26 Jun Best Budget Microphones for Home Recording
Home recording is more accessible than ever before. Modern digital audio workstations and affordable computers put the major tools needed at the home producer’s fingertips. However, finding high-quality microphones that fit the home studio budget can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are numerous microphones that deliver professional recording studio quality without stretching your budget to the end.
Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones:
A solid and reliable large diaphragm condenser microphone is the cornerstone of your home recording mic collection. Large-diaphragm condensers are the most common microphone for recording vocals and are also commonly used for acoustic instrument recordings such as acoustic guitar, piano, and drums.
The AT4050 is the most expensive microphone on this list, but it also packs features and performance common to microphones twice its price. With multiple polar patterns, a pad, and a roll-off, the AT4050 is a perfect choice to build your microphone collection around. Its flexibility makes it a great option for vocals, and acoustic instruments, and as a room microphone.
The AKG C214 is based on one of AKG’s flagship large diaphragm condenser microphones – the C414. The C414 has been a standard instrument microphone in recording studios for decades, but its high price puts it out of reach for many home recording engineers. Fortunately, the C214 provides the same sound quality at less than half the price. The C214 is cardioid only, but if you don’t need a multi-pattern microphone, the C214 delivers a pro studio sound at a home studio price.
Aston Microphones was founded in 2015, making it a relatively new player in an industry often focused on legacy brands. But their first microphone, the Aston Origin, immediately caught the attention of audio engineers due to its unique design, high sound quality, and affordability. The slightly more expensive Aston Spirit is still budget conscious and offers multiple pickup patterns. Both microphones excel on vocals and also work well on acoustic guitars.
Known for its low self-noise and budget-friendly price, the NT1A has long been a popular choice for home recording. This versatile cardioid microphone works well on any source, including vocals, acoustic instruments, and guitar amplifiers.
Slate Digital VMS ML-1:
The VMS ML-1 is a very different microphone than the others on this list as it utilizes Slate Digital’s Virtual Microphone System. The microphone itself has a very flat frequency response and accurate sound. But the true potential of the microphone manifests when paired with the modeling software that allows the microphone to emulate some of the most classic studio microphones in history. While you have to pay extra for the different microphone emulations, the ability to emulate microphones that cost thousands of dollars brings a lot of sonic creativity to the home studio.
Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones:
Small diaphragm condenser microphones, also known as pencil mics, are essential in a home recording studio. Their compact size and transient response make them suitable for capturing percussive and brighter sources. A stereo pair of pencil mics opens up a world of recording possibilities.
Known for their quality, Shure delivers an excellent all-around small diaphragm condenser microphone with the KSM137. These mics can be utilized on acoustic guitar, violin, drum overheads, and just about anything else. They’re compact size also makes them easy to place in even the tightest microphone positions.
Warm Audio WA-84:
Warm Audio is known for accurately recreating class audio equipment, and the WA-84 is a great example. It’s modeled after the classic Neumann KM84 that is common in professional studios. The WA-84 boasts a similar warm tone to the KM84, but you can buy a stereo pair of WA-84s for less than a single classic KM84 would cost you.
sE Electronics sE7/sE8:
sE Electronics is a brand that offers several professional quality microphones on a home studio friendly budget. Their primary pencil microphones are the sE7 and sE8. Both microphones are great all-around instrument microphones, working well as drum overheads, room microphones, and on percussion instruments. The sE8 is slightly more expensive, but offers a built-in pad, lower self-noise, and the ability to swap the capsule (sold separately) to change the polar pattern.
Universal Audio SP-1:
Universal Audio is known for studio gear like compressors and audio interfaces, but they also make high quality microphones. Their small diaphragm condenser microphone, the SP-1, is typically sold in a stereo pair and delivers clarity at a great price. Also, if you use a UA Apollo audio interface, the SP-1 is compatible with the Apollo Channel Strip Presets.
Slate Digital VMS ML-2:
The ML-2 is Slate Digital’s small diaphragm condenser microphone designed for their Virtual Microphone System. Like the ML-1, the mic itself boasts a very flat frequency response, but really comes to life when used in conjunction with the VMS software. You can emulate classic pencil mics like the AKG C451, but the ML-2 is also compatible with all of the other VMS emulations, including large diaphragm condenser, dynamic, and ribbon microphones.
While the recording studio is more known for utilizing condenser microphones, dynamic mics are still a valuable part of your home recording environment, particularly for drums and guitar amplifiers. Dynamic microphones also tend to be cheaper than condensers, making them a great and versatile investment.
The SM57 is the staple dynamic microphone of professional and home studios alike. A common idiom in the recording industry is that you could use an SM57 to hammer in nails all day and it would still record great sound that night. While being rugged, the tone of the SM57 has defined the sound of recorded snare drums and guitar cabinets. It works well on basically any instrument and is one of the lowest priced professional quality microphones on the market.
The Shure SM7B is known for its great sound quality for a dynamic microphone, notably being used on many of Michael Jackson’s vocal recordings. However, it’s pricey for a dynamic microphone. Shure has channeled the essence of the SM7B into the more affordable MV7X. While designed for broadcast voice-over and podcasting, the MV7X still works as a great option for vocal recording and various instruments. It’s also available as a USB microphone.
Designed specifically for guitar amplifiers, the e609 captures even the loudest guitar tones with exceptional detail. If you find yourself recording electric guitar often, the e609 is a great budget dynamic mic to give your recordings some more richness without being overly harsh. The supercardioid pickup pattern also means that the microphone picks up very little bleed from nearby instruments, making it a great option for live recordings.
The Audix DP-5A is a dynamic microphone package for miking a drum kit. It includes five microphones: a kick mic (Audix D6), a snare mic (Audix i5), two rack tom mics (Audio D2s), and a floor tom mic (Audix D4). All of these microphones work great on their respective drum components, and can be used for other applications, like the D6 on a bass guitar cabinet or the i5 on a guitar amp. Add in two small diaphragm condenser mics for overheads and you have a solid drum miking set up without breaking the bank.
Ribbon microphones are not commonly thought of as part of the home studio. They tend to be expensive and niche in their application. However, there are several modern ribbon mics that are durable, versatile, and won’t blow up your budget. While condensers and dynamics are likely to be the focus of your home studio, a ribbon microphone can be a fun investment and add a different creative tone to your mic collection.
Royer R-10 Ribbon Microphone:
Royer is the most well known name in studio ribbon microphones, but most of their mics cost more than $1000. The R-10 is their most budget friendly microphone, but it still delivers the fun of a ribbon microphone and the quality that Royer is known for. The R-10 is a great option for guitar amps, horns, and even vocal tones where you want that ribbon warmth.
sE Electronics Voodoo VR1:
The Voodoo VR1 is a great entry-level ribbon microphone that offers a full-frequency response, a characteristic that can be challenging to achieve with ribbons. It excels on instruments like acoustic and electric guitars and can add warmth to vocals.
Golden Age Project R1:
The Golden Age Project R1 is a very affordable ribbon microphone. It utilizes active circuitry, which means it requires phantom power, unlike most ribbon microphones. The active circuitry makes it a little more user-friendly as you don’t have to have a high-gain preamplifier or worry about long cable runs. While the R1 won’t deliver the same classic ribbon sound as more expensive options, it does have that ribbon “warmth” and is a great way to experiment with ribbon microphone tone without committing too much financially.
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