For today’s installment, we will be looking at the best budget condenser microphones ranging from 50$ to 200$.
Before we dive into today’s list, let’s look at the difference between an XLR and a USB-type microphone. Both function the same when capturing sound; the only difference is where the signal is amplified and converted from an analog signal to a digital signal.
XLR microphones require an external device to amplify the signal to a usable level and then convert that signal from a voltage into a binary. However, USB microphones have a built-in pre-amp and A/D converter. This design has its benefits, but it also introduces a nasty drawback.
All electronic devices emit low-level noise created by their internal components. For microphones, this can be troublesome since that noise can be picked up when recording. This is where your microphone’s noise level or equivalent noise level rating comes in.
USB microphones, by design, contain more electrical components than XLR microphones. These added components increase the internal noise produced by the mic.
They have come a long way and don’t introduce as much noise to the signal as they used to, but it is still a drawback to consider, especially when looking at condenser microphones since they have a circuit board that charges the capsule’s backplate.
Top 12 Budget Condenser Microphones 2022
1. Behringer SB 78A
The Behringer SB 78A is a budget handheld condenser microphone reminiscent of the Shure Beta 87A in both design and tone. Alongside its use as a vocal mic, it doubles as a practical option for guitar recordings.
The SB 78A is a handheld, cardioid, condenser microphone with a built-in High-Pass Filter (HPF) and a built-in pop filter. It does require 48v phantom power to use.
And it comes with a foam-lined plastic carry case, a durable mic clip, and a mic clip stand adapter should your stand require a smaller attachment.
- Built-In High-Pass Filter
Having a built-in HPF can be a godsend when working with vocal microphones, especially handheld. When engaged, the HPF will attenuate frequencies up to 200 Hz. The frequency roll-off is gradual enough that the difference isn’t stark, but the benefits are noticeable. Engaging the HPF can help reduce bass emphasis introduced by the proximity effect or help section off vocals in a mix by confining their frequency range to areas above 200 Hz. However, this is not recommended if you’re working with a bass or baritone vocalist since their range can start as low as 80 Hz to 100 Hz. The HPF can help reduce the rumble caused by handling noise as well.
- Built-In Pop Filter
The built-in pop-filter does a great job of reducing the impactful punchiness of plosives. Unfortunately, the sound is not removed entirely, but the filter mitigates them enough that they are barely audible or noticeable from all but the most discernable ear. This feature adds to the SB 78A’s effectiveness as a live vocal microphone. In-studio, adding a mountable pop filter to a good setup will remove plosives entirely, which will make for a vastly smoother recording.
Behringer’s SB 78A has a -48dB/PA sensitivity rating, equating to a voltage of 3.98mV/PA. This rating is relatively low for a condenser microphone which, on average, ranges anywhere from -42 to -30dB/PA (8mV – 32mV/PA), so you will need to be generous with the gain to achieve a well-rounded signal. In live environments, this can be beneficial since it means the microphone will be less reactive to surrounding sounds. This benefit can cross over to studio-esque environments since it will allow bedroom recording enthusiasts to capture less ambiance when recording.
- Frequency Range
You will be able to capture a frequency range of 50 Hz to 16 kHz with the SB 78A. The bass response is lowered up to 200 Hz by about 6 dB and remains flat up to 10 kHz before steeply dropping. The frequency response smoothly rolls off from 200 Hz to 50 Hz if the HPF is turned on. Overall, frequencies above 200 Hz are a top priority for this microphone, which means vocals will naturally sit higher in a mix. The frequency response chart also details how the frequency response changes with signal level.
The price is very budget-friendly compared to other handheld condenser microphones, and it almost performs just as well. If you are looking for an affordable condenser to start your microphone arsenal or a vocal mic to use as a backup when in a pinch, Behringer’s SB 78A is recommended for you.
They have excellent handling noise rejection. However, the noise isn’t removed entirely, but it is low enough to be significantly less bothersome. A low cut with the EQ can help you mitigate it further.
In terms of cons, the 78A does not have great sound rejection from and around the rear of the microphone. Therefore, when using them for live vocal applications, you may battle with feedback as the microphone picks up sounds from behind it (since most of the tones captured reside in the bass end, the HPF may help mitigate the issue).
Otherwise, placing the microphone slightly further back from the PA speakers and positioning monitors off-axis from the rear could help deter pick up of any unwanted sounds.
2. TONOR TC-777
The Tonor TC-777 is a USB condenser microphone designed for VoIP. In other words, if you are a podcaster, streamer, or if you consistently conduct meetings online for business but do not have the budget or experience to invest in more advanced microphone connections, this is the microphone for you.
The TC-777 is a cardioid condenser microphone that uses a USB (2.0) connection to connect directly to your device. An analog-to-digital converter and mic preamplifier is built into the microphone’s casing, minimizing the hardware required to record audio.
However, it is crucial to keep in mind the drawbacks this creates. Since more electronics are contained within the microphone’s housing, more electrical noise is created, which the transducer can pick up.
- Frequency Range
Tonor’s TC-777 can capture a frequency range of 100 Hz to 16 kHz. As a result, this microphone will be able to capture most voice ranges cleanly. The male speaking voice sits at roughly 100 Hz and above, but it can be lower (think Michael Clarke Duncan or Barry White). For women, the average is closer to 150 Hz and above. Since USB microphones are not designed for professional audio, the tone focuses on clarity rather than a consistent reproduction of all frequencies, so you can expect a focus on the high-mid range of the frequency spectrum.
- Items Included
You will receive more than just the microphone with your purchase. Tonor is very generous, considering the price, and includes a pop-filter, mini shock mount, and a foldable tripod with their microphone. The pop filter attaches to the shock mount and is designed to reduce the impact of plosives and the sharpness of sibilance (which are gusts of air produced when we pronounce P’s and a high pitched tone when we pronounce S’ and T’s). Furthermore, the shock mount is designed to reduce the pick-up of mechanical noise created by bumping the stand or desk on which the microphone is placed.
The sensitivity rating comes in at -38 dB/PA making it lower than professional condenser microphones, but it is an advantage. This low rating means the microphone will be less prone to picking up ambient, low-level sounds, and if it does, it won’t overpower your voice unless you were to whisper into the microphone. It is recommended to move closer to the microphone’s grille in this case.
- Polar Pattern
The TC-777 picks up sound using a Cardioid polar pattern. This means the front of the microphone will be the most sensitive point, the sides will reject sound slightly, and the rear will have the lowest sensitivity. So if you have a source of noise near your laptop or PC (Or they are the source of noise), place the microphone so that the rear is aimed towards that source, and it will pick up significantly less sound from it.
The connection process is simple because of the plug-and-play design. You will just need to connect it to a USB port in your device to use it. It may take a minute or two for your device to install the drivers needed, but you will be all set to start using the microphone once it is done.
The shock mount has a flexible range of motion and can be tilted up to 180º on a vertical axis. This range of motion will allow you to set the mic up angled directly in front of you on the desk or hang vertically from a boom arm.
Despite increasing the level under Speaker Properties, Windows 10 users have experienced a significantly low signal volume when using the microphone. In rare instances, users have been unable to locate the source of the problem, and returning the microphone to receive a new model is the only fix.
Unfortunately, the connection cable is built into the microphone’s casing, so if it malfunctions, you may not be able to fix it unless you feel comfortable cutting the cable shorter to solder a new USB connection.
3. Mackie EM-91CU
The renowned audio hardware company Mackie offers a great entry-level USB microphone recommended for Youtubers, podcasters, and streamers and can work well for musicians (mainly vocalists and guitarists) recording demos of their music. You can expect a bargain for the price offered.
The Mackie EM-91CU is a cardioid USB condenser microphone that offers a surprisingly good tone at a low price. A shock mount, USB cable, and two DAWs (lite versions) are included with the microphone, so you will be able to hit the ground running.
- Frequency Range
The frequency range starts as low as 20 Hz and ends at a high 17 kHz. The low-range frequency response is evident in the tone of the microphone. It isn’t as tight as higher-end microphones but does a great job of capturing low frequencies without any rumble or muddiness. The high-end response is clear enough that the microphone doesn’t have a muddy characteristic. And the response rolls off enough that the brightness attributed to many condenser microphones isn’t present in the tone. So if you are looking for an inexpensive condenser microphone and prefer a warmer/darker tone, this is the microphone for you.
- Polar Pattern
The polar pattern is documented and stated as Cardioid, but there is a lobe of pick-up from the rear synonymous with the hyper-cardioid and super-cardioid pick-up patterns. The pick-up pattern’s lowest sensitivity of -25 dB can be found at the 135º and 225º marks. The rear has a sensitivity of -10 dB, which isn’t great, so you will need to be mindful of sounds from the rear of the microphone. If you have any highly reflective surfaces on that side, try to aim the 135º/225º mark at this surface.
- Self Noise
The EM-91CU has an alright self-noise rating, coming in at a 16 dB (A-weighted: meaning the low and high-ends were rolled off during testing). So you can expect little electronic noise introduced by the microphone when using it at high gain levels. Ideally, increase the gain naturally by moving it closer to the sound source before turning up the gain. The increase in bass, introduced by the proximity effect, will need to be balanced with the natural gain increase offered by moving the microphone closer to the sound source.
- Sampling Rate & Bit Depth
The built-in A/D converter has a reasonably high sampling rate for a budget USB microphone: 46 kHz, higher than the audio industry standard of 44.1 kHz. The higher sampling rate means you will be able to capture slightly more detail when recording at the expense of larger file size. Since the sampling rate is higher than the distribution standard, you will need to lower the sample rate to 44.1 kHz when doing your final render; otherwise, distribution platforms will reject the audio and request the change to be made. The bit depth is set to 16 bit, which is the industry standard. The noise floor (The point at which a low-level hum/hiss can be heard when increasing the gain) isn’t as low as it would be when recording with 24 bit, but considering the microphone’s low self-noise, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Despite the low cost of Mackie’s EM-91CU, the microphone has a good tone and includes a shock mount and USB cable (Type A to type B). As mentioned above, two Digital Audio Workstations are included. Pro Tools First and Waveform OEM.
Pro Tools First is limited in features, so Waveform is the better option of the two software since it doesn’t have any limitations and includes more plug-in options.
The darker tone won’t be for everyone, so if you are looking for a brighter microphone, this is not the mic for you. The EM-91CU does not have a thread adapter, so you will need to purchase an adapter if your microphone stand uses the thinner thread.
The microphone housing isn’t very durable, and the grille isn’t too firmly fitted.
4. Tascam TM-80
Tascam’s TM-80 is an entry-level home studio condenser microphone. They feature a cardioid polar pattern with a comprehensive frequency response and many helpful accessories to help you along your recording journey.
The Tascam TM-80 is a barebones cardioid condenser microphone. They come with an inexpensive XLR cable, a shock mount, a 5/8″ to 3/8″ stand adapter, and a mini tripod desk stand.
- Frequency Range
You will be able to capture a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz when recording. The tone hints toward a range focused on the mid to high-mid areas, giving it a nasally quality that some might find undesirable. Despite this undesirable quality, the mic does capture the high-end detail in voices well, so you can expect good articulation when using them to record speech. On paper, the frequency response of this range is flat from 60 Hz to 5 kHz. A slight dip occurs from 5 kHz, followed by a gradual boost of +8dB between 9 & 10 kHz before a roll-off to – 6dB at 2- kHz.
- Polar Pattern
The TM-80 picks up sound using a cardioid polar pattern, which means the most sound rejection will be from the rear (180º mark). Unfortunately, the side rejection isn’t superb. Expect standard pick-up of mid to low-end frequencies and a roll-off of high-end frequencies. The rear end will reject all frequencies but the low-end. Any low-end frequencies captured have a tubby coloration.
- Phantom Power Required
9v to 48v phantom power will be required to power the electronics within the microphone, so check if your interface or mixer can supply phantom power within this range. If it does not, you can purchase in-line phantom power units connected in series with the microphone (The microphone is plugged into the phantom power unit, then the phantom power unit is plugged into the interface/mixer).
- Shock Mount
As mentioned, you will receive a shock mount with the microphone. The shock mount does a great job of rejecting mechanical noise should the stand be bumped while the microphone is used. As a result, you can expect a low-level bass thump instead of the dreaded punchy knock usually heard when bumping a stand. This thump can be lessened further by using a highpass filter during the post-production stage should you not realize, while recording, that someone bumped the stand.
If using the mic for streaming, when set up with a boom arm or stand, they do a great job of rejecting any surrounding noise so that it doesn’t distract from the stream. In addition, the all-metal mesh grille reduces the impact of plosives significantly.
If you mount an external pop-filter, it can help remove any traces of plosives for a much smoother recording.
The proximity effect can give the low-end an undesirably tubby coloration. The sensitivity rating is relatively low for a condenser microphone, at -38 dB/PA, so you may need to turn the gain up relatively high for softer sound sources.
The noise floor is relatively high, 17 dBa, so when recording quieter sounds, you must be mindful of any hiss or hum that is introduced to the signal.
5. Audio-Technica AT 2020
Audio Technica’s AT2020 has been an excellent recommendation for budget studio condenser microphones for many years now. And for a good reason. It has a clear tone, a wide frequency range, and a durable all-metal body with a sturdy grill.
The Audio Technica AT2020 is a cardioid studio condenser microphone with a wide frequency response and excellent handling of the proximity effect.
Also, they lend themselves to voice-over, spoken word, podcasting, streaming, and recording, making them an excellent fit for anyone looking for a studio condenser at a low price.
- Accessories Included
Alongside the microphone, you can expect to receive a few standard accessories. One included accessory is a soft protective pouch to store the mic when not in use. However, it won’t be as protective as a metal casing, so storing it in a crate for protection is recommended. Another accessory is a microphone mount that attaches directly to the base of the microphone so that it may be connected to a stand. Unfortunately, the AT2020 does not come with a shock mount, so you will need to purchase one if mechanical noise is a problem. And lastly, a 5/8″ to 3/8″ stand adapter should you find your stand’s threading is too thin to connect to the mount.
- Frequency Range
You can expect a wide frequency range, of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with a slightly emphasized high-end synonymous with vocal microphones. The low-end response is lowered from 200 Hz to -4 dB at 80 Hz, so do not expect a warm tone. However, the proximity effect does a great job of increasing the bass response smoothly, so the distance from the mic can play an essential role in achieving a smoother sound across the entire frequency spectrum. The mid-range is marginally flat, with a slight boost between 2 – 3 kHz. As mentioned, the high-end is boosted. The most notable boost is +2 dB between 8 and 9 kHz.
- Polar Pattern
The polar pattern is stated to be Cardioid but is quite erratic in its response. The high-end tapers off slightly on the sides, and the rear rolls off mid and high-end sounds but picks up bass prominently, so overall, you can expect pick-up all around the microphone, which is problematic if you are in an untreated room. On paper, the polar pattern has a small lobe of pick-up at the rear, 180º, for frequencies between 200 Hz and 15 kHz, while 1 kHz is lowered by -30 dB. At the 120º mark, 5 kHz is lowered by -25 dB.
The self-noise is relatively high for a studio condenser microphone: 20 dBa. For streaming, podcasting, or recording, this is alright. If you plan on recording ASMR or Foley, having a lower noise floor is recommended. The mic would need a sound of over 20 dBSPL to overcome the noise created by the mic’s internal components, which is easily doable when recording a band or casual conversation since these environments reach SPLs far exceeding 20 dBSPL (E.G., A guitar amplifier can reach up to 110 dBSPL).
The AT2020’s tone makes it great for spoken word. The slightly increased treble response brings clarity to articulation and pronunciation without making it too harsh. Couple this with their excellent response to the proximity effect, and you will be able to capture a clear and full sound comfortably.
Plosives will considerably impact the quality of the recording because there is no built-in pop filter. Considering the price range, this is fair. However, it is highly recommended to purchase a mountable pop filter should you not own one.
Otherwise, you can experiment with placement. A shock mount will be sorely needed if you aim to use mount this mic with a boom arm or if you want to safeguard against mechanical noise.
6. Maono AU-A04
The Maono AU-A04 studio microphone kit includes the basics any prospecting streamer, podcaster, or musician would need to start their home recording setup. This bundle is beneficial if you do not have the budget to invest in all the studio gear required to operate an XLR microphone.
Maono’s AU-A04 is a cardioid USB condenser microphone that offers a clear and crisp tone that reacts very well to the bass boost introduced by the proximity effect, making its tone quite versatile.
This bundle includes a short scissor arm stand, a shock mount, a gooseneck pop-filter, a windscreen, and a USB cable. In addition, it boasts an extremely high sampling rate and industry-standard bit depth.
- Items Included
The bundle kit includes a boom arm for desk mounting, making it ideal for podcasting or streaming. As well as a pop filter that will help reduce the distracting sharpness of sibilance and the breathy punch of plosives, and a windscreen to cover the grille of the mic should you use it outside or in windy environments. The USB cable needed to connect the microphone to your device is also included. It is a USB 2.0 Type A to Type B connection that plugs into the base of the microphone.
- Sample Rate & Bit Depth
The built-in analog-to-digital converter supports a bit depth of 24 bits and sampling rates up to 192 kHz. However, since the microphone’s frequency range only goes up to 16 kHz, a sampling rate of 192 kHz is redundant. And recording at 192 kHz will waste valuable hard drive space since file size increases as the sampling rate increases. In addition, it puts extra strain on your device when recording.
- Frequency Response
As previously mentioned, the range covers up to 16 kHz. Overall the frequency range encompasses 30 Hz to 16 kHz. The high end has a 6 dB boost near 10 kHz before lowering to above 0 dB before 16 kHz. The bass and mid-range stay reasonably flat throughout, with a slight 2 dB decrease between 2 and 3 kHz. The high-end boost mentioned is audible in the tone but can be complemented nicely with the proximity effect.
- Polar Pattern
As stated above, the AU-A04 uses a cardioid polar pattern. Unfortunately, the documentation provided with the microphone does not give much detail as to how this polar pattern responds to various frequencies. Based on empirical evidence, the off-axis response at 90º tapers off the high-end frequencies and significantly drops the volume. You will still capture some sound, but it won’t overshadow your main sound source. The rear pick-up at 180º is similar to the pick-up at 90º; the only difference is the tone. The rear picks up a tubbier low to mid-range tone, so you’ll need to be mindful of any coloration caused by this.
The tone is crisp and clear, making it great for spoken word, streaming, and podcasting. If you find the tone on the thin side, you can bring the mic closer to use the proximity effect to give the low-end a natural boost.
Lastly, The pop filter has a dual-layer fabric mesh that does a great job of lessening the impact of plosives and smoothening the sharpness of sibilance, so you can expect a much smoother recording experience.
The included shock mount and scissor arm stand don’t do a great job of rejecting mechanical noise. If it is accidentally bumped or touched while recording, you will hear a very prominent thud in your recorded signal.
If you are setting the microphone up and leaving it in one position, it gets the job done, but the microphone will pick up any movement of the stand or bump. As mentioned above, the polar pattern is not very tight, so you will need to be mindful of how close the microphone is set up to any potentially unwanted noise sources (pc, fan, aircon, etc.)
7. MXL Mics 770
MXL mics’ 770 is an entry-level microphone that offers a great tone, a shock mount, and a foam-lined case for a reasonably low price. However, since it is an XLR microphone, phantom power is required to use the microphone.
As stated, the MXL mics 770 is a cardioid studio condenser microphone designed for home studios, podcasters, and streamers. They feature a built-in high-pass filter, a pad switch, and good off-axis rejection.
- Built-In HPF & Pad Switches
You can find two switches on the body of the microphone. One switch is to engage the pad, which lowers the incoming signal by -10 dB. This pad switch is used when recording sounds with very high SPLs so that the signal does not distort. Another switch is for the microphone’s built-in high-pass filter, which will lower frequencies below 150 Hz by -6 dB per octave, which can help remove lower frequencies when recording sounds that do not use frequencies below 150 Hz (E.G., A violin that starts at 196 Hz).
The self-noise produced by the 770 is relatively high, rated at 20 dBa. The self-noise can be ignored for louder sound sources, but if you want to record softer sound sources, the mic’s internal noise may be audible in the recorded signal at high gain settings.
- Frequency Range
The 770 has a range of 30 Hz to 20 kHz (The online product page states 20 Hz – 20 kHz). The response of this range has only one noteworthy area: the +8 dB bell-curve boost in the high-end at roughly 9 to 10 kHz. Because of the bandwidth of the boost, you can expect frequencies from 6 kHz to above 15 kHz to be affected as well. However, this boost does mean the tone favors the mid to high-range, so if you are capturing lower register sounds, don’t expect a direct representation; the tone will shift the sounds upwards in a mix.
- Polar Pattern
The polar pattern in the documentation and the online product page states the mic uses a cardioid pattern. However, the microphone’s chart indicates a lobe of pickup at 180º synonymous with hyper and super-cardioid microphones. Overall, the off-axis response is good. At 180º, a tubby low-mid tone is captured, but it is substantially less sensitive than the on-axis response.
The ambient noise rejection is good in treated rooms. Any sound off-axis from the capsule is reduced significantly. They are still audible but low enough to get drowned out in a mix or could comfortably be removed in post using a gate or lowered further using an expander, whichever you feel most comfortable using.
The shock mount included with the mic does a good job of reducing handling and mechanical noise. So if you find yourself needing to move the microphone while it is on the stand or a boom arm, you will be able to do so comfortably.
In untreated rooms, you will pick up more than your fair share of ambient noise, so you may struggle to capture clean recordings if you are in a relatively noisy space. If you do not already own a pop-filter, you will need to purchase one to keep those pesky plosives and sibilance away from your recordings.
8. Beyerdynamic FOX
The FOX is Beyerdynamic’s first step into the world of USB microphones. And it is by far more of a leap than a crawl. They offer a high-quality condenser microphone with a modern design, a creatively designed clip-on pop-filter, and all the features you need for a smooth recording experience.
The Beyerdynamic FOX is a cardioid USB microphone with a headphone input, a non-skid rubber bass, a desk stand, a microphone mute button, two gain switchable gain settings, and a clip-on pop-filter, and a clear and smooth tone. The mic’s base has a recessed 1/4″ threading for connection to a camera or tripod stand. A 1/4″ to 5/8″ stand adapter is included.
- A/D Converter
The built-in Analog-to-Digital converter supports sampling rates up to 96 kHz and bit depths up to 24 bits. If you wish to conserve space on your device, a 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz sampling rate is recommended. The file size of recordings will be significantly smaller, but the quality will still be excellent. When you are ready to finalize a recording, you will need to render it at 44.1 kHz anyway.
- Gain Control
The FOX features a high-gain and low-gain switch on the rear of the case. The high-gain setting increases the transducer’s sensitivity and is designed for spoken word and softer sound sources. The low-gain setting lowers the transducer’s sensitivity and is designed for louder sound sources, e.g., instruments. If you find the gain needs to be tweaked while using either setting, you will need to control the gain on your device.
- Headphone Input
Headphones can be plugged into the microphone directly when in use. There are two dials positioned directly above the 3.5mm jack input. One dial controls the mix between the zero-latency headphone monitoring and the device playback. This functionality will allow you to listen to the direct dry signal and the processed signal independently or mixed to better understand the signal you are capturing. The second dial controls the volume of the headphone output, allowing you to turn it up or down respectively.
- Frequency Response
The frequency reproduction is similar to other condenser microphones. It covers a range of 20 Hz – 20 kHz, emphasizing the high-end and a decreased bass response. Frequencies below 200 Hz are rolled off to -14 dB at 20 Hz. From 1.5 kHz, the response gradually increases to +4 dB at the 5 kHz mark. A steep dip follows the gradual increase to -6 dB at 9 kHz. The response ends with a +3 dB boost at 10 kHz before gradually rolling off to – 4 dB at 20 kHz.
The audio quality is very good for a USB microphone, making it ideal for gamers or streamers who want a higher quality setup. For musicians who cannot afford the gear required to use an XLR condenser, this mic can get the job done for a fraction of the cost. Lastly, the provided pop-filter rejects plosives and sibilance well so that you can expect smoother vocal recordings.
The gain control is limited when using the Beyerdynamic FOX since the switchable gain settings are fixed, and there is no built-in dial to control the gain. If you require more or less gain to your signal, you’ll have to control it using your device’s system settings which can be time-consuming.
The microphone will prominently pick up your keyboard if you use it for streaming or computer use during conference calls when set up with the desk stand. A stand or boom arm would be recommended to set the microphone up further away from the keyboard.
You will be limited to about 2 meters from your computer.
9. AKG P220
AKG’s P220 is the most popular microphone in their Project Studio line. The most significant difference between the P220 and the P210 is that the former uses a 1″ true condenser transducer vs. the latter’s 2/3″ electret condenser transducer and offers a broader frequency range and higher SPL handling because of this.
The AKG P220 is a cardioid true condenser XLR microphone that offers a wide frequency range, a built-in HPF, a pad switch, a durable all-metal body, and a tone with a significant amount of presence and brilliance. In addition, you will receive a shock mount and a metal storage case alongside the microphone.
- Built-In HPF & Pad Switches
The built-in high-pass filter attenuates frequencies below 300 Hz and reduces them by -12 dB per octave. The HPF can help when miking up sounds that become too boomy because of the proximity effect. The pad switch lowers the incoming signal by -20 dB, which is recommended when miking up high SPL sound sources to avoid distorting the signal.
- True Condenser Transducer
The backplate that makes up part of a condenser microphone’s transducer can either be permanently charged (using a substance called electret during manufacturing) or externally charged through phantom power. Depending on which category it falls into, it is called an electret or a true condenser microphone. The P220’s capsule requires an external charge to operate, so it is a true condenser microphone. Note that this is not the only reason condenser microphones require phantom power. All condensers have built-in electronics to operate that require an external power source.
- Frequency Range
AKG’s P220 covers the entire human hearing range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The bass response is lowered by -4 dB from 100 Hz to 50 Hz before rolling off towards -16 dB at 20 Hz. The mid-range response is flat from 200 Hz and remains flat well into the high-end. The flatness is interrupted by a +4 dB boost in the upper high-end at roughly 13 to 14 kHz. As mentioned above, when the HPF is engaged, you can expect a much steeper roll-off from 300 Hz downwards.
- Polar Pattern
The off-axis response is very broad for a cardioid microphone. At 90º low and mid-range frequencies are reduced by -5 dB, and frequencies above 8 kHz are reduced by -20 dB. At 180º, frequencies up to 250 Hz are reduced by over -10 dB. 500 Hz is reduced by just under -15 dB. 1 kHz is reduced by -20 dB, and frequencies above 2 kHz are reduced by -15 dB at 180º.
The shock mount provided reduces mechanical noise significantly, which benefits streamers and podcasters who use a boom arm for their microphones. The all-metal storage case is a big benefit since it ensures the microphone is stored safely and away from harm.
The amount of high-end presence in the tone may be too sharp, so this is not the mic for you if you prefer a neutral or darker tone from a condenser microphone. Also, due to the off-axis response of the microphone, using it in an untreated room will produce a recording with a lot of ambient noise.
10. HyperX QuadCast S
The HyperX QuadCast S microphone is designed for gamers, streamers, and content creators. They are certified by both Discord and Teamspeak and are compatible with various devices from Pc and Mac to the Ps4 and Ps5.
HyperX’s Quadcast S is a USB multi-pattern condenser microphone that features RGB lighting, a tap-to-mute sensor, simplistic gain-control, four switchable polar patterns, and a built-in pop-filter. Along with the microphone, you will receive a shock mount and a USB Type C to Type A,
- RGB Lighting
The microphone’s grille has two sections of RGB lighting that can be controlled using HyperX’s NGENUITY software. You can customize each section independently to your tastes. The lighting’s customizable features also include dynamic controls to adjust which color tones the lighting cycles through.
- Tap-to-Mute Sensor
The roof of the microphone has a built-in tap-to-mute sensor should you need to mute it mid-stream. The RGB lighting will turn off when muted to show that the mic is not active. The one downside to the sensor is that you will have to be mindful of the mic if you are near this sensor since all it takes is one minor bump for it to activate.
- Gain Control
This USB microphone offers a very user-friendly gain control at the base of the microphone. It acts like a dial that can switch between the five gain settings. In addition, HyperX’s NGENUITY software offers gain control separated from the mic’s onboard control.
- Switchable Polar Patterns
You will have four options for polar patterns when recording/streaming. You can switch between a stereo pattern, cardioid pattern, bi-directional (figure-eight), and omnidirectional, should you wish to pick up all-round.
Using the mic’s 3.5mm headphone input, you can directly monitor the incoming signal. This feature can be helpful when initially setting up the microphone to find a sweet spot at your desk for clear audio. The tone is crisp with great capturing of articulation, so your fellow gamers and viewers will be able to hear every word you say clearly.
The shock mount is built onto the microphone, so the portability isn’t great. If you need to transport the mic, I recommend holding on to the box it came in. The built-in pop-filter does an alright job of reducing the impact of plosives and sibilance. However, you can expect very little plosive rejection for close proximity miking. Ideally, if you need to mike close, angle the mic towards your mouth rather than directly towards it.
11. Rode NT-USB
RØDE features a high-quality USB microphone on this list with their NT-USB. This mic is a no-frills microphone designed for streamers, gamers, podcasters, and bedroom musicians. They offer the great sound you would come to expect from RØDE microphones.
The RØDE NT-USB is a cardioid USB condenser microphone that features a headphone input with low-latency monitoring. In addition, a pop-filter, tripod stand, 6m (20″) USB cable, protective storage pouch, and a mounting ring are included with the microphone.
- Headphone Input
Near the base of the microphone, you will find a 3.5mm headphone jack for low-latency monitoring. Above this jack are two dials to adjust the headphone volume and mix direct and device monitoring.
- Polar Pattern
The NT-USB captures sound using a cardioid pick-up pattern. Overall, the pattern is very tight, with between -6 to 8 dB gain reduction at 90º for frequencies up to 4 kHz. From the 180º mark, you can expect up to -22 dB gain reduction.
- Frequency Response
The frequency response covers an area of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The bass range slightly decreases from 100 Hz to -4 dB at 20 Hz. Past 100 Hz, the response remains flat up until 2 kHz. After that, it slowly increases to a +6 dB bell-curve boost between 5 and 6 kHz. From 10 kHz onwards, the response is neutral again.
- A/D Converter
RØDE’s NT-USB supports sampling rates of up to 48 kHz and a bit depth of 16 bits. However, the bit depth of 16 bits does pose the problem of noise at high volumes, so ideally, you won’t want to push the gain too high so that the noise floor can stay as low as possible.
The off-axis sound rejection is everything you could hope for from a microphone. There is minimal tonal coloration, and the gain reduction is superb. Also, the included pop-filter mitigates plosives and sibilance well, so you can expect a smoother recording experience.
An attachable shock mount is not included, so be mindful of the desk if you are using the tripod stand. The microphone will pick up any bumps or taps. Despite having two dials for headphone input control, there is no built-in gain control for the NT-USB, so you will need to adjust your microphone level using your device’s system settings.
In addition, loud sound sources tend to sound distorted, so you may find it challenging to achieve a smooth tone when using the mic for recording instruments.
12. Shure SM86
- Built-In Two-Stage Pop-Filter
Sound received by the mic goes through two stages of filtering. The first stage occurs when the sound enters the grille; it passes through a foam lining within the grille. The second stage is a foam pad placed on the resonator cap before reaching the transducer. Overall, this system works very well. Plosives aren’t removed entirely, but they are diminished enough that they don’t become bothersome during a performance.
- Polar Pattern
Sound is picked up in a cardioid polar pattern but has a slight pick-up range from the rear at high frequencies. From 500 Hz to 2.5 kHz, the sound is reduced by -25 dB at 180º. Frequencies above and below this range are reduced by roughly 12 to 13 dB.
- Frequency Response
The Frequency range covers from 50 Hz to 18 kHz. The response has a gradual low-frequency roll-off starting from 600 Hz, reaching -5 dB at 100 Hz and -10 dB at 50 Hz. This roll-off aims to allow vocalists to comfortably make use of the proximity effect, which would introduce a low-frequency boost of up to 10 dB below 100 Hz. The high mid to high-range frequencies are boosted and show four prominent peaks. The first occurs between 3 and 4 kHz and boosts by about 2.5 to 3 dB. The second peak occurs at 5 kHz, and the third occurs at 7 kHz. The fourth and final peak occurs at 8 kHz and boosts over 10 dB. Finally, the response drops steeply to about -14 dB at 18 kHz.
The SM86 has a very low sensitivity for a condenser microphone, -50 dB/PA. If you were to play a sound with an SPL of 96 dB, the microphone would create a signal at -50 dB. Typically, condenser microphones have a much higher sensitivity, but it is an advantage in this case. These microphones are designed for stage use, and if they had a high sensitivity, they would be at the mercy of all of the chaotic sounds at a live show. The low sensitivity allows them to pick up less ambient sound and more direct sound.
The low-frequency roll-off benefits any performing vocalist that is looking for a cleaner bass response during shows since it couples nicely with the proximity effect creating an even low-end. Overall, the SM86 is an improvement over the SM58 for live vocals.
In extremely loud live settings, gain and feedback can become an issue, so you will need to be mindful of monitors and guitar amp placement on stage. Also, since the SM86 is a condenser microphone, it is not as durable as its dynamic counterpart, the SM58, so take care when using the microphone.
We will narrow the verdicts down to microphone types and their price ranges to make this easier. First up are the microphones under 50$. The Behringer SB 78A stood out the most when comparing the two XLR microphones.
They offer a better overall tone with less undesirable coloration than the Tascam TM-80, and the built-in pop filter’s quality is a great benefit. When looking at the USB mics, The Mackie EM-91CU would be great for anyone starting their audio recording journey since it offers two DAWs and a plugin bundle for Waveform OEM.
However, in saying this, if you prefer a brighter tone or if you are looking for a microphone for online communication, the Tonor TC-777 is a better option.
Next up are the microphones under $100, and we’ll include the only mic for under $150. Between the two XLR mics, the Audio Technica AT2020 would be the better option. Overall, the tone is more transparent and versatile because of its great response to the proximity effect.
For USB, the Maono AU-A04 offers more bang for your buck than the Beyerdynamic FOX. In addition, the FOX’s lack of user-friendly gain control holds it back.
And to end it all off, the microphones under $200. The AKG P220 and Shure SM86 are built for two separate areas. The first is for studio recording, and the second is tailored for live performance; you can’t be too objective.
But, in terms of versatility, the SM86 stands out. If you need a mic to record and perform, I recommend the SM86. Much like the previous two microphones, the HyperX Quadcast S and the RØDE NT-USB are tailored for their respective audiences.
Because of the NT-USB’s lack of user-friendly gain control, I recommend the Quadcast S. If you find the dazzling light show too much, then the RØDE is your microphone. Overall, both microphones have a good tone and do their jobs well.
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A part-time sound engineering lecturer and musician based in Pretoria, South Africa. He has had a passion for all things music since he was big enough to sit on his cousin’s bed and strum away on an old guitar. All while his uncle, in a room below him, stood with a broom in hand and drummed along on the ceiling. When he isn’t teaching others the basics of sound theory, how to record, and how to mix, you can find him sitting with a guitar fiddling away, completely lost to the world.