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The Best Condenser Microphones for Pro & Home Studios

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When it comes to the best condenser microphones, they are those same devices you find at the top of almost every list of best mics in the world. This is commonly observed regardless of their price and type. The major features that are used to classify mics include large diaphragms, added flavor of the vacuum tube, and the sensitivity through the whole frequency.

We are not discriminating the dynamic or ribbon mic when it comes to competing with a condenser. Nevertheless, everybody cast their vote on the basis of their budget.

Clearly, condenser mics are the commonest types as at present. They are very common when it comes to professional studios, home recording, or in vocals vs. instruments.

When considering your budget, it is very uncommon to go wrong with the best. It usually makes the post-processing an enjoyable event. With close miking and large diaphragm condenser, you can always select an appropriate choice. Plus, it helps to reduce additional issues such as poor acoustic environment and bleed. These issues are extremely disadvantageous for studios and even homes. Just tack on the reflection and feel the results produced thereafter. No doubt, they compete with other major products known.

Before proceeding to the list of the best condenser microphones, let us consider so the basics of the gadget. How does a condenser look? What is a condenser all about? How do you use and maintain one? What else would you need after purchase? After this, we will take a look at the list based on their price ranges. This would save you a lot of hassles going around with some recordings.

 Out of all the microphones out there in the market, everyone tends to love a condenser. We will get to understand the reason for this admiration after considering how it is constructed and how it works. Nevertheless, for you to totally understand it, you will need to get your copy as well. Definitely, you will be amazed by the quality applications you will get from it.

What is a Condenser Microphone?

The mode of work of microphones is synonymous to our ear drums. There are skins, called diaphragms, that vibrate as a result of pressure exerted by the incoming sound waves. While the way these surfaces receive sound is the same, the difference is caused by how they react to them. This difference is based on how the diaphragm mechanisms translate these vibrations into electrical impulses. These vibrations are translated to electrical signals which are sent to the speaker or computer. The mic cable serves as the route where the signals pass through.

“Condenser is a local term used to represent a capacitor which is an electric component.

A capacitor contains 2 conductive metal plates which are fixed to a battery which supplies a charge to ensure that an electrostatic field is maintained between the plates. As the distance between the plates reduces, some of the field charges are released. These charges are released due to the change in capacitance which translates to the current that forms your audio signal.

The diaphragm is located at the outermost part of the capacitor. This capacitor receives the incoming sound wave and is pushed backward in order to generate the current.

How a Condenser Microphone Works?

In the course of this construction, there are a few issues attached to it.

  • The tube and battery need a phantom power of 48 volts in order to function
  • The diaphragm’s sensitivity turns into distortion at a high SPL.
  • They can be used for various applications, for instance, for recording amplifiers. All you need is to monitor the volume
  • You may prefer a dynamic microphone for any louder source. You can shout into a condenser and still get a good result. On another hand, if you scream into an electric guitar amp, you may need a Sound Pressure Level monitor. This will help you regulate the pressure and ensure there is no damage to the diaphragm. This, of course, is a very good tool all studio engineers should have.

    When it comes to taking care of the mic, let us consider the protective measures for your guitar.

    Care and Maintenance

    Interestingly, this is one of the simplest things to do.

    Humidity: You may decide to store your mic in a cabinet, closet, or just leave it on the mic stand. Regardless of where you store it, the humidity of the place matters a lot. You will want to be sure that moisture is not accumulating on the diaphragm. Nevertheless, humidity is not a concern in homes that are temperature-controlled.

    Moisture: Additionally, it is necessary to have a moisture pop filter up when you are using your mic for recording vocals. This is because the grills will enable moisture to pass through. Also, the majority of us may spit accidentally during the course of singing or rapping. Surely, you wouldn’t want those globules of saliva to fall on the diaphragm.

    Sound Pressure: The pop filter also act tremendously in managing your distance, hence volume, from the mic. When the mic is very close to the sound source, the sound pressure level is increased astronomically. If you decide to bring your mouth close to a condenser mic as those handling dynamic microphones do, there is a huge possibility that you will harm your mic. All mics have their own specific minimum SPL rating. Ensure you check yours and adhere strictly to it.

    Phantom Power: You should use a phantom power when using a condenser to record. This is usually provided by the audio interface, stand-alone preamplifier or mixer. It is very important that you turn/switch your phantom power off before plugging or unplugging the mic cable. Although it rarely happens, you can get a high voltage which is capable of damaging the battery, diaphragm or tube.

    Dust: There are cases whereby your mic is left on the stand for a longer period of time without usage. Here, you may notice some kind of decorative bag accumulating over the mic. There is nothing to worry about if this dust settles on the shock mount, mic stand or cable. However, dust should not settle on the diaphragm. If it does, it can destroy and change the frequency response the diaphragm is capable of producing.

    Other Gadgets Needed.

    As mentioned earlier, you need a phantom power of 48 volts or your condenser mic. At the same time, you need a preamplifier. This will help you to increase the mic-level signal to the required signal level. At the same time, this would be done without increasing the noise floor. After this, you will need a converter that can convert analog to digital, such as the ADC. This will be used to convert the electrical signal to a binary signal that your computer and system will understand.

        But don't be discouraged!

    All of these things are packaged in just a piece of hardware referred to as an audio interface. These are available in different sizes and shapes. Also, all studios begin with this before they start to collect stand-alone pieces to support the interface.

    Click here to read our review on the best audio interface

    The recording interface is enriched with everything you need and even more. They are wired in the correct order and connect your computer specifically via USB or Firewire.  It is very advantageous. Plus, you cannot escape from buying one.

    Critically examine the feedback and reviews which are segmented based on various price range. You can come across a cheaper one just to start with or if you are not ready for an expensive purchase. Nevertheless, some would want to start with a powerful mic alike.

    OUR LIST OF THE BEST CONDENSER MICROPHONE BY BUDGET

    On this list, we are going to itemize the items from the least to the most expensive. Additionally, we will divide the, into sections based on the total budget. This will ensure proper organization of facts in order to achieve a great readability and understanding.

    Also, we attach a link to each product which links to Amazon where you have access to additional users’ reviews. You will as well find the technical details and how to make your purchase.

    It is practically impossible for us to cover all the mics out there. Nonetheless, we promise to take a professional voyage all around the available products. Hence, you can rest assured that everything you will be seeing here is there to provide you with the best possible audio quality. Let us also emphasize that it is a bad idea to go for used mics. You can never ascertain the level of abuse they have gone through. You never can tell the state of their recording diaphragms. There are cheaper and affordable best condenser microphones out there you can consider instead. Now, let’s get started.

    PRODUCT

    NAME

    AVG. PRICE

    PRICE

    MXL 990 Condenser Microphone

    Under $200

    buy1
    Audio-Technica AT2035

    Under $200

    buy1
    Rode NT1A

    Under $300

    buy1
    Blue Microphones Bluebird Cardioid

    Under $300

    buy1
    Rode NTK Tube

    Under $700

    buy1
    Neumann TLM 102

    Under $700

    buy1
    AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

    Under $1000

    buy1
    Shure KSM27

    Under $500

    buy1
    Sony C800GPAC

    Under $10,000

    buy1

    Condenser Mics under $200

    Are you thinking of the mics you saw for as low as $30 on RadioSharck? Come’on, those ones are toys. There are hundreds of mics out there that looks professional but costs less than $50. Don’t be easily deceived by these marketing ploys. 

    The first mic on our list costs less than $100 and it is the only recommended brand at that level. Others may end up disappointing you, becoming a wasted start toward a subsequent upgrade. This MXl 990 is a great option and can be used to mic drums and other sound sources alike.

    MXL 990 Condenser Microphone

    MXL 990 Condenser Microphone

    Price Rate

    Under $200

    If you are on a very tight budget and you need the cheapest option of the best condenser microphone, then this is it. This MXL 990 is a very nice option to consider as a stepping stone towards your adept recording quality.

    To ensure that your expectations are satisfied, the mic will sound just perfect. It will provide a sound that is better than any video game headset or Smartphone mics will produce by default. More so, it will sound better when you start introducing some mixing strategies such as compression and equalization. Furthermore, it will sound awesome once you can totally control your environment with a reflection filter or acoustic treatment.

    The amazing part of it is that it still comes with a pleasing shock mount, carrying case for storage, and a mic stand clip for holding the mic. It has a considerable frequency response rate of 30 Hz – 20 kHz which is fairly okay for the price. This frequency rate is enough for vocals and many other instruments. It also has an SPL of 120dB (max). This makes it an indispensable choice for a number of activities in the future since it is good enough to have around.

    Audio-Technica AT2035

    Audio-Technica AT2035

    Price Rate

    Under $200

    If you decide to go for this mic instead of that identified above, then it is a significant upgrade in quality. The Audio Technica AT235 is top notch among musicians that make use of home studios. This is because it is very affordable and comes with some advanced features with immense benefits.

    For instance, if you are recording a sound source that is a bit louder by nature, then there is a need to reduce the sound. Instead of physically re-positioning the mic which can, in turn, allows reverberations and other effects to find their way into your recording, you can use the 10dB pad switch to reduce the volume as much as possible so that you don’t clip and distort. Additionally, for vocals, you can use the 80 Hz high-pass filter. With this, you will be able to reduce the volume below 80 Hz to prevent low-frequency rumbles from accessing the mic. These rumbles might be from electronics or even gadgets on the other part of the house.

    Furthermore, another plus in this package is the XLR cable, pop filter, shock mount, and a dusting pouch to lay over the mic. A lot of people prefer this mic even more than the next item on our list that requires a higher budget range. Conclusively, this is a great start mic that you can use for years.

    Condenser Mics under $300

    This is the second level of our budget-range classification. Items on this list come with noticeable differences that are far beyond just new features. We have listed 2 items below. They are best in class and have been verified for effectiveness. They have been in high demand for a long time and improved series have been launched.

    Rode NT1A

    Rode NT1A

    Price Rate

    Under $300

    The “A” in this context refers to “anniversary”. This signifies that the product is an improved model that is redesigned from the scratch. This Rode NT1-A is one of the reasons I became a fan of Rode’s microphones. I have a number of musician friends who recovered at home using this mic which grew to an international standard. The only aspect that was not synth based was vocal. Still, they rivaled the entire major label released. It was really amazing when to hear that the album was recorded using the NT1-A

    Honestly speaking, there is no reason you cannot compete with anybody with this mic when it comes to quality. The feedback is all over the net. Many sources claimed that it is really blazing on vocals, violin, guitar, and every other thing with regards to higher frequencies. It has a very low self-noise. In addition to this, the inbuilt internal shock mount ensures that you experience a noise-free recording.

    It has a very nice frequency response. Also, it has some boosts in the appropriate locations which gives the mic a feel of crystalline look and clarity. There is no better description to give this than using words like “sparkle”, “luster” or “glitter”

    Another exciting feature is that you also get a pop filter, shock mount, and instructional DVD containing mixing and recording guides. This will help you to the best out of this mic.

    Blue Microphones Bluebird Cardioid

    Blue Microphones Bluebird Cardioid

    Price Rate

    Under $300

    To be sincere, many people are in love with this Mic. The Blue Microphones Bluebird is a perfect alternative for the NT1-A above based on my research. I have used this personally but will be giving you a rundown based on what other users have said about the product.

    There is no way you can talk of the best condenser microphones without this product coming up. In addition to the quality, it has that enhanced 1950’s design which makes it outstanding. The major and fulcrum winning feature about the mic is the optimal flat frequency response. This makes it essentially useful when you want to record every sequence and details in real-life clarity.

    Just like every other mic on the list, Bluebird mics come with a pop filter, custom shock mount, and a case. To add a sense of uniqueness, Blue went an extra mile to design wooden cases and custom pop filters that glue correctly with the capsule. Products like this are rare in the industry due to the quality sound it produces.

    Notwithstanding, there is some information gathered on Vocals. This device may need a de-esser as it can get a little bit crispy.  The solution to this is by distancing it from your mouth by 10 degrees so that you are off the axis a bit. This would ensure that the awesome high-end this mic is widely known for is enhanced. Such features like vocals, woodwinds, and stringed instruments.

    Vocal Condenser Mics under $700

    This is the most interesting spot just before the price start to increase and we start considering more expensive products. Products above this level usually offer smaller gains in terms of quality but at higher prices. Even if you are looking for a high-quality mic, your search should end here. Useful when you are working with perfect preamps, converters, compressors in a recording room that are acoustically treated.  

    If you’d notice, we’ve been busy talking of vocal since the beginning of this article. This is because “vocals” is what most people are watching for. At this range, the set of mics you will find can record sound source perfectly. As usual, monitor your SPL levels while you enjoy your quality results.

    Rode NTK Tube

    Rode NTK Tube

    Price Rate

    Under $700

    The story is an interesting one. I purchased this pair and used it through my MOTU interface and I was immediately amazed by the quality of sound I was getting via my inferior preamps. I was almost carried away by the effects of the music until I realize I need to run it via a more sophisticated environment. I decided to run this video through the Avalon VT-737sp and FMR RNP. This was when I realized the unlimited quality of this pair. I then decided to upgrade my converters and keep getting the best of my mic.

    What I so much admire is the crystalline high-end. The point of attraction is not just the vocal region but also above the sparkle section of the cymbals and hi-hats. I have used this mic to record various sound sources such as flutes, oboes, acoustic guitar, saxophone, grand piano, cello, banjo, and every other source you may think of. This awesome sound has something to do with the combination of the diaphragm and tube Rode is using.

    It will be funny to you if I say the mic has actually paid for itself. I have received a lot of offers from bands seeking to use my studio just because of my mic to record their albums. As you know, the word of mouth spread faster, especially when I have upped my friends’ NT1-A

    Plus, this pair comes with a custom high-voltage power supply due to the fact that phantom power is not just enough. The carrying case serves as a room for the mic, shock mount, power supply cable, mic stand clip, mic cable, and instructional booklets. All these are packed with the mic on purchase.

    Neumann TLM 102

    Neumann TLM 102

    Price Rate

    Under $700

    Neumann is popularly recognized for their top notch mics. There are older models of the Neumann condenser mic, like the U47 series, although they are not readily available. Even if they do, they will definitely be rated below this TLM 102 series.

    It is sold at a competitive price while still offering the tremendous audio quality if the other senior series. It is minimally priced so that everyone can get the same quality sound but at a lesser price. There are lots of items at this five-figure range market and one could easily get a full list of them.

    What distinguishes this piece from others is the very flat and simple frequency response throughout the board. Furthermore, it has a slight but useful bump encompassing the “vocal presence” area of 5-6 kHz. This is a great feature for every vocalist. It helps you to cut into the mix without boosting that region.

    This TLM 102 and the NTK above are both amazing. However, if you still find any problem getting professional with any of these, then you must be thinking of upgrading your pre amps and acoustic line. Both of these mics are of a high quality and quite comparable to the rest items below.

    Condenser Mics with No Price Consideration

    In some cases, money doesn’t matter. Sometimes, we are given or have a budget to buy the best condenser microphone for recording vocals in preparation for a famous artist who is coming for a recording. In this section, we will be considering some costly mics.

    The first two items on the list are found just intermediate between the medium-cost and high-cost mics. They are still a very good option even for home studios. The last on the list is has a very high cost and often preferred by famous artists when quality is their major concern.

    AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

    AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

    Price Rate

    Under $1000

    AKG C414 XLII is a versatile mic. It is very useful for anyone who wants to record lots of different instruments at different locations. There are hundreds of people who testified to its vocals too. I would compare the recording level with the last 2 pairs above. However, the extra cost you are paying for this is used to cover the boatload option you get with this.

    The mic has 5 pickup patterns as shown in the picture. Here, we are not just talking about the modifications on the cardioids pattern. It can assume different directions and even figure eight (8) as well. This goes well for an organized round-table discussion or any discussion involving more than one person. Another amazing aspect of this pair is the Duet performance.

    Another feature is the several stages of attenuation. This can be used to maintain your gain staging. Furthermore, these pads will prevent distortion when you are recording loud sound sources. Additionally, it has 3 different how-cut and bass roll-off switches. This is useful on occasions where there shouldn't be any sub-bass during vocals. This helps to give you a very clean signal so you wouldn’t need to go for any equalization later.

    Shure KSM27

    Shure KSM27

    Price Rate

    Under $500

    The long awaited Shure mic is finally here. This piece is a very popular option for vocals and drum overheads. In fact, it is topnotch for anything that needs the sensation of a large diaphragm condenser. The bass produces is also balanced. Surely, a lot of male vocalists who have deep voices love this piece than the rest for this very reason.

    For people who are not bass-flicked, there are 3 levels of hi-pass filter to eliminate low-frequency rumbles from accessing the mic. Furthermore, the KSM27 provides a low self-noise and transparency. All these contribute immensely to a perfect recording with the mic.

    The mesh has a 3-layer windscreen at the back of the grill. With this, you can easily do without a pop filter. Nevertheless, it is still advisable to keep on up always

    Sony C800GPAC

    Sony C800GPAC

    Price Rate

    Under $10,000

    This mic was used by Dr. Dre on 50 cent when it matters. This is because the Sony C-800G is indeed an amazing mic. Nevertheless, I can buy 10 world-class mics at the same price of this single C-800G. Thinking of the difference in quality? Well, you will never know the difference after mixing.

    However, this is not an attempt to belittle this mic. The cost of this mic is completely justified due to the extensive research and development the Sony team has taken to produce such a flat frequency response.

    Generally, the above descriptions are aimed towards comparing different brands in order for you to know the options available for you. There are thousands of reasons why you would consider going for this pair. In some cases, you may find yourself in situations where chances of life arise. Here, do not hesitate to strike when the iron is hot.
    For every original copy, there is a fake on. Hence, don’t be surprised when you see some other pairs with the same name inscribed on them but couldn’t produce the sound a described above. Also, you should beware of fake and comedic reviews due to the high price of this piece. More so, do realize that you need to pay to play in high leagues.

    Conclusion

    Choosing the best condenser mic should not be an issue with the above guide. Notwithstanding, there are things we cannot do for you. It is your duty to use our available tips to mix your recordings down. Furthermore, maintenance of your mic depends on you and only you. How you care for your mic will determine how long it will serve you.

     However, the only part I can guarantee is that you will be amazed by any choice you make from our selections above. Depending on your budget, the selection is very easy. Furthermore, you will rest assured of purchasing and working with the best condenser microphones in your studio.

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