Top 10 XLR Microphones for Vocal Recording

As a recording enthusiast, I'm always on the hunt for the best gear to capture crystal-clear vocals. Did you know that the right XLR microphone can greatly enhance your vocal recordings, delivering studio-quality sound? In this article, I'll be sharing my top 10 picks for XLR microphones specifically designed for vocal recording. From the industry-standard Neumann U87 to the affordable Audio-Technica AT2020, these microphones offer a range of options to suit any budget and desired sound. Let's dive in and find your perfect match!

Neumann U87 – The Industry Standard

The Neumann U87 is my number one choice for vocal recording due to its reputation as the industry standard microphone. With its long-lasting durability and exceptional sound quality, it continues to be the top choice for professional studios worldwide.

The Neumann U87 is renowned for its rugged construction, ensuring it can withstand the demands of daily use in a professional setting. The microphone's robust build quality guarantees that it will last for years, providing consistent performance and reliability. This durability is crucial for studios that require a microphone capable of withstanding heavy usage without compromising on sound quality.

Not only does the Neumann U87 offer exceptional durability, but it also delivers unparalleled audio fidelity. Its wide frequency response captures every nuance of the vocalist's performance with remarkable clarity and accuracy. The microphone's three polar patterns, including cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-eight, provide versatility and allow for precise control over the sound capture.

Furthermore, the Neumann U87's sensitivity and low self-noise make it an ideal choice for capturing vocals with remarkable detail and minimal interference. Its transparent and natural sound reproduction ensures that the vocalist's performance shines through without any coloration or distortion.

Audio-Technica AT2020 – Affordable Quality

For vocal recording on a budget, I highly recommend the Audio-Technica AT2020 for its affordable quality. This microphone offers exceptional performance at an affordable price point, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced musicians.

The AT2020 features a cardioid polar pattern, which means it captures sound from the front while rejecting background noise. This makes it ideal for vocal recordings, as it ensures clear and focused sound reproduction. The microphone also has a wide frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, allowing it to capture the full range of vocals with accuracy and detail.

Here is a table comparing the Audio-Technica AT2020 with other affordable options:

Microphone Model Polar Pattern Frequency Response
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid 20Hz – 20kHz
Shure SM58 Cardioid 50Hz – 15kHz
AKG P220 Cardioid 20Hz – 20kHz
Rode NT1 Cardioid 20Hz – 20kHz
Behringer B-1 Cardioid 20Hz – 20kHz

As you can see, the AT2020 stands out with its wide frequency response, allowing for more accurate and detailed vocal recordings. Its cardioid polar pattern also ensures focused sound capture, further enhancing its quality performance.

Shure SM58 – Legendary Performance

When it comes to industry-standard microphones, the Shure SM58 is a name that stands out. Known for its legendary performance, this microphone has been a go-to choice for vocal recording for decades. Its versatility extends beyond the studio, making it a popular option for live performances as well. With its rugged construction, excellent sound quality, and reliable performance, the Shure SM58 continues to be a top choice for professionals in the music industry.

Industry Standard Microphone

In my experience, using the Shure SM58 for vocal recording has consistently delivered legendary performance. As an industry standard microphone, the SM58 has stood the test of time and remains a popular choice among professionals. Here are five reasons why the Shure SM58 stands out in the industry:

  • Durability: The SM58 is built to withstand the demands of live performances and studio recording, making it a reliable choice for any vocalist.
  • Versatility: With its cardioid polar pattern, the SM58 effectively captures vocals while minimizing unwanted background noise.
  • Clarity: The microphone's tailored frequency response ensures clear and crisp vocals, allowing for excellent articulation and intelligibility.
  • Handling noise reduction: The pneumatic shock mount system of the SM58 helps to reduce handling noise, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted performance.
  • Consistency: The SM58 has been a go-to microphone for decades, and its consistent performance has made it a staple in the music industry.

These features, combined with the latest microphone technology advancements, have cemented the Shure SM58's position as an industry standard microphone for vocal recording.

Versatile for Live Performances

During my live performances, I have found the Shure SM58 to be incredibly versatile and consistently deliver legendary performance. The SM58 is a dynamic microphone that offers numerous benefits for live performances. Its rugged construction ensures durability and reliability, making it suitable for extensive use on stage. The cardioid polar pattern helps to minimize background noise and feedback, allowing for clear and focused vocals. The built-in pneumatic shock-mount system further reduces handling noise, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted performance. Additionally, the SM58 has a tailored frequency response that emphasizes vocals, making it ideal for singers. When choosing a microphone for live performances, it is important to consider factors such as durability, sound quality, and feedback rejection. The Shure SM58 excels in all these areas, making it a top choice for musicians and performers.

AKG C414 – Versatile and Professional

When it comes to superior sound quality, the AKG C414 delivers exceptional performance. With its wide frequency response, it captures every nuance and detail of vocals with clarity and precision. What sets the AKG C414 apart is its versatility, offering multiple polar patterns that allow for flexible recording options in any setting.

Superior Sound Quality

Having tested various XLR microphones for vocal recording, I found the AKG C414 to be a versatile and professional option with superior sound quality. Equipped with superior sound technology and advanced audio engineering, the AKG C414 delivers exceptional audio reproduction that captures every nuance of the performer's voice. Here are five key features that contribute to its outstanding sound quality:

  • Multiple polar patterns: The AKG C414 offers nine selectable polar patterns, allowing for precise control over the microphone's sensitivity and directionality.
  • Extended frequency response: With a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, the AKG C414 captures a wide range of frequencies, ensuring accurate reproduction of vocals.
  • High sensitivity: The microphone's high sensitivity enables it to capture even the softest vocal details without compromising on clarity.
  • Low self-noise: The AKG C414 has an extremely low self-noise level, resulting in clean and transparent recordings.
  • Switchable attenuation pads: The microphone features three switchable attenuation pads, allowing for recording in high sound pressure level situations without distortion.

Wide Frequency Response

One key feature that sets the AKG C414 apart as a versatile and professional microphone is its wide frequency response. The AKG C414 offers an impressive frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, capturing a wide spectrum of sound with exceptional accuracy. This broad frequency response ensures that every nuance and detail of the vocal performance is faithfully reproduced, resulting in exceptional vocal clarity. The lower end of the frequency range captures the richness and depth of the vocals, while the higher end captures the crispness and brilliance of the high-frequency harmonics. The AKG C414's wide frequency response allows for the meticulous capture of vocals, providing professional-grade recordings that are full-bodied, detailed, and true to life. Whether recording delicate whispers or powerful belts, the AKG C414 excels in delivering exceptional vocal clarity across the entire frequency spectrum.

Multiple Polar Patterns

The AKG C414 sets itself apart as a versatile and professional microphone due to its multiple polar patterns. With the ability to switch between nine different polar patterns, this microphone offers a wide range of options for recording vocals. Here are some advantages of multiple polar patterns and tips for choosing the right one for different recording scenarios:

  • Cardioid: Ideal for capturing vocals and instruments in a controlled environment, with minimal background noise pickup.
  • Omni: Perfect for capturing a natural and spacious sound, making it great for recording choirs or capturing room ambience.
  • Figure-8: Allows for recording from the front and back of the microphone, making it suitable for duets or interviews.
  • Hypercardioid: Offers a narrower pickup pattern than cardioid, making it useful for isolating specific sound sources.
  • Wide cardioid: Provides a wider pickup pattern than cardioid, capturing a more natural sound while still reducing background noise.

When choosing the right polar pattern, consider the environment, desired sound, and the positioning of the sound source. Experimenting with different patterns can help achieve the desired recording result. The AKG C414's multiple polar patterns make it a versatile and professional choice for any recording scenario.

Rode NT1 – Transparent and Quiet

A highly acclaimed and versatile option for vocal recording, the Rode NT1 stands out for its exceptional transparency and minimal noise. When it comes to capturing vocals with utmost clarity and accuracy, the NT1 delivers an impressively transparent sound. Its wide frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz ensures that every nuance and detail of the vocals are faithfully reproduced.

One of the key factors that contribute to the NT1's transparent sound is its low self-noise. With a self-noise level of only 4.5dBA, this microphone offers an incredibly quiet operation. This means that even the most subtle vocal performances can be captured without any unwanted background noise or interference. The low self-noise of the NT1 makes it an ideal choice for recording in quiet environments or for capturing delicate vocal performances.

In addition to its transparent sound and low self-noise, the Rode NT1 also features a high-quality condenser capsule that ensures excellent transient response and accurate sound reproduction. This microphone is designed to capture vocals with exceptional detail and realism, making it a reliable choice for professional vocal recording applications.

Sennheiser MD 421 II – Dynamic Excellence

Now let's delve into the Sennheiser MD 421 II, an XLR microphone renowned for its dynamic excellence. This microphone is a staple in professional studios and live performances due to its exceptional performance and versatility. Here are some key features that make the Sennheiser MD 421 II stand out:

  • Frequency Response: The MD 421 II boasts a wide frequency response range of 30Hz to 17kHz. This ensures accurate reproduction of vocals and instruments across the entire audio spectrum.
  • Dynamic Range: With a high dynamic range of 131dB, the MD 421 II can capture both soft and loud sound sources without distortion. This makes it ideal for capturing the nuances of vocal performances.
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern: The cardioid polar pattern of the MD 421 II provides excellent off-axis rejection, minimizing unwanted background noise and feedback.
  • Built-in Pop Filter: The integrated pop filter reduces plosive sounds and sibilance, resulting in cleaner and clearer recordings.
  • Rugged Construction: The MD 421 II is built to withstand the rigors of professional use. Its durable metal construction ensures longevity and reliability, making it suitable for studio and live applications.

Aston Spirit – Unique and Stylish

I have to say, the Aston Spirit microphone truly stands out in terms of its sound quality, innovative design features, and versatility for vocal recording. This microphone delivers exceptional clarity and detail, capturing every nuance of the performer's voice. Its unique wave-form mesh head provides excellent protection against plosives and sibilance, while its built-in pop filter ensures a clean and professional sound. With its stylish and sleek design, the Aston Spirit is not only a high-performing microphone but also a visually appealing addition to any recording setup.

Aston Spirit's Sound Quality

Having tested various XLR microphones for vocal recording, I was impressed by the unique and stylish Aston Spirit's sound quality. Here are some key aspects that stood out to me:

  • Clarity: The Aston Spirit delivers clear and detailed audio reproduction, capturing the nuances of vocals with precision.
  • Warmth: The microphone provides a warm and rich tone, enhancing the depth and character of vocals.
  • Versatility: With its selectable polar patterns (Cardioid, Omni, and Figure-of-Eight), the Aston Spirit adapts well to different recording environments and applications.
  • Low noise: The microphone exhibits minimal self-noise, allowing for clean recordings even in quiet passages.
  • Durability: Built with a solid all-metal construction, the Aston Spirit is robust and can withstand the rigors of studio use.

Innovative Design Features

One standout aspect of the Aston Spirit XLR microphone is its unique and stylish design features. Aston Microphones has always been known for pushing the boundaries of microphone design, and the Spirit is no exception. Its sleek and modern look sets it apart from other microphones in its class. But it's not just about looks, the Spirit also incorporates cutting-edge technology to enhance its performance.

Here is a table highlighting some of the innovative design features of the Aston Spirit:

Design Feature Description
Wave-Form Mesh The unique mesh design reduces unwanted reflections and diffractions for clearer sound.
Chassis The precision-machined chassis minimizes handling noise and provides durability.
Shock Mount The built-in shock mount reduces vibrations and handling noise for a cleaner recording.

These design features not only make the Aston Spirit a visually appealing microphone but also contribute to its overall performance and versatility. Aston Microphones continues to lead the industry with their commitment to innovative design and cutting-edge technology.

Versatility for Vocal Recording

Continuing from the previous discussion on the innovative design features of the Aston Spirit XLR microphone, its unique and stylish design also contributes to its versatility for vocal recording. Here are some live performance techniques and microphone placement tips to maximize the Aston Spirit's capabilities:

  • Use the cardioid polar pattern to capture the vocalist's performance while minimizing background noise.
  • Experiment with different microphone positions, such as placing the Aston Spirit slightly above the singer's mouth to capture a balanced sound.
  • Utilize the -10dB pad switch for loud vocals or live performances to prevent distortion.
  • Take advantage of the built-in pop filter to reduce plosive sounds caused by consonants like 'p' and 'b'.
  • Explore the Aston Spirit's frequency response range (20Hz – 20kHz) to capture the full spectrum of the vocalist's voice.

With these techniques and placement tips, the Aston Spirit XLR microphone enables versatile vocal recording suitable for various live performances and recording environments.

Electro-Voice RE20 – Broadcast Quality Sound

To achieve professional-grade audio recordings, the Electro-Voice RE20 delivers broadcast quality sound. This microphone is highly regarded in the industry for its exceptional performance and versatility. When it comes to broadcast techniques, the RE20 stands out as a top choice due to its ability to capture clear and natural vocals while minimizing background noise and handling noise. Its wide frequency response of 45Hz to 18kHz ensures accurate reproduction of vocals, making it suitable for a wide range of applications.

The RE20 excels in microphone comparison tests, consistently outperforming other models in its class. Its unique Variable-D technology helps eliminate proximity effect, allowing for consistent sound quality regardless of the distance between the microphone and the sound source. This makes it a preferred choice for broadcasters, podcasters, and voice-over artists.

In addition to its exceptional sound quality, the RE20 features a rugged construction that can withstand the demands of professional use. Its internal shock mount effectively reduces vibrations and handling noise, ensuring clean recordings even in less-than-ideal environments. The built-in pop filter minimizes plosive sounds, further enhancing the clarity of vocals.

Blue Bluebird SL – Smooth and Crisp

While the Electro-Voice RE20 is known for its broadcast quality sound, the Blue Bluebird SL stands out for its smooth and crisp audio reproduction. When it comes to vocal recording, the Blue Bluebird SL delivers exceptional clarity and precision. Here are five key features that make it an excellent choice for capturing smooth and crisp vocals:

  • Extended frequency response: The Blue Bluebird SL boasts a wide frequency range, allowing it to capture the full spectrum of vocal tones with accuracy and detail.
  • High sensitivity: With a high sensitivity rating, this microphone captures even the subtlest nuances of a vocalist's performance, resulting in a truly immersive recording.
  • Low self-noise: The Blue Bluebird SL's low self-noise ensures a clean and transparent audio signal, free from any distracting background noise.
  • Custom-designed capsule: The microphone features a custom-designed large-diaphragm capsule, which contributes to its exceptional sound quality and accurate transient response.
  • Class-A discrete amplifier circuit: The built-in Class-A discrete amplifier circuitry of the Blue Bluebird SL ensures a clean and transparent signal path, preserving the natural character of the vocals.

With its smooth recording capabilities and crisp audio quality, the Blue Bluebird SL is an ideal choice for vocalists seeking professional-grade sound reproduction.

Mojave Audio MA-200 – Vintage Warmth and Clarity

I have to mention the Mojave Audio MA-200 because it brings a vintage warmth and clarity to vocal recordings. This microphone is a classic example of a vintage microphone that has been designed to capture the subtleties and nuances of the human voice. The MA-200 employs a vacuum tube design, which adds a distinctive character to the sound. It features a large diaphragm capsule and a cardioid polar pattern, making it ideal for capturing vocals with precision and detail.

When it comes to vocal recording techniques, the Mojave Audio MA-200 excels in delivering a warm and intimate sound. Its vintage design and tube circuitry contribute to a smooth and natural sound reproduction, reminiscent of the classic microphones used in the golden age of recording. The MA-200's ability to capture vocals with clarity and warmth makes it a popular choice among professional vocalists and audio engineers.

Whether you're recording vocals for a studio album or capturing a live performance, the Mojave Audio MA-200 is a reliable and versatile choice. Its vintage aesthetic and exceptional sound quality make it a favorite among musicians and engineers who appreciate the unique characteristics of a vintage microphone. If you're looking to add a touch of warmth and character to your vocal recordings, the Mojave Audio MA-200 is definitely worth considering.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Price Range of These XLR Microphones?

The price range of these XLR microphones varies greatly. There are budget options available for those on a tight budget, while higher-end options can cost several hundred dollars.

Can These Microphones Be Used for Other Purposes Besides Vocal Recording?

When it comes to XLR microphones, versatility is key. These mics can be used for various applications besides vocal recording, such as podcasting, instrument recording, and live performances. Choosing the right one depends on your specific needs.

Do These Microphones Require Any Additional Accessories or Equipment for Optimal Performance?

For optimal performance with XLR microphones, necessary accessories include a microphone stand, pop filter, and XLR cable. Additionally, using a high-quality audio interface and preamp can greatly enhance the sound quality and overall performance of the microphone.

Are These Microphones Compatible With All Types of Audio Interfaces?

Yes, these XLR microphones are compatible with most audio interfaces, ensuring optimal performance. Additionally, their versatility allows for alternative applications such as instrument recording or podcasting, making them a valuable investment for any aspiring musician or content creator.

Are There Any Specific Techniques or Tips for Using These Microphones Effectively for Vocal Recording?

When it comes to using XLR microphones for vocal recording, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. From specific techniques to achieving optimal sound quality, I've got you covered. Let's dive in.


After considering the top 10 XLR microphones for vocal recording, it is evident that each microphone offers its unique qualities and benefits. From the industry-standard Neumann U87 to the affordable Audio-Technica AT2020, there is a microphone for every budget and recording need. These microphones provide exceptional sound quality, versatility, and professional performance. So, whether you're a professional musician or a passionate hobbyist, these XLR microphones will surely amplify your vocal recordings to new heights, painting a sonic canvas that will leave your audience in awe.

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