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Best XLR microphones

With so many options to choose from, our curated list of the best XLR microphones should help you make the right decision.
By
September 28, 2023
Best all around
Shure SM58
Shure SM58 product image
9
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Positives
Affordable
Durable
Integrated pop filter
Negatives
Limited high frequency output
The Bottom Line.
The SM58 is great for live performance as well as musical recording and well optimized for vocal pickup.Read full review...
Best sound
Rode NT1-A
A product image of the Rode NT1-A XLR microphone.
8.1
Check price
Positives
Sound quality
Looks expensive
Negatives
Not durable
Requires phantom power
Needs pop filter
The Bottom Line.
This great sounding large diaphragm condenser mic boasts being one of the quietest microphones in its category.Read full review...
Best features
AKG P420
A product image of the AKG P420 XLR microphone in black against a white background.
7.9
Check price
Positives
Multiple polar patterns
Switchable high-pass filter
Switchable pad (preattenuation)
Negatives
Requires phantom power
Needs pop filter
The Bottom Line.
This mic has many features: multiple polar patterns, a switchable high-pass filter, and a switchable preattenuation pad, making it extremely versatile.
Best for streamers or podcasters
HyperX ProCast
8
Check price
Positives
Sturdy build quality
Large diaphragm condenser
Included shock mount
Negatives
Sparse features
No included microphone stand
The Bottom Line.
The HyperX ProCast is a high-quality, no-nonsense microphone ideal for prosumers focused on podcasting and streaming, delivering robust build and sound performanceRead full review...
Best value
Audio-Technica AT2020
A product render of the Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone against a white background.
7.5
Check price
Positives
Affordable
Durable
Negatives
Requires phantom power
Needs pop filter
Not durable
The Bottom Line.
This is a great choice if you’re looking to dip your toe in the water with a first microphone. Read full review...

While USB mics are generally cheap and easy to use, XLR microphones are the standard for use in professional environments. They are great for making high-quality recordings and amplifying sounds in live performances. The XLR is a far more rugged connector than USB and sends an analog signal over a balanced cable to the preamplifier. If you’ve accumulated some studio headphones, you just might be ready to buy your first microphone for your home studio. There are countless styles of microphones out there with an XLR output. We’ve compiled this list of the best XLR microphones to help you narrow down your decision.

What's new?

  • This list was updated on September 28, 2023, to add the HyperX ProCast to our top picks, move the Electrovoice RE20 to the Notable Mentions, adjust formatting to our current style, and answer more frequently asked questions.

Why is the Shure SM58 the best XLR microphone for most people?

This dynamic microphone is a live performance industry standard. Intended to be either hand-held or stand-mounted, it’s a great functioning vocal mic for both singers and podcasters. The frequency response is designed to highlight vocals by de-emphasizing low notes and highs. Therefore, this XLR mic is not ideal for recording instruments such as bass guitar or a drum overhead.

Shure SM58
Shure SM58
9
Shure SM58 dynamic microphone on red surface.Shure SM58 microphone frequency response chart.XLR input of the Shure SM58 cardioid microphone.The Shure SM58 grille detached from the microphone stem.A photo of the Shure SM58 on the arm of a couch.The Shure SM58 microphone next to a Zoom H5 handheld voice recorder.
Shure SM58

Being a dynamic mic, the SM58 does not require phantom power, and its bulbous grille acts as a built-in pop filter. It has a cardioid pickup pattern, making it best for recording what’s placed directly in front of it.

The SM58 is affordable and durable, making it highly convenient for live shows. The microphone contains an internal shock mount, so live singers can take the mic off its stand to do air kicks during their performances without distorting the sound.

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 SM58 sounds great and can handle pretty much any performance you throw at it.

Shure SM58 speaking sample:

Shure SM58 singing sample:

Shure SM58 acoustic guitar sample:

Shure SM58 electric guitar with amp sample:

Best sound quality: Rode NT1-A

This large diaphragm vocal condenser microphone is best known for its audio quality. The Rode NT1-A has an internal capsule shock mount system and creates little internal noise—no more than 5dB(A) equivalent input noise (EIN), making it useful for recording vocals, guitars, and light percussion instruments. It has a neutral-leaning frequency response, so it reproduces audio accurately, and the slightly high-end emphasis improves speech intelligibility and adds “air” to vocals. The NT1-A has a cardioid polar pattern and picks up sound from the front face, making it an ideal vocal mic.

Rode NT1-A
Rode NT1-A
8.1
Rode NT1-A close-up of frontRode NT1-A has a 1-inch diaphragmTop-down picture of Rode NT1-ARode NT1-A XLR connection
Rode NT1-A

This XLR mic requires phantom power of either +24V or +48V, so you’ll need to purchase an interface or preamp. However, the microphone comes with an external pop shield, shock mount, downloadable instructional video, and a six-meter XLR cable to plug the mic into your interface. While the microphone is not very portable, it comes with a dust cover to keep it safe in your studio when not in use.

Rode NT1-ARode NT1-A
SG recommended
Rode NT1-A
Cardioid microphone • High quality sound • Premium materials
MSRP: $99.00
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.

Best for versatility: AKG P420

AKG’s microphone has a dual-diaphragm capsule, providing multiple polar patterns, including cardioid, omnidirectional, and bi-directional. This makes the P420 extremely versatile and can be used for vocals, instruments, whole-room recordings, and more. It provides the option to switch in a high-pass filter to reduce the level of low-frequency room noise and the option to switch in an attenuation pad to reduce high signal levels and prevent clipping distortion coming from loud sounds.

AKG P420
AKG P420
7.9
A product image of the AKG P420 XLR microphone in black against a white background.A product image of the AKG P420 XLR microphone suspended against a white background.
AKG P420
AKG P420
Buy now

This condenser microphone comes with a shock mount and a carrying case, but you’ll want to buy a pop filter for it to reduce those harsh plosives. It also requires +44V to +52V phantom power. It has a static condenser, and the build is all metal, making it durable. You’ll want to keep it in the shock mount at all times to reduce unwanted noise.

AKG P240AKG P240
AKG P240
Build quality • Versatile • Multiple recording patterns
MSRP: $179.00
A condenser microphone built for instrument recordings
The AKG P240 microphone has many features: multiple polar patterns, a switchable high-pass filter, and a switchable pre-attenuation pad, making it extremely versatile.

The microphone sounds very good for the price, and you can even switch polar patterns to fit your use case. Check out our sample recordings

AKG P420 Cardioid Pattern:

AKG P420 Bi-Directional Pattern:

AKG P420 Omnidirectional Pattern:

AKG P420 High-Pass Filter:

AKG P420 -20dB Preattenuation Pad:

AKG P420 singing sample:

AKG P420 acoustic guitar sample:

AKG P420 electric guitar with amp sample:

Best for Best for streamers and podcasters: HyperX ProCast

The HyperX ProCast makes a strong impression with its unapologetic focus on sound and build quality, putting it in the same league as industry giants like Audio-Technica and Shure. Designed specifically for podcasters and streamers, this mic doesn’t mess around. Its sturdy metal frame and elastic-suspended shock mount are geared for durability, ensuring that it not only captures high-quality sound but also stands up to regular use.

HyperX ProCast
HyperX ProCast
8
The HyperX ProCast sits on a wooden serviceThe HyperX ProCast sits on a wooden surface next to its metal pop filter.The HyperX ProCast sits on a wooden serviceThe HyperX ProCast sits on a wooden surface upright.
HyperX ProCast

Keeping it simple in terms of controls, the HyperX ProCast features just a low-cut switch and a -10dB pad. While this lack of options might limit its versatility compared to other mics, it excels in its targeted use-case scenarios. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense choice for those who want quality sound without the hassle of toggling through endless settings.

Targeted squarely at the prosumer market, the HyperX ProCast offers exceptional value for its price point. You’ll need an external audio interface and a stand to make the most out of it, but if you’re serious about your audio, you’re likely ready for that commitment. Although it doesn’t have the name recognition of some industry-standard microphones, it delivers on performance, making it a strong contender for anyone looking to elevate their audio game.

HyperX ProCastHyperX ProCast
HyperX ProCast
Large condenser • Shock mount • Easy to use
MSRP: $249.00
An XLR microphone for gamers and streamers
The HyperX ProCast may lack some features, but it still delivers a decent level of sound quality. It's not perfect, and it won't become the next market leader, but it's not the worst choice for an XLR microphone.

Best budget pick: Audio-Technica AT2020

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a condenser microphone that requires +48V phantom power, so you’ll have to invest in an external preamp or interface. It has a cardioid polar pattern and a slightly higher self-noise averaging 20dB(A) EIN, so it is best used for close vocals or close-miked instruments. A relatively low sensitivity makes it most effective for close proximity recording.

Audio-Technica AT2020
Audio-Technica AT2020
7.5
Best USB microphones: A product image of the mic and its inclusions on a white background.A product render of the Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone against a white background.A product render of the Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone on a small stand in black.
Audio-Technica AT2020
Audio-Technica AT2020
Buy now
See review
See review

This metal XLR microphone comes with a stand mount, threaded mount adapter, and carrying pouch. It has a static condenser, so you’ll want to consider buying a shock mount for it to reduce handling noise. It doesn’t come with a pop filter, so you’ll want to add one to your shopping cart. The AT2020 has good sound quality for a cheap microphone, but if you’re looking for additional features or included add-ons, you may want to consider a more expensive mic.

Audio-Technica AT2020Audio-Technica AT2020
Audio-Technica AT2020
Sturdily built • Great for loud sounds • Affordable
MSRP: $99.00
A condenser microphone that handle loud sounds.
The AT2020 is a condenser microphone, which is highly sensitive and great for recording subtle sounds and details. It can handle high sound pressure levels without distorting.

The AT2020 microphone will make your voice and instruments sound good whether you’re recording vocals or guitars.

Audio-Technica AT2020 speaking sample:

Audio-Technica AT2020 singing sample:

Audio-Technica AT2020 acoustic guitar sample:

Audio-Technica AT2020 electric guitar sample:

For the best on an unlimited budget, grab the Shure SM7b

The Shure SM7B dynamic microphone attached to a stand.
The Shure SM7B is an industry-standard dynamic microphone used for vocals.

One of the best XLR mics in the business, the Shure SM7b, is pretty expensive for those just starting out and costs $399 at Amazon. If you have the money to spend, this is a microphone you want to have in your closet. It reproduces vocals extremely well and rejects noise well for a clean pickup. It boasts a super durable build, so you don’t need to worry that your $400 will be spent in vain. The mic comes with a pop filter installed and effectively reduces plosives.

The Shure SM7b has 2 switches that let you tailor the frequency response: bass roll-off and mid-range emphasis (presence boost). This helps make the microphone more versatile, and it can very effectively be used to record other sources besides vocals. It’s truly a tank of a microphone that can be applied to whatever you need it for in the studio.

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.

Check out the cheaper yet still impressive Shure MV7

A person speaks into the Shure MV7 USB microphone as it records into Adobe Audition.
The Shure MV7 performs admirably in almost all situations.

Shure’s hybrid USB/XLR microphone, the Shure MV7, is a very versatile option for podcasters and collaborators. You can use the outputs simultaneously to record a low-res reference file and a high-resolution file for edits. The touch control system is cool but not very useful because the vibrations are recorded anytime you touch the mic.

The mic reproduces vocals clearly, and the sound signature is adjustable to your needs. Shure’s desktop software is also extremely useful and easy to understand, making this an approachable mic for beginners and enthusiasts.

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.

Budding Twitch streamers should get the Elgato Wave DX and Wave XLR bundle

The Elgato Wave DX sits on an Elgato microphone arm above the Elgato Wave XLR audio interface on a desk in front of a Viewsonic computer monitor.
In addition to the microphone itself, Elgato sells an XLR cable, multiple microphone stand options, and the Wave XLR audio interface.

With its simple design, the Elgato Wave DX is a great XLR microphone that works seamlessly with the Wave XLR audio interface. At $99.99 at Corsair, the Wave DX is an economical microphone. Tacking on the Wave XLR raises the price to about $250, but this is a fine deal because the bundle includes Elgato’s Wave Link software. The software gives you control over audio channels and is particularly great for streamers using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). Wave Link is a more accessible software for beginners compared to something like VoiceMeter.

Elgato Wave DXElgato Wave DX
Elgato Wave DX
Affordable XLR microphone • Decent sound • Straightforward
MSRP: $99.00
A cardioid microphone with XLR connection at an affordable price
The Elgato Wave DX is a cardioid XLR microphone with decent sound and great value for the price. It uses the Wave XLR audio interface to connect and control the audio.

If you want a one-stop-shop solution for your streaming channel, the Elgato Wave DX and Wave XLR deserve to sit on your desktop.

Elgato Wave XLRElgato Wave XLR
Elgato Wave XLR
Design • Good app • Fair price in bundle
MSRP: $159.00
A useful add-on for streamers who own the Elgato Wave DX microphone.
The Elgato Wave XLR is a nice audio interface that matches the Wave DX mic. To get the most out of the Wave XLR, you'll need to download the Wave Link software.

The best XLR microphones: Notable mentions

beyerdynamic M70 Pro X positioned upright in its mount with an armchair, pillow, and string of lights in the background.
The M70 PRO X has a hefty cylindrical build and includes an elastic shock mount.
  • Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X ($129 at Amazon): If the AT2020 appeals to you but you want something that plugs right into your computer, consider this mic.
  • Beyerdynamic M70 PRO X ($229 at Amazon): This XLR microphone isn’t cheap, but when you buy it, you’re investing in something built to last. Beyerdynamic provides a pop filter and elastic shock mount, which you’ll need to attach it to a stand. Like the Shure SM58, this dynamic microphone can handle loud inputs before introducing any distortion, making it great for broadcasting and podcasts where someone might unexpectedly burst out laughing close to the mic. If you want a condenser version of this microphone, check out the M90 PRO X.
  • Blue Yeti Pro: This is a good choice if you want an XLR and USB output for a more customizable experience. The mic has a desktop stand and four polar patterns: cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional, and bidirectional. Its onboard headphone volume and gain adjustments make it easy to use and control.
  • Electrovoice RE20: The RE20 is a versatile, professional dynamic microphone with Electrovoice’s patented Variable D design, highlighting the vocal range and offering features like a bass roll-off switch and large humbucking coil, making it ideal for both radio stations and specialized recording needs like ASMR, all while including built-in pop and shock mounts.
  • SE Electronics sE2300: This is one of the clearest-sounding mics in its price range due to its neutral-leaning frequency response with a slight presence boost. The presence boost enhances both vocal clarity and instruments. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive.
  • Shure MV7X ($179 at Amazon): This XLR microphone is just like its older sibling, the MV7, but it is XLR only. You don’t get a USB output, onboard controls, or access to the Shure MOTIV app.
  • Shure 55SH Series II ($199 at Amazon): The classic Elvis mic is well suited to recording vocals and has great sound quality.
  • Logitech Blue Sona ($349 at Amazon): This new XLR microphone sounds fantastic with its super-cardioid pickup pattern. It has a built-in signal booster, plus switches to cut bass or increase presence. It’s well worth $349 for a great streaming or podcasting setup.

What you should know about the best XLR microphones

What is an XLR microphone?

Close-up shot of the pins in an XLR cable and on a microphone and audio interface
XLR cables for microphones feature 3 pins to allow for a balanced audio connection.

Microphones with XLR outputs are used all across the board in recording instruments and vocals, radio broadcasts, live performances, and more. Professional XLR microphones offer a high-quality sound that’s easy to deal with in post-production. They also offer ample noise reduction and durability. In order to digitize the output for your computer’s recording software, you will need an audio interface. However, if you are using the microphone for live performance, you’ll just need amplification!

What is the difference between a dynamic and condenser microphone?

The important difference between dynamic and condenser microphones is that the former does not require phantom power provided by the front end to produce an output, whereas the latter does. Additionally, dynamic microphones can generally withstand louder volumes before distortion becomes a problem. This makes dynamic mics more suitable for picking up a loud voice or instrument in a live performance or for recording loud instruments such as drums or electric guitars in the studio. Condenser mics, on the other hand, can have higher sensitivity, making them ideal for isolated studio recordings where you want to pick up the subtle details of a voice or acoustic guitar, for example.

What are the uses of different polar patterns?

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.

Depending on the use you have in mind for your XLR mic, you will want to look for a specific polar pattern or the shape in which a microphone picks up sound. The main polar patterns are as follows: cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional, hypercardioid, and supercardioid. Each polar pattern has certain uses more suited to them, depending on the direction the microphone is pointed or placed.

How we chose the best XLR microphones

When it comes to testing XLR microphones, we make sure to get as much hands-on experience as we can with each microphone. After reviewing a product, we discuss whether it’s worthy of a spot on one of our best lists. If a product makes it on the list, it isn’t necessary here forever: this document is ever-changing as new and noteworthy products hit the market, and we always have our eyes and ears open for products worth your dollar.

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. SoundGuys‘ survival depends mostly on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently providing 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 XLR microphones

XLR stands for “X Connector, Locking Connector, Rubber Boot.” Sounds like a mouthful, but each part has a purpose:

  • X Connector: The original Cannon X series connector.
  • Locking Connector: The addition of a latch to secure the connection.
  • Rubber Boot: Insulates and protects the pins.

XLR cables that have a female XLR connector on one end and a male XLR on the other end have the most reliable connection because they keep the signal balanced. If you want the cheapest option, the AmazonBasics branded cables start at just $7, but people who put their equipment through the wringer should get the more durable Rapco Horizon N1M1, which will run you about $25 for a 25-foot cable.

Lots of things contribute to a microphone’s quality, including the internal electronics, as well as the type of connection. There are great USB microphones out there, and we recommend checking out our list of the best USB microphones.

No, expensive XLR cables generally don’t make your mic sound better, but they can offer better build quality and durability. The primary role of an XLR cable is to transmit audio signal without degradation, something that even basic cables can accomplish effectively. However, higher-quality cables may provide better shielding against interference.