When the time comes to perform live on stage, you don’t want to be focused on your equipment. You want to focus on your performance, and on bringing your art to life in front of an audience.
Which is exactly why you need to choose the best microphone for live vocals now… before you set up on stage to perform at your next concert, show, or event.
Bringing best live, high-quality music/entertainment to a crowd involves two main things.
It involves talent, passion, and skill as an artist… but it also involves having the right gear at the right time.
Not all of the best microphones capture quality live vocals. A top vocal mic is the first piece of gear responsible for delivering quality sound reproduction to your sound system, and out of your speakers to the rest of the audience.
Here are our top choices for live vocal mics on the market today.
Let’s dive in!
The finest of the bunch is the Shure SM-58. It is considered one of the finest dynamic microphones for high-performance tasks in its price range, and has a decades-long reputation. If you decide to go with this one, you’ll experience what many famous singers have felt on stage for years… the presence of a truly high-quality, versatile piece of equipment.
In This Article
The Top Microphones for Live Vocals
- Our Top Pick: Shure SM-58
- Our Runner-Up: Sennheiser e945
- Best Budget Option: Pyle Pro PDMic78
- Best Wireless Microphone: Shure BLX24/PG58
The Top 4 Picks
Those who have much experience at all with live vocal microphones will understand our top pick. The Shure SM-58 is a world-renowned dynamic microphone, and one of Shure’s all-time best-sellers. It has been used in live performances by countless singers, actors, and show hosts.
This mic is known for its vintage, basic design… which hasn’t changed for more than half a century. Mind you, this mic was introduced back in 1966. It has a spherical filter on top that nullifies the wind, air, and plosives while you’re performing. Also, an integrated pneumatic shock-mount system will ensure there’s no noise while you’re moving around the stage or switching the mic from one hand to another.
Its unidirectional polar pattern will also pick up only the sound coming from the front, while rejecting virtually everything that’s coming from the sides and the back. This pattern, also known as a ‘cardioid’ pattern, is essential for capturing individual live performances, as it won’t absorb the ambient noise.
Many top-tier singers are using the dynamic Shure SM58 microphone rather than the more expensive condenser models for their live performances, because a dynamic microphone gives out a thicker, raw sound, making the live performance feel more natural. Plus, dynamic mics are much tougher. If you move the mic closer than ¼ inch from the sound source, it will automatically boost the bass frequencies, creating a warmer and richer sound. This is known as the ‘proximity effect.’
This is a super-reliable mic, and it doesn’t need nearly as much TLC as your average condenser mic. It owes its iconic reputation to its tank-like robustness and sturdiness. And, there’s hardly a better mic to release your voice into when performing. The package also includes a sturdy stand which can rotate 180 degrees, and a dark gray metal case to keep it enclosed.
Shure SM-58 Key Features:
- Reliable and long-lasting
- Built-in shock mount system
- Excellent feedback suppression
- Integrated windshield and pop filter
- Cardioid pattern
Our second pick comes from a manufacturer that needs very little introduction — Sennheiser. However, the e945 is a bit pricier than our top pick. They are similar in design and build, both having a metal coating and shock-mounted capsule system. Thanks to this, even if you drop the e945 it shouldn’t produce any significant noise. It will also isolate any mechanical noise that might be made while you’re moving around the stage.
When it comes to capturing sound, the Sennheiser e945 has a super-cardioid. Compared to the regular unidirectional pattern, this one has an even narrower sound capture angle. So, while you may have to hold the microphone completely perpendicular to your head, it’s fantastic at rejecting all other surrounding noise.
On top of that, this mic contains a hum-reducing coil, immense frequency response (40-18,000 Hz), and a nominal impedance of 350ohms. It also has a regular XLR-3 connector and doesn’t require phantom power to run.
The reason the Sennheiser e945 isn’t our top pick is its slightly reduced proximity effect, which makes the voice sound a tad less natural. Since it doesn’t boost the bass frequencies all that well, it is better for mid-range or high-range voices. This might present a problem for vocalists with super-deep voices.
Sennheiser e945 Key Features:
- Hum-compensating coil
- Supercardioid tight pick-up angle
- Simple to use
- superior feedback rejection
For those that need a microphone for singing the occasional performance or karaoke night at the bar, the Pyle Pro will be more than good enough. At first glance, this mic seems like it’s built as well as our top picks… but a peek inside reveals that the internal components are a bit lower quality. Unlike the top two picks, dropping this microphone a few times may seriously damage it. However, if you handle it properly, it can provide a solid-quality sound for a long time.
Nonetheless, the Pyle Pro PDMic78 offers exceptional sound quality when compared to other budget class options. It has a narrow frequency range and somewhat lower sensitivity, which is to be expected of a super-affordable dynamic mic.
On the other hand, the unidirectional polar pattern is tight… and it will reliably reject all sounds coming from the sides. You won’t have any background interference, and you can focus on delivering your best performance without added noise. The built-in pop-filter isn’t particularly good, but it will suffice in moderately loud settings. Alternatively, you can always put a 3rd party pop filter over it to help out with this.
Overall, the Pyle Pro PDMic78 delivers good quality while remaining very affordable. It won’t be a good solution for the Super-Bowl half-time show or singing at Madison Square Garden. But for smaller gigs and karaoke nights, it’s more than sufficient. This is a perfect entry-level singing microphone, and it can also come in quite handy during parties.
PylePro PDMIC78 Key Features:
- One of the cheapest well-performing microphones
- Could be more durable
- Built-in LCD display
- uni-directional to reduce feedback
The Shure BLX24/PG58 wireless microphone kit comes with the Shure PG58 wireless vocal mic and the BLX24 wireless receiver. Powered by 2 AA batteries (included), this microphone boasts the full power of the Shure brand… along with a cardioid pickup pattern, adjustable gain control, and up to 14 hours of continuous use.
Shure calls this system “the ideal entry-level wireless mic system for small venues,” and they’re not at all wrong. This setup is simple to use, easy to get running, and boasts an intuitive interface that even ‘the new sound guy’ won’t have a problem figuring out!
Worried about sound quality in a sub $400 wireless mic?
Well, don’t be!
The Shure BLX24/PG58 system is known not only for its clarity, but also for its reliability. With excellent sound reproduction and bullet-proof internal components, the only thing you’ll need in addition to this mic is an awesome set of vocal cords!
Shure BLX24/PG58 Key Features:
- Cardioid pattern
- Great for mid-range vocals
- Professional quality
- Rugged and reliable
When you’re buying a live performance microphone, you should look at a few things – handling noise cancelation, polar pattern, and the particular type of mic.
- Noise Cancelation
Each microphone has features aimed at reducing ambient noise. There are several ways to do this. Windshields protect from the wind and draft, pop-filters prevent the plosives from ruining your performance, and shock-mounts neutralize and minimize the handling and impact noises.
- Polar Pattern
These microphones are mostly cardioid (or unidirectional). They are great at picking up sound coming from in front of the microphone and are also good for rejecting the background sounds that are coming from the back and sides. This is particularly important during live events, where you don’t want crowd murmurs, band noise, feedback, and other sounds mixing up with your vocals.
However, if you’re in a barbershop group or a similar vocal ensemble and you all sing into one mic on stage, an omnidirectional might be a better solution.
- Type of Microphone
There are two main microphone types –
Condenser microphones usually generate much more detailed sound, thanks to the electric condenser in the diaphragm. While this sound is great for recording vocals, performers generally prefer a dynamic microphone for live gigs. This is because dynamic microphones provide a more natural and warmer sound. Plus, dynamic mics have lower sensitivity, perform better in noisy environments, and are more robust.
What types of mics do singers use?
Plenty of famous singers prefer to use dynamic microphones for performances, like the reputable Shure SM-58 (our top pick). This mic type produces a more natural sound, and is tougher. On the other hand, condenser microphones capture some details that a dynamic can’t, so some singers stick to this variety. But generally, condenser microphones are ideal for in-studio recording.
(Looking for an awesome in-studio mic? Check out our list of the Best 9 Microphones For Vocals!)
What do you use condenser microphone for?
Condenser microphones deliver a more detailed sound and are better at picking up quieter sounds. They are great for microphone studio recording. They excel with
- sound effects
- acoustic instruments
- in-studio vocals
Is a dynamic or condenser mic better for vocals?
The answer depends on what you need. Dynamic microphones may be better for live performances, while condenser microphones are better for studio recordings.
MORE GREAT OPTIONS
Besides the top picks, we have reviewed ten more mics. They are all worthy of your attention, so take a look.
- Great for low-pitched voices
- Pop-filter and shock-mount reduce noise
- Windshields cover every opening
- Good for beginners learning their trade
At the end of the day, it’s important to have a best live vocal mic so that you can move on to the performance-part of your art-form and get to work… and hopefully, this review has helped you to identify what you’ll be needing in a live vocal mic.
So get it ordered, level-up your sound capabilities, and get back to your craft!
Keep making music! That’s how we keep the art alive!