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on May 28, 2023
When you are singing live, it’s essential to have a good microphone that will help your vocals be heard through the mix.
Depending on the type of performance, you may need a specific microphone. For example, it will most likely have to deal with being knocked about or dropped, so they need to be tough; it will also need to ensure your vocals are heard clearly.
You also need to determine what type of pattern you will need: cardioid, condenser, or dynamic, which depends on whether you need to minimize external noise and whether the mic will be at risk of feedback.
In general, condenser mics are more sensitive than dynamic microphones and pick up more nuances in your voice, so these are usually ideal for studio recordings when you need a clean recording. Omnidirectional mics pick up audio from all around, so it will pick up a signal no matter the direction you sing into; figure-8 mics pick up signals from the front and back; and cardioid mics pick up sound at one specific point.
The pickup pattern is important to each situation: for example, if you’re recording in a controlled environment for its reverb and ambience, an omnidirectional mic works great, but if you’re performing on stage or in a booth, you may need a cardioid mic.
Picking the right microphone for you is a personal choice since the voice is such a unique instrument and what another singer may use may not be ideal for you.
In this guide, we look at the best vocal mics available for live performances for different budgets and situations.
The Shure SM57 is a popular dynamic microphone that is extremely versatile and is used for stage performances and studio recordings. (SM stands for studio microphone.)
This microphone has been used for decades and can be used to mic other instruments besides vocals, such as drums and guitar. It’s also incredibly sturdy and withstands being dropped or knocked about.
Like its predecessor, the Shure SM58 is a cardioid dynamic microphone that is extremely popular and works well in the studio and on stage. It was created in 1966 and it’s still used often today. It’s also offers great quality for the price.
The SM57 and the SM58 both share the same microphone element, the Unidyne III, but they are considered different microphones due to the grill design. The SM57 grill allows for a proximity effect since the diaphragm can be put closer to the sound source and the SM58 grill is designed to dent to protect the cartridge inside.
The SM58 is a tough microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern isolates the source sound and the internal shock mount can reduce handling noise -- aka ideal for live performances. The spherical filter also reduces plosive noises and wind and its proximity peak adds richness, clarity, and warmth to vocals.
The Shure SM7B is a cardioid dynamic microphone that is also a dual threat: it’s excellent in the studio (especially for rock vocals) and for live performances. It’s even used in podcasting and voiceovers, thanks to the built-in pop filter that helps achieve a rich, balanced tone. In addition to vocals, it can also be used to mic guitar and drums.
The Electrovoice RE20 is a heavy duty cardioid dynamic studio microphone that is popular in broadcasting, recording, and live performances. It has a condenser-style performance and it delivers a smooth and warm sound. It even comes with a built-in windscreen that reduces popping noises and rejects any unwanted noise.
The Sennheiser MD421 is a cardioid dynamic microphone that can be used for vocals, guitar cabs, and percussion. It’s one of Sennheiser’s most popular microphones due to its versatility, toughness, and durability.
It has a full-bodied cardioid pattern that offers feedback rejection and allows for close-miking situations while receiving a clean response.
The Sennheiser MD 441U isn’t a well-known microphone but it’s excellently rated. It’s a dynamic microphone (with a supercardioid polar pattern) that combines both dynamic and condenser mic technology, which makes it an accurate and versatile mic for vocals and instruments.
The Sennheiser e945 is a dynamic handheld microphone that is tailored for vocalists. It’s a tough and rugged microphone with a tight dynamic supercardioid pattern for a clear sound and reduction of noise and signal interference.
The Sennheiser e845 is a more budget-friendly version of the Sennheiser e945 and has been used since 2004. It’s a dynamic supercardioid handheld microphone that has a less refined response, although it is still ideal for loud venues.
The e845 and e945 are similar microphones, but the e845 is usually preferred by female vocalists due to it having a slightly less natural top end to help avoid a bright and shrill sound (e945s are usually preferred by male singers with deeper voices).
The Sennheiser e935 is a cardioid dynamic handheld microphone that has a balanced sound and clarity of a condenser mic, and works well for male and female voices. It’s a durable microphone with metal construction that has excellent feedback rejection.
The Sennheiser e835 is a budget handheld dynamic microphone with a wide cardioid pattern. It’s a decent quality mic that is ideal for beginners and produces clear vocals when used within its limits.
A uniform pickup pattern that gets a consistent performance no matter the position, while the cardioid pattern is ideal for feedback rejection and to help vocals cut through the mix.
The Shure BETA 58A is a supercardioid dynamic vocal microphone that is popular with singers. It’s especially great for vocalists showcasing their midrange and allowing close-up vocals, while bringing the necessary clarity to cut through the mix. It’s a durable and tough mic built out of metal with a head made of steel mesh grille.
The Audio-Technica AE6100 is a hypercardioid dynamic handheld microphone. The AE in AE6100 stands for “Artist Elite” and speaks to the quality of the microphone. It has a tough and durable build, and the head of the microphone has a steel grille with steel mesh lining, which is ideal for handling performances and touring, all while giving you a clear, clean, and warm sound.
The Shure Super 55 Deluxe is a stand-mounted microphone that has been used since the late 1930s and it was even used by legendary vocalist Billie Holiday. While the inner hardware has changed slightly since, it’s still mostly the same and is a great vintage classic mic.
The Super 55 Deluxe is a tough and versatile dynamic cardioid mic that is excellent for live performances, studio vocals, and even podcasting.
The Shure BETA 87A is a supercardioid condenser handheld mic that is versatile and durable: it can be used for multiple styles and be taken on the road for gig after gig.
The supercardioid pattern counters potential feedback from the condenser-style microphone, and has a wide dynamic range and captures every performance with clarity.
The Shure Beta 58A is a supercardioid dynamic microphone that produces a bright sound and clear vocals. It can showcase one's entire vocal range and has a built-in spherical wind and pop filter. The supercardioid polar pattern effectively rejects feedback.
The Telefunken M80 is a durable dynamic cardioid mic that has a condenser-like performance. It has a specially-designed low-mass capsule and ultra-thin membrane that provides a balanced response and captures every detail of your performance -- for vocals and instruments.
The Audix OM-7 is a handheld dynamic hypercardioid microphone created specifically for live performances to give you excellent live vocals while touring, no matter if you are singing lead or backing. Its hypercardioid pattern ensures that the primary sensitivity is at the front of the microphone (rather than the side) to isolate the vocals from other sound sources.
The Blue Microphones enCORE 200 is an active dynamic microphone that provides a bright sound that easily cuts through the mix. It uses phantom power for clean consistent vocals and keeps extraneous noise out thanks to the cardioid pickup pattern.
The AKG C414 XLII is a top-tier multi-pattern condenser microphone with great acclaim. It’s built to last and it’s known for its versatility with all types of instruments -- everything from vocals to guitar to drums. It’s been used from everything from broadcast to recording to live performances.
It comes with nine switchable pickup patterns (such as omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure-8), including combining two different patterns, all of which let you find the best pattern to suit your performance.
The Rode NTK is a large-diaphragm mid-range tube condenser that combines modern sound with vintage and classic styles. Its cardioid pattern isolates the sound source and rejects any feedback.
The Aston Spirit is a sturdy and well-built large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a great sound and a 1” gold-evaporated capsule. It’s versatile and excels with multiple instruments, including vocals and acoustic instruments, thanks to its multiple pickup patterns.