamic broadcast microphone has a hefty price ($229 at Amazon) but excellent sound quality for recording the voice. Due to its dynamic nature, it’s also great for recording things like guitar amps because it can handle loud inputs of sound without distorting.
  • Electro-Voice RE20: This dynamic microphone is another industry standard for radio broadcasting, and it is designed to accentuate the human voice to make sure you sound crystal clear, whether you’re speaking, singing, or rapping for $449 at Amazon.
  • HyperX Quadcast S: Gamers and podcasters alike should opt for the Hyper X Quadcast S. This mic has an onboard gain knob and a mute button, and it displays a colorful light show to light up the room. Its audio quality is exceptional for a USB microphone, and it has an internal pop filter for $122.99 at Best Buy.
  • Movo UM700: If there ever was a budget Blue Yeti X killer, it’s the Movo UM700. This USB microphone has four polar patterns, gain and volume knobs, and incredible sound quality. For a USB mic under $100 it’s hard to beat ($79 at Amazon).
  • Shure SM7b: Famously used in both recording studios and radio stations across the world, the Shure SM7b reproduces vocals extremely well for $399 at Amazon. It’s also built very well so its cost won’t be paid in vain. The SM7b is a dynamic microphone and it very effectively rejects off-axis sound.

What you should know about the best recording microphones

What is frequency response?

Shure SM58 microphone frequency response chart.
The bass roll-off is intentional as a means of combating the proximity effect.

A microphone’s frequency response refers to the range of frequencies that the microphone receives and transmits. A frequency response chart illustrates the particular frequencies that the microphone emphasizes, and those that it attenuates. When looking for a microphone, you want a frequency response that is relatively “flat,” because that means the microphone will accurately record audio. However, sometimes a slight treble boost is beneficial for vocals or instruments because it amplifies the harmonic content of these sounds. Additionally, bass attenuation can be beneficial to reduce low-end distortion.

There are key differences between condenser and dynamic mics

A condenser microphone is more sensitive to sound and therefore typically better for picking up subtleties in studio settings. However, its sensitivity also means it is not ideal for loud sounds such as drums because it is prone to distortion. Additionally, condenser microphones require phantom power, which can be achieved with an interface or preamp.

Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, are much less sensitive, so they can handle loud sounds without distortion. This often makes dynamic microphones ideal for live performances, but they are also great for studio recordings of loud instruments like drums or bass guitar. Dynamic mics are also good at rejecting off-axis noise, so if you’re worried about picking up room noise in your recording, a dynamic microphone will reduce that problem. Another plus: dynamic mics don’t require phantom power, so you save quite a bit of money there.

What is a polar pickup pattern?

An example of a polar chart detailing the pickup pattern of a cardioid microphone
A cardioid pickup pattern can record sound from the front and sides of the unit.

A polar pickup pattern is the shape around the microphone’s capsule in which it records audio. Depending on the use you have in mind for your mic, you’ll want to look for a different pickup pattern.

A cardioid pickup pattern records sound from directly in front of the mic and slightly to the side. This is a good pattern for vocals or close-miking instruments. A bi-directional polar pattern records audio from its direct front and direct back. This is a good pattern for recording something like a lecture, where you need to hear the speaker as well as questions from the audience. An omnidirectional polar pattern picks up sound from all around its capsule, and this mic is a good choice if you’re making full-room recordings. There are also hypercardioid and supercardioid mics; these are similar to cardioid mics and are exceptional at rejecting off-axis sound, making them useful for recording things like television show dialogue.

Why you should trust SoundGuys on the best recording mics

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Frequently asked questions about the microphones

Lucky for you, we have a whole article on this exact subject. To summarize, you’ll need multiple microphones, cables, a USB interface, sound-proofing, studio headphones, and a DAW. If you’re planning to mix the music yourself, you’ll also want a pair of studio monitors.

If you are planning to use your microphone to record audio on the go, a digital voice recorder will help your production to be a lot more portable. Some digital voice recorders double as audio interfaces and allow for recording from an XLR mic into your computer via USB input, but if you are only planning on recording in the studio or at home, you should invest in a designated audio interface rather than a digital voice recorder. Some cheaper voice recorders don’t have the option to attach an external microphone, so make sure you look for input options when selecting a digital voice recorder.