Microphones are one of the most important pieces of equipment to have for recording. But a lot of the most popular microphones are super, SUPER expensive.
Luckily, there are a ton of great affordable options as well. In this article, I’ll show you the best microphones for when you’re on a budget!
By the end of this list, you’ll know which mics you should consider buying for your home studio.
NOTE: Wish you could test out some microphones before buying? Watch this:
I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make your mixes sound professional. Well, you don’t need expensive gear or software to do that – you just need the right knowledge. We put together a brief training that covers a totally new approach to music production. Until now, everyone has been teaching production totally backward. Just click below to watch.
Get industry-quality every time (steal this framework)
I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make your mixes sound professional. Well, you don’t need expensive gear or software to do that – you just need the right knowledge.
We put together a brief training that covers a totally new approach to music production. Until now, everyone has been teaching production totally backward.
Just click below to watch.
But if you just want to learn about Microphones specifically, keep reading.
The Best Cheap Mics
Different mics have different strengths.
To help you find the right mic quicker, we’ve picked out what all of these mics are best at.
Just click on the type of instrument(s) you need a mic for. This article will then show you the best options!
Looking for a piano mic? Just click “piano.”
Interested in ones that work for vocals and acoustic guitar? Select both to see mics that are great for both.
I’m looking for a mic that sounds great on…
Shure SM-57 - $99Recommended for vocals, electric guitar, drums, and acoustic. The Shure SM-57 is probably the most talked about microphone for professional and home studio recording. And for good reason! At an affordable $99, this microphone can record ANYTHING. Like any mic, it does have its strengths. It’s a great mic for really loud sources like guitar amps, close drum mics, and even vocals. But don’t limit yourself with this mic, it’s been used for so much more. Major artists have recorded entire albums using just one or two SM-57s on EVERY instrument. We’re talking about artists like Bruce Springsteen, Sufjan Stevens, and Bon Iver! It’s a true workhorse that will never let you down! If you can only afford one microphone and you need to record a variety of instruments, grab an SM-57. Recording vocals and acoustic guitar? Take a look at the large-diaphragm condensers in this article.
Blue Spark SL - $199Recommended for vocals, acoustic guitar, and drums. The Blue Spark is a great entry-level condenser microphone. This mic has a very balanced frequency response with just a bit of a bump in the top end to boost presence. This makes it a great candidate for vocals and acoustic guitar. This mic also features a high-pass filter and a pad. These features that are more common on microphones costing $600 or more. The high-pass filter allows you to cut off some low end while you’re recording if you know you don’t need it. This can save you time when you’re mixing and applying EQ. The pad feature allows you to lower the sensitivity of the microphone. So you can use it on louder sources like drum overheads or guitar amps. In addition to all of those features, it comes with its own shock mount/microphone clip. Now you don’t have to worry about buying one.
AKG P170 - $99Recommended for acoustic guitar, piano, woodwinds, and drums AKG’s P170 is a small-diaphragm microphone that does an incredible job of picking up detailed high-frequency content. It’s not great for really bass-heavy stuff like kick drums or men’s vocals. But if you’re recording something high pitched, the P170 preserves a lot of life from the sound. This makes the P170 perfect for woodwinds, violin, acoustic guitar, and piano. Some of my favorite acoustic guitar and piano recordings of all time came from putting a couple P170s over the strings. They also work perfectly as drum overheads. They pick up plenty of body from the cymbals without sounding too harsh. Just make sure to turn on the pad if you’re using P170s for drums! These mics come with pads in case you’re recording something really loud.
Audio-Technica AT2020 - $119Recommended for vocals, acoustic guitar, and drums The AT2020 is the lowest priced large-diaphragm condenser. Like the others, this is a great general mic for vocals and acoustic guitars. This mic can be used for drum overhead duty too, as it boasts a high SPL level. (Don’t worry, all that means is that it can handle loud noises) Audio-Technica is known for their well-built microphones. And that’s no different for their lower-priced models. While this mic doesn’t come with as many features as some of the other condensers, it is a great no-nonsense tool.
Røde NT1-A - $229Recommended for vocals, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. The Røde NT1-A may very well be the most popular condenser microphone for the home studio and for good reason. It boasts some of the best build and sound quality in its price range. The NT1-A has a bright, crisp, professional sound that shines on vocals. It works equally as well if you want a bright acoustic sound. It can also be used to record a guitar amp for a nice crisp tone. The NT1-A has the quietest noise floor for mics in its price range. What does this mean? When you turn the gain of a mic up, the electrical components inside the microphone make noise. You only notice this when cranking the gain up high, but the NT1-A is quieter throughout! The NT1-A comes with some great accessories including a shock mount, pop filter, and dust cover. This is a great mic with some great accessories to get you going!
Audio Technica AT2021 - $79Recommended for acoustic guitar, piano, and drums The Audio Technica AT2021 is a small-diaphragm microphone. Small-diaphragm mics are known for their precise and detailed sound. The AT2021 is a bright mic! It’s great as overheads for a drum set or for right over a cymbal. It’s also a great mic for a warm larger-bodied acoustic guitar that might need a bit of brightness to liven it up. This mic is even great to use as a room mic for drums or for use in a recital or concert hall. A small-diaphragm mic is a great option to have, but be sure you have a dynamic or large-diaphragm mic first!
sE X1 R - $249Recommended for vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, woodwinds & brass. The sE X1 R is a ribbon mic. Ribbon mics will roll off some top-end and emphasize mid- to low-end frequencies. This results in a nice warm sound. The sE X1 R is particularly suited for brass, guitar amps, and even vocals. Oftentimes, using a condenser on brass instruments can leave you with a tone that’s too bright and harsh. On the other hand, a dynamic can sound stuffy and dull. The sE X1 R gives you a nice round full sound. Use it on an amp for that same characteristic. If you’re going for a “vintage” vocal sound, you can even try this mic for recording singing. Ribbon mics are bidirectional (meaning they pick up sound on both sides of the capsule). So you can even record a duet using both sides of the mic! Try it out on your next duet for that old-timey sound.
AKG P420 - $199Recommended for vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, brass, strings. AKG’s P420 is a condenser mic with tons of versatility. It’s got a full-bodied tone with a slight bump in the high end. This makes it great for vocals, acoustic guitars, and pianos. It picks up all the lower frequency content you might want, but adds some nice sweetness to the high end. The low end still sounds nice and rich, though, making it great for brass instruments and cellos too. The P420 has three different polar patterns: cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure 8. This means you can change which directions the mic is picking up sound from. Cardioid picks up sounds that are right in front of them mic. Figure 8 picks up sounds at its front and back. And omni records sound from all directions of the mic. The P420 also comes with an attenuation pad and a bass roll off. So you can really use it for just about anything.
Cascade Fat Head - $157Recommended for electric guitar, piano, strings, woodwinds & brass The Fat Head from Cascade is a ribbon microphone. Ribbon mics tend to roll off some of the high frequencies. That might sound like a bad thing, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Ribbon mics tend to make instruments sound “warmer.” Accentuating the low and mid frequencies helps you get a full, rich tone. They’re also bidirectional, so they’ll add some nice room ambience to the mix. So if you want an instrument to sound warmer and darker, the Fat Head is the perfect choice. If you have an acoustic guitar that sounds a little too bright, a Fat Head can help even it out. A Fat Head paired with an SM57 sounds great on electric guitar. The SM57 picks up more of the crunch, while the Fat Head gets a really warm, bass-heavy tone. If you get two Fat Heads, your options really open up. You can get a mellow-sounding piano by putting them in a spaced pair above the strings. Or you can put them in a blumlein, adding depth to your electric guitar sound.
AKG D112 mkII - $199Recommended for kick drum. The D112 is an industry favorite for recording kick drums. This mic highlights really low frequencies as well as high ones. Obviously a kick should sound bassy, but pushing the highs can also be super helpful. It’s really easy for the kick to get buried under other instruments. By boosting the lows, you make sure the kick has plenty of oomph. But the extra high content adds some snap to your kick. Your kick shouldn’t have any trouble punching through the mix! There are plenty of budget-friendly kick mics out there. But the D112 is particularly impressive.
MXL 3000 - $249.99Recommended for vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, brass, and strings. The MXL 3000 is another condenser mic that packs plenty of punch. Like the P420, this mic is extremely versatile. But it’s best for vocals. With a clear, robust tone, this mic is great for tracking vocals. No need to stress about getting a different mic to record men and women. Vocals of all kinds sound great through this mic! You can also get some great acoustic guitar and piano sounds. Though, in my experience, they can sound a little muddy. It’s also pretty heavy-duty. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve dropped my own MXL 3000 a handful of times. And it still sounds just as good as it did on day one.
Blue Snowball iCE - $49Recommended for vocals. The Blue Snowball is a USB microphone. All the other microphones on this list require microphone cables and an audio interface to work with your computer. But the USB means you don’t need anything else to plug this into your computer to get started recording right away. This mic doesn't boast the greatest feature set or sound quality. But if you’re looking to try out recording and want to do it at the lowest price point, this is the mic for you. What it lacks in sound quality, it more than makes up for with its affordable price and ease of use!
The Best Cheap Microphones in 2019
- Shure SM57
- Blue Spark SL
- AKG P170
- Audio-Technica AT2020
- Røde NT1-A
- Audio-Technica AT2021
- sE X1 R
- AKG P420
- Cascade Fat Head
- AKG D112 mkII
- MXL 3000
- Blue Snowball iCE
Wow! What a list.
As you can see, there are a ton of different options and a variety of price points. And we’ve only scratched the surface with this list.
With that said, the most important thing is to pick your microphone(s) and record, record, record.
All these mics (even the cheapest ones!) listed here are very capable. They can help you create a professional sounding song, as long as you practice with it and hone your craft.
If you want to dig deeper into music production and learn what it actually takes to make mixes that sound pro… And you’re an intermediate or advanced producer… Be sure to check out the free masterclass: Enjoy!
If you want to dig deeper into music production and learn what it actually takes to make mixes that sound pro…
And you’re an intermediate or advanced producer…
Be sure to check out the free masterclass: