13 Best Condenser Mics for 2021

Condenser mics are the gold standard of the professional recording studio. They’re becoming increasingly popular among home users as well. We’ve taken the hard work out of finding the best condenser mic by hunting down 13 standout models, each excelling in slightly different areas. Overall, we looked at:

  • Price
  • Sound quality
  • Recording style
  • Features
  • Build quality
  • Included extras

Whether you’re after the best budget microphone or want something more luxurious, our reviews and guides will help you find a good match.

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1. Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z

The most expensive and best-performing microphone we’ve reviewed is the Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z. This dual capsule condenser has class-leading audio clarity and gives you regular cardioid, figure-8, and omni polar patterns. It is ideal for any studio setup or recording purpose. Full Review

  • Dual capsule for multi-polar patterns
  • Low cut filter button
  • 117dB to 127dB loudness limit

The most expensive and best-performing microphone we’ve reviewed is the Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z. This dual capsule condenser has class-leading audio clarity and gives you regular cardioid, figure-8, and omni polar patterns. It is ideal for any studio setup or recording purpose. Full Review

2. Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1 is an affordable and well-built stainless-steel option. A high-performing cardioid condenser microphone that lets you get as loud as 137dB without distortion and excels at singing vocals and regular speaking recording. A shock mount is also included to prevent vibration and knocks. Overall, one of the best solutions at this price point. Full Review

  • High 137dB loudness limit
  • Shock mount included
  • Premium build for $300

The Rode NT1 is an affordable and well-built stainless-steel option. A high-performing cardioid condenser microphone that lets you get as loud as 137dB without distortion and excels at singing vocals and regular speaking recording. A shock mount is also included to prevent vibration and knocks. Overall, one of the best solutions at this price point. Full Review

3. Audio-Technica AT2035

One of the best budget microphones on the market, the AT2035 gives you wide diaphragm functionality for an affordable price. It has surprisingly even performance across vocals and instruments and handles loud and hard bass sound like mics three times its price. This Audio Technica condenser mic can be picked up for under $200 online. Full Review

  • Very affordable at $200
  • Large diaphragm condenser
  • Low cut and pad switches

One of the best budget microphones on the market, the AT2035 gives you wide diaphragm functionality for an affordable price. It has surprisingly even performance across vocals and instruments and handles loud and hard bass sound like mics three times its price. This Audio Technica condenser mic can be picked up for under $200 online. Full Review

4. MXL 990

A high-quality durable metal build shapes this affordable $150 or less cardioid condenser microphone with a gold-sputtered six-micron diaphragm. It provides balanced sound at the high and low end and is a good all-round entry-level microphone for those on a budget. It’s good for solo in-studio singers and all voice-related production when speaking head-on into the mic. Full Review

  • 30Hz to 20kHz frequency band
  • 20dB to 130dB loudness range
  • Single cardioid

A high-quality durable metal build shapes this affordable $150 or less cardioid condenser microphone with a gold-sputtered six-micron diaphragm. It provides balanced sound at the high and low end and is a good all-round entry-level microphone for those on a budget. It’s good for solo in-studio singers and all voice-related production when speaking head-on into the mic. Full Review

5. Neumann TLM 102

A more affordable entry from condenser mic pioneers Neumann comes the TLM 102. It can be found between $500 and $700. This small, stubby, wide diaphragm design is brilliant for both vocals and recording instruments. It allows your sessions to get considerably loud before any distortion sets in. It’s suitable for almost any studio purpose but particularly excels at singing, talk radio, and podcasting. Full Review

  • Wide microphone diaphragm cardioid
  • 6kHz+ Vocal ‘sweetness boost’
  • Reach 144dB without distortion

A more affordable entry from condenser mic pioneers Neumann comes the TLM 102. It can be found between $500 and $700. This small, stubby, wide diaphragm design is brilliant for both vocals and recording instruments. It allows your sessions to get considerably loud before any distortion sets in. It’s suitable for almost any studio purpose but particularly excels at singing, talk radio, and podcasting. Full Review

6. Rode NTK

At $500 the large microphone diaphragm, Rode NTK is perfect for recording multi-person sessions, thanks to a particularly wide cardioid polar pickup pattern. It also has the ability to support the loudest input of any condenser mic on our list. If you and a bandmate want to record something heavy together, this is the mic for you. Full Review

  • 158dB sound pressure level
  • 10-year warranty
  • Ultra-wide cardioid pickup pattern

At $500 the large microphone diaphragm, Rode NTK is perfect for recording multi-person sessions, thanks to a particularly wide cardioid polar pickup pattern. It also has the ability to support the loudest input of any condenser mic on our list. If you and a bandmate want to record something heavy together, this is the mic for you. Full Review

7. Audio-Technica AT2020

At less than $150, Audio-Technica continues to offer condenser microphone price ranges to suit those on a budget. This model can handle a sound pressure level of 144dB, making it ideal for loud vocal and musical recording The added foam-padded carrying case keeps the already weighty and durable metal mic safe and secure. Full Review

  • Very affordable
  • Fixed cardioid
  • Full 20Hz-20kHz frequency bandwidth

At less than $150, Audio-Technica continues to offer condenser microphone price ranges to suit those on a budget. This model can handle a sound pressure level of 144dB, making it ideal for loud vocal and musical recording The added foam-padded carrying case keeps the already weighty and durable metal mic safe and secure. Full Review

8. Blue Yeti

Popular among podcasters and gamers, the Blue Yeti offers multiple-polar pickup patterns to suit any studio or host setup. It is also one of the few good condenser microphones that only requires USB power. You can pick it up for just $129.99 MSRP, with the USB cable and a desk mount included. It’s one of the easiest and best mics for voiceovers. Full Review

  • Only requires USB power
  • Cardioid, omni, bidirectional pickup
  • Unique modern look

Popular among podcasters and gamers, the Blue Yeti offers multiple-polar pickup patterns to suit any studio or host setup. It is also one of the few good condenser microphones that only requires USB power. You can pick it up for just $129.99 MSRP, with the USB cable and a desk mount included. It’s one of the easiest and best mics for voiceovers. Full Review

9. AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

One of the high-end condenser microphone solutions, the AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII is among the most versatile options at this price point. It allows multiple polar pickup patterns that suit everything from group recording sessions to two-way interviews. You can also add pad and apply ‘low cut’ to the bass. Full Review

  • Four different polar-pickup patterns
  • 3 pad and low-cut options
  • High-quality gold mesh build

One of the high-end condenser microphone solutions, the AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII is among the most versatile options at this price point. It allows multiple polar pickup patterns that suit everything from group recording sessions to two-way interviews. You can also add pad and apply ‘low cut’ to the bass. Full Review

10. Shure SM81-LC

The Shure SM81-LC is a small diaphragm condenser mic designed primarily to record instrumentals in a shotgun directional or from-above boom mic method. It comes with two low-cut filters to keep bass from distorting and naturally allows you to get really loud with your sessions. At $500 it is currently the industry standard for affordable SDCs. Full Review

  • Designed for recording instruments
  • Comes with mic stand clip
  • 146dB sound pressure level

The Shure SM81-LC is a small diaphragm condenser mic designed primarily to record instrumentals in a shotgun directional or from-above boom mic method. It comes with two low-cut filters to keep bass from distorting and naturally allows you to get really loud with your sessions. At $500 it is currently the industry standard for affordable SDCs. Full Review

11. MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

At less than $100, the MXL 770 is an absolute steal, performing and looking as good as mics at ten times its price. The large diaphragm single cardioid microphone provides even bass and clear sound at high frequencies, making it good for vocals and certain instruments. It lets you push the loudness/sound pressure to 137dB SPL. Full Review

  • Less than $70
  • Balanced and clear sound
  • Large diaphragm

At less than $100, the MXL 770 is an absolute steal, performing and looking as good as mics at ten times its price. The large diaphragm single cardioid microphone provides even bass and clear sound at high frequencies, making it good for vocals and certain instruments. It lets you push the loudness/sound pressure to 137dB SPL. Full Review

12. Samson C02 Pencil Condenser Microphone Pair

A unique dual set of affordable small-diaphragm mics with a super-cardioid polar pattern for pinpointing sound in less than perfect studios and rooms. These are ideal for both vocals and instruments, in shotgun and boom (from above) style setups. They come with shock-mounted clips to prevent vibration. Full Review

  • Dual-mics expand pickup
  • Good for music and vocals
  • Suitable for makeshift studios

A unique dual set of affordable small-diaphragm mics with a super-cardioid polar pattern for pinpointing sound in less than perfect studios and rooms. These are ideal for both vocals and instruments, in shotgun and boom (from above) style setups. They come with shock-mounted clips to prevent vibration. Full Review

13. Sony C-100

The modern high-end condenser mic solution has to be the stylish $1,400 Sony C-100. It records audio in high-resolution and supports cardioid, two-way, and omnidirectional polar patterns. This premium built device is suitable for almost any studio or recording scenario; from singing to instrumentals, to multi-man podcasts and conferences. Full Review

  • Certified hi-res up to 50Khz
  • 3 polar-pattern options
  • Mount and sock filter included

The modern high-end condenser mic solution has to be the stylish $1,400 Sony C-100. It records audio in high-resolution and supports cardioid, two-way, and omnidirectional polar patterns. This premium built device is suitable for almost any studio or recording scenario; from singing to instrumentals, to multi-man podcasts and conferences. Full Review

Best Condenser Mics for 2021

Here’s how each mic from our list excels in 2021:

Detailed Reviews

Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z
Neumann U 87 Ai Set Z

BEST FOR

Overall, best condenser mic

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  • Dual capsule for multi-polar patterns
  • Low cut filter button
  • 117dB to 127dB loudness limit
  • Shock mount and windsock included

When it comes to condenser audio microphones none is more well-known than the Neumann U 87 Ai range. In fact, Neumann invented many of the elements that we use in modern condenser mics.

For decades this award-winning, high-quality piece of equipment has been the magic behind numerous talk shows and music production of all kinds of studios across the globe. And, of course, with the advent of podcasting, it has also been given a new lease of life by the internet.

Simply put, it was and is one of the best condenser microphones you can buy. The Set Z version is packed with all the extras you need, whether you’re looking for the best podcast microphones, vocal recording mics, or instrumentals. This tried and true model does a good job at pretty much everything.

Visually and functionally, it’s a large-diaphragm condenser. The Set Z comes with a shock mount stand to prevent any bumps or wobbles impacting your recording. There’s also a full-blown windscreen that slots over the mic rather than just a pop filter you place in front.

We personally find these much more practical because pop filters can take up space and get annoying when you have to keep bending them into position. The foam cover fits like a glove and then you don’t have to worry about it other than the occasional dust shake. 

It has a familiar look – grey, cylindrical, professional, and perfect for any environment. 

So, what’s inside it that makes it so great? Other than decades of class-leading audio engineering, the U 87 Ai has a K67 dual diaphragm condenser capsule, along with FET 80 technology to add extra sound clarity for a superb vocal microphone. You get omni, cardioid, and figure-8 patterns. The lack of ‘self-noise’ means you’re never going to pick up a hum of frequency from the mic itself. 

There’s a built-in low cut filter button to ease up on the low frequencies that can build up when you’re close to the mic over time. It’s designed perfectly for loud undistorted performance.

You’ll also be impressed by the solid bass and mid-range detail, and it captures vocals crisply and clearly. There’s not really anything this mic can’t do from well to excellently, which is why it’s arguably the most popular studio option in the world.

Specs-wise, it’s rated 150 Ohms, has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz, and input pad of -10dB, and it’s maxed SPL (how much sound volume it can take) is between 117dB and 127dB.

If you can afford the $3,600 mic price, go with what years of experience have proven to be one of the best. You can’t beat a Neumann microphone.

Rode NT1-A
Rode NT1-A

BEST FOR

Condenser mic under $500

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  • High 137dB loudness limit
  • Shock mount included
  • Premium build for $300
  • Cardioid polar-pattern

We wouldn’t call this a cheap mic, but if you’re looking for excellent value for money then the Rode NT1-A certainly ranks on the best budget microphone list and can be found online hovering around $300. 

It first hit the market in 2003, aimed then more at professional studios. It has since found a soft spot among YouTuber’s and podcasters as an affordable and high-quality condenser mic.

Like a lot of well-engineered mics, what was good then is still good now and in 2021 it makes the perfect solution for podcasters, YouTubers, pro game streamers. It even holds up for professional singing vocals.

This is a mic that needs power and works best in the studio setting with a full shock absorber and pop-filter if you’re using it for close-up speech. Fortunately, you get an XLR cable in the box to connect to your audio interface, along with the USB cable for PC hook-up. The shock mount is also included, but you’ll need to buy a decent pop filter separately. Thankfully, it’s not too expensive.

Note, if you’re new to this, when we say the mic needs power and you need an audio interface, you’ll need something that can produce at least +24V. Something like the Scarlett 2i2 is ideal, which can provide +48 volts to be on the safe side.

Why does it need so much power? Because it’s good and needs some oomph to perform at its best. Only a cheap condenser microphone can plug into your PC’s USB ports and draw enough power to function. This is a professional piece of equipment that’s a little more involved.

The NT1-A has a superb range, picking up low sounds at -31.9dB and will get as loud as 137dB without distortion. What that does mean, however, is that you might want to invest in a slightly higher-end pop-filter and even studio insulation so it doesn’t pick up ambient noise.

Fortunately, the mic has a very low self-noise of just 5dB, so you won’t have an issue picking up hum from the device itself. 

It is premium built and stainless steel where it counts, with the typical grey cylindrical shape. It’s also heavy and durable at 326g but that does mean the elasticity of your shock mount will eventually start to fail.

Performance-wise, we cannot fault it. You’re getting a cardioid polar pattern, meaning it picks up the majority of the sound from the front. It also reduces background noise from your PC or studio equipment behind it like a noise-canceling microphone.

It excels at vocals, which is why it continues to make the best condenser mic lists and is one of the best microphones for voiceovers.

Note: If you want something similar with slightly better specs, why not check out the Rode NT2A?

MXL 990
MXL 990

BEST FOR

Vocals and instrumentals for $150

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  • 30Hz to 20kHz frequency band
  • 20dB to 130dB loudness range
  • Single cardioid
  • Gold-sputtered diaphragm

The best microphone for vocals on a budget, the MXL 990 is an all-rounder among a solid range of specialty MXL condenser microphones. It’s uniquely designed with a short body that mostly consists of the shock absorber it sits in. 

The good news is they’ve managed to cram in enough tech that this isn’t a problem, just a design choice. The overall build is good, with durable metal, despite being outsourced to China. 

If that usually concerns you, rest assured this isn’t a random Wish replica of something else. It’s a good mic with a cardioid pattern for clear vocals and has a gold-sputtered six-micron diaphragm.

It’s sound quality and range is also good for something you can pick up for less than $150. The frequency range is 30Hz to 20kHz. It can also take low volumes of 20dB and highs of 130dB, which is quite impressive.

We wouldn’t use them for professional musical work with instruments, not without an upgraded pop filter. As a voice microphone in the right studio, it is excellent, especially if you’re just going to be using it up close for podcasting, YouTubing, game streaming, or voiceover.

It produces a well-balanced sound and good high ends which is also great for singers in the studio. This is because it uses a large capsule that vibrates slower but also the reason it isn’t great for a lot of instruments. 

It’s also very sensitive and you get a lot of detail from your recordings. That’s good in the right environment but you’ll want to be in a silent studio to get the best out of it. Luckily the mic itself does not produce much of noticeable signal interference, so you don’t have to worry about that. 

It’s also a cardioid, which means it’s designed to pick up what’s directly in front of you. You don’t have to worry about any of the sound coming from your studio or your computers (as long as they’ve not got an abnormally loud fan).  

Nonetheless, it’s not quite as tight in its isolation as the more expensive options on the market, so try not to move around a lot, stay in position and it shouldn’t be an issue.

Is it the best condenser mic we’ve reviewed? No, but it’s a solid entry at this price point and easily one of the best budget microphones on the market. It’s an ideal choice for those looking to upgrade their voice mics to a condenser without breaking their bank balance, in order to immediately improve any type of vocal production

Audio-Technica AT2035
Audio-Technica AT2035

BEST FOR

Budget wide diaphragm condenser microphone

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  • Very affordable at $200
  • Large diaphragm condenser
  • Low cut and pad switches
  • 148dB SPL limit

As a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, the AT2035 by Audio-Technica microphones is one of the best value for money on the market. You can pick it up for less than $200 online, which is a steal. It will best suit those who are buying their first large condenser before splashing out on something more expensive.

This one finally ditches the traditional gray color for a matte black professional look, which is one of our favorites to date. It comes with a pad switch to help manage loud input without distortion and a low cut switch to help reduce any background noise. Both of these are towards the base of the mic’s rear and never get in in the way or get accidentally knocked.

It produces a standard frequency range of between 20Hz and 20KHz, and the pad handles 10dB. That’s on top of its 148dB SPL limit before distortion creeps in. So, if you want to record a loud session clearly, you certainly can. 

The noise signal from the mic itself is slightly high but we never found this to be a problem. The cardioid polar pattern helps with general background noise-canceling while allowing for great vocal recording.

Speaking of vocals, if you do have a singer with a lot of bass, don’t forget to actually switch the low cut to make up for it. Getting this exactly right can be a bit frustrating but for such a specific use, that’s far from a dealbreaker.

For podcasts, regular voice recording, gaming, etc., the sound is excellent, and an added pop filter will ensure absolutely no distortion.

The AT2035 does well with a wide variety of instruments because it has such an even performance. It’s especially in tune with acoustic instruments and it also performed well with a piano. Because it can handle those decibels, electric guitars and traditional brass instruments are also competently served. However, a tip for electric guitar players – as odd as it seems, get the mic closer to the amp for a more focused sound due to the way the cardioid direction works. 

Other specs include 120 Ohms, integral 3-pin XLRM output, and you’ll also get the shock mount and a protective pouch in the box. Any pop filter will have to be purchased separately.

Overall, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is a budget microphone with a higher-end performance. We thoroughly recommend it if you are buying your first wide diaphragm condenser microphone and don’t want to be duped by something cheaper.

If you’re running a choir, you can also find a range of Audio Technica choir mics that hang from above.

Neumann TLM 102
Neumann TLM 102

BEST FOR

Overall mid-priced cardioid microphone

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  • Wide microphone diaphragm cardioid
  • 6kHz+ Vocal ‘sweetness boost’
  • Reach 144dB without distortion
  • In-built pop filter

Neumann microphones are very much the godfather of condensers and although this model is around a decade old, it is still one of the best on the market. Its price can vary quite significantly but you should expect to pay between $500 and $700 depending on availability and whether you’re importing from Europe.

Surprisingly (some would say comically) small, the TLM 102 is still considered one of the best large-diaphragm condenser microphones at this price point. It has an all-around performance, allowing for good talking and singing vocals, as well as musical instruments.

In terms of specifications, the girthy diaphragm encapsulates a high-end Neumann cardioid which was specifically designed for a broad range of uses. While back then podcasting and Twitch streaming weren’t one of them, talk radio was – so it naturally lends itself to all applications within a room/studio setting.

Below 6KHz and everything is fairly standard but once vocals jump past that mark the tech kicks in and you get the so-called “sweetness boost” that gives your voice a subtly boosted and smooth effect

Despite a tiny condenser, it supports the standard frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. And, whether you’re talking directly into it or positioning it in front of a guitar or drum kit, you don’t have to worry about the Sound Pressure Level (SPL). This baby can handle up to 144dB. In other words, you can rock out loud with no distortion.

As with all Neumann’s background noise and the mic’s own frequency are not going to interfere or cause any humming when recording. It has a built-in pop screen but it’s not uncommon to add another external one just to be on the safe side.

Generally, you won’t get any extras with your purchase beyond the mic and cable. You’ll want to be on the lookout for a suitable stand or a shock absorb nest if resting on a table. 

Other specs include 50 Ohm impedance, an overall 260g of well-manufactured weight, 52mm diameter, and 116mm length. You will also need at least +48V in phantom power to power the TLM 102 stably. 

If the Neumann U 87 Ai is out of your price range and your budget allows for the TLM, we’d suggest going for it over similarly priced products – as long as you’re not paying over the odds due to limited availability.

Rode NTK
Rode NTK

BEST FOR

Recording microphone for extra loud sessions

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  • 158dB sound pressure level
  • 10-year warranty
  • Ultra-wide cardioid pickup pattern
  • Gold-sputtered capsule

The Rode NTK is one of those tried and true products whose name stands the test of time. Even though it was launched in the early 2000s it still has everything you need from an affordable condenser mic. It uses Valve technology, which despite being older is of higher quality than its modern ‘solid-state’ cousin. It makes use of a large microphone diaphragm and gold-sputtered capsule.

Its cardioid pattern has been effectively recording vocals and single instrumentals with great success for decades, with ultra-wide dynamic range. You don’t have to position yourself perfectly to get the quality of sound you need.

And, yet despite being very sensitive to sound it’s also great at filtering out what you don’t need including its own noise, which is never an issue.

So proven and proud of its high-quality microphone is Rode that they’ll give you a manufacturer’s warranty of 10 years – a testament to the high build quality that they’ve managed to produce out of Australia.

This thing is solid and made of high strength heat-treated steel and mesh. You don’t necessarily require a pop filter. However, if you’ll be up close and personal doing a podcast or other kind of audio stream it’s well worth investing as it’s not 100% perfect in that department. 

Nonetheless, when you dive into the specs it’s all very impressive. You get a good output impedance of 200 Ohms, the industry-standard frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, and 158dBSPL, meaning you can get extremely loud when recording musical performances without distortion.

Of course, with a device like this, you are going to need a dedicated power source. We also recommend purchasing a stand for performing or a desk compatible shock absorber if you’ll be podcasting or doing any kind of vocal recording at your computer. All that’s in the box is a carrying case and a basic ring mount to attach to a pole stand. 

We found the Rode NKT produced crisp, clear, and warm sounds from within our office studio. It handled everything from our Twitch stream to a guitar amp without any noticeable cracking or disruption.

Looks-wise, it’s a cool mic, albeit a familiar gray. But there’s something a lot sturdier and more elegant than your average condenser here. 

Ultimately, if you want a condenser microphone with a large diaphragm that has stood the test of time, then the Rode NTK is worth your time. You can pick it up for a little over $500.

Audio-Technica AT2020
Audio-Technica AT2020

BEST FOR

Vocal recordings

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  • Very affordable
  • Fixed cardioid
  • Full 20Hz-20kHz frequency bandwidth
  • Great for vocals

In contention for the best budget mic, the AT2020 is Audio-Technica’s scaled back condenser with no pad or low cut switches, and nothing other than the bare bones in the box. But, at less than $150, it’s quality and performance more than makeup for the bells and whistles.

It utilizes a 16mm diameter capsule that produces a warm and solid sound, with a surprising amount of bass. This comes out through a fixed cardioid that does great at finding your vocals or instrumentals and is suitable for most studio/room-based recording tasks.

Although it may be smaller than many of the other Audio-Technica offerings, it still has the full 20Hz-20kHz frequency bandwidth. The only time we noticed a drop was around 70Hz and between 5kHz and 15kHz, but that’s neither abnormal for mics of this type (even more expensive) and not a dealbreaker.

The only slight consideration is its 20dB self-noise signal, which is a little on the high side.

Handling decibels themselves is a cinch, supporting a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) of up to 144dB. In other words, you can get as loud as you need to during a recording session and there shouldn’t be any noticeable distortion.  

As a vocal mic, we have nothing bad to say about the AT2020, in a modern podcast or YouTube setup you’re going to sound amazing. There won’t be any hum from your PC if the mic is centered in front of you. It’s arguably the best mic for voiceover recordings, delivering a clear and powerful sound.

The same goes for singing vocal recordings, which this was originally intended for. You’ll get a low mid-range warmth with some subtle pep to give the singer more presence. Overall, it’s very balanced and will work well with all types of vocalists. 

We tested an acoustic guitar and an electric up close, with the electric perhaps the only one we got a hint of scratchiness from. But for $150, who’s complaining? Spend some time repositioning and the sound will be just fine.  

The AT2020 is a cool looking all-black design with a super-solid cast metal build that brings it to around 12.1oz. It’ll last forever and can be stored nicely in its leather zip-up pouch. The package also comes with the stand mount and cabling, though in these 2021 times you’ll also want to get a shock absorber if you’re using it on a desk. Perhaps a pop filter or foam cover too if you start to notice some peaks up close.  

If you want something similar in the mid-price range, you may want to check out the AT4040 mic.

Blue Yeti
Blue Yeti

BEST FOR

Podcasting

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  • Only requires USB power
  • Cardioid, omni, bidirectional pickup
  • Unique modern look
  • Portable

We don’t know whether it was the name, marketing, or the fact that it’s a genuinely quality product, but the Blue Yeti mic has a special place in history. It took off with the podcasting and streaming boom and simplified things by managing good sound and only requiring a USB power source. 

One modern feature that immediately makes the Yeti stand out is its ability to change polar patterns, a.k.a the directional field in which it picks up soundwaves. Most traditional condenser mics stick with a cardioid, almost heart-shaped pattern that requires you front and center. 

The Blue Yeti can use that mode, switching to omnidirectional which picks up sound all the way around the mic, or stereo. This is much like omnidirectional only it splits the audio channel so listeners can hear a directional sound, be that via left and right headphones or speakers.

The catch with these modes is you need to know which to use and when. Cardioid is still the best for talking and singing, omni suits situations when you need to record people all over the room at the sacrifice of sound quality. Stereo may work in certain musical setups. 

There’s also bidirectional which is like two cardioid condenser mics in one for recording sit-down interviews at a table with the single mic – good if you’re doing it on the fly at a coffee shop or are testing a podcast idea with a friend.

Other modern features include: 

  • a 3.5 mm headphone/audio jack 
  • volume control 
  • gain control to allow you to control mic sensitivity
  • a mute button.

The Yeti doesn’t require any software or power, it’s a USB plug and play device, which is a nice touch. Meanwhile, the box contains a sturdy desk stand that allows you to tilt the mic back and forth, but any pop filter will need to be bought separately. 

This all sounds great and it is if you’re tech-savvy and can use the modes correctly. It just doesn’t quite have the sound quality that the veteran condenser mics have. Don’t get us wrong, it’s good for podcasting, voiceovers, gaming, chatting, and streaming. But, it’s not really something we’d recommend to musicians, singers, or someone in a professional or corporate studio.

At just $129.99 MSRP though, there’s more than one reason why it’s so popular. At that price, you can easily overlook any perceived faults.

It’s our pick as one of the best voiceover mic solutions and best microphones for podcasting. Did we mention it looks like R2-D2?

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII
AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

BEST FOR

Choir microphones

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  • Four different polar-pickup patterns
  • 3 pad and low-cut options
  • High-quality gold mesh build
  • LEDs to show modes

AKG microphones are some of the best in the world. The C414 is an all-time classic studio condenser microphone that still knocks 90% of what’s currently for sale out of the water. The C414 XLII upgrade from the early 2000s added enough modern tech that it’s still one of the kings of the high-end condenser microphone market.

This model stays true to its classic shape, high-quality build, and gold mesh. It has added LEDs and given more of a presence peak to help recording singing vocals. This takes it up to 3KHz and provides a more modern sound while also allowing stronger reach when recording instruments that are a bit further away from the mic.

Of course, that’s not the only improvement and if you’re new to the C414 there’s a lot more to get to.

At its core, it’s a wide microphone diaphragm, with a multi-pattern capacitor, though only the front side is gold-sputtered to prevent damage at very high sound pressure levels. It just so happens this mic supports a respectable 134dB, allowing for particularly loud music recording sessions.

The mic itself sits in a very durable and secure shock-resistant four-point nest. Soft rocker buttons are used to change patterns, add a pad, and apply ‘low cut’ to the bass. Its current status is shown by the new LEDs and this is even remembered in a small local memory even when unplugged from the power source. 

In a more sophisticated fashion than the Blue Yeti, you can switch between: 

  • Regular cardioid for front-facing sound recording microphone.
  • Wide cardioid for a more forgiving experience if some of your instruments or singers are off to one side or further back. This is sometimes called super-cardioid.
  • Narrow cardioid for up close and personal vocals that are some of the crispest and cleanest we’ve ever heard. This also puts it in contention for best microphone for voice-overs.
  • Omnidirectional, which picks up sound recording in a full 360 degrees. Useful for picking up groups of singers, small audiences, sound effects, doing a podcast with just one mic – the possibilities are endless, but there is a slight quality reduction in this mode.

The first three modes are great at cutting out background noise if you’re not in a proper soundproofed studio. Meanwhile, its self-noise is just 6dB, so you are not likely to get any interference from the mic itself in your recordings.

One nice addition is the ability to change the strength of the pad depending on the strength of your input, rather than using a catch-all option. You can choose between 6dB, 12dB, and 18dB. The low cut can also be set to 40Hz, 80Hz, or 160Hz.

As with most high-end condenser mics, this requires a phantom power source of at least +48V. In the box you get: 

  • the cabling 
  • a lovely foam-lined aluminum flight case 
  • the aforementioned shock base 
  • a modern adjustable pop filter
  • a foam sock, if you prefer the classic look.

If you want vintage style, with traditional high-end quality, but enough modern features that you can still claim to have it all – the Pro Audio C414 XLII AKG mic is the perfect solution. You can get it for just over $1,000 online.

Shure SM81-LC
Shure SM81-LC

BEST FOR

Recording instruments

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  • Designed for recording instruments
  • Comes with mic stand clip
  • 146dB sound pressure level
  • Two low cut filters

Something a little different on our list is the Shure SM81-LC instrument condenser mic. It is intended to solely record instruments rather than vocals. In that respect it is a drastically different shape; more like a long thin torch and its specs and features do things that your ordinary wider condenser wouldn’t.

Firstly, it’s not for desks at all, rather it comes with the clip you need to connect to a mic stand which helps you position it like a ‘shotgun’ towards the instrument. You can have it up high above drums or a piano, for example, or directed right in front of you for a sitting or standing guitar session. 

You’ll get the flat sound up until about 15Khz before the color starts to kick in but that’s fairly standard for instrument mics. Once you get rolling, you’re in for a crisp and clear experience with a surprising lack of distortion.

This type of mic is better known as a small diaphragm condenser (SDC). Unlike its fatter and more vocal cousins, it isn’t usually as good on the low-end and you don’t really want to be cutting the bass when recording instruments.

To help the SM81 has two low cut filters to get things more finely tuned. And, with no cutting at all, it has a lot less distortion than many other small condenser microphone options. 

Where it does falter slightly is with a high self-noise of 16dB. However, that’s a problem with all SDCs. If you’re new to this and have used a larger diaphragm condenser mic in the past, don’t let the number alarm you. In the grand scheme, it still sounds great.

The build quality is excellent and sturdy, so don’t do yourself a disservice with a poor mic stand. It also comes in a foam-filled carry case that contains the stand clip and a foam sock to stop those harsh riffs from popping the mic.

While there’s certainly a learning curve, this mic performs well across the board; from acoustic and electric guitars to pianos and percussion. You’ll get clear sound, a rich and surprisingly undistorted low end, and you can get really loud up to 146dB before the quality takes a kit.

The Shure SM81-LC is almost the industry standard right now, but at around $500 a pop and often a need for at least two, the average person trying to make it in the industry might be priced out.

No, you can’t record your podcast with this.

  • Less than $70
  • Balanced and clear sound
  • Large diaphragm
  • 137dB SPL

Among of the best cheap microphones on our list that still do a great job are the 770 MXL condenser mics. You can acquire them for just $70 if you look well online.

It’s a good all-rounder with a large diaphragm, delivering balanced low ends and clear high ends. It is suitable for everything from recording singing vocals and instruments, to podcasting and every other voice recording task.

Out of the box we were impressed by its look and build quality. It comes in a padded plastic carrying case, along with a shock absorber. You’ll have to pay extra for a desk stand or larger arm and despite it entering USB territory pricing, it still needs phantom power – it performs like a traditional higher-end mic.

It has full metal construction; nice and weighty and it’s mainly black with gold trim. It looks a lot like many of the classics but not in a cheesy Blue Spark SL way. And, as well as looking the part, it actually does a good job too.

It’s a cardioid mic with a single front pattern, so you’ll need to be positioned essentially in front of it to do your recordings, while any noise from behind will not be registered. Although it’s all the rage to have multipolar patterns, unless you’re doing something specific that requires them there’s no issue with sitting in front of your mic; it’s the natural thing to do and still the same setup that many microphones ten-times its price use.

The MXL 770 is classed as a large-diaphragm condenser microphone at 0.87 inches, though there are certainly larger options out there. This may be why it has a slightly off frequency bandwidth, starting at 30Hz instead of the usual 20. 

However, it can still handle those loud recording sessions, guaranteeing no significant distortion up to a respectable 137dB. And, for its price the recording quality of high-frequency vocals and instruments is crisp and clean; so much so that you’d assume it was a higher-class product. 

The truth is the MXL 770 does everything the more expensive condenser cardioid mics do and looks the part. It just does them ever so slightly lower in quality. 

If you’re an amateur this is easily the best microphone under $100 and an excellent place to start. If you want an affordable standalone mic to do podcasts, gaming, streaming, or need one of the best voice over microphone solutions, you’ll always sound clear and powerful with the MXL 770.

Samson C02 Pencil Condenser Microphone Pair
Samson C02 Pencil Condenser Microphone Pair

BEST FOR

Cheapest dual microphone for recording music and vocals

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  • Dual-mics expand pickup
  • Good for music and vocals
  • Suitable for makeshift studios
  • Less than $150

Samson is one of the leading brands of good cheap microphones. It seems to have nailed down the condenser technology without requiring you to break your bank balance. 

Although they have many models that stand out, particularly the wide C01, this time we took a closer look at the C02 pencil Samson condenser microphone. You can purchase it online in a pair for less than $150.

Each microphone has a super-cardioid polar pattern, which means they’re more pinpointed than a regular cardioid. The trade-off to having to be positioned more directly is clearer sound. The fact you get two of these gives you more allowances because of the two channels and broader overall pick up pattern. If you want to record in stereo, then this is a good affordable solution.

Microphones like this perform especially well in closed room environments that aren’t professionally set up as studios and are prone to reverberation off the walls because of a lack of sound reinforcement. 

As with most thin diaphragm mics, the C02 pencils are excellent at high frequencies and picking up acoustic instruments. If you fit them to tall mic stands/booms you can also get good sound overhead from drums and cymbals. Although people often don’t think to apply them in this way, they’re also good for overhead dialogue. The principle is much the same as a boom or shotgun mic.

For example, these are perfect for recording interviews standing up in a regular room.

Whatever your setup or purpose for using them, the shock-mounted mic clips will improve isolation and reduce vibrations. The tight polar pattern will keep unwanted sound from being picked up. 

Where they naturally falter is with bass, so if your intention is to record a lot of low-end then you’ll want to look for a larger diaphragm alternative. However, you can still get loud with a guaranteed sound pressure level of up to 134dB, and bass is still okay if boomed within 60cm.

These are full XLR condensers so you will need at least +48V of phantom power unlike some of Samson’s USB range. In the foam-padded plastic carrying case, you’ll find the two mics and their mounts, along with socks to prevent popping and cracking when you make particularly loud or harsh sounds.

Looks-wise, they’re sleek and silver and, as their function requires, there’s not much shape beyond the cylindrical chassis. They have a great build quality for the price; solid weighty metal with a matte finish.

Overall, these are some of the best cheap mic duos for your first foray into this style of recording, though they aren’t perfect. We did notice some brittleness at particularly high frequencies, but for the price, there’s nothing really to complain about.

Sony C-100
Sony C-100

BEST FOR

High-resolution recording

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  • Certified hi-res up to 50Khz
  • 3 polar-pattern options
  • Mount and sock filter included
  • Pad and low-cut switches

Looking for mics for recording in hi-res or high fidelity? Modern and high-end is a good way to describe the $1,400 Sony C-100. It comes to us almost two and a half decades after their ionic C800G took recording studios by storm. The C-100 is one of the few condenser mics on the market to provide certified high-resolution recording, surpassing the usual 20Hz-20kHz frequency band all the way up to 50Khz

It also comes with a dual-diaphragm capsule which they describe as two-way, though you really get three different polar-pattern modes, all of which produce a crisp and clear sound. The result of all this is the perfect balance between the low-end friendly recording you get with your typical wide diaphragm condenser microphone and the higher frequencies of small diaphragms. It goes even further with hi-res support.

You can easily switch to a regular cardioid which picks up audio in a heart shape directly in front of the mic while ignoring sounds around the sides and towards the back. ‘Figure-8’ which is essentially the same cardioid pattern at the front but also at the back, is great for recording duets or two-way interviews with a single mic. And, omnidirectional, which has a full 360-degree response field should you need to record sounds from all different directions.

For example, we wanted to record a multi-man podcast in a makeshift studio. This allowed us to place the mic in the center and the group sat around a table, with everyone being picked up fairly accurately.

In this scenario, there are some leveling and slight quality issues but it’s a good mode for when the content is more important, such as a business conference or a group educational setting.

Sony has also gone out of its way to reduce rumble, feedback, and unwanted sound, with its own ‘self-noise’ virtually non-existent. This is in part due to its excellent two-piece metallic high-quality shell, and a 70Hz low cut filter switch. It also comes with a -10dB pad switch to help louder signals avoid distortion.

Depending on your chosen polar pattern you get slightly different sound pressure level limits, but let’s just say all modes let you get loud while still staying clear. The specs are:

  • Cardioid: 131dB 
  • Omni directional: 137dB 
  • Bidirectional: 135dB 

Included in the foam-padded plastic carrying case is a sock windshield to reduce pop and crackling, a sturdy stand mount, and a shock absorber so you get no vibration noise if you knock your stand or desk. The mic requires at least +48V of external phantom power supply

Overall, if you’re an audiophile looking to go high-end then the Sony C-100 is a safe bet.

What Is a Condenser Microphone?

A condenser microphone is a type of mic designed for enclosed spaces – traditionally studios and now more than often home offices, home audio studios, podcast setups, gaming rooms, etc. 

They are built with a microphone condenser capsule inside, which is essentially a capacitor (two metal plates close together). These are electronically charged and often gold-sputtered mylar or a metal foil is used to make the conduction between the two easier.

The sound waves bounce onto these plates causing them to vibrate and which is converted into an electrical signal.

Now instead of trying to get the flux capacitor to take us back to the future, it actually produces little power at all by itself. That’s why even the cheaper condenser mics need power from a good USB port. 

The best condenser mic options need further external power, which is commonly called phantom power or just a mic box. These are small, hold in your hand-sized power supplies that you can pick up for as little as $50.

Technicalities aside, condenser mics are more precise and pick up the sound wave more accurately. They are better suited to indoor studios creating a high-quality production not outdoor performances or recording large numbers of people or events at a distance. That’s why they’re also excellent upgrades for those that use cheap mics at home – whether that be for gaming, podcasting, streaming, doing voice-overs, or just chatting to friends on Skype or VoIP.

The other important benefit of condenser mics is that they’re designed to capture high frequencies and are ideal for vocals. Not just talking, but also singing and the frequencies emitted by acoustic guitars, drum overheads, other percussions, and pianos.

That’s not to say they can’t handle the bass, as many large-diaphragm condenser mics are wider and designed specifically to handle the low end better, with extra features to prevent distortion.

They can be used as a microphone for recording or live broadcasts.

Types of Microphones for Recording 

There are several different types of mics and styles depending on what you want to and the environment you will be recording in. Here’s a quick rundown:

Large-diaphragm condenser

A large-diaphragm condenser microphone is simply that – a mic with a wider internal capsule and therefore an overall wider appearance. These are more common because they have the ability to provide all-round performance if implemented correctly. They excel at picking up the low-end or bass without distortion and handling a louder sound pressure for recording instruments and loud singing. 

They also excel at capturing vocals, giving the proverbial ‘sweetness boost’ and somewhat isolating a voice to give it more power and presence. LDCs were the first type of condenser microphone and thus also described as making your recording sound like a record or that it’s a recording mic

They have lower ‘self-noise’ which means less feedback, distortion, or hum being picked up from the device itself.

Singers often prefer a large diaphragm simply because they are easier to focus on and have a classic charm. They are also popular among talk radio and podcasting.

Small diaphragm condenser

Technically speaking, although they are less popular, SDCs are the more modern and technologically advanced form of a condenser mic. As the name suggests they have smaller internals and are designed to be long, thin, and cylindrical in shape.

They have the ability to accurately pick up higher frequencies, which is better in some singing and instrumental scenarios and are more pinpointed in their pickup pattern. This means if positioned correctly, the quality is better and the sound your recording is more isolated from the outer environment, especially at a distance and pointed like a ‘shotgun’.

They are commonly used directed straight at instruments or as boom mics above drums and percussive sounds.

Although they are not that popular for vocals, they are still good for solos or as boom mics in rooms and makeshift studios that don’t have good soundproofing. 

Their functionality increases when used in pairs and/or in stereo recording situations.  

Gold sputtered

A gold-sputtered condenser mic is usually a mid to high-end mic that uses gold within the capsule for better conduction, higher-quality sound, and more resistance to loud sound. Although there is no set rule, these types of mic will also often use gold mesh on the outside to reference their inner gold mylar. 

Promoting the gold is a more recent marketing tactic as most high-end mics from pioneers like Neumann and any AKG microphone always used gold.

Cheaper condensers will commonly use metal foil for the conduction, which causes the vibration of the metal plates and aids capture of the soundwaves.

Cardioid 

What is a cardioid microphone? All condenser mics have a ‘polar pickup pattern’ – the invisible field beyond the mic that is able to effectively capture sound in good quality. Traditionally this pattern was called cardioid, and this remains a common option among high-end and cheaper condenser microphones.

Essentially what this means is sound is picked up directly in front of the mic with a heart-shaped field. As long as you or your instrument are positioned relatively centered, your sound will be picked up perfectly. 

This pattern also allows for good isolation of the intended sound while canceling out what’s going on in different directions, such as far to the side or behind the mic.

Super-cardioid takes the same principle but broadens the field so you can be a bit further back from the mic and a bit further to the side. This helps if you’re capturing multiple sound sources at the same time, such as two vocalists or a vocalist and an instrument. The catch is there’s slightly less isolation. 

On the flip side, there are sometimes narrow cardioid options that are even more pinpointed and isolated, making them ideal for focusing on a specific instrument or a close-up vocalist.

This is more akin to what you would find in a small diaphragm condenser.  

Multi-polar pattern

A more modern invention is the multi-polar pattern feature that allows you to switch between different sound pickup patterns depending on what you’re intending to record. This usually includes cardioid and/or super-cardioid as explained above.

You can get:

  • Omnidirectional: This allows you to pick up sound from every single direction, allowing you to walk around the mic, capture multiple people in the room, and the ambient sound recording of a room. The downside is, if there’s any sound in the vicinity you don’t want to pick up, your only option is to remove it in post-production.
    An omnidirectional condenser microphone is also good for picking up choirs, business conferences, and multi-man podcasts with a single or couple of mics. 
  • Two-Way / Figure of 8: This flips the normal cardioid pattern to the other side of the mic so you can have two people facing each other. This is ideal for closeup duets and interviews where you only have one mic. It’s still quite effective and canceling unwanted noise to the sides of the mic.

USB Condenser 

A modern version of the condenser mic intended to be used on computers and laptops, the USB condenser draws all the power it needs through the USB port. These are more common among podcasters, gamers, and YouTubers, than recording artists or the traditional studio environment.

You can certainly get good quality USB condensers and they’re always a step up from a cheap generic PC mic. However, the quality is typically lower than that of a traditional condenser mic that requires a microphone box for additional power. 

This is often called phantom power and requires an XLR cable that connects the mic to a small, relatively inexpensive box. Some modern mics come with both to allow for easy computer use along with studio-quality power and functionality.  

Choir Mics

Although we didn’t include any in our reviews there is also a mic design specifically for choirs and large events that can be hung from above, such as the Audio-Technica U853 condenser hanging mic.

Compressor Mic

Compressor mics are not really a type of mic. It’s a feature that allows you to level the dynamic range of the audio signal so that there is less variance between the loudest portions and the quietest parts – an on the fly form of normalization. This is typically accomplished in-studio or via your computer, though some mics may have an option to do it from the hardware itself when the microphone records.

How to Choose the Best Condenser Mic

Choosing the best condenser mic is an individual decision that takes a number of considerations. Before parting with your cash, you need to look at the following:

Price range

All of the mics we’ve reviewed meet a high standard of quality but there is still some variance between price points. These can be split into three main ranges:

  • Budget mics below $150 and some below $100
  • mid-range in the multiple hundreds
  • high-end, being anything over $1,000

First, consider what your budget can accommodate and begin your search from there. 

Build quality

If you’re looking outside our list be sure to look for specs or user reviews on the build quality of the microphone. Is it made from metal or plastic, is it heavy and well put together or light and cheap? Does it use a gold sputtered capsule, metal foil, or unknown? Is it a well-known brand or something with little online presence?

How you’ll use it

The mic that will best suit you is also dependent on how you’ll be using it. Is it just you? Then you don’t need to pay extra for multiple polar patterns – a regular cardioid will suffice. Are you recording vocals and instruments, or mainly podcasts, voice-overs, gaming, and chatting? If the latter, you get away sounding excellent with a cheaper option.

Loudness and Sound Intensity

If it is for recording music, are you going loud and harsh or soft and acoustic? For this, you need to check the frequency bandwidth and the sound pressure level (SPL) limit.

Features

Do you want a standard solution or something with pad and low-cut switches? What about easy polar pattern switching, volume controls, or LED status lights? Do you want direct USB computer compatibility or do you have a studio that can accommodate this already?

Extras

Do you require and does the product come with a mic stand mount, shock absorber, pop filter, windsock, carrying case, cabling, and other extras?

Look and Vibe

If others are going to see your mic in person or on camera, the look and vibe it gives off can also be an important consideration. Condenser mics tend to have a similar vibe and if you really want to stand out, you’ll want to look for something distinctively vintage-like Blue Baby Bottle microphones or something vibrant in the gamer sphere.

Ultimately, our reviews cover all areas you may require, but there are other models that nearly made our list – the Bluebird mic, Blue Spark mic, among others that you might wish to check out.  

Wrap Up

No matter if you’re looking for the best budget microphone or the highest quality available, our above reviews and guides will help you find the best condenser mic for you. This encompasses everything from vocal recording microphones for singers, options for recording instruments, or a good voice-over microphone for radio, podcast, and video content. 

Whatever your requirements, your best fit is waiting among our reviews!

 

FAQ

Does a condenser mic make you sound better?

If all you have been used to is a cheap mic or cheap headset then, a condenser mic will absolutely make you sound better. Generally speaking, they use more advanced technology, premium parts, and are the staple of the recording studio – be that for musical artists or radio hosts.

Internet-based content producers are increasingly turning to USB and fully-fledged phantom-powered condenser mics to improve the quality of their podcasts, YouTube videos, streaming, etc.

Without getting too technical, condenser mics make you sound better by pinpointing and isolating your vocals (or other sounds), providing a clearer and more accurate result. This reduces or eliminates distortion altogether while canceling out any background noise. 

A high-quality microphone will handle loud sounds much better than cheaper mics. It will either come with inbuilt pop filters or external socks or attachable screens to further prevent any cracking with sharp sounds or words. 

They also handle higher frequencies in vocals and instruments better than any other mic.

When considering sounding better, it’s important to differentiate between the quality, clarity, and accuracy of a recording and how ‘good’ you sound. In other words, condenser mics do not employ any technology that will make a bad singer or talker sound any better than they do naturally. It will just record them more accurately

There may be a slight boost in bass or a ‘sweetness boost’, thanks to isolation and amplification, but you cannot sound better than you do naturally in person. You’re just being recorded clearly.

However, the best condenser mic solutions put you in the position to use post-production effects like bass-boost, equalizer, pitch & tempo, etc. to legitimately improve the sound of your natural voice – the initial recording will be such high quality. 

Can I use a condenser mic live?

While condenser mics originated in recording studios for musical artists they can absolutely be used live with great results. Actually, they are popular throughout the live radio industry for decades with much success among radio hosts and in-studio performers. What makes them good for recording also makes them good for live broadcasts and performances. This now also extends to live podcasting and streaming online as well.

However, when it comes to live music settings on a stage, condenser mics have not been the go-to solution. Their purpose is to pinpoint and isolate within a small soundproofed studio, not amplify to a live audience.

That scenario has typically been reserved for the ‘dynamic microphone’, which has a light diaphragm that changes in response to the sound pressure and movement of active live performances. They are also built to be hand-held and portable rather than affixed to a stand or desk.

In a dynamic setup, the sound is captured in a magnetic field before being electronically converted. They tend to have higher sound pressure levels due to the nature of loud stage performances. They are not necessarily better quality, just more functional for the live environment.     

Dynamic mics also have lower impedance so there’s no signal degradation as sound can travel through hundreds of feet of wiring before reaching the amplifier and speaker process.

Nonetheless, condenser mics are increasingly being used as stage mics as they too can produce low impedance and have cardioid polar patterns. The latter suit solo artists who only want their vocals to be picked up. 

Which type of mic you choose might also depend on your singing style or music genre. Dynamic mics are known for giving a warmer, thicker sound that works better on a loud stage with a loud singer. A quieter, more complex vocalist with an acoustic guitar can benefit from the high-frequency and detail supported by a good cardioid condenser mic.

Of course, a full-on professional stage performance can benefit from multi-mic setups involving both condenser and dynamic mics, each focused on different vocalists and instruments involved in the show.

Are USB condenser mics good?

Yes, a USB condenser mic is an excellent quality standalone recording and live mic for certain purposes.

Like all products, there are good USB condenser options and cheap USB condenser ones. The important thing to understand is that USB condenser mics are designed to easily ‘plug and play’ with your computer without the need for another power supply

This generally makes them less powerful than traditional condenser options (and therefore lower in quality) because your USB port cannot provide the same voltage as a phantom box.

However, that doesn’t matter if you’re using the mic on your home PC or makeshift studio setup and aren’t looking to record professional sounding singing vocals and music. 

For podcasting, voiceovers, gaming, live streaming, audio chatting, etc, USB condenser mics sound excellent and in many cases are what the pros use.

When it comes to recording vocals or musical instruments, excellent becomes okay, and you are better off with a traditional condenser mic that hooks up to a power supply via XLR cable. Some come with USB and XLR connector support so you can have all the benefits of plug-and-play while having an extra power source to boost mic performance.

How do I choose a condenser microphone?

Choosing a condenser mic is all about your requirements. As mentioned previously, you need to consider whether you will just be speaking or recording musical vocals and instruments.

Also, think about:

  • Whether the mic is just for one person and needs a simple cardioid polar pattern or you’ll be recording multiple people with one mic. 
  • Do you need to hook it up to your PC or is it ok to use an XLR and phantom-powered?
  • What your budget can support. Are you looking for the best budget microphone from less than $100, or the mid-hundreds, up to the high-end $1,000+ range?

Read our reviews and guides for further insight on how to choose the best condenser mic for you.

Is a dynamic or condenser mic better for vocals?

Broadly, a good condenser mic is better for vocals, especially in a studio setting. They’re clearer, have a better frequency bandwidth, and are well isolated.

However, a dynamic mic is better in a lot of vocal scenarios during live stage performances thanks to its high-pressure level (loudness support), and lower impedance for long wiring setups.

Which condenser microphone is best?

If budget is not your concern our top pick for the overall best condenser mic goes to condenser mic pioneers Neumann, and their high-end U 87 Ai Set Z. This is closely followed by the more modern Sony C-100. Both will cost over $1,000 and offer superior sound quality and multiple polar patterns for different recording scenarios.

If you’re looking for the best value for money, it’s a toss-up between the Rode NT1-A and the Neumann TLM 102.

If you require a small-diaphragm condenser, the best option is the Shure SM81-LC at $500, followed by the more affordable pair of Samson C02 Pencils.