40 years ago, if you wanted to record anything that sounded in the least bit ‘professional’ you had to get hold of a lot of money and hire a recording studio.
But then in the ‘80s cassette porta-studios became available and you could record song ideas and demos at home. But they didn’t sound that good.
And since then, digital recording and Digital Audio Workstations have become more and more affordable and are now on most computers. This means that anyone can now record anything to a high standard.
But even though the technology for recording has changed, one thing hasn’t – you still need a good mic. And with the increase in the popularity of home and project recording, there are more microphones available than ever before, especially at the lower end of the market.
Choosing one of the best condenser microphones can be very difficult, so we’ve made the decision a lot easier by bringing you the ten best condenser microphones currently available in the low to mid price range. They are all excellent microphones, but which one is the right one for you?
You’ll find out soon enough…
- Top 10 Best Condenser Microphones In 2020 Reviews
- 1 AKG C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
- 2 Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone
- 3 Studio Projects B1 Vocal Condenser Microphone, Cardioid
- 4 SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- 5 Avantone Pro CV-12 Tube Condenser Microphone
- 6 MXL V67G Large Capsule Condenser Microphone
- 7 Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone
- 8 Rode NT1-A Anniversary Condenser Microphone Package
- 9 Shure SM27-SC Multi-Purpose Large Diaphragm Cardioid Side-Address Condenser Microphone
- 10 Rode NTK Premium Tube Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- What Is The Best Condenser Microphone For You?
Top 10 Best Condenser Microphones In 2020 Reviews
1 AKG C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
AKG is one of the most legendary microphone manufacturers in history. And, over the years, have made many of the worlds greatest mics, including the C12, C414, and C451. We’ll start this review by looking at one of their mid-priced microphones – the C214.
The C214 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone and has been designed to be a cost-effective alternative to the companies high-end C414.
It features a one-inch capsule, that is positioned on an integrated suspension that reduces both mechanical noise and resonances, for even greater sonic accuracy. It has a switchable 20dB attenuation pad which allows users to lower the amount of sound the microphone captures. This means that you can use it to record loud sources, such as electric guitar cabinets up to sound pressure levels of 156 dB.
It’s also got a switchable bass-cut filter, which allows close-up recording with almost no proximity effect. This is a sonic effect you get when the sound source is very close to the microphone and adds unwanted bass frequencies. The bass-cut filter removes these frequencies so producing a more balanced recording.
So, what’s the difference between a c214 and a C414?
Unlike it’s bigger brother, the C414 with has multiple polar patterns, the C214 only has one, which is cardioid. This isn’t actually a big problem because cardioid is the most commonly used polar pattern for most recordings such as vocals, and individual instruments. The other polar patterns are used for capturing room sounds or multiple instruments or voices at the same time.
The C214 therefore, only has one capsule, unlike the C414. But, it does capture sounds by using the same capsule that you’d find in the legendary C414 dual-capsule system, with the patented AKG Back-Plate Technology, resulting in great recording quality.
It’s also roadworthy if you need it for live performances, featuring a double mesh, dent-resistant, all-metal grille. This protects the capsule and also ensures high RF immunity, without having any effect on the mic’s acoustic performance. It also has a modern scratch-resistant finish and a gold-plated XLR output.
It’s supplied with a carrying case, a windscreen, and spider-type shock mount.
2 Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone
We now move from one microphone industry legend to another, the mighty Neumann. As with AKG, the company has also produced some of the world’s most famous and most used microphones including the three most recorded vocals mics ever, the U47, U67, and U87.
Neumann microphones are requested continuously by artists and engineers because of their unique sonic character, attractive and robust design, and their carefully developed technology.
The TLM 102 is the latest in this long heritage, and it defines the new generation of Neumann studio microphones. It’s a compact, large-diaphragm cardioid microphone that offers the legendary Neumann sound at a very affordable price.
Even though it’s ‘affordable,’ this is in Neumann terms. It is still the most expensive microphone in this review, but it is worth it if you’re looking for that degree of sound quality. It is, however, very affordable compared to the many thousands of dollars you would pay for example, for a Neumann U87.
Like the AKG 214, it has a high sound pressure level tolerance, rated at 144 dB. This allows you to effortlessly record percussion, drums, guitar amps, and other very loud sound sources.
While quieter instruments will benefit from the TLM 102’s swift transient response, allowing the capture of a very clear, full-bodied and yet, detailed recording.
Is it good for vocals?
It’s a superb choice for vocals and speech. It has a slight boost above 6 kHz which allows voices to slightly rise above a full mix by giving them a small presence boost. Below 6 kHz, the frequency response is incredibly linear, this ensures minimal coloration and gives a clearly defined extended bass range.
It sounds fantastic and is the best sounding microphone in this review, but it’s also the most expensive. If you can afford to spend this much, it’s a great choice
The TLM 102 is available in either black or nickel, and a stand mount is included.
3 Studio Projects B1 Vocal Condenser Microphone, Cardioid
We move on with a much more affordable microphone, the B1 from Studio Projects.
The B1 is a large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone, in a pressure-gradient transducer, which features a high-quality transformerless design and extremely low self-noise.
Its 1-inch capsule is sputtered with gold. This aids in conductivity and the sound it produces has a natural extended transparent high end, with the full bodied low end you would expect from a quality microphone.
The microphone’s sound is very clear, and it has virtually no self-noise compared with similarly priced competitors. It’s a heavy, durable and sturdily built microphone, with an attractive champagne finish and features very effective bass roll-off and pad switches on the front and back.
The only complaint about the sound would be that it is very treble-y and bright. However, it still sounds great on acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and clarinet.
The B1 is a great budget choice for both vocals and recording instruments. It’s supplied with a shock mount, a foam screen and a manual.
4 SE Electronics sE2200a II C Large Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Moving back up in price, we have the sE2200a II from SE Electronics. It’s an excellent choice for that first special microphone, or if you just want another good quality large-diaphragm condenser mic, for your collection.
It’s based on the award-winning sE2200, and the updated version has a smooth, polished sound for vocals, voiceovers, and many instrumental applications. It is widely considered one of the best vocal mics within its price range.
The sE2200 was made famous through its use by many world-class vocal artists, such as Amy Winehouse. It revived the spirit of the classic studio microphones, and can still be found in the mic lockers of most major recording studios around the world.
Because the original has such a revered status, the sE2200a II also features the original capsule design, as well as the same custom-built transformer and class-A circuit topologies. So it’s basically an update, but still, the same condenser microphone that was loved by a generation of engineers.
So, what has been updated?
Updates include adding state-of-the-art components and giving the mic a shorter, more optimized signal path. These provide even better noise performance and clarity. It also has new pad and filter options which increase its versatility.
But, regardless of the improvements, the sE2200a II retains all the classic sound of the original.
The sE2200, like every microphone featured in this review so far, only has a cardioid pattern. But, instead of the one diaphragm found in the rest, it features two gold-sputtered diaphragms to ensure the best possible acoustic performance.
Like the other mics we’ve featured, it has -10 dB and -20 dB pad switches to provide extended dynamic range and two low-cut filters which eliminate low-frequency rumble as well as compensate for excessive bass (proximity effect) with using close-mic techniques.
It’s also available as a multi-polar-pattern version – the sE2300.
5 Avantone Pro CV-12 Tube Condenser Microphone
Avantone is a very interesting brand in that they don’t really invent anything new, they just re-invent things. Most famous from their re-imagining of the classic Aurotone grot box speaker, which has gone on to be used in most of the world class studios, as well as project studios worldwide. It’s from this first product that they actually re-imagined their company name.
So they’ve now moved into microphone manufacture and yet again, as opposed to bringing us anything new they have reimagined AKG stupendously expensive C-12 and brought us the Avantone CV-12.
The large-diaphragm tube condenser mic is a part of the companies Cabernet Series (aka C Series), but does this Wine-red mic really perform like your favorite bottle of Cabernet?
Well, the answer is yes. The vocals the CV-12 records are creamy, smooth, and colorful, complete with the full body (that was our wine reference, in case you missed it) needed to make them sit perfectly in the mix. On acoustic instruments, it adds just the right amount of flavor, with the natural wood tones shining through.
So what makes it sound so good?
First off, it’s the first valve mic we’ve reviewed. Valves (or tubes in America) add a classic warmth to any recording and also subtly compress the transients giving you a more rounded, more ‘real’ sounding track.
It’s also more versatile than the other mics reviewed, thanks to its nine selectable polar patterns that can be switched from the power supply.
As mentioned, all our previous mics only come with a cardioid polar pattern, which is excellent for vocals and close-mic’ing instruments, but not so good at capturing more than one instrument at a time or the sounds of whole rooms, etc. The CV-12 nine polar patterns allow you to record anything you like with whatever polar pattern best suits the source.
It sounds superb, the valve adds the right amount of warmth and the ability to change the polar patterns allows for much more creative mic techniques and better-sounding results than only having cardioid. It’s highly recommended for those happy to spend a little more, for those reasons.
It supplied with a shock mount, a metal road case, and a wooden box.
Before we move on with our review, we’d like to explain a little about the subject of phantom power.
What Is Phantom Power And Why Does My Condenser Microphone Need It?
A large number of online buyers have reported that many of the microphones we’re reviewing don’t work when tested after delivery. Obviously, as with any product, there are going to be some that fail while being transported, but we believe there is a far bigger issue.
And that issue is, that most people don’t understand that condenser microphones require power, phantom power to be specific. All condenser mics need a small amount of external power sent to them down the XLR cable to power themselves and function correctly.
You can’t just plug in a condenser microphone into the mic input of your stereo system and expect it to work. It will not, you will hear nothing.
You have to plug it into a unit that has phantom power and then turn the phantom power on. Most audio interfaces feature phantom power, so it isn’t difficult or complicated to get these mics to work. Some of the better microphones in this review, such as the Avantone Pro CV-12 we’ve just covered, also come with their own dedicated power supplies, which provide phantom power and also allow polar patterns to be changed.
Some manufacturers have such a problem with the issue of online customers not understanding how condenser microphones work, that they actually refuse returns from some online stores and tell them to better inform their customers.
So, if any condenser microphone doesn’t work after its delivered, the first thing to do is make sure it has working phantom power going to it. Then, if that doesn’t work, feel free to return it.
Now that’s covered, we’ll carry on with the review…
6 MXL V67G Large Capsule Condenser Microphone
Next up, we have an insanely affordable microphone, which is a great choice for your first condenser if budget is an issue. It’s the V67G from MXL.
It’s a large capsule condenser microphone and like most of the mics covered so far, only comes with the single cardioid polar pattern, but that’s understandable for the price.
The cardioid pattern means that it’s designed mainly for vocals and it combines Class A FET circuitry and a transformer-coupled output for a vocal sound that’s open and pure. It actually sounds more expensive than its ticket price indicates but is still a long way behind most of the mics in this review.
It’s a strange thing to say, but you will be amazed by the sound this cleverly-designed microphone provides for the unbelievably low price. It’s not going to compete with the Neumann or the Avantone obviously, but considering how much it costs it’s a superb microphone. That’s why it’s in our rundown of the best condenser microphones.
It even features a gold-sputtered diaphragm, we would have thought the gold itself, would have cost nearly as much as this mic? On the subject of gold, it’s also the color of the grill, with a metal body with a refreshing green finish.
If you’re after a true condenser microphone but don’t want to spend a fortune, this gets the job done incredibly well for the price point.
It’s supplied with a mic stand holder and a storage pouch. An MXL-57 isolation shock mount, which will fit the mic perfectly, is available for purchase separately if needed.
7 Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone
Still incredibly cheap, but a little more expensive than the MXL, we have the AT2020 from Audio-Technica.
The company has been making seriously good microphones for a long time, with some of their higher end mics being industry standards. The AT2020 is one of their budget microphones. But it still has the reputation and build quality of its higher-end cousins.
The companies stringent quality control and consistent standards set the AT2020 apart from other mics in its price range. Its diaphragm is custom-engineered to give an extended frequency response and better transients.
It offers a wide dynamic range and handles high SPLs with ease. So you’ll have no problem with using it on drums and electric guitar cabinets. Once again, and understandable considering the price, the AT2020 only features a cardioid pattern.
It has a very rugged construction to give durable performances and should last you many years of hard recording projects. It’s basically an all-around, working-class grunt mic.
It’s very well priced, and the sound reproduction is good in a controlled environment. In terms of other mics in this review, the MXL is the closest in price but is still quite a bit cheaper. The AT2020, however, has a far better sound for most applications than the MXL with a more transparent, yet warmer sound.
The price to performance ratio for this mic is excellent and makes it ideal for project/home-studio applications where budget is a concern.
It’s supplied with a stand mount, a mount adapter, and a soft protective pouch.
8 Rode NT1-A Anniversary Condenser Microphone Package
Moving back up to a mid-range priced mic, we have the NT1-A from Rode. From its humble beginning in the 1990s, the company has gone from strength to strength and has become the go-to microphone supplier for a variety of industries. Rode uses the latest technology and precision machinery to maintain its products at world-class standards and also at a great price.
The NT1-A (the ‘A’ stands for Anniversary), is a complete re-design of the company’s legendary studio microphone – the NT1. Its status was confirmed in 2004, when it was the Winner of the Electronic Musician Editor’s Choice Award and was the world’s quietest studio condenser microphone.
This redesigned version continues the tradition of the classic NT1 and has only 5 dBA of self-noise. This low noise level makes it ideal for recording vocals. As well as perfect for getting great sounds from acoustic guitars and percussion.
It’s become an industry standard. And delivers the warmth, clarity, extended dynamic range, and high SPL capability normally only found on some of the world’s most expensive microphones.
It comes as part of the ‘Complete Vocal Recording Solution,’ which includes everything you need to get a professional vocal recording in any home or project studio set-up.
The package includes a studio grade pop shield, a quality SM-6 shock mount, a premium 20-feet microphone cable, a dust cover, and an instructional ‘Studio Secrets’ DVD, which is packed with great recording tips.
It’s designed and made in Australia and is covered by a 10-year warranty.
9 Shure SM27-SC Multi-Purpose Large Diaphragm Cardioid Side-Address Condenser Microphone
Shure is another microphone industry heavy-weight. Their SM58 being the most widely used live vocal microphone in history. While their SM57 is every sound engineers go-to microphone for snares and electric guitar cabinets. But these are both dynamic mic’s, not condensers.
Shure is not that well known, for their condensers, but you can’t really rule the world in dynamic microphones and be terrible at designing condensers, so the Shure SM27-SC is as you would expect an excellent microphone.
It’s another large diaphragm, side-address cardioid condenser microphone, and can be used for stage or studio applications. It has low self-noise and an extended frequency response that allows it to pick up vocals and instrument nuances with clarity.
The SM27 is most definitely a multi-purpose microphone. It is excellent for use on spoken voice and vocals, electric guitar amplifiers, as well as, on various brass and woodwind instruments.
But what else is it good at?
It’s also good for overhead miking of drums and percussion instruments, as well as, for close-miking acoustic instruments such as piano, acoustic guitar, cellos, and violins. It’s high SPL capability also make it ideal for recording low-frequency instruments such as kick drums. As well as bass guitar cabinets and double bass.
It features a three-position switchable low-frequency filter, which helps reduce unwanted background noise and counteract proximity effect. As well as, a 15 dB pad for consistent performance across a wide range of high SPL sources.
There is also very little need to worry about sibilance. The SM27’s durable metal construction features a grille with three separate mesh layers that reduce wind and breath noise.
It’s a solid, general-purpose mic, and given time will gain the same reputation as other legendary Shure microphones as a high-performing, reliable, quality condenser mic. It’s more expensive than a lot of the mics in this review. But that’s understandable because it’s put together better and has an excellent sound quality.
At the price point, there aren’t many better mics on the market. It’s highly recommended for that reason.
10 Rode NTK Premium Tube Cardioid Condenser Microphone
We’ll finish off the review, with our second most expensive microphone, and our second microphone from Rode – the NTK.
Like the Avantone, this is again a Valve or Tube microphone. But, unlike the Avantone it doesn’t feature multiple polar patterns.
The NTK is a premium valve condenser microphone and was designed to provide incredible detail and warmth in the studio. Especially for single instrument recording scenarios, that require a mic with a cardioid polar pattern.
The class “A” valve circuitry that complements the microphones very sensitive transducer includes a hand-selected, twin-triode 6922 valve and audiophile grade components. These provide an ultra-wide dynamic range, low noise, and the stunning tube warmth.
The NTK’s rich valve sound is ideal for vocals, pianos, acoustic instruments, drum overheads, and guitar amps.
It features a large 1” capsule with a gold plated diaphragm and comes with its own dedicated power supply.
It’s a phenomenal sounding microphone, and if you want to make it sound even better, simply change the tube for an even higher spec one (such as a Telefunken E88CC) and sit back to hear the magic.
The highs are crystal clear, the mids are warm, and the lows are smooth. You won’t need to use much EQ with this mic, maybe just enough to lower some of the highs. The valve does take a while to warm up properly, at least 20 minutes but it sounds even better if you give it longer.
If you’re looking for a microphone that gives a flat response, this isn’t for you. It does color the vocals, but the beautiful sounds that it creates are well worth paying for.