For many singers, performing live is one of the best experiences they could have. With that, a crucial piece of equipment that all vocalists use are microphones. Picking the best microphone for live vocals is quite important to really get the most out of your performance.
We know choosing the best microphone can be a daunting task due to the sheer amount of microphones on the market. However, we’ve saved you time by compiling an ultimate guide to simplify your decision making process.
The Best Microphones at a glance:
- Neumann KMS 105
- Sennheiser e935
- Shure 55SH
- Sennheiser e945
- Sennheiser e835
- Heil PR 35
- Shure SM58
- Shure PGA48-XLR
- Beyerdynamic TG-V50
- AKG D5
- Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB
- Rode M2
- Shure BETA 87A
- Blue Microphones enCORE 100
- Behringer Ultravoice XM8500
Key Factors in Choosing the Right Microphone For Live Vocals
Without getting too technical, we’ll break down some of the things you should consider before choosing your microphone.
The polar pattern of the microphone tells you which direction the microphone absorbs the sound. For most live vocals, you would generally want the sound coming from the front, focusing on the vocals, while rejecting sounds coming from the back or the sides.
For live stage performances, cardioid polar pattern microphones would do the trick.
These types of microphones will help reduce any feedback issues coming from your stage monitors or house speakers. It also helps reject any other sounds onstage, making it easier for tuning or post production.
Here’s a picture of a cardioid polar pattern:
Every vocalist’s voice is different. It’s important to choose a microphone that compliments your voice. That’s where sound signature comes in. Each microphone has its own characteristics emphasized by its frequency which lends to their unique sound signature.
For example, if you have a higher voice register, find a microphone that emphasizes mid or low frequencies. It can help balance your tone for a more neutral sound. If it seems too complicated, you can choose the microphone that is most commonly associated with your style of music.
Some microphones, like dynamic microphones, don’t require any external power. On the flip side, condenser microphones do so by using phantom power. You’ll need to figure out if your mixing desk provides phantom power (although most do). If it doesn’t, you’ll need a mic pre amp to supply power to your microphone.
Who knew something so simple would have an effect on your decision. But it definitely can be! Not all microphones have onboard power buttons. Having a power button can help with muting sounds when not being used. You won’t have to mute through the mixer/sound desk every time. It’s useful in weddings or karaoke where the microphone doesn’t need to be on the entire time.
With many cardioid microphones, as you get closer to the mic, the lower frequencies tend to increase in volume. This makes the tone ‘heftier’ and ‘warm’.
Proximity effect is what helps singers like Frank Sinatra or Louis Armstrong sound the way they do. However, the proximity effect can be a friend or a foe depending on individual singers.
If used incorrectly, the sound can be ‘muddy’ and ‘uncompromising’. It is mostly favoured by male singers or rappers. Because this is a feature some vocalists look for, you can find the proximity effect on the specs sheet of the manufacturer’s label.
To simplify the term, impedance is the resistance of electrical devices to the flow of the electric current. Microphones need to be plugged into equipment that has the same or lower impedance. Doing so will avoid any issues with any audio signal. Typically, low impedance microphones are under 600 ohms. High impedance microphones are 10,000 ohms and above.
Choosing the microphone for how you’re going to use it is also very important. Are you looking for the best vocal microphone for live performances? Or how about a mic that can be put into your laptop through USB? Maybe you’re looking to record your next track with the best microphone for recording vocals in your portable vocal booth ? Finding out how you’re going to use the mic will help with choosing the right one for you.
As with any music gear, microphones can be expensive.
But you usually get what you pay for.
There are some great ‘bang for the buck’ picks that could surprise you. Whether you are a beginner vocalist looking to buy your first microphone or a pro looking to take your performance to the next level, in this guide there’s definitely something for everybody.
1. Neumann KMS 105
The Neumann KMS 105 is one of the best stage microphones that you can buy in the market. It’s very smooth, natural and pleasing to the ears with incredible details. The microphone has a solid metal body with a premium design which feels great in the hand.
With the 3 layer setup in the pop filter, the KMS 105 is great at suppressing sounds originating off-axis. It is perfect for vocalists who also play instruments while singing. It also provides a smooth and vivid condenser sound and wide frequency range.
The strength of the microphone is in it’s clarity. It is able to provide greater control for vocalists who want to add more detail in their performance. It will reveal more about a singer than any other mic. The KMS 105 is very good at controlling plosives and microphone handling sounds.
Overall, it’s one of the best performing microphones out in the market. Though, it’s important to have a good sound system to get the most out of it.
- Extremely detailed and clear
- Excellent at rejecting plosives and handing sounds
- High SPL rating
- Low feedback issues
- Will need high quality PA system for best results and value
2. Sennheiser E935
The Sennheiser E935 is a cardioid dynamic microphone. It has a highly attractive design with the satin, all metal black body and metallic blue windscreen. The microphone has a nice heft to it at 12.5 oz (0.79 lbs). It provides the vocalist with a very large and comfortable feel in the grip. It’s extremely sturdy and has a industry-leading 10 year warranty.
The microphone has an excellent dynamic range and cuts out feedback precisely. It also provides great off-axis rejection, which blocks out other instruments onstage.
The clarity of the microphone is top notch and projects fine detail for the vocalist. The E935 has great frequency response and has a nice clean signal that is easy to mix and balance in the sound booth.
It also does very well with plosive rejection and handling sounds.
- Excellent range and dynamics
- Great off-axis rejection
- Sturdy build quality
- 10 year warranty
- Hard to find any negatives with this microphone. If you do find any, please let us know in the comments down below
3. Shure 55SH
The Shure 55SH is definitely one of the more unique looking microphones on our list. This supercardioid polar pattern microphone has a beautiful old school charm. It’s built with a stylish chrome finish and a modern foam coloured in-screen.
The weight is quite substantial and very sturdy. The Shure 55SH sounds very much like the Shure Beta 58a due to it using the same capsule. It’s supercardioid pattern helps reject sound pickup from the rear of the microphone. It can also be used in close proximity with monitors without any feedback issues.
In addition, the microphone has a very even and consistent response across various frequency ranges. The presence boost really helps cut through and sit on top of the mix.
However, the plosive handling isn’t the strongest. It will need singers to be able to adjust and control their technique to avoid any hard “p” or “b” sounds.
This mic is definitely for singers who aren’t looking to use it as a handheld microphone due to it’s heavy weight. But it looks stylish and sleek.
- Sleek Classic design
- Supercardioid pickup
- Sits nicely on top of the mix
- Too heavy for handheld
- Not strong with Plosive handling
4. Sennheiser E945
The Sennheiser e945 is the supercardioid sibling of the E935. The biggest difference is in it’s sensitivity, which makes the E945 perfect for vocalists who are looking for more detail in their singing. The supercardioid polar pattern does an excellent job to help with background noise rejection.
The microphone contains an all metal body which feels incredibly sturdy in the hand. It’s pretty heavy at 365g, which some singers would love.
Sennheiser microphones are known for their strong build quality and ruggedness. It’s clear that they don’t cut back on quality in their microphones and they display that through their 10 year warranty. They are designed for the unpredictability of live performances which can withstand unusual climate conditions. Though I would not recommend it being used in extreme weather conditions.
The E945 sounds extremely clear and helps vocals cut right through the mix which means there will be less work to do on the sound board. It provides a bit more extension than a typical dynamic microphone. Some might even say it sounds condenser-like. It does well for noise rejection and offers great sound sensitivity thanks to the robust construction inside.
- Dynamic, super-cardioid microphone
- High feedback rejection
- Extremely rugged metal housing
- Gives the voice warm, lively fullness
- Shock-mounted capsule
- Does not include an on/off switch
5. Sennheiser E835
The Sennheiser E835 is a fantastic vocalist workhorse. It has a very clean and clear sound with excellent response. It has no issues with feedback, spill or noise handling. Instead it provides maximum flexibility for the voice. The build is extremely rugged and the hold is comfortable for long usage.
The vocals on the E835 are clear and even at varying distance from the capsule. Singers who like to play with various mic holding techniques would appreciate this. Whether the vocalist is on- or off-axis, you’re ensured a great performance.
The microphone is also very effective at rejecting feedback and with its cardioid pattern, the E835 rejects the chaos around you to get your vocals clearly highlighted in the mix.
The E835 is a solid choice for vocalists who are looking for an incredible rugged setup with a great clear sound.
- Affordable and powerful
- Amazing SPL handling
- Excellent directional isolation
- Great build quality
- Rejects feedback very well
- Clean and clear sound
- Better suited for male voices
6. Heil Sound PR 35
The Heil PR 35 is an incredibly versatile microphone for vocalists. It’s built with a sleek matte black finish and an extremely solid hold. The center of gravity is on the lower end of the microphone which provides more of a sturdier grip.
The PR 35 also has great articulation & a natural upper mid-range along with a smooth flat response throughout. It has a strong rear rejection and virtually no off-axis sound, which does well to block out background noise
It produces a beautifully smooth audio response without the inconvenience of phantom or outside DC powering. The microphone’s cardioid pattern offers good rejection of unwanted audio at 180 degrees off-axis. The tonal balance is accurate, clear and smooth. There are also no issues with feedback.
This microphone is very sensitive or as some might say – unforgiving. It amplifies bad technique and requires singers to be mindful of their technique and choices. If used accurately in a live setting, the Heil Sound PR 35 can deliver very satisfying results.
- Sturdy build
- Strong rear rejection sound
- Clear tonal balance
- Great feedback rejection
- High sensitivity, only for experienced vocalists
7. Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 is one of the most reviewed and highly popular microphones out there. With it’s affordable price tag and quality build, it’s consistently on many vocalists top microphone lists.
The SM58 provides you three of the most important things a microphone can deliver: consistency, quality and durability. It’s sturdy grill and all metal black body allows it to be one of the most, if not the most, sturdiest microphone on the market.
With it’s cardioid pickup pattern, it isolates vocals very well while minimizing background noise and feedback. It’s frequency response is finely tuned for vocals with a bright midrange and bass roll-off. The microphone is versatile and works well for vocals or for mic-ing instruments.
Overall, this microphone is great for vocalists who are looking for a versatile microphone that sounds great for stage gigs or in the studio.
- Great build quality
- Extremely versatile
- Solid noise reduction.
- Tuned for live vocals
- Strong presence
- Many counterfeits are out on the market. Avoid this by buying from reputable sellers.
8. Shure PGA48
In the market for upgrading your home karaoke system, without spending too much?
The Shure PGA48 is your best bet.
It’s a great budget option that provides a good balance between price and sound quality. The microphone is built with a full metal body with metallic silver grille, similar to the SM58. It’s light to hold in the hand at 10.6 oz (0.67 lbs). The PGA48 is a great addition to any karaoke system or PA system as it is tuned for vocals and speeches.
It has a very forward sound which creates a very nice fullness and adds body to the voice. The treble boost helps the voice pop out of the mix making it sound very clear in the spotlight. The handling noise is not that great and the plosive rejection isn’t the strongest either.
Though it’s not as sturdy as the SM58, it’s a great budget-friendly addition for any home karaoke setup or PA system.
- Not expensive
- Has On/Off switch
- Helps vocals pop out of the mix
- Handling noise
- Plosive rejection
9. Beyerdynamic TG-V50
The Beyerdynamic TG-V50 is an excellently tuned live vocal microphone. This affordable dynamic microphone has great build quality and delivers a beautifully balanced sound that is both natural and powerful.
It has a wide pick up range due to the cardioid polar pattern which can be beneficial for singers who play and sing at the same time. They can sing and move around without any worries about the microphone not picking up their sound. It seems like a great choice for performers who do not spend all of their time right on top of the microphone.
The TG-V50 contains a warmer high and has a familiar upper-mid that helps it cut through a noisy mix. It can be a great option for those who don’t need any lower-end reinforcements. It also comes with an on/off switch, which is embedded in the grip. It has a firm touch where there aren’t any ‘clicking’ sounds when being used.
- Made in Germany
- Very wide pick-up range
- Nice Clean tone
- Comes with On/Off switch version
- Warm sounding
- Not suitable for vocalists who need lower-end reinforcement
10. AKG D5
The AKG D5 vocal dynamic microphone is a supercardioid microphone. It does a great job at background rejection and off-axis rejection. It has a nice heft to the handle at 12 oz (0.75 lbs). The handle of the D5 is a little longer than SM58, thus easier to hold in the hand. However, the texture on D5 is a bit more smooth than the SM58, making it a little harder to hold for sweaty hands.
The D5 is specifically tuned for vocals. It delivers a powerful and clean sound even on the noisiest stage. For those who enjoy beatboxing, there is an AKG BBB D5 cousin which would be great for.
The D5 has an excellent SPL (Sound Pressure Level) which allows singers to sing closer to the microphone at higher powerful notes without distorting the sound. It has great dynamics which is great for those who sing various styles (Hard rock, Blues, Country, Pop, power ballads and down to soft tones and styles)
- Great background rejection
- Supercardioid pattern
- Specifically tuned for vocals
- Powerful and clean sound
- Excellent SPL
- Handling too smooth, not suitable for sweaty hands
11. Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB
Looking for a quality microphone for your livestream or song covers? The Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB microphone provides some unique features that can outdo the competition.
It is very unique as it has both an XLR and a USB port to plug into either an audio interface or straight into your computer. It also has a 3.5 mm headphone output and a volume knob.
The headphone jack allows singers to hear latency-free audio from their vocal as any delay would greatly affect the quality of their live recordings. The quality of the sound is crisp and clear, though plugging into the USB sounds brighter and cleaner than using the XLR in the interface.
The cardioid pattern of the microphone provides great background noise rejection making it very useful when blocking out hums or noises from the computer. It allows for easy editing during post production.
Overall, the ATR2100 is easy to set up. It’s perfect for those who just want a “plug and play” option to get started.
- USB digital output and XLR analog output
- Smooth, extended frequency response
- Extremely easy to set up
- Built-in headphone jack
- Built-in volume controls
- Not for onstage performances
12. Rode M2
The Rode M2 is a handheld, supercardioid, condenser microphone. This microphone comes in a nice metal body which gives off a heavy duty feel to the handle. The M2 does a great job at background noise rejection and provides an extremely smooth and natural sound. It also provides a full and true tone to your vocals and instruments without any issues with feedback.
The M2 does very well with plosive rejection and handling noise rejection. The sensitivity is slightly lower compared to other mics on the list but onstage it works perfectly well.
The microphone gives a ‘flat sounding’ response which some vocalists prefer. For speech, it’s accurate and neutral – great for post editing. It also comes with a ‘on-off switch’ which can be useful for muting unwanted ad-libs. The only drawback, is that the microphone requires a 48V phantom power which should be taken into consideration when buying.
But overall, it’s a very heavy duty microphone that provides a nice, accurate tone.
- Heavy duty
- Accurate and neutral sound
- Low handling noise
- Good at background noise rejection
- Low sensitivity
- Requires phantom power
13. Shure BETA 58A
The Shure Beta 58a, is the supercardioid variant of the classic Shure SM58. This microphone shares the ruggedness of the SM58 while providing a very similar tone with a bit more mids and less muddiness on the low. The Beta 58a is a great option for live vocals if you’re looking for a bit of an upgrade from the SM58.
The Beta 58a also has a hotter output so preamps don’t need to be tuned that hard. The sound is very clear and crisp with an enhanced tone. The supercardioid pattern helps cut down on extraneous noise from surrounding instruments or other singers. Vocalists will love the solid and consistent sound that the Beta 58a provides.
It’s also great at rejecting background output and handling rejections. It contains controlled low end to help with the proximity effect. Just a little tweak of low-end EQ and this vocal mic does great for both male and female vocalists.
Overall, It’s more of a refined version of the SM58 with added clarity which makes it a great upgrade option.
- Great build quality
- Hotter output
- Clear and crisp tone
- Supercardioid pattern
- Cost a little higher compared to other similar microphones
14. Blue Microphones enCORE 100
The enCORE 100 is the level entry microphone in the Blue Microphone’s lineup.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s not any good. It made its way onto our top 15 list due to the clear sounding tone and it’s great price point. It delivers natural vocals and balanced highs, along with exceptional detail and clarity.
The microphone’s cardioid polar pattern delivers fantastic off-axis noise rejection and helps keep your sound in control. It’s skillful sound handling allows it to take high pressure notes closer to the microphone while avoiding harsh distortions.
The microphone weighs in at a solid 14 oz (0.88 pounds) which feels great to hold. It also features a nice grip on the handles which vocalists who primarily use it handheld will appreciate.
As for the cons, the enCORE 100 provides moderate resistance against plosives and wind noise. It would require singers to be more mindful with their technique. But otherwise, the Blue’s enCORE 100 delivers excellent sound quality at a very reasonable price.
- Great value for price
- Clear sound and natural vocals
- SPL handling
- Strong off-axis noise rejection
- Sturdy weight
- Plosive rejection
15. Behringer Ultravoice XM8500
You don’t necessarily need to pay a lot for quality live microphones. The Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 is a great example of that.
The handheld cardioid microphone provides a nice flat sound while incorporating a smooth mid-frequency presence that allows to cut through the mix. It does well rejecting background noise and the build quality is definitely nice for the price as it feels it can take a nice beating onstage.
Being a Dynamic XLR microphone, it can be used for live performances as well as recording at home. The microphone can reject feedback quite well which rock vocalists will appreciate.
Though the XM8500 comes with a 2 layer internal pop filter, it does not handle plosive rejection particularly well. We recommend a pop filter to be used alongside this microphone at all times.
Other than that, the XM8500 is definitely a good microphone to add to any arsenal. The sound is clear. It provides an ultra-wide frequency response. And it’s built strong without lowering the build quality.
- Extremely affordable
- Strong quality build
- Very versatile
- Wide frequency response
- Handling of plosives
Figure Out Your Style and Application:
When it comes to microphones, it really comes down to singing style and personal application. Do you prefer something that balances your high end with something that’s more natural? Will it be used for live streaming or on-stage performances? These are some of the questions that you’ll need to figure out in order to find the right microphone for you.