15 Best Condenser Microphones for Recording in 2020

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If you’re a vocalist or musician, you likely know a good condenser mic is the secret to successful audio.

Whether you’re a professional producer, singer, YouTuber, podcaster, social media influencer, or voice over artist, you’ll also likely be interested in learning that a quality condenser microphone is the number one thing anyone who is trying to capture sound needs in their arsenal.

In other words… you need a truly great microphone. You need audio that isn’t just goodyou need the best condenser mic on the market.

Most studio gurus agree that for the most detailed sound delivery, you need a condenser microphone. The sound quality on these mics is just unbelievable, providing you with some of the most detailed audio you can imagine.

Condensers are considered one of the best microphones for recording vocals and instruments because of their fine audio pick up.

And whether you’re lightly picking an acoustic guitar, or performing your spoken word tribute to 1980’s slash metal… These are the number one mic picks.

What You May Not Know About Condenser Microphones…

Essentially, the construction of a condenser microphone features a very thin membrane, or diaphragm, that can conduct electricity. This is positioned close to a solid plate.

As the sound waves bounce against the diaphragm, the distance between it and the solid plate changes. This is known as capacitance, and it is through this process that sound waves are changed into electronic signals.

This is, of course, just a very basic overview of the mechanics of a condenser microphone. Sound gurus and technicians will have plenty of details to add to this process.

But for those looking to upgrade from your current best microphone, this might already be a bit much.

What all of this really goes to say is that anyone looking for a microphone for recording needs to know that condenser mics produce great, detailed audio.

Condenser mics are considered the top-of-the-line option for sound quality for vocals and acoustic instruments, and can even be used as overhead mics for drums. That makes them incredibly versatile for a home studio.

The truth is that the best condenser mics will deliver epic recordings nearly all of the time… with one caveat. These microphones are so sensitive, they’ll pick up all sorts of sounds.

So if you’re going to purchase any of the mics on this list, you will need a decent recording studio or sound-treated location.

But… if you don’t have access to this – no worries. Grab a portable vocal booth in the interim.

Alright. Let’s get to the best condenser microphones.

The 15 Best Condenser Microphones

In this list, we’re going to run the full gamut of options. No matter what your price point is, what your needs are, or what you want, there will definitely be a best condenser mic in this post that will suit your needs perfectly.

What is the best condenser microphone?

Best Overall: Avatone CV-12

Avatone CV-12
Not only does the Avatone CV-12 stand out with its bold red body, it is highly recognizable as a mic that provides some of the warmest, richest audio available.
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The Avantone CV-12 is the best condenser mic for most. Designed to meet, and even surpass the performance and specs of higher-priced condenser mics, while being offered at a cost that even mid-range studios and artists can afford.

One of the key features of the CV-12 is its ability to switch between nine total polar patterns. While most vocal artists will use the cardioid polar pattern, omnidirectional and figure-8 patterns are also available, as well as six “in between” selections.

This condenser microphone offers truly warm and detailed response to even the most nuanced tones. As a result, you’re going to get great vocal recordings, as well as pick up on the most delicate characteristics of acoustic instruments.

As far as the sonic character itself is concerned, it has been described as ‘pleasing and warm.’ It also ships with a custom retro shockmount, which helps to not only position the mic perfectly, but also to inhibit any vibrations from making their way onto the track.

Based on vintage European microphone design, this is a quality mic at a reasonable price point.

Avatone CV-12 Features:

  • Frequency Response of 25Hz to 20kHz
  • Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 136dB
  • Works incredibly well as a cardioid condenser
  • Constructed with a premium grade, hand-selected Russian 6072A Tube
  • Includes a custom shock mount with extra bands, PS-12 Multi-Pattern power supply and XLR cable, padded wooded box and aluminum travel case

The Runner Up: Neumann TLM 102

Neumann TLM 102

This mic may have a price that seems high to those just getting started with their career, but it's actually a great intro mic for the brand!

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This condenser mic has been described as a ‘small mic with huge sound,’ and that would absolutely be the proper way to describe it!

In fact, the Neumann TLM 102 is a whole lot of microphone for the price. It boasts a high SPL and high transient response, which means it can be used to record a greater range of instruments, from drums to acoustic guitars.

It has a finely tuned sound signature that specifically accents those ‘8 to 12 kHz’ regions, which are crucial for capturing natural sounding human vocals… making it an incredible option for singers.

As a large diaphragm cardioid pattern condenser microphone, the TLM 102 offers incredible sound quality, with a built-in pop filter that keeps plosives to a minimum, while still capturing highly nuanced audio.

Neumann TLM 102 Features:

  • Includes custom stand mount
  • Frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 144db
  • Large diaphragm cardioid pattern
  • Elastic inner construction for low noise of structure and handling

Best Condenser Mic For the Budget-Conscious

We get it- you’ve got to adhere to a budget. As much as you may want to drop the bones on a brand new Neumann mic, you’ve got to feed yourself and pay rent. These are reasonable requests. Check out these budget-friendly condenser mics to get you started in the right direction.

Best Under $300: Rode NT1-A

Rode NT1-A
For those looking for studio quality audio while maintaining a tight budget, this Rode model is a fantastic investment to get you started.
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The Rode NT1-A is a super-capable mic for its price range. This mic is most well-known for being ‘one of the quietest mics in the world.’

It gives you a cardioid polar pattern, a wide dynamic range, and even internal capsule shock mounting to protect your track from exterior noise or ‘mechanical jostling.’

This is a great studio-quality mic that performs on a professional level without the gut-punch of a high budget. If you’re looking for best condenser mics to outfit your studio with before the next big project without breaking the bank, this is the mic for you

Rode NT1-A Features:

  • Max Sound Pressure Level of 137db
  • Frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Large diaphragm measures 1″ (25.4mm)
  • Includes shock mount, pop filter, XLR cable, dust cover for mic head, and instructional DVD
  • Cardioid polar pattern

Best Tight-Budget Option: MXL 770

MXL 770
The MXL 770 is actually an intelligently designed mic that can help novices springboard into the world of high-quality sound.
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This mic is marketed as a multipurpose condenser mic, but it tends to attract more vocalists due to the solid low-frequency response.

Users of the MXL 770 report surprisingly warm bass and incredibly accurate high ends, which is exactly the range you’re looking for in a condenser mic, but that it lacks some of the depth and sonic character of bigger, better mics in higher price ranges.

You will need 48V of phantom power, which is not included, so be sure to shop for that, as well.

We recommend this as a mic for singers or producers just starting out recording, or for people who need a quality condenser mic at a super affordable price point.

MXL 770 Features:

  • Max Sound Pressure Level of 137db
  • Frequency Range of 30Hz to 20k Hz
  • Includes shock mount and padded carrying case

Best USB: HyperX Quadcast

HyperX QuadCast
Not only does the HyperX QuadCast offer plug-and-play USB capability, but you get to choose from four polar patterns, making for tighter control.
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The HyperX is one of the newest, hottest, most interesting mics around.

What makes the HyperX Quadcast one of the best condenser mics is how easy it is to use. Not only does it offer plug-and-play USB capability, but you get to choose from four polar patterns: stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8.

These microphones are easy to use, and don’t require phantom power to keep the juice coming.

Most users call this mic a ‘must have’ if you are a streamer, content creator, or average user.

It isn’t a high-end studio recording mic. But for the do-it-yourself content creator, it rocks.

HyperX QuadcastFeatures:

  • Built-in pop filter
  • Frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Built in shock mount eliminates vibration
  • Compatible with Windows PC, Mac OS, and PS4

Best Budget USB: Samson C01U

Samson C01U
The Samson C01U is a handy little mic to have in your arsenal. Not only is it wallet-friendly, but it can do a lot of things very well.
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First of all, The Samson CO1U is compatible with most types of software, which makes it handy for traveling. It also offers zero latency headphone monitoring right on the mic itself.

This mic can even be used for Foley work. You can plug this bad boy in for conference calls with your agent, or for Skyping your family while you’re on the road for your 120-city album tour.

It’s just that versatile.

Eventually, you will probably want to upgrade. But for less than $100, this is a tough entry-level best large diaphragm condenser to beat.

Samson C01U Features:

  • Supercardioid polar pattern
  • Large diaphragm condenser measures 19mm
  • Frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz
  • Includes tripod-style desk stand, swivel mount, and USB cord
  • Compatible with Windows PC, Mac OS, and iPads/iPhones when paired with Apple Lightning USB Camera Adapter

Best Matched Pair: Neumann KM184

Neumann SKM 184
The Neumann KM mics are great for anything!They're small, portable, and offer a high SPL that can deal wonderfully with a full range of different audio sources.
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If you’re in a band with a few different guitar cabs, using overheads to mic drums, podcasting with a friend, or wanting to capture the same quality from your voice and your instrument, a matched pair of mics can be incredibly handy to have around.

The Neumann KM 184 set is a perfect pair of microphones for lots of applications. They’re small, portable, and offer a high SPL that can capture a full range of sources, including typically “loud” instruments, like that trumpet solo you’ve been flirting with.

They do require a power source between 44 and 52V, so shop wisely.

Users describe the sound of these mics as ‘fresh and vivid,’ partly due to the slight treble lift the mics experience in the 9 kilohertz range.

If ever there were an all around, multipurpose small diaphragm condenser, the KM 184 takes the cake. Plus, it comes with an attractive wooden box for storage!

Neumann KM 184 Features:

  • Requires phantom power source
  • Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 138db
  • Includes wooden box carrying case, pop filters, and clips
  • Small diaphragm condenser

Best Matched Pair Under $500: Rode NT5

The Rode NT5
While this mic pair was originally designed for live drum overheads and acoustic solos, they are being used more and more frequently for things like spoken word and film audio.
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Each of the Rode NT5 mics features a 1/2″ condenser capsule and a relatively tight cardioid polar pattern.

While it’s a fantastic choice for live recording due to its full frequency response range, this also makes it a fine choice for getting detailed audio work done in a studio recording.

You can even use them as choir mics!

They are also a fantastic option for two-person interviews, as they give you matching studio audio that you won’t have to try to ‘match’ in post production.

For the price, they’re a tough pair of microphones to beat.

Rode NT5 Features:

  • Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Polar pattern: cardioid
  • Maximum sound pressure level of 143db
  • Includes custom WS5 windshield, custom stand mount, and carrying case

Coveted By The Greats: Neumann U67

Neumann U67

The hype is believable when it comes to the Neumann U67. Al Schmitt, who has earned 22 Grammys, 160 combined gold and platinum albums, and who has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, considers this a go-to condenser mic!

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The Neumann U67 mic was introduced back in 1960, is now back in production, built to original specifications… and has never been more sought after.

Yes, this mic is expensive. But for good reason. The U67 simply costs more to produce than other Neumann microphones. The large custom output transformer contained within it is truly a premium-quality tube… and each one must be hand-selected from large batches.

In fact, this process is so detailed that there are only three employees at Newmann who are specially trained enough to be qualified to build the U67… making it a truly special microphone for any collection. And yes, as with all top-end Neumann mics, the U67 is hand-crafted and manufactured in Germany.

Neumann U67 Features:

  • Frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Maximum sound pressure level of 124db
  • XLR output to phantom power source
  • Includes NU67 power supply, spider-style shock mount, power cable, and suitcase for storage and transportation

Famous for Good Reason: Bock Audio 251

Bock Audio 251

This condenser mic comes with a certain rock gear swagger, which lets you know that it's here for business AND pleasure.

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Paul Simon, Dave Grohl, and Motley Crue are just a few of the big names who have relied on the Bock Audio 251.

It’s a piece of gear with a formidable reputation and a classic sound. So classic, in fact, that certain top producers in the recording industry consider it a must have.

It isn’t cheap… but greatness seldom is.

Bock Audio 251 Features:

  • Frequency response of 10Hz to 20kHz
  • Maximum sound pressure level of 129db
  • Large diaphragm measures 1’’ (25.4mm)
  • 3 polar patterns – cardioid, omni, figure 8

Other Condenser Mics Reviewed

Though they didn’t make our top condenser mics list, these condenser microphones definitely bring value to the table, and deserve a spot of their own.

Avatone CV-12
Not only does the Avatone CV-12 stand out with its bold red body, it is highly recognizable as a mic that provides some of the warmest, richest audio available.
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Manley Reference Gold Large-diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone

Manley Gold
With this mic, you get your choice of polar patterns, which gives you optimum control over your content and final sound.
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Its low self-noise, little interference, and quality sound capture ensure that you get what you want from your audio recording, and only that!

Brauner Phanthera V

 

If you want control, you need to be able to switch between polar patterns -omni, cardioid condenser, figure 8- and do so with ease!

This mic allows for that, but it also gives you a versatile frequency range and high SPL so you can be sure to have optimal results from whatever recording!

Gefell CMV 563

 

This classic vintage mic delivers a retro sound that doesn’t sacrifice quality! It can also be used with different adapters and capsules, so your equipment won’t need to be rendered moot, even if it is retro!

Neumann TLM 102

Neumann TLM 102
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Yeah, studio-quality is important.

But what if you need something low maintenance that delivers a great sound with a minimal expense? This little condenser microphone will do that with a transient response that is well-suited for all sorts of vocals!

Rode NTK

Rode NTK
This Rode mic is just what you’d expect from the sure-fire brand.
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It provides low self-noise and will be sure to keep your audio in check, whether you’re recording vocals or your instruments.

This is definitely a best condenser microphone that you should check out!

Shure SM27-SC

Shure SM27-SC
The SM27-SC gives you a uniform cardioid pattern for superior off-axis rejection, but it also gives you incredible transient response.
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As a decently priced lower-mid range microphone condenser, the Shure Multi-purpose SM27-SC represents its brand in pure Shure fashion on this list.

FAQs

Avatone CV-12
Not only does the Avatone CV-12 stand out with its bold red body, it is highly recognizable as a mic that provides some of the warmest, richest audio available.
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Which is better condenser mic or dynamic mic?

Many microphone singing applications can be covered by dynamic mics. But if you want true, subtle quality and a wider range of frequencies, you would do well to choose from one of the many condenser mics on this list.

What do you need for a condenser mic?

Most condenser microphones – with the exception of USB models – require an external power source. This, in turn, sometimes requires specific cables.

You’re also going to need a shock mount. Even the best condenser mics are going to need stability and help absorbing vibrations and motion.

And if you’re going to be doing voice acting or other vocal work or recording, you’ll also want a pop filter.

What is a large diaphragm condenser microphone used for?

In just four words:

The Best Sound Possible.

Large diaphragm condenser microphones have the sensitivity to pick up on all of the fine details of your voice, your instruments, and any effects you perform in the recording studio.

Conclusion

With it’s heightened sensitivity, the best condenser mics will pick up and add all of those amazing natural sounds to your recording, improving your audio game and taking your vision to the next level.

When your home studio is equipped with the best condenser microphones you can choose, the sky is the limit!