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The 5 Best Cheap Microphones For Budget Home Studios

by | Microphones | 0 comments

In today’s post, I’m going to review the 5 best cheap microphones under $200 for budget home studios.

Now, even though these mics are cheap in price, that does not mean they are cheap in quality.

Rather, they are all professional-quality dynamic and condenser mics designed for vocal and instrumental recording that also happen to also be inexpensive!

In fact, two of them, both under $100 retail, have been used on thousands of hit records!

Please note that none of these five mics are USB mics intended for computer use only. If you want to use them for podcasts, YouTube videos, Skype calls, webinars, etc. you can connect them to a mic preamp that has a USB output that connects to your computer or laptop.

If you are looking for the best USB mics designed to plug into your computer, please see this post.

Beginner’s Guide To Buying Microphones

First off, if you are new to buying microphones, please check out my Beginner’s Guide to Buying Microphones For Your Home Recording Studio.  You’ll learn exactly what a dynamic mic is, how mics work, mic polar patterns, when to use them, and much more.

Review Criteria

All mics included in my reviews were chosen based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community.

I’ve also added my insights gained from 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, creating Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution, and recording in major studios.

The 5 Best Cheap Microphones For Budget Home Studios

Shure SM57

Best Dynami Microphones - SM57 used on hit songs

Is it possible to buy a world-class mic for under $100?  It sure is!

The Shure SM57 is probably the most widely used mic in history, and certainly one of the best-selling mics in the world.  Shure released the first SM57 in 1965, and it quickly became a go-to mic for guitars, vocals, drums, horns and more.

There are four main reasons it gained in popularity so fast.  First, as a dynamic mic, it is capable of withstanding high sound levels that can damage more delicate condenser mics.

Second, it is also built very ruggedly, making it last in the studio for many years despite constant use (and abuse).

Third, the mic just plain sounds good on many different sound sources, but especially on vocals and guitar amps.

And finally, studio owners love it because it’s very inexpensive compared to condenser or ribbon mics.  The SM57 retails for only about $99.00.

Hear the SM57 in action at the Shure Mic Listening Lab.

Fun Fact: The SM57 has been the podium lectern mic of choice for U.S. presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama.

Shure SM57

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

Shure SM57 Specs:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 40 Hz – 15 kHz frequency response
  • Includes stand adapter and zippered carrying case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

Shure SM58

Best Dynami Microphones - SM58 used on hit songs

Is it possible to buy a second world-class mic for under $100?  It sure is!

The SM58 is the sibling to the legendary SM57.

Like the SM57, this award-winning mic has been another must-have mic since it was introduced in 1966.

The SM58 is primarily designed for vocal use, both onstage and in the studio.

The main difference between the SM57 and SM58 is that the SM58 has its frequency response tuned especially for vocals.

It’s designed to cut out low rumble and add a boost in the upper-mid frequencies.

The result is a warm detailed sound that makes vocals stand out onstage or in the mix.

In addition to the frequency response difference, the SM58 has a ball grille which incorporates a built-in wind and pop filter to reduce plosives (pops on P sounds).  The SM57 has a smaller grill designed for instrumental recording.

Hear the SM58 in action at the Shure Mic Listening Lab.

Shure SM58

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

Shure SM58 Specs:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 50 Hz – 15 kHz frequency response
  • Built-in wind and pop filter
  • Includes stand adapter and zippered carrying case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

Audio-Technica AT2020 & Audio-Technica AT2035

Best Dynami Microphones - SM7B used on hit songs

The Audio-Technica AT2020 and AT2035 mics are part of the Audio-Technica family of pro quality microphones.

Audio-Technica AT2020

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a no-frills condenser mic that gives you that large diaphragm condenser mic sound for a fraction of the price of more expensive condenser mics.

The AT2020 shines on recording vocals and string instruments like violins, cellos, and acoustic guitar. It brings a richness and detail to recordings, especially vocal tracks, that dynamic or ribbon mics don’t usually deliver.

Sound On Sound Magazine had this to say in a review:

“This mic actually delivers a very mature, believable sound both on vocals and on instruments.

As a vocal mic, it displays the kind of lower mid-range warmth that flatters most singers, and combines this with a very subtle presence peak that adds ‘air’ and clarity without erring on the side of sibilance or harshness.

Because the mic doesn’t hype the character of the original sound too much, it’s more likely to work well with a wide range of singers.”

Unlike more expensive condenser mics with multiple polar pattern choices, the AT2020 only records in the cardioid polar pattern.  This is not really a drawback because the cardioid pattern is probably used 95% of the time anyway in recording sessions.

It can handle up to 144 dB in volume, so it is suited to recording loud sources like guitar amps or brass.

Audio-Technica AT2035

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is one step up from the AT2020.  It is basically the same mic as the AT2020, but it includes a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter and 10 dB pad.  This allows a little more flexibility when recording various sound sources.

The AT2035 is well-suited to recording piano, stringed instruments, and guitar amps, or as an overhead drum mic. It is also a great choice for professional voice-overs and podcasts.

Sound On Sound Magazine wrote this in a review of both the AT2020 and the AT2035:

“The AT2035 retains the same tonal characteristics (of the AT2020) while improving on its technical performance by offering a flatter low‑end response and significantly lower noise.

The addition of a pad and low‑cut switches, and the very practical shockmount, are welcome.

It does cost a little more, but the price differential is probably no more than you’d pay for the shockmount on its own.”

Audio-Technica AT2020

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

Audio-Technica AT2020 Specs:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response (click for freq response curve chart)
  • Max SPL: 144 dB
  • Includes mic mount, pop filter and vinyl case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

Audio-Technica AT2035

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

Audio-Technica AT2035 Specs:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • Switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter
  • -10 dB pad
  • Max SPL: 158 dB
  • Includes mic mount, pop filter and vinyl case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

Blue Microphones Spark

Best Dynami Microphones - RE20 used on hit songs

The Spark is one of Blue Microphones entry-level condenser mics, but it delivers a detailed transparent sound that rivals much more expensive mics.

It features discrete transformerless Class A circuitry for high-end performance, low noise and fast transient response.

The Spark features a Blue Microphones innovation: Focus Control.  Focus Control changes the capsule voltage and completely alters the sonic character of the mic.

The Spark offers two different modes that essentially giving you the sound and flexibility of two microphones:

  • Normal mode (button in the Out position) increases low-frequency sensitivity for a robust and defined bottom end.
  • Focused mode (button pressed to the In position) accentuates mids and highs for ultra-clear detailed recordings.

Switch between them to change the character of your recordings and create a vibe that works best for your tracks.

It’s an ideal inexpensive mic for recording voice, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, strings, drum overheads and horns.

Blue Microphones Spark

Check price:
 Amazon | Guitar Center

Blue Mics Spark Specs:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • Max SPL: 128 dB
  • Includes custom shock mount, metal pop filter and wooden box

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

AKG P420

AKG is a premium microphone manufacturer whose mics like the C414 and C12 have become recording studio classics.

AKG brings their design savvy and legendary sound quality to their entry-level P420 mic, and it delivers a ton of value for very little money.

First off, the P420 is a large diaphragm condenser mic with two capsules, which is unusual for a low-cost mic.

Instead of the usual cardioid-only polar pattern, you get three selectable patterns: cardioid, omni and figure-8.  This vastly opens up its capabilities and makes it a must–have mic for under $200.

AKG also included features that only much more expensive mics have:

  • -20dB pad switch
  • Bass cut filter switch
  • A spider shockmount that can cost up to $25 to purchase separately

How does is sound?  The P420 delivers a warm, transparent sound that shines on solo voices and ensemble vocals.  It’s also perfectly suited for grand piano, woodwinds, brass instruments, drums and percussion.

And with a max SPL of 155dB it can handle loud sound sources like guitar amps or drums without distortion.

AKG P420

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

AKG  P420 Specs:

  • Cardioid, omni and figure-8 pickup patterns
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • -20dB pad switch and a bass cut filter switch
  • Max SPL: 155 dB
  • Includes spider shock mount and metal carrying case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

One More Noteworthy Mic:

Here is a runner-up that didn’t quite make my list.  But check it out, as you may find a great deal!

MXL 770

The MXL 770 is priced around $75.  Normally mics at this price range have too many flaws to recommend for recording at a professional level, but I’m adding this mic because there have been many very positive reviews from users.

The 770 is a condenser mic that provides very good sound quality for the money.  Plus, you get a lot of features such as a switchable bass cut switch and a -10 dB pad that usually aren’t found on mics at this price.

It has become a popular mic for hip hop artists and rappers due to its deep low end response.

The 770 even comes with a shock mount and rugged carrying case!

MXL 770 Review

MXL 770

Check price:
Amazon | zZounds

MXL 770 Specs:

  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 30 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • -10 dB pad switch
  • Bass cut filter switch
  • Max SPL: 137 dB
  • Includes shock mount and rugged carrying case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

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