Microphones are one of the must-haves for any retailer that claims to offer a complete solution for live and recording musicians.
Our run-down here features the best mics for vocals and instruments at a range of prices…
Audio-Technica (0113 277 1441)
The AE5400 cardioid condenser vocal mic features the same true condenser element as the classic AT4050 studio mic and its large-diaphragm capsule is designed for an accurate, natural response. It handles high sound pressure levels and offers protection against plosives/sibilance without compromising high-frequency performance and clarity. It retails around £380.
The £196 AE6100 hypercardioid dynamic mic is designed to deliver clean articulation, fast transients and high-output, assertive sound for vocalists. Offering ultimate protection against vocal plosives, the mic's hardened-steel outer grille is lined with fine steel mesh and a layer of open-cell foam. A foam disk positioned on top of the element assembly provides the final layer of 'pop' protection.
For drum and guitar recording and live output, the AE2500 dual element dynamic/condenser mic (£590) features cardioid condenser and dynamic capsules combined in one housing. The dynamic element delivers the aggressive attack of the beater; the condenser captures the round tonalities of the shell. Two layers of resistive mesh form multiple densities over the dynamic element's side-entry ports, exercising precise control over the time at which off-axis signals arrive at the diaphragm.
Lastly, the ATM350 cardioid condenser (£299) is a clip-on instrument mic for brass, reeds, piano, snare, toms and violin. It’s designed for a crisp, clear, well-balanced response, even at high SPLs. It features an integral 80 Hz hi-pass filter and is also equipped with a new in-line power module. All of the featured mics are covered by AT’s unique Lifetime Warranty and First Impressions free trial scheme.
Beyerdynamic (Polar Audio – 01444 258258)
The TG D70d dynamic large-diaphragm microphone is designed for low-frequency instruments such as bass drums, djembes and bass amplifiers. It can be easily positioned in the resonant head, even in bass drums with very tiny holes. The mass-reduced special membrane delivers impulse fidelity and the hypercardioid polar pattern ensures excellent feedback reduction.
The very wide frequency response of the TG i53c opens up a variety of possible applications – from hi-hats and overheads to percussion, string and brass instruments and even choir singing. Due to its high sensitivity, it is also suitable for longer microphone placement distances, for example for large sound sources with complex radiation patterns.
A powerful but unobtrusive stage mic design is the basis of the TG V50d and the TG V50d(s). These models boast a balanced sound that is both powerful and natural and a very wide pick-up range thanks to its cardioid polar pattern and high feedback rejection. The readiness of the TG V50d is also a feature – plug it in, activate the high-pass filter and it’s ready.
The TG V50d is also available with a switch (TG V50d(s)). The switch – embedded in the grip – can be locked and doesn’t emit a ‘clicking’ sound.
The TG V35ds model is a dynamic vocal microphone, designed for beginners. Its natural sound is typical of Beyerdynamic and its supercardoid polar pattern with high feedback rejection is valued by vocalists and DJs. In addition, there’s the TG V70d live vocal microphone with a hypercardioid polar pattern and the TG V30d(s) is ideal for speaking events, karaoke and singing in the rehearsal room and on the stage. The TG V30d (s) lets you achieve solid results even without a lot of technical know-how, thanks to its high output level even in combination with simple pre-amplifiers.
Peavey (01536 461234)
The PVM 22 handheld microphone defined Peavey in the microphone market when it was launched over ten years ago. Today it still holds its own in a crowded market through its use of a neodymium magnet (which has greatly increased sensitivity over conventional microphones) and the mic's diamond coated diaphragm, resulting in a flawless frequency response and a perfect vocal microphone.
Offering a little 'bling' to singers, is the PVi 2 microphone (available in gold), designed to produce a clean, natural tone with low handling noise through a cardioid unidirectional polar response.
It’s available in XLR-to-XLR or XLR-to-1/4” in black, white or gold. The PVM 22 and PVi 2 have a street price of £108 and £50 respectively.
JHS (0113 286 5381)
The '’50s look' stand-mounted GM55 (£135) from JHS combines a classic appearance with modern acoustic components to meet today’s performance standards. Solidly constructed in a robust chrome-plated die-cast casing, the GM55 incorporates a self tensioning swivel base that allows tilting between 45 degrees forward and 80 degrees backward positions.
LD Systems (Adam Hall – 01702 456305)
A capsule shock-mount makes the D1020 microphone largely immune to handling noise and its polar pattern provides optimal feedback cancellation. The surface of the D1020 is specially coated so that it feels good in the hand and it is also equipped with a low noise on-/off-switch. It retails around £55.
The D1001 is one of the firm’s top vocal mics and retails around £40. It features a broad frequency spectrum, low distortion at high sound pressure levels, and a “shockproof” capsule mounting for minimal handling noise.
Lastly, the D1011 condenser microphone is ideal for vocal and acoustic guitar miking. It retails around £48.
Kinsman (JHS – 0113 286 5381)
Kinsman's KM001 Dynamic Microphone (£19.99), KM002 Unidirectional Dynamic Microphone (£24.99) and KM003 Unidirectional Dynamic Microphone (£39.99) all feature crystal clear vocal reproduction. Kinsman mics all come with a top quality five-metre-long jack to XLR cable and the KM003 also comes in a practical hard shell case with another soft, padded carry bag inside, and a mic clip.
AKG (Sound Technology – 01462 480000)
The D5 is AKG’s workhorse handheld dynamic vocal microphone. It uses the company’s Laminated Varimotion diaphragm, a patented process whereby the thickness of the diaphragm varies across its diameter, keeping it lighter and more responsive. This leads to fewer resonances and less distortion – key to clean accurate sound quality. The D5 (£96) also has a supercardioid polar pattern, which provides greater rejection of unwanted sound and allows better gain before feedback.
The Perception Live range consists of the P5 (£48) and P3 (£42) handheld microphones, the P2 (£96) for bass instruments and kick drums, the P4 (£72) multipurpose instrument mic and the £300 Groove Pack drum mic kit (1x P2, 3xP4 and 2x P17 condenser mics for overheads). All Perception Live microphones feature an ‘indestructible’ metal casing, rugged spring steel microphone grill, scratch resistant finish and high maximum SPL.
Studiomaster (JHS – 0113 286 5381)
Studiomaster's dynamic cardioid mics are affordable, rugged and provide clear vocal reproduction whatever the situation. The KM52 (£19) and KM92 (£29) are supplied with a soft zipper bag, five-metre professional XLR to XLR balanced cable and stand clip, with stands and other accessories available as optional extras.
Samson (Korg UK – 01908 304601)
Samson’s new CS Series (Capsule Select) microphone offers the capabilities of two pro-level dynamic microphones in one versatile package.
With easily interchangeable vocal and instrument mic capsules, the CS Series microphone is ideal for capturing vocal performances or miking various instruments.
It features both the CS1 (vocal) and CS2 (instrument) selectable mic elements, as well as a handheld base. Both neodymium capsules offer a supercardioid pickup pattern, but are further designed to support completely different miking applications. The base’s threaded twist-off construction makes it both quick and easy to change capsules and the base also features a gold-plated XLR jack (mic cable not included).
The CS1 is optimised for live performance applications and is perfect for musicians, front-of-house professionals and more. Its rounded grill offers the ideal separation between the capsule and performer, enhancing vocal clarity and minimising handling noise. Specifically tuned for drums, guitar cabinets, brass and other instruments, the CS2 features a capsule with a flat high carbon steel grill, which allows for a wide frequency response on the low end (50Hz–18kHz).
Sennheiser (01494 551551)
Sennheiser’s e935 (pictured) and e945 dynamic microphones are designed for demanding, uncompromising professional use. The e935 is a cardioid vocal stage microphone specially designed to perform under pressure while cutting through the mix with its high output. Made in Germany for the working musician, it features a rugged metal body, advanced shock-mount design, hum compensating coil and consistent on/off-axis response.
The e945 is a professional super-cardioid vocal microphone, which also cuts through the mix with ease and offers a smooth, natural sound. It offers a warm tonal response, durability and excellent feedback rejection. Both evolution 900 series microphones have an ergonomic full metal construction, increased gain before feedback and powerful sound, with presence boost to ensure vocal inteligibility.
Sontronics (01202 236862)
The majority of Sontronics’ range are studio mics, but there are also some live must-haves in the line-up. The STC-6 handheld condenser is designed to give clear, studio-quality sound in a rugged handheld mic, while the similar-looking STC-80 handheld dynamic was created to give all the bite and crunch of a dynamic mic, but with the presence and warmth of a condenser. Many users have found that the STC-80 gives amazing results on guitar amp and this led Sontronics MD Trevor Coley to create a new mic based on the STC-80 but specifically for guitar mics... and so the vintage-inspired HALO was born.
The firm released a trio of dedicated drum condenser mics in 2011 (pictured): the DM-1B for kick drum and bass instruments, DM-1S for snare and DM-1T for tom. Beta-tested by various British producers and engineers, including Flood and Paul Epworth, the mics perform excellently on stage as well as in the studio, making them a first choice for many gigging drummers and top producers, especially as they start at only £119.
Shure (01992 703058)
The Shure Beta 181 is an ultra-compact and very versatile small diaphragm condenser microphone with interchangeable polar patterns for various applications.
Cardioid, supercardioid, bi-directional and omni-directional capsules are available, making the Beta 181 suitable for everything from bass and guitars to drums.
The Beta 181 is used by many high profile bands, including Snow Patrol and Placebo and was last year awarded a coveted TEC award for technical excellence in audio.