What’s the Best Vocal Mic for Under $100?

Recently I put together a microphone buyer’s guide for Recording Excellence subscribers, and received an email from someone asking this very question. So I thought it would be good to address it! Vocals are the most important part of any song (well… one that isn’t an instrumental anyway), and so it makes sense that having a quality mic to capture vocals is critical. A quality microphone can make mixing vocals much easier, and can really bring out the best in vocalists (it can also bring out the worst in vocalists if you have a bad one)!

Unfortunately, not everyone has $1000, $500 or even $300 to go spending on a top notch vocal mic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some quality cheaper options that will get you great sound.

Truthfully there is no definitive best mic at any price point… they all have their strengths (and weaknesses), and most all can do a bang up job recording (though there are some duds out there). You may find one vocalist sounds great on the same mic that a different vocalist sounds not so great on.

With that said, I’ll offer you three recommendations:

  1. MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone – $74.99


    You’re really not going to find anything cheaper that delivers this kind of quality. This condenser produces some GREAT vocals, capturing crisp high frequencies and smooth lows that don’t get overly muddy. The warmth it captures is especially great for any blues guitarists out there. For those of you interested in more specific stats, it boasts a Cardioid polar pattern (duh), a frequency range of 30Hz-20kHz and can function as a “workhorse” mic if you need it to, able to capture many other instruments beyond just voices.

    • Important Note: This mic does require phantom power to run with through an audio interface. If you don’t already have one, that can be an extra cost.
  2. Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio Microphone – $85.95


    This is another one of those mics that is great for vocals, but really has awesome general application to any home studio. It’s probably important to understand that specialization mics tend to exist at much higher price points. That said, this mic is fantastic if you’re looking for extended frequency response, and elite transient response (something it accomplishes with it’s low-mass diaphragm). It boasts high SPL handling and wide dynamic range (so it’s great for a variety of vocalists if you’ll be recording more than one). Again, the biggest strength here is VALUE.

    • Important Note: This mic does require phantom power to run with through an audio interface. If you don’t already have one, that can be an extra cost.
  3. Shure SM58 – $99.00


    I generally hate the term “industry standard” – but really there’s no better way to describe this mic. It’s specifically geared towards capturing clear, crisp, and bright vocals. It’s also designed to limit background noise, which is helpful for anyone recording vocals in an imperfect room with little treatment or soundproofing. It’s also very durable, which makes it a great investment as a piece of a equipment in general. No, it’s not going to give you the same kind of sound other much more expensive mics can… but for the price, it’s certainly among the best vocal mics.

    Bonus tip: The SM57 is also very popular for general recording… if you get an SM58 (and are on a REALLY tight budget), all you need to do is screw off the top and it can almost become an SM57. Probably better to buy both (since the inner design IS different on the models), but if you’re pressed for cash, it’s a nice little hack.

So there you have it, 3 of the Best vocal mics for under $100. These aren’t perfect mics, but for the price, it should get you some great sound. Oh, and don’t forget to get a vocal pop filter, seriously. Do you have other vocal mic recommendations for UNDER $100? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

About the Author

Scott Hawksworth is RecordingExcellence.com's founder and editor. In addition to playing piano for over 15 years, Scott has performed in choruses, bands, and solo. His passion for music led him to learn more about music production and home recording. Scott lives in Chicago with his wife and two cats, Dylan and Sebastian.

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