9 Best Vocal Microphones of 2022

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Homemade vocal booth – OK, so not quite a vocal booth, but the next best thing on a budget. If you have any acoustic panels, you can surround the singer to create a booth of sorts. Otherwise, use any household materials that will absorb sound well. For example, hang up a duvet around the singer.

James Nugent

James Nugent FOR MUSIC CRITIC

Vocal Microphone Buyers’ Guide

What is a Microphone?

Microphones can be thought of as reverse loudspeakers. They are any device that has the ability to translate sound vibrations into electricity in the form of electrical signals. Microphones are the medium necessary for recording any kind of sound, whether it’s vocals or music. If it weren’t for the invention of the microphone during the 19th century, the world around us would be a quieter place. Microphones were a great invention, an invention so impressive that it led to the invention of various other devices, such as the television, radio, and so on.

How Does a Microphone Work?

Microphones convert sound energy into electrical energy.
If you place a microphone close to your mouth, words come out of your mouth which enters into the microphone in the form of sound waves. At the sound energy hits the diaphragm, it makes the diaphragm move back and forth. A wire coil which is attached to the diaphragm will also move when exposed to sound waves. The coil moves through the magnetic field created by a permanent magnet inside the mic, which causes an electrical current to flow through the coil. This current or electric energy is then transmitted to a recording device or an amplifier and voila! You’ve successfully converted sound energy into electrical energy. Thanks to the microphone, you can now record or send your voice all around the globe.

What Are the Different Types of Microphones?

Microphones are mainly available in two different types, dynamic microphones, and condenser microphones. Both of these types of microphones have different uses and applications.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic relates to the working mechanism present in the microphone. Dynamic microphones convert sound energy into electrical energy through electromagnetism. They are further divided into two sub-categories, moving coil microphones and ribbon mics.

Moving coil microphones don’t require any external power source to work. They are quite sturdy, which is one reason artists who play live often choose this type of mic when performing on stage. The moving coil microphone is by far the most common type of microphone out there.

The working interphase of ribbon mics is the same as moving coil microphones, i.e. they work via electromagnetic induction. The only difference is that they use an aluminum foil instead of a coil and a membrane. For our full review on ribbon mics – please click here.

There is only one conductor present inside the magnetic gap of these microphones, therefore the output produced by ribbon microphones is quite low. Ribbon mics are bidirectional. This means they only pick up sound waves that come from the front and back. Sound waves coming from the sides don’t get picked up by these microphones. These mics are also quite fragile and should be handled with proper care. Finally, the treble response is limited in many ribbon mics.

Condenser Microphone

Condenser microphones are famous for having an extremely flat frequency response and also for their sensitivity. The biggest application of these mics is audio recording. The diaphragms of these microphones start to vibrate as soon as they are struck by sound waves, resulting in a distance change between the back and the front plate which is transmitted in the form of electrical energy.

How to Choose the Best Microphone?

Different microphones are best suited for a variety of different applications. To choose the best possible microphone, you’ll need to determine what you’ll be using it for. Are you recording in the studio, playing live, or so on? Do you need a mic that’s better for vocals or for recording instruments? You get the idea. Once you’ve figured out how you’ll be using your mic, then settle on a budget and decide what suits your needs within that budget. Choosing the right mic is completely based on your requirements as an artist or engineer.

What Else do I Need to Record Vocals?

If you are looking to record vocals at home in a home studio this is the other gear you’ll need.

With this equipment, you’ll be able to make good quality home recordings. You’ll need a lot more equipment if you’re trying to a professional studio recording. If you want to invest further into the quality of your vocals – read our guide on the top preamps for vocal performances.

Patterns

A pattern indicates us how a microphone will react to sounds coming from different angles about its central axis. There are around seven types of patterns but we’ll only outline the main patterns used in vocal microphones.

Omnidirectional Pattern

This pattern’s response is a perfect sphere in three dimensions. The body of the microphone gets in the way of the sound arriving from the rear, causing a slight flattening in polar response. The flattening increases when the diameter reaches the wavelength of the frequency. Microphones with the smallest diameter give the best omnidirectional patterns at higher frequencies.

Unidirectional Pattern

Unlike the omnidirectional pattern, unidirectional patterns are only sensitive to sounds coming from one direction. Unidirectional pattern includes four types:

Cardioid Patterns

The name cardioid comes from the pattern’s heart shape. These patterns are used in microphones for recording vocals or speech because they reject sounds from other directions. They reduce pickup from the sides and rear which helps to knock down the feedback coming from the monitors. The patterns are achieved by sensing pressure, so putting them near the sound source outputs a bass boost due to an increased gradient. Cardioid patterns cancel the sound waves coming from the back by outputting a negative signal which cancels the positive signal from the omnidirectional element.

Hyper-cardioid Patterns

These patterns are the same as a cardioid but have a larger figure 8, which helps to achieve a tighter area of front sensitivity and a smaller lobe of rear sensitivity.

Super-cardioid Patterns

Super-cardioid patterns are like hyper-cardioids but they have a more front pickup and less rear pickup. Specifications state that hyper-cardioids produce nulls at 109.5 by a combining ratio of 3:1 whereas super-cardioids produce nulls as 126.9 by a combining ratio of 5:3.

Sub-cardioid Patterns

These patterns have no null points. They have a combining ratio of about 7:3 with 3-10 dB level between the front and the back pickup.

Omni-directional and unidirectional patterns are used in vocal microphones. So what do you think which pattern suits you the best? Now that you know about mic types and patterns, you have everything you need to figure out what will work best for you. But to make things a little bit easier, we’ll give you a rundown of our top of the top picks for vocal mics.

Top Pick

Shure SM7B Dynamic

The SM7B vocal dynamic microphone by Shure is a next level mic. It’s a dynamic microphone which has a flat and wide-range frequency response. It has a natural yet clean output of both speech and music. It is equipped with bass roll off and mid-range controls for handling the smallest details. It also boasts improved electromagnetic hum rejection for blocking broadband interference by equipment such as computer monitors.

The SM7B has a detachable windscreen which is designed to reduce plosive sounds and give a warmer tone for close-talk vocals. For more precise microphone positioning, it has a yoke mounting with a captive stand nut for easy mounting and dismounting. The microphone is built with a cardioid polar pattern which provides uniform frequency and delivers maximum rejection and minimum coloration of unwanted sounds. The frequency caps can be replaced for providing both mild and high boosts. For outstanding reliability, it has excellent cartridge protection and rugged construction.

Without a doubt, SM7B by Shure is a fantastic microphone with wide-range of frequency response, bass roll, and midrange controls. When it is properly set up it delivers you with crisp, clean, and professional audio with the lowest noise.

Premium Choice

Neumann SET Shockmount

Our premium choice is the TLM 103 SET by Neumann. This company is a leading manufacturer of fine microphones for both studio and stage. This microphone consists of a large-diaphragm, resulting in one of the best high-quality mics for all professional and semi-professional applications. It features a transformerless circuit for achieving low-noise (as low as 7 dB-A) and the highest sound pressure level. It provides a clean, direct sound with powerful bass transmission all the way down to lowest frequencies. It has a cardioid pattern for providing with well-balanced sound and extraordinary attenuation of signals.

This microphone is setting new standards; it’s equipped with a very broad presence boost, ranging from 6 to 15 kilohertz which helps vocals cut through the mix. The package includes a microphone, shock mount for attaining the best positions, and a briefcase for safely storing it. The TLM 103 SET by Neumann is exactly what you need in a professional microphone at a high price group.

Great Value

Shure SM58 LC

Low in cash and don’t want to compromise on quality? Well, we got you covered! The SM58-LC by Shure is a great mic available at an affordable price.

On the outside, this microphone has a dark gray enamel painted body with a die-cast metal case for that pro look. The legendary Shure quality promises durability and reliability. This mic has a break-resistant stand adapter which can rotate up to 180 degrees. This legendary microphone is designed for professional vocal use in studio recordings, live performances, and sound reinforcements. It features a built-in spherical filter to minimize wind and breath noises. The frequency response is tailored for vocals with bright midrange and bass roll off. The pneumatic shock-mount system also cuts off handling noises. The SM58-LC’s have unidirectional (cardioid) pickup patterns which isolate the main sound source and decreases the unwanted surround sounds making it ideal for live situations.

You can’t do better than this Shure mic if you’re on a budget.

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