Inexpensive, all-purpose microphones for home recording
Record a lot with a little.
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There’s never been a better time to be a working musician and home recordist. Interest and development are at an all-time high, and a whole host of high-quality equipment is well within reach. It’s also easier than ever to feel lost in a sea of new gear and equipment and to spend way more time building a studio than you do actually creating the music you love. Fortunately, you really don’t need more than a handful of versatile equipment and gear to record almost anything you can imagine, and no piece of the puzzle is more important to shaping your sound than microphones. We whittled down a whole list and picked our favorites of every shape and size to show that you don’t have to look far to get everything you need out of your studio.
Here are our favorite picks for building a mic collection that does it all.
You’ve almost certainly seen the Shure SM57 before, and that’s no coincidence: this microphone is a heavy-duty, versatile and time-tested gem that can be found anywhere from the podiums of world leaders to nearly every recording studio and live venue in the world. If you’ve ever heard recorded music, you’ve heard the work of an SM57. These dynamic mics are a favorite option for high sound pressure level sources like guitar amps, snare drums, and toms, but you can use them on pretty much anything in a pinch including drum overheads, vocals, and upright bass. There are records that were made only using this microphone, and for good reason. Grab an SM58 if you are looking to use it primarily for vocals—it’s the same mic with a removable pop filter and round grill included.
For low-frequency sound information to come through in your mix, you’ll need a microphone with the right size and configuration to get the job done. The Shure Beta 52A is an industry staple that’s revered for its unique ability to accurately translate the low-frequency attack and punch of bass instruments. An all-time favorite for kick drum, its modified super-cardioid polar pattern means that this mic is excellent at rejecting ambient sounds. It doesn’t stop there, though: throw it in front of a bass amp and mix it with the direct signal for next-level bass tones. Its rugged die-cast metal housing and steel grille will keep the Beta 52A protected and a working staple in your mic locker for years to come.
A condenser microphone is the ideal choice when recording sensitive and nuanced sources like vocals, piano, percussion, and ambient room noise, and it’s a must for the changing needs of any serious studio owner. While SM58s and other dynamic microphones are a go-to for live vocals on stage, a condenser is the only way to go in the studio. MXL’s 770 model offers durability and versatility at a great price point, boasting a 30 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response and a proprietary bass roll-off switch for boomier sources. An included shock mount and foam-lined carrying case ensure that your mic will be safe on the go, in storage, and on the stand.
For acoustics and overhead situations: LyxPro SDPC-2 Stereo Pair of Pencil Condenser Stick Instrument Microphone Pair
No microphone collection is complete without a pair of pencil condenser microphones, and this set from LyxPro more than fits the bill. Ideal for jangly and complex sources such as cymbals, acoustic guitar, and orchestral instruments, this stereo set of compact microphones includes three interchangeable screw-on capsules so you can record tight, focused sources or capture the whole room. Trumpet, violin, saxophone, and more will benefit from the tailored response and compact form factor of these microphones. Set them up above a drum kit and capture the whole performance in glorious stereo.