Best Live Vocal Mics to Knock the Crowd Off Their Feet

A good microphone could make a big difference in your live performance. You can practice in a studio or home environment all you want, but a bad mic will ruin your performance no matter how well prepared you are. However, the equipment you need in a live environment is largely different than the equipment in the studio.

A live performance introduces a variety of factors – external noise, no sound proofing, and a lot of moving around. You’ll want to make sure you have the best tools possible to harness your full singing potential once you step under the spotlight.

To help you navigate through the different options on the market, I’ve made this list of nine highly capable live vocal microphones you can find right now.

9 Best Vocal Mics for Delivering a Great Live Performance

Here are the best live vocal microphones - 9 of my favorite models. All of them have different strengths and come at different price points, so you’ll surely find a mic that suits your needs.

A well-known name in the music industry, Shure microphones have been around since the 20’s. Since then, the company has developed an impressive portfolio with microphones ranging from beginner to professional models.

The BETA 87A falls in the “professional” category and comes at a price to match. But, for that price, you get a great performance. The mic is very durable and well-built, and with a rating of 140 dB you won’t get any distortion, as it’s pretty hard to overload. The thing that makes this mic perfect for live environments is its internal shock protection which helps reduce handling noise.

In terms of sound, it’s quite bright and it might even slightly improve your voice, but it’s not as sensitive as a studio LDC. However, its performance justifies the price and will surely satisfy a professional musician looking for the best equipment for their live performances.

  • Durable and well-built.
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    Great noise reduction.
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    Balanced frequency response.
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    Internal shock protection means it’s unlikely you’ll get any distortion.
  • Some people might not like the design.
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    A bit on the pricier side.

A versatile microphone that works great for both high female and deep, bassy male voices, the Sennheiser e935 is a great tool for live performances. It’s very bright and cuts through the mix, which can really be important in a live environment.

It has the clarity and the balance of a condensed mic, so it works great on moderately loud stages. It also manages to cancel an impressive amount of noise with a humbucking coil and a shock-resistant capsule mounting. So, you can move around and sing as loud as you want without the fear of causing feedback.

The mic also sports a rugged metal design, making it look and feel very durable. Although it’s not as high-end as some other entries on the list, the e935 reigns supreme at this price range.

  • Cuts through the mix with ease.
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    Works great for all types of voices.
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    Resistant to feedback.
  • Some users may find it too bright or tinny.
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    It doesn’t have an on/off switch.

If you’re just starting performing live, you may be looking for a more affordable microphone that can still give you all the basics you need for a good performance. The enCORE 100 from Blue Microphones does just that at a very low price.

But, don’t be fooled by its price tag – this mic has much more to offer than its price may lead you to believe. It provides detailed, clear, and natural vocals while also doing a solid job of cancelling noise with the propriety capsule mount.

It’s made from hard materials and comes with a tough reinforced grill. You also get a soft-grip clip and a small pouch that makes it easy to carry around. Overall, this mic is a great choice if you’re looking for a budget deal.

  • Very affordable, but still delivers a solid performance.
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    Solid sound, natural and clear vocals.
  • Lacks the big name allure of a Sennheiser or a Shure.
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    Not very durable, some users have reported problems after a few weeks.
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    Doesn’t block noise as well as some other models on the list.

Going further down the affordability scale, we’ve reached the Behringer Ultravoice Xm8500. If you’ve been in the music industry for some time, you’ve likely heard of Behringer, as the company is well known for their amps, effects pedals, overhead mics, and various other audio devices. They are also known for one other thing – most of their products are very affordable.

That’s certainly the case with the Xm8500, which is the most affordable entry on this list. While this price means that there are some obvious downsides, the mic still gives you a solid performance in a live setting. It cuts through the mix perfectly and has a very wide frequency response.

It does feature a cardioid pattern, so it can display some noise reduction, but not nearly as much as the high-end models. All in all, this isn’t a very exciting mic, but it outshines most products in its price range.

  • Very affordable, great choice for beginners.
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    Wide frequency response.
  • Doesn’t feature an on/off switch, which some may find annoying.
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    Not that great when it comes to noise reduction.

A microphone that has been regarded as an industry standard by both professionals and amateurs, the SM58S is widely used by musicians all over the world. For example, Robert Plant of the Led Zeppelin is one of the most notable singers who have used this mic in their career.

As you might have expected, this microphone provides a great performance at a reasonable price and it’s very well-built to give you a perfect combination between sound quality and durability. When it comes to live vocals, the SM58S works great in a noisy environment, although you do have to hold it closer to your lips.

It works best for deep male noises, as its high frequency response may produce a slightly nasal sound for female singers. Although it has been introduced around 50 years ago, it’s still one of the best live mics for recording vocals in its price range. However, keep in mind that, unlike its modern counterparts, the SM58S isn’t that good for studio performances or podcast recording.

  • Well-built and very durable.
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    The shock-mount system allows for solid noise reduction.
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    A classic Shure product with a long tradition.
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    Designed specifically for live performances, so it gives your vocals an extra kick.
  • Some people have reported problems with the on/off switch.
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    Slightly smaller than mics from the same class.

Unlike my previous entry, the PR 35 form Heil Sound is a modern microphone with a sleek look and solid performance. This mic is most famous for its impressive handling of the lower frequency range, so it’s perfect for male singers with deeper voices.

In addition to its rich low end, it also has clean highs and a very smooth sound with next to no harshness. However, users have reported that it’s quite sensitive to plosives, so you may want to keep your distance.

It’s very light (the lightest mic on this list), so it’s easy to carry around and set up. However, this does sacrifice some of its durability, so it’s not as sturdy as some of the other entries.

  • The lightest microphone on the list.
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    Great handling of lower frequencies, perfect for deep voices.
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    Solid performance in small to mid-sized environments.
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    Not as durable as heavier mics.
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    Can be sensitive to plosives.
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    Not suitable for large, noisy environments.

This may be one of the cheaper microphones but that doesn’t make it a lesser professional microphone for live gigs. Pyle usually does a good job of balancing quality and list prices, and in the case of the PDMIC59, it maintains its track record.

As a unidirectional microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern, the PDMIC59 is capable of minimizing “outside” interference. This means that the microphone is focused on the sound coming out of your mouth and not the guitar monitors.

This budget-friendly dynamic microphone has a basic on/off switch. It also comes with a 15ft cable which should be long enough whether you’re rehearsing or doing a live gig. The build quality is above average, which is good enough at this price range. The mic can easily handle the stress of life on the road.

The mic also has a wide frequency response range. The response seems somewhat flat and balanced. However, the mic also comes with a built-in pop filter and a windscreen. These two filters may slightly alter the natural pitch of your voice. At the same time, they also improve the response, noise filtering, and overall durability.

  • The lightest microphone on the list
  • Affordable
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    Minimizes background noise
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    Long cable
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    Might be more expensive for some

The MP-75 features a supercardioid polar pattern. It’s slightly trickier to find the right spots on stage to minimize the background noise when using it. That being said, a supercardioid polar pattern is still preferable to a hypercardioid pattern.

Also worth pointing out is that this is a wireless microphone. It has an impedance of 150ohm, and it has multiple integrated vocal effects and filters. It’s rather lightweight but still durable.

The frequency response range is 50 to 18,000Hz. The curve doesn’t lean towards the low or high frequencies, which puts it in the sweet spot to emphasize the midrange frequencies. That’s exactly what you’ll want emphasis in a vocal mic.

If you’re active on stage, then this dynamic microphone might let you highlight your vocal range. It has good resistance to sound pressure and a built-in vocal processor. It’s built to handle lots of punishment.

  • Durable build quality
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    Wireless
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    Doesn’t favor the lower register
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    Vocal processor
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    Light
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    May be difficult to pick your spot

Despite the name, the Pyle Pro PDMIC78 microphone serves as a budget-friendly solution to less pretentious vocalists. Where does it excel at? – It probably works best in small venues and perhaps even karaoke bars. You won’t impress anyone in Nashville with it but it doesn’t mean that it won’t do you justice if you have control over your vocals.

The frequency response range of 50Hz and 15,000Hz covers the entire human vocal range and more. The unidirectional cardioid polar pattern blocks out a lot of noise coming in from other directions other than your mouth.

When it comes to build quality, this is clearly not the most durable microphone. However, it deserves some credit due to its design. Since only a small portion of the grid capsule is exposed, there’s less risk involved when you’re having fun expressing yourself. There’s also less risk of damaging the microphone if you like cupping it in your hand while singing.

The sound is quite flat. As evidenced by the relatively flat frequency range curve, it should reproduce your voice as close to its original pitch as possible. Just note that it’s not among the loudest microphones. It has a low sensitivity which might cause you to turn up the volume control of your sound system. Depending on your setup, some interference and distortion might be unavoidable.

  • Good frequency response range
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    Lightweight
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    Above average build quality
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    Flat sound signature
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    LCD display for channel readout
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    Low sensitivity

Live Vocal Microphones - What to Keep in Mind

There are several factors you should consider when looking for the best mic for live performances.

  • Noise cancellation – what sets live performances apart from a studio environment is the background noise and the lack of sound proofing. You want to get a microphone with a cardioid pattern and off-axis rejection options to avoid feedback.
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    Portability and Durability – constantly carrying your mic from one venue to another and setting it up every night can cause damage to a poorly made microphone. Aim for heavier mics that feel sturdy and durable. You should also consider mics that come with a pouch or case.
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    On/Off switch – it may seem like a small thing, but you’ll know you need an on/off switch as soon as you’re stuck in the middle of a gig without it. Muting your mic instantly is important in a live setting, especially if you’re playing in a band and you want to communicate to your fellow members.

Getting the Right Frequency Response

Also called the sound signature, the frequency response curve of a live microphone can make all the difference for you. This is different than the range.

Let’s say the range is frequency A to frequency B. It’s impossible to design a mic that goes totally flat from A to B. That’s true of speakers as well. Some mics might be quite flat or neutral (almost but not quite like speakers). But most have an emphasis and deemphasis somewhere along the curve.

A flat frequency response is generally preferred for clean vocals. Other genres and playing styles may demand more emphasis somewhere else.

Also, you have to know your own voice’s pitch before choosing a live microphone. High-pitched singers tend to stay away from microphones that favor the higher register.

Dealing with the Proximity Effect

Ever noticed how your voice sometimes sounds deeper as you sing closer to the microphone? – This is a known trait in directional microphones. Close proximity gives more warmth to low frequencies. It all has to do with the wavelengths of the frequencies.

Because of this, the size and shape of the diaphragm are also important when picking a microphone. Not every singer needs this type of voice alteration. Getting the specs right in this case may be even harder if you plan on singing in indoor venues, since a myriad of other factors also contribute to the performance.

Understanding Microphone Polar Patterns

Without getting too technical about each, here are the three common polar patterns in vocal microphones: cardioid, supercardioid, omnidirectional.

A cardioid pattern is your basic microphone polar pattern. The microphone focuses on capturing sounds coming straight at it from the front. At the same time, it bounces off sounds coming from other directions.

A supercardioid microphone also captures sound in the back. Enough that it may cause moments of interference on stage.

Omnidirectional microphones take in sound from all directions in equal measure. They’re amazing if you want a natural sound and if you want to minimize the proximity effect.

Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones – The Definitive Answer

Condenser microphones come in many shapes and sizes. They’re highly sensitive and have an insane response time. However, for live performances, they’re not always the best choice.

Not only are they usually more expensive but they’re also harder to adjust to emphasize specific frequency ranges. They’re also great at capturing any imperfections in pitch.

In contrast, a dynamic microphone can let you get away with a lot. They give you an unparalleled range of motion on any small or big stage.

Final Word

I hope this article has helped you understand the world of live vocal microphones and make your final choice.

Remember, the best live vocal mic will excel at cancelling all background noise and balancing your vocals so that they sound natural and cut through the mix.

And, since a good vocal microphone is typically a long-term investment, you might want to aim for a reliable product even if it means slightly stepping over your budget.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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