Recording can be stressful. You have to make sure you have the right equipment, and you need to know how to use that equipment. That’s why choosing the best condenser mic for you is so important.
If your mic doesn’t suit your needs, you won’t get the sound you want. And if you can’t even use your mic? Well, good luck getting any sound to come through.
So, what is the best condenser mic, and how do you choose which one to use?
Condensor Mic Basics
The best condenser mic is essential for any recording studio. It’s also a helpful tool for live performances, and you can find condenser mics in all shapes and sizes.
The best condenser mic for one scenario might not work in other situations. For example, the best condenser mic for vocals may not pick up on instrumental sounds as well.
But what exactly is a microphone? A microphone is a device you can use to amplify sounds. You can use a microphone to sing over a live band.
However, you can also use a microphone to record vocals or instrumental lines. There are two main types of microphones: dynamic and condenser mics.
While both types serve different purposes, the best condenser mic is very versatile. It might even be better than a good dynamic mic.
What is a condenser mic?
The best condenser mic can follow sound waves more accurately than other types of microphones. That means the sound you get will be more natural and clear.
These mics have a broader frequency response and hotter output when compared to other microphones.
The best condenser mic is also very sensitive and perfect for recording vocals as well as a variety of instruments. You can use a condenser mic in both professional and home recording studios.
While you can also use condenser mics in live performances, they probably won’t give great results. Instead, consider using a dynamic microphone and saving your best condenser mic for your next recording session.
How does it work?
The best condenser mic works similarly to other types of microphones. It can pick up sound waves and either amplify them or, in the case of recording, send them to a receiver.
Condenser mics pick up sound that’s right in front of them, and the best condenser mic can isolate those sounds from background noise.
As you sing or play into a condenser mic, the microphone’s diaphragm will vibrate based on the sound pressure it receives. Some condenser microphones have a large diaphragm, while others have a small one. Typically, large-diaphragm mics are easier to start with.
Depending on how powerful a mic is, you may need to connect it to an external power source, like phantom power.
However, there are some fantastic condenser microphones that you can connect straight to your computer. In that case, all you need is your computer, mic, and a cord. Then, you can start recording then and there.
How is it different from other microphones?
This question is hard to answer because there are so many types of condenser microphones. Each type of condenser mic is different.
However, all condenser mics are better suited for recordings than live performances. The other main type of microphone, dynamic mics, are great for live performing, but they’re not so great in the studio.
Overall, the best condenser mic can pick up vocals and sounds from most, if not all, instruments. Just as condenser mics are better than dynamic mics at some things, the various types of condenser mics have their strengths.
So, before you choose the best condenser mic, consider how you plan to use it. Some condenser mics are better for vocals, while others may be the best for instruments.
What is it for?
We’ve touched a little on the purpose of the best condenser mic. In general, all condenser microphones are great for recording. No two condenser mics are the same, though.
One band might have their favorite condenser mic or mics. But that band’s favorites may not include the best condenser mic for you.
Even if a mic can handle vocals and instrumentals, you may want to have a dedicated microphone for recording your singing. And if you want to bang on the drums, you need a mic that can handle the louder volume.
Similarly, a mic’s connectivity can determine its use. Some condenser mics plug right into your computer. That’s great for recording on a budget or even on the go.
But as you build your home studio, you may want to invest in the best condenser mic that uses phantom power. That extra power could improve your recordings, which is good if you want to put out professional-quality stuff.
Choosing the Best Condenser Mic for You
Of course, there are tons of condenser mics available. And yes, some are objectively better than others. However, that doesn’t mean you should choose the best condenser mic.
Instead, you should choose the best condenser mic for you and your needs.
Sure, the right condenser mic can make or break your recordings. But there’s more to choosing the best condenser mic than quality or even professional recommendations.
Do your research now so that you can make an informed choice when you decide to buy your next best condenser mic.
What should you look for?
When shopping for any piece of gear, you want to choose something that’s high-quality and has the features you need. The best condenser mic is no exception.
Frequency and patterns
First, you want to look at the frequency response. This determines how the microphone processes the sound that goes into it. The best condenser mic for instrumentals can take in sound exactly.
On the other hand, the best condenser mic for vocals needs some flexibility in terms of refining the sound and making it clearer.
Next, you should consider a microphone’s polar pattern. Common polar patterns include cardioid, omnidirectional, figure-8, and multiple-pattern.
A cardioid mic picks up sound right in front of it, while an omnidirectional mic can pick up sound in all directions. Figure-8 mics pick up sound from the front and back but not the sides. Finally, a multiple-pattern mic can switch between other polar patterns.
How you plan to use it
The third thing to look at when choosing the best condenser mic is if the diaphragm is small or large. Large-diaphragm mics are versatile and great for beginners. However, a small diaphragm is ideal for catching nuances in your recordings.
Another thing to consider is what instruments you plan to record. Usually, small-diaphragm mics are better at recording acoustic guitars, while vocals should go for a large diaphragm. Piano and drums can require a combination of the two.
Going along with how you want to use a condenser mic, consider how often you think you’ll use it. If you need a mic to last a long time, you may need to spend a bit more.
But if you just want a mic for occasional use, you can probably go with something less expensive.
What should you avoid?
Just like there are things to look for in the best condenser mic, there are things to avoid. Avoiding these things can save you some time, money, and stress.
The first thing to avoid is dynamic mics. That may sound obvious, but we think it’s worthy of a reminder. Dynamic mics aren’t the same as condensers, and you need to be sure you choose the right type.
Next, you should avoid mics that are outside of your budget. While the top-of-the-line condenser mic might look cool, your wallet won’t look so good if you splurge.
But on the other hand, you should also make sure you don’t spend too little on a mic. As with most things, cost is a good indicator of quality. While the cheapest condenser microphone may not be bad, it may not suit your needs.
Third, you should avoid condenser mics that don’t work well with the instruments you want to record. We touched on this as something to look for, but it’s also something to avoid.
Don’t choose the shiniest mic if it won’t actually work well for you.
Should you choose a small or large diaphragm mic?
Within the category of condenser mics, there are small- and large-diaphragm microphones. Overall, a large-diaphragm condenser mic is better for general purposes.
It’s pretty versatile, and you can use it with vocals as well as multiple instruments. However, it does have its drawbacks.
A large-diaphragm condenser mic can’t pick up on as many details as a small diaphragm. While that’s fine for singing, you may want those details when recording a guitar or other instrument.
Small-diaphragm mics can pick up on the nuances that large-diaphragm mics miss out on. Unfortunately, they’re not the best choice for recording vocals.
Ideally, you would have both small- and large-diaphragm condenser mics. But if you can only have one or the other, the best condenser mic, in general, will have a large diaphragm.
What accessories do you need?
Along with choosing the best condenser mic, you should consider what accessories you might also need. After all, some microphones are worthless without the right accessories.
The simplest type of condenser mic is one that can connect right into your computer. A surprising number of condenser mics just need a USB and a cord to work.
However, there are plenty of condenser mics that require special cords or external power sources, like phantom power. These mics won’t work correctly without those accessories, so phantom power might be a necessity.
If you already have a source of phantom power, you won’t have to worry about this. But it is something to think about when you’re choosing your first condenser mic and building your studio.
It can also be a determining factor if you’re on a strict budget. While you may have enough money for the mic, the required accessories may push the cost too high.
Where can you buy one?
You can buy the best condenser mic from a variety of places. Audio and music stores are great places to start. Some general technology stores might also have a small selection.
And if you don’t want to leave your house, there’s always the internet. Retailers, like Amazon, carry a decent variety of condenser mics.
Say It Loud and Proud
Searching for the best condenser mic isn’t easy.
Because of the numerous choices, we started with some recommendations from a few different reviews and expert lists. Many of our picks overlapped between multiple other reviews, which made us more confident in our choices.
Once we found candidates for the best condenser mic, we looked at their features, such as size, connectivity, and frequency response. We also considered if a mic needed an external power source or not.
Next, we considered whether each mic has a small or large diaphragm. Along with that, we looked at other features that might make a mic better for certain instruments.
And finally, we took a look at customer ratings. While expert suggestions were helpful in finding mics, customer thoughts are just as important when determining whether a mic is the best condenser mic.
The Best Condenser Mic Models
While we can’t narrow down our picks to the single best condenser mic, we can say that each one has some great qualities. Some might be better for you than others, and that’s OK.
Everyone has different recording needs, budgets, and situations. For that reason, we also want to say that this list is in no particular order.
All of the mics below have something to offer, and it’s up to you to find the best condenser mic for you.
SE Electronics sE2200a II
The SE Electronics sE2200a II might be the best condenser mic for beginners. It has a large diaphragm, which makes it versatile for recording different instruments.
This microphone also has a cardioid polar pattern, so it will only pick up sounds from right in front of it. It is a great option for vocals, but you can also use it on instruments.
The mic comes with a shock mount, but it doesn’t include other accessories. You’ll need to get an external power source. You will also need to get an XLR cable to connect the mic.
This microphone has an average customer rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon. One customer said the mic is good quality but still relatively affordable. However, a second customer said they tried the mic in multiple home and pro studios to no avail.
Still, we have some pros of our own:
- Good for vocals and instrumentals
- Shock mount included
- Only picks up sound in front of it
And there are some cons:
- Need external power
- Doesn’t come with an XLR cable
AKG Pro Audio C214
Next up, we have the AKG Pro Audio C214 microphone. This condenser mic can record both vocals and instrumentals, and you can even choose between the two styles depending on your needs.
It can record sounds up to 156dB, and it has a switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter. The attenuator and filter make this mic perfect for recording up close without feeling that closeness.
This mic also has an integrated suspension that can reduce mechanical vibration and excess noise. Its all-metal die-cast body has a shock- and scratch-resistant finish.
Amazon customers give it an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. One customer said the mic is clear and crisp and perfect for any mic collection. However, another customer mentioned the mic can be a little too bright. They also said the microphone is pretty quiet.
Now for our pros:
- Works with vocals and instrumentals
- Records up to 156dB
- Durable for travel and regular use
And our cons:
- Can be quiet
- Not as warm of a sound as other mics
The Rode NT1KIT is a fantastic condenser mic, especially since it comes with a few essential accessories. It comes with a shock mount as well as a carrying bag.
This mic itself can produce recordings that sound like older recordings, which can be nice if that’s what you want. The mic’s design makes it so that there are minimal external vibrations.
A durable coating is scratch-resistant, and it can help the microphone last longer. This mic responds well to low, middle, and high frequencies, which means it’s a great option for use with different instruments. It features a cardioid polar pattern.
The Rode NT1KIT has an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon. One customer praised the mic’s sturdiness and loves the included pop shield. Unfortunately, multiple customers report their mic stopped working soon after they received it.
Our pros include:
- Comes with accessories
- Minimal external vibrations
- Works with all frequencies
And our cons:
- Can sound old-timey (pro or con based on your style)
- Quality control issues
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
If you want to start recording but are on a tight budget, consider the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. It’s a condenser mic that you can plug straight into your computer, so you don’t need an external power source.
The mic can record in almost any situation or environment. You can even choose between cardioid, omnidirectional, and other polar patterns. That makes it a great option if you don’t have a dedicated studio.
This mic feature gain control, a mute button, and zero-latency headphone output. You can use it to record vocals as well as instrumentals. It works with Windows 7, 8, and 10 as well as Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher.
On Amazon, the average customer rating is 4.3 out of 5 stars. One customer loves the build and sound quality. Unfortunately, some customers say they received faulty mics and that it’s hard to replace them.
Now for our pros:
- Connects to your computer
- Works with vocals and instruments
- Offers multiple polar patterns
And our cons:
- Quality control and service are questionable
- Not much of an upgrade
Neumann TLM 102
The Neumann TLM 102 is a great condenser mic for professionals or anyone looking for an upgrade. This mic is a large-diaphragm condenser mic with a cardioid polar pattern.
It features a compact design and can handle volumes up to 144dB. That versatility means you can use it for loud instruments, like drums. However, it also works well with acoustic instruments.
This mic has a clear frequency response, which helps define lower frequencies. There’s also a pop screen integrated into the grille, which is helpful if you want to record vocals.
The average customer rating on Amazon is 4.7 out of 5 stars. One customer loves the mic’s sound quality and value. However, a second customer said it’s not worth the price hike compared to cheaper options.
Here are some of our pros:
- Versatile for use with all instruments
- Pop filter is great for recording vocals
- Clear frequency response
And our cons:
- Not for beginners
- A bit pricey
Our next pick is the Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser microphone. It’s an excellent studio mic that uses the traditional XLR cable connection, though you’ll need to purchase the cable separately.
Once you do have what you need, you can use the mic in a home or professional studio setting. It has a wide dynamic range and an extended frequency response.
The mic’s cardioid polar pattern helps to isolate the sound you want to record, and it can limit background noises. It comes with a stand mount, a threaded adapter, and a soft, protective pouch.
Amazon customers rate the mic 4.5 out of 5 stars on average. One person said the mic is second only to high-end mics you find in recording studios. However, you can’t use it with a USB, and it also doesn’t include an XLR cable.
Our pros include:
- Very affordable
- Good dynamic range
- Isolates the sound
And our cons include:
- Doesn’t connect to USB
- Needs separate XLR cable
The MXL V67G is a great option if you want a condenser mic with a little flair. It has a large diaphragm and a solid-state preamp.
If you want a shock mount, you can purchase that separately, but the extra cost shouldn’t be too jarring. This mic is budget-friendly, and the green and gold combination looks very sleek and cool.
It offers a mellow sound, which is great for vocals and instrumentals. The rich midrange can make it sound like you’re using a tube microphone, and it’s a great choice for a variety of genres.
The average customer rating is 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. One customer said it’s perfect for vocals and one of the best in its price range. However, others say the mic doesn’t always work properly.
Here are some pros:
- Looks unique
- Mellow sound
And some cons:
- Doesn’t come with accessories
- Quality control issues
Marantz Professional MPM-1000
The Marantz Professional MPM-1000 studio-grade mic can record clear audio. It works with vocals, acoustic instruments, and amplifiers.
This mic has a large diaphragm, and it features a cardioid polar pattern. The mic has a wide frequency response range, and it’s sensitive enough to capture small details.
It’s also small and lightweight, making it perfect for recording on the go.
On Amazon, customers rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars on average. One customer said their vocals are very clear with the mic. However, another reviewer said their mic was picking up sounds from more than just the front.
Our pros include:
- Wide frequency response range
- Works with instruments and vocals
Our cons include:
- Can pick up sounds from more than the front
- Could be too sensitive
AKG Pro Audio P170
The P170 from AKG Pro Audio is a great small-diaphragm condenser mic. You can use it to record percussion, guitars, and more.
Its small size allows it to record sounds with great clarity and response. This mic is also affordable and a great option for your first small-diaphragm condenser mic.
Amazon customers give it an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars. One customer said it’s great for home recording and use with acoustic instruments. The only complaint referenced replacing a damaged stand adapter.
Now for our pros:
- Great clarity and response
And our cons:
- Can be hard to replace accessories
The Shure KSM141 mic is great for studio recording. It lets you switch between a cardioid polar pattern as well as an omnidirectional one.
This mic offers an excellent response, and it can minimize distortion. It can also reduce low-frequency rumble from mechanical vibrations.
A low-frequency filter can reduce background noise.
The average customer rating is 5.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Both reviews mention the mic is great for acoustic instruments.
Here are our pros:
- Multiple polar patterns
- Minimize distortion and background noise
- Good for acoustic instruments
Our one con:
- No real cons to speak of
Do you want a pair of small-diaphragm condenser mics? Well, look no further than the Behring C-2. This mic comes as a pair, and you can use the set for recording and live performances.
They work well as main and support mics, and the cardioid polar pattern can eliminate feedback. The pair features a wide frequency response for great sound reproduction.
On Amazon, the average rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars. One customer loves the sound quality and durability of the mics. However, other customers say you get what you pay for.
Our pros include:
- Two mics for the price of one
- Minimal feedback
Our cons are:
- Not the best quality
- You get what you pay for
The Rode M3 is a fantastic small-diaphragm condenser mic. You can use it to record a variety of instruments, and it also comes with some handy accessories.
Its accessories include a windshield, a mic clip, and a zip pouch. The mic itself uses a shock mount, and it has a heavy-duty body that’s great for use in different environments.
On Amazon, customers rate it 4.8 out of 5 stars on average. One customer said you can get high-quality recordings. However, someone else said the mic can put too much emphasis on high frequencies.
Here are our pros:
- Comes with accessories
- Durable and versatile
And our cons:
- Not enough low sound
If you want to record music on your own, you need the proper tools. The best condenser mic is one of the most essential things for any home studio.
We think all of the mics on our list would be great, and it’s up to you to compare them and decide on the best condenser mic for your needs.
What do you think is the best condenser mic? Comment below!
Last update on 2021-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API