The 5 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals: Under $500

How much should you spend on a vocal mic?

Vocal mics can cost as much as a new minivan.  Add some, "Keith Richards hiccuped into this one" and the price gets even higher.  Don't cruise the internet for THAT mic.  Feel free, however, to buy as many Neumann U47s, U67s, and U87s as you want once you record a hit with one of these 5 vocal mics under $500.

SHURE SM7b

Unsexy, loved by every bearded singer/songwriter, and not flashy whatsoever, the Sm7b is popular for a simple reason: it gets the job done.  Browse the internet for days and you still won't begin to finalize a list of all the A-list songwriters that record vocals with this popular dynamic mic from Shure.

Popular music artists who have recorded vocals with The Shure SM7b: The Avett Brothers, Jake Bugg, Raphael Saadiq, Dr. Dog, The Civil Wars, Metallica, Michael Jackson, Wilco, The Decemberists, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, and many, many more.

"Where is the grill? The shine?  I am a professional singer, now bring me a pop screen!"

The Sm7B isn't particularly known for its aesthetic wow factor, but it captures your voice in a pleasing way.  Full, forward, and hit-worthy.

 

SHURE SM57

Whether you need to record amps, track vocals, or hammer nails, the Shure SM57 has you covered.  This rugged mic is as scrappy as they come.  It is around $100 and, while not always the first choice for recording vocals, the dynamic SM57 is unanimously hailed as the greatest, most affordable all-around studio microphone.  It's particularly crafty when you need intimate lo-fi vocals.

Popular music artists who have recorded vocals with the SM57:  Sufjan Stevens, The Shins, U2, The Killers, Bon Iver

 

If you can't commit to the dynamic scene above, the Hulk 990 is where it's at.  This attractive large diaphragm mic is comparable to a Neumann U87 Ai.  It is a sensitive, bright, and sparkly vocal microphone.  Before you take it on a date though, be warned that it will pick up the dog barking next door.  Home studios beware: great mics will not make you happy in a poorly treated recording space.  This is why the SM7B (above) has become so popular in home studios.  It is not as sensitive to fan noise, oil burners, plane rumble, etc. In the right space though, the Hulk 990 is a beauty.

 

The Rode NT1A seems to be the first mic you hear of when searching around for an affordable "professional" vocal microphone.  It is quiet -- in fact "The World's Quietest" -- and does a nice job of capturing vocals.  Once you record a hit with it, you can always buy a Neumann U87.  For now, however, save yourself $3,000 and go with the Rode more traveled.

MICHAEL JOLY MJE-v20

Like its Hulk sibling above, Michael Joly's MJE-v20 offers "Neumann-esque" sound.  Similar to the Hulk 990, it sports the custom MJE-K47 capsule.  The MJE-v20 is not as bright -- being aimed more at the sonic signature of a u87 vs a U87 Ai.  Definately a looker, and eases the Neumann itch.