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The best vocal microphones

Crutchfield's top picks

What’s the best vocal microphone? That's a common question, for which there’s no easy answer.

Vocal mics that work well on stage aren’t always the best choice for the studio, and vice versa. If you plan to collect a large array of mics, then you might be looking for one or two that will only be used for vocals. If you have a more modest setup, you might need one that works well with both vocals and instruments.

With those factors in mind, here are our recommendations for the best vocal microphones for the most common situations.

Condenser mics — ideal for recording

Condenser mics are extremely sensitive, and very accurate, making them the first choice for recording studios. Large diaphragm condenser mics are especially well-suited to capture the expressive subtle details in a human voice.

AKG C214 condenser microphone

AKG C214

AKG C214 large diaphragm condenser mic

Best for lead vocals and solo instruments in studio and live performance. Ideal multi-purpose mic for musicians with limited resources.

  • Cardioid polar pattern picks up sound in front of the mic, while ignoring sound behind it.
  • 20 dB attenuation switch to prevent distortion and overload
  • Switchable 300 Hz low-cut filter provides the option of removing lower frequencies, which may help improve the clarity of a vocal track
  • Aluminum carrying case
  • Universal shock mounts
  • 3-year warranty

Why get this one?
"The C214 brings out the natural qualities of the quieter sources you need to record. This mic is particularly good to use to capture the nuances of a female vocalist, acoustic guitar or mandolin." - Artie, Crutchfield Pro Audio Sales Advisor


Sennheiser MK4

Sennheiser MK4

Sennheiser MK4large diaphragm multi-purpose condenser mic

Best for recording male and female vocals, as well as acoustic instruments such as guitar, strings, wind instruments that require a sensitive mic.

  • Cardioid polar pattern picks up sound in front of the mic, while ignoring sound behind it
  • Internal shock mount to isolate the diaphragm from the casing, preventing it from picking up vibrations carried through the mic stand
  • 24-carat gold-plated diaphragm
  • Microphone clamp
  • Storage pouch
  • 10-year warranty
Why get this one?

“The MK4 is a very versatile mic. Not only is it great for vocals, it can be used for acoustic and amplified instruments as well. The microphone is very sensitive, and will pick up the fine details of your intended source. If you could only have one microphone for your home studio, the MK4 would be a fantastic choice.” - Matthew, Crutchfield Pro Audio Sales Advisor


Shure KSM 32

Shure KSM 32

Shure KSM 32condenser microphone


Best for vocal recording and equally good for live sound. A good choice for beginning artists, as it can be used to mic a small venue, or home recording studio.

  • Cardioid polar pattern picks up sound in front of the mic, while ignoring sound behind it
  • internal shock mount to minimize motion noise
  • Switchable 300 Hz low-cut filter provides the option of removing lower frequencies, which may help improve the clarity of a vocal track
  • 2-year warranty

Why get this one?
"This microphone can capture the most subtle details of a live or studio vocal performance. I would suggest the KSM 32 for acoustic classical, jazz, and light contemporary music."   – Dallas, Crutchfield Pro Audio Sales Advisor


Dynamic mics for live sound

The extreme durability of dynamic mics makes them ideal for live performances, which require frequent set up and tear down. Plus, their lower sensitivity (compared to condenser mics) means they pick up less ambient noise – especially in hand-held models.

AKG D5

AKG D5

AKG D5 —  dynamic hand-held mic with on/off switch

Best for lead vocals in live performances

  • Supercardioid polar pattern tightly focuses pickup to a narrow area in front of the mic, minimizing sound from other musicians on stage
  • Integrated pop filter
  • Dual shock mount of mic capsule complete isolates it from the casing, eliminating rattles and bumps from handling
  • Stand adapter
  • Microphone bag
  • Lifetime warranty

Why get this one?
"In addition to taking a lot of abuse, a live vocal microphone must also sound good with a variety of singers, reject stage noise and feedback. This is exactly what you can expect with the D5. It's a mighty impressive microphone — especially for the price." - Lucy, Crutchfield Pro Audio Sales Advisor


Sennheiser e 835

Sennheiser e 835

Sennheiser e 835 handheld dynamic mic

Best for live performance lead and backup vocals. Can also be used to mic guitar amps

  • Cardioid polar pattern picks up sound in front of the mic, while ignoring sound behind it
  • Uniform on- and off-axis response
  • Internal damping to isolate handling noise
  • Microphone pouch
  • Microphone clip
  • 2-year warranty

Why get this one?
“[The e 835] actually sounds quite natural, and once you get close up the proximity effect provides the necessary warmth. This would be a suitable mic for vocal recording on budget multitrackers and similar systems, as well as being an acceptably good live vocal mic, though it also works well on electric instruments such as guitar amps.” – Paul White, Sound on Sound Magazine


Shure GLXD2/BETA58

Shure GLXD2/BETA58

Shure GLXD2/BETA58 —  digital handheld wireless microphone and transmitter

Best for lead vocalists who want the freedom of a wireless mic so they can move about as they perform.

  • Supercardioid polar pattern tightly focuses sound pickup to a narrow area in front of the mic, minimizing sound from other musicians on stage
  • 2.4 GHz band operation
  • Automatically links to receiver
  • 10-hour rechargeable battery
  • Carrying case
  • 2-year warranty
Why get this one?
“For those want­ing a vocal micro­phone, the GLXD2 comes in a vari­ety of options... The recharge­able bat­tery that can be charged by USB or even with a car charger on the way to your gig offers a new world of flex­i­bil­ity. It can be inter­change­able between GKXD trans­mit­ters and given a boost charge between sets if really needed for extended per­for­mances. You could go all week­end on a fes­ti­val stage with these trans­mit­ters and only need to allow them a few short recharges to ensure they carry on with the job at hand.” – Rob Gee, Mixdown Magazine
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