A condenser microphone is the staple of any collection. Whether it be the professional engineer at Abbey Road, or the bedroom musician, a condenser mic will be the go-to recording microphone.
A versatile mic type ideal for not only recording vocals, but a wide array of musical instruments.
Choosing the best condenser microphone can feel like a daunting proposition. You will find our top picks for under $200 here.
Let’s get started!
In This Article
Best Condenser Microphones Under $200
- Best Condenser under $200: sE Electronics X1 S
- Runner Up Best: Audio-Technica AT2035
- Best USB Condenser under $200: HyperX QuadCast
- Runner up Best USB: Rode NT-USB
- Best XLR under $200: MXL 990
- Best Budget: Marantz Professional MPM1000
- Best Pencil Condenser Mic under $200: Rode M5
Important Features to Consider
Your type of project should determine your choice of microphone. Different mics will yield varying qualities to suit your project. Some terms that might become handy in your search of the perfect mic are below:
A cardioid polar pattern is the most common pattern found in mics. To put it simply, this pattern records audio in front of the mic whilst any sound to the side or behind is rejected. Think single voice and instruments. Omnidirectional polar pattern has no limits. All sound surrounding the mic will be recognized and recorded. Think round table discussions. Bidirectional polar pattern lets you record the voice from the front and back of the microphone simultaneously. Think interview scenarios.
Diaphragms generally fall into two categories. They are either large or small. As a rule of thumb, large means that the capsule’s diaphragm is 1 inch or more in diameter; while small means it is ½ inch. Both diaphragm sizes have their place in recording sound. Pick which one is more suited to the task in hand. Large diaphragm mics will capture a fuller sound, where small diaphragm mics will give a more detailed and precise reproduction. As in most scenarios, the voice will take center stage. A large diaphragm mic would be advisable for this purpose.
Your required frequency response will depend on your source. For voice, a response of 80Hz to 15KHz should cover everything. However, instruments such as drums will reside in lower frequencies… therefore a lower frequency response will be required to capture the full sound of the kit.
Who Should Buy a Condenser Microphone?
If you’re considering releasing music, broadcasting a podcast, or starting a YouTube channel… you will need to purchase a professional mic. In fact, any project that involves recording precision audio will require you to use a condenser microphone.
(Have a bigger budget? Check out our review of the 18 Best Recording Microphones!)
Consider it as an investment. After all, you’ve spent your time creating. Now you owe it to yourself to ensure that your work speaks in the most concise way possible. Don’t let your recordings fall at the last hurdle before broadcasting your creation to the world.
Unfortunately there are no shortcuts. Sure, your laptop and smartphone are all fitted with internal microphones. However, to be taken seriously you will need to aim for the professional quality only certain mics will offer.
But thankfully, we are living in an era with developed technology where high quality microphones are financially reachable. As this article details, for under $200 you can upgrade your audio without breaking the bank.
The Best Condenser Microphones Under $200
Best Condenser Under 200: sE Electronics X1 S
The best condenser mic under $200 is hands down, the sE Electronics X1 S.
sE has become a market leader in their field since their formation in 2000. The large diaphragm X1 S condenser microphone parades the company’s continued commitment to quality.
The X1 S is an updated version of the studio favorite X1 condenser microphone. Just as we thought, the sE couldn’t improve the X1….. The younger brother X1 S arrives onto the scene updated, enhanced and refined.
Not only cosmetically pleasing, the all metal chassis ensures this microphone is robust and durable. When purchasing the X1 S you will be investing in a hand-built condenser mic with ultra high-performance electronics for improved sensitivity.
Are your recordings not meeting the studio-quality you hoped for? Numerous mic placements yielding substandard results? Here is your answer.
Look no further…..
It is perfect for vocal recording and all acoustic instruments. However this is not the extent of the X1 S capabilities. The -10db and -20db pad switches provide extended dynamic range.
This feature offers versatility to the microphone, facilitating a wide range of functions. Like recording your electric guitar loud? Brass instruments on your recordings? Enjoy the sound of close mic techniques? Even the heavy sound of drums can be captured with the X1 S! A simple flick of a switch and you are ready to go.
On the chassis of the mic there are also two switchable low-cut filters, selectable at either 80Hz or 160Hz. The high pass filter helps eliminate the annoying low-frequency noise that can burden your recordings and compensate for excessive bass lurking with close-mic techniques.
The accolade of best under $200 goes to the sE Electronics X1 S. Bringing studio quality to your home recording setup or quality to your studio. All at the affordable price of $199.
sE Electronics X1S Key Features:
- Cardioid Polar Pattern
- Frequency Range: 20 – 20k Hz
- Max SPL: 140 / 150 / 160 dB (0/10/20 dB pad)
- Low-cut filter: 80 / 160 Hz, 6 dB/Oct, switchable
- Attenuation Pad: 10 / 20dB, switchable
- Includes mic clip, mic stand thread adapter
Runner-Up Best under $200: Audio-Technica AT2035
Do you need great sound but can’t afford to spend a ton of money? The Audio-Technica AT2035 may be for you.
It has a standard cardioid polar pattern, which minimizes the surrounding noises, directing your voice directly into the mic.
The built-in 8 Hz high-pass filter and 10dB pad are great for enhancing vocals.
You won’t easily find a better mic for the price (except the sE Electronics X1 S of course). 😉
Plus, the Audio-Technica AT2035 package includes a welcome collection of accessories to get you up and running right away.
Audio-Technica AT2035 Key Features
- Large Condenser
- Cardioid Polar Pattern
- Carry Case
- Pop Filter
- 10 ft. XLR Cable
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Best USB: HyperX QuadCast
The HyperX QuadCast has revolutionized the USB microphone.
The ultimate plug and play microphone, a USB mic is constructed for use with a personal computer or laptop. The USB condenser microphone has become popular in recent years due to its simple ease of use. No XLR cables or worrying about phantom power. By simply inserting the microphone into a USB port, you are up and running fast!
The HyperX Quadcast looks futuristic. At a glance….. It is clear that you are not getting a standard condenser mic.
The most compelling aspect of the HyperX Quadcast is the features built into the mic. A tap to mute sensor on the top of the microphone enables you to cut the signal with a simple tap of the finger. An LED indicator will show whether the mute feature is active.
A turn of a switch can change the polar pattern to four different settings. The ability to pick stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid and bi-directional patterns suggests that this mic is perfect for the podcaster. Whether it be a solo broadcast, an interview, or a group discussion… the HyperX Quadcast is equipped for any scenario.
On the bottom of the HyperX Quadcast is a convenient gain control feature, allowing you to adjust the gain to your required level quickly and efficiently.
It all sounds so simple! And just when you thought it couldn’t get easier, the HyperX Quadcast saves you more time with its internal pop filter. No more setting up your filters to eradicate those annoying pops and clicks.
Finally, the mic has a built-in headphone jack and comes complete with accessories that include an anti-vibration shock mount and mount adapter, to complete this impressive list of features.
The HyperX Quadcast is the microphone capable of meeting all podcast and gaming requirements. It is evidently clear that with its precise sound and in depth features, you can be ready to broadcast your podcast in no time!
HyperX Quadcast Key Features:
- Switchable polar pattern (Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional and Stereo)
- Frequency response: 20 – 20k Hz
- Anti-vibration Shockmount
- Tap Mute sensor with LED status indicator
- Gain control to control microphone sensitivity
- Internal Pop filter
- Built in headphone jack
- 48kHz/16-bit Sample/Bit rate
Runner Up USB: Rode NT-USB
Compatible with Apple iPad….. a prime studio sound can be within reach everywhere you go. Complete with 6m USB cable, desk mount and pop filter….. The Rode NT-USB is a comprehensive purchase.
Rode NT-USB Key Features
- Cardioid Polar Pattern
- Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz
- 3.5mm stereo headphone jack for zero-latency monitoring
- Direct mix control between mic input and source output
- Capsule: 0.50″
- Resolution: 16-bit
- Maximum SPL: 110dB SPL (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1KΩ load)
Under $100: MXL 990
With its sleek and vintage look, this large-diaphragm condenser microphone is a winner on looks alone. Combining the cosmetics of the MXL 990 and its warm rounded sound, this mic will bring a smooth tube-like feel to your recordings. At less than $100..... it is a smart buy.
Coming in as a close runner up is the MXL 990.
With an instantly striking champagne finish and vintage design, the MXL condenser microphone is a few scratch marks from looking like it came from the 1970’s. Now we have established how cool this mic looks….. But how does it sound?
The MXL isn’t runner up on pretty looks alone.
A FET preamp ensures that the vintage comparisons don’t stop at its look.
Through the large diaphragm you can expect smooth and rounded low to mid range reproduction, whilst the high end glistens. Whilst the more expensive sE Electronics X1 S offers more versatility, the MXL 990 is the perfect ‘cheap mic’ for recording vocals and acoustic guitar.
You can expect a tube like depth to your recordings whilst maintaining a clarity in the higher frequencies.
One of the most revolutionary and forward thinking aspects of the MXL 990 is the price.
Making money from music has never been harder. MXL have noticed this and filled a gap in the market. The MXL 990 is the standout high quality mic within reach of most musicians, podcaster, and streamers.
MXL 990 Features:
- Cardioid Polar pattern
- Frequency Response: 30 – 20k Hz
- Max SPl: 130db
- Equivalent Noise Level: 20 dB
Best Budget Pick: Marantz Professional MPM1000
If youre in the market for an XLR condenser microphone and your budget is extremely low, the Marantz Professional MPM1000 might be the one for you. Its brightness and high end clarity makes for a perfect mic if you’re starting up your first home recording studio.
Is the MXL 990 still out of budget? The Marantz Professional MPM1000 is even cheaper!
At such a reasonable price, there could be reason to suspect that the MPM-1000 delivers an inadequate quality of sound. Quite the contrary….. You will be pleasantly surprised.
There is no 10db pad, nor high pass filters… and whilst the other condenser microphones might offer a richer and deeper sound, the MPM 1000 delivers exactly what it was intended to deliver….. A high quality condenser microphone in an extremely reachable price range.
The MPM-1000 condenser microphone delivers accurate and studio quality audio reproduction. Its considerable transient response can capture extremely low level sonic details. This is a condenser mic worthy of your studio work and podcasting.
A tightly-defined cardioid pattern ensures it records where you point it, and ignores everything else. This makes the MPM-1000 condenser mic a perfect choice for recording voice and guitars.
Just as you thought the offer of a high quality condenser mic for $48.00 couldn’t get any better… In the box you will find accessories that include a windscreen, shock mount, tripod stand, and XLR cable.
All in all….. whilst the Marantz Professional MPM1000 is the cheapest of all the mics on the top picks….. you can expect a condenser mic with a sweet and honest sound.
Marantz Professional MPM1000 Key Features
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20k Hz
- 18mm diameter diaphragm
- Includes a windscreen, shock mount and a XLR cable
Best Pencil Condenser Mic under $200: Rode M5
The accolade of best matched pair is deservedly entrusted to the Rode M5 pair. These mics could be the key to taking your recordings to the next level!
If you’ve been in the market for a new condenser microphone, you will most likely have come across the brand Rode.
When investing in mics designed and engineered by the Australian based Rode, you can guarantee it will be of a certain quality.
Every Rode product is instantly under warranty for one year. Furthermore, when registering your product online, the warranty will be extended….. giving you peace of mind in this investment!
These compact small-diaphragm condenser mics come as a pair! This gives you the freedom to use them individually or as a stereo array. Professional stereo recording will be at your fingertips with the M5 matched pair.
These condenser microphones have been carefully designed and expertly matched in sensitivity to ensure there is no more than 1dB variation between any matched microphones… leaving your recordings accurate and balanced.
Ultra-low in noise, the sound is clear and pristine. The dynamic range will ensure lifeless recordings are a thing of the past.
Recording acoustic guitars are the first thought when recording with the M5 pair. However, this is just the start of their capabilities! In fact, the M5 microphones will handle any acoustic instruments. Making the M5 matched pair the most resourceful microphones for recording.
Are you ready to elevate your music with stereo recordings? Or recording instruments in a live scenario? Your search is over. Invest in a pair of Rode M5s!
Rode M5 Key Features:
- Cardioid polar pattern
- 1⁄2” capsule with gold-plated membrane
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20k Hz
- Max SPL: 140db
- Includes two WS5 windshields and two RM5 stand mounts
- Heavy duty ceramic-coated bodies
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a condenser microphone?
All microphones act as a transducer. A transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another. In the case of microphones….. the transducer converts air sound waves into audio signal.
A condenser microphone transduces energy with the use of a capacitor. Capacitors consist of two charged metal plates. Whilst one plate is fixed, the other forms the diaphragm that is moved by sound waves. The delicate and lightweight design of the plates ensures that a condenser microphone is the type of mic that is capable of capturing high-end nuances and subtle detail.
Why is it called a condenser microphone?
The condenser microphone gets its name from the condenser, or capacitor component. The capacitor is the electrical component that converts acoustical energy into electrical energy.
When spoken of in terms of electrical circuit elements; both condenser and high-end nuances capacitor describe the same device. This is why (albeit rarely) a condenser microphone may be referred to as a capacitor microphone.
Whilst the term condenser has become more obsolete in terms of electrics, the name has stuck for this type of microphone.
What is the difference between dynamic and condenser microphones?
The dynamic microphone’s simple construction ensures they can be built extremely ruggedly, and are capable of handling loud sound signals. They also do a good job at background noise rejection.
On the other hand….. they lack a full frequency response, and also
have a low sensitivity.
Condenser microphones are much more complex, meaning they will be more fragile than their dynamic mic counterparts. However, the complex make-up allows for a much broader frequency response and an increased sensitivity. The make up of a condenser mic, results in a more natural and detailed representation of the sound source, though it faces difficulty when faced with louder sounds.
Generally speaking, dynamic microphones are better for capturing loud sounds, whereas a condenser microphone has the ability to capture more delicate sounds and higher frequencies. With this in mind; the dynamic microphone is more suited for live performance on stage. The condenser microphone’s qualities, on the other hand, lend themselves better to studio recording.
The condenser microphone also requires Phantom Power to charge the capsule, whereas a dynamic microphone does not need power.
What is a good cheap microphone for recording vocals?
The Marantz Professional MPM1000 microphone smashes the under $200 criteria coming in at a very reasonable $48.00.
This will harvest perfectly professional results. However, if your want the extra fullness and a polished sound….. Go the extra step with the MXL 990 at $69.99.
(Need some other high-value vocal mic options? Check out our review of the9 Best USB Microphones for Vocals.)
Hopefully you now have some clarity on your search for the perfect microphone for you. These microphones will perform to a standard worthy of your work.
Are you a musician ready to set up your home studio to record your songs? All things considered, the sE Electronics X1 S is fit for a Top 10 act. However if you prefer a more retro feel, or if your budget is slightly less….. The MXL 990 could be the key to your sound.
For podcasters, YouTubers and gamers, the requirements slightly shift.
For microphones fit for any podcasting scenario, the HyperX QuadCast is fit for all broadcasting requirements. The slightly more affordable BLUE Condenser Microphone will be more than suitable for the professional quality you need.
Take your pick! It is time to start creating!