The 10 Best Condenser Microphones

Updated May 28, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Condenser Microphones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. The vocals on your favorite music tracks and documentary narrations don't sound as good as they do simply because the singer or voice-over artist is exceptionally talented. Chances are they had the support of one of the condenser mics on our list, many of which are specifically designed for recording and improving human voices. They can also serve double-duty for guitars and other instruments. 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. Blue Microphones Blueberry

The Blue Microphones Blueberry boasts an unmatched 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.
  • includes two shock mounts
  • comes in a beautiful cherry wood box
  • accentuates room faults
Brand Blue Microphones
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Neumann TLM-103

The large diaphragm cardioid Neumann TLM-103 produces an uncompromising platinum-quality sound, while the wide, wire-mesh headgrille provides maximum protection of the capsule. Its robust construction can handle live stage usage.
  • produces very little noise
  • excellent impulse response
  • unique tone takes time to master
Brand Neumann
Model TLM103 SET
Weight 7.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Rode K2

The Rode K2 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 high-end vacuum tube model.
  • minimal ambient noise
  • heat-treated steel mesh head
  • patterns perform loosely
Brand Rode
Model K2
Weight 16 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Audio Technica AT4053B

The hypercardioid Audio Technica AT4053B reduces the pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, and it has very little off-axis frequency distortion. It captures both low frequency and high frequency vocal components with great clarity.
  • direct-coupled balanced output
  • durable turned-brass housing
  • affected by electrical interference
Brand Audio-Technica
Model AT4053B
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. JZ BH-1

The versatile JZ 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.
  • ideal for tracking acoustic guitars
  • 5-year warranty
  • doesn't support thinner vocal tones
Brand JZ Microphones
Model BH-1
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII

The AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII is a cost-effective solution to take on the road with its all-metal, die-cast body and scratch-resistant finish. It comes complete with a heavy-duty carrying case, wind screen, and spider-type shock mount.
  • great for very loud applications
  • designed and engineered in austria
  • some patterns don't respond well
Brand AKG Pro Audio
Model 3059X00060
Weight 4.5 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
  • sound may seem muffled to some
Brand Neumann
Model 7022
Weight 5.9 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. AKG C12VR Reference

Despite its incredibly attractive green and gold finish, the aesthetics of the AKG C12VR Reference represent the least of its value, with an internal edge-terminated CK12 capsule and an original 6072A vacuum tube creating the model's signature sound.
  • handcrafted in vienna
  • nine polar pattern options
  • 2-year warranty
Brand AKG
Model C12VR
Weight 14.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Telefunken U47

The Telefunken U47 has become a go-to standard for serious recording studios with its rich and vibrant tone. Its frequency range tempers even the most piercing and nasal voices to discover the rich tones hidden behind some less attractive vocal qualities.
  • extended low-end response
  • cardioid and omni polar patterns
  • pleasantly airy treble
Brand Telefunken
Model U47
Weight 10 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Sony C800GPAC

The indispensable Sony C800GPAC boasts a Peltier-based cooling system designed to keep the unit's 6AU6 vacuum tube at its ideal operating temperature, allowing it to sound warm without getting too hot. Its pickup pattern is electronically selectable.
  • 76 db signal-to-noise ratio
  • true reproduction of vocal qualities
  • includes a power supply
Brand Sony
Model C800G
Weight pending
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 May 28, 2017 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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