You may be a producer or engineer. Or, you might be a singer or rapper.
Whatever the case, you’re interested in recording your voice from home studio.
These days, recording software and hardware can be gotten for cheap, which is quite convenient.
As you may have guessed already, to record at a professional level, you’re going to need a microphone. And, the good news is that there are plenty of quality, affordable microphones out there.
Here are seven of the best and most affordable microphones for recording singers and rappers in your home studio.
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone – Cheap But Good Quality
Microphones come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Some mics are better suited for certain voices, and usually it’s not something you can figure out without experimentation.
Keep in mind that this is a condenser mic, meaning it will pick up more detail in the sound of a voice.
It will also be more sensitive to background noise, so as much as possible, you’ll want to record with it in a quiet environment.
The Audio-Technica has a noise level of 20 dB SPL, making it perfect for use in a home or project studio. And, the cardioid polar pattern can help with noise pickup from the sides or rear.
It sounds good, looks good and it’s cheap. What more could you ask for?
MXL Mics 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Here’s another multipurpose condenser microphone that was designed for vocals, percussion, stringed instruments and pianos.
So, if you end up needing to record more than just vocals (which is likely), you’ll like having a mic like the MXL Mics 770 around.
This mic features high end clarity and balanced bass response, as well as low frequency roll-off to eliminate rumble.
Overall, it’s a mic with a lot of warmth, and I’ve found that starting with a darker recorded sound gives you a lot of flexibility during the mixing process. It’s good for podcasts and voiceover work too.
Not surprisingly, if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can easily get more. But again, the way the MXL Mics is priced, you’re unlikely to regret your purchase.
The Budget Friendly Shure SM-57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Unlike a condenser microphone, a dynamic microphone tends to cut down on a lot of background noise.
The Shure SM-57 isn’t a standout mic in that regard. But virtually every studio has and needs one.
This mic is a durable workhorse. It can be used in a variety of ways, including recording vocals, which it may have been intended for, but it isn’t always used that way.
Some voices can sound great through the SM57 because of its raw, unsophisticated sound and wider frequency response. If you’re a rapper, you might love that gritty sound.
Some guitarists also swear by the SM57. Maybe I’m not a typical guitarist, because I don’t like the sound of a 57 on my amp, but that’s just me.
Anyway, as I already mentioned, every studio should have a Shure. You might not use it for everything, but you will find a use for it.
Samson C01 Vocal Condenser Microphone
Every studio should have a large diaphragm studio condenser mic.
It just so happens that the Samson C01 is simple, versatile, affordable, durable and great-sounding, especially for voice.
The C01 features a cardioid pickup pattern, a large dual-layer 19mm diaphragm, heavy gauge mesh grill, gold-plated XLR connector, LED light for 48V phantom power and a flat frequency response.
Now, do keep in mind that you will need phantom power to run this mic. Most mixers come with it, but just in case, you should be aware.
The Samson is worth a look. Full stop.
Behringer C-1 Professional Larger-Diaphragm Studio Condenser Cheap Microphone
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again – Behringer = bang for buck.
This isn’t to say that the Behringer would be the right choice for you in every circumstance. Far from it.
But if you’re on a tight budget and you still need to deliver on a level of quality, I can’t think of a better option.
The Behringer C-1 is a large diaphragm condenser that was built specifically for studio application and can work great as a main or support mic.
The cardioid pickup pattern offers feedback rejection and sound source separation. It comes with ultra-low noise, transformerless FET input, which reduces low frequency distortion.
You should be aware, however, that despite being a condenser mic, the C-1 is highly directional and requires phantom power to work.
For the price, you probably won’t regret picking up the Behringer. No, it’s not perfect, and some users have even found that it produces a bit of noise all on its own.
But for a quick and dirty solution, it will do just fine.
MXL V67G Large Capsule Condenser Microphone
The MXL V67G features a large 32mm pressure gradient condenser capsule, gold-sputtered, six micron density diaphragm and solid state preamp balanced transformer output.
This mic has a nice, vintage tube sound and it’s been designed specifically for vocals. Of course, it has a unique look that you might dig too.
As with several other mics on this list, this one requires 48V phantom power.
The MXL has great reviews, and it’s certainly worth the low asking price. If you’re going for an old school vibe, you might give this mic a try.
AKG P220 Vocal Condenser Microphone Black
The AKG P220 might be in a slightly different weight class than other mics mentioned on this list, though it still fulfils on our main criteria of being affordable.
This mic has an audio frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, a max SPL of 155 db, and 20 mV/Pa sensitivity.
This is a warm and versatile mic, and it’s tough enough for the stage while also being accurate enough for studio environments.
I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better mic at the price. Naturally, as I already hinted at, the AKG costs a little more than other mics mentioned here.
It’s worth considering if you have a little more of a budget to work with.
What Should I Look For In A Microphone? I Want It Cheap But Still Good Quality
Let’s face it – most studios, even home or project studios – tend to have multiple options in their mic lockers.
It’s nice to have a few mics to choose from, no matter what you’re recording – voice, instrument or otherwise.
Virtually no one who’s passionate about recording relies entirely on one mic. It’s rare.
But it’s also true that you must start somewhere. If you’re choosing your first mic right now, then just know that it probably won’t be your last.
The quality of a microphone does make a difference, and so does its frequency response. Different mics are good for different purposes.
With that stated, let’s consider what makes a microphone a worthy addition to your studio.
A Quality Sound
When it comes to microphones, it’s not just about sound quality but also about the quality of the sound.
In other words, every microphone has its own tonal color and characteristics.
Some mics are dark and warm. Others are bright and cutting.
Some offer more definition while others are less precise.
Some are sensitive, clear and full-bodied. Others are directional, distorted and muddy.
It’s like a guitar amp. They aren’t all the same. No wonder different players prefer different amps.
As much as you can accomplish in postproduction, microphones will play an important part in how your tracks end up sounding.
So, it’s undeniable that how a microphone sounds will be a factor when coming to a buying decision.
A Mic Designed For Home & Project Use
I will be talking more about dynamic and condenser mics later.
While it’s good to have both, condenser mics are often quite sensitive and are not great for recording in noisier environments unless you don’t mind the bleed.
When I say bleed, I’m referring to any unwanted noise that makes its way into your recording because of a mic’s overall sensitivity.
Dynamic mics tend to be more directional, meaning they won’t pick up sounds coming from the rear or sides. But they don’t offer a detailed sound.
Meanwhile, condensers are often omnidirectional, picking up noise coming from any direction. The tradeoff is they are great for dynamic instruments and in situations where you need more definition.
But whether it’s dynamic or condenser, you can find mics suited to home studios.
Most mics mentioned in this guide are affordably priced and are therefore good for project use. Manufacturers know that if you’re purchasing affordable mics, you’re probably working in a home studio.
But it’s still good to be aware of the differences between various mics and whether they will work in your slightly noisier environment (it’s just the way apartments, condos or homes are compared to studios).
Perhaps not the most important factor, as it’s always best to exercise care when using microphones, but durability might be something you’ll consider when buying a mic.
You don’t necessarily want a mic that breaks if you sneeze in its general direction. If you’re only looking to spend a little, then you’re looking for a workhorse that you can use for a while to come.
Not to suggest that you wouldn’t be looking for a sturdy mic if you spend more money.
But when it comes to something like a ribbon mic, which usually costs a little more, it’s incredibly sensitive and breakable. You must be careful when using one.
So, it’s good to get into the habit of caring for your mics.
Still, it’s nice to have a mic or two that stand up to some abuse, especially as you’re just getting the hang of things in the studio.
What’s The Difference Between Dynamic & Condenser Microphones?
Studio microphones can basically be broken down into three categories – dynamic, condenser and ribbon, all of which have been mentioned in this guide.
And, while each of these mic types have unique characteristics, not all dynamics are created equal, just like not all condensers or ribbons are the same.
Even within the same category of mics, you’ll notice varying frequency responses, polar patterns and diaphragm sizes.
So, what I’m saying is that when talking about the differences between dynamic and condenser mics, we can only speak in generalities that won’t apply 100% of the time.
And, just so you know, no ribbon mics were featured in this guide because they aren’t beginner friendly. But if you want one, you can still find ribbon mics that are relatively inexpensive.
So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about dynamic mics.
Dynamic microphones tend to be durable and versatile. You’ll often find them on guitar amps and snare drums because they can handle louder sound sources.
Typically, dynamic mics are directional and do not pick up sounds coming from behind or the sides. So, that means they aren’t great for capturing subtler, shorter, detailed sounds.
On the flip side of the coin, that means dynamics are great for recording louder voices and instruments. Note that in a live performance situation, singers typically use dynamic mics.
What about condenser mics?
Condenser mics are usually less durable than their dynamic counterparts and require more care in handling.
But they are also more sensitive to sound, which makes them ideal for capturing more detailed audio.
Condenser mics generally require 48V phantom power to function. And, polar patterns can vary quite a bit depending on the mic.
Less directional than dynamic mics, condensers often have omnidirectional cardioid patterns, and are more sensitive to popping, breathing and harsh consonants.
A pop filter or mic foam can be used to soften this effect.
Condenser mics are more sensitive to distortion, making them less usable for live performance.
But in the studio, they’re great for just about anything, assuming there is no competing background noise.
Note that even mid-level condenser mics will pick up the sound of fans (i.e. computer fans), footsteps upstairs, furnaces, sniffing, chewing, coughing, sneezing and the like, so beware. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to have options. Any studio worth its salt will have at least one dynamic and one condenser mic, if not more.
For recording voice, you may not require more than one or two mics, but if you’re planning to record instruments, you’re probably going to want to have more options.
When I recorded my vocals for my forthcoming EP, we used both a dynamic and condenser simultaneously.
The resulting effect was that my voice sounded both warm and clear. The one mic complemented the other, producing a more full and complete sound together.
Now we’re getting into production techniques, which is beyond the scope of this guide, but it’s good to be aware of the possibilities.
Do I Need A Pop Shield When Buying A Budget Mic?
Since you’re planning to record vocals, I would highly recommend the use of a pop shield, especially if you’re buying a cheap microphone.
Not all singers are trained on microphones, and even those that are might still be heavy breathers and use harsh consonants.
When it comes to editing and mixing, note that it’s always easier to work with a vocal track that’s been captured properly versus one that’s full of unwanted artifacts.
It’s easy to clean up a vocal that already sounds good. But if there’s a lot of popping, breathing and other noises going on, you’re almost better off doing another take.
This also speaks to the importance of adjusting your settings based on the singer using the mic.
Before you start recording, get those you’re looking to record to sing or rap the loudest they intend to and adjust your gain just before peak but not after.
The only time peaking is desirable or at the very least acceptable is on the drums. Assuming you’re capturing drums with dynamic mics, a little bit of peaking shouldn’t result in too much distortion.
As you are surely aware, drums are loud, and the moment of impact (when the stick hits a drum) can be quite harsh. That’s why a little bit of peaking is okay.
Another benefit of the pop shield is psychological. As the producer/engineer, you can set it at any distance you desire from the mic.
This prevents singers or rappers from getting too close to the mic and gives you more control over the vocal sound.
By the way, you’ll likely adjust the pop shield to be closer or further from the mic based on its overall characteristics and how a specific singer sounds through the mic.
So, the simple answer is yes, you should get a pop shield.
Note that it’s not that difficult to make your own microphone pop filter and it’s less expensive to go the DIY route, so you may want to explore that option too.
Should I Get Different Mics For Singing & Rapping?
This is a great question, at least from the perspective that rapping, and singing, are a little different, which they are.
A vocalist may prefer a warm, clear sound that gives their voice a defined, full-bodied quality.
Meanwhile, a rapper may go for more of a raw, edgy and possibly even distorted sound.
But the answer to this question may surprise you, which is that it doesn’t matter which mic you use, at least not to the extent that you might think it would.
The above mics can be used for either purpose, apart from the MXL V67G, which will deliver a bit of a vintage tone. It’s a great mic, but whether you like it depend on your tastes.
These days, engineers and/or producers tend to use a lot of effects on a single vocal track, including reverb, EQ, compression, doubling, autotuning and sometimes more.
Meanwhile, rap vocal tracks are usually a lot drier (meaning fewer effects). The main thing producers are worried about is clipping, as rap vocals can be quite loud and aggressive.
With the right mix and performance, vocalists don’t necessarily need to layer their vocals for them to sound great and cut through in the mix.
Meanwhile, it’s quite common for rappers to add plenty of layers to thicken up their voice.
So, the main difference is in editing and mixing, not in the type of microphone you use. You can experiment with a bunch of different microphones and figure out which one you like best.
If in doubt, try renting a few mics at the local music store. It shouldn’t cost you too much.
Do I Need More Than One Microphone?
As I shared earlier, it’s quite rare for producers/engineers to rely on a single mic, let alone a single room to record all their tracks.
Professional studios are set up the way they are – with many rooms made of different materials – for a reason.
Maybe, for your first couple of projects, you could get away with using one microphone. After a while, you’ll probably find that it’s not great for recording everything and will end up wanting more.
If you’re new to recording, you’re going to need time to get acquainted with your gear and setup, so it’s perfectly fine if you can’t tell the difference between mics and have no desire to use different mics for different purposes.
The key point being that if you want to increase the quality of your music or your client’s music, you’ll want to put more money into your gear.
If you’re just getting started, you don’t necessarily need more than one mic.
But in time, you will discover the differences between dynamic and condenser mics. You’ll figure out how certain mics sound with certain voices or instruments.
Further, even something as subtle as mic position can affect how something comes across in a mix, and that’s something you’ll also begin to see as you gain experience.
So, don’t expect to be able to do everything you want to do with just one mic. You’re probably going to want more sooner rather than later.
Best Budget Microphone For Recording In A Home Studio, Final Thoughts
These days, you need not spend an arm and a leg to get a great mic.
You don’t even need the greatest gear in the world to capture the best performances possible.
What matters most is that you know your gear. If you understand its strengths, weaknesses and limitations, you’re sure to create better mixes overall.
Learn as much as you can about your gear. Study modern production techniques. You’ll learn a lot about how to get the best sounds possible out of your mics.
Above all, experiment and have fun.