All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.
Best vocal microphones
The human voice is a complex instrument; whether you’re singing an original song for a crowd and need your voice amplified or you’re recording a bedtime story and need the subtleties of your voice to be noticed, choosing the right microphone is important. Some mics are designed to highlight the frequencies of the human voice, and this list of the top five best mics for vocals will ensure your voice is heard.
- This list of the best vocal microphones was updated on October 16, 2023, to refresh our Top Picks and Notable Mentions, answer more FAQs, and add relevant interlinks.
- We are in the process of updating our frequency response charts. You can view relevant charts for each of our Top Picks in their respective reviews.
Why is the Shure SM58 the best vocal microphone?
The Shure SM58 is an XLR mic designed to highlight the vocal frequencies and limit the proximity effect. Its patented pneumatic shock mount serves to limit handling noise, and because it is dynamic with a cardioid pickup pattern, it withstands loud inputs and rejects unwanted room noise. These features make the SM58 great for live performances, but it can be used for studio vocal music and spoken word alike if you’re looking for a low-cost, do-it-all mic.
The SM58 is the best vocal microphone because it is both inexpensive and versatile. It is all-metal, durable, and portable and doesn’t require any phantom power to operate. You’ll only need to buy a pop filter if you want to use the mic in a studio setting, as its internal pop filter works well in a live scenario. However, if you’re looking for a mic to use exclusively for recordings, it’s recommended that you consider a condenser microphone instead.
The Shure SM58 is the most widely used dynamic microphone out there and for a good reason. Take a listen for yourself:
Shure SM58 speaking samples (Non-standardized):
Shure SM58 singing sample (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The best mic for studio recording is the Rode NT1-A
The Rode NT1-A excels in vocal recording thanks to its high sensitivity of -31.9dB, which captures everything from soft whispers to powerful singing. This condenser microphone requires phantom power, ranging from +24V to +48V, and offers a cardioid pickup pattern that isolates the vocal, minimizing any background noise for a clean recording.
Setup is a breeze; it comes with a 6m long XLR cable and a sturdy shock mount. Just connect it to an audio interface or voice recorder capable of supplying phantom power, and you’re good to go. The microphone itself is robustly built with stainless steel and tips the scale at 326g, indicating it’s designed for studio permanence rather than portability.
The NT1-A, however, requires attention to detail with sibilance, as ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds can be rather pronounced. An included pop filter helps, but an upgrade may be in order for optimal performance. With its low self-noise and flat frequency response, it delivers pristine sound quality that needs minimal tweaking in post-production. If you’re after a versatile, reliable microphone that provides outstanding value, the Rode NT1-A makes the cut as one of the best in vocal recording.
The Rode NT1 does a great job of reproducing your voice just how it sounds live.
Rode NT1 speaking sample (Non-standard):
Rode NT1 singing sample (Non-standard):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The current version of the Rode NT1 was created after the NT1-A. They’re very similar except for when it comes to the frequency response. While the NT1-A has a neutral-leaning frequency response, the NT1 has a very neutral-leaning frequency response. If you’re looking for a sound that gives you free rein to mix and edit however you like, the NT1 is a better choice. However, if you’re looking for a slightly more colored response, the NT1-A, in comparison, offers a slightly high boost and bass attenuation. Both mics have very low self-noise and overall produce a lovely sound, so you truly can’t go wrong with either choice.
Jack-of-all-trades vocalists should get the Shure SM7b
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty, high-quality vocal mic with many features, the Shure SM7b is a great option. It is an industry standard for broadcasting but has also been used among singers, particularly for rock music.
It has three switchable frequency settings: bass roll-off, flat, and high-frequency presence boost. Depending on the purpose you have for the mic or the singer on a particular day, you can adjust the settings accordingly, but the flat response is the most accurate for vocal reproduction.
This XLR mic is dynamic, so it’s not only effective for handling loud noises without distorting, but it also functions without any phantom power. Its cardioid pickup pattern does a good job of rejecting off-axis sound. In addition to its built-in pop filter, this mic comes with a detachable windscreen for reducing plosives and breath noise. Additionally, this mic’s capsule is suspended and internally shock-mounted, reducing its handling noise.
The Shure SM7b has a couple of different settings that all sound slightly different. Check them out here:
Shure SM7b flat response speaking sample (Non-standardized):
Shure SM7b bass roll-off speaking sample (Non-standardized):
Shure SM7b presence boost speaking sample (Non-standardized):
Which frequency response do you prefer?
Record in almost any setting with ease with the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP is designed for both studio recordings and casual at-home use, excelling in versatile environments. It comes with automatic gain control and noise reduction features, taking a step beyond its predecessor to offer more robust sound quality. While the microphone is sensitive enough to pick up ancillary sounds like button presses, the noise reduction feature compensates effectively, making it a smart choice for various recording scenarios.
Constructed primarily out of metal, it exudes durability. It’s user-friendly, featuring a touch surface for muting and dials for volume and sidetone adjustments. While it lacks some professional-level features like a high-pass filter, its 24-bit and 192 kHz resolution allow for post-recording edits. This microphone is easy to set up, requiring only a USB-C connection, and comes equipped with a desktop stand and pop filter for immediate use.
Overall, the AT2020USB-XP offers substantial improvements over the previous model without breaking the bank. It’s a go-to microphone for anyone in need of versatile, high-quality recording, from podcasting to musical performances.
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP delivers a richer, more versatile audio profile with effective noise reduction and automatic gain control—listen to the samples below to hear the difference for yourself.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP microphone demo:
Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP microphone demo with noise reduction:
How does the microphone sound to you?
You’ll get the best bang for your buck with the Movo UM700
If there was ever a Blue Yeti X killer, it’s the Movo UM700. This USB microphone has four selectable polar patterns—cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, and bidirectional—and they all sound great. While USB microphones don’t have the same quality as XLR microphones, the Movo UM700 comes pretty darn close. It comes with a preinstalled and removable windscreen that helps reduce plosive sounds. The UM700 is only $99, and because it’s a USB mic, you won’t have to invest additional money into an audio interface to use it.
Onboard the mic is a gain control knob, volume control knob, quick mute button, and polar pattern adjustment knob. Conveniently, you can adjust the mic’s gain, which is its input volume, separately from its output volume. The quick mute button illuminates in red when the mic is muted, so you can have that extra reassurance that your microphone is off when you’re sitting through a Zoom meeting. The mic also has an auxiliary port on the bottom that can be used for direct monitoring.
For a USB mic, the UM700 sounds pretty darn good.
Movo UM700 cardioid pattern speaking sample (non-standardized):
Movo UM700 stereo pattern speaking sample (non-standardized):
Movo UM700 omnidirectional pattern speaking sample (non-standardized):
Movo UM700 bidirectional pattern speaking sample (non-standardized):
Movo UM700 cardioid pattern singing sample (non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Are the Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X and M90 PRO X good for singing?
The Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X is similar to the M90 PRO X, except that it is a dynamic broadcast microphone. It is also great for vocal applications, whether you’re hosting a radio show or singing. Its frequency response is tailored to the human voice, and it comes with a useful elastic shock mount and pop filter.
Yes, the Beyerdynamic M90 PRO X is a great XLR microphone for vocalists and general recording. This condenser mic has a cardioid recording pattern and faithfully preserves faint vocal detail, allowing you to affect it however you want during post-production. There aren’t any gimmicks to this microphone, making it a great pick for professionals and serious enthusiasts. You get an elastic shock mount and pop filter, but other than that, you’re on your own for phantom power and/or an audio interface that supports XLR inputs.
Who should get the Shure MV7 USB/XLR microphone?
If you believe in the importance of redundancy, the Shure MV7 is another powerful mic from Shure. Unusually, it provides both an XLR and USB output that can be used simultaneously. This way, you can record a high-res file from the XLR output alongside a low-res file for tracking and reference. It has a durable build quality, just like the Shure SM7b, and can easily be used as a gaming or studio mic. Its companion app is very helpful and lets you adjust the mic’s settings based on your recording environment and preferences. The MV7 captures vocals very clearly and accurately, whether singing or speaking.
The Shure MV7 has quite a few different settings for various applications. Listen to them here:
Shure MV7 (flat) microphone demo (non-standardized):
Shure MV7 (high pass) microphone demo (non-standardized):
Shure MV7 (presence boost) microphone demo (non-standardized):
Shure MV7 (high pass and presence boost) microphone demo (non-standardized):
Shure MV7 (Dark) microphone demo (non-standardized):
Shure MV7 (Natural) microphone demo (non-standardized):
Shure MV7 (Bright) microphone demo (non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The best vocal microphones: Notable mentions
- Audio-Technica AT2020 ($99 at Amazon): This cardioid condenser mic is a great budget option for vocalists. Just keep in mind that it isn’t great at mitigating plosives and fricatives, so you’ll definitely want to attach the included pop filter to it.
- Blue Yeti Nano ($48 at Amazon): This is another convenient USB microphone. It has two adjustable pickup patterns and solid sound quality.
- Blue Yeti X ($139 at Amazon): 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.
- Earthworks ETHOS ($58.9 at Amazon): A professional broadcast-style condenser microphone made exactly suitable for both vocals and spoken word for a reasonable price.
- Electrovoice RE20 ($449 on Amazon): The RE20 is a dynamic microphone, so it can withstand loud speech, and you won’t need any external power. Its frequency response is tailored to human speech and includes a bass attenuation switch to offer extra protection against low-frequency rumble. This XLR mic has a cardioid polar pattern, so it rejects off-axis sound for crystal-clear voice-overs.
- SE Electronics sE2300 ($344 at Amazon): This condenser mic has three switchable pickup patterns and a neutral-leaning frequency response with a treble boost, allowing for vocal clarity. It also comes with a pop filter and shock mount.
- Shure 55SH Series II ($199 at Amazon): Not only will this microphone make you feel like Elvis, but it also sounds fantastic on the vocal frequencies. It doesn’t require any phantom power and is very durable, and its cardioid polar pattern makes it great at rejecting off-axis sound.
- Shure Beta 58A ($985 at Amazon): This mic is built to the same quality as the classic Shure SM58 with the same case use in mind, but the mic favors more high frequencies, which may suit some singers better than the standard SM58.
- Warm Audio WA-47jr ($40 at Amazon): Inspired by a much more expensive Neumann K-47 capsule, this FET mic comes with three polarity patterns and a pretty accurate frequency response.
What should you know before buying a microphone?
If you’re looking for a mic specifically for picking up the voice, it’s most important to look at the mic’s frequency response, the way the mic accounts for unwanted noise, and its polar pickup pattern.
If you’re recording into a good microphone but it sounds bad, there may be a few things you can do to remedy this. For one, when recording vocals, it’s necessary to have a pop filter to reduce the sound of plosives and fricatives (“P” or “F” sounds). Some performance microphones, such as the Shure SM58, have internal pop filters, whereas many studio microphones require one to be externally mounted.
An internal shock mount can protect against noise that comes from handling the microphone. These are more necessary in live mics or radio broadcast mics than in studio mics, simply due to how much they will be handled, but are always an asset nonetheless.
Self-noise refers to the amount of low-level hiss produced by the mic when there’s no sound entering it. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the internal electrical components creating random noise that is recorded as a low, but irritating static sound. You’ll want it to be as low as possible so your vocals sound crystal clear.
What is frequency response?
Just like headphones, microphones have frequency responses and plots. A microphone with a neutral-leaning frequency response will most accurately reproduce the sound of your voice and won’t emphasize or under-emphasize a particular frequency range of your voice. You won’t get a perfectly “flat” frequency response from a microphone, or headphones for that matter, but some microphones get you pretty darn close. Many people tout a “flat” response as the best because it most accurately captures a sound source’s actual sound. It also makes it easier to edit audio when you have a microphone with a neutral response, but this typically comes at a steeper price point.
Some people don’t want or need an ideal response, which is why many microphones have certain filters like a high or low-pass filter to adjust the sound while recording.
What is a microphone polar pattern?
Polar patterns refer to the direction from which a microphone picks up its sound. When recording or amplifying vocals, it’s usually best to go for a cardioid or hypercardioid pickup pattern because these best reproduce sound from the on-axis, and reject sound from the back, so the voice is heard above other noise. All of the best vocal mics on this list have cardioid pickup patterns.
What is the difference between condenser and dynamic mics?
Depending on if you’re looking to record vocals or amplify them in a live setting, you’ll want to consider the differences between condenser and dynamic mics. As a rule of thumb, dynamic mics are great for live performances because of their ability to handle loud inputs without distorting, but some dynamic mics, such as the Electrovoice RE20, are used in radio stations due to their ability to shut out unwanted room noise.
Condenser mics are typically preferred for studio settings because they are more sensitive, produce a more natural frequency response, and are better at picking up subtleties that vocalists often want in their recordings. Condenser microphones often require phantom power which can be provided by an audio interface.
Occasionally, if you’re recording, you need more gain to power dynamic microphones. For those instances where you don’t have enough gain to reach the appropriate volume, you might need a Cloudlifter CL-1.
What is the proximity effect?
You’ll observe the proximity effect in action when you speak too close to a microphone. The proximity effect is an increase in low-frequency output when the distance between the sound source and microphone is so small that the two objects are nearly touching. The closer the microphone gets to a sound source, the greater the bass boost. Many mics for vocals have high pass filters, which attenuate low-frequency noises and can help counter bass emphasis due to proximity. You can also fix this with a software filter later on.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff adheres to a strict ethics policy. We never use sponsored content on the website at a time when doing so is the norm. SoundGuys’ survival depends solely on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.
Frequently asked questions about microphones
The best microphone for singing live is the Shure SM58, and the best microphone for recording singing is either the Rode NT1, Shure SM7b or newer Shure MV7.
The most useful microphone for a singer in a band is typically a dynamic cardioid microphone, such as the Shure SM58, due to its durability, feedback rejection, and focused sound pickup.