You don’t always have to spend $1000 – there are many budget mics that offer surprisingly high quality results – see 5 Studio Mics for Singers under $300
However, generally speaking, paying more for a mic results in a greater accuracy of recording.
With more expensive microphones, there’s likely to be less electrical noise, better build quality, and some internal shock protection for the capsule.
A $1000 microphone may sound noticeably better too, but don’t assume this is always the case.
It all comes down to what microphone suits your voice best. You’ll know when you hear a mic that suits your own voice well, and it might not always be the most expensive one.
John Lennon recorded vocals with an SM57, and Michael Jackson famously used a Shure SM7B – and their songs don’t sound too bad!
All of the microphones on this list are condenser microphones or tube microphones, which means they’re really fragile.
When I talk about durability, it’s worth remembering that you need to be incredibly careful with all of them as even the most durable will break a lot easier than an SM58.
Here are 5 great microphones just under the $1000 mark. These aren’t the only mics available at that price, but they’re some of my favorite from those I’ve used – and they’re all very popular studio choices.
sE Electronics Gemini ii
Features: Low cut and pad
Gossip: “A Warm and flattering Tube Mic”
Singers say: Warm and clear, great for pop and rock.
Features: The SE electronics Gemini ii is a cardioid tube microphone, which means that it uses tubes rather than solid state electronics. This is an approach that is typically associated with older microphones, but it’s thought to give a warmer, softer sound than more modern microphones. The Gemini also has a low-cut switch to drop off the lower frequencies, and a -10dB pad, which makes the signal -10dB quieter.
How Does it Sound? The Gemini is a great sounding microphone. It has all the warmth of a vintage tube mic, but it remains airy and crystal clear. It sounds great for pop and rock vocals, but it’s not out of place with Jazz either.
Build Quality: It’s a really well built mic, but as you’d expect with something containing two glass tubes, it’s pretty fragile. It’s also very weighty, so it’s worth investing in a heavy-duty mic stand.
Value for Money: It’s right at the top end of the budget at $999, but it does sound great, and it’s more than capable of recording a multitude of instruments. It’s not a great mic for travelling around though, as it’s very heavy – and pretty large too.
Gossip: The sE Gemini ii receives a lot of praise for being a versatile mic, with enough warmth and detail to capture most things successfully. Recording Hacks say “I liked the Gemini ii on just about every source I tried it on”. It’s a great microphone for acoustic instruments as well as vocals, and you can get an honest sound from almost anything with it.
Features: no frills, no controls
Gossip: “Excellent vocal reproduction and very quiet”
Singers say: great for pop vocals
Features: The TLM102 is one of Neumann’s cheapest condenser mics, but that doesn’t stop it outperforming much more expensive microphones. It’s a simple, compact microphone that picks up in a cardioid pattern, and has no controls or switches on the body of the mic,
How Does it Sound? It’s a very clean and honest sounding microphone, and it’s really tiny – great for hiding away in videos. I use my TLM102s for all sorts, but they’re particularly great for male pop vocals. They can be a little too clean on female classical vocals though, but they’re very honest microphones.
Build Quality: Super small, and not badly built, but they don’t feel like they’d survive a drop very well. More than solid enough if you’re careful though.
Value for Money: The TLM102 is the cheapest microphone on this list, and it’s brilliant value. There aren’t any controls on the mic, but if you just want to put it in front of your mouth and sing, it works great.
Gossip: The TLM102 receives great reviews from almost everywhere on the internet, and Mixonline say is has “Excellent vocal reproduction and very quiet”, as well as saying
“there’s definitely something nice going on in the low-mids that really flatters vocals”.
Slate VMS ML-1
Features: Emulates a whole host of well known microphones
Gossip: Exceptional value for Money
Singers say: Incredibly versatile microphone
Features: The Slate VMS (virtual microphone system) is a really interesting concept. It’s a microphone and preamp which (through software) are capable of emulating a whole host of old, classic microphones, such as the AKG C12 and the Neumann U47.
How Does it Sound? It’s not always spot on when compared to the classic microphones themselves, but the similarities are clear, and it’s a great sounding mic in its own right, as well as being incredibly versatile. The FG47 setting is great for Jazz vocals, and the FG12 is brilliantly smooth.
Build Quality: The build quality of both the mic and preamp are more than acceptable, and they don’t feel like they’re going to fall apart. That said, it’s still definitely a fragile piece of equipment.
Value for Money: Arguably one of the best value microphones ever made, considering the VMS is essentially a large collection of microphones in itself. At the $1000 mark it seems like a steal.
Gossip: As you’d expect, there have been some mixed reviews about the slate VMS, but most unbiased sources are really fond of the concept. Musicradar say that it’s “A great alternative to just having one expensive microphone”, and producers like Warren Huart from Produce like a Pro are really raving about it.
Features: 3 polar patterns
Gossip: “The Peluso P-87 is a magnificent tool that gets you results beyond expectations”
Singers say: very clear and works well on male vocals
Features: The Peluso p-87 is a recreation of one of the most famous studio microphones of all time, the Neumann U-87. This version features 3 switchable polar patterns, and retails for around half the price of a U-87.
How Does it Sound? Though not identical to a U-87, it’s very similar, and its certainly an excellent quality microphone for the money, and it sounds fantastic on pop vocals. Male vocals in particular sound fantastic, but I think the top end detail would be flattering on a lot of voices for Pop and rock.
Build Quality It’s a really well built mic. It’s heavy and it looks great, finished in anodized brass, and shipped in a lovely fight case.
Value for Money At around half the price of a real U-87, it seems cheap, but the p-87 is still one of the most expensive mics on this list, at $999. That said, it performs brilliantly, and sounds even more expensive.
Gossip: The P-87 is a very well received microphone, and though it may not sound exactly like a U87, Tape op says, “The Peluso P-87 is a magnificent tool that gets you results beyond expectations”. Sound on Sound say the p-87 is “well tailored to resemble the overall character of a U-87”.
Features: 5 polar patterns, low cut and pad
Gossip: Newcomer – awaiting reviews
Singers say: great for jazz and warm sounding vocals
Features: The LCT-840 features five switchable polar patterns, as well as a 3 option low cut, and a -10 or -20 dB pad.
How Does it Sound? The LCT-840 is a tube microphone but with a very modern design, so it sounds warm and smooth, but maintains a low noise level. I love using it for female pop vocals and acoustic guitars. It’s capable of giving a real modern-vintage feel to vocals.
Build Quality: There’s a glass tube inside the microphone, so I wouldn’t advise dropping it, but the mic does feel really well built, and it’s got some weight behind it. The tube is behind a plexiglass screen, and looks great when the mic is powered up.
Value for Money It’s right at the top end of the budget again at about $1000, and it’s definitely not the cheapest tube mic on the market, but the Lewitt sounds fantastic and it’s definitely worth the money.
Gossip: The LCT840 doesn’t have many reviews around the internet, but everyone I know who’s tried one is a big fan. Singers say “It’s got the tube warmth you’d expect, but the high end isn’t lacking by any means”. Lewitt mics are cropping up more and more in professional studios, and I fully expect that trend to continue.