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Audio & Recording

Best Condenser Microphone

As the world “do-it-yourself” home studio production grows, so does the list of high quality condenser microphones. There are so many available you can easily end up spending hours researching which ones are best for a given situation. We've compiled two lists of the best condenser microphones on the market with one list covering condenser mics for people on a budget and the other for individuals with a little more to spend. The high quality microphones mics on this list respond well in most recording studio situations thanks to a high level of flexibility. Besides flexibility, these microphones possess warmth, marvelous sensitivity and some models are specially outfitted to record common instruments you'll find in a studio environment.

Blue Microphones Bluebird Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Blue Microphones’ Bluebird condenser mic owes much of its high-end performance to the Class A circuitry that the unit is comprised of – a level of technical prowess that definitely betrays its super affordable price tag. From the minute you lay your eyes on this mic, it’s apparent that it’s a Blue, with its stylized look and large diaphragm. This mic is capable of producing full-sounding lows, detailed midrange frequencies, and clear highs that will have you pulling this unit out whenever you need to record vocals, acoustic instruments, and more. And in addition to its fine build and excellent sound quality, the Bluebird also comes with a cherry wood storage box, pop filter, and shock mount, all of which add in to the overall value you’re getting when you go with this condenser mic.

Behringer C-1 Studio Condenser Microphone

The Behringer C-1 is a condenser microphone that provides a great deal of value for studio rats and performers alike, especially when considering its affordable cost. Unlike many condenser mics, it’s built with a metal die-cast body specifically designed for rugged use, setting this condenser microphone apart from some of its more delicate peers. Of course, that durability doesn’t detract any from the actual sound that the C-1 makes; its cardioid pickup pattern rejects feedback and grabs a direct and clear audio signal from its desired source, while the ultra-low noise transformer less FET input cuts out low-frequency distortion. An LED light provides a clear indication of the phantom power operation (+48). This unit also comes with a swivel stand mount and transport case, giving you some essential accessories to work with as soon as you take this mic out of the box.

Blue Snowball Condenser USB Microphone

Who is the ideal owner of a Blue Microphones Snowball condenser microphone? For one, this is a mic that is ideal for podcasters and those recording live events and interviews, as this uniquely shaped microphone can be switched to omni-directional mode for easy recording of conversation and room noise. It’s also great for those who want to immediately record into their computer, as you can plug in via USB. The Snowball also comes equipped with a stand and USB cable to allow you to immediately get to work. With a -10dB pad that can handle extra-loud audio sources, this is the ideal condenser mic to take with you to record events, panels, conversations, and more.

Samson C01 Condenser Microphone

If you’re looking for a single condenser microphone to fulfill multiple roles in the recording studio, the Samson C01 is a great place to start – and its cost-effective price-tag is just an added incentive. With a cardioid pickup pattern via its large 19mm diaphragm, this unit is great for recording both vocals and instruments, as well as acting as an overhead mic for recording drums. The unit, which is powered via +48 phantom power, offers a flat frequency response that is accurate and balanced. This unit comes with a swivel stand mount which can attach to most mic stands, and can also come with an optional SP01 spider shock mount.

Shure PGA181-XLR Side-address cardioid Condenser Microphone

The Shure PGA181 condenser microphone can do it all. Record vocals, acoustic instruments, amplifiers, percussion, and everything in between with this affordably priced device. Its cardioid design allows you to grab a focused and direct sound without taking in unwanted room noise and ambience. With a frequency response of 50Hz to 20kHz, it really runs the gamut and can accurately capture a wide range of sounds. It’s no slouch on maximum pressure either, with a 138 dB SPL. The PGA181 also comes with a microphone clip and zipper pouch, giving you all you’ll need to get things started.

Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone Mic Condenser Tube

Manley’s Reference Cardioid condenser microphone boasts an all-tube triode design, which certainly accounts for how rich and warm this mic sounds without any tweaking or EQing necessary after the fact. With a design that’s modeled after vintage European tube mice like the U47, this Manley microphone is protected against pops and sibilance, provides a bit of an edge thanks to its high frequency resonance, and offers a sound that will have you neglecting tools like compressors and EQ settings that are typically necessary to coax a great sound out of other microphones. Though this condenser mic works well with guitars, drum overheads, and even instruments such as saxophone, it really excels in the vocal department. Whether you’re tracking vocals for music or are recording voice-over for film and television, this mic provides a distinct warmth and clarity that sets it ahead of the rest of the pack.

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS Instrument Condenser Microphone

AKG’s C414 XLS condenser microphone offers a variety of pickup settings to suit whatever type of recording session you may find yourself in; choose between omni, wide cardioid, hypercardioid, figure eight, and more. Featuring a dynamic range of 152 dB, the C414 also features a peak hold LED on its face to indicate even the slightest overload peak in your signal. This mic also comes with three different bass filters and three pre-attenuation levels that you can work with. As if all of that wasn’t enough, the C414 also comes with a carrying case, pop filter, windscreen, and spider-type shock mount, so you truly have all you will need to work with when using this mic. If versatility is important to your setup, then you can’t do wrong with this condenser microphone.

Bock Audio 241

Bock Audio 241

The Bock Audio 241 condenser microphone features tube and transformer circuitry that are all point-to-point wired, providing a proven high standard of sonic quality. When you use this mic to record vocals, you’re getting the best in all frequency ranges: the high end is present and natural, while the low end is tight and controlled. Because the midrange isn’t overly emphasized, laying stacks of vocal takes won’t result in an unwanted build-up. The unit also features a built-in Bright/Normal switch that makes this mic great for recording instruments, too. And although this mic has been designed to come as close as possible to the company’s flagship 251 unit, it actually costs 30 percent less than that microphone, making it ideal for those who want to shop smart.

Sony C800GPAC Studio Condenser Microphone

The Sony C-800G is a cardioid/omni-directional condenser microphone that needs to be heard to be believed. A 6AU6 vacuum tube gives it a warm, liquid-like sound, while its dual large diaphragm is responsible for the accurate reproduction of the human voice. The C-800G also features a unique cooling system that reduces noise and distortion. Choosing between the mic’s cardioid or omni settings is simple, thanks to an electronically selectable switch. Whether you’re recording vocals for music or are doing ADR and voiceover work for film and television, this is a superb tool that truly does the human voice justice on recordings.

Solution-D Digital Cardioid Handheld Microphone

Neumann has long been a phenomenal option for all things microphone, and with their Solution D condenser mic, the company takes a bold step into the digital realm. When you pick up the Solution D, you’re actually getting three separate elements: the mic itself, a digital microphone interface, and remote control software that allows you to tweak microphone functions such as low-cut filter, polar response, pre-attenuation, and more. The mic’s A/D converter eliminates the need for preamplifiers and external A/D converters, which not only saves costs on additional equipment, but also does a fine job at improving the range and response of the mic itself. Best of all, changes and settings to the microphone’s operational status can be saved and recalled at a later point, creating a built-in rig of go-to settings that can be used for future sessions.

Sean Kramer
I'm a guitarist/music producer with 18 years of experience playing on-stage, in the studio, and everywhere in between. I have toured and recorded on projects both independent and major, in styles such as rock, pop, funk, hip hop, electronic, and more. My axe of choice is probably always going to be the Fender Stratocaster, but I've been known to pick up other guitars when the music calls for it. I'm a big fan of using a multitude of effects (both hardware and software-driven) to manipulate the sound and atmosphere of an instrument. In addition to playing on records, I have also contributed to the score/soundtrack for shows and spots on MTV and ESPN, as well as for a variety of independent films, web series, and television shows.
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