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Best Microphones For Under $500

All home recordists are ultimatley looking for the same thing – that studio sound on a small budget.  Although it is a quite a challenge to recreate Abbey Road in the bedroom and on a budget, you can get some great results if you know how.  Firstly you need a good environment, such as a quiet room with great acoustics.  A good audio interface helps a lot – check out another article I wrote in this.  A good set of speakers or headphones are also very important.  Lastly, a good all round microphone is a must and this can be achieved without having to break the bank.  A good workhorse microphone can transform your home studio and help you get that closer to that studio sound.  Getting the best studio microphone possible is important and this article will run through the best microphones for under $500.

Before we get going, if you want any further reading into what microphone to get check out Sound on Sounds guide to choosing the microphone.  It is a great read and will not doubt help you understand what it is you really need.  Musicradar.com’s review of 31 of the best vocal microphones will also give you a wider range of microphone options, especially if you are after a vocal microphone.

Large diaphragm condenser

AKG C214

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 136 dB/156 dB
  • Signal-to-noise: 81 dB
  • Other notes: Includes 20dB pad and roll-off switch. Comes with shock mount, foam windscreen, and metal case

Living off the fame of the infamous studio microphone, the AKG C414, the AKG C214 is an affordable option that gets you a similar sound at a much lower price point.

This is a great option for an all round microphone at an affordable price.  It will be able to capture a rich and smooth vocal performance as well as a crisp and clear acoustic guitar.  If needs be it will also do a good job as an overhead microphone for a drum kit.  It’s a great all round option and arguably the best studio microphone available for under $500.

It’s cardioid only and single diaphragm, so go no further if you’re looking for professional, clear and bright sounding microphone without breaking the bank.

Check out the AKG C214 in action

best audio interfaces

Blue Bluebird

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 138 dB
  • Signal-to-noise: 87 dB
  • Other notes: Comes with wood box, shockmount, and pop filter

This is a brilliant, cheap and simple large diaphragm condenser. The Blue Bluebird sounds just as good as it looks. From a company known for application-specific mics with lots of mojo, the Bluebird is flexible and sounds good on just about anything you put in front of it. It has a full sound, but with great high frequency transient detail – something most mics in this range struggle with. With a fairly hot output and incredibly low self-noise for its class, it manages to stay workable on even fairly low-end interfaces and pre-amps.

This is a great choice and one of best microphones for under $500.

best audio interfaces

Avantone C-12

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Selectable (nine options!)
  • Frequency response: 25 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 136 dB/146 dB
  • Signal-to-noise: 78 dB
  • Other notes: Includes 10 dB pad and roll-off switch. Comes with wood box, shockmount, power supply, and case for mic and power supply

The Avantone C-12 is perhaps one of the cheapest tube mic offerings on the market that actually sounds like its bigger, more expensive brethren. Some people go as far as to call it a “poor man’s AKG C12” (where I suspect this model number may have come from.) While I may not go that far, this is a great warm mic that offers a lot of flexibility and is great if you’re looking for that tube mic tone at an entry-level price.

best audio interfaces

Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020 - best microphones for under $500

Key Features

  • The price/performance standard in side-address studio condenser microphone technology
  • Ideal for project/home-studio applications
  • High SPL handling and wide dynamic range provide unmatched versatility
  • Custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm provides extended frequency response and superior transient response
  • Cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source

The Audio Technica AT2020 has become an extremely popular, low cost option for both professional and homes studios.  It is well made and very versatile, meaning it will happily capture a faithful recording of an acoustic guitar or a lead vocal.  As a matter of fact Plan Bs vocal on his award winning album The Defamation of Strickland Banks were recorded using one of these microphones.

The AT2020 has a wide dynamic range and a large frequency response meaning it will capture all the high and low ends that you will need.

If you have a smaller budget and want a microphone that you know will sound great, then the Audio Technica AT2020 is a great choice and a top studio microphone.

best audio interfaces

Rode NT1A

best microphones for under $500

Key Features

  • Large 1 inch capsule with gold plated diaphragm
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Self Noise of only 5 dB (A)
  • Ultra low noise, transformerless surface mount circuitry
  • Wide dynamic range

The Rode NT1A has become an industry standard large diaphragm microphone.  It is very popular due to its affordability and quality.  The Rode NT1A has a great warmth and a good dynamic range.  It is able to capture high end frequencies with great clarity.

The Rode NT1A has a self-noise level of only 5dBA and is widely recognised as one the world’s quietest studio microphones. This low noise makes it an ideal for vocal microphone as well as perfect for recording guitars and percussion.

The Rode NT1A is up there alongside the AKG C214 in terms of versatility and build quality.  The Rode is perfect if you are looking for an all round microphone to be able to record vocals, acoustic instruments or even guitar amplifiers.

The NT1A is certainly one of best microphones for under $500.  So if you are looking for an affordable and good quality microphone, the Rode NT1A is an excellent option.

best audio interfaces

Small diaphragm condenser

Sennheiser e914

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 137 dB/157 dB
  • Signal-to-noise: 75 dB
  • Other notes: Includes three-position pad and roll-off switches. Comes with mic clip, foam windscreen and bag

Highly underrated, these mics are as studio friendly as they are bulletproof for the road. These “pencil-style” condensers are detailed mics that sound great on a number of sources from acoustic guitars to strings, piano, and drum overheads. The two three-position switches (roll-off and pad) give you remarkable flexibility for almost any situation.  Again, an excellent choice and one of the best microphones for under $500.

best audio interfaces

Shure Beta 181

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Interchangeable capsules
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: Varies by capsule (151.5 dB to 157 dB)
  • Signal-to-noise: Varies by capsule (70.5 dB to 73 dB)
  • Other notes: Comes with case, mic clip, and foam windscreen

Shure’s compact side-address condenser is one to check out and certainly one of the best microphones for under $500. While maintaining Shure’s hallmark bulletproof construction, the option of interchangeable capsules opens up a world of mic flexibility without having to buy a closet of mics. Great sound and reliability you can count on should be no surprise here.

best audio interfaces

AKG Pro Audio C451B

AKG Pro Audio C451B Instrument Condenser Microphone - best microphones for under $500

Key Features

  • Sound of the legendary C451 EB + CK1 capsule from 1969 delivers stunning sound quality with maximum accuracy
  • Established tour sound standard since the 1980s for excellent sound quality even under harsh on-stage conditions
  • Impressive sound pressure level capability of 155dB SPL allows close-miking of high-energy sound sources without distortion
  • Highly effective high-pass filter with 12dB/octave prevents low-end distortion caused by rumble or wind noise
  • Transformerless preamp and surface mount technology provides extremely low distortion, highest reliability and less weight

The AKG Pro Audio C451B is a wonderful microphone.  It has the identical acoustic behaviour of it predecessor, the legendary C451 EB + CK1 capsule, which has been a best selling microphone since the late 1960s.  The C451B has a lovely airy sound that will capture acoustic instruments especially well.  If you are looking for a classic and crisp sounding instrument mic for your acoustic guitar or piano, then this is an excellent option.  

It is also a very well made microphone and will certainly stand the test of time.  It is not the cheapest and perhaps it is not the most necessary microphone to get if you are on a tight budget, but if you can stretch to it getting a couple of C451B microphones for stereo instrument recordings it would be well worth your while.

best audio interfaces

Blue Hummingbird

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 130 dB
  • Signal-to-noise: 85.5 dB
  • Other notes: Comes with case, mic clip, and foam windscreen

An innovative design from the company that loves to be eccentric. Blue’s entry to the small diaphragm market couldn’t be that simple; there had to be a catch. However, this is an interesting and functional one. Similar to the design of the Blue Mouse, the capsule rotates, but this time a full 180 degrees, effectively allowing to you go from “pencil” to side-address and everywhere in between. The flexibility to fine-tune your mic placement is only as limited as your imagination here, and its off-axis noise rejection and low signal-to-noise may make this a new go-to for me in any environment.

Check out the Blue Hummingbird in action

best audio interfaces

Large Diaphragm Dynamic

Electro Voice RE-20

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 45 Hz to 18 kHz
  • Other notes: Includes bass roll-off. Comes with case and mic clip

This mic is a secret weapon in the studio, regardless of price. This broadcast mic turned studio beast is as comfortable on a voice as it is on a bass cabinet or kick drum. Absolute rejection from the rear, almost zero off-axis coloration, and lack of the proximity effect make this possibly one of the most forgiving mics on the planet. This mic can make an aggressive vocalist sit beautifully in a mix almost by itself. It does have very low output, so make sure to use it with a clean pre-amp or have some sort of in-line boost.

The Electrovoice is a classic microphone and has stood the test of time.  Still after all these years it is still one of the best microphones for under $500.

best audio interfaces

Shure SM7-B

best microphones for under $500

Key Features:

  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 50 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Other notes: Includes bass roll-off and presence boost. Comes with A7WS detachable windscreen

Another classic broadcast mic pressed into studio service with great effectiveness.  The yolk-mounted, built-in shockmount makes this a quick and easy mic to throw up and get great sounds on almost anything you mic with it.

The SM7-B is able to capture a bright, crisp and clear vocal, as well as being very effective for acoustic instruments such as acoustic guitar or piano.

This is a fabulous microphone and one of the best microphones for under $500.  There’s a reason this mic sees the light of day even when mics that cost 10 times as much are available.

best audio interfaces

 

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