5 Best Harmonica Microphones for Live and Studio Playing
What do most competent harmonica microphones have in common? – They work great with guitar amplifiers and don’t emphasize the upper frequencies. That and the way they look, of course.
You will find that there’s a lot that goes into selecting a good harmonica microphone.
5 Best Harmonica Microphones - My Favorites
Check out the following reviews and buying tips to find out what important criteria a harmonica microphone should meet, regardless of your personal preferences and playing style. If you already have the skills to move a crowd, it’s time to also pick a mic that will do justice to your playing.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Harmonica Microphones - My Favorites
- Bullet Mics vs. Vocal Mics
- Size Matters Too
- Is Volume Control Important?
- How Low Impedance Microphones Affect Your Sound
This is a dynamic bullet microphone designed for use with a harmonica and engineered to offer the player total control over their tone and note sustain.
The 520DX comes with a volume control knob and a 1/4” connector. The microphone has a high impedance and an omnidirectional polar pattern. Its frequency response is 100 to 5,000Hz.
There’s no emphasis on the higher registers, which makes this an ideal pairing with high impedance guitar amps. The tone of your harmonica should sound very full if you can fully cup the 520DX bullet mic. The 20ft cable is also something worth considering since it should give you enough range of motion on stage or in a rehearsal studio.
This is another omnidirectional bullet microphone with a comfortable design and frequency response curve, ideal for blues harmonicas. The microphone can pick up 100 and 6,000Hz. This is pretty much the full range that a harmonica can reach.
The Superlux D112/C is also a high impedance microphone, which is what you should want when you’re using a guitar amp to bring your harmonica to life. The sound has a subtle but pleasing natural distortion, even when unmodified by effects.
The included 20ft cable should give you plenty of range on stage. It’s also worth noting that the D112/C has a -48dB sensitivity at 1,000Hz.
This is a cardioid microphone designed for both live and studio use. It comes with a volume knob which lets you do adjustments to get the best proximity effect.
The shell is rugged and should handle firm cupping. This makes it less likely for you to affect the tone quality in a negative way.
The build and frequency response range give it away that this mic is not strictly made for the harmonica. The Audix Fireball V’s range is between 50Hz and 16kHz. If you add to that its lightweight build, and its rather neutral tone, it makes sense why this is a great alternative to many classic or custom bullet mics.
It’s also more versatile since, as a regular vocal mic, it can be used for other applications too, not just for blues harmonica. However, it’s important to know that you will need a low to high impedance transformer to get the most out of it.
This is an option that I found equally interesting and useful. The Feather Soul mic is not your traditional bullet mic or vocal mic. In fact, it’s a hands-free microphone developed for harmonica players.
The microphone comes with a strap clip that lets you attach it to one of your fingers. It also has an active preamp which can help to boost the volume and enhance the metallic distortion of your harmonica.
It’s surprising to see this feature in such a lightweight portable microphone. At the same time, the small frame may raise some concerns regarding durability. A bullet mic, by comparison, has a much better shell around it and can withstand a few hits.
On the flip side, there’s no longer a need to cup the microphone while playing.
This is another non-traditional harmonica microphone that deserves your attention. It’s one of the easiest microphones for cupping thanks to its ergonomic and unique design.
It’s also among the most durable microphones judging by its thermo resin body and grille. The microphone comes with an 11-level volume knob. Because of this and the design, it should be very easy to control how your harmonica sounds.
The tone is generally fat and with little to no feedback. While some may appreciate this, others may find that the Shaker mic lacks some needed distortion. But you should be able to compensate for it with the guitar amp or some effects.
Bullet Mics vs. Vocal Mics
Bullet mics were not originally designed for harmonica players. However, they were quickly adopted as the go-to choice for blues harmonica players because of their neutral tone and superior proximity effect. They’re also great for getting a bit of extra distortion.
Vocal microphones are a lot more common and they are also cheaper. Of course, not all vocal mics get a thumbs up. Vocal mics that emphasize higher frequencies are not very suitable since the harmonica already emphasizes the higher registers on its own. This combination can cause a very piercing metalling tone.
Size Matters Too
Sometimes size may matter more than the impedance of the microphone. A smaller microphone may be better for you if you have small hands, even if it doesn’t have enough power to handle a guitar amp.
The reason is all about the grip. Having an airtight grip around your mic will give you increased volume and a much richer tone. But in order to achieve that, you should be able to fully cover the microphone on the sides as you play.
Make sure to find the right balance between raw output and size.
Is Volume Control Important?
Yes, it is. Having a volume knob on your harmonica microphone is not just a novelty feature. It is necessary in order to find your bearings when playing. Adjusting the volume can also improve the overall quality of the sound, depending on how you take advantage of the proximity effect.
How Low Impedance Microphones Affect Your Sound
A low impedance microphone is not a good match for most guitar amplifiers. This means that if you use a low impedance microphone for your harmonica, the sound may be muffled and even muddy.
High impedance microphones should give you more clarity, a fuller sound, and great note articulation. Of course, you’ll have to rearrange the equation if you’re not using the mic with a guitar combo amp.
Always Shop Smart
All of the microphones on this list are ready to go out of the box. It’s up to you to decide which one fits best within your budget.
If you’re leaning towards a tone that best mimics classic harmonica recordings, know that the Shure 520DX and the Superlux D112/C are among the best modern bullet mics for the job.