The 10 Best Condenser Microphones

Updated January 28, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Even the best performers in the industry sound better when they go into the studio or perform on a professional stage thanks, in large part, to the use of high-quality condenser microphones. The options on our list include incredible choices for vocals and instruments. We've ranked them here by their sound quality, durability, and versatility. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best condenser microphone on Amazon.

10. Cad e70 Modular Dual-Capsule

The two best features of the Cad e70 Modular Dual-Capsule are its price and its size. You can purchase a handful of these for the cost of some other single mics, and place them around a room or a drum kit without disturbing the performers.
  • three-position high pass filter
  • gold sputtered diaphragm
  • a little bit too noisy
Brand CAD
Model e70
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. AKG Pro Audio C451B

Ideal for use in a recording session or on stage, the AKG Pro Audio C451B is one of the best options on the market for capturing the sounds of instruments. It's most at home when situated above a drum set to catch a complete and slightly roomy tone.
  • great choice for rock amps
  • extremely low distortion
  • case and clip included
Brand AKG Pro Audio
Model 2895Z00010
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Blue Microphones Blueberry Cardioid

The Blue Microphones Blueberry Cardioid boasts an admirable vintage quality sound and design. It has a hand-built diaphragm capsule that brings the vocal recording right to the front for a sound that is free of pumping, low frequency thumps.
  • comes with two shock mounts
  • beautiful cherry wood box
  • accentuates some room faults
Brand Blue
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Rode K2 Variable Pattern Tube

The Rode K2 Variable Pattern Tube is carefully constructed to deliver the tone and character of older transducers. It combines incredibly low noise, low distortion, and a high SPL for a smooth sound without the price tag of a top-end vacuum tube model.
  • power supply included
  • heat-treated steel mesh head
  • needs a good pop filter out front
Brand Rode
Model K2
Weight 17.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Audio-Technica AT4053B Hypercardioid

The Audio-Technica AT4053B Hypercardioid reduces the pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, and it has very little off-axis frequency distortion. That makes it ideal for capturing audio from an amp or drum set that's sharing space with other instruments.
  • direct-coupled balanced output
  • durable turned-brass housing
  • sensitive to electrical interference
Brand Audio-Technica
Model AT4053B
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. JZ Black Hole Series BH-1

The versatile JZ Black Hole Series BH-1 works well as a general-purpose studio vocal mic, especially when capturing multiple singers. It sports a distinctive all-black design and exhibits a consistent tonal balance across its three different polar patterns.
  • good for tracking acoustic guitars
  • 5-year warranty
  • doesn't support thinner voices
Brand JZ Microphones
Model BH-1
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Neumann U 87 Ai

With a switchable high-pass filter and a 10dB pre-attenuation pad, the Neumann U 87 Ai opens itself up for use in a variety of situations, not just for vocal tracking. Its unidirectional, omnidirectional, and figure-8 polar patterns only add to its versatility.
  • original capsule design from the 70s
  • low frequency cutoff
  • very expensive option
Brand Neumann
Model 7022
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

The AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII is a cost-effective solution for taking on the road with its all-metal, die-cast body and scratch-resistant finish. It comes complete with a heavy-duty carrying case, a wind screen, and a spider-type shock mount.
  • great for very loud applications
  • designed and engineered in austria
  • nine possible polar patterns
Brand AKG Pro Audio
Model 3059X00060
Weight 4.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Shure SM81-LC Cardioid

The Shure SM81-LC Cardioid is one of the simplest and most effective instrument mics on the market. It has three selectable low-frequency response patterns that cut out more and more low-end room noise as you turn the dial.
  • 10-decibel attenuator
  • great for recording amplifiers
  • durable steel construction
Brand Shure
Model SM81-LC
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Neumann TLM 103

The large diaphragm cardioid Neumann TLM 103 produces an uncompromising sound, while its wide wire-mesh grille provides maximum protection to the capsule. Its robust construction can handle live stage use, but this unit really sings in the studio.
  • very little noise interference
  • excellent impulse response
  • two-year warranty
Brand Neumann
Model TLM103 SET
Weight 7.5 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

How Condenser Microphones Work

If you have ever been in a recording booth, you have likely used a condenser microphone. Condenser microphones are preferred in the studio, mainly for their frequency response, which is the ability to pick up a wide range of noises and keep them intact in a recording. Sound engineers choose to use condenser microphones because they are extremely sensitive.

The sensitivity of condenser microphones comes from the way they function. Condenser microphones use capacitors to create sound. The capacitors are made of a plate of metal facing a very thin gold foil. These two are so close together they are practically touching. As the vibrations from a voice or instrument enter the microphone, they bounce back and forth between the two plates, and are turned into an electric signal.

To be heard, the signal from condenser microphones needs a boost of power, created through the use of phantom power. In the early days of condenser microphones, every microphone had to have its own dedicated power box. If you had six singers in the studio at once, chances are you were tripping over someone’s power box.

Over the years, microphone manufacturers sought to eliminate the problem, coming up with different ways to get power to the microphones without lugging power boxes around. Power from studio preamplifiers or mixing desks is the industry standard now.

Creative engineers have continued to explore other methods to achieve the phantom power as well. Some additional ways include the use of a battery to send the signal and computer power via a USB cable. Many microphones still use a dedicated power box though. One way or another, the signal from a condenser mic gets a power boost to create a strong signal. This strong signal can now be transferred through wires and translated back into that crisp sound coming out of your speakers.

Who Uses Condenser Microphones?

If you only use your microphone when you play video games or talk to people online through chat rooms, a condenser mic might be overdoing it, but anyone who needs a consistent high quality sound can benefit from using one. Voice-over actors enjoy condenser microphones for their ability to capture all the depth and range of the speaking voice, even when whispering. Other types of microphones can’t match the vocal range produced with a condenser microphone.

This same range and vocal quality make condenser microphones a great choice for singers as well. Condenser microphones can pick up those breathy nuances that other microphones miss. Instrumentalists can enjoy listening to the crisp, clear sounds made by condenser microphones, as they require very little gain to create a rich sound.

People who create audio blogs or podcasts have also come to value the realistic sound that comes from using a condenser microphone. Anyone trying to break into the world of audiobook creation may like condenser microphones for their transparency and depth; a clear voice can really bring out the drama of a well-told story.

Choosing The Best Condenser Microphone

Picking the best condenser microphone for you will vary based on your needs. There are microphones made for every use. Think about in what type of applications you will be using your mic the most. If you do a lot of traveling and recording on the road, you may want to consider a more durable condenser microphone that can bounce around in the back of your car. When your band is trying to hit it big on a budget, you may want to pick a USB condenser microphone. They are powered through your computer, and do not require any additional hardware to work. But if you are the next Pavarotti, and have a dedicated studio for your vocal practice, you don’t have to factor in these things. For you, a high quality XLR condenser microphone with a dedicated power supply is an easy choice.

One thing to consider is that condenser microphones are very sensitive. If you can hear the birds chirping outside - so can your microphone. That car driving down the street? Yup, it picked that up too. If you are working in a space that is not soundproofed, you may want to consider a unidirectional microphone. These microphones will reduce the amount of noise being picked up from anywhere but the front of the microphone.

This sensitivity also means you will automatically notice all the noises your mouth makes. Lip smacks from having a dry mouth, the hiss from saying the letters S, T, or C, and the pop sounds from saying the letter P, will all be easily picked up from a good condenser microphone. You can prevent this by buying a pop filter. They are very inexpensive and will save you hours of editing time.

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Last updated on January 28, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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