Deciding what microphone to purchase is never the easiest thing to do. It’s hard not to feel as if you are sinking in a sea of options that it’s almost impossible to swim through. There are so many different microphones, and manufacturers all want you to believe that their offering is the best one. However, how do you know who you should be listening to?
There are various features associated with each model, and each also comes in at its own price point. On the matter of price, this is also one of the aspects of immense variety. Since this can be such a tough process, here’s a little guide for you to help you to pick out the best possible microphone for someone who is working with a budget. This comes in especially handy if you want an excellent cheap condenser microphone for special applications, such as that of a home studio.
First, it’s essential to establish what is meant by “budget.” In this case, a figure of $100 is being used. Since mics can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, setting the bar here allows you to remain on the cheaper side of the spectrum, as you try to get excellent performance for the money.
Choosing the best budget microphone depends on several characteristics, which are directional patterns, cost, diaphragm size, and durability. The mics on this list are all condensers because they sit at a balanced midpoint between dynamic mics and ribbon mics.
As you go through the list of the various condenser microphones and you read the information that is provided on each, bear in mind that your unique use case should always be the most crucial factor in your purchase. Consider the reason that you are looking for a microphone, as it makes the process of selection that much easier.
Though this is a list of quality microphones, each has its own strengths and weaknesses that come with using it. These can be used to give you an idea of where and how each option functions optimally.
Samson CO1 Review
There is always a debate about what applications are best suited to each kind of microphone. As the Samson CO1 is built with a generously sized diaphragm, it is best suited to the recording of sensitive instruments, such as a guitar. Be that as it may, the microphone is also very capable of handling vocals in a balanced environment. This means that while your background should preferably be free of too much background noise, what do you get with the Samsung CO1 is a microphone that does not sit on the overly sensitive side of the fence.
The three-micron thick microphone has a fantastic directional pattern, which means that it can zero in well on its point of focus. As it does this, off-axis zones are not prioritized. The Samson CO1 has a high-end response of between 40 hertz and 18 kilohertz, combined with a low-frequency roller. Don’t let the price fool you, as this budget microphone can do wonders for your home studio and voice applications. Its multipurpose nature also makes it perfect for those who can’t afford to purchase different microphones for each use.
This mic works incredibly well when you use it for what it does best. As you have gathered, this is an option that stands out based on its ability to handle instruments. Once there isn’t much background noise, and a tunnel focus is fostered on a singular instrumental target, you begin to understand why this is one of the best cheap condenser mics on the market for sensitive applications. It is truly something that you must experience to understand most extensively.
- ✓ The build quality of the mic is excellent
- ✓ Directional pattern design leads to crisp sound reproduction
- ✓ You get the benefits of an extended frequency response
- ✓ The tone is precise before any pass-through
- ✗ A foam ball or windscreen may be necessary to reduce popping noises
- ✗ Equalizer adjustments and a harmonic exciter may be needed to get the desired sound quality
MXL 770 Review
The MXL 770 microphone is not only an excellent option for a budget unit, but it is also a great microphone for beginners who are looking to get started in the world of audio production. Thanks to an incredible cardioid polar pattern, you get the benefit of multi-focus where needed. Therefore, while you can record your vocals from a single source to a significant effect, there is also comprehensive support for multi-voice recording.
Note that this microphone is well suited for both instrumental and voice applications. This versatility makes this microphone a top-tier condenser option for your home studio. If you are trying to save on equipment, the chances are that you’d prefer one multipurpose microphone, as opposed to needing to purchase more than one.
The frequency range here is an incredible 30 hertz to 20 kilohertz. Additionally, the design comprises a 22-millimeter capsule size, which is paired with a six-micron gold-sputtered diaphragm. The said design is incredibly hardy, and for the benefits of durability and portability, respectively, it ships with a high isolation shock mount, along with a very rugged storage case. The best applications for this microphone are those of live broadcasts, song recording, and movie making.
The manufacturer’s website routinely features artists to reinforce the usability of the microphone. Note that while professionals are heavily featured, the mic is made to be well suited to musicians, hobbyists, and professionals. This is a unit that is designed to offer high quality at an affordable price point. Of course, this has always been the MO of the manufacturer, MXL mics.
This mic works wonders in a slew of voice and instrumental applications. This hybrid benefit is one of the reasons why it is recommended, because you get the benefit of using a single mic for multiple purposes. Once the background noise is kept to a minimal level, the efficiency of this device may surprise you because of its affordable price.
- ✓ The mic is great for picking up a wide frequency range
- ✓ The build quality is very sturdy
- ✓ As is the case with most MXL Mics products, the value for the price is immense
- ✓ It is very adept at capturing high vocals
- ✗ Air can get into the diaphragm which leads to moisture and undesired wind sounds
- ✗ the unit has a tendency for capturing background noises, so you may need to implement a system to mitigate this in your recording room
Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Review
This microphone is built based on a standard design that is used for many of the budget condenser mics from Audio-Technica. While there are plastic controls on the mic, thanks to a standard metal body, the mic sits at a great mid-point between delicate and hardy. Additionally, as the microphone is not too bulky, it is an excellent option for those who need portability.
Instead of opting for the standard XLR layout that is used by most other condenser mics, the ATR2500 uses a USB connection. Of course, this is not the best configuration type for a studio; however, if you do need to have access to your condenser mic on the go, there is no better way to go about it. Additionally, USB power means that all you ever need is your laptop and recording software.
This mic is built with a largely sized low-mass diaphragm that has a fixed cardioid pattern. The frequency range that you’re offered ranges from 30 hertz to 15 kilohertz. There is a small tripod that ships with the mic, and it is affixed to it with screws. Additionally, there is a basic mount and cable.
As you may expect with USB condenser mics, the recording quality is very clear. However, while it’s not entirely flat in the realm of capture, you can almost immediately tell that this is not a microphone that is built for instrument applications. However, it handles voice recording exceptionally well, and little cleanup is required.
Condenser mics that work incredibly well and offer immense convenience make for valuable investments. This mic fits that bill based on its tremendous ability in the world of instrumental capture, as well as the use of USB power for traveling convenience.
- ✓ The design lends itself to fantastic portability
- ✓ Sound isolation is well done
- ✓ The microphone is very easy to use
- ✓ Input for zero-latency monitoring is great
- ✗ Not the greatest option for instrument recording, but it works well
- ✗ Vibrations can be an issue
MXL 990 Review
The MXL 990 has a design that reinforces the fact that you should never judge a book by its cover. While the vintage design is not unappealing, it does seem a bit plain. However, the components included are quite reliable. The first of these is a large diaphragm, which is paired with MXL’s FET preamp for reliability and consistency.
The frequency that you get with this mic ranges from 30 Hertz to 20 kilohertz. Additionally, the unit has a fixed cardioid polar pattern. While this is a standard for microphones within this price range, it is very well done.
MXL also includes a convenient accessory pack with a mic stand adapter, a sturdy padded case, and a shock mount to protect the mic through vibration reduction. The unit is well balanced and not too sensitive, which makes it great for both vocal and instrumental applications.
How well does this mic work? Well, do you remember the discussion about not judging a book by its cover? As soon as you begin to work with this mic, expect to be blown away. There is minimal audio cleanup required, and you can enjoy some of the best instrumental and vocal productions on the cheaper side of the condenser microphone spectrum. It’s always great to have this kind of versatility in a mic when you want to use one in environments, such as home studios.
- ✓ The mic delivers crisp and clear sound quality
- ✓ Suitable for multiple applications
- ✓ The design is highly durable
- ✓ Beginner-friendly
- ✗ Plosive sensitivity is a bit high
Audio-Technica AT2020 Review
This is a budget microphone that is all about delivering a valuable experience. To this end, the microphone covers all the bases that you would want in such a unit, without any focus on unnecessary frills. As you would expect, the directional pattern is a fixed cardioid one, and the range offered with this microphone is between 20 hertz and 20 kilohertz.
The design is impressively hardy, thanks to the thick cast metal that is used. Note that sturdy wire mesh offers both protection and screening to the capsule. There is also a second layer of mesh, which is conducive to the reduction of popping.
Even as a budget option, the AT2020 deliverers in both vocal and instrumental recording. For voice applications, it offers the mid-range warmth that singers benefit from, while it impressively captures the most sensitive of instruments, such as acoustic guitars.
- ✓ High-quality build design
- ✓ Incredible sound reproduction for both vocals and instruments
- ✓ Great value for the price
- ✗ No shock mount to help with vibrations
- ✗ The metal used is a bit clunky
What Microphone Should I Buy for Vocals?
As you browse through the selection of condenser mics, you may start to contemplate the applicability of each to your specific needs. Take vocals, for example. You can attempt to use just about any condenser mic for voice-based applications. However, if you were to try numerous different microphones, you would notice that while some excel at handling voices, others do much better at handling instruments. Of course, there are those that do well at both, and the ones you should avoid altogether that do well at neither.
While multipurpose condenser microphones are superb, your best bet if your interest is in vocals, is to opt for a microphone that has tremendous merits for that purpose. Based on the lineup above, The MXL 770 would be the best microphone in this regard. Thanks to its cardioid polar pattern, it can handle multipoint voice recording just as well as it can focus on a singular target. While other reviewed mics can handle your vocal requirements to a high degree, they are more suited to the vocal applications that require a singular point of focus.
How Much Is a Decent Microphone?
As this is a review of the best cheap microphones, the consideration of price must be made so you can prepare yourself for how much you need to allocate to a purchase. Note that this is the sum required for a decent and functional microphone. So, while it is possible to reference price tags that are much lower, the chances are that your experience with those mics is likely to be an infuriating one.
Take the microphones reviewed above, for example. They are certainly not on the more expensive side of the spectrum, as there are mics that cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. All the microphones on this list, on the other hand, are under $100. In fact, on the lower end of those reviewed, the price is just about $60. On average, the price range for a functional unit is between $60 and $90.
What Is the Best Cheap Condenser Microphone?
So, with all the technical specifications, advantages, and disadvantages out of the way, there is only one question that remains. Of the microphones that were reviewed, which is the best cheap option?
The first thing you should know is that there is no single answer to this question. Of course, this is because different people are looking for different things in a condenser mic. Therefore, this list was meant to include some of the top condenser mics that shine in different areas.
For example, your interest may be in a microphone that is adept at the recording of the most sensitive of instruments. In this case, the Samson C01 would likely be a solid bet, since that is what it does the best.
Alternatively, you may be looking for a multipurpose microphone for your home studio that handles both vocal and instrumental applications to a satisfactory degree. If so, then the MXL 990 would be a perfect option. This is a mic that tackles both needs in a big way, and thus, you would avoid having to purchase separate microphones for each purpose.
Choosing can be a real chore based on the number of options available. While there are some real gems, such as the five products reviewed above, there are also others, which are nothing more than a colossal waste of cash. That last point is the reason that you don’t want to purchase a microphone that is too cheap, even though you are on a budget.
The microphone that you choose should be based on your unique use case. For example, if your primary concern is portability, then you may want to consider a USB microphone, such as the Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB. Similarly, if you need a unit that can handle both voice and instrumental applications, then something like the Samson CO1 would be a good choice.
What’s important in a budget microphone is to get a great mix of usability, durability, reasonable pricing, and a generous diaphragm size. Note that even with all four of these factors in place, there is almost nothing as important as the reason you sought to purchase a microphone in the first place.