Top Microphones For Live Vocals Reviewed
You’ve practiced and practiced, you’ve honed your skills as a singer, and now it’s time to take your talents to the stage! But how do you amplify such a unique voice for everyone to hear? By using a quality microphone, of course. There are a multitude of options for recreating stunning vocals for your live performances, and we’re here to help you find the best sound for your dollar.
Dynamic vs. Condenser
There are two main types of microphones to consider for live vocals—dynamic and condenser. Generally speaking, dynamic mics are preferable in live situations, because they tend to be less sensitive than their condenser counterparts. Lower sensitivity makes dynamics less prone to feedback and bleed. However, there are many audio professionals who prefer to use specially-designed condenser mics to get the best of both worlds. We’ve included what we feel are the smartest options for anyone looking for a great microphone at a fair price, whether it is a dynamic or a condenser design.
Best Microphones For Live Vocals
1. Shure SM58
The industry standard, and for good reason. Enter any reputable live music venue around the world and you’re liable to see at least a handful—if not a locker full—of legendary Shure SM58 mics. They’re a workhorse solution for almost any application where you need to make someone’s voice louder, and they will likely work flawlessly long after you’re dead!
The SM58 is a dynamic microphone featuring a cardioid polar pattern (meaning it “hears” sound from primarily one side and rejects sound from the other). For live purposes, this helps to eliminate feedback problems when paired with loud stage monitors. The SM58’s pattern measures evenly across the frequency spectrum, allowing for a consistent and predictable sound, no matter who is holding the mic.
The ‘58 pioneered an integrated pop filter that helps tame those dreaded plosives (bursts of air from making “p” and “b” sounds). This mesh metal sphere is also made to absorb the energy from an impact, helping cement the SM58 as one of the most durable microphones ever designed. There are even videos of users rolling over an SM58 with a truck with no effect!
- Cardioid dynamic mic
- Industry standard
- Extremely durable
- Great for vocalists who like to use the “proximity effect”
Verdict: The SM58 needs no introduction. For less than $100, it’s hard to find a flaw.
- Frequency response tailored for vocals, with brightened midrange and bass rolloff to control proximity effect
- Effective built-in spherical wind and pop filter. Frequency response: 50 to 15,000 Hz
- Pneumatic shock-mount system cuts down handling noise.
- Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source and minimizes background noise
While the SM58 is the most popular professional microphone in the world, the engineers at Shure are unconvinced of the design’s perfection. Enter the Beta 58A.
It looks and feels just like a blue version of its older companion the SM58, but the Beta 58A has quite a few design improvements that can really help a vocal cut through. The Beta 58A sports a supercardioid polar pattern, rejecting more sound from the sides as well as the rear. This has many advantages, including increasing the amount of gain you can apply before the microphone feeds back.
The Beta 58A (along with the rest of Shure’s Beta line) is made of high-quality components that lives up to the historical standards Shure is known for. It features the same rugged exterior design of the less-expensive SM58 but takes its electronic design into brighter-sounding territory.
- Supercardioid dynamic mic
- Clear, detailed midrange
- Increased feedback rejection
- Can use lots of gain before feedback
- Much brighter than an SM58
Verdict: The Beta 58A is a great mic in its own right. If your vocal needs a little extra brightness, the Beta 58A might be for you.
- Frequency response tailored for vocals, with brightened midrange and bass roll off to control proximity effect
- Uniform supercardioid pattern for high gain before feedback and superior rejection off axis sound
- Neodymium magnet for high signal to noise output
- Advanced pneumatic shock mount system that minimizes transmission of mechanical noise and vibration
- Minimally affected by varying load impedance
If the SM58 is Coke, then the Sennheiser e835 might be Pepsi. While they’re certainly different mics, the e835 could be substituted without too much fuss.
Other than the exterior design, the first difference you’d notice is the e835 has a high-frequency boost built-in, which for some vocalists is an advantage over its counterparts. This can allow you to use less EQ at the mixer if the boost is naturally flattering.
In addition, the e835 has a unique internal shock mounting system that greatly reduces handling noise, perfect for vocalists who hold the mic instead of placing on a stand. This mic should also outlast you and probably your nieces and nephews.
- Cardioid dynamic mic
- Industry standard
- Very durable
- Built-in high frequency boost for extra clarity
Verdict: If you’ve tried the SM58 and you want to try a different flavor of mic, give the e835 a shot! It’s the same price but sounds quite brighter.
- Gentle presence boost to even tonal response ensures clarity and projection
- Minimal Proximity effect provides consistently clear bass end performance when singing closer to or further from capsule
- Cardioid pick-up pattern provides good signal isolation and feedback rejection, enabling higher sound levels to be obtained
- Metal construction and internal shock-mount system minimizes handling noise
- Frequency response 40-16,000 Hz, Impedence 350 Ohms
4. Audix OM-3
The Audix OM series of microphones are a staple choice for many touring audio engineers. Like Shure, they offer varying levels of professional mics all at a very reasonable price.
The OM-3 is a dynamic vocal mic with a hypercardioid polar pattern, rejecting even more sound from the sides than its competitors. This has made it a common favorite among vocalists who want to hear themselves very loud in the stage monitors.
Often dynamic microphones suffer from a muddiness in the lower midrange, which can make it sound less clear in the context of a full band. The OM-3 has a natural low-mid attenuation, cutting out a lot of the problem right at the source.
- Hypercardioid dynamic mic
- Great rejection from back and sides for extra isolation
- Very durable
- Built-in low-mid attenuation to help fight muddy mixes
Verdict: The OM-3 is a very popular touring mic. Some vocalists need to hear themselves really loud and the OM-3’s hypercardioid pattern can help provide the necessary gain without feedback. If you’re constantly asking the sound guy for more of your voice in the monitor, maybe the OM-3 is for you! And at $129, it’s a competitive alternative to the SM58 and others in its price range.
- For live vocals
- Transformer less design
- low impedance allows interference free performance
The Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar is an aesthetically pleasing dreadnought guitar that produces a big and vibrant sound.
Unlike the other microphones on this list which are dynamic mics, the Shure Beta 87A uses an electret condenser design. This type of mic is normally better-suited to a recording studio environment than the stage due to its increased sensitivity, but Shure has produced something that bridges the gap between the two.
The Beta 87A has a supercardioid pattern, giving it all the benefits of a dynamic mic while providing the detail of a condenser. It does require 48v phantom power to operate, but most mixers will provide the needed voltage with the simple push of a button. These extra features come at a cost when compared with the other mics we’ve listed, but if you’re looking to increase the quality of your live vocal sound, the Beta 87A is a great choice.
- Supercardioid condenser mic
- Enhanced rejection from sides and back
- Clear, detailed sound
- Requires 48v phantom power
Verdict: The Beta 87A is more than twice the price of most of the microphones we’ve listed here, but for a condenser mic it’s quite competitively priced. A quality condenser microphone like the 87A can provide detail and a smooth frequency response that most dynamic live mics simply cannot. If you can swing the extra cash, you may be rewarded with a surprisingly realistic vocal sound!
- Smooth frequency response with gradual presence rise
- Highly consistent super cardioid polar pattern provides superior gain before feedback
- Electronic low-frequency roll off compensates for proximity effect
- Wide dynamic range (117 dB) and low distortion characteristics
- Built in pop filter reduces undesirable wind and breath sounds
What if you need several vocal mics for under $100? Don’t fret! The Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 comes in at $18.99 per mic.
It may not have all the quality or proven longevity of an SM58 or an e835, but it can work well in most situations. The XM8500 has a hot output, perfect for quiet singers who need a little extra juice or mixers that don’t provide much gain. It’s also great for bingo night or karaoke enthusiasts!
- Cardioid dynamic mic
- High gain before feedback
Selecting the right vocal mic for live sound
Here is a great YouTube video demonstrating some of the differences between microphones and things to consider when purchasing one for live performances:
There is really great news for you if you’re looking to buy a quality vocal mic for a good price. There are plenty of options, and you really can’t go wrong with any of these. The SM58, Beta 58A, e835, OM-3, and Beta 87A are all more than capable of making your voice sound great as often as you need them to. Strapped for cash and need a solid mic? Try the Behringer XM8500.