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There are plenty of good reasons to fill your mic locker with mics that cost less than $500.
One, your budget might be limited. In an ideal world, you’d spend more on something like a Neumann mic, but it’s just not realistic right now.
Two, these days, mics in this price range are still reasonably good. And, when I say “reasonably”, honestly some of these mics are close to pro or premium quality.
Three, you might be looking for something different, maybe a specialty mic or a mic that would work better for a specific style or genre of music.
Considering many engineers still use a Shure SM57 (what is essentially a $100 mic) for capturing guitar, you might be looking for something with more flexibility or durability than your higher-priced counterparts.
Finally, you might just be interested in seeing what’s out there in the price range.
So, with these factors in mind, let’s look at the best studio mics under $500.
#1 Best Studio Microphone Under $500: Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
In this price range, the Shure SM7B is a no-brainer. But without a proper explanation as to why, you might not be convinced.
The SM7B isn’t just a broadcast microphone. Some of my friends have come to me asking, “isn’t it just a broadcast mic?” Well, yes and no.
Yes, it is great for radio broadcasting, podcasting and voice recording in general. It gives you plenty of bass, warmth, clarity and that added smoothness people are often looking for in broadcasting.
But you would be missing out if you thought that’s all this mic was good for. This mic is also great for vocals.
Now, this isn’t to say this is the only mic you’d want to use on your vocals (although you could). But paired with a killer condenser mic that promotes clarity, you’re going to get an unmatched vocal sound. This is exactly how I got the results I did on one of my EPs.
Okay, so let’s look at some of the features.
The mic offers a flat, wide-range frequency response for clean and natural sounds. It comes with a bass rolloff and presence boost controls with graphic display.
The latest model features improved rejection of electromagnetic hum, which can help reduce and eliminate broadband interference emitted by computer monitors. Definitely an important point for the modern producer.
The built-in pop filter helps to eliminate the need for additional protection. But just in case, it also comes with the A7WS detachable windscreen to reduce plosive sounds.
You get yoke mounting with captive stand nut, classic cardioid pattern with uniform frequency and symmetrical about axis and rugged construction.
Users loved the tone they got from this mic, also noting its overall durability as a major plus.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will likely need a preamp to boost the output level of the mic, which is honestly typical of broadcast quality mics. But if that’s a turnoff, stay away.
Otherwise, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want a Shure for your mic locker.
Aston Microphones Spirit Large Diaphragm Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
Every studio needs a large diaphragm condenser, and this isn’t the only quality one – or for that matter, the only versatile one – on this list.
But if you know that a large diaphragm condenser is what you’re after, it’s nice to have a few options to choose from.
The Aston Microphones Spirit mic is a multi-pattern mic designed and built in the UK. It has a built-in pop filter using the latest stainless-steel mesh knit technology, End Caps Direct to stand microphone mounting, and a capsule developed by professional artists, engineers and producers.
This is a high-performance, switchable pattern mic with a one-inch gold evaporated capsule. The on-body switch allows you to choose from Omni, Cardioid and Figure-of-Eight patterns.
Built with acoustic guitars and vocals in mind, this would honestly make for a great mic for most instruments.
It also features a high-end transformer circuitry using the best components. It has a 20Hz – 20kHz (+/-3dB) frequency response, equivalent noise level of 14dB A-Weighted, sensitivity at 1kHz into 1kohm: 23.7mv/Pa, maximum SPL for THD 0.5% 138dB, 80dB A-Weighted signal to noise ratio (rel. 94dB) SPL, -20dB/-10dB/0dB pad switches and 80Hz low-cut filter.
48-volt phantom power (+/- 4 volts) is required for operation.
Overall, the mic gives you an open, natural, accurate sound with shimmery harmonics.
Users loved the sound of the Aston Microphones and even praised it for its affordability. Buyers comparing it to Neumann mics didn’t like it, but most of their mics don’t exactly seem to be in the same ballpark.
Complains are few and far between though, suggesting that this is a great mic at the price point.
Rode NT5-MP Compact Cardioid Condenser Microphones, Matched Pair
Pencil condensers can be a great addition to any studio’s mic locker, and even if you don’t settle on the Rode NT5-MP matched pair, it’s a good place to begin your search.
Compact condensers like these are often great for recording acoustic instruments, drum overheads, cymbals, voiceovers and even live performances, making them versatile and accommodating.
These externally biased condensers come with 1/2” gold sputtered capsules, heavy-duty satin-nickel plated body, dual power operation, surface mount circuitry, low noise and full frequency response.
They also feature an active J-FET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer.
Many reviewers had a great experience with the Rode pair and some were even amazed at the results.
There are some critical reviews for the characteristics of the mic, suggesting that it might not be a best fit for every studio.
Based on the positive reviews, and at this price point, however, we feel it would be a mistake not to at least check these out for yourself.
Avantone CV-12 Multi-Pattern Large Capsule Tube Condenser Microphone
Solid state mics aren’t better than tube mics and tube mics aren’t better than solid state mics.
If anything, tube technology has been around much longer than solid state technology has, and in the early days of microphones, it was the only option.
But today, it can be hard to duplicate classic, vintage tones from the 50s and 60s without a tube mic, which can be expensive.
To that extent, the Avantone CV-12 is accessible as an entry-level tube mic, and is even good quality to boot.
This simple and beautifully designed mic comes with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHZ, Max SPL of 136dB and XLR connectivity.
Some reviewers say you’d be hard pressed to find a better tube mic at this price point. Negative reviews seem to have nothing to do with the mic itself, suggesting that the Avantone is a must-see.
sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 Ribbon Microphone
There usually comes a time in an engineer’s career when they learn about ribbon mics and end up wanting to experiment with one.
Despite their sensitivity, they can produce awesome results and some engineers even prefer ribbons on guitar amps to other mics.
In addition to guitar amps, ribbons can also be great as drum overheads and room mics.
The sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 might be worth a look when you’re considering an entry level ribbon mic.
This passive mic comes with a hand-tensioned 2.5µm aluminum ribbon, figure-8 directional pattern, a 20 Hz – 18 kHz frequency range, 300 Ohms impedance, 1.78 mV/Pa (-55 dB) sensitivity, 135 dB max SPL (0.5% THD @ 1 kHz) and75 dB signal to noise ratio.
Full frequency response is achieved with a company CEO Siwei Zou-designed mechanical device. This gives you a detailed, open and natural sound.
It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to pump their own tires, but in this case, most users agree this is a great mic to add to your kit.
Some, however, were not happy with the price. But finding ribbon mics for cheaper is difficult, especially higher quality ribbons.
So, we feel you should give the sE Electronics mic a look, even if you don’t think it’s for you.
Beyerdynamic M88 TG Dynamic Microphone With Hypercardioid Polar Pattern
The Beyerdynamic M88 TG is a classic originally designed in the 1960s.
Engineers and producers tend to stumble upon on it for different reasons. Some find it because they’re looking for a good kick mic. Others find it searching for a guitar, vocal, bass or percussion mic.
But really – can it do all those things well?
We’ll let you be the judge of that, but either way, it certainly deserves a spot on this list and maybe even a place in your mic locker.
With a classic and simple appearance, the M88 TG is a dynamic mic with a highly defined hypercardioid polar pattern and a sensitive and accurate response.
It also comes with an extended frequency range, soft presence boost, high gain before feedback design, integrated 20 dB hum-buck coil, high SPL handling capability and rugged construction.
The mic comes bundled with a microphone clamp and storage bag.
Users have been consistently impressed by this dynamic. Will you be impressed? That probably depends on whether you’ve got pricier mics at your studio already, but in this price range, this is basically a must-have.
What users love most about the mic is its sound, which is saying something. Negative reviews are few and far between. Some just didn’t like the price (weird how that keeps happening).
Maybe you don’t need a whole host of dynamic mics for your studio, but if you’re looking for something that will capture bass frequencies and deliver killer results, the Beyerdynamic just might be your mic.
Rode NT2A Anniversary Vocal Multi-Pattern Dual Condenser Microphone Package
If you don’t already have a couple of Rode mics in your studio, you might need to be brought up to speed on their product range. Their mic features and quality generally exceed the asking price, and this mic is no exception.
The Rode NT2A vocal mic comes with a large 1” HF1 gold sputtered capsule, on body control of polar patterns (HPF and PAD), three position variable polar pattern (omni, cardioid or figure 8), three position high-pass filter (flat, 40Hz or 80Hz), three position PAD (0dB, -5dB or -10dB), ultra-low noise and internal capsule shock mounting.
The bundle also comes with Rode SM6 shock mount, pop filter and dust cover.
Right away, that should tell you that this is a versatile mic, which it is.
This mic will work well in today’s modern production environments, but it retains some of the smoothness of mics from the 50s and 60s.
While it is marketed as a vocal mic, and it will certainly handle that task with flying colors, it’s versatile enough for a variety of applications.
Those looking for their first pro mic will find this to be a steal of a deal.
Buyers loved the sound, construction and quality of the Rode.
Audio-Technica AT4033/CL Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Audio-Technica is another brand that’s known for their bang-for-buck mics. When you buy one of their mics, you’re often getting something that would be worth more than its asking price.
The AT4033/CL cardioid condenser microphone is a versatile classic and a bluegrass favorite.
Its transformerless circuitry virtually eliminates low-frequency distortion and offers superior correlation of high-speed transients.
The mic has been precision-machined with nickel-plated brass and acoustic element baffle for stability and sensitivity.
The two-micron-thick, vapor-deposited gold diaphragm goes through a five-step aging process to ensure consistency for years of usage.
Floating-construction capsule assembly gives you isolation from noise and vibration, and the open acoustical environment of the symmetrical housing assembly minimizes unwanted internal reflections.
Some reviewers declared this mic their “one stop shop” and others loved its overall tone, suited to vocals, acoustic guitars and other instruments.
Evidently, some hip hoppers thought the Audio-Technica might be a good choice for them, but that’s unlikely (note: they didn’t like the results). This classic mic is better suited to warm, classic tones.
Blue Microphones Baby Bottle SL Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Most people’s reference point for Blue Microphones is probably their podcast-oriented mics, such as the Yeti and Snowball.
But they also offer a relatively wide range of pro XLR mics, which are often classic and unique in design, while offering quality sound.
The Baby Bottle cardioid condenser microphone, as its design would suggest, gives you a classic, warm sound, along with some versatility.
It comes with a pressure gradient transducer, cardioid polar pattern, 20Hz – 20kHz frequency response, 39.8 mV/Pa at 1 kHz (1 pa = 94 dB SPL) sensitivity, 50 ohm output impedance, maximum SPL of 134dB SPL (1kHZ, THD .5%), noise level of 10.8dB and a dynamic range of 123.2 dB. +48V DC phantom power is required for operation.
This mic is ideal for male and female vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, strings, piano and even drums.
Many owners of the Baby Bottle SL love the smooth sound it produces for vocals. Some even felt it’s the best mic they’ve ever owned.
The SL is clearly an improvement over the original, as it has invited relatively few negative reviews (the original, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as highly regarded). If your mic is defective out of the box, however, we always suggest sending it back for a replacement.
If a large diaphragm condenser is what you seek, this Blue Microphones unit is worth considering for your studio arsenal.
What Should I Look For When Comparing Studio Microphones?
We’re going to make a few assumptions here, just to keep things simple.
First, if you’re looking for a mic at this price range, we assume you have experience with mics. You might even have a good handle on dynamic/condenser and the different sounds you can get with each. You might even have a good idea of what sounds you like, though this isn’t obligatory.
Second, we assume you’re either looking to upgrade from entry level mics, you want to add some mid- to pro-level mics to your equipment list, or you’re looking for mics that will serve specific purposes in your studio.
So, let’s look at the different factors that you might consider important at this level.
So, you’re trying to find mics don’t cost an arm and a leg. But you’ve spent enough time with entry-level mics that you’re ready for more.
The under $500 range is certainly a great place to look. Anyone who spends that much on a mic is certainly committed to their craft. But considering how much higher you can go in terms of price you’re not going to be paying a king’s ransom for quality.
That’s the great thing about mics hovering in this class. They tend to offer a lot for a little. You can achieve awesome results and even find mics that are great for a variety of applications.
If you weren’t on a budget, you would surely be looking at higher priced mics. Since you aren’t looking to spend that much, it’s ideal when you can squeeze a lot out of a single mic.
Some mics on this list, such as the Shure SM7B or Audio-Technica AT4033/CL (technically, this mic does many things well, but it’s more of a bluegrass mic than anything) might be a little more “one trick pony” in this regard.
But many of the large diaphragm condensers are great for a variety of purposes and would be complemented by a mic that’s better at handling bass frequencies (such as the Beyerdynamic M88 TG).
With so many ways to record your tracks these days, there truly isn’t a one size fits all solution. I even know producers who were forced to work with one or two mics and still got exactly what they were looking for.
Either way, I think I’ve done a good job of highlighting several mics that are versatile in nature and will do many things well.
This goes counter to what I just said about versatility, but it’s entirely possible you’re looking at mics in this class because you’re interested in finding something that’s great for one or two purposes only.
The previously mentioned Shure SM7B is a great example. It’s built for speech (though it’s always recommended you use broadcast mics with good preamps as well), and it’s even great for vocals, depending on how you use it. But you probably wouldn’t use it on instruments.
While this list isn’t rife with specialty mics, there are a couple worth checking out.
If none of the options suggested here interest you, then you may need to look in a different price range for what you need.
Depending on what you’re recording in your studio, you may be looking at getting more mics, so you can capture the nuances of different performances.
If you’re looking for more mics, there’s a good chance you’re trying to figure out how to best mic up a drumkit.
It’s a little-known secret that, with the right mic, you may not need more than one or two mics to capture a great drum sound.
But it’s more common for engineers to use six to eight mics, if not 16 or even 24!
It’s good to research what array of mics would work best for a situation like this.
But here is a good starting point:
- Snare mic. The Shure SM57 is the go-to and a good option, even for those with more of a budget.
- Tom mics. Though not all engineers do this, you can put individual mics on all toms.
- Bass mic. Capturing the bass frequencies of the kick should be a priority and can help create more separation in your mix.
- Hi-hat mic. A small diaphragm condenser can work great for capturing the bitey tone of a hi-hat.
- Overheads. Overhead mics are valuable for capturing more of the rack toms and cymbals. Cymbals, however, are better when they are quieter compared to other components of the drumkit, which explains why overhead mics are best for getting those cymbals in the mix.
- Room mic. One or two room mics can be used to capture the entire kit, giving you more options to work with overall.
Price And Budget
We assume you’ve got a bit of a budget to work with, even if it’s only enough for one mic.
Still, whenever shopping for something new, it’s easy to get drawn in and commit to a bigger purchase than you ever intended to.
At Music Industry How To, we don’t recommend going into debt for any purchase. So, please stay within your budget and if you need additional gear, save up for it.
Mics in this price range aren’t overly expensive, but they can add up fast.
Top Studio Microphones Under $500, Final Thoughts
We hope you found exactly what you’re looking for.
When you think about it, it’s amazing that you can find pro level mics in this price range. It’s one of the reasons recording from home has become such a great opportunity these days.
We assume you’ve had some experience with microphones and recording already. But this is just a reminder to experiment often. You just never know what mic might work for a specific application.
In the meantime, happy shopping!