Perfect Your Performance with the Best Microphone for Live Vocals
Okay, so maybe you don’t set off the sprinklers with your singing, but everyone loves your voice. You’ve practiced, honed your skills, perhaps even spent time in a studio recording music. Now it’s time to take the stage, are you ready?
I’d say you are, except do you have the right vocal microphone for a live setting. Not all microphones are built equally. Some are suited for the studio, others for the stage, and not all work with all vocal styles.
We’ve taken the time to research the best microphone for live vocals so you can share your incredible voice with the rest of the world. Let’s check them out and give an overview of the different types of products available. Then read on and find our suggestions for the Best Microphone for Live Vocals and the reasons why.
How Microphones Work
Before we start, it important to mention that there’s a lot of jargon when it comes to mics but don’t get hung up on that. We’re going to try and simplify it for you.
To learn how a microphone works, try and visualize the inside of one. There is a flat disc made of very thin plastic known as a diaphragm, a coil, and a magnet which creates a magnetic field.
When you speak, your voice creates sound waves that enter the microphone. When these sound waves hit the diaphragm, it begins to move back and forth. As a result, the coil attached to the diaphragm also moves back and forth into the magnetic field created by the magnet.
This movement causes an electric current to flow via the coil and out of the microphone to an amplifier or recording device and bam! Everyone can now hear you loud and clear.
Types of Microphones
There are two main types of microphones—dynamic microphones and condenser microphones.
These use diaphragms, coils, and magnets to generate current and are preferred by many performers for live gigs as they provide a warm and more natural sound. They are generally sturdier than condenser mics, have lower frequency ranges, lower sensitivity, don’t require power, and function better in noisy environments.
These mics work a little differently in that the diaphragm doesn’t move coils, rather the plates of an electric-charge storing device known as a capacitor and generates an electric current. Thanks to this capacitor the mics a more detailed sound that is superb for studio recording.
Condenser mics are known to pick out quieter sounds and do well with acoustic instruments, sound effects, and in-studio vocals. They have a higher frequency range and sound brighter.
Additionally, condenser mics require power to work. Some use batteries and others require phantom power that you can get from your live mixing desk. In case the mixing desk doesn’t provide power, you can get it from a vocal effects processor or a mic preamp.
If you’re looking for the best microphone for singing, a dynamic microphone may the best option. You can, however, spend some time singing through each type to find the one that best suits your vocals.
It’s impossible to talk about a vocal microphone and not mention patterns. If you walk into a busy restaurant, your ears will pick up the music playing, what your friends are saying, the waiter calling in an order, and even a conversation at the next table. All at once.
Patterns work in a similar way to our ears. They indicate how microphones react to sounds that are coming from different angles. There are different types of patterns, but we’ll only highlight the most common
Omnidirectional pattern microphones are sensitive to sound from all directions. They hear everything that’s going around them. This makes them ideal for orchestra recordings and home studios as you record background vocals, acoustic guitars, or percussion instruments.
Cardioid or Unidirectional Pattern
Unlike omnidirectional microphones cardioid microphones do more than hear, they listen, selectively. They are more sensitive to sound that comes from the front. They reject sound from the rear and while sound picked up from the sides is greatly reduced. This helps knock down any feedback coming from stage monitors.
Cardioid microphones are a good option for stage performances, recording vocals, and any other sound that should come off as dry and close.
Figure-8 or Bidirectional Pattern
These microphones are sensitive to sound from the front and the rear while rejecting any sound coming from the sides. These microphones have advanced applications, with very few companies manufacturing them.
How to Choose the Best Microphone for Vocals
As with any other purchase, budget, durability, and compatibility make the list of considerations when shopping for the best vocal mic on the market. Here are some other equally important features to consider
1. Noise Cancellation
Microphones are built with different features that help minimize ambient noise. Some of these features include windshields to guard against wind and draft, and pop filters help thwart plosives (extra air that goes into a mic and causes the annoying heavy breath or bass sound). Shock-mounts help minimize handling and impact noises.
2. Polar Pattern
We covered this earlier. A cardioid pattern is more preferable for live events to prevent feedback, band noise, crowd murmurs, and other sounds from mixing with your vocals and messing your performance.
Similarly, you’ll need to choose between a dynamic and condenser mic, which we also looked at previously.
In the simplest terms, impedance refers to the amount of resistance electronic devices have to the electronic current flowing through them. Microphones should be connected to equipment that has the same impedance rating or higher. Any lower and you’ll receive a loss of signal.
While many handheld mics have low impedance (under 600 Ohms) it’s important to confirm that the one you want to buy has a low rating. A low impedance mic conveys sound more clearly and with minimal signal deterioration.
4. On/Off Switch
One of the most embarrassing things that can happen during a live performance is looking into puzzled, frustrated, or annoyed faces of your listeners who can’t hear a word of what you’re singing. There is the possibility of being booed down not to mention audio engineers behind the scene frantically trying to find out what has gone wrong.
It’s easy to accidentally turn off the mic as you get absorbed in your performance so it may be a good idea to stay away from mics with on/off switches. The exception may be a mic that has a switch lock that keeps it from being turned off unintentionally.
5. Frequency response
One important characteristic of a mic is which frequencies it accentuates and which ones it de-emphasizes. Ideally, a mic with a flat response to the entire frequency range it responds to is the best.
This feature is found mostly in high-end microphones, and most standard mics favor one frequency or another. The key thing is to look for a sound signature that matches your voice. For example, if you have a high-pitched voice and don’t have proper equalizing, a mic that accentuates high frequencies will make your singing sound harsh.
Review of the Best Microphone for Live Vocals
Onto my favorite part where we get to sample some of the best vocal mics on the market.
1. Shure SM58-CN Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Best Overall Vocal Microphone
There is a reason why the manufacturer calls this microphone legendary. It’s been around for over a half-century and just might outlive us. The Shure SM58-CN tops our list for its functionality and excellent performance. This is a serious contender for our best microphone for live vocals recommendation.
This well-rounded mic picks up sound far more intricately and can be used in live performances, studio recording, and sound reinforcements. It boasts a vintage and basic design typical of the 60s’ so if you’re looking for that classic rock sound, that reminds us of rock stars from decades gone by, this is the go-to mic.
This dynamic vocal mic uses the unidirectional (cardioid) polar pattern that picks up sound from the front and rejects every other sound from the sides and rear. This is especially important at a live performance where there all kinds of background noises.
Some cool features in this mic include the built-in wind and pop filter that keeps out wind, air, and plosives and pneumatic shock-mount system that cuts down handling noise. This way, you can comfortably switch the mic from one hand to another or move around the stage without creating any noise.
The Shure SM58-CN mic is encased in die-cast with a steel mesh grille. Its rugged construction is quite sturdy, and the mic can handle an accidental drop or two, maybe more but we’re not saying that should drop the mic after every performance.
It weighs 2 pounds and has no on/off switch and comes with a swivel break-resistant stand adapter and zippered pouch.
There are reports of counterfeits in the market, so we recommend buying from reputable sellers to avoid disappointments and loss of money.
If you’re in the market for the best microphone for vocals, this is it. Trusted by musicians, speakers, and live bands world over, this mic delivers warm, rich, clear vocals that will delight your audience.
- Frequency Range: 50Hz to 15kHz
- Rated Impedance: 300 Ohms
- Maximum SPL: 94dB
- Ideal for brightened midrange vocals and bass roll-off
- High-quality build that’s durable
- Classic looks
- Some users report having trouble doing podcasts
2. Neumann KMS 105 MT Condenser Microphone
Forget about the price for a minute and let me tell you why this is the best microphone for singing. The manufacturer put a lot of thought into this mic and came up with a condenser mic with a cardioid/Supercardioid pattern.
What does that mean for you? Well, the mic captures your voice with greater detail, there is no coloration and more importantly, the pop filter rejects feedback in a powerful way. Your audience will enjoy the crystal clear sound that comes from it which can help boost your confidence on stage.
Even though our focus is on live performances, it worth noting that the Neumann KMS 105 MT also produces reference-class sound in the studio for vocals and instruments like acoustic guitars.
As far as construction goes, the mic is encased in a robust metal housing and the head grilles are made with hardened steel. This helps reduce handling noise and the mic can handle a few accidental drops without getting damaged. The best part, you can unscrew the head grilles for a thorough cleaning.
At 1 pound, this mic is extremely lightweight, comfortable to hold as you perform, and comes with a two year warranty. It comes with a stand mount and nylon carrying bag
Overall, this highly sensitive vocal microphone is ideal for experienced singers who want every aspect of their vocal details heard.
- Frequency Range: 20Hz to 20kHz
- Rated Impedance: 50 Ohms
- Maximum SPL: 150 dB
- Renowned brand
- Provides exceptional clarity in lower frequencies
- Available in matte black and nickel finishes
- Optimized for loud stage environments
- No major issues reported
3. Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 Dynamic Vocal Microphone
Best Budget Option
If you’re running on a tight budget but don’t want to compromise sound quality, here’s a solid German designed vocal microphone that’s worth checking out. Our cheap & cheerful best microphone for live vocals suggestion offers a great price.
The price is unbelievably low and considering its outstanding performance, many users indicate that they wouldn’t mind paying more for the mic. Well, let’s hope that doesn’t reach the manufacturer’s ears.
So, why is this dynamic microphone on our list of the best vocal mic? It features a cardioid pattern that enables the mic to pick up sound and project it with incredible accuracy while rejecting background noise.
Plus, it’s fitted with a sturdy windscreen and spherical two-stage pop filter to eliminate breathing noises, and any other popping noises while the shock mount system takes care of handling noise. This way, you can perform with confidence and not have to worry about strange noises ruining your performance.
The XM8500 is built using tough metal making it fairly rugged and able to withstand constant use and wear and tear. It’s moisture-resistant, weighs 11.4 ounces, and is ideal for both live and studio applications.
The mic comes with a microphone stand adapter that firmly grips the mic and an impact-resistant carrying case makes for easy travel. It also carries a 3-year warranty.
By and large, this microphone is a good and cost-effective option for musicians who’re starting their musical careers or those on a tight budget. It may not compare to the professional-grade, high-end types, but it holds its own.
- Frequency Range: 20Hz to 15kHz
- Rated Impedance: Unknown
- Maximum SPL: 70 dB
- Great for karaoke lovers
- Value for money
- No on/off switch
- Has a brighter tone
- May pick up some ambient noise
- The sound output may be low
4. Sennheiser e935 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Best Vocal Mic for Female Vocals
Yes, some microphones accentuate female vocals better than others and this mic is our top pick for female vocals. Often the sound guy may struggle to find a mic that will effectively accommodate mid to high-frequency ranges without distorting or sounding harsh.
This is perhaps one of Sennheiser e935 microphone’s best features. The mic is designed is give out a subtle brightness and clarity allowing the singer’s vocals to sound just right. This highly respected brand is on our best microphone for live vocals shortlist.
But it’s not just the ladies who are in luck, the mic also works wonders with deeper male voices. That said, the mic is very sensitive, which is great for soft-spoken singers but may also pick up unwanted handling noises.
The dynamic mic features a cardioid pickup pattern that insulates from other signals. It has a rugged metal build for durability and has been designed to withstand different weather conditions. There is also the shock-mounted capsule that keeps the mic’s sensitivity handling noise.
The mic weighs 12.5 ounces, and with a 10-year warranty backing it, this mic is useful for live performances, sound, and recording.
Overall, this best vocal mic offers great usability and fantastic results for female vocals at a reasonable price point.
- Frequency Range: 40Hz to 18000 Hz
- Rated Impedance: 350 Ohms
- Maximum SPL: 54 dB
- Bright sound
- Superb clarity
- Professional quality sound
- Long warranty
- High sensitivity may pick up unwanted sounds.
5. Shure BLX24/PG58 Wireless Microphone System with Handheld Vocal Mic
Best Wireless Microphone
Another fantastic option from Shure makes our list of the best microphones for live performances. Only this time, it’s a wireless option.
This wireless microphone system package comes with a PG58 microphone and a BLX24 wireless single-channel receiver with an operating range of up to 300 ft. with such coverage, you’ll have the freedom to move around the stage and without worrying about tripping on wires.
The mic uses the cardioid pick up pattern to pick up sound with amazing accuracy that the Shure brand is known for. It has an intuitive interface for easy setup and adjustable gain control. The audio status indicator LED light lets you know when the audio levels are normal or when they are too high.
Powered by two AA batteries and according to the manufacturer, they can provide up to 14 hours of uninterrupted use. So, if you want to sing all night to your heart’s content, here’s your chance.
The wireless mic system is suitable for smaller venues and mobile DJs. Just remember to have a set of fresh batteries before the show.
- Frequency Range: 20Hz to 15kHz
- Rated Impedance: Unknown
- Maximum SPL: 70 dB
- Batteries included
- Professional quality sound
- The frequency range may be overlapped by other media
Best Microphone for Live Vocals Conclusion
Live performances can be somewhat unnerving and all your sound equipment must work well. We trust our review of the best microphone for live vocals has provided useful information and that you’re now ready to buy one.
All the mics on our list are top performers, but if we have to choose one, it would be the Shure SM58-CN Cardioid Dynamic Microphone. This mic provides rich, warm, and clear vocals beloved many performers today and in years gone by. Its pop filter keeps the wind out and ensures no “P” and “B” sounds come out of your mic. Lastly, the mic is highly durable and can be a valuable hand-me-down for novice musicians who are building their musical careers.
The ball is in your court now, happy shopping.