Updated: May 10, 2015

Microphone Reviews:

So you want to buy a new microphone. The first question you need to answer before even starting to look is "How will you use it?". Do you plan on singing onstage, in a recording studio, giving speeches at podiums, singing karaoke, or just goofing around your house? With technology has come a wide range of microphones that are really very specialized in many situations. Usually the higher the price, the better quality mic but that is not always the case as many mid-range models are not much different than the high end and more expensive microphones like the Neumanns. Microphones typically fall into 2 main categories, the condenser mics and dynamic microphones. Dynamics microphones require no power source, unlike the condenser mics that do. Dynamic mics are pretty durable and are capable of high sound pressure levels (SPL). They come with internal shockmounting so you can use them in your hand, and you will most often find them being used for vocals and instruments, live sound applications, and sometimes for recording. The Shure SM57 and SM58 are 2 quality dynamic mics that are affordable and widely used both in the studio and on stage.

Ribbon microphones

are very similar in function to dynamic mics but they are not rugged. You will find ribbon mics in studios for recording voices and instruments. The Ribbon mics feature high SPL which allows them to be extremely close to sounds sources. Dynamics mics have become so specialized that you can now find drum microphones (great for kick drums, snares, toms, cymbals), horn microphones (small and lightweight), bullet microphones (used by harp players), and wireless microphones. Condenser microphones are really very basic with only a few moving parts. A condenser microphone is powered by internal batteries, an external power supply, or use phantom power from the mixer input. Most condenser mics are used for recording purposes although you will still find some in live sound applications like overhead mics for percussion instruments, choirs, pianos, and acoustical string instruments. The main types of condenser microphones are the large-diaphragm condenser microphones (great all purpose mic in studios, very expensive), side address condenser mic, dual diaphragm condenser (side address mics best for recording groups or duets), tube condenser microphones (vintage recording mics still produced to this day), small-diaphragm condenser microphones (designed to reproduce higher frequency sounds), shotgun microphones (used at sporting events because they pick up sound sources from a distance), and boundary microphones (work great on flat surfaces and found in studios or used on podiums). A USB microphone is a newer mic technology that has 2 additional circuits - an onboard preamp and an audio-to-digital converter which means the USB mic doesn't need to be connected to a mixer or mic preamp and the A/D converter lets you plug it right into a computer get the analog to digital recording. It's a great computer microphone if you have recording software. We did lots of online research at Musiciansfriend.com (customer reviews) and read feedback and comments from professional musicians and experts in forums at Frontendaudio.com, Studiorecordingengineer.com, and Sweetwater.com. With so many microphones available for such diverse purposes, we broke them into a few categories below and tried to rank the best in each area. You can browse the most popular microphones online here.

Best Dynamic Microphone:

Without a doubt, the most popular dynamic microphone is the Shure SM58 Vocal Microphone ($100). It's not only the best selling in this field, but the mic backs up its reputation with quality sound production and durability. The Shure SM58 dynamic vocal microphone is designed for professional vocal use, studio recording, and sound reinforcement. There is a upper-midrange peak to the mic which rock n rollers love. Owner reviews are incredibly positive and they range from radio sound producers, to professional musicians, to the ambitious home singer. The Shure microphone gets the highest ratings for quality and value and lacks only in features which some high end mics outdo it. You can find them online at Musicianfriends.com or checkout the entire Shure product line at Shure.com.

Condenser Microphone:

The Neumann microphones are some of the best selling studio recording microphones. Their U87 model can handle sound pressure levels up to 127 dB without distortion. The acoustic features, polar patterns, and electrical features are what make this mic so special and versatile. Most of us can't afford such a luxury microphone, so for a more reasonably price model, we suggest the Audio Technica AT2020USB Condenser USB Microphone and it retails for around $100. Home recording enthusiasts will find this Audio Technica mic very capable with a natural sound for podcasting, voiceovers, or even field recording. Owners like the fact the AT2020 USB plugs into your computers port and allows you to instantly work with the top recording software. The majority of users give the AT2020 high praise for sound quality. If you have an extra $100 or $200, others suggest going with the Shure condenser mics. The one buying caution we heard from several musicians was that everyone has a different voice and certain mics will accentuate voice qualities more than others so test them in an actual shop first.

Top Karaoke Microphone:

Karaoke has opened up the world of singing to all of use who will never make it professionally. Although we may not want to try out for American Idol and embarrass ourselves on TV, we would like to be able to sing at home with a good microphone. Magic Microphones are the leading name for karaoke mics and can be found online at Magicmicrophones.com. The Entertech ED-11000 ($350) is the wireless version of the microphone that gives you up to 8 hours of singing on 1 charge. It holds up to 10 song chips and you get over 2000 English songs for free. For a more basic version, consider the EnterTech ED-9000($250).

Best Wireless Microphone:

The one freedom that lead singers or musicians want on stage is a wireless microphone so they can be mobile and not have to worry about a cord getting in their way. Sennheiser microphones are an excellent buy, especially their wireless mics. The Sennheiser EW 135 G2 ($500) is a recognized winner with vocalists and singers at all levels of talent and ability. This handheld wireless system from Sennheiser gives you "dropout-free signal reliability" and up to 150 ft of range without cords to restrain your movement. The Sennheiser wireless microphone is based around the EM 100 rack-mount receiver that has 2 removable telescopic antennas, 8 banks of 4 preset channels, and a HDX compander for crystal-clear sound. Great for live concerts, preachers in churches, and bands. The majority of Sennheisers get top rated reviews on the wireless mics, although some were mixed to negative, so do your research and go to the forums listed above to hear what others have to say. For a complete rundown on all the Sennheiser mics, go to Sennheiserusa.com to get the latest details. We suggest that you browse the top selling wireless microphone systems online here.