Step one when it comes to microphones is the understanding that microphone placement is often directly decisive for the sound and that a few centimeters here or there can often make a bigger difference than the price of the microphone. By experimenting with the placement, you can easily get to more or less treble and more or less room and so on. In other words, you can make a more appealing recording with a Shure SM57 if you know what you’re doing, than with an old misplaced Neumann U47.
The optimal microphone as such does not exist, instead we will focus on a bunch of microphones that do not stand in the way of recording and at best can even lift it a bit. There is an incredible amount to choose from and the list could be made remarkably long. I have therefore chosen to limit myself to seven microphones in the price range below SEK 10,000. But notice, none of them are the best.
Røde NT1 is, despite the name, the sequel to the slightly classic NT1A. In addition to the obvious color difference, the two microphones differ in frequency reproduction, where NT1 tends to be more neutral with lower noise and less sticky in the treble. An affordable workhorse with a 10-year guarantee that works on virtually all sound sources.
Award: 1,900 kr
English Aston Spirit is a hand-built quality microphone that in terms of sound pulls in the more modern direction, with a fine clarity that rarely becomes intrusive. An excellent vocal and instrument microphone, especially on string instruments such as acoustic guitar, violin and cello. Spirit has a built-in transformer with a clear character, which gives more top, unlike Aston Origin which leans more in the neutral direction.
Award: 3,300 kr
Shure KSM32 is my first choice when it comes to recommending only a microphone for studio use. KSM32 is wonderfully clean and well-balanced without sounding sterile – rather it is warm and inviting. It may not be the most exciting microphone on the market, but it is definitely one of the more characteristically neutral. A lovely all in allo microphone, if there is one.
Award: 5,500 kr
Warm Audio WA-87
Warm audio WA-87 is an affordable Neumann U87 clone that tends to be a little clearer in treble than the original (which is not very strange considering it is new production versus vintage). The classic U87 is known for working on everything from vocals to guitar amps and drums. WA-87 has high build quality, fine components and is shipped in a nice wooden box with various accessories.
Award: 6,000 kr
AKG C414 XLS and XLII
AKG C414 is probably AKG’s most famous microphone, which has undergone various changes over the years. AKG C414 XLS and XLII are largely identical except that XLS is a bit darker in character (more neutral if desired), while XLII has a lift around 3kHz which gives more transparency. Both microphones have their natural advantages and it really does not matter which one you choose, more important is the microphone placement, where XLII can get away with being placed a little further away and still pick up much-needed treble.
Award: 7,400 kr
Website: https://www.akg.com/Microphones/Condenser Microphones / C414XLS.html
Miktek CV3 (or CV4 if you manage to get one) is a stylish condenser microphone with a double MK9 capsule, not unlike the one in the Neumann U67. The sound can be described as soft, smooth and even with pulling in the neutral direction. Works on everything between heaven and earth, like so many other microphones. A remarkably good puff protection is included in the price.
Award: 8,600 kr
Finally, I would like to strike a blow for the Shure SM7B, a dynamic microphone specially developed for voice that is excellent when recording in rooms with less flattering acoustics. The microphone also works in live contexts and has become known under the ill-chosen name “rock microphone”. Want to hear how Shure SM7B sounds on song, you can listen to my latest album with Låtsaspoeten here.
Award: 4,000 kr
Worth mentioning is also Sennheiser MD421 and Shure SM57.
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.