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Best vocal microphones

A microphone can be a vocalist’s best friend or worst enemy, so it’s important to choose the right one.
By

Published onDecember 14, 2023

The Best
Shure SM58
Check price
Positives
Durable construction
Cardioid pickup pattern
Midrange recording emphasis
Stand adapter and zipper pouch
Internal shock mount reduces handling noise
Ideal for live performances due to ability to withstand loud volumes without distortion and off-axis noise rejection
Negatives
Requires external pop filter for studio recording
SM57 a better choice for close-micing instruments
Not super sensitive so not great for capturing intimate detail
The Bottom Line.
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.Read full review...
Best features
Rode NT1-A
MSRP: $199.00
8.1
Check price
Positives
Cardioid polar pattern
Flat frequency response
Premium all-metal build quality
Low self-noise at just 5dB
Decently priced
Negatives
Sibilance issues mean youll need a decent pop-filter
Requires another device to provide phantom power
Heavy due to all-metal body
The Bottom Line.
The Rode NT1-A is still a best seller for a reason. If you're looking for a good condenser mic to record vocals, this is a good choice whether you're upgrading to your first XLR microphone or replacing an old one in your studio.Read full review...
Best sound
Shure SM7B
MSRP: $4,505.00
9.2
Check price
Positives
Effective on-board frequency response filters
Excellent vocal reproduction
Off-axis and internal noise rejection
Build quality
Negatives
Heavy
Expensive
The Bottom Line.
The Shure SM7B is beloved by professional musicians for its reliable performance, top-grade construction, and noise attenuating technology that lends itself to clear recordings. This isn’t a mic for those making their first foray into recording, rather it’s for aspiring professionals and industry veterans. The uniform frequency response is excellent for all ranges of recording, and the alternative responses are fitting for other studio needs.Read full review...
Best style
Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP
MSRP: $169.99
Check price
Positives
Noise reduction and gain control
Included accessories
Build quality
USB-C
Negatives
Price
The Bottom Line.
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.Read full review...
Bang for your buck
Movo UM700 USB microphone
MSRP: $79.95
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Build quality
Multiple polar patterns
Negatives
Not portable
No software features
The Bottom Line.
The Movo UM700 is a great deal as it costs just $100 USD, has solid sound quality, and works for many applications thanks to its various polar patterns and versatile hardware. The mute button will come in handy for anyone who gets anxious about whether or not their mic is on during Zoom meetings. If you’re just looking for a mic for video calls, the Movo UM700 isn’t all that pricey and has an inoffensive design that won’t distract your coworkers. It is also a fine tool for musicians who need to record high-quality demos of their music or for podcasters. However, if you’re looking for a portable USB microphone this isn’t going to be the one for you.Read full review...

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.

What's new?

  • This list of the best vocal microphones was updated on December 14, 2023, to ensure the timeliness of the information within.
  • 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?

Shure SM58 dynamic microphone on red surface.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The Shure SM58 is a great microphone for live performances.

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.

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 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?

1913 votes

The best mic for studio recording is the Rode NT1-A

Upward angle of Rode NT1-A in bracket
The Rode NT1-A comes with a bracket to minimize vibrations while recording.

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.

Rode NT1-ARode NT1-A
SG recommended
Rode NT1-A
Cardioid microphone • High quality sound • Premium materials
MSRP: $199.00
A home studio workhorse.
The Rode NT1-A cardioid microphone provides a high-quality recording with a flat frequency response and a high sensitivity to record loud sounds.

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?

1426 votes

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.

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.

Jack-of-all-trades vocalists should get the Shure SM7b

The Shure SM7B dynamic microphone facing a woman speaking into it.
The adjustable yoke makes it easy to place the SM7B in tight corners.

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.

Shure SM7BShure SM7B
SG recommended
Shure SM7B
Effective on-board frequency response filters • Excellent vocal reproduction • Off-axis and internal noise rejection
MSRP: $4,505.00
A legendary mic used by legendary performers.
The Shure SM7B is beloved by professional musicians for its reliable performance, top-grade construction, and noise attenuating technology that lends itself to clear recordings. This isn’t a mic for those making their first foray into recording, rather it’s for aspiring professionals and industry veterans. The uniform frequency response is excellent for all ranges of recording, and the alternative responses are fitting for other studio needs.

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?

2045 votes

Record in almost any setting with ease with the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-XP

The AT2020USB-XP on a desk with a person in front of it.
Sam Moore
The AT2020USB-XP sounds better in a wider range of recording environments than its predecessor.

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.

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 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?

201 votes

You’ll get the best bang for your buck with the Movo UM700

Woman using the Movo UM700.
Most situations will require the use of the cardioid polar pattern, but it’s nice to have options.

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.

Movo UM700 USB microphone
Movo UM700 USB microphone
Movo UM700 USB microphone
Movo UM700 USB microphone
Buy now
See review
See review

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?

569 votes
Movo UM700 USB microphoneMovo UM700 USB microphone
Movo UM700 USB microphone
Sound quality • Build quality • Multiple polar patterns
MSRP: $79.95
Movo adds an excellent budget pick.
No matter what you need a desktop USB microphone for, the Movo UM700 has your back. With its four adjustable polar patterns, removable windscreen, volume and gain knobs, and mute button, there's hardly a feature you're missing. The mic also has a crystal clear sound and, what's more, it's only $100.

Are the Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X and M90 PRO X good for singing?

Woman using the beyerdynamic M70 Pro X and pop filter.
Speak into the top, not the sides, of the microphone.

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.

Beyerdynamic M70 PRO XBeyerdynamic M70 PRO X
Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X
Sturdily built • Clear sound • Cardioid polar pattern
MSRP: $199.00
A robust broadcast microphone excellent with voice recording.
This dynamic broadcast microphone has 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.

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.

Beyerdynamic M90 PRO XBeyerdynamic M90 PRO X
Beyerdynamic M90 PRO X
High-quality sound • Connects via XLR cable
MSRP: $239.00
A condenser mic for high-quality recordings
The Beyerdynamic M90 PRO X condenser microphone provides high-quality vocal music and instrument recordings. It connects easily to the audio interface via XLR output.

Who should get the Shure MV7 USB/XLR microphone?

A hand adjusts the Shure MV7 USB microphone's yoke tightness.
Make sure to tighten the yoke once the mic is mounted. Otherwise, it could fall to the ground.

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?

2392 votes

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 Shure MV7X is a budget, no-frills alternative to the Shure MV7. This XLR mic doesn’t have any of the special features that the MV7 provides, but its sound quality is top-tier.

The best vocal microphones: Notable mentions

Blue Yeti Nano microphone sitting on a wooden table in front of a laptop and a pair of headphones.
The Blue Yeti Nano is a great microphone for podcasting alone or with others using either the cardioid or omnidirectional polar patterns.
  • 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?

The Shure SM58 grille detached from the microphone stem.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The SM58 grille is easy to remove and replace if it becomes damaged.

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?

Shure SM58 microphone frequency response chart.
The Shure SM58 has a bass-attenuating frequency response to combat the proximity effect.

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?

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.

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?

The Cloudlifter plugged into a USB interface
The Cloudlifter provides extra gain for your dynamic mic without added noise.

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?

Woman using the Beyerdynamic M90 PRO X with its pop filter.
A pop filter can create distance between you and the mic, reducing your chance of encountering 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.

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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.

Yes! In fact, we have a whole article about wireless microphone systems and our favorites.

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.