Best Condenser Microphone Reviews 2017

(Updated )
In the world of audio, the microphone is one of the most important considerations. It can have a huge effect on the quality of any recording set up. Since there are so many different brands and models of microphone, many professional and amateur audio enthusiasts find themselves confused when it comes to choosing one. We waded through tons of information to come up with some of the top models from 5 of the best condenser microphones brands. These brands have many more options to offer if our choices don’t suit your needs.
Overview
PROS
CONS
SPECS
Polar Pattern
Application
Form Factor
Power
Includes
Our Top Choice
AT2050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
Audio-Technica has been a leader in audio equipment manufacturing since 1968. The AT2050 continues this tradition of quality. It's great for studio or live use.
Switchable polar patterns – omni, cardioid and hyper-cardioid. Great for live and studio use. Switchable 80Hz high-pass filter and 10dB attenuator.
None reported so far.
Omni, supercardioid, cardioid
Vocals/instruments; live/studio
Side-address
Phantom powered
Shock mount, protective pouch
Best Value
CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Microphone
After its 85 years of innovation and success in the audio industry, we can only expect the best from CAD. In the U37, we once again see the company’s touch of excellence on display.
Great for webcasts, video calls, gaming, podcasts and the amateur audio enthusiast on a tight budget.
No direct monitoring. High “noise to signal” ratio. Not suitable for professional audio applications.
Cardioid
Vocals; studio
Side-address
USB powered
Tripod, 10-foot USB cable
Shure BETA 87A Condenser Microphone
For over 90 years, the name Shure has been synonymous with quality microphones. With the BETA 87A, it can now bring studio-quality vocals to your live events.
Built to withstand the rigors of live applications. Handles high SPLs well. Compensates for proximity effect with a controlled low-frequency roll-off. Smooth frequency response.
None reported so far.
Supercardioid
Vocals; live
Handheld/stand held
Phantom powered
None
Blue Yeti Condenser Microphone
Blue Microphones came onto the microphone scene with a bang in 1995. It's known for microphones with sleek designs and great sonic quality, and it has not disappointed with the YETI.
Zero latency. Direct monitoring. Gain control and mute button. Plug and Play.
A bit heavy. Once removed from the included stand, it is difficult to remount. Does not handle high SPLs (sound pressure levels) well.
Cardi/supercardioid/omni/stereo
Vocals; live and studio
Side-address
USB powered
Desktop stand
MXL 990 Condenser Microphone
MXL a division of Marshal Electronics, has been on the cutting edge of audio tech for years. With the MXL 990, the working musician can now get quality condenser microphones.
Professional sound quality. Attractive vintage body style.
Does not handle high SPLs (sound pressure levels) well.
Cardioid
Vocals/instruments; studio
Side-address
Phantom powered
Shockmount, stand adapter, case

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How Do I Choose the Best Condenser Microphone?

Scene 1: Sitting at your workstation, listening to the vocals coming at you all muddied up and lacking sonic clarity, you wonder how in heaven’s name you are supposed to clean this up and make it sound right in the mix.

Scene 2: You’re all set for your podcast, hoping to build a following with your words. You plug in your microphone and start speaking, only to realize what you’re hearing on your headphones wouldn’t make you listen to you. So how can you expect anyone else to?

These are excerpts from the nightmares of a mixing engineer and a podcaster.

Microphones are fundamental when audio needs to be taken into a computer, broadcast or amplified, whether it is a professional or amateur situation. When we talk about condenser microphones, we mean those more sensitive than regular dynamic microphones. They are commonly used in studios (both recording and broadcast). Recently, however, you can find handheld condenser microphones used for live applications.

Choosing the best condenser microphone is something largely dependent on the intended use. If you want to use a condenser microphone on a live stage, you will need to choose one designed for live use. You could theoretically use any condenser microphone, but most are not optimized for those conditions. For live stage work, opt for a handheld option.

When you plug your microphone into your audio mixer or interface (depending on what you are using), you want to hear a clear representation of the signal sent into the microphone. This is what is called a flat frequency response and is something to take note of. Note these kinds of microphones are not suitable for sound sources with very high sound pressure levels (SPLs). Dynamic microphones are best suited to these scenarios.

So, what exactly should one be considering when purchasing a condenser microphone? There are just some basic things to look out for. The most important thing to look at is the polar pattern. There are three basic polar patterns, each ideal for different uses. These are: cardioid, bi-directional (figure eight) and omnidirectional (simply called “Omni”). A cardioid patterned microphone will record directly in front, a bi-directional microphone will pick up from the front and the back while the omnidirectional microphone take in all round. Which you choose will be dependent on your needs. However, if you don’t already know what you need, then you likely just need a cardioid patterned one. This will comfortably handle most basic microphone needs.

Next you should look at how it is powered. If you are a podcaster or vlogger, you will need a USB powered one unless you route your microphone input through an interface of preamp with phantom power, in which case you can go for the phantom powered ones.

The use of microphones is highly subjective, so it’s essential to try out as many as possible to decide what’s best for you in the situation you want to use it. We will look at the basics to steer you to the best quality choices. With a condenser microphone that meets these basic requirements and is connected with a good audio cable to the interface or computer, you are sure to have an improved audio output.
Price
Condenser microphones have a very wide range as far as price is concerned. There are condenser microphones that cost in the thousands and there are those that cost less than $100. Needless to say, the cost of a microphone will usually be an indication of its quality. We will not be considering the extremely expensive ones here. We will only be focusing on condenser microphones that can help you achieve good quality without costing you an arm and a leg. Anyone considering a microphone costing four figures likely already knows what they need.

Some of the features affecting price include: multiple polar patterns, switchable attenuating pad, included extras like shock mounts, pop filters, desktop stands etc. The brand name can also have an impact.

From our research, we found you can get a good condenser microphone for between $70 and $250. We are talking about those that will give you good value for money and not cheap condenser microphones not worthy of your time.
Features
Condenser microphones are highly specialized equipment with very subjective applications. Each person decides how best to use any microphone to achieve what they set out to. However, there are a few tips that will help anyone new to the world of condenser microphones pick something that will serve them well as they improve their knowledge and skill base.

Here are key things to look for:
  • Polar pattern(s) – cardioid, bi-directional (figure 8), omni or multiple patterns
  • Attenuator – for cutting input gain at source when recording sound sources with high SPL
  • High pass filter – for cutting off low frequency rumbles that may come from the environment
  • Form factor – handheld, side address
  • Vocal or instrument – some mics are more suitable for one than the other
  • Diaphragm size – small or large diaphragm
  • Power source – phantom powered or USB powered
  • Sound pressure level – How much direct sound intensity can it handle
  • Build – how solidly built it is
  • Brand – who made it? What’s the brand’s integrity?
  • included extras – pop filters, shock mounts, Desktop stands etc.
Remember that these are merely guides to help you choose.
Construction and Design
When choosing a condenser microphone, you must know exactly what you want to use it for so you can choose correctly. A condenser microphone can have a small or large diaphragm. Small diaphragms offer a more focused sound image and are mostly used as instrument microphones (this is subject to personal preference). The large diaphragm microphones are the more popular ones because they are mostly used for vocals. If you want to record vocals or broadcast audio, then choose a cardioid, side address condenser microphone (they are large diaphragm microphones).

If you are a podcaster and will be plugging the microphone straight into your laptop, then be sure to pick a USB powered model. If you pick a phantom powered model, you will need to first plug it into an interface or preamp with phantom power.

Microphone usage is a very specialized skill that can only be honed by practice. If you want to get a condenser microphone for a home studio, try to get one with switchable multi-polar patterns and an attenuator. This will give you one microphone that can be used for different applications while also giving you an opportunity to practice with the different polar patterns.

If you will be recording in a space that’s not fully sound proof, where external noise can get through, you will need a high pass filter (bass roll off) on the microphone to help cut off the low frequencies that can muddle up your recording.
Performance and Ease of Use
Everyone has a different approach, style and philosophy. Having said that, there are some things that will make using your condenser microphone easier. Some of these have already been listed. They include: power source, multiple polar patterns (for easy switching between polar patterns without changing microphones) and easy to access attenuator pad (to easily cut the input gain when recording sounds with very high SPL). Apart from these, extras like pop filters, shock mounts, carrying and storing cases, desktops stands and pouches can make the use and care of your condenser microphone easier.

Look through the features of the condenser microphones you are considering to ensure they include the features important to you.

What is the Best Condenser Microphone?

The right condenser microphone raises the sonic integrity of your audio. Now you’ve gone through our buying guide, you should know the features most important to you. Let’s take a look at some individual products so you can pick the one best suited to your requirements.
Our Top Choice
Audio-Technica is an award-winning company. Its microphones are used by the U.S. government and at major events like the GRAMMY Awards and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions. The AT2050 will be a great addition to your audio setting. For a simple plug and play solution, wow your audience with the pristine audio of the Audio-Technica AT2020USB.
Audio-Technica AT2050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone With Three Switchable Polar Patterns

Audio-Technica Condenser Microphone - AT2050


Features
Audio-Technica is a company devoted to the design, manufacture, marketing and distribution of problem-solving audio equipment. It has shown this consistently with its different products. The AT2050 condenser microphone is an example of these ideals.

The AT2050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone is a versatile microphone that can be used in many different scenarios with good results. This microphone sounds great on vocals and instruments. It shines in the studio and is also comfortable in live applications. The AT2050 offers many features, making it a must have for any studio or audio setup.

The AT2050 features three switchable polar patterns (omni, cardioids and figure-of-eight), a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter and a 10 dB pad. Its large diaphragm makes for smooth, natural sound and low noise. Audio-Technica has ensured this microphone fully meets its stringent consistency and reliability standards with its state-of-the-art surface-mount electronics. This microphone is also delivered with a shock mount and protective pouch.
Best Value
From its first crystal radio microphone in 1931, CAD has matured. The CADU37 has presented vloggers, webcasters, gamers and others with an affordable plug and play condenser microphone that delivers studio-quality audio. If you need something more professional, get the CAD Audio GXL2200BP Condenser Microphone.
CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone - Large Condenser Microphone, Eight Color Options

CAD Condenser Microphone U37


Features
CAD (Conneaut Audio Devices) Professional Microphones has been focused on designing and manufacturing microphones for recording and live applications since 1988. It has succeeded in this mission.

The U37 is a simple condenser microphone that gets the job done. If you are a gamer, vlogger, webcaster or anyone who broadcasts audio online with just your laptop, you likely do not want to be bothered with too many gears. This is the microphone for you. It features a large condenser microphone element that produces a warm, rich sound, a cardioid pick-up pattern that reduces background noise by focusing on the main sound source and a bass reduction switch to reduce background noise even more.

The 10dB pad comes in handy when dealing with very loud sound sources. The U37 works on Windows and Macintosh smoothly without the need for any software installation. You just plug and play. With these features and at this price, you can have the best of two worlds - studio sound quality and cost effectiveness.
Shure is a name trusted by professional musicians and sound engineers worldwide. Its microphones are of top-notch quality. In fact, the SM 58 and SM 57 are known as industry standards. The BETA 87A raises the bar by bringing studio-quality sound on stage. If you are looking for something built mainly for studio use, go for the SM-27-SC.
Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Microphone for Handheld Vocal Applications

Shure Condenser Microphone BETA87A


Features
You are not likely to find a musician or sound engineer who has not used one or more of Shure’s microphones. Whether for vocals, instruments or other uses, Shure has consistently delighted musicians the world over with wonderful microphones. When you think Shure, you think great microphones.

After years of enjoying superb sound in the studios, singers were accustomed to enduring vocals of less quality on stage. Shure changed all that with the BETA 87A, to the delight of singers. This microphone packs all the sensitivity and clarity of a studio microphone into a ruggedly built handheld microphone for live performances.

The BETA 57 produces a smooth frequency response with a gradual presence rise. Its tight supercardioid polar pattern ensures the least amount of bleed from other vocals or instruments. With a controlled low-frequency roll-off that compensates for proximity effect, you can say goodbye to that unwanted boomy sound that close pickups can cause.

What more can be said? The BETA 87A is sure to wow you.
Blue Microphones has carved a niche for itself with its sleek designs and great audio quality. Even its lower-priced microphones, like the YETI, still have these qualities. With this microphone, you will enjoy a whole new level of audio clarity. If you’re looking for something lower-priced, the Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone is it.
Blue Yeti USB Plug And Play Condenser Microphone – Eight Color Options

Blue YETI Condenser Microphone - Silver


Features
Blue (Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics) Microphones has certainly claimed a place of pride among the top manufacturers of microphones. It offers quality microphones for everyone, from models costing almost $5,000 to those costing less than $100. Every budget has access to the Blue style and sound quality.

The YETI is one of Blue's low-cost microphones that was built to provide quality sound in a sleek package for those with a tight budget. Despite the low pricing, it comes with a Tri-capsule array - 3 condenser capsules which allows it to record in many different situations. It also features a multiple selectable polar pattern (cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional & stereo). With the option to choose from 8 different colors, one of these colors is sure to fit well into your setup. It’s now time to have a taste of what other Blue Microphones users have been enjoying.
As a division of Marshal Electronics, MXL has followed in its parent company’s tradition. The quality of its microphones has been nothing but superb. The MXL 990 does not just continue this legacy; it has brought it within the reach of the working musician. For those looking for something more advanced, try the MXL V87 Condenser Microphone.
MXL 990 Condenser Microphone With Shock Mount

MXL Condenser Microphone 990


Features
30 years of constantly delivering top-quality audio and video equipment have indeed confirmed Marshal Electronics as a company to trust. Through MXL, it has ensured the continued growth of its audio legacy. The MXL 990 combines quality with affordability. Do not let the cost of this microphone fool you into thinking that this is an inferior product.

This microphone comes with a gold-spattered large diaphragm which combines with the FET preamp to produce professional audio quality. It is also wired with professional Mogami cable.

The microphone comes with a custom shockmount, a mic stand adapter and a carrying case. You no longer have to let low budget get in the way of having professional audio. Get the MXL 990 and get professional quality within your budget.

Get the Best Condenser Microphone of 2017!

Now you’ve read our reviews, we hope things are clearer than they were at first. You have the information you need to choose the condenser microphone just right for you. Start right away! Purchase your condenser microphone and let the improved sound quality thrill you and your audience.

Our Top Choice
AT2050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
Best Value
CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Microphone
Shure BETA 87A Condenser Microphone
Blue Yeti Condenser Microphone
MXL 990 Condenser Microphone