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So you want to record rapper's vocals…. But what mic do you use? There are so many to choose from.
You can use dynamic mics, condenser mics, tube mics, expensive mics, cheap mics, USB mics…
And, depending on the rapper, your mileage will vary. Sometimes, a cheaper mic will do the job. Sometimes, you just need more richness and definition.
Not to worry, we’ve compared and reviewed some of the best mics to record rap vocals in every category here. Let’s get into it.
High End Mics For Rap Vocals
You want the best money can offer and you’re not willing to compromise.
Or, maybe you just want the most you can squeeze out of a few hundred dollars.
Either way, in this section, we’ll be looking some of the best microphones for recording rap vocals.
And, we’ll be looking at a variety of mics, from dynamic and condenser to tube and otherwise.
If you don’t see what you need here – don’t worry, we’ll look at a few USB and budget options later.
With that, let’s look at high end mics for rap vocals.
AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII Stereoset Vocal Condenser Microphone, Multipattern
The impressive AKG Pro Audio C414 has nine selectable polar patterns, three attenuation levels (-6, -12 and -18db) for closeup recording and higher output sources (up to 158db SPL), three switchable bass-cut filters to reduce noise and overload warning with audio peak hold LED to detect even slight audio peaks.
This is a well-recognized microphone in the industry, and it packs a stellar sound, so if it’s within your budget, it’s easily one of the best options available.
This mic is on par with the Neumann TLM 102 and it comes with a foam-cushioned aluminum carry case, a shock mount with quick-release mechanism, a pop filter and windsock.
And, by the way, it’s a good idea to take advantage of pop filters and windsocks, especially as a rapper. This will cut down on unwanted noise, specifically while recording aggressive vocals.
As far as tone is concerned, this mic offers plenty of high-end clarity without compromising body and depth.
And, if you hadn’t picked this up already, this is an incredibly versatile mic thanks to its many polar patterns and attenuation levels.
The only thing to look out for is that these mics can be a little fragile, as is sometimes the case with higher end mics. So, if you buy this kit, be sure to take good care of it.
This AKG is worth its asking price, though for some it might be out of reach. Don’t worry – there are other microphones on this list that’ll likely suit your budget better.
Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone, Nickel
Neumann’s reputation precedes them. They are known a one of the best microphone brands in the world and are used extensively in professional studios.
The TLM 102 condenser mic is still more affordable than most models they offer, but rest assured it packs a punch.
Also available in black, this compact large-diaphragm microphone comes with cardioid directional characteristic (pressure gradient transducer), a 144db maximum sound pressure level and a slight presence boost at six kHz.
Made specifically for capturing vocals, this mic has impeccable presence, definition and transparency.
Although adding effects and adjusting vocals in postproduction is common practice, this mic's direct tone isn’t half bad. That means less need to fiddle with the vocals during the mixing stage.
Although the mic does come with an integrated pop filter, you’ll probably still want to use it alongside a pop filter for best results.
Since it is a sensitive mic, you want to minimize plosives and potential damage.
As well, no shock mount is provided, which is perhaps the ideal way to place this mic on a stand.
It’s hard to argue with the quality of a Neumann though. Worth a look.
Rode NTK Premium Tube Cardioid Condenser Microphone
I’m a big fan of Rode microphones and personally own an NT1A, Procaster and smartLav+. The NT1A and Procaster, by the way, could both be great mics for rap vocals.
Here we find the Rode NTK, which is Rode’s high-end tube condenser. Although it looks a bit like an NT1A, its sound is distinct.
This is a premium valve condenser microphone designed to offer detail and warmth with your recordings. The sensitive transducer includes a hand-selected twin-triode 6922 valve and audiophile components.
In addition to vocals, it’s great for acoustic instruments, drum overheads, guitar amps and pianos.
For a tube mic, its noise is minimal, and its signal-to-noise ratio is 82dB. You might expect it to sound warm, which it does, but it also offers plenty of presence and detail.
You will find that you won’t have to spend hours applying EQ to your vocal signal and it responds incredibly well to compression.
Even in busy tracks with plenty of layered sounds and instruments, recording with this mic should leave your vocals ample room to breathe and cut through.
With a 158 dB SPL limit, the NTK can put up with quite a bit of loudness – always good to know when you’re spitting angry rhymes.
Overall, the NTK’s simple design offers less flash and more value. So, you won’t be paying extra for what you get – super cool.
There are no major cons to the Rode, and if it’s in the sweet spot of your spending limit, I would recommend checking it out.
MXL GENESIS Flagship Tube Condenser Microphone With High-Isolation Shockmount, Pop Filter, Mogami XLR Cable, And Power Supply
The MXL GENESIS can’t help but catch your eye. It comes with a six-micron gold sputtered diaphragm, red finish with 24 carat gold plated grill and 20Hz to 20kHz response.
But what’s in a design? You shouldn’t buy mics based on looks alone.
This large microphone (59 millimeters in diameter and roughly 240 millimeters in length) offers a natural sound, giving you both warmth and clarity. A nice mix for a tube mic.
The wide frequency range captures plenty of detail and nuance. But it’s probably more suited to male vocalists than female vocalists.
With the GENESIS, your vocals should cut through nicely in just about any mix, thanks to its frequency response.
So, its chief strengths are that it’s attractive, offers a warm and crisp sound and has a good frequency range.
Some have complained of a low rumbling noise from the circuit board, though this can’t be fully confirmed or denied.
If a tube mic is what you want, and you don’t want to pay as much as you would for the Rode, give the MXL a look.
Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
The AT4040 is more on the affordable end of higher priced mics.
This cardioid condenser microphone offers smooth, natural sonic characteristics. The externally polarized (DC bias) true condenser design makes it low noise, wide dynamic and high-SPL for added versatility.
The transformerless circuitry eliminates low-frequency distortion and offers superior correlation of high-speed transients.
The precision-machined, nickel-plated brass, acoustic element baffle gives enhanced element stability and optimal sensitivity.
And, the surface-mount electronics complies with Audio-Technica’s stringent consistency and reliability standards.
It comes with a shock mount and a foam-padded hard carry case, which is a nice bonus. It also has a 10dB pad and high pass filter for added versatility.
Audio-Technica offers a wide range of products that pack good punch for the money. And, this mic is no exception.
Because of its frequency response, the mic will give you some high-end sparkle without sacrificing richness. But that’s something to be mindful of when you’re adding EQ.
The maximum SPL limit is 145dB and with the attenuation pad you can get up to 155dB.
It may not sound as good as a Neumann – but dare I say it – it comes incredibly close for only half the cost.
Just remember to use a pop shield with this mic, as the plosives can be a little emphasized.
This is superb work on Audio-Technica’s part.
USB Mics For Rap Vocals
USB mics are incredibly convenient in that they are generally plug and play. All you need to do is plug them into your computer, wait for software or patches to be installed, and away you go.
You generally don’t an audio interface to plug them into, although it’s a good idea to have one anyway, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of recording.
I think there might be the assumption that if you go with a USB mic, you’ll inevitably be sacrificing some audio quality, but they come infinitely close to the real deal. You just need to pick the right mic.
So, let’s look at the best USB mics for rap vocals.
Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone
You probably won’t find this mic on too many “best of” lists and I’ll tell you why.
People see the word “Podcaster” and immediately assume it’s not for vocals. And, why does it cost as much as it does, anyway?
The Rode Podcaster is on par with the Procaster, which is basically its XLR (microphone cable) equivalent. This one connects via USB. USB connectivity makes recording incredibly easy.
It offers broadcast sound quality and comes with a 28mm dynamic capsule, a tight cardioid pattern for off axis sound rejection, a 10-foot USB cable and stand mount and is Windows and Mac compatible.
It has a relatively flat frequency response with some added low end for warmth – a given with a broadcast mic – and a bit of a presence boost close to 10kHz.
This mic is ideal for speech and even for recording vocals and instruments. So, you can set aside any notion that it’s only for podcasters.
If it’s great for speech, it’s going to be great for rap too. And, honestly, I’ve recorded my vocals on a few tracks with my Procaster and thought it sounded great.
Plus, the fact that it’s dynamic makes it great for home studio use or noisy environments. It’s mostly just going to pick up your voice and will cut down on unwanted external noise.
There are just two things to look out for. If you’re recording a rapper with a full, bassy voice, you’ll probably want to adjust the lows. And, you may need to add some highs for presence and clarity.
But if know what you’re doing, you should have a lot of fun with the Rode.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB PLUS Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone
Here we have another entry via Audio-Technica, which shouldn’t come as any surprise.
The AT2020USB is a cardioid condenser mic with USB output for digital recording.
It comes with a high-quality A/D converter with 16 bit, 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate, which is quality.
It comes with a headphone jack and volume control, high-output internal headphone amplifier and a tripod desk stand with folding legs for tabletop use.
As with the Podcaster, this mic is designed for speech, and you know what that means. But honestly, it’s great for a variety of applications.
In terms of frequency response, you should be aware that there is a dip around 70Hz and another dip between 5kHz and 15kHz.
This doesn’t mean the tracks you record with it won’t sound great all on their own, but you should be mindful of the frequencies the mic doesn’t cover so you can EQ appropriately.
Its chief strengths are that it’s a sensitive mic, there’s no lag with the headphone output, it offers a good, balanced sound and it is good value for the money.
The main downside is that it doesn’t have a low frequency bass cut and it also doesn’t come with a built-in pad.
Still good for what it is, the Audio-Technica will serve you well.
Budget Options For Rap Vocals
Great sound doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.
Although we’re going to look at some budget options here, honestly what follows is still the best of the best in terms of more affordable microphones.
You may even find that some of these mics work just as well as some of the more expensive options.
That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily “better”, but different mics work for different tracks and different rappers.
Sometimes, simpler mics work better for certain styles of rapping.
You can only figure this out through trial and error and experimentation but it’s always nice to have multiple options on hand.
Here are some of the best picks for budget mics.
MXL Mics 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
The small diaphragm MXL 770 is a multipurpose condenser microphone, and besides vocals, it can also work great for pianos, stringed instruments and percussion.
It offers a balanced bass response with high end clarity, low frequency roll-off to reduce unwanted rumble and a low noise FET preamp with a balanced, transformerless output.
This mic offers great bang for buck, and if you’re just getting started in your home studio, you’ll find this a worthy addition to your kit.
This mic comes with a 10dB attenuator and bass cut button and it comes with a hard carry case with enveloping foam as well as a shock mount.
While durable, it’s always best to handle your mics with care.
The maximum SPL is 137dB, which is still plenty. It will give your vocals a nice, natural sound and it can be great for both male and female vocals.
Although it is a condenser mic, you will find that this mic doesn’t pick up a lot of background noise, making it ideal even in home recording environments.
At the same time, that is its chief weakness too. It will let in some background noise because of its sensitivity. Best to record in quieter surroundings.
Still, in practically every regard, the MXL is an excellent budget microphone.
AKG Project Studio P220 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone With Pop Filter And XLR Cable
Appearing on many “best of” lists, the AKG P220 is well-suited to beginners and project or home studio owners.
Even at its price, however, this is an excellent microphone. It offers a clear and well-rounded tone, such that you can go easy on the EQ.
The attenuator pad and low-cut filter allow for more tonal flexibility, and the mic is quite durable besides. Simultaneously, it’s also heavy.
The mic ships with shock mount, pop filter and XLR cable as advertised, which makes this a nice value bundle.
Overall, the P220 features a neutral response with the bass roll-off starting at 100Hz and the presence peaks set to roughly 10kHz. It has a 78dB signal-to-noise ratio.
It has a maximum SPL of 135dB, which again is plenty.
Since it is a condenser mic, it is quite sensitive. Experiment with mic placement for best results.
If you’re going to be doing any close-miking with the P220, be sure to engage the low-cut filter.
Another solid budget option, the AKG is worth a look.
Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Microphone
Let’s face the facts. The Shure SM57 isn’t the fanciest mic in the world. It doesn’t have the best sound. It’s not elaborate in its appearance. So, what makes it so special?
Virtually every studio owns an SM57. It’s a durable, multipurpose mic with a specific frequency response.
When everything else fails and nothing else works, this dynamic mic will shine. Sometimes you try everything, all your most prized and high-priced vocal mics and they just won’t sound right.
On a whim, you pull out the 57 and… what’s this? It’s perfect.
I’m sure there are plenty of studio engineers and home recordists that have found themselves in a similar scenario.
Some well-known acts that record their vocals with an SM57 includes The Killers, PJ Harvey, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and more.
And, you will often find this mic in front of guitar amps, too.
Now let’s talk about the microphone more specifically.
Again, it’s a dynamic mic and is highly durable. By now, it’s vintage in its design and because it’s a dynamic cardioid, it tends to cut down on a lot of external noise. Great for home recording.
I’ve mentioned its frequency response, but it has a good presence peak, which allows your rhymes to cut through with definition.
It’s always nice to have a backup, and the Shure will perform that role admirably. Even purchasers of higher end microphones should consider keeping one of these on hand.
What Should I Look For In A Mic For Rap Vocals?
So, you’re looking to spit some dope rhymes in the studio and you’re looking for the perfect mic.
Every mic has its pros and cons, though an excellent mic should have few cons except for maybe its fragility.
Although you probably can’t go wrong with any mic on this list provided you understand its features and use, strengths and weaknesses, there are still some important factors to consider.
So, here are a few things to think about when buying a mic.
A Quality Sound
Every mic will give you a signal. The question is, how does it sound recorded?
In large part, that’s going to depend on the beat you’re using as well as the vocalist/rapper.
We’ve looked at a couple of mics that should sound great even in busy mixes. But if your backing track is sparse, you may not need anything that sophisticated.
And, of course, you can still add EQ to a vocal track, so it cuts how you want it to.
The point is that sound is always subjective. It depends on the factors already mentioned, as well as who’s listening to it and which effects, you add to the track.
Different mics sound different. And, that’s not something you’re going to know without some experimentation and experience.
The good news is you can check out online demos and reviews to get a better sense of how each mic sounds to you.
To some extent, versatility might factor into your buying decision.
A mic like the AKG C414 has multiple polar patterns and attenuation settings that allow you to adjust to the vocalist as needed.
If you know you’re going to be recording a lot of rappers, that’ll be a handy feature to have.
The other way to ensure versatility is to have multiple microphones on hand. If you don’t have a big budget, then it’s understandable that you might not want to go this route.
But most studios have at least a small selection of mics to handle different situations.
If you’re only recording vocals, then you don’t necessarily need 10 mics. But having three or four mics can give you that much needed flexibility.
So, this might be something to think about as you cruise for the right mic.
This probably isn’t the most important factor when hunting for a mic.
High-priced mics and tube mics can be quite sensitive to the point where you need to handle them with care no matter what.
With that in mind, there are some beginner friendly mics on this list too, like the SM57, which are quite durable. That means they will probably survive a few bumps and knocks and even drops if necessary.
The main thing to understand is how to care for each mic. So, if you know you’re going to buy the Rode NTK, for example, how do they recommend you care for it? Do your homework.
If you know you’re going to spend a lot on a high-quality mic, then expect that it probably won’t be the most durable kit in the world. That’s also good to know.
Should I Get A Dynamic Or Condenser Mic?
The most popular microphone types are dynamic and condenser. When presented with the options, you might be wondering which is right for you.
As you’ve already seen, higher end microphones are almost always condenser, although premium dynamic mics exist too.
The general rule of thumb is that a condenser mic offers more definition but picks up more room and environmental noise, while dynamic mics are more directional and cut down on unwanted noise.
This isn’t the universally true, and some condenser mics are better at noise management, while some dynamic mics are messier and noisier.
From that we can conclude that condenser mics are better in quieter environments, while dynamic microphones are still okay in louder surroundings.
But that doesn’t mean a home recordist should only have a dynamic mic. Condenser mics could come in quite handy.
And, it doesn’t mean that professional studios only have condenser mics and not dynamic mics. It’s quite the opposite, and pros always have dynamics on hand too.
It’s just an extra thing to be mindful of. If you’re going to use a condenser mic at home, you might want to invest in a sound shield, record in a closet full of clothes or both.
If you own a professional studio, you probably have the sound handled already and won’t have to worry too much about noise.
Another worthwhile trick, regardless of where you’re recording, is to record a vocal track with a high-quality condenser and dynamic mic simultaneously, as this can allow for a fuller sound – great for lead vocals.
So, the general answer is you should have both. But if you can only afford one, just make sure you know how it works.
Should I Use A Pop Filter?
Almost universally, the answer is yes.
Certainly, we’ve seen some rappers through the years, like Mase, that had a laid-back, mumbling vibe to his rhymes.
You probably wouldn’t struggle with setting levels with Mase, and you probably wouldn’t fuss with attenuation a whole lot, either. You’d probably still use a pop filter with someone like him though.
And, for every Mase, you probably have at least 10 Eminems.
That means you’re going to be recording aggressive rap vocals that probably border on shouting and yelling. And, you’re probably going to be layering multiple takes of the same.
Even though some mics have built-in pop resistance, it’s recommended that you use a pop shield in front of it, even if it’s just to keep the rapper at the right distance from the mic.
But that’s not the point of a pop filter.
The main purpose the pop filter serves is that it reduces plosives. Harsh consonants inevitably produce unwanted noise a the vocal track, which you want to reduce for clarity and evenness.
So, for most if not all recording sessions, I would advise taking advantage of a pop shield.
The main takeaway here is to know your gear.
If you understand your kit well, you’ll know exactly how to pull the best sounds out of it.
You’d think some of the best producers and engineers in the world all use top of the line gear, but that’s not always the case.
Some are still grinding it out with their 20- or 30-year old gear because they know how to get a great sound out of it.
So, process is just as important as gear, if not more.
Have fun and spend plenty of time experimenting.