Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Fairest of Them All — Find Your Best Condenser Microphone Among 22 Models

I am in love with my collection of condensers. I am an “old-school” type of audio engineer that started recording live bands in the 1980s. I owned a collection with mics of all shapes and sizes to make live recordings of bands, from the cheapest to the most expensive ones. If you’re looking for a cheap mic check my reviews in this article.

To be honest, my love affair with condenser microphones is decades-long. I reviewed 22 of the best microphones in this article to help you decide the ones you want to add to your collection.

And here are my favorites.

My Top PickStellar X2

Stellar X2

What’s inside?

  • High-grade brass diaphragm and specialty Mylar.
  • High-quality iron durable body .
  • Balanced and neutral frequency response to pick up a wide range of sound.

Killer feature: This condenser microphone has a noise floor of less than 13dB.

Check price on Amazon →

Check price on Tech Zone →

This Stellar X2 is one of the best quality choices. It costs around $200 but is worth the price. It comes with a beautiful aluminum carrying case and includes a leather pouch for the pick with a zipper, a foam wind cover, a shock mount, and a 3/8 to 5/8-inch stand adapter. It requires 48V phantom power to operate.

Also GreatAudio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020

What’s inside?

  • High SPL handling with a wide dynamic range.
  • Extended frequency response.
  • Cardioid pickup pattern.

Killer feature: A signal-to-noise value of 74 dB.

Check price on Amazon →

Check price on AT website →

Check price on B&H →

This is another terrific pick that is built extremely well with an all-metal structure. This gives the weight of 1.8 lbs. (0.8 kg). It usually sells for around $100, which is a nice value for the price. The cardioid pickup pattern significantly reduces unwanted background noise.

Also GreatBlue Yeti Nano

Blue Yeti Nano

What’s inside?

  • Plug-and-play for use with either a Mac or a PC.
  • Switchable cardioid or omni-directional pick-up pattern.
  • One-year limited warranty.

Killer feature: Stylish and comes with its own desktop stand.

Check price on Amazon →

Check price on Blue →

Check price on B&H →

I like the feature on this one that allows me to switch from a cardioid pick-up pattern that focuses on what is in front of the device to an omnidirectional pickup pattern that focuses on the whole room. I use this feature when doing live streaming interviews and want to switch it from the focus on my voice to pick up the other people in the room.

Buyer’s Guide: How do you find the perfect condenser for your needs?

There are three steps in choosing:

Step 1. Decide what type (large-diaphragm or small-diaphragm) you need.

Decide what type (large-diaphragm or small-diaphragm) you need
Most professional recording studios have some of both types to use for recording different things.

The decision between a large-diaphragm or small-diaphragm comes down to how much sound you want to pick up. A large-diaphragm mic will pick up more room sound. A small-diaphragms sometimes called a “pencil” or a “shot-gun”, is designed to focus on picking up sounds directly in front and proximity to it.

Step 2. Pay Attention to the Features

Pay Attention to the Features

Here is a checklist of the features you want to evaluate closely:

  • Pickup Pattern Variations: Some have the intentional design to pick up mostly sound coming from a source that is very close to it and only from in front of it. As the sound source moves away from the device head or moves around to the back, the sound pickup drops dramatically. For example, one might choose a pick with a tight cardioid pickup pattern if recording a voice or vocals in a boisterous environment to avoid recording the room sounds. Alternatively, if one wants to record all the sounds in a room, then an omnidirectional pickup pattern is a better choice since it records sounds from all directions. Some have a switch that allows the pickup pattern to be changed.
  • Proximity Effect Sensitivity: The proximity effect sensitivity is the different sound pickup for a sound socurce coming very close to it. For a cardioid, it adds bass (low-end) frequency to any sound that is very close it. This effect can be desirable or unwanted. It may make voice recording sound boomy and “muddy.” It also adds a sense of weight to the sound that some find useful.
  • Frequency Response Curve: The frequency response curve is a diagram showing how a particular responds to different frequencies (tones). A mic with the same response to all frequencies will have a flat line instead of a curve. They are chosen that work better for the frequencies in the human hearing range (20 Hz to 20 kHz) that they are intended to record. For example, if you want a device to record vocals, look for a condenser with a decent frequency response to the mid-range frequencies (tones).

Frequency Response Curve

  • Power Supply: Make sure you understand if it requires phantom power to come from another device, whether it uses batteries to provide the power, or if it can be used without power, such as all USB devices. Even though with an XLR to USB adaptor, it is possible to plug it into a computer, if it needs to have the power to operate, it will not work.
  • Noise Floor: The noise floor is the level of sound that comes from the equipment or recording environment and not from what the equipment is recording. If your equipment makes an audible buzz or hum when there is otherwise silence in the room, it is not set up properly, it is picking up interference (such as coming down the power line from equipment plugged into the same electrical circuit), or is not functioning well.
  • Dynamic Range and Headroom: A condenser dynamic range is a calculation that is made of the difference in decibels (dB) between the loudest thing it can record and the quietest signal it can pick up. Headroom is the difference between the loudest sound trying to be recorded, and the upper limit (threshold) of the sound volume in dB is the maximum. You want your device to be able to be delicate enough to pick up the quiet sound you would like to record and to handle the loudest volume you will record as well. Where you will place it and how loud the sounds you plan to record determines the needs for dynamic range and headroom.

Step 3. Choose the one you can afford. Then, add more microphones later.

If your budget can handle it, buy the best quality device that is a superb choice for that budget amount. If your budget is severely limited, then you will want first to get a sturdy, all-purpose devices (switchable from a cardioid to dynamic pickup pattern), which is one of the less expensive ones under $100.

Choose the one you can afford. Then, add more mics later

You will not need to buy a power source if you get one that plugs directly into a computer using a USB connector. Most audio recording studios have more than one so plan to add to your collection over time.

Best Condenser Microphones
Stellar X2

For usage in a home studio or a voice-over studio to record voices.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
My choice among Condenser Microphones
Amazon →Tech Zone →
Audio Technica AT2020

For recording projects with a limited budget and home studios.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
My choice among Condenser Microphones
Amazon →Audio-Technika→B&H →
MXL V67G

For entry-level, budget-conscious home studios.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →MXL →B&H →
AKG-P120

For audio projects and in-home recording studios.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →AKG →B&H →
Movo VSM-7

For almost any purpose that includes recording podcasts, YouTube content, music, and voice-overs.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →Movo →B&H →
AKG Acoustics Project Studio  P220

For a home studio or those just starting a recording project.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →AKG →B&H →
Blue-Snowball

For podcasting, YouTube videos, live streaming, Skype calls, Zoom, and voice-over recording.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →Blue →B&H →
Samson Meteor

For those bloggers who prefer shooting podcasts.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →B&H →Sweetwater →
Razer Seiren X

For gamers and live streaming on Twitch.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →Razer →
CAD Audio GXL2600USB

For voice-over recordings.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →B&H →CAD →
Audio Technica AT2020USB

For recording narrations or voice-overs as commentary over another audio track.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →Audio-Technika →B&H →
TONOR Podcasting Compatible TC-777

Good microphone for Zoom meetings, working from home and virtual conference attendance, podcasting.

Category: Large-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →Tonor →
AKG PERCEPTION 170

For recording drum kits and guitars.

Category: Small-Diaphragm  with an XLR Connector
Amazon →B&H →AKG →
MXL 770

For recording vocals and instruments.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →MXL →B&H →
Audio Technica Pro 37

For recording acoustic guitar, overheads, piano, and group vocals.

Category: Small-diaphragm  with an XLR Connector
Amazon →Audio-Technika →B&H →
AKG-C451

For professional use in recording studios.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →B&H →AKG →
Lewitt LCT 140 AIR

For recording instruments.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →Lewitt →B&H →
Blue Ember

For recording instruments and vocals and for making YouTube videos, podcasting, and live streaming.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →Blue →B&H →
Shure SM81-LC

For live instrument sound reinforcement and recording.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector
Amazon →Shure →B&H →
Samson Go

For recording music, podcasting, live streaming, and field recording.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →Sweetwater →B&H →
Rode NT-USB-Mini

For recording vocals and instruments, podcasting, voiceovers, gaming, and live streaming.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
Amazon →Sweetwater →B&H →
Blue Yeti Nano

For podcasting, live streaming, gaming, Skype calls, YouTube video creation, or music recording.

Category: Small-Diaphragm with a USB Connector
My choice among Condenser Microphones
Amazon →Blue →B&H →

I organized the condenser microphones into two categories:

  • large-diaphragm;
  • small-diaphragm.

The reviews follow the same category breakdowns as the list above with large-diaphragm (XLR and then USB) followed by the small-diaphragm (XLR and then USB).

Large-Diaphragm

I broke down the large-diaphragm into two subsets:

  • with an XLR connector;
  • with and USB connector.

Large-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector

Large-diaphragms pick up more sound than those with a smaller diaphragm. This group has an XLR connector. Large-diaphragms are mostly used for vocals. For a better look at this type of mics check out my reviews here.

1. Stellar X2

I love using this device to record vocalists. The sound is smooth, stable, and blends in nicely with the mix. I expect it to have a long service life.

Stellar X2
Credits: stellarmicdesign.com

Pros

  • High-quality diaphragm.
  • Low noise circuitry.
  • Durable build from high-quality iron.
  • Comes with a 3/8 to 5/8-inch adapter, foam wind cover, shock mount, an aluminum case, and a zippered leather pouch to carry the device safely.
  • Carefully tuned sound.

Cons

  • To connect to a computer you need to use an audio interface (not included), which provides phantom power.
  • XLR cable needed (not included).
  • Not suitable for use as a handheld pick.
Stellar X2
Credits: stellarmicdesign.com

Best for: Use in a home studio or a voice-over studio to record voices.

This video, produced by TechZone Audio Products, discusses how to use the Stellar X2to record vocals and techniques you can use, such as the proximity effect, to make the recording sound better.

The low noise floor of less than 13 dB is a feature that allows this condenser to be used to record voices without needing to add any filters. This makes it easier when doing an audio mix later, for example, when adding background music to the voice-over. The cardioid pickup pattern is also tailor-made for recording voices.

Buying Options

2. Audio-Technica AT2020

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a modestly-priced (around $100) condenser microphone with nice performance characteristics.

Audio-Technica AT2020
Credits: audio-technica.com

Pros

  • High SPL handling.
  • Wide dynamic range.
  • Cardioid polar pickup pattern.
  • Extended frequency response from having a custom-engineered, low-mass diaphragm.
  • Superior transient response.

Cons

  • Must have a phantom power source, which is a common requirement for a condenser with an XLR connector.
  • Does not come with a shock mount.
  • Does not come with a wind screen.
  • Does not come with an XLR cable, which is needed to use it.
Audio-Technica AT2020
Credits: audio-technica.com

Best for: Recording projects with a limited budget and home studios.

This video, produced by Podcastage, is a full review of the Audio-Technica AT2020. He points out that this pick must have a 48V phantom source that he provides using a Beringer UM2 amp to provide the power. It will not work with an XLR to USB adaptor or an XLR to 3.5mm (RCA) cable, or a USB sound card.

This one is versatile because it can handle high SPL and has a wide dynamic range, which is good for recording vocalists and instruments. It picks up minimal sound from the rear of the pick and focuses much more on the sound in the front. The graph of the frequency response is almost a straight line. This means it has a decent response across the entire sound spectrum of human hearing from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

Buying Options

3. MXL V67G

This is a budget condenser selling for around $80. It has a lovely gold mesh and olive green body.

MXL V67G
Credits: mxlmics.com

Pros

  • Low cost.
  • Solid state preamp balance transformer output.
  • Audio sensitivity of 130 dB.
  • The single-to-noise ratio is 74 dB.
  • Lightweight at 0.67 lbs. (0.3 kg).

Cons

  • The MXL-57 shock mount is an optional accessory you should buy (not included).
  • XLR cable not included.
  • Chinese manufacturer has terrible customer service.
  • No warranty.
MXL V67G
Credits: mxlmics.com

Best for: Entry-level, budget-conscious home studios; however, when you buy the accessories that you need to use this condenser (cost about $20 to $30 more), it is no longer a bargain.

This video, produced by Podcastage, is a full review of the MXL V67G large-capsule condenser device. He uses it connected to a Focusrite Scarlett Solo amp with the gain set to around 55%.

I like the look of this one, but the inside quality is questionable. The build for this condenser modele is not very sturdy, and it tends to break easily. Some complain that it works well at first but soon fails. There is no warranty, so you have to take your chances. Returning it is nearly impossible, so you may be out around $80 if it breaks.

Buying Options

4. AKG-P120

The AKG-P120 is an entry-level condenser that is a nice choice for those looking for a device  that sells for around $80. This condenser microphone is a general-use, all-purpose for a recording studio.

AKG-P120
Credits: akg.com

Pros

  • Cardioid pickup pattern.
  • 2/3-inch (17 mm) diaphragm.
  • Sturdy all-metal body.
  • Switchable bass-cut filter.
  • Switchable attenuation pad for high SPL use up to 150 dB.

Cons

  • The  body may be a source of unwanted noise.
  • Picks up some of the background noises in the room.
  • If it arrives broken, or it breaks after a short time, it is difficult and costly to return it for warranty repair.
AKG-P120
Credits: akg.com

Best for: Audio projects and in home recording studios.

This video, produced by Podcastage, is a full review of the AKG P120. He uses it connected to a Focusrite Scarlett Solo amp with the gain set at around 55%. He tests the vocal sound and how it sounds with both an acoustic and electric guitar.

This is my favorite condenser to use in a multi-mic setup when recording a drum kit because it can handle high SPL (up to 150 dB). It has a switchable attenuation pad to cut some of the sound levels down. This pad is useful for close-micing the various parts of a drum kit to achieve good audio separation when recording.

Buying Options

5. Movo VSM-7

This condenser has the special feature of being three mics in one. You can choose between a cardioid pick-up pattern, a bi-directional pick-up pattern, and an omnidirectional pick-up pattern for more control when recording or live streaming.

Movo VSM-7
Credits: movophoto.com

Pros

  • Three selectable polar pick up patterns.
  • Comes with an XLR cable included.
  • Comes with an excellent shock mount that is sturdy and keeps it from moving.
  • Has an integrated pop-filter included.One-year warranty with a U.S.-based customer support team.

Cons

  • A bit more expensive that some of the others but worth the price.
  • You need to have a phantom power source such as a audio interface or a mixing board.
Movo VSM-7
Credits: movophoto.com

Best for: Almost any purpose that includes recording podcasts, YouTube content, music, and voice-overs.

This video, produced by Audio for Content Creators, reviews the Movo VSM-7, and the reviewer says this new model from Movo may be his best choice for a device to use for podcasting. It is a professional-grade condenser.

I am impressed with the versatility of this one. It is one of my favorites. I really want to give praise to the manufacturer for having a one-year warranty and U.S.-based support. If you have a problem with a defect within the first year, someone will actually help you resolve the issue.

Buying Options

6. AKG Acoustics Project Studio P220

The AKG Acoustics Project Studio P220 is an exceptional condenser sold with a vocal recording setup kit.

AKG Acoustics Project Studio P220
Credits: akg.com

Pros

  • Sturdy build with an all-metal body.
  • Switchable bass-cut filter.
  • Switchable attenuation pad for high-SPL usage up to 155 dB.
  • Complete kit for vocal recording.
  • Two-year limited warranty with U.S.-based customer support.

Cons

  • Like all XLR condenser, you have to have a phantom power source
  • Headphones are entry-level, decent but not outstanding.
AKG Acoustics Project Studio P220
Credits: akg.com

Best for: A home studio or those just starting a recording project. This is a very high-quality, well-priced kit.

This video, produced by Podcastage, shows the condenser microphone set up with a 2i2 Second Gen with the gain set at 12 o’clock. The reviewer likes the sturdy build and demonstrates this by throwing the boxed one on the floor.

If you want to record vocals and are just starting your audio project or building a home recording studio, this vocal recording kit is an excellent choice. It comes with almost everything you need to get started. All you have to add is an audio interface to provide the phantom power and a cable to connect the audio interface to your computer, and you are good to go.

Buying Options

Large-Diaphragm Condenser with a USB Connector

Large-diaphragm condensers pick up more sound than those with a smaller diaphragm. This group has a USB connector.

7. Blue Snowball

The Blue Snowball is a popular voice over microphone because it is low-cost (around $70) and offers the switchable choice of a cardioid or omnidirectional pickup pattern.

Blue Snowball
Credits: bluemic.com

Pros

  • Plug-and-play compatible with a Mac or a PC.
  • Budget priced (around $70).
  • Contains two condensers for switchable pickup pattern from cardioid to omnidirectional.
  • Switchable -10dB attenuation pad.
  • 16-bit with 48 kHz sampling rate.

Cons

  • May pick up desk vibrations and bumps.
  • Stand is not very tall.
  • Plastic construction.
  • Lousy customer service.
Blue Snowball
Credits: bluemic.com

Best for: Podcasting, YouTube videos, live streaming, Skype calls, Zoom, and voice-over recording.

This video, produced by Podcastage, talks about the difference between the Blue Snowball USB with two microphones and the Blue Snowball ICE, which has only one.

People love this one for its style and low price. I found the omnidirectional setting almost useless, but the cardioid pattern is excellent for recording voice-overs with a clear sound. It is lovely sitting on the desk. When I use it, I feel like I am a radio DJ.

Buying Options

8. Samson Meteor

The Samson Meteor has a nice sound for recording voice-overs. It comes with fold-back legs that serve as a desktop stand.

Samson Meteor
Credits: samsontech.com

Pros

  • Has one of the largest condenser diaphragms of these type of mics.
  • Has a no-latency 1/8-inch headphone output with volume control and a mute switch.
  • The maximum SPL is 120 dB.
  • The polar pattern is cardioid.
  • Includes a USB cable and a carry pouch.

Cons

  • Has a mini-USB plug.
  • Extendable legs are very short.
Samson Meteor
Credits: samsontech.com

Best for: Those bloggers who prefer shooting podcasts.

This video, produced by Booth Junkie, reviews the Samson USB Meteor, a desktop mic designed for gaming, podcasts, and VOIP. He compares it to the Blue Yeti which was one of our picks for the best micriophones for YouTube.

A nice touch is the chrome-plated finish. This pick is very easy to set up and use. With the Garageband software installed on your computer, you can set up it and be recording within a few minutes.

Buying Options

9. Razer X Seiren

The Razer X Seiren has a built-in shock mount. It has a very tight, super-cardioid pickup pattern. The body is made of anodized aluminum.

Razer X Seiren
Credits: razer.com

Pros

  • Sturdy build and weighs 12.8 ounces (360 grams).
  • Power source is a plugged-in AC cable. No phantom power required.
  • Audio output is USB.

Cons

  • Stand is a bit short.
Razer X Seiren
Credits: razer.com

Best for: Gamers and live streaming on Twitch.

This video, produced by Podcastage, shows a full review of the Razer Seiren X connected directly to the USB input port of a Mac. The reviewer thinks the plastic body is low-quality for a pick that costs around $100.

Suppose you are a gamer you want a low-profile device not to block your view of the screen. For other uses, you may have to put it on top of some books to get it high enough to speak directly into it without having to bend down. For the mic to pick up your voice properly, you need to speak directly into it.

Buying Options

10. CAD Audio GXL2600USB

The CAD Audio GXL2600USB has a one-inch Aoedein capsule diaphragm. This one has a cardioid pickup pattern. It uses a USB connector to connect directly to a computer.

CAD Audio GXL2600USB
Credits: cadaudio.com

Pros

  • Comes with a studio-quality shock mount and a desk stand.
  • Comes with a USB cable.
  • Sensitivity is -35 dB.
  • Uses a PureTone analog to digital converter for accurate sound quality.
  • Sturdy build that weighs two pounds (0.9 kg.)

Cons

  • Decent quality for voice-overs, but not as good for recording vocals.
  • The analog to digital conversion causes a delay so this one is not suitable for use in live performances.
  • The included tripod stand is very short and falls over easily.
CAD Audio GXL2600USB
Credits: cadaudio.com

Best for: Voice-over recordings.

This video, produced by ArtoftheImage, shows the unboxing of the CAD Audio GXL 2600, and the reviewer gives his initial impressions of it.

This model comes with a good quality shock mount, but the desktop stand needs improvement. It may be better to use it with an adaptor to connect to a boom stand.

Buying Options

11. Audio Technica AT2020USB

The Audio Technica AT2020USB has a built-in headphone jack with volume control to offer zero-latency monitoring. The body is only 6.3 inches tall. It comes with a tripod desktop stand.

Audio Technica AT2020USB
Credits: audio-technica.com

Pros

  • Has a unique feature of being able to live mix the signal with another pre-recorded audio track by using a wheel control on the device itself.
  • Comes with a tripod stand, a pivoting mount, and a 10-foot (3.1 meter) USB cable.
  • Compatible with Windows and Mac OS.
  • Has a protective pouch (included) for it when not in use.
  • Has an on/off switch on the body.

Cons

  • When using the tripod on a desk with a keyboard, it picked up the typing sound very clearly.
  • The cardioid pattern also picks up too much room noise.
Audio Technica AT2020USB
Credits: audio-technica.com

Best for: Recording narrations or voice-overs as commentary over another audio track.

This video, produced by Podcastage, shows the review and test of the Audio Technica AT2020 USB+ quality. He shows what it comes up and then how it sounds. He likes the build quality that is an all-metal construction.

I expected quite a lot from a mic that sells for $150 from Audio Technica. This one is decent but using it without a shock mount on the included tripod desk stand is not a good idea. Any bump or desk noise is too easy for it to pick up.

Buying Options

12. TONOR Podcasting Compatible TC-777

The TONOR TC-777 is an excellent value at under $30. It is designed for gaming, voice-overs, and podcasting.

TONOR Podcasting Compatible TC-777
Credits: tonormic.com

Pros

  • Low-priced at around $27.
  • Plug-and-Play for PS4, Mac, PC, and Linux.
  • No driver software download.
  • Compatible with Zoom, GotoMeeting, and Google Meet.
  • Two-year replacement warranty.

Cons

  • No output for headphones on it.
  • No mute button.
TONOR Podcasting Compatible TC-777
Credits: tonormic.com

Best for: Zoom meetings, working from home and virtual conference attendance, podcasting.

This video, produced by RA Visuals, shows the unboxing and the review of the Tonor TC-77 USB that he thinks might be a strong competitor to the Blue Snowball. He likes the two-year replacement warranty.

I think this model is terrific because it is so cheap and comes with a nice stand, an integrated pop filter, a shock mount, and a USB cable. The tripod legs are metal, but the body is PVC plastic. The tripod legs have nice anti-skid, non-slip rubber balls on the ends to securely hold it in place.

Buying Options

Small-Diaphragm

I organized the small-diaphragms into two subsets:

  • with an XLR connector;
  • with and USB connector.

Small-Diaphragm with an XLR Connector

Small-diaphragm are more focused than those with a larger diaphragm. This group has an XLR connector.

13. AKG PERCEPTION 170

The AKG PERCEPTION 170 is a workhorse for any recording studio that wants to record instruments.

AKG PERCEPTION 170
Credits: akg.com

Pros

  • Has a 1/2-inch (13 mm) true condenser/transducer diaphragm.
  • Switchable attenuation pad for high-SPL usage up to 155 dB.
  • It weighs one pound (0.5 kg).

Cons

  • Requires phantom power to operate.
  • Made in China.
  • Customer service is horrible.
AKG PERCEPTION 170
Credits: akg.com

Best for: Recording drum kits and guitars.

This video, produced by Bside Talks Guitar, shows a sound test using an acoustic guitar and the AKG P170 connected to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 amp. This is an excellent “pencil” condenser to isolate and pick up just the guitar sound with little background noise.

I owned a bunch of these devices and got a lot of use out of them. When they broke, I threw them in the bin for repair later, which I never did. I got at least $100 use out of them, which is what they cost. I ordered some more to replace the broken ones and always had about 12 in good working order.

Buying Options

14. MXL 770

The Blucoil MXL 770 cardioid comes in a kit that I think is exceptional. It has a fitted case, a boom arm, a pop filter, a shock mount, and a cable included in the kit.

MXL 770
Credits: mxlmics.com

Pros

  • Balanced frequency response from 30 Hz to 20 kHz.
  • The noise floor is 20 dB.
  • Handles up to137 dB of SPL.
  • 10-foot XLR cable included with a lifetime guarantee.
  • Carrying case, shock mount, 30-inch (0.75 meter) boom arm, and pop filter included.

Cons

  • If you use the boom arm be sure to secure it well so it does not fall.
  • This model is very sensitive and can pick up room noises.
  • Needs phantom power.
MXL 770
Credits: mxlmics.com

Best for: Recording vocals and instruments.

This video, produced by Audio Hotline, shows a sound test using the ZOM H5 to record the model with the gain set at about 43% with a Steadman Pro pop filter.

This is a nice kit that includes everything except the device to create the phantom power. The included 10-foot XLR cable connects the mix to your audio interface or mixing board. The boom arm is made from heavy-duty steel and zinc alloy. It is adjustable 360 degrees. If installed vertically, it will hold a device that weighs up to 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg). This one weighs one pound (0.45 kg).

Buying Options

15. Audio-Technica Pro 37

The Audio-Technica Pro 37 is a professional-grade device. It is used for studio recording a live audio reinforcement.

Audio-Technica Pro 37
Credits: audio-technica.com

Pros

  • Has a low-profile design for optimal placement.
  • It has corrosion-resistant contacts made from gold-plated XLRM-type connectors.
  • Comes with a foam wind cover, a clip with an adaptor, and a zippered pouch.

Cons

  • Requires phantom power.
  • High-priced at about $170.
Audio-Technica Pro 37
Credits: audio-technica.com

Best for: Recording acoustic guitar, overheads, piano, and group vocals.

This video, produced by sillennium, shows a sound test comparison with five Audio-Technica for AT4041, AT4021, AT2021, ATM450, and the Pro 37. He conducts a sound test of the Pro 37. It starts at the 1:50 timecode in the video.

If you can afford this model, you will enjoy using it. Most professional recording studios have plenty of these devices on hand if they record bands.

Buying Options

16. AKG-C451

The AKG 451 is legendary and was first released as the C451 EB in 1969. It is a “shot-gun” style model and used to reinforce sound in live performances and studio recordings.

AKG-C451
Credits: akg.com

Pros

  • Has an efficient high-pass filter with 12dB per octave that prevents low-end distortion coming from a rumble or from wind noise
  • Uses a transformerless preamp to reduce distortion.
  • The surface mount technology creates high reliability and lower weight.
  • Comes with a clip and a foam-fitted, zippered, carrying case.

Cons

  • Expensive at around $295.
  • Requires phantom power.
AKG-C451
Credits: akg.com

Best for: Professional use in recording studios.

This video, produced by Musician’s Friend, shows the AKG C 451 B that is a revival of an extremely popular condenser first sold during the late 1960s. It is ideal for recording a loud sound source like drums or amplified guitar. It can handle a sound pressure level of up to 155 dB.

This device established itself as a touring standard during the 1980s and has remained popular since then. Its design is simple and elegant. The main selling point, besides having a great sound, is that this one is extremely durable.

Buying Options

17. Lewitt LCT 140

The Lewitt LCT 140 is a small pick. It is designed for use in recording instruments.

Lewitt LCT 140
Credits: lewitt-audio.com

Pros

  • It has a high-performance back-electret capsule.
  • Weighs 13.6 ounces (385 grams).
  • Comes with a clip.

Cons

  • Designed in Austria, but made in China.
  • The Lewitt company is fairly new.
Lewitt LCT 140
Credits: lewitt-audio.com

Best for: Recording instruments.

This video, produced by GaragebandandBeyond, shows a sound test using a piano a Martin guitar with the Lewitt LCT-140 small pick.

If you do a lot of recording of instruments, this is definitely a model to consider. You have to hear the “airy: mode to understand how it changes the sound, and then you will understand when to use it in that setting.

Buying Options

18. Blue Ember

This is a bundled kit from Blue, and it includes the Blue Ember, Polsen HPC-A30 monitor headphones, an XLR cable, and a pop filter.

Blue Ember
credits: bluemic.com

Pros

  • The compact side-address design is useful for placement purposes.
  • A wind screen, an XLR cable and headphones are included in the kit.
  • The dimensions are 11.5 by 8.1 by 5.3 inches.
  • Excellent frequency response.
  • Has a precise cardioid pickup pattern.

Cons

  • Requires phantom power like all XLRs.
Blue Ember
Credits: bluemic.com

Best for: Recording instruments and vocals and for making YouTube videos, podcasting, and live streaming.

This video, produced by Tech Summit, is a clear and honest review that finds many things that the reviewer was surprised that he likes, such as the aluminum body and also some things that are not so good, such as it does not sound very good recording a voice-over without a pop filter. He tests it under a few different room conditions.

This is a nice combination bundle that has quality components. The headphones are quite good with 50 mm drivers that provide an 18 kHz to 22 kHz frequency response.

Buying Options

19. Shure SM81-LC

The Shure SM81-LC is a top-of-the-line model that sells for about $350. Its elegant, thin design makes it perfect for recording instruments.

Shure SM81-LC
Credits: shure.com

Pros

  • Has a sturdy construction.
  • Performs well in a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions.
  • Included are a swivel adapter, an attenuator-switch lock, a foam windscreen, and a carrying case.
  • Low susceptibility to RF interference.
  • Low distortion.

Cons

  • High price of about $350.
  • Requires phantom power.
Shure SM81-LC
Credits: shure.com

Best for: Live instrument sound reinforcement and recording.

This video, produced by The Stuff I Use Channel, is a very positive review of the Shure SM81. It is one of the reviewer’s favorite model for its build and general-purpose recording. He used this device for more than three years.

This model sets the standard for a high-quality, durable stage that can take abuse and still deliver fantastic sound under every imaginable exterior and interior performing circumstance. All of the lower-priced picks try to compare themselves to it. Some models cost more, but few that are of better quality.

Buying Options

Small-Diaphragm with a USB Connector

Small-diaphragms are more focused than those with a larger diaphragm. This group has a USB connector.

20. Samson Go

The Samson Go is so adorably cute you will fall in love with it. It has a solid performance even though it is a small model. It is one of my favorite pick that sells for around $50.

Samson Go
Credits: samsontech.com

Pros

  • Lightweight, weighs only 0.5 pounds (0.2 kg).
  • Plug-and-play compatible with Macs and PCs.
  • Switchable cardioid and omnidirectional patterns.
  • 16-bit, 44.1 kHz/48 kHz sampling rate.
  • Works with voice recognition software, iChat, VOIP, and web casting.

Cons

  • The plastic casing can break.
  • Sensitivity may pick up unwanted noises.
Samson Go
Credits: samsontech.com

Best for: Recording music, podcasting, live streaming, and field recording.

This video, produced by Wild4Games, reviews the Samson Portable Go, and he loves it! It is a tiny device with many superb features, such as switchable cardioid and omni pickup patterns. It is a terrific value for its size and price.

For a budgetmodel that is easy to take with you anywhere, this Samson Go is a great choice.

Buying Options

21. Rode NT USB Mini

The Rode NT USB has a detachable magnetic stand. It has a built-in pop filter and a headphone amplifier.

Rode NT USB Mini
Credits: rode.com

Pros

  • Built-in headphone jack and amp allows zero-latency monitoring.
  • The included desk stand has a magnetic base to help secure it in position.
  • Easy setup with no software to download.
  • No phantom power required.

Cons

  • No mute button.
  • Small but a bit expensive at $99.
Rode NT USB Mini
Credits: rode.com

Best for: Recording vocals and instruments, podcasting, voiceovers, gaming, and live streaming.

This video, produced by Live Streaming Pros, finds that the RODE NT-USB Mini is his favorite device for live streaming. The reviewer likes the build quality and its impressive sound.

This model is well made and heavy, weighing 1.2 pounds for a small model. I like that if you place it on a metal surface, its magnetic base will hold it securely in place. Just don’t get it too close to an external hard drive because the magnet might erase the digital data.

Buying Options

22. Blue Yeti Nano

The Blue Yeti Nano has two picks with you can choose to use an omnidirectional one or a cardioid one. The headphone output with volume control offers zero-latency monitoring.

Blue Yeti Nano
Credits: bluemic.com

Pros

  • Mute button.
  • 24-bit with a sampling rate of 48 kHz.
  • Headphone output offers zero-latency monitoring.
  • One-year limited warranty.
  • Comes with a desktop stand.

Cons

  • Getting customer support to help with a warranty repair is challenging.
  • USB port can break.
Blue Yeti Nano
Credits: bluemic.com

Best for: Podcasting, live streaming, gaming, Skype calls, YouTube video creation, or music recording.

This video, produced by Podcastage, follows this reviewer’s familiar format with unboxing and then testing the recording sound. He finds the build to be a bit flimsy, and to him, it feels cheap.

I like the products by Blue. They have a nice retro feel and work well. It has a switchable pickup pattern that helps when I am podcasting to include the people’s sounds in the room.

Buying Options

Must-Haves

Here are some other items needed to use the condenser microphones:

Cable →

Microphone-CableIf you are going to use XLR models, you need to have a cable to connect each one. This item is the basic quality cable with XLR connectors (one male and one female) on each end. It is 10-feet long.

Be careful when running your XLR cables parallel to a power cord because a cable may pick up interference.

3-pin XLR Connector →

3-pin XLR ConnectorThis connector is used to connect two XLR cables to extend the cable length.

If you plan to record bands live, then you will want to have a handful of these on hand to connect different XLR cable lengths.

Stand →

Microphone-StandThis is a stand that is a basic tripod style used to hold a pick in the proper position. This can be a real salvation.

It is useful to have a stand for each model you own. Especially if you like to actively gesticulate with your hands.

Clip-Barrel-Single →

Clip-Barrel-SingleThis is the basic barrel clip used to hold a device on a stand. So if you buy a stand, do not forget to take this product.

It is helpful to have one for each device stand you own and a few extra ones if one of them breaks.

Useful Resources

Final Thoughts about Condenser Microphones

I love condensers, especially when recording a live band. I take pride in choosing the best picks for the type of sound that I am recording. I know how to choose the ones with the correct specifications and understand how to use placement to capture the exact sounds that I want.

Becoming proficient in how to use them is the fun part of being an audio engineer. I want the sounds of each instrument in my recordings to have enough separation that allows me to make an outstanding editing mix later. I think of my collection as a toolbox of fine tools. Each is best used for a particular purpose.

Be sure to check out my reviews of other types of mics, such as dynamic or lavalier ones. Dynamic mics are made for tough conditions of use, and lavalier mics are the tiny ones that pin to your clothes and can be hidden.

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