Choosing the Best Microphones for Singers
For singers, choosing the right microphone for your home studio is an important decision that can make or break recordings. This is a list of some the best microphones on the market, and what they are good for.
First, it will help to know the two main categories of microphones. Microphones are classified as either dynamic or condenser based on how their diaphragm reacts to sound waves.
Condenser microphones pick up less ambient noise, have a larger dynamic range, and are less sensitive to close-up recording.
Dynamic microphones have larger diaphragms, resulting in smoother and wider frequency responses than condenser mics. They pick up quieter sounds and are built in such a way that makes them harder to break and generally more durable than condenser microphones.
Now, with that out of the way, here are a few of the best low to mid-priced microphones recommended for singers.
One of the most popular microphones for vocalists due to its affordability and dependability, the Shure SM58 is a dynamic microphone priced around $100. Alongside the SM57, which is more commonly used for instruments, the Shure SM line is used in a surprising amount of studios, given their relatively low price. While these aren't the most premium microphones a singer can get their hands on, they have a reputation for being reliable, durable, and consistent.
The SM58 comes with a built-in filter to help control frequency spikes when singers hit problematic syllables. Some consonants -- for example, "P" or "T" -- can give producers a headache in the mixing phase, as they tend to produce frequency bumps and distortion if not controlled properly by the singer. A built-in filter helps tame these plosives for smoother vocal takes.
The SM57 is nearly identical to the SM58. However, the SM57 has a design more suited for micing instruments. For those who plan to use one microphone for multiple purposes across tracks, the SM57 is a solid choice.
Speaking of Shure, the SM7B is another good choice for singers. The SM7B is aesthetically sleeker than the previously listed Shure mics, and it has a well-rounded boost in the lower frequency range, making it useful for podcasts, higher-pitched vocals, or more aggressive styles. The SM7B can be found around the $300-$400 range and is a step up in quality from the 57 and 58. This microphone will deliver a more natural-sounding vocal take and handles those troublesome plosives and p-pops much better than the lower-priced Shures.
Unlike the previously listed microphones, the Rode NT1A is a condenser microphone. This microphone is touted as one of the quietest studio microphones, which means less room noise to deal with when mixing. For the quality, the Rode NT1A is priced pretty well, coming in around $229. An SM6 shockmount, pop filter, and dust cover are included as well. The shockmount will keep the microphone in place while protecting against sounds that sneak into recordings when the mic stand is moved or struck, which can be caused by things such as walking or stomping along to a beat.
A 1" gold-sputtered diaphragm lends this true condenser mic a wide frequency response and exceptional dynamic range. As mentioned above, the Rode NT1A is best known for its excellent signal-to-noise ratio, which is one of the most sought-after qualities in a vocal mic.
This list will help point singers new to home recording in the right direction. For those looking for a specific quality to their sound, going deeper into individual microphone reviews and specifications, and learning more about how microphones work, will go a long way.