5 Great Studio Mics for Singers Under $300

Gold mic in home studio
Getting a studio quality recording from your own home has never been easier, especially with one of these mics -says Chris Milne

With a simple audio interface, a pair of headphones and one of these mics, you should be able to get some great sounding recordings.

Let’s have a look at some of the best non-USB microphones available for under $300 to use for recording vocals in your own home. These are five of my favorites, which also received positive reviews from around the world.

1. Audio Technica AT2020

Price: $99/£79
Durability: medium
Features: no frills, no controls
Website: https://eu.audio-technica.com/AT2020
Gossip: Winner of a Sound on Sound blind shootout
Singers say: great for pop & jazz settings

Audio Technica AT2020 Mic

The Audio Technica AT2020 Microphone

Features: There aren’t really any features to talk about with the AT-2020. It’s an incredibly basic microphone that does exactly what you’d expect. It has a fixed cardioid polar pattern, which means it picks up sound from the front of the microphone in a heart shape. It’s a condenser microphone, so it requires 48V phantom power.

How Does it Sound? Quite often with budget condenser microphones, high frequencies are boosted (known as hyped), to try and artificially enhance the clarity of the recording, but the AT2020 refrains from that, and gives an honest sounding recording. As a result of this, it’s very versatile – but it can be quite noisy if recording very quiet sources.

Build Quality: This is a very no-frills mic, but despite having no switches or buttons on it, it’s made of solid metal and feels incredibly durable. Also, it’s very budget friendly – you could buy it three times for the $300 limit! It comes shipped with a small clip to mic it on to a mic stand, and a thin vinyl case.

Value for Money: The Audio Technica AT2020 is the cheapest condenser microphone on the list, and frankly, at only $99, it’s fantastic value for money among these mics. I’ve chosen it over mics worth four or five times as much – which is testament to its brilliant value.

Gossip: The AT2020 receives favorable reviews everywhere, and in fact it even won a blind microphone shootout in Sound on Sound magazine, where it was up against microphones worth more than 20 times as much. Sound on Sound also say “This is a great-sounding little mic that can deliver very professional results in just about any home-studio miking application.” Singers I’ve spoken to have been really pleased with its performance in pop and jazz settings.

2. Aston Origin

Price: $269/ £199
Durability: medium
Features: -10dB pad, low cut switch, mechanical casing.
Website: https://www.astonmics.com/EN/product/mics/origin
Gossip: “New go to mic for singer songwriters”
Singers say: great for acoustic tracks; excels on female vocals

The Aston Origin Microphone

The Aston Origin Mic

Features: The Aston Origin is a cardioid condenser microphone, and has two switches on the front. One is a low cut switch, which gets rid of some of the low frequencies, and the other is a -10dB pad, which makes the signal -10dB quieter. This is great if you’re recording any louder sound sources like drums, or if you’re an incredibly loud singer.

How Does it sound? There’s a touch more brightness to it than the AT2020; this can help some voices sound a bit more flattering.

Build Quality: I really like the build quality of this microphone. Aston haven’t gone for a conventional look, and the casing functions almost like a spring – which takes out some of the force if the mic receives a bump.

Value for Money: At $269, it’s at the higher end of the budget, but it feels like it’s built to last, and it definitely sounds as good as  other mics in a similar price bracket.

Gossip: The Aston Origin has received some pretty rave reviews from all over the internet. Pro Tools Expert say: “This could become the new go to mic for Singer-songwriters and home recordists. It really is that good”. It’s being used by tons of singer songwriters already, and it’s a perfect mic for acoustic tracks. It particularly excels on female vocals.

3. sE Electronics SE2200

Price: $299/ £188
Durability: low
Features: 3 way low cut switch, and a 3 way pad.
Website: https://www.seelectronics.com/se2200-microphone/
Gossip: “Performs well above its weight”
Singers say: suited more to male than female voices

sE Electronics SE2200

The sE Electronics SE2200 Microphone

Features: The SE2200 is a single pattern cardioid condenser, and features two 3-way switches on the front. a Low cut (off/ 80hz/ 160Hz) and a pad (0dB, -10dB and -20dB). The 20dB pad is a great feature if you’re planning to use it for really loud sources, such as a drum kit.

How Does it sound? The revised sE2200 is a great microphone, capable of recording a wide range of sources, but it doesn’t suit everyone’s voice, so try before you buy,

Build Quality: The microphone feels pretty sturdy, but it feels less likely to survive a drop than some of the other options on this list, and the fact that you can see the capsule through the grill does worry me slightly.

Value for Money: The SE2200 costs $299, so it’s right at the top end of the budget, and I think that’s a fair price. It’s a very versatile microphone, and it comes bundled with a shock mount too.

Gossip: The reviews for the sE2200 are widely positive, and Mixdown mag say “there’s a reason why this microphone has remained so popular over recent years. it performs and sounds well above its weight, that’s for sure.” Reviews suggest it’s better suited to male than female vocals, as it can sound a little thin at the top end.

4. Rode NT1a

Price: $229/ £125
Durability: low
Features: no frills, no controls.
Website: www.rode.com/microphones/nt1-a
Gossip: “Its performance is anything but entry level”
Singers say: great for quieter singers; metalheads should avoid

The Rode Rode NT1a mic

The Rode Rode NT1a microphone

Features: The NT1A is a really simple microphone with no switches or controls. It’s a fixed cardioid pattern condenser microphone.

How Does it Sound? It’s a super clear and detailed sounding microphone, great for getting your vocals to pop out in a track, without them sounding thin. The internal noise of the microphone is also really low, so it’s capable of recording quiet instruments to a high standard.

Build Quality: Not the best, and not the worst. It’s as you’d expect from a budget microphone. It doesn’t come with a hard case, but it still feels like it might be able to take a few knocks.

Value for Money: The NT1A retails at $229, but comes bundled with a shock mount as well as a pop shield, so it’s great value for money all in all.

Gossip: It’s certainly one of the more famous entry level mics, and it’s been well reviewed for years now. Sound on Sound say: “The NT1A may have an entry-level price, but it’s performance is anything but entry level”. The NT1A is great for recording quieter singers as the mic makes almost no noise. There’s no pad though so it may not be ideal for metal singers.

5. Shure SM58

Price: $99/ £89
Durability: high
Features: no frills, no controls.
Website: https://www.shure.co.uk/products/microphones/sm58
Gossip: “Its performance is anything but entry level”
Singers say: a must-have for male rock and blues vocals

Shure SM58

The Shure SM58 Microphone

Features: No switches on the front, just a standard, plug in and play microphone. Fixed polar pattern, and the only dynamic microphone on the list, so no phantom power required! There’s also a switched version available, with a simple on/off switch on the front, and a slightly pricier wireless version too.

How Does it Sound? Thousands of famous vocals have been recorded on an SM58 – everyone from Rod Stewart to The Rolling Stones. They’re an industry standard for a reason, and they’re still capable of getting a great sound. It’s worth noting though that they might not sound quite as crisp and clear as a condenser microphone immediately.

Build Quality: One of the most solid microphones around, you can throw it in your bag without a worry. It’s very basic so there’s not too much that can go wrong.

Value for Money: $99 for the most used microphone in history? Seems like a bargain to me.

Gossip: It’s probably the most well known microphone around, and the list of people who’ve used an SM58 speaks for itself. If I could only use one microphone for the rest of my life – I may well choose an SM58. VoiceCouncil magazine say the SM58 is particularly well suited to male rock and blues vocals.

Christopher Milnes is a Leeds based Music graduate and a sound engineer at Leeds College of Music. He achieved a first class BA honours degree in Combined Music from Leeds College of Music. In 2014, he was awarded the David Thompson Scholarship for exemplary Music Production work, as well as the Leeds College of Music Conservatoire prize for the highest mark on his degree course. He plays guitar, sings and composes in bands Campfires and ILA, both of whom gig regularly all around the UK. Visit Chris's Website