Condenser microphones are an essential component in any recording studio, whether at home or in a professional setting. These microphones have incredible attention to detail, and are multi-purpose when it comes to capturing sounds.
Whether you want to record drums, guitars, piano or vocals, condensers can do it all. This definitive list of the best condenser mics available will provide you with many options to suit your recording needs.
Please note that I've arranged the budget categories in the descending order of price. So, higher-end mics are at the top and budget options are towards the bottom. If you're looking for a budget mic, click here to jump directly into the best options under $100.
Table of Contents
- Best under $1000
- Best under $500
- Best under $300
- Best under $200
- Best under $100
- Best under $50
Best under $1000
The TLM 102 is a premium quality condenser microphone from the much revered audio manufacturer Neumann. This microphone is great for recording crisp, detailed vocal takes, but it can also be used for a multitude of other pruposes. It has a high SPL handling capacity so is more than capable of capturing loud instruments too.
Let’s look at the technical aspects. A large diaphragm condenser, the TLM 102 can handle up to 144 decibels of volume. Kick drums, amps and guitars are all well within its capabilities. In terms of frequency range, it can pick up anything between 20Hz and 20kHz. So in theory, you could record all of the individual components of a live band with this impressive mic.
The Neumann Tlm 102 also comes with an integrated pop shield to minimize unwanted plosives and enhance the clarity of your recordings. Unlike some large diaphragm condenser mics, it has a compact and lightweight design so you can move it around the studio effortlessly when inspiration takes over. The matte black finish adds a touch of class to its appearance.
2. Shure KSM137
Microphone heavyweights Shure are best known for their hugely popular dynamic microphones, the SM58 and SM57. With the KSM137, they have carried over that quality into a condenser mic which has an impeccable transient response.
The KSM137 boasts a very consistent cardiod polar pattern, meaning it will pick up the finest details of a recording. This microphone really excels when it comes to recording intimate vocal tracks or textural acoustic guitars. It has a built-in subsonic filter to combat any undesirable frequencies in the low end.
Shure’s experience in the field of microphone production almost spans a century, and they’ve implemented this knowledge to introduce some cool features on the KSM137. The 3-position pad allows you to trim off frequencies, and the 3-position highpass filter switch is very useful for focusing on a specific frequency range.
This condenser can handle up to 134db on its normal setting, but can be boosted up to 159db using the built in position pad. For clean sounding vocals, look no further – the KSM137 is a great option.
3. Rode NTK
This large diaphragm tube condenser utilizes an externally polarized capsule along with a twin-triode 6922 tube. The result is a clear, rich recording with a sprinkle of vintage sound, thanks to the tube construction.
The NTK has the capacity to record anything between -20kHz and 20kHz. If you’re looking to record crash cymbals, this is the perfect microphone for that.
Another thing I like about this Rode mic is the bulky feel. It looks and feels like a microphone from the 70’s, and this is reflected in the authentic recording sound it produces.
Best under $500
4. AKG 451 B
Based on the legendary C 451, AKG has taken the best aspects of that microphone and implemented them into the more modern 451 B condenser. This mic is best suited for capturing overhead drums due to its ability to highlight detailed transients.
AKG have used a light diaphragm in the 451 B, which gives it a bulletproof capacity for handling loud noise. Its all metal construction is perfect for a home studio where microphones inevitable get bashed around from time to time. The mic is permanently fixed to the preamp in order to further improve stability when recording.
The finishing touch to this responsive condenser microphone is the switchable preattenuation pad which allows you to increase its SPL capacity if you are recording some seriously powerfully takes. It also has a built in high pass filter which cuts off at 75Hz or 150Hz to roll off any low end noise.
The Audio-Technica AT4033 is a versatile condenser mic that is a great addition to any studio setup. This microphone has been around for over 20 years now, which is a good indicator of its quality and popularity among recording engineers.
The standout feature of the AT4033 is how it negates low end noise. Its circuitry has no transformers which eliminates distortion in the lower frequencies. A multi-faceted mic, the AT4033 is equally adept at recording vocals, guitars or strings. It produces crystal clear takes that require very little EQ.
The floating capsule assembly of this condenser mic also works to limit unwanted noise. Nickel-plated brass has been used to improve its stability, and the symmetrical housing minimizes reflections that could occur internally within the microphone.
6. Rode NT5
Similar to the previous Rode entry on this list, the NT5 is brilliant for drum recording. That’s not to say that it can’t handle guitars and vocals. But as they come as a pair, it seems more suited for recording overheads. These condenser microphones also include two WS5 wind shields to block unwanted noise when recording.
The custom carrying case that the NT5s come in also adds a nice touch, and makes them easily transportable. The circuitry has been built with transformers to further combat unwanted noise.
If you like to record live jams with a band, miking up two guitar amps with the individual NT5s will produce a consistent result and ensure that you don’t forget any spur of the moment ideas.
Two RM5 stand mounts are also included with these condenser mics, a handy addition for positioning them around your studio. They are cased in heavy duty nickel plated bodies so wear and tear shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Sonically, the NT5s have a very flat frequency response which dips slightly in the low end, a characteristic which makes them capable of recording anything from acoustic guitars to crash cymbals.
Best under $300
The WA-47jr is a solid-state microphone that produces a highly detailed sound and is great at resisting distortion. This type of microphone is a popular choice for recording percussion, notably kick drums, due to the transformerless FET engineering coupled with a U47 style capsule.
The WA-47 Jr isn’t just a drum mic, though. This condenser is capable of focusing in on the detailed transient of vocals and stringed instruments, with a good level of precision. It is also well-suited to be used as a room mic to pick up the ambience of your recording studio.
This microphone has three distinct polar patterns; cardiod, figure-8 and omidirectional. Combining these three makes it highly versatile and capable of recording close up or at a distance. There is a built-in high pass filter which rolls off anything under 70Hz, making it possible to rid your recording of unwanted bass frequencies.
Shure’s Beta 87A condenser microphone can be used for both recording and live performances, thanks to its handheld design. Usually for vocals, dynamic microphones would be used in a live setting due to the risk of feedback and noise levels associated with a more responsive condenser. However, the 87A’s supercardiod pickup pattern has been specifically designed to counteract this issue.
With this Shure microphone you get the combination of condenser clarity and dynamic durability, a perfect blend for live vocals. For more intimate vocal performances, with a piano for example, this microphone is perfect. Its flat frequency response only picks up what is directly in front of the microphone, so no unwanted noise creeps into the mix.
What about for recording? Although the Beta 87A is predominantly a live microphone, it is still very useful in the studio. The frequency response stretches from 50Hz to 20kHz, so you’ll have absolutely no trouble recording piano, acoustic guitar or most other instruments with it.
Another great use for this mic is if you play the drums and sing backing at the same time. Due to its focused reception, the 87A won’t pick up much of the spill from cymbals, meaning your vocals will be crystal clear.
The first thing that struck me about the Origin microphone by Aston was its intriguing appearance. In all my years of recording, I’ve never seen a microphone with a furry look before!
However, the unique appearance of this large diaphragm condenser mic isn’t just a gimmick to make it stand out. It is a protective wave-form mesh head with a pop filter built into it.
The function of this mesh head doesn’t stop there. It also measures the microphones axis, and when rejection occurs, prevents unwanted sounds from being recorded or produced. The cage is made from stainless steel and can be removed for washing too.
Enough about the appearance. Now, let’s discuss the acoustics. The microphone has a cardiod polar pattern, making it ideal for a vocal booth. It can handle both close up, quiet vocals, and loud projected vocals equally well thanks to its flat frequency response.
If you need to roll out some low end, there’s a handy high pass filter built in which trims everything below 80Hz. The Origin also has a 10db pad to give you further options regarding frequencies.
Best under $200
10. AKG P420
The P420 is a large-diaphragm from one of the leading manufacturers of affordable microphones, AKG. This condenser mic is focused on high sensitivity, picking up all of the subtle characteristics of a vocal take.
With a resilient SPL capacity and a number of pickup patters, it is a versatile addition to your recording setup. You can choose between omni, figure-8, and cardiod patterns depending on what instrument or vocalist you are recording.
There’s no danger of the P420 being damaged from normal studio activity. It is durably built, with a spider-style shock mount and aluminum carry case further enhancing this aspect. With a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, this AKG condenser can handle vocals or guitars equally as well.
There is a built-in bass roll off that mitigates anything under 300Hz, a handy feature for recording more treble focused vocals or instruments. The max SPL is 155db. Hence, you could potentially use this condenser mic for drums if the need arises.
11. Sennheiser e 614
The Sennheiser e 614 is designed like a shotgun mic, but with much more attention to detail. This condenser is ideal for recording drums and would do the job as a bottom snare mic, thanks to its ability to isolate sounds. It is powered by external phantom power and has a high SPL tolerance, again making it perfect to pick up the fine details of a drum kit.
The e 614 is also extremely lightweight. In this respect, it is a refreshing alternative to most condenser microphones that can be bulky and difficult to mount onto a stand without it tipping over. It comes equipped with a microphone clip, a carrying pouch and is under warranty for ten years!
Although this microphone is best suited to overheads on a drum kit, it is also a capable guitar mic, and could even be used to capture the ambience of the room if needed. Its sharp frequency response makes it one of the more versatile options on this list.
Best under $100
12. Samson C01
The Samson C01 is a nostalgic microphone for me, as it was the first one I bought years ago to record vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s a durable condenser mic that’s great value for the price. When used for vocal recording, it captures clarity in the high-mids, and is well suited for close-up styles of signing or rapping.
I later found that it also makes a handy room mic or overhead mic for drums. If you use a three-mic setup like the Glyn Johns technique, adding the C01 above the whole kit really captures the transients of cymbals and overall kit sounds.
The microphones electronic components are protected by a heavy guage mesh grill screen, which is a good job seeing as though it had to survive its fair share of unintentional falls when I used it. A swivel stand mount is included with the C01, which makes maneuvering it around the studio a simple task.
With a smooth, flat frequency response and an overall detailed sound, this condenser mic is a highly useful addition in your studio. It is capable of recording a variety of instruments accurately and without excess background noise.
13. AKG P170
AKG are back on our list, this time with the shotgun-styled condenser, the P170. This microphone gives you access to the clarity and accuracy you would expect from an AKG mic without spending mega bucks.
The P170 is a cardiod-pattern mic which boasts great versatility, lending itself to recording acoustic guitar, hi-hats and other percussion instruments. It is solid in construction and won’t take up a massive amount of space in your studio. This condenser is in mono, so it might be worth purchasing a pair if you intend to use it for drum overheads or recording piano.
Built into the AKG P170 is a switchable 20db preattenuation pad which limits unwanted noises for creeping into the recordings. Its frequency range spans from 20Hz to20kHz, making it capable of picking up pretty much any instruments you intend to record.
A sturdy stand adapter is included with the AKG P170 so you can easily fit on onto your mic stands. The max SPL is 135db, but this can be ramped up to 155db when the pad is activated. All in all, this small diaphragm condenser is a great asset for recording focused sounds from instruments that have a naturally fast attack.
Best under $50
14. Samson Go Mic
Last but not least, we have the Samson Go Mic. This is a unique looking condenser microphone which almost resembles an old-school announcement mic.
It’s very small for a condenser mic and will easily fit into your pocket. Not only does the Go Mic perform well for vocal recordings, it is also perfect for podcasting or recording interviews, thanks to its compact design.
This microphone, unlike the other on the list, is powered purely by USB connection so you don’t even need an audio interface to use it. Simply download the drivers from Samson’s website and the Go Mic will appear on the input options of your chosen DAW. It has a clip built onto the mic so you can use your desk as a microphone stand.
If you want a condenser mic that is quick to fire up, easy to move around and captures clear audio, the Go Mic ticks all of those boxes. It also comes with a zipper case to protect it from wear and tear.
Time to Record!
Hopefully you’ve found the condenser microphone you were looking for in this comprehensive guide. The great thing about the recording process is that there really is no right or wrong, and sometimes experimenting with unorthodox methods can yield the most interesting results.