Whether you’re recording videos or podcasts for your YouTube channel, vlogging or recording interviews having the support of a good microphone is necessary for ensuring quality audio. But you may not have a lot on your budget to invest in a mic alone given that these projects involve many other expenses.
So, here’s a list of some of the best affordable microphones which will improve your recording experience and prove to be worthy competitors of even the high-end options.
Whether you want to record your singing sessions or record musical instruments, are into rapping, involved with voice-over work, or recording for any other purpose while buying a mic remember the sound you want to go for and opt for a mic that’ll meet your needs.
It’s understandable that you’ll want the best recording experience attainable within your budget but don’t forget to set realistic expectations.
Cheap Microphone Buying Guide
In case you’re confused about what to look for while making a buying decision, these are the basic factors:
Is the sound produced by the mic suitable for the voices or instruments being recorded? This is an important question to consider while picking your microphone. At times, some cheap options come with some tonal problems so be cautious while choosing. The mics belonging to the lower range often have a proximity effect.
This often takes place when the user comes too close to the mic while recording. As a result of this effect, the lower register becomes exaggerated, now this can prove to be both good or bad. This can turn out to be helpful for certain styles like crooners.
But this may not be suitable for others, if the sound source comes off as indistinct, you might be at a disadvantage. Apart from that, paying close attention to plosive sounds like “p”, “t”, or “ck” is necessary. In case of certain low budget microphones, these sounds may make an undesirable popping noise, you better lookout for that!
If you have to keep changing your microphone over short durations, will it be good for your pocket?
So, making sure that the mic you purchase is durable is equally important. You don’t want to worry about running the risk of the mic becoming dysfunctional in the middle of your recording session. It’ll be wise to not rely on the replacement a brand promises and straightaway select something durable.
There are several microphones that don’t cost much and survive general usage and the usual degree of mishandling. The most durable ones tend to be highly-priced, but if your work does not involve leaving the studio or your home that much, you can sacrifice a little bit on durability.
If that’s not the scenario, and you need to be on the road consistently, you may want to consider compromising the audio quality to some extent and choosing something that comes with a strong build.
Does the microphone allow you to put a tick on the consistency box?
Yes, you need to check that as well. Certain products will provide better quality control than others, make sure to research properly if the model that you have finalized has a consistent performance.
Now that you’re aware of the checkboxes, let’s take a look at the most reliable options for microphones retailing at low prices.
Best Cheap Microphones to Consider
Shure SM57 and Shure SM58
Both these mics are durable and offer high-quality recording at an amazing price. Shure SM57 and Shure SM58 have similar capsules but the grills they come with are different.
SM57 is generally used while recording musical instruments, and SM58 goes more with vocal recordings. SM57 is not shaped like the typical mic that you usually get to see, it has not been designed to be handheld. It comes with a swivel stand adapter and you adjust it according to your need. This setting lets the capsule directly capture the soundwaves.
SM58 has a removable steel grille which makes cleaning the mic or replacing it an easy task. It has an internal shock-mount system for mitigating vibration-induced noises. One of the big advantages of this duo is that these dynamic microphones produce very little proximity effect.
They provide users with an accurate tone. You can rest assured about durability if you opt for Shure, whether the mics get knocked, or are dropped they’ll keep functioning.
Its supercardioid polar pattern makes this microphone precise and ensures that it doesn’t pick up undesirable noises surrounding the sound source.
As this one has more proximity effect when compared to other options, you’ll have to see that you maintain a little space between yourself and the mic. AKG D5 works great for vocals but you can use it for instruments as well, but as its frequency response is only 70Hz to 20KHz you wouldn’t want to use it for anything with lower tones than a guitar.
It’s more suitable for instruments like fiddle, ukulele, banjo, and mandolin.
D5 is equipped with a laminated diaphragm that is less resonant and succeeds more at resisting feedback. It has an integrated pop filter that works towards reducing pops, wind or blowing noises.
This mic has a die-cast metal body and its mesh grilles are made up of spring steel, so even if the grilles get smashed that won’t affect the mic. So, it’s safe to assume that it is quite promising when it comes to durability, even if it gets thrown across the stage it’ll be able to survive the blow.
This condenser mic including a -10 dB bass roll-off switch, is quite sensitive and offers a promising performance in both live scenarios and studio recordings.
When it comes to tone, you’ll get a little boost near the low end and another one around the high. Being a condenser, MXL 770 requires some phantom power source and has a standard XLR connection. If you buy this mic, you’ll get a six-micron gold-plated diaphragm, a 0.87” capsule and a low-noise FET preamp.
It provides a frequency response of 30Hz to 20kHz, with a maximum SPL of 137dB. The mic has a pair of switches at the back which really prove to be helpful. One of them is the low-frequency roll-off and the other is the 10db pad. It even includes a sturdy plastic case padded with foam and high-isolation shock mount made out of metal.
It’s well suited for vocals and produces natural-sounding audio with no coloration. You can use it while recording instruments as well.
The low-frequency roll-off switch also tries to cancel out some of the more boomy sounds, while the 10dB pad proves to be advantageous when recording loud instruments. As this is a fixed cardioid pattern mic, it requires proper positioning. Users need to make sure that they’re keeping the front part near their mouth or close to the instrument for best results.
MXL R144 Ribbon Mic
This one is a pocket-friendly ribbon mic that offers audio quality comparable to mics that are way more expensive. It includes an aluminum ribbon capsule and an output transformer. Its frequency ranges from 20Hz to 17kHz, with peaks at about 300Hz and 6kHz.
This mic has a figure-eight recording pattern, it captures sound both from the back and front. It has the ability to withstand SPLs over 130dB, whether you’re using it over an electric guitar or for recording vibrating drums, or simply voice, it’ll cover it all. It comes with a shockmount that firmly grips the mic with a rubber‑lined spring sleeve.
Many lead vocalists may find this mic unsuitable for its typical syrupy top end unless you’re going for the ‘crooner’ style or aiming for a light‑jazz vibe without making use of EQ. But you can use it for capturing the vocals backing the lead. This one doesn’t have a good EQ response.
The tone is almost identical for the mic front and rear and it works well for making the high end of stringed instruments and the fizzy edge of some guitar amps smooth. But be cautious while using this microphone as its prone to get damaged if you drop it.
These types of mics aren’t very hard to modify, and when you have the budget you can easily upgrade the transformer and ribbon for improved sound production.
Apart from vocals, an acoustic guitar is probably one of the most commonly recorded instruments. For ensuring good recording, a matched pair of small-diaphragm condensers would be suitable.
But as is the case with most condenser mics good ones are generally more demanding on your budget, and the cheap ones are not that good. But you could say that Samson C02 is one of the exceptional cases. This ‘stick’ type mic has a fixed tight cardioid pattern that verges on the hypercardioid.
Made from plated brass with gold-plated XLR pins to connect to a regular mic cable, and the standard of build is solid. Each mic comes with a small foam windshield that aids in the reduction of the usual outdoors wind noises. The standmounting clips provided with them hold the mics in place within resilient rubber sleeves.
This doesn’t take care of vibrations as well as a proper shockmount, but it is still better than a typical rigid stand clip. This one has a frequency response range of 40Hz-20kHz. Samson C02 is sensitive at -40dBV/Pa (which equals to 10mV/Pa) and has a noise level of 22dBA, which is sufficient for most close-miking applications.
Audio Technica 2035
This one is a little more on the expensive side in comparison to the others on the list, but it’s still a good option for a condenser microphone and costs less than 200 dollars.
The AT2035 has a low-cut filter and a cardioid pickup pattern. Its shock mount feature even if not the most impressive one is reasonable in accordance with the price. This mic includes a -10db pad and a bass roll-off switch. Its strength lies in its consistency.
In terms of tone, this one covers the entire spectrum quite evenly. It offers high sensitivity, whether this will be a con or a pro will depend on the circumstances. If your recordings take place in noisy surroundings it’ll probably pick up all the unwanted sound.
You’ll need to invest in a phantom power supply as it requires +48V phantom power. The vinyl pouch it’s packed with gives as much protection as a pouch can. The mic offers an LDC frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz. There is a presence peak around 12 kHz, but the response is fairly flat.
It can manage up to 148dB SPL, 1 kHz. The pad can be used for the addition of another 10 dB, thus most sources can be handled without any problems. With a 0.8″ electret capsule and a thin diaphragm, this one provides a noise ratio of 82 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa.
Sennheiser e602 II
Very few mics available in the market are properly equipped for recording bass instruments. This task demands a special type of dynamic bass mic, that has been particularly designed to accommodate the lowest of frequencies. Most bass mics will cost you around $200, but a significantly cheaper variant is the Sennheiser e602 II.
Despite the lower cost, its performance is pretty impressive. This mic is suitable for capturing instruments such as kick drums and larger toms but it works equally well with other bass-heavy sound sources like electric bass amps, tubas and stand up basses.
It offers a frequency response of 20Hz – 16kHz and an output impedance of 350 ohms. In order to ensure isolation from other on-stage signals, it is equipped with frequency-independent directivity. Apart from a built-in stand mount, you’ll get a Sennheiser humbucking coil with it.
This microphone is quite durable and can undergo the occasional abuse that usage includes. This mic will ensure that the low end is prominent and doesn’t require any further EQing.
Studio Projects B3
Multi-pattern mics are among the most expensive options you can get hold of, often costing several thousand dollars but here’s a way more affordable choice for you if your heart yearns for this type.
It provides a tri-polar pattern including omni, cardioid, and figure-eight that enables it to remain consistent for several feet.
It is equipped with a high-pass filter and comes with a 10dB attenuator, a 3-position switch that’ll only let you avail one of the three options. Though it doesn’t offer a great proximity effect, it can easily be used by vocalists with experience. It can provide a pretty good low end for your drums or acoustic or electric bass.