50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)


With so many microphone on the market (past and present), it’s very difficult to elect a top 10 best microphones, let alone the best microphone. With that being said, I’ve put together, in this article, what I believe to be the top 50 best microphones of all time.

Here Are The Top 50 Best Microphones Of All Time:

  1. Shure SM57
  2. Shure SM58
  3. Neumann U 87
  4. Neumann M 50
  5. Shure SM7B
  6. Electro-Voice RE20
  7. AKG C 414
  8. Royer R-121
  9. Telefunken Ela M 251
  10. AKG C 12
  11. Telefunken/Neumann U 47
  12. Neumann U 67
  13. Neumann M 49
  14. Sennheiser MD 421
  15. Sennheiser MD 441U
  16. RCA 44-BX
  17. Coles 4038
  18. Neumann KM 84
  19. AKG C 451
  20. RCA 77-DX
  21. Sony C-800G
  22. Blue Yeti
  23. Rode NT1-A
  24. Neumann TLM 103
  25. Beyerdynamic M 160
  26. Mojave Audio MA-200
  27. Blue Bottle
  28. DPA 4011
  29. DPA 4006
  30. Shure Beta 87A
  31. Neumann KM 140
  32. Audio-Technica AT4050
  33. Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6
  34. Sennheiser e604
  35. Shure SM81
  36. Schoeps CMIT 5U
  37. Sennheiser MKH 416
  38. Sennheiser MKH 60
  39. DPA 4060
  40. Sony ECM 77B
  41. Sanken COS-11D
  42. Countryman B3
  43. Heil PR40
  44. Shure Beta 52
  45. DPA 4099
  46. Shure Beta 98H/C
  47. Schoeps CMXY 4V
  48. Sennheiser MKH 418-S
  49. Royer SF-24
  50. Crown PZM 30D

Criteria For Choosing The Top Microphones Of All Time

Before we jump into each of the top 50 microphones of all time, let’s discuss the criteria I based my decisions on (besides opinion, of course):

  • Popularity/Status: Great microphones, like anything great, gain legendary status because of their greatness. When creating this list, I looked at the vintage microphones that have been cherished for decades as well as the most popular microphones in production today.
  • Durability/Longevity: Whether a microphone is made for the ruggedness of the stage or for the relative comfort of a studio, the best microphones will last a long time. Once again, I focused on the legendary vintage microphones, but also made note of the road warriors that have made a name for themselves on the stage.
  • Applications: Choosing the “best microphone” is a subjective matter that not only involves the ears of the chooser. It involves the sound source; mic placement; acoustic environment; and other environmental factors. In making this list, I made sure to mention microphones that are the best for all the situations/applications that could call for a microphone.
  • Industry Standardization: If a microphone is considered “industry standard,” there’s a high likelihood that it’s on this list.
  • Sound Quality: I’ve mentioned this last, but it goes without saying that the microphone has to sound good. However, I’ve put this last because certain mic’s sound better in certain applications/situations.

So with that short list of criteria out of the way, let’s get into the top 50 best microphones of all time. I’ll share a short description of them as well as how they stand up to the above criteria. Let’s get into it!


1. Shure SM57

The Shure SM57, often referred to as the “studio workhorse” is a microphone of legendary status and a “desert island” pick of many sound engineers around the world.

This microphone is a top-address cardioid moving-coil dynamic microphone with Shure’s legendary Unidyne III capsule technology.

The Shure SM57 is an excellent choice in the studio and the stage and see regular use in both environments. Its ruggedness and durability make it practically indestructible (there is even footage of the SM57 and SM58 being frozen, dropped from a helicopter, and driven over by a tour bus. After the trauma, they still worked fine).

The SM57’s low price point and high availability makes it a top choice for high-end studio engineers and amateurs alike.

Shure SM57
  • Debut year: 1965
  • Cartridge: Shure R57 (Unidyne III)
  • Transformer: Shure 51A303
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid 
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -56.0 dBV/Pa (1.6 mV)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω (310 Ω actual)

Popularity/Status Of The Shure SM57

The low price point and wide variety of applications make the Shure SM57 an incredibly popular microphone. You’ll be hard pressed to find a studio or engineer without at least one of these microphones.

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure SM57

This Shure microphone is likely the most durable microphone ever to be built. It can withstand ridiculous amounts of abuse before showing signs of degradation. SM57s last for ages.

Applications Of The Shure SM57

The Shure SM57 is a jack-of-all-trades. This microphone is a common choice for miking snare drums, tom drums, guitar cabinets, bass guitar cabinets, and live vocals, but can be and is used on many, many more sound sources than those mentioned.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure SM57

As mentioned, nearly every professional engineer owns one or several Shure SM57s. This microphone is definitely a standard go-to in the music and recording industries.

Sound Quality Of The Shure SM57

Though the SM57 is by no means a high-fidelity or active microphone, it does sound decent (especially on the sound sources mentioned above).

The sound quality of the 57 is often called “honky” due to the mid-presence boost. The mic also has both a low-end and a high-end roll off, which helps to minimize low-end rumble and high-end sibilance in noisy environments (where the mic performs the best).

Link to check the price of the Shure SM57 on Amazon.

Shure is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Similar mics:

  • Shure 545SD
  • Shure Beta 57A

Click here to go back to the list.


2. Shure SM58

The Shure SM58 is like the brother of the SM57 and they’re both successful and beloved microphones.

The 58 is also a top-address cardioid moving-coil dynamic microphone. Like the 57, the SM58’s capsules is based on Shure’s proprietary Unidyne III technology.

The Shure SM58 is one of the most recognizable microphones to not only audio enthusiasts, but music fans around the world. This is by far the commonly used live performance vocal mic today (and has been for decades).

The SM58 is another road warrior of a microphone and is a top choice for its durability and the way it sounds on live vocals.

Shure SM58
  • Debut year: 1966
  • Cartridge: Shure R59 (Unidyne III) (RK143G grille)
  • Transformer: Shure 51A303
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid 
  • Frequency response: 50 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -54.5 dBV/Pa (1.85 mV)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω (300 Ω actual)

Popularity/Status Of The Shure SM58

The Shure SM58 is the most popular live vocal microphone on the market today. The status of the SM58 has made it iconic and has inspired many clones.

I’d argue that this mic is so iconic that its shape is what most people envision when they think “microphone.”

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure SM58

Like the SM57, the SM58 is a tank. This microphone can withstand freezing conditions, an incredible amount of abuse, and even extreme moisture.

This road warrior of a microphone has a long lifespan and just keeps on working.

Applications Of The Shure SM58

Although this microphone is best known as a live vocal mic, it also sounds great on guitar cabinets, drums, and many other sources, especially in live environments.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure SM58

This microphone is arguably that industry standard live vocal microphone (whether wired or wireless). It is certainly the most popular.

Sound Quality Of The Shure SM58

The Shure SM58 has a characteristic boost in the presence range which allows vocals to punch through a dense mix or loud live setting. Its low-end and high-end roll-off improve the gain-before-feedback of the mic in live situations, allowing the presence range to really shine.

Link to check the price of the Shure SM58 on Amazon.

Click here to go back to the list.


3. Neumann U 87

The Neumann U 87 is the first of many legendary large-diaphragm condensers on this list.

The Neumann U 87 is a side-address multi-pattern large-diaphragm condenser microphone. It has switchable options between cardioid, bidirectional (figure-8), and omnidirectional pickup patterns.

The U 87 also features a built in 10 dB pad switch as well as a high-pass filter.

The U 87 (released in 1967), is now rebranded and sold as the U 87 Ai (released in 1986). This microphone is a well-known staple in many recording studios. Just having a Neumann U 87 tells the world and your clients that you mean business as a studio owner.

Neumann U 87
  • Debut year: 1967
  • Capsule: K87
  • Transformer: BV13a before switching to 09013 and (U87AI’s 90415)
  • Transistor: S 2436 or 2N3819
  • Power supply: Phantom power or Batteries (two 22.5-volt batteries or BS 945i)
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 16,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 8 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 18 dBA (25 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 122 dB SPL (25 Pa) or 132 dB SPL (79 Pa) with pad engaged. 200 mV max output

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann U 87

The U 87 was developed and released as a solid-state version of the legendary Neumann U 67 tube microphone. Since its inception in 1967, the U 87 has also achieve legendary status.

This microphone has a high price point (the U 87 Ai sells for thousands of dollars), so you likely won’t find this microphone in amateur studios.

Rather, this microphone is a symbol of quality. Many high-end clients will request a U 87 model for their recording session (think ad agencies, audiobook publishers, musicians, etc.).

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann U 87

When treated correctly, this solid-state studio microphone will last you a long time. The solid-state electronics generally outlast their tube counterparts.

I wouldn’t suggest using these microphones on live stages and definitely wouldn’t treat them the same way as the aforementioned Shure SM57 and SM58!

Applications Of The Neumann U 87

The Neumann U 87 has made a name for itself as a studio vocal microphone. It excels on voiceover and singing alike.

A single or a matched pair of U 87s work wonderfully as room microphones, capturing the essence of a nice acoustic environemnt. The multi-pattern options allow us to use a pair of U 87 in a plethora of stereo (or mono) miking techniques.

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann U 87

As mentioned, this microphone (along with the current U 87 Ai) is an industry standard symbol of quality and excellence in the studio.

Many clients will request or, at the very least, recognize this microphone as being a top-of-the-line piece of equipment in your facility.

The U 87 is known as a standard for recording vocals.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann U 87

The Neumann U 87 sounds very natural, making it an excellent choice in the studio. From the confined of a. soundproof booth, the U 87 does a. fantastic job picking up sound as they sound naturally.

The market replacement U 87 Ai has been criticized for sound “bright and harsh” when compared to the original. These complaints are often made in conjunction with or based on the microphone’s high-price point.

That being said, this microphone is very accurate.

The original Neumann U 87 has been discontinued and replaced with the now standard Neumann U 87 Ai.

Link to check the price of the Neumann U 87 Ai on Amazon.

Neumann U 87 Ai

Neumann U 87 Ai
  • Debut year: 1986
  • Capsule: K870/K67
  • Transformer: 90415
  • Transistor: 2N3819
  • Power supply: Phantom power.
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 20 mV/Pa (omni)/ 28 mV/Pa (cardioid)/ 22 mV/Pa (bidirectional)
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 15/12/14 dBA (26/23/25 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 117 dB (cardioid) or 127 dB SPL with pad engaged.

Here are two notable Neumann U 87 clones:

Neumann is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Click here to go back to the list.


4. Neumann M 50

The Neumann M 50 was a small-diaphragm omnidirectional tube condenser microphone based on the amplifier and chassis of the Neumann M 49 (which was released earlier in the same year of 1951).

This microphone is well known for its bright high-end and omnidirectional polar pattern.

The M 50 was made legendary from its use on orchestral recordings (particularly when used in overhead stereo miking techniques such as the Decca Tree).

Neumann M 50
  • Debut year: 1951
  • Capsule: KK50 (M 50) – KK53 (M 50a) – KK83 (M 50b/c)
  • Vacuum tube: Hiller MSC2 (M 50) – Telefunken AC701(M 50a/b/c)
  • Transformer: BV11
  • Power supply: NN 48 b external supply
  • Polar pattern: Omnidirectional 
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 0.7 mV/dyne/cm2
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω or 250 Ω (switchable)
  • Self-noise: Not specified
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 114 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann M 50

The Neumann M 50 is a very well known microphone in the world of professional orchestra. Its status has been solidified as legendary in this regard.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann M 50

Neumann kept the M 50 model in production from 1951–1971. In this 20 year run, the microphone gained a great reputation. This reputation has held up and these mics are still used (and highly sought after) for large overhead microphone arrays.

As for the durability of the microphone itself, these well-crafted instuments will last a long time if treated correctly. When taken care of correctly, these mics will remain high quality until the vacuum tube eventually starts to die out.

Applications Of The Neumann M 50

As mentioned, the Neumann M 50 made a name for itself as an overhead orchestra microphone.

However, these omnidirectional mics sound amazing as room mics (in spaced pair arrangements).

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann M 50

The Neumann M 50 (and its successors) are industry standards for recording orchestral performances.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann M 50

The character of the M 50 is bright due to the high-shelf boost. This, combined with its wide frequency response, made it a particularly accurate microphone in the days of analog tape.

In today’s age of digital audio, the M 50 may sound a bit harsh.

The original Neumann M 50 has been discontinued and replaced first with the Neumann TLM 50 (also discontinued). The most recent reinvention of the M 50 is the Neumann M 150 Tube.

Link to check the price of the Neumann M 150 Tube on Amazon.

Neumann M 150 Tube

Neumann M 150 Tube
  • Debut year: 2001
  • Capsule: K 33 TI
  • Vacuum tube: 6111
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Power supply: N 149 A or N 149 V external power supplies
  • Polar pattern: Omnidirectional 
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 20 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 15.0 dBA (28 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 114 dB

Here are Neumann M 50 clones:

Click here to go back to the list.


5. Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7B is a broadcast standard microphone and has risen to even more fame with the rise of podcasting (particularly due to the Joe Rogan Experience).

This microphone is often described as a Shure SM57 on steroids. The capsules are practically the same (though they have different model numbers). The SM7B, however, has some more stuff to affect the signal between the. capsule and the mic output.

The SM7B is a cardioid moving-coil dynamic microphone with an internally shock mounted capsule and humbucking coil. It also features a bass rolloff and mid-range emphasis (presence boost) switch.

Shure SM7B
  • Debut year: 2001
  • Capsule: RPM106 (Unidyne III) with Humbucking coil
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid 
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 16,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 1.12 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7B has become a standard in the broadcast and podcast world. It’s also gotten a great reputation as a vocal microphone for metal “scream” type vocals.

This microphone has seen a surge in popularity with the rise in fam of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7B is built with typical Shure durability. This moving-coil dynamic mic is built to last.

Applications Of The Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7B’s main applications are as a vocal mic in broadcasting, radio, and podcasting situations. It is also commonly used for vocals in studio music recordings.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure SM7B

At this point, the Shure SM7B is an industry standard broadcasting microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7B sounds great on any type of speech. Its bass roll-off helps compensate for the proximity effect (if the bass boost is too great). The presence boost switch helps to really push the vocals forward in a mix or on their own.

Note that the Shure SM7B has a low output (1.2 mV/Pa) and would benefit from a high-gain preamp or an in-line preamp like the famous Cloudlifter CL-1 (link to check the price on Amazon). This is particularly true because the SM7B is typically used on conversation level speech.

Link to check the price of the Shure SM7B on Amazon.

Click here to go back to the list.


6. Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20 is an old familiar of the broadcasting industry. Since its release in 1968, the RE20 has garnered great respect as a microphone for speech in television, radio, and, most recently, podcasts.

The E-V RE20 is a cardioid moving-coil dynamic microphone with Electro-Voice’s patented Variable-D technology, which effectively eliminates the proximity effect.

With no proximity effect, announcers, interviewers, and conversationalists can get very close to the microphone without a major bass boost in the mic signal.

Electro-Voice RE20
  • Debut year: 1968
  • Capsule: F.01U.110.744
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 45 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 1.5 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20 is very popular in the broadcast community and is a go-to of many engineers.

Durability/Longevity Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The RE20, like many moving-coil dynamic microphones, has a rugged design and is built to last.

Though I’d never recommend abusing your microphones, rest assured that the RE20 can take a bit of rough and tumble before breaking.

Applications Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The RE20 is best known for its application on voice in radio, television, etc.

However, this microphone is an excellent choice for close-miking any sound source due to its directionality and lack of proximity effect. I’ve had great success with the RE20 when close-miking guitar and bass guitar cabinets, for example.

Industry Standardization Of The Electro-Voice RE20

There are many microphones that work great for broadcast (including many, arguably more practical, headset mics that won’t be listed in this article).

The Electro-Voice is one of these standard broadcast microphones.

Sound Quality Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The E-V RE20 has an incredibly wide frequency range for a moving-coil dynamic. Its sound helps to accentuate the human voice and the lack of proximity effect allows for a consistent pick up of sound from use to use.

Note that the Electro-Voice RE20 has a low output (1.5 mV/Pa) and would benefit from a high-gain preamp or an in-line preamp like the famous Cloudlifter CL-1 (link to check the price on Amazon). This is particularly true because the RE20 is typically used on conversation level speech.

Link to check the price of the Electro-Voice RE20 on Amazon.

Electro-Voice is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Click here to go back to the list.


7. AKG C 414

The AKG C 414 is really a long story of microphone lineage. The first ever C 414 was released in 1971, and since then, nearly a dozen other C 414 have been introduced to the market.

All C 414s are large-diaphragm multi-pattern condenser microphones. The original had 4 polar pattern options and the newest versions (XLS and XLII) have a whopping 9 selectable polar patterns!

The C 414 was built as a solid-state successor of the famous AKG C 12. It features the same legendary AKG CK-12 capsule, but is designed with many more options in the microphone circuitry.

AKG C 414 EB
  • Debut year: 1971
  • Capsule: AKG CK-12
  • Transformer: U35b
  • Transistor: 2 SK 30R
  • Polar patterns: Cardioid/ Omnidirectional/ Bidirectional/ Hypercardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 6 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: ≤150 Ω
  • Self-noise: 20 dB
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The AKG C 414

The AKG C 414 is a confusing microphone (due to the sheer amount of versions AKG has released). However, it is a well-known and well-respected line of microphones.

The AKG C 414 line has a reputation as being one of the most flexible microphones to work with. The most recent versions, for example, have 9-polar pattern options; 3 pad options; and 3 high-pass filter options to choose from.

The C 414 lineage is a go-to in audio studios around the world.

Durability/Longevity Of The AKG C 414

With all the moving parts of the AKG C 414, it’s important to keep it safe.

As with any high-end condenser microphone, treat it right, and it will last a long time.

Applications Of The AKG C 414

The amount of options available within the C 414 make it an excellent microphone for any practical application.

In (and out of) the studio, I’ve used the pair of AKG C 414 XLS to/as:

  • Record voiceover.
  • Mid-side record a church choir.
  • Drum overheads in studio and live.
  • Room mics in the studio.
  • Close miking acoustic guitar and piano.

I’ve even seen a mentor of mine mic a kick drum with an AKG C 414 XLII when recording a 3-piece Jazz ensemble.

Industry Standardization Of The AKG C 414

Though perhaps not an “industry standard” in terms of specializing in any particular domain of audio, the AKG C 414 is certainly a “wish-list” item of many studios and is a go-to for those who own a pair (or even a single C 414).

Sound Quality Of The AKG C 414

Throughout the development of this microphone, the C 414 has always sounded fairly accurate.

Through all the switchable options, the C 414 remains fairly accurate. Which is the best way to describe this mic’s sound without going into full detail about each mic (and each option of each mic).

AKG C 414 XLS

AKG C 414 XLS
  • Debut year: 2009
  • Capsule: AKG Brass CK-12 style
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: 3059M02020 (complete PCB)
  • Polar patterns: 9 selectable
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 23 mV/Pa (-33 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: ≤200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 6 dBA (20 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 140/ 146/ 152/ 158 dB SPL (no pad/ -6dB pad/ -12 dB pad/ -18 dB pad)

AKG C 414 XLS (link to check the price on Amazon).

Here is a complete list of the C 414 versions:

AKG is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Click here to go back to the list.


8. Royer R-121

The Royer R-121 is the flagship microphone of, arguably, the flagship ribbon microphone manufacturer. In other words, the R-121 is the “poster boy” of modern ribbon microphones.

This ribbon mic has a 2.5 µm aluminum ribbon and custom toroidal output transformer.

The R-121 is certainly the most well-known ribbon mic today and arguably one of the best sounding mics on the market.

Royer R-121
  • Debut year: 1998
  • Ribbon: 2.5-micron, 3/16”x1.75” offset aluminum ribbon
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Bidirectional 
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 3.16 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 300 Ω
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 135 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Royer R-121

Ribbon microphones have been gaining in popularity over the last few decades due to their natural sound in the world of overly-precise digital audio. At the beginning of this rise in popularity, Royer released the R-121.

Through the high-quality of the microphone, the availability of the microphone, and the overall trend of rising demand for ribbon mics, the R-121 has become somewhat of a legend. It is certainly a well-known and well-respected ribbon mic.

Durability/Longevity Of The Royer R-121

Ribbon microphones are, by nature, not very durable. Caution and care should be top priority when handling an R-121. Doing so with vastly increase its lifespan.

That being said, the weak link in terms of durability is the ribbon diaphragm itself, which is relatively easy to replace (though awfully expensive).

Applications Of The Royer R-121

Over the years, the Royer R-121 has become a go-to for miking guitar cabinets. As a guitarist, I can attest to this!

The smooth, natural capture of the R-121 just sounds incredible on guitar amps (particularly, in my opinion, when there’s some distortion in the guitar sound).

On top of that, the R-121 sounds great of voice and other instruments.

Industry Standardization Of The Royer R-121

Though ribbon microphones are gaining popularity in the music studio, they really aren’t that popular in the grand scheme of the audio world.

Although I’d argue that every guitarist with extra cash and an interest in recording should pick up one of these mics, I wouldn’t ever call the R-121 “industry standard.”

Sound Quality Of The Royer R-121

The R-121 sounds incredibly accurate and natural on most sound sources. The gentle roll off of high frequencies is similar to how our ears hear. Combine that with the precise transient response due to the thinness of the diaphragm, and you’ve got a beautiful sounding microphone in the R-121.

Link to check the price of the Royer R-121 on Amazon.

Royer is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Click here to go back to the list.


9. Telefunken Ela M 251

The Telefunken Ela M 251 is one of the most legendary microphones ever.

This high-end side-address multi-pattern tube condenser microphone was based on another legend: the AKG C 12.

In the late 1950s, Telefunken needed a multi-pattern tube condenser mic to essentially compete in the marketplace (after Neumann took over its own distribution). In this situation, Telefunken contracted AKG to build a mic based around their C 12 design.

And the world of audio was introduced to the Ela M 251.

Today, the Telefunken Ela M 251 is a highly sought after vintage microphone and there are plenty of modern clones of it in the marketplace.

Telefunken Ela M 251
  • Debut year: 1959
  • Capsule: AKG CK-12
  • Vacuum tube: Telefunken AC701
  • Transformer: Haufe T14:1
  • Power supply: M950
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 1.2 mV/dyne/cm2
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω (50 Ω switchable)
  • Self-noise: 16 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Telefunken Ela M 251

The Telefunken Ela M 251 is arguably one of the greatest vintage tube microphones (alongside the AKG C 12 and Neumann U 67).

Although not many laymen would recognize this microphone (unlike the aforementioned Shure SM58, for example), the Ela M 251 is a highly valued vintage microphone to many audio engineers.

Durability/Longevity Of The Telefunken Ela M 251

Like all vintage microphones, the original Telefunken Ela M 251s that still work today are living testimonies that good care will allow a microphone to perform for a long time.

Those models that do not perform today likely do not because of tube and/or capsule wear and tear (unless the microphone was physically damaged).

Applications Of The Telefunken Ela M 251

The Telefunken Ela M 251 sounds incredible on vocals of all types and has historically been used to record vocals.

The being said, the various polar patterns of the 251 allow it capture sound excellently in a vast number of studio applications.

Industry Standardization Of The Telefunken Ela M 251

In its heyday, the Telefunken Ela M 251 was a top-performer in the studio.

However, today, there are many more options and very few Ela M 251 still in operation.

For that reason, the Ela M 251 cannot truly be considered “industry standard,” though at one point, it certainly was.

Sound Quality Of The Telefunken Ela M 251

The Telefunken Ela M 251, like most vintage microphones, captures audio with character. Though the 251 is accurate, it gives “warmth” and “weight” to the audio signal (due in large part to its vacuum tube and output transformer).

The Telefunken Ela M 251 was sold in Europe while the Ela M 251E was sold elsewhere (E stands for Export). Both these mics have been reissued as historically accurate recreations by Telefunken. The Ela M 251 production has been suspended while the Ela M 251 remains in production today.

Telefunken Ela M 251E

Telefunken Ela M 251E
  • Debut year: 1959
  • Capsule: AKG CK-12
  • Vacuum tube: 6072a (General Electric or Electro Harmonix)
  • Transformer: Haufe T14:1
  • Power supply: M 950E
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 17 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω (50 Ω switchable)
  • Self-noise: 9 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 130 dB SPL

Telefunken Ela M 251 E (link to check the price at Sweetwater).

The Bock Audio 251 (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is perhaps the best clone of the Ela M 251.

Bock Audio is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

Microphones inspired by the Telefunken Ela M 251 include:

Click here to go back to the list.


10. AKG C 12

The AKG C 12 is another one of the world’s most cherished vintage microphones.

The C 12 is a large-diaphragm multi-pattern tube condenser microphone and was the first ever mic to feature AKG’s legendary CK-12 capsule.

This microphone was way ahead of its time and still is a marvel of microphone engineering and technology.

Countless manufactures have been inspired by this microphone and the C 12 has motivated the creation of many high-end condenser microphones since its introduction in 1953.

AKG C 12
  • Debut year: 1953
  • Capsule: AKG CK-12
  • Vacuum tube: 6072
  • Transformer: Haufe T14 (originally V2148)
  • Power supply: N12
  • Polar patterns: 9-selectable
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 10 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω (50 Ω switchable)
  • Self-noise: No spec given
  • Maximum sound pressure level: No spec given

Popularity/Status Of The AKG C 12

The AKG C 12 is pioneer in microphone technology and is celebrated as such.

This vintage microphone has a legendary status as a high-end functional microphone and as a trend-setter since it inception.

Durability/Longevity Of The AKG C 12

There are original AKG C 12 that are still functioning today. This is proof of the microphone’s longevity.

As with any microphone (and especially vintage tube mics), the better the mic is taken care of, the longer it will last!

Applications Of The AKG C 12

The AKG C 12 saw a lot of use on vocals. However, the flexibility of the microphone meant that it could be used in any practical situation within the studio.

Note that the AKG C 12 was originally released before the advent of multitrack recording (1955) and well before multitrack recording became mainstream (1960s).

Industry Standardization Of The AKG C 12

As with all vintage microphones that have not been in production for decades, the AKG C 12 is highly sought after, but certainly not “industry standard” in the everyday audio studio.

Sound Quality Of The AKG C 12

The AKG C 12 captures audio accurately but certainly adds character (“warmth” and “depth”) to the audio signal.

This is mainly because of the vacuum tube and output transformer components.

The original AKG C 12 has been discontinued. The current reincarnation of the C 12 is the AKG C 12 VR.

Link to check the price of the AKG C 12 VR on Amazon.

AKG C 12 VR

AKG C 12 VR
  • Debut year: 1994
  • Capsule: AKG CK-12
  • Vacuum tube: 6072A
  • Transformer: Ü66 (T5743)
  • Power supply: N12 VR
  • Polar patterns: 9-selectable
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 10 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 22 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 128 dB SPL

Other popular clones of the AKG C 12 include:

Microphones inspired by the AKG C 12 include:

Click here to go back to the list.


11. Telefunken/Neumann U 47

The U 47 was originally developed by Neumann but distributed by Telefunken. At the time of release in 1947, Telefunken was 25% owner of Georg Neumann GmbH as well as their distributor. This was soon nullified as Neumann began distributing its own products.

The U 47 is a large-diaphragm tube condenser microphone. It was a major step forward in microphone technology as it was the first ever multi-pattern microphone, totting a switch between omnidirectional and cardioid polar patterns.

Neumann U 47
  • Debut year: 1947
  • Capsule: M7 (1947-1958) – K47/49 (1958-onward)
  • Vacuum tube: Telefunken VF14
  • Transformer: BV08
  • Power supply: Neumann NG
  • Polar patterns: Cardioid/ Omnidirectional 
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 2.5 mV/dyn/cm2
  • Output impedance: 250 Ω (50 Ω switchable)
  • Self-noise: No spec given
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 110 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann U 47

As mentioned, the U 47 is a historical breakthrough for mic technology and the microphone is revered as such.

Some would argue that this vintage mic is the greatest vocal microphone in history.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann U 47

There certainly are original U 47s out there in use today. However, these numbers are few.

U 47s that were well taken care of still perform to this day, which speaks to the longevity of the microphone.

The true longevity, in my opinion, of the U 47 is the inspiration it has set for the Neumann U 67 and U 87 models. It’s the aspiration to push the envelope of mic technology it has inspired in its competitors since its initial appearance on the market.

Applications Of The Neumann U 47

At a time way before multi-track recording, the U 47 was a jack-of-all-trades. Meaning it sounded great in a room recording musical ensembles or soloists as well as recording voice.

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann U 47

The Neumann U 47 was a popular choice among audio engineers in its time with nearly 5000 units produced.

Today, due to technological advances, there are many microphones that outperform the U 47. This combined with the low number of 47s actually in use today means this mic is not “industry standard,” though it certainly used to be.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann U 47

The Neumann U 47 sounds amazing on vocals and instruments alike. Its high-mid frequency enhancement with high-end roll-off make vocals “pop” without sounding overly harsh.

This is particularly true in the digital audio age, though the microphone was developed way before the advent of digital audio.

Click here to check the price of the Telefunken U47 at Sweetwater.

Best Neumann U 47 Clones

Microphones Inspired By The Neumann U 47 include:

Click here to go back to the list.


12. Neumann U 67

The Neumann U 67 was designed as a replacement for the aforementioned U 47 on the Neumann product line.

The U 67 is a large-diaphragm multi-pattern tube microphone.

Compared to the U 47, the U 67 introduced a third polar pattern option (bidirectional); a new vacuum tube; an improved output transformer; and an improve capsule.

The Neumann U 67, to this day, is a highly revered microphone for its characteristic sound and high-quality components.

It has also been the inspiration for many Neumann reissues and modifications as well as many clones. The K67, which was the original capsule of the U 67, is perhaps the most copied microphone capsule in the world today.

Neumann U 67
  • Debut year: 1960
  • Capsule: K67 (now called the K870/67)
  • Vacuum tube: Telefunken EF86
  • Transformer: BV 12
  • Power supply: Neumann NU 67
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 16,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 11 mV/Pa (omni)/ 20 mV/Pa (cardioid)/ 14 mV/Pa (bidirectional)
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω (50 Ω switchable)
  • Self-noise: No spec given
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 116 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann U 67

The Neumann U 67 has gone down in history as one of the greatest vintage microphones of all time.

It was very popular choice in the day of its manufacturing. Today, this vintage mic is wanted by many engineers. The clones (from other manufacturers) and replica reissues by Neumann tell us that there is a high demand for this gorgeous microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann U 67

There are still original U 67s in use today, which speaks volumes about the longevity of the microphone (if it was well taken care of).

The longevity, to me, of the Neumann U 67 is proven with the sheer number of clones and replicas that have been introduced to the market since the first U 67 captured sound.

Applications Of The Neumann U 67

The Neumann U 67 sound incredible on voiceover, singing, and almost every instrument in the world. The selectable polar patterns allow this microphone to excel as a room mic, spot mic, and even in stereo miking techniques.

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann U 67

The Neumann U 67 was once a great hit in professional studios around the world.

Its successor, the Neumann U 87 (and its successor, the Neumann U 87 Ai) are industry standards today.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann U 67

The flat frequency response and accurate transient response of the U 67 make it an incredibly accurate mic, while the tube and transformer give it the classic “tube sound” or warmth and weight.

Neumann U 67 Set

Neumann U 67 Set
  • Debut year: 2018
  • Capsule: K67
  • Vacuum tube: EF86
  • Transformer: BV 12
  • Power supply: Neumann NU 67 V
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 15 mV/Pa (omni)/ 24 mV/Pa (cardioid)/ 16 mV/Pa (bidirectional)
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 21 dBA (32 dB) omni/ 17 dBA (28 dB) cardioid/ 20 dBA (31 dB) bidirectional
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 114 dB SPL (cardioid) – 124 dB SPL with 10 dB pad engaged

Link to check the price of the Neumann U 67 Set Reissue at Sweetwater.

Click here to go back to the list.


13. Neumann M 49

In typical Neumann fashion, the M 49 was a first in new microphone technology at the time. It was the first microphone to have a remotely adjustable continuously variable polar pattern. This was controlled by a dial on the mic’s power supply.

The Neumann M 49 is a large-diaphragm multi-pattern tube condenser microphone. It polar pattern was continuously variable between omnidirectional to bidirectional to cardioid and was adjustable remotely on the NN48 power supply.

Neumann M 49
  • Debut year: 1951
  • Capsule: K49 (M7 originally)
  • Vacuum tube: Telefunken AC701 (Hiller MSC2 originally)
  • Transformer: BV8
  • Power supply: NN48
  • Polar pattern: Continuously variable from Omnidirectional/ Cardioid/ Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 0.7 mV/dyn/cm2
  • Output impedance: 250 Ω (50 Ω switchable)
  • Self-noise: No spec given
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 125 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann M 49

The M 49, upon it introduction to the market, proved significantly more versatile than any other microphone. This versatility made the M 49 a near-instant success in the broadcasting and recording industries.

Today, the Neumann M 49 has a legendary status as a vintage microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann M 49

There are still Neumann M 49s in use today, proving that the microphone can have a long life so long as its well taken care of.

The legend of this microphone lives in the Neumann TLM 49 and M 149 Tube microphones as well as in the many other non-Neumann mics that have been inspired by its design and performance.

Applications Of The Neumann M 49

The smooth sound and continuously variable polar pattern of the M 49 made it a go-to in all practical mic applications.

Note that this microphone was brought to market 4 years before the advent of multi-track recording and more than a decade before multi-track recording became mainstream.

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann M 49

During its production run (1951 – 1974), the M 49 became very popular in professional recording and broadcasting studios. It was an industry standard in that regard.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann M 49

For its time, the M 49 had a bright but smooth frequency response and a certain warmth to its sound.

Of course, the sound changed as the mic’s polar pattern changed, but through the entire continuum of patterns, the mic sounded great.

Neumann M 149 Tube

Neumann M 149 Tube
  • Debut year: 1995
  • Capsule: K47
  • Vacuum tube: Modern triode tube (attached to PCB)
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Power supply: N 149
  • Polar pattern: 9 selectable polar patterns
  • Frequency response:
    Cardioid: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
    Omnidirectional: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
    Bidirectional: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating:
    Cardioid: 47 mV/Pa
    Omnidirectional: 34 mV/Pa
    Bidirectional: 62 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise:
    Cardioid: 13dBA
    Omnidirectional: 16dBA
    Bidirectional: 11dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 120 dB SPL

Link to check the price of the Neumann M 149 Tube on Amazon.

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14. Sennheiser MD 421

The Sennheiser MD 421 is likely the least popular (though the reviews are mixed) of the microphones on this list. However, I felt the need to include it because of its fame and applications throughout the years.

The MD 421 is a top-address (though often confused to be a side-address) moving-coil dynamic microphone.

It features a 5-position high-pass filter, though the cutoff frequency and roll-off gradient are not labelled. Rather, these options are labelled as M (for “music”), which yields the flattest response; S (for “speech”), which engages a 6 dB/octave roll-off at 500 Hz. There are 3 option in between these two ends.

Sennheiser MD 421-II
  • Debut year: 1960
  • Cartridge: 070534
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 17,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 2 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Sennheiser MD 421

Hate it or love it, the Sennheiser MD 421 is known as one of the go-to tom drum microphones and is a common selection on guitar and bass guitar cabinets.

The MD 421 is cherished for its capture of drums, giving them weight and presence. It’s also known to be quite the guitar mic.

However, many audio enthusiasts are not fans of the newer MD 421-II microphone (which was designed to sound the same but cost less to manufacturer and came out in 2002).

Since then, the older models have continued to be sought after, while the MD 421, in general, has somewhat fallen out of favour.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sennheiser MD 421

The moving-coil dynamic MD 421 is a tank. It can handle being dropped; getting hit with drum sticks; and most other physical impacts.

The issue many people have with the MD 421 is the custom mic clip, which tends to break easily and does a relatively poor job of holding the microphone in place even when its in good shape.

Applications Of The Sennheiser MD 421

The Sennheiser MD 421 was originally designed as a multi-purpose microphone for voice and music.

Since its inception, though, the 421 has become revered as a tough-as-nails full-bodied tom drum microphone.

Industry Standardization Of The Sennheiser MD 421

The Sennheiser MD 421, to this day, remains an industry standard go-to for miking tom drums in the studio.

Sound Quality Of The Sennheiser MD 421

The MD 421 is known for its full-bodied character and ability to add presence to lower-pitched instruments (like tom drums).

The 5 selectable response switches allow the 421 to yield a heavy, full sound at one end (M for “music”) while also allowing it to thin out the signal and focus more on clarity at the other end (S for “speech”).

Link to check the price of the Sennheiser MD 421II on Amazon).

Sennheiser is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

Click here to go back to the list.


15. Sennheiser MD 441U

The Sennheiser MD 441U is celebrated as a “dynamic microphone that sounds like a condenser.” That being said, it also has the price point of a higher-end condenser (it’s one of, if not the most expensive moving-coil dynamic microphones on the market today).

The MD 441U is a top-address moving-coil dynamic microphone that delivers a natural sound and has a nearly perfect supercardioid polar pattern.

Its cartridge is effectively shock-mounted and the humbucking coil within its design dramatically reduces EMI in the mic signal.

Like the MD 421, Sennheiser’s MD 441U featured 5-selectable high-pass filters ranging from flat down to 65 Hz (M for “music) to high-passed at 500 Hz at -12 dB/octave (S for “speech”).

The 441U also has a “brilliance” switch that engages a high-self boost of 5-7 dB from 2200 Hz upward.

Sennheiser MD 441U
  • Debut year: 1971
  • Capsule: Custom with humbucker coil
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency response:  30 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 1.8 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Sennheiser MD 441U

The Sennheiser MD 441U has gained popularity by being the cleanest sounding high-end moving-coil dynamic mic on the market (since its introduction in 1971).

Durability/Longevity Of The Sennheiser MD 441U

Although the MD 441U sounds like a nice condenser microphone, it is likely more durable than one.

Moving-coil dynamics are known for their resiliency to physical abuse and the elements. The MD 441U, of course, fits this category.

That being said, with the price point of this microphone, I’d likely play it safe and not expose it to applications with a high potential for damage.

Applications Of The Sennheiser MD 441U

The MD 441U works wonders on voiceover and vocal deliveries. Its versatility and durability make it a great choice for virtually any application.

Industry Standardization Of The Sennheiser MD 441U

Although this microphone is well-respected and sounds great on vocals and other instruments, it never really caught on as an industry standard.

Perhaps this is due to its high price point and the fact that it’s a dynamic that sounds like a condenser.

Sound Quality Of The Sennheiser MD 441U

The MD 441U yields a sound so clear that you wouldn’t think it’s a moving-coil dynamic microphone.

Link to check the price of the Sennheiser MD 441U on Amazon.

Click here to go back to the list.


16. RCA 44-BX

The RCA 44-BX is an improved version of the first ever commercially available ribbon microphone, the RCA PB-31.

The 44-BX had a 1.8 µm corrugated aluminum ribbon diaphragm and alnico permanent magnets.

Although the RCA 44-BX has been discontinued since 1955, its legacy still lives on as one of the best ribbon microphones ever made. Its design and popularity have inspired the creation of many other microphones and even a replica that was introduced in 1998 (the AEA R44C).

RCA 44-BX
  • Debut year: 1932
  • Ribbon: 59.7 mm long x 4.7mm wide x 1.8 micron thin corrugated aluminum ribbon suspended in alnico magnets
  • Transformer: Custom #58871 or #55273
  • Polar pattern: Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 50 Hz – 15,000+ Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -55 dBm/Pa
  • Output impedance: 250 Ω (30, 150, or 250 Ω selectable)

Popularity/Status Of The RCA 44-BX

The RCA 44-BX is known as one of the first ever commercially available ribbon microphones on the planet and as perhaps the greatest sounding ribbon microphone ever manufactured.

Durability/Longevity Of The RCA 44-BX

Original RCA 44-BX still circulate the market and are still used in studios today.

As with all ribbon microphones, the ones that last a long time are the ones that are well taken care of.

The longevity of the RCA 44-BX lives on in the AEA 44C and many other ribbon microphones that were heavily influenced by the 44-BX’s design.

Applications Of The RCA 44-BX

The RCA 44-BX was often used as a vocal microphone for recording and broadcast applications.

Industry Standardization Of The RCA 44-BX

In the 1930s, when the 44-BX was originally produced, the relatively new ribbon microphone technology made for a much better sound than the condenser and moving-coil designs.

Therefore, the RCA 44-BX became an industry standard very quickly as a voiceover and vocal microphone.

Sound Quality Of The RCA 44-BX

The relatively flat response of the RCA 44-BX from 50 Hz – 15,000 Hz makes it an excellent choice on voice and music. It’s warm, natural sound has been cherished and emulated for decades.

Note that the RCA 44-BX has a low output (-55 dBm/Pa) and would benefit from a high-gain preamp or an in-line preamp like the famous Cloudlifter CL-1 (link to check the price on Amazon).

AEA R44CE

AEA R44CE
  • Debut year: 1998
  • Ribbon: 59.7 mm long x 4.7mm wide x 1.8 µm thin corrugated aluminum ribbon suspended in neodymium magnets
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20,000+ Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 2.25 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 270 Ω
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 140 dB SPL

Link to check the price of the AEA R44CE on Sweetwater.

AEA is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

Click here to go back to the list.


17. Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 is an easily recognizable microphone by its odd shape and warm but punchy sound.

At 0.6 µm, the ribbon diaphragm of the 4038 is among the thinnest diaphragms in any microphone. The corrugated aluminum foil ribbon captures sound very accurately in a nearly perfect bidirectional polar pattern.

This microphone was actually developed by the BBC in 1953 and was initially brought to the market by Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) in 1961. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that Coles Electroacoustics took over manufacturing of the 4038.

Coles 4038
  • Debut year: 1998
  • Ribbon: 59.7 mm long x 4.7mm wide x 1.8 micron thin corrugated aluminum ribbon suspended in neodymium magnets
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Bidirectional
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20,000+ Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 2.25 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 270 Ω
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 140 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 was a go-to voiceover microphone for the BBC for decades.

It was also a huge success in the British recording studios, particularly on brass instruments, guitar cabinets, and as drum overheads.

Durability/Longevity Of The Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 is still in production today and still uses the same magnets and ribbon materials as it did originally in 1953.

Market demand has clearly kept this microphone in production, though the microphone itself will last a long time if properly cared for.

Applications Of The Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 sounds incredible on vocals, guitar cabinets, brass instruments, and as drum overheads.

Industry Standardization Of The Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 played a major role in British broadcasting and recording studios for decades after its initial release.

This microphone was industry standard in Britain, but remained relatively under-appreciated in the United States.

Sound Quality Of The Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 has a vintage character of warmth and weight combined with a mid-range presence and very accurate transient response.

Note that the Coles 4038 has a low output (1.0 mV/Pa) and would benefit from a high-gain preamp or an in-line preamp like the famous Cloudlifter CL-1 (link to check the price on Amazon). This is particularly true because the 4038 is typically used on conversation level speech.

Link to check the price of the Coles 4038 on Amazon.

Coles Electroacoustics is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

Click here to go back to the list.


18. Neumann KM 84

The Neumann KM 84 was released in 1966 as the first ever phantom powered microphone.

Since then, this microphone has garnered a reputation as one of the greatest small-diaphragm pencil condenser microphones of all time and a reference for all other pencil mics to be compared against.

The KM 84 was also one of the first solid-state FET microphones to enter the market.

Neumann KM 84
  • Debut year: 1966
  • Capsule: KK 84 (formerly known as KK 64)
  • Transformer: BV107
  • Transistor: 2N3819
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 10 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω
  • Self-noise: 17.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 130 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann KM 84

Although the Neumann KM 84 was discontinued in 1992 (and replaced by the KM 184 on the product line), it is still a very popular microphone.

The KM 84 is a well-respected and highly sought-after vintage microphone and is often the point of reference for other pencil mics to be compared to.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann KM 84

Many KM 84s are in use today and the legend of the microphone is not dying down whatsoever.

Applications Of The Neumann KM 84

The KM 84 was and still is a popular choice for miking hi-hats and for use as drum overheads.

This microphone also works wonders on smaller stringed instruments (such as the acoustic guitar and ukulele).

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann KM 84

In its heyday, the KM 84 was certainly a standard in music studios.

However, we do not see as many these days (partly due to the limited quantity, other mic options, and few music studios in general).

Sound Quality Of The Neumann KM 84

The Neumann KM 84 mic has an exceptionally flat frequency response and a consistent cardioid polar pattern across that response.

This allows the microphone to pick up sound accurately and with little colouration (especially compared to the tube microphones that made up the majority of condenser microphones in the time the KM 84 was first introduced).

Neumann KM 184

Neumann KM 184
  • Debut year: 1993
  • Capsule: KK 84 (formerly known as KK 64)
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor:
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 15 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 13.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL

Link to check the price of the Neumann KM 184 on Amazon.

Click here to go back to the list.


19. AKG C 451

The C 451 was AKG’s first FET microphone and featured a modular solid-state pencil-style preamplifier (the C 451) with 10 modular small-diaphragm condenser capsules to choose from (and a detachable 10 dB pas called the KF-2).

Although the C 451 has been out of production since 1994, it remains a popular choice in music studios around the world. On top of that, the replacement C 451 B (released in 2001) is among the best pencil microphones on the market today.

AKG C 451E
  • Debut year: 1969
  • Capsule: modular options (CK-1; CK-2; CK-3; CK-5; CK-6; CK-8; CK-9; CK-22; CK-26; CK-28)
  • Transformer: U26c
  • Transistor: BC413C
  • Polar patterns: Depending on capsule
  • Frequency response: Depending on capsule
  • Sensitivity rating: Depending on capsule
  • Output impedance: Depending on capsule
  • Self-noise: Depending on capsule
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 120 dB SPL

AKG C 451 Capsules

Polar pattern, frequency response, and sensitivity:

  • CK-1: Cardioid . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 9.5 mV/Pa
  • CK-2: Omnidirectional . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 6.0 mV/Pa
  • CK-3: Hypercardioid . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 11 mV/Pa
  • CK-5: Cardioid . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 9.5 mV/Pa
  • CK-6: Bidirectional . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 9.5 mV/Pa
  • CK-8: Shotgun . 30 Hz – 18,000 Hz . 15 mV/Pa
  • CK-9: Shotgun . 30 Hz – 18,000 Hz . 11 mV/Pa
  • CK-22: Omnidirectional . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 8.0 mV/Pa
  • CK-26: Omnidirectional . 30 Hz – 30,000 Hz . 1.3 mV/Pa
  • CK-28: Cardioid . 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz . 1.3 mV/Pa

Popularity/Status Of The AKG C 451

The AKG C 451 had a quick rise in popularity as a solid-state modular pencil microphone. Having multiple capsule options that provided differing polar patterns and frequency response made this versatile microphone a hot ticket in music studios around the world.

Durability/Longevity Of The AKG C 451

Like any microphone, the C 451 will have a long life if handled with care throughout its use.

The solid-state electronics last longer than the typical vacuum tube, which increased the C 451’s longevity.

With modular microphones, care must be taken not to damage the connectors when swapping/removing capsules from the body.

Applications Of The AKG C 451

The applications of the AKG C 451 ranged greatly and depended heavily on the capsule being used.

  • Omnidirectional capsules made for great room mics.
  • Shotgun and hypercardioid capsules made for great film and boom mics.
  • Cardioid and bidirectional capsules sounded great in the studio close-miking vocals and instruments.

Industry Standardization Of The AKG C 451

Although very popular in its prime, I’d hesitate to call the AKG C 451 an industry standard.

Sound Quality Of The AKG C 451

The sound quality changed slightly from capsule to capsule, but all-in-all, the AKG C 451 sounded crisp and accurate.

AKG C 451 B

AKG C 451 B
  • Debut year: 2001
  • Capsule: CK-1
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: BC183B
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 9 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 18.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 155 dB SPL

Link to check the price of the AKG C 451 B on Amazon.

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20. RCA 77-DX

The RCA 77-DX was the flagship microphone of RCA’s 77 series of ribbon mics.

The 77-DX has a corrugated aluminum foil diaphragm 0.7 µm thick.

Unlike most ribbon mics though, the RCA 77-DX does not only have a bidirectional polar pattern. Rather, this mic employs an variable acoustic labyrinth with a mechanical shutter to the rear of the ribbon.

A rotary control is present on the back of the 77-DX grille that controls the metal shutter. As the shutter opens/closes, so too does the polar pattern. Though continuously variable, the common marked options were U for unidirectional (cardioid); N for nondirectional (omni); and B for bidirectional (the natural pattern of most ribbon mics).

On top of that, the 77-DX featured a second rotary control for a two-step high-pass filter. The flattest option was M (music) while V1 and V2 applied to different voice settings.

RCA 77-DX
  • Debut year: 1954
  • Ribbon: corrugate aluminum foil 2″ long x 0.054″ thick
  • Transformer: Custom #215992
  • Polar patterns: Continuously variable between unidirectional, bidirectional, and nondirectional.
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 
    -53 dBm @ 94 dB SPL, 1,000 Hz tone (unidirectional)
    -50 dBm @ 94 dB SPL, 1,000 Hz tone (bidirectional)
    -56 dBm @ 94 dB SPL, 1,000 Hz tone (nondirectional)
  • Output impedance: 30, 150, or 250 Ω (250 Ω when shipped)

Popularity/Status Of The RCA 77-DX

The RCA 77-DX is quite the iconic microphone. Its shape has inspired the aesthetics of many ribbon microphones since its inception. Its multi-pattern technology is clever and makes it one of the most versatile ribbon microphones ever made.

However, the 77-DX is also cherished for its superb sound as a vocal microphone and history in recordings by Bing Crosby, Kate Smith, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Al Green, and many others.

Needless to say, the RCA 77-DX has a great reputation.

Durability/Longevity Of The RCA 77-DX

Like all ribbon mics, the RCA 77-DX could last a long time if cared for properly.

Special attention is need to keep the ribbon diaphragm and the mechanical shutter (including the rotary dials) in tip-top shape.

Applications Of The RCA 77-DX

The RCA 77-DX made a huge name for itself as a vocal microphone and excels in that application.

Today, the RCA 77-DX is still highly sought-after for vocals, but is also cherished for its capture of brass instruments.

Industry Standardization Of The RCA 77-DX

In the American music studios of the 1950s and 1960s, The RCA 77-DX became an industry standard ribbon microphone option for recording vocals and other instruments.

Sound Quality Of The RCA 77-DX

The RCA 77-DX yielded a great naturally warm sound. The high-pass filters thinned the signal to compensate for the proximity effect in unidirectional and bidirectional modes.

The RCA 77-DX has been discontinued with no replacement.

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21. Sony C-800G

The Sony C-800G is one of the most beloved (and most expensive) tube condenser microphones on the market today.

This microphone has a large dual-diaphragm condenser capsule based on the Neumann K67 which features a cardioid and omnidirectional setting.

The 6AU6 tube gives the C-800G part of its characteristic weight and sound. The mic is easily distinguishable by its large external heatsink that keeps the tube at optimal temperature for performance.

Sony C-800G
  • Debut year: 1993
  • Capsule: Sony C800G (based on Neumann K67)
  • Vacuum tube: 6AU6
  • Transformer: Custom T101 9:1
  • Power supply: AC-MC800G
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional and Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 
    17.8 mV/Pa (Omnidirectional)
    25.1 mV/Pa (Cardioid)
  • Output impedance: 100 Ω
  • Self-noise: 18.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 131 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Sony C-800G

This high-end tube microphone has become somewhat of a legend in the world of Pop, Hip-HOP, and R&B as a vocal mic.

Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mariah Carey, and Kelly Clarkson are but a few of the big artists that regularly use the Sony C-800G on their vocals.

Not only does the mic sound amazing, but owning a Sony C-800G is a symbol of professionalism and high-quality production.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sony C-800G

The Sony C-800G is built to last in safe studio environments.

Under normal conditions and care, these microphones will perform for a long time. The vacuum tube would likely be the first to go under normal circumstances, but can be replaced.

Applications Of The Sony C-800G

The Sony C-800G has made a name for itself as a top-notch vocal microphone.

Industry Standardization Of The Sony C-800G

The high price point of the Sony C-800G makes it difficult for most studios to afford it. Although the C-800G is a top-of-the-line microphone, there are many other, less expensive, options out there. So, even though it’s a popular microphone, it’s not necessarily “industry standard.”

Sound Quality Of The Sony C-800G

The Sony C-800G captures sound clearly with a bit of added body and presence. It enhances nearly every type of vocal it captures.

Link to check the price of the Sony C-800G on Amazon.

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22. Blue Yeti

At this point, you may be thinking why on Earth I would include a USB microphone on a list of all-time best microphones (especially after having just discussed the legendary RCA 77-DX and Sony C-880G). Hear me out.

Sure, the sound quality of the Blue Yeti USB condenser is not nearly at the same calibre as the aforementioned tube and solid-state condenser on this list.

However, the popularity, accessibility, and ease-of-use of the Blue Yeti (particularly with the rise of laptop computers) makes it, in my opinion, one of the best microphones in general.

It may not be the go-to of professional studio recordings (actually it certainly is not), but for the average person looking for an easy-to-use microphone for their computer, the Blue Yeti is one of the best, most affordable options out there.

Blue Yeti
  • Debut year: 2009
  • Capsule: Custom tri-capsule design (14mm diameter)
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional, bidirectional, cardioid, stereo.
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 4.5mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: N/A (16-bit digital output)
  • Self-noise: No spec given.
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 120 dB SPL
  • Sample rate: 48 kHz
  • Bit depth: 16 bit

Popularity/Status Of The Blue Yeti

The Blue Yeti is the number one best-selling USB microphone of all time. It is the flagship USB mic and the flagship microphone of Blue.

The Yeti is the top-choice of USB microphone for amateurs and professionals alike.

Durability/Longevity Of The Blue Yeti

So long as the microphone is taken care of (not dropped or exposed to harsh conditions), it will continue to perform.

One drawback of the Yeti design is the micro-USB connection. Pay special attention to this port, as it commonly causes issues due to damage.

Applications Of The Blue Yeti

The Blue Yeti is often used to improve the audio quality over built-in computer mics for live online chats and streaming.

I know of some professionals using it to record quick voiceovers and podcasts.

The mic is also a common choice for ASMR (in stereo mode).

So most of the applications of the Blue Yeti have to do with capturing voice, but it can be used in a plethora of situations.

Industry Standardization Of The Blue Yeti

It could be argued that the Blue Yeti is a standard in the streaming and podcast industries. However, it’s difficult to call any USB mic “industry standard.”

Sound Quality Of The Blue Yeti

The sound quality of the Blue Yeti is pretty clean and accurate. It outputs digital audio at 48 kHz – 16 bit, which is perfectly fine for digital audio quality (though not the best specs).

Link to check the price of the Blue Yeti on Amazon.

Blue is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

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23. Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A likely also raises some questions. Why have I included this microphone on an all-time best microphones list?

Sure, the Rode NT1-A may not have the status or even the sound quality of the above-mentioned condenser microphones. However, at its price point, the Rode NT1-A is an incredible microphone for amateur and professional users alike.

It’s its accessibility and performance-to-cost ratio that makes the NT1-A, in my opinion, one of the best microphones of all time.

I’ve personally used an NT1-A professionally with great results.

The Rode NTA-1 is a large-diaphragm cardioid electret condenser microphone, marketed as the “world’s quietest studio microphone.” With a self-noise of only 5 dBA, the NT1-A is certainly one of the quietest condenser mics on the market.

Rode NT1-A
  • Debut year: 2004
  • Capsule: K67-style electret
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom JFET inside Rode NT1000 PCB
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 25 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 100 Ω
  • Self-noise: 5 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 137 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Rode NT1-A

At well under $300 USD, the Rode NT1-A’s quality has made it a go-to budget microphone for amateur and professional audio engineers; musicians; and content creators around the world.

This microphone is often considered a “best-bang-for-your-buck” kind of product, offering accurate and clean audio capture at a fraction of the price of other well-respected condenser microphones.

Of course, with any “budget” microphone, there will be audiophiles that will argue against its quality. Sure, it’s no Ele M 251, but it’s used by many more people on many more projects.

Durability/Longevity Of The Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A has no extra moving parts (other than the diaphragm), and high-quality electret material in its capsule.

Under normal studio wear and tear, this microphone will last a very long time.

Applications Of The Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A makes for a great vocal microphone, though it also sounds great on stringed instruments.

Industry Standardization Of The Rode NT1-A

As popular as this microphone is, it’s not a professional recording industry standard by any means.

Sound Quality Of The Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A captures clean, crips audio, though it is sometimes criticized (as many modern condensers are) as being overly bright and “clinical.”

Link to check the price of the Rode NT1-A on Amazon.

Rode is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

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24. Neumann TLM 103

The Neumann TLM 103 (“Transformer-less microphone 103”) is high-end “project studio” mic. Although this mic costs more that $1,000 USD new, Neumann (which has many expensive microphones) considers it a budget option.

The TLM 103 is a large-diaphragm cardioid FET condenser microphone with a transformerless output circuit.

The K103 capsule is based on the K87 capsule (from Neumann’s U 87 mic). The main difference is that the K103 has a single diaphragm rather than two and only provides cardioid (the K87 offers cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional options).

Neumann created the TLM 103 as a cost-effective alternative to the U 87 (11 years after the release of the U 87 Ai). The 103 was built in a smaller body and had only one polar pattern (rather than 3 selectable patterns); no pad; no high-pass filter; no vacuum tube (like the U 87 Ai); and no output transformer.

Unlike many other high-end Neumann mics, the TLM 103 doesn’t have any switchable options (polar patterns, pads, or high-pass filters). Perhaps this is why it is marketed as a budget solution, even though it is quite expensive and sounds like a top-of-the-line microphone.

Neumann TLM 103
  • Debut year: 1997
  • Capsule: K103
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid 
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 23 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 7.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann TLM 103

The Neumann TLM 103, like many of Neumann’s microphones, has become a legend in the world of audio recording.

Interest in this microphone has been present since its release in 1997. Because the TLM 103 if marketed as a cost-effective version of the U 87, it got a lot of attention. Once people heard the clean, clear sound of the TLM 103, it really became popular.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann TLM 103

There aren’t any moving parts in the TLM 103 (except the diaphragm) and so there’s not much to break.

As always, taking good care of this microphone in normal studio condition will give it a long life.

Applications Of The Neumann TLM 103

The TLM 103 was originally designed for voice/vocal applications in the project studio and broadcasting stations.

However, the incredible sound of the microphone has allowed it to branch out in its variety of uses. The TLM is now also a common choice for miking guitar amps and pianos. It is also a common choice as a drum overhead mic and spot-mic in orchestral settings.

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann TLM 103

Although perhaps not as revered as the U 87 is has been modelled after, the TLM 103 could certainly be considered an industry standard in pro studios and project studios alike.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann TLM 103

The Neumann TLM 103 has a great midrange presence boost and solid low-end. It also captures sound very accurately.

These two thing combined make the TLM 103 an incredibly great sounding microphone.

Link to check the price of the Neumann TLM 103 on Amazon.

Neumann TLM 102

The Neumann TLM 102 (“Transformer-less microphone 102”) is a newer, more affordable version of the TLM 103. It has a slightly louder self-noise; a slight decrease in bass response; and a slight increase in high-end.

The TLM 102 is built with the same legendary quality as all other Neumann microphones and is available for a fraction of the price.

Neumann TLM 102
  • Debut year: 2009
  • Capsule: K102
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 11 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 12 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 144 dB SPL

Link to check the price of the Neumann TLM 102 on Amazon.

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25. Beyerdynamic M 160

The Beyerdynamic M 160 is somewhat of an anomaly as a ribbon microphone with its top-address hypercardioid polar pattern (ribbon microphones are naturally bidirectional and often side-address).

In order to achieve the hypercardioid pattern, the M 160 utilizes a top-address styled acoustic labyrinth.

The mic also featured two ribbon diaphragms 0.5 mm apart. Both diaphragms are creased vertically as well as horizontally, which makes them more rigid, but also less prone to distortion and fatigue.

Beyerdynamic M 160
  • Debut year: 1957
  • Ribbon: Double ribbon 0.056” in width, and approximately 0.6” in length. Pure aluminium corrugated vertically
  • Transformer: Custom toroidal
  • Polar pattern: Hypercardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 1.0 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Beyerdynamic M 160

Those who have used a Beyerdynamic M 160 generally have a great experience. This microphone, though perhaps not as popular as the other ribbon mics on this list, is a beloved ribbon mic in the audio recording industries.

Durability/Longevity Of The Beyerdynamic M 160

Originally released in 1957, the production of the Beyerdynamic M 160 continues to the this day.

As for durability, the ribbon diaphragms are relatively durable in the M 160 (due to the vertical corrugation). That being said, special care must be taken to ensure the ribbon diaphragms last a long time.

Other than the ribbon diaphragm, the M 160 is a simple and durable microphone.

Applications Of The Beyerdynamic M 160

The Beyerdynamic M 160 sounds great on guitar and bass guitar cabinets and on drums.

Industry Standardization Of The Beyerdynamic M 160

The Beyerdynamic was never really a standard go-to in recording studios.

Sound Quality Of The Beyerdynamic M 160

The sound of the M 160 has been described as dark, which is fitting for guitar and bass cabinets and for a calmer drum kit capture.

Some would argue the Beyerdynamic M 160 is not bright enough while others cherish it for its dark character (particularly in the age of bright digital recordings).

Note that the Beyerdynamic M 160 has a low output (1.0 mV/Pa) and would benefit from a high-gain preamp or an in-line preamp like the famous Cloudlifter CL-1 (link to check the price on Amazon). This is particularly true because the M 160 is typically used on conversation level speech.

Link to check the price of the Beyerdynamic M 160 on Amazon.

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26. Mojave Audio MA-200

Mojave Audio is the condenser-focused mic manufacturer of David Royer (of Royer Microphones fame). The MA-200 is the company’s flagship microphone.

Mojave Audio’s MA-200 is a modern large-diaphragm tube condenser microphone that combines vintage charm with a modern feel. Its sound is reminiscent of the great vintage tube mics of the past with a sparkle of modern condenser brightness.

Mojave Audio MA-200
  • Debut year: 2006
  • Capsule: K67-style
  • Vacuum tube:  JAN 5840 pentode
  • Transformer: Custom Jensen
  • Power supply: PS-200
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 14.1 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 16.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 120 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Mojave Audio MA-200

The Mojave Audio MA-200 is certainly not a famous microphone by any stretch of the imagination.

However, those who know it, tend to really enjoy its sound.

Durability/Longevity Of The Mojave Audio MA-200

As with any tube condenser microphone, the MA-200 needs to be handled with care if it is to function for a long time.

Applications Of The Mojave Audio MA-200

The MA-200 works excellently as a vocal mic but also in overhead and room mics situations.

Industry Standardization Of The Mojave Audio MA-200

The Mojave Audio MA-200 is thoroughly enjoyed by those who use it (and those who listen to it). However, with all the condenser mics out there, the MA-200 is by no means an industry standard.

Sound Quality Of The Mojave Audio MA-200

The sound of the MA-200 reminds many engineers of the big legendary tube mics of the past (many of which are mentioned earlier in this article), only with a high-end capture that adds brightness to the mic.

Others describe this combination of sounds as aggressive and gritty.

Link to check the price of the Mojave Audio MA-200 at Sweetwater.

Mojave Audio is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

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27. Blue Bottle

The Blue Bottle is well-known and well-respected modular tube condenser microphone. It is reminiscent of the Neumann CMV3, which was the first ever commercially released tube condenser mic (introduced in 1928).

The Blue Bottle’s body is made of top-notch components including a fully discrete Class A tube circuitry powered by a EF86 pentode vacuum tube (in triode mode) along with a custom hand-wound transformer made of silver wire around nickel plates.

Blue Bottle
  • Debut year: 1996
  • Capsule: modular options (8x Blue Bottle Cap series). Comes with Blue B6
  • Vacuum tube: EF86 pentode vacuum tube in triode mode
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Power supply: Blue 9610
  • Polar patterns: modular options. The stock B6 is cardioid.
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 20.0 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 7.5 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 134 dB SPL

Blue Bottle Caps (Capsules)

Polar pattern, frequency response, and sensitivity:

  • B0: Large-diaphragm cardioid.
    “The Ultimate Big Vocal Sound”
  • B1: Small-diaphragm cardioid.
    “The Accuracy Capsule”
  • B2: Large-diaphragm bidirectional (figure-8).
    “The Vintage Capsule”
  • B3: Mid-size diaphragm cardioid.
    “The Neutral Capsule”
  • B4: Small-diaphragm omnidirectional.
    “The Big Omni”
  • B5: Large-diaphragm omnidirectional.
    “The Presence Omni”
  • B6: Large-diaphragm cardioid (dual backplate).
    “The Blue Standard”
  • B7: Large-diaphragm cardioid (single backplate).
    “The Classic Vocal Sound”
  • B8: Large-diaphragm cardioid.
    “The Versatile Capsule”
  • B9: Large-diaphragm cardioid (dual backplate).
    “The Mix Forward Capsule”
  • B10: Large-diaphragm cardioid (dual backplate).
    “Smooth Vocal Sound”
  • B11: Large-diaphragm cardioid (dual backplate).
    “The Iconic Capsule”

Popularity/Status Of The Blue Bottle

From the unmistakable design to the incredible sounds, the Blue Bottle is a wonder of a microphone.

Its price point has likely held it back from becoming overly popular among engineers and musicians. However, for those who can afford the Blue Bottle (and some different Bottle Caps, which run about $700 USD each), this microphone is an excellent centrepiece in the mic locker and a symbol of high-quality.

Durability/Longevity Of The Blue Bottle

Treat this microphone correctly in normal studio conditions and it will continue to work for you.

Pay special attention to the connecting point of the modular capsules and the body.

Applications Of The Blue Bottle

The Blue Bottle, like many large-diaphragm tube condenser microphones, excels on vocals. That being said, the versatility of this microphone makes it fully capable of any application in the studio.

Industry Standardization Of The Blue Bottle

Although the Blue Bottle is a marvel of microphone technology, it never really caught on as an “industry standard.”

Sound Quality Of The Blue Bottle

The vacuum tube and class A circuitry give the Bottle a distinctive warmth and saturation. The hand-wound transformer helps yield unmatched precision and accuracy in the Bottle’s output.

Depending on the capsule used on the Bottle’s body, we can closely emulate modern sounds (B6 capsule); the Neumann U 47 sound (B7); the Telefunken Ela M 251 (B1 capsule); or a vintage ribbon sound (B3). Not to mention the different character achievable with the other Bottle Cap capsules.

Link to check the price of the Blue Bottle at Sweetwater.

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28. DPA 4011

The DPA 4011 is a small-diaphragm cardioid electret microphone. It can be thought of as the cardioid cousin of the above-mentioned 4011 (they are both part of DPA’s d:dicate line of microphones).

The 4011 capsules comes with 3 selectable preamps:

  • 4011A: longer preamplifier body with state-of-the-art components provide optimal neutrality, accuracy and extremely low distortion.
  • 4011C: lavalier-sized preamp body for body-miking.
  • 4011E: shorter preamp body for spot-miking.

Having access to these 3 preamps makes the 4011 not only sound incredible, but allows it to be used effectively in any miking application.

The DPA 4011 is amazingly accurate. On-axis sounds are captured by this mic with near-perfection.

DPA 4011A

DPA 4011A

  • Debut year: 1992
  • Capsule: MMC4011
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET in DPA MMP-A PCB
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 10 mV/Pa (-40 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: <200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 18 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 159 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The DPA 4011

The 4011 is a very popular choice for accurately capturing sound.

DPA, in general, is world-renowned for their high-quality products and deadly accurate microphones. The 4011 is a prime example of such a mic.

Durability/Longevity Of The DPA 4011

This solid-state modular mic will perform for a very long time if properly cared for.

Applications Of The DPA 4011

Whether in the studio or on the stage, the DPA 4011 (with its 3 different preamps) can do it all.

4011s sound amazing a single mics and as stereo pairs. They are also highly effective as close-mics for acoustic guitar, grand piano, overheads, percussion, wind instruments, and vocals.

With the C preamp, the 4011 is a great cardioid lavalier mic (though I wouldn’t typically recommend a cardioid lav).

The 4011 is also a go-to for spot-miking within larger ensembles (budget permitting, of course).

Industry Standardization Of The DPA 4011

The DPA 4011 has become somewhat standard in large orchestral productions as a spot-mic.

Sound Quality Of The DPA 4011

The DPA 4011 sounds incredibly clean and accurate, offering as near-perfect capture of the sound source it’s put in front of.

Link to check the price of the DPA 4011A on Amazon.

DPA is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

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29. DPA 4006

The DPA 4006 is a small-diaphragm electret condenser microphone that offers total transparency (a nearly perfect recreation of sound as a mic signal).

Its linear frequency response extends below the range of human hearing. This accurate frequency response, omnidirectional pattern, high sensitivity, and low noise-floor make the DPA 4006 a stunningly accurate mic.

This accuracy has made it DPA’s most popular microphone and a standard in the recording industry.

Though the DPA 4006 has a single omnidirectional capsule, it can be considered a modular microphone due to its 4 different preamplifier options and 3 capsule grid options.

The DPA 4006 preamplifier options are:

  • 4006A: longer preamplifier body with state-of-the-art components provide optimal neutrality, accuracy and extremely low distortion.
  • 4006C: lavalier-sized preamp body for body-miking.
  • 4006E: shorter preamp body for spot-miking.

The DPA 4006 grid options are:

  • Diffuse-field grid: improves frequency and polar responses to capture diffuse-field sounds.
  • Close-miking grid: improves frequency and polar responses to capture close sounds.
  • Free-field grid: improves frequency and polar responses to capture free-field sounds.
  • Nose cone: Allows for improved consistency in polar response and better linearity in frequency response.
DPA 4006A

DPA 4006A

  • Debut year: 1992
  • Capsules: modular options
    Near-field Grid DD0251
    Diffuse-field Grid DD0297
    Close-miking Grid DD0254
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET in DPA MMP-A PCB
  • Polar pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 40 mV/Pa (-28 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: <200 Ω
  • Self-noise: 15 dBA (27 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 147 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The DPA 4006

The incredibly accuracy of the DPA 4006 has made it a popular choice in studios and on stages around the world.

The price point of the 4006 has made it a symbol of professionalism in the audio industries.

Combining the amount of time the 4006 has been on the market with the two points mentioned above, we can see how the DPA 4006 has such a high status in the world of microphones and audio gear in general.

Durability/Longevity Of The DPA 4006

This solid-state modular electret mic will perform for a very long time if properly cared for.

Applications Of The DPA 4006

This microphone can be used in any practical miking situation.

It can be used as a measurement mic; a lavalier; a room mic; a vocal mic; and the list goes on and on.

Industry Standardization Of The DPA 4006

The beautiful transparency of the DPA 4006 and its long track record of excellency has made it a worldwide standard in recording.

Sound Quality Of The DPA 4006

The sound quality of the DPA 4006 is clean and clear. It reproduces sound identically to how the sound was captured.

Link to check the price of the DPA 4006A at Sweetwater.

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30. Shure Beta 87A

The Shure Beta 87A, like Shure’s SM58, is one of the most popular live vocal microphones in the world. There’s on big difference, though, in that the Beta 57A is a condenser microphone!

Beta 87A is a top-address supercardioid electret condenser microphone designed for live vocals and handheld or stand-mounted use.

Shure describes this microphone as bringing studio-quality to the stage.

The Beta 87A steps up to this challenge, providing a nice boost in the presence range to help vocals naturally cut through a live mix. The low-end roll-off helps to minimize low-end mechanical rumble and handling noise, though the proximity effect helps to regain that bass response when the vocalist/speaker sings/speaks closely into the mic.

Shure Beta 87A
  • Debut year: 1989
  • Capsule: RPW120
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET in PCB
  • Polar pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency response: 250 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 2 mV/Pa (−52.5 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω
  • Self-noise: 23.5 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 140 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Shure Beta 87A

The Shure Beta 87A has become a very popular choice for live vocals on stages around the globe.

Though not as well-known as Shure’s legendary SM58, the Beta 87A has made a name for itself as a go-to live vocal microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure Beta 87A

Although the Shure Beta 87A is designed and built for the stage, its condenser capsule and active circuitry is not as durable as Shure’s moving-coil dynamic SM57 and SM58.

Care should be taken when using this microphone. That being said, it can handle a bit more abuse than more condenser mics.

Applications Of The Shure Beta 87A

The Shure Beta 87A excels as a live vocal and speech microphone on the stage and in broadcasting situations.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure Beta 87A

I would argue that the Shure Beta 87A has become an industry standard. However, as mentioned above, it’s not as popular as the Shure SM58 as a live vocal microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Shure Beta 87A

The sound of the Beta 87A is clean and clear with a presence boost that suits most vocal types perfectly.

Link to check the price of the Shure Beta 87A on Amazon.

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31. Neumann KM 140

The Neumann KM 140 was a microphone in Neumann’s first small-diaphragm modular microphone system. It was made of the KM 100 pencil-style preamplifier and the AK 40 cardioid capsule.

The KM 100 series featured 7 interchangeable capsules including a bidirectional (AK 20); omnidirectional (AK 30); and hypercardioid (AK 50).

The KM 140 was a standout among these microphones.

It featured the AK 40 cardioid capsule, which provided a consistent frequency response across its pickup pattern.

The KM 140 provided an accurate sound capture with a nice mid-range warmth and was overly sterile in the high-end frequencies.

The KM 184 was designed somewhat as a replacement for the KM 140 (though it was also designed based off of the original KM 84).

Neumann KM 140 (AK 40 + KM 100)
  • Debut year: 1988
  • Capsule: Neumann AK 40
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Power supply: N 48 i-2
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 20 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 16 dBA (25 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL (or 148 dB SPL with pad engaged)

Other AK Capsules For KM 100

  • AK 31: Free-field equalized.
  • AK 30: Diffuse-field equalized.
  • AK 43: Wide cardioid.
  • AK 40: Cardioid.
  • AK 45: Cardioid (with low-end roll-off).
  • AK 50: Hypercardioid.
  • AK 20: Bidirectional.

Popularity/Status Of The Neumann KM 140

The Neumann KM 100 series and particularly the AK 40 capsule (making the KM 140) was and still is a popular choice among high-end studio engineers.

The KM 140 is not overly popular today, though still sought after by audio engineers and other audiophiles..

The KM A and KM A (with their modular capsules) have become somewhat popular as a replacement for the discontinued KM 100 line.

The KM A (analog) and KM D (digital) preamps come with their own passive capsules, but will work with the KM 100 series capsules so long as they’re connected via the AR 100 KA adapter.

However, it’s been the lower-cost KM 180 series of one-piece pencil microphones that’s become the most well-known in the Neumann small-diaphragm pencil mic category.

Durability/Longevity Of The Neumann KM 140

In terms of longevity, the technology of the KM 100 series paved the way for many other Neumann microphones and modular systems.

In terms of the durability of the KM 140 itself, the microphone fared very well under normal studio conditions (there are still KM 100s with AK 40s in use today).

As will all modular condenser microphones, special care must be taken when connecting and disconnecting the modular pieces.

Applications Of The Neumann KM 140

The KM 140 worked/works wonderfully as an instrument microphone as close range.

Its full sound of the KM 140 picks up the character of the instrument in question while its polar pattern helps to reject extraneous noise and provides a bit of bass boost (due to proximity effect) as we move it closer to the sound source.

Industry Standardization Of The Neumann KM 140

Although the KM 140 (and the KM 100 series in general) is a highly-cherished Neumann microphone, I would not say that it is an industry standard. Especially after having been discontinued.

Sound Quality Of The Neumann KM 140

The Neumann KM 140 has a very accurate sound capture with the typical “Neumann shine” in the top end. This mic is often preferred over its successors for its increased mid-frequency response.

Neumann KM A

With KK 184 capsule (cardioid “equivalent” of AK 40).

Neumann KM A + KK 184
  • Debut year: 2006
  • Capsule: modular KK 184
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 15 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 13.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL

Neumann KM D

With KK 184 capsule (cardioid “equivalent” of AK 40).

Neumann KM D + KK 184
  • Debut year: 2006
  • Capsule: modular KK 184
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -38 dBFS/Pa
  • Self-noise: 13.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 134 dB SPL
  • Sample rate: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 kHz
  • Bit depth: 24 bit

Neumann KK Capsules (For KM A and KM D)

  • KK 131: Free-field equalized.
  • KK 133: Diffuse-field equalized.
  • KK 183: Diffuse-field equalized (with 8 dB peak at 10 kHz).
  • KK 143: Wide cardioid.
  • KK 184: Cardioid.
  • KK 145: Cardioid (with low-end roll-off).
  • KK 185: Hypercardioid.
  • KK 120: Bidirectional.

Neumann KM 184

  • Debut year: 1993
  • Capsule: KK 84 (formerly known as KK 64)
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 15 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 13.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 138 dB SPL

Link to check the price of the Neumann KM 184 on Amazon.

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32. Audio-Technica AT4050

The AT4050 is one of many popular Audio-Technica microphones but the only one that makes this list.

Compared to all the other large-diaphragm multi-pattern condensers on this list, the solid-state AT4050 is by far the most affordable. Though the AT4050 may not come with the prestige of a U 67 or Ela M 251, it certainly has an excellent sound and costs a fraction of the price!

The Audio-Technica AT4050 punches way above its weight class, so to speak. It delivers a high-quality sound for a relatively inexpensive mic. Some engineers have even called the AT4050 their “desert island microphone.”

Audio-Technica AT4050
  • Debut year: 1994
  • Capsule: Custom pre-polarized 2-micron, 21.4mm diameter
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom
  • Polar patterns: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirecional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 15.8 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 100 Ω
  • Self-noise: 17.0 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 159 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Audio-Technica AT4050

Since its introduction in 1994, the AT4050 has made itself known around the world as a high-end studio condenser microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Audio-Technica AT4050

The solid-state electronics of the AT4050 make it perhaps a bit more durable than its tube counterparts. Under normal studio conditions, this microphone should perform for a very long time.

When taking the AT4050 on the road, be careful of positioning it in high traffic areas or areas with a high likelihood of physical damage.

Applications Of The Audio-Technica AT4050

The warm sound of the AT4050 and the 3 selectable polar patterns makes it somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades in the studio.

AT4050s are known to sounds great on vocals, stringed instruments, and drums. They are also great as room mics and overheads.

Industry Standardization Of The Audio-Technica AT4050

The Audio-Technica is an excellent choice for a go-to microphone in upper-end project studio or lower-budget pro studios.

This microphone is accessible and sounds wonderful on so many sources, but isn’t really at the “industry standard” status.

Sound Quality Of The Audio-Technica AT4050

The Audio-Technica AT4050 has a very smooth but accurate sound. It has a nice high-frequency response and doesn’t portray that overly harsh top-end that many modern condensers do.

The mid-range of this mic is warm and full.

A high-pass filter can improve the sound by removing low-end rumble or alleviating the bass boost that comes from the proximity effect (in cardioid and bidirectional modes).

Link to check the price of the Audio-Technica AT4050 on Amazon.

Audio-Technica is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

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33. Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6

The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6 is another modular pencil microphone system that features the MK 4 cardioid condenser capsule and the CMC 6 transformerless solid-state preamplifier. It is part of the Schoeps Colette series of modular microphones.

The Colette series features many different capsules and amplifiers, though the MK 4 / CMC 6 combination is by far the most popular. For that reason, we’ll discuss this microphone in particular.

The MK 4 offers a very natural capture of sound within its consistent polar pattern and is one of the many cherished small-diaphragm pencil condenser microphones used in studios around the world.

Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6
  • Debut year: 1992
  • Capsule: modular Schoeps MK 4
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 13 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 35 Ω
  • Self-noise: 15 dBA (24 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 132 dB SPL

Schoeps Colette Series Capsules

This is the full list of compatible Schoeps capsules for the CMC 6:

  • MK 2: Omnidirectional free-field equalized (close-miking)
  • MK 2H: Omnidirectional diffuse-field (A/B stereo or Decca Tree)
  • MK 2S: Omnidirectional diffuse-field (room mic) BEST SELLING OMNI
  • MK 2XS: Omnidirectional diffuse-field equalized (distant-miking)
  • MK 4: Cardioid top-address (most applications) BEST SELLING CAPSULE
  • MK 4V: Cardioid side-address (most applications) also available in CMXY 4V stereo microphone
  • MK 21: Wide cardioid (soloist or main mic)
  • MK 22: Open cardioid (soloist or mid mic in mid/side)
  • MK 41: Supercardioid top-address (boom mic or spot-mic)
  • MK 41V: Supercardioid side-address (boom mic or spot-mic) also available in CMXY 41V stereo microphone
  • MK 8: Bidirectional (side in mid-side + Blumlein pair)
  • MK 5: Mechanically switchable between cardioid and omnidirectional (most applications)
  • MK 4P: Cardioid top-address for close pickup
  • MK 4VP: Cardioid side-address for close pickup – also available in HSC 4VP headset
  • MK 4P: Cardioid top-address for very close pickup
  • MK 4VP: Cardioid side-address for very close pickup – also available in HSC 4VXP headset

Schoeps Colette Series Amplifiers

This is the full list of compatible Schoeps amplifiers for the MK 4:

  • CMC 1: Small Colette microphone amplifier
  • CMC 5: Predecessor of the CMC 6 (discontinued)
  • CMC 6: The standard Colette microphone amplifier
  • CMC 6XT: HiRes version of the CMC 6
  • CMR: Colette amplifier for use with wireless body pack transmitters.

Popularity/Status Of The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6

Since its introduction in 1992, Schoeps’ Colette series has gained the respect and trust of its users. It is one of the world’s best modular microphone systems to date.

The MK 4 / CMC 6 is the flagship combo of the Colette series and has gained the most recognition.

Durability/Longevity Of The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6

The Colette series is built to last.

To ensure longevity, take care when assembling and disassembling the modular microphone parts.

Applications Of The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6

The MK 4 / CMC 6 is a go-to microphone for close-miking and spot-miking instruments.

The variety of capsules in the Colette series allows for excellence in any microphone application.

Industry Standardization Of The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6

When it comes to studio condenser pencil microphones, there are plenty of choices.

Though the MK 4 / CMC 6 is a popular microphone, it is only one of the many pencil mics that has become famous in the recording industry.

Sound Quality Of The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6

The Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6 sounds very natural and warm. Its cardioid polar pattern has very little off-axis colouration.

Link to check the price of the Schoeps MK 4 / CMC 6U on Amazon.

Schoeps is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

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34. Sennheiser e 604

The Sennheiser e 604 is a small-diaphragm moving-coil dynamic microphone that gets a spot on this list because of its effectiveness on drums in studio and live settings.

At a low price point, it’s relatively cheap to acquire a full set of e 604s for each drum on a drum kit.

These microphones attach directly to the drums. e 604s are known to be able to capture the punch and character of the intended drum while being able to block out much of the rest of the kit (a difficult task indeed).

So, no, the Sennheiser e 604 is by no means a “best overall” microphone. However, because it works so well on so many different drums and percussion instruments, it’s worth mentioning in this list.

Sennheiser e604
  • Debut year: 1998
  • Cartridge: Custom moving-coil dynamic
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 1.8 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 350 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Sennheiser e 604

The Sennheiser e 604 has become a very popular microphone for drummers and percussionists.

Its low price point means it’s accessible to many drummers and audio engineers. The durability, ease-of-use, and quality of the e 604 has made it a go-to for miking drums in live stage and studio performances alike.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sennheiser e 604

The Sennheiser e 604 is built to endure the physical trauma that comes with being a drum microphone.

The moving-coil microphone itself is very tough, as is its housing and clamp. This microphone can take a beating and continue to work properly.

Applications Of The Sennheiser e 604

The e 604 is designed as a clip-on drum microphone and this is the application it excels in.

Industry Standardization Of The Sennheiser e 604

The e 604 has become an industry standard in live drum-miking.

This microphone is often used in studio applications as well.

Sound Quality Of The Sennheiser e 604

The Sennheiser e 604, when clipped to a drum, effectively picks up the full character of said drum.

It has a fairly flat frequency response that dampens the high-end of the cymbals. It also has a cardioid polar pattern, which helps to reject sound from the other elements of the drum kit while providing extra low-end thump in the drum sound due to the proximity effect.

Link to check the price of the Sennheiser e604 (3-pack) on Amazon.

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35. Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 is a top-address small-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone designed for the stage and the studio with versatility in mind.

The mic features a 10 dB pad and 2 high-pass filter options to further its versatility. Its accurate sound capture makes it a popular choice among engineers around the world.

Whether we’re recording acoustic instruments in the studio or miking a drum set overhead on stage, the SM81 makes for an excellent choice.

Shure SM81
  • Debut year: 1978
  • Capsule: Shure R104 (capsule + grille)
  • Transformer: Custom
  • Transistor: Custom in PCB
  • Power supply: PS1A (optional)
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 5.6 mV/Pa (–45 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω (85 Ω actual)
  • Self-noise: 16 dBA (19 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level:
    800 Ω load: 136 dB SPL (146 dB SPL with pad engaged)
    150 Ω load: 128 dB SPL (138 dB SPL with pad engaged)

Popularity/Status Of The Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 has been around for a long time and has built up a solid reputation for itself as a studio and live sound microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 is designed to last in both studio and live situations. This mic holds up well in varying temperatures and weather conditions. It will last a very long time in typical studio conditions.

Applications Of The Shure SM81

In the studio, the SM81 excels on acoustic instruments from ride cymbals and hi-hats to upright basses to grand pianos. SM81s sound great on their own or as part of a stereo-miking setup.

On the stage, the SM81 has become a standard drum overhead microphone. This is especially true in outdoor venues since the mic can handle great variation in temperature and is not overly susceptible to RF noise or low-end rumble.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 is a popular mic in the studio, but has really made a name for itself as a standard in outdoor venues as a drum overhead microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 offers a very accurate representation of sound. It does not overrepresent or underrepresent any particular frequency bands.

The mic’s built-in high-pass filters will effectively improve the sound of the mic if proximity effect, plosives, electromagnetic interference, or mechanical noise are issues.

Link to check the price of the Shure SM81 on Amazon.

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36. Schoeps CMIT 5U

The CMIT 5U is a world class shotgun microphone made by the legendary German mic manufacturer Schoeps.

This microphone has an incredibly neutral sound (even off-axis) while maintaining strong directionality. Many other shotgun mics have only one (or neither) of these traits.

As a boom microphone, the CMIT 5U works amazingly well to reduce off-axis sounds without overly colouring them. As a stationary microphone, the CMIT 5U’s directionality allows for great separation and long-distance miking.

The Schoeps CMIT 5U has a built-in high-shelf filter; high-pass filter; and proximity filter, which, when engaged, are indicated by an LED light. The microphone also features Schoeps’ RFI shield for increased signal-t-noise ratio.

Regardless of the application, this high-quality mic will effectively capture on-axis sounds the way they are supposed to be heard.

Schoeps CMIT 5U
  • Debut year: 2005
  • Capsule: Custom
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom in PCB
  • Polar pattern: Supercardioid/shotgun
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 18 mV/Pa (35 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 50 Ω
  • Self-noise: 13 dBA (24 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 131 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Schoeps CMIT 5U

Since its release in 2005, the Schoeps CMIT 5U has made a name for itself as a world class shotgun microphone.

Its high price point somewhat reserves it for professionals. That being said, its quality is worth every penny and it’s no wonder professionals choose this microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Schoeps CMIT 5U

The Schoeps CMIT 5U is designed for indoor and outdoor use. When bringing this mic into the elements, ensuring the mic is saddles within a blimp/dead cat will greatly improve its longevity.

Applications Of The Schoeps CMIT 5U

The CMIT 5U works amazingly well as a boom microphone and as a camera mounted shotgun mic.

On top of that, the mic also finds application in sports broadcasting as a “natural sound” microphone.

Industry Standardization Of The Schoeps CMIT 5U

The Schoeps is a high-end industry standard shotgun microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Schoeps CMIT 5U

The Schoeps CMIT 5U sounds incredibly natural given its extreme directionality.

On-axis sounds are picked up accurately and with great clarity. Off-axis sounds are greatly reduced in volume but are not overly coloured in terms of frequency response.

Link to check the price of the Schoeps CMIT 5U on Amazon.

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37. Sennheiser MKH 416

For decades, the Sennheiser MKH 416 has been the film industry standard shotgun microphone.

Sennheiser’s MKH line of microphone are RF (radio frequency) condensers. These RF condensers use a relatively low polarizing RF voltage and are durable, resilient to weather conditions, and very quiet. The MKH 416 has all of these traits.

The Sennheiser MKH has a relatively low self-noise and high sensitivity, making it a great microphone for film and voiceover applications.

This microphone is highly directional and somewhat forgiving off-axis. It provides a great balance of off-axis rejection and clarity within its angle of acceptance.

Sennheiser MKH 416
  • Debut year: 1975
  • Capsule: KS16
  • Transformer: bipolar transistor 
  • Transistor: N/A
  • Polar patterns: super-cardioid/lobar
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: (1 kHz) 25 mV/Pa ± 1 dB
  • Output impedance: 25 Ω
  • Self-noise: 13 dBA (24 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 130 dB SPL at 1 kHz

Popularity/Status Of The Sennheiser MKH 416

The Sennheiser MKH 416 is somewhat of a gold standard when it comes to shotgun microphones. It is a go-to in location audio kits and with film crews across the world.

The MKH 416 has had many years to solidify its reputation as one of the greatest shotgun microphones to ever have been built.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sennheiser MKH 416

The MKH 416, like all RF condenser microphones, is very durable.

It is resilient to harsh weather conditions and temperature variation, which makes it very suitable for outdoor use as a boom/shotgun mic.

Applications Of The Sennheiser MKH 416

The MKH 416’s primary application in is film as a boom mic or camera-mounted shotgun mic.

This RF condenser also sees a lot fo use in broadcasting situations. It’s often used a natural sound mic or a distant- mic for various sound sources.

Industry Standardization Of The Sennheiser MKH 416

The Sennheiser MKH 416 is an industry standard shotgun mic, if not the industry standard in this category.

Sound Quality Of The Sennheiser MKH 416

The Sennheiser MKH 416 sounds clean and clear while providing sufficient but forgiving off-axis rejection.

It has a slight boost in the upper frequency range, which adds clarity to the signal when the mic is positioned within a blimp/dead cat at the end of a boom pole.

The microphone has very low self-noise and does an excellent job eliminating interference.

Link to check the price of the Sennheiser MKH 416 on Amazon.

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38. Sennheiser MKH 60

The Sennheiser MKH 60 is another excellent shotgun microphone that is part of the MKH RF condenser line.

RF Condenser technology give the MKH 416 high sensitivity with low self-noise, as well as resistance to environmental conditions (notably humidity).

The MKH 60 features a -10dB pad; high-pass filter; and high-shelf boost.

These built-in switches give the user of the MKH 60 a great amount of versatility when using the mic in blimp/boom; camera-mounted; and natural sound applications.

Sennheiser MKH 60
  • Debut year: 1991
  • Capsule: KS60
  • Transformer: bipolar transistor 
  • Transistor: N/A
  • Polar patterns: super-cardioid/lobar
  • Frequency response: 50 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 40 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω
  • Self-noise: 8 dBA (18 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 134 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Sennheiser MKH 60

Although perhaps not as popular as it predecessor, the MKH 416, Sennheiser’s MKH 60 is a very well-known shotgun microphone.

Its status as a high-quality shotgun mic makes it a go-to in the film and broadcast industries.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sennheiser MKH 60

The MKH 60, like the rest of Sennheiser’s MKH RF condenser microphones, is very durable.

It is resilient to harsh weather conditions and temperature variation, which makes it very suitable for outdoor use as a boom/shotgun mic.

Applications Of The Sennheiser MKH 60

The MKH 60’s main applications include boom-miking and natural sound in broadcast.

Industry Standardization Of The Sennheiser MKH 60

The MKH 60 is a film and broadcast standard shotgun microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Sennheiser MKH 60

The frequency response options make the Sennheiser MKH 60 a very flexible microphone.

Its sound quality is very clean and incredibly accurate on-axis. Off-axis, this mic does a great job at reducing the sound without colouring it too much.

Link to check the price of the Sennheiser MKH 60 on Amazon.

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39. DPA 4060

The DPA 4060 is one of the few industry standard lavalier microphones on the market today (I’ll mention 3 others in this list).

DPA’s 4060 is an omnidirectional miniature electret condenser microphone with a microdot connector (though an adpater is availble for connection to practically any wireless transmitter). It’s a fantastic lavalier microphone and has become one of the most respected lavs for actors around the world.

This microphone excels even when hidden under costumes, a feat that not many other lavalier microphones can claim.

The DPA 4060 picks up a clean natural sound in nearly any position on an actor. Perhaps the most famous use of this mic to date has been in the filming of Game Of Thrones.

DPA 4060
  • Debut year: 1994
  • Capsule: Custom miniature pre-polarized.
  • Transistor: Custom transistor DPA CORE pcb.
  • Power supply: DAD6001-BC/DAD6024/DAD4099 (DC bias)
  • Polar pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 20 mV/Pa; -34 dBV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 30 – 40 Ω
  • Self-noise: 23 dBA (35 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 129 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The DPA 4060

Since 1994, the DPA 4060 line of miniature lavalier microphones has continuously proven its supremacy in the realm of body mics.

Though there are many lavalier mics on the markets, the 4060 is arguably the best sounding and most versatile of them all.

Durability/Longevity Of The DPA 4060

The DPA 4060 is extremely rugged and reliable. It’s capable or withstanding a wide range of temperatures and is humidity resistant.

Taking proper care of this microphone will lead to a long period of usage.

Applications Of The DPA 4060

The DPA shines as a body microphone for actors and as a lavalier mic on television and on the theatre stage.

Industry Standardization Of The DPA 4060

Though perhaps not talked about as much as the Sanken COS-11D or Countryman B3 (which we’ll get to in a moment), the DPA 4060 is certainly a standard in the film, television, and broadcasting industries.

Sound Quality Of The DPA 4060

The sound quality of the DPA 4060 is simply superb. This microphone has a very consistent omnidirectional polar pattern and a clean, flat frequency response.

As a lavalier mic, the DPA 4060 sounds amazing in all practical positions.

Link to check the price of the DPA 4060 on Amazon.

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40. Sony ECM 77B

The Sony ECM 77B has been an industry standard lavalier microphone in news and broadcast for decades.

Sony’s ECM 77B is an omnidirectional miniature lavalier microphone with a clean and clear sound. The ECM 77B was the go-to microphone in news and television studio settings for many years and still is today.

Sony ECM 77B
  • Debut year: 1983
  • Capsule: A1541734A
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom JFET
  • Polar pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -52.0 dBV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω
  • Self-noise: 30 dB
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 120 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Sony ECM 77B

The Sony ECM 77B has been a standard television studio microphone for decades. It is a well-known lavalier microphone in news, interview, and monologue situations.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sony ECM 77B

The ECM 77B is a durable microphone that will last ages under normal applications.

Applications Of The Sony ECM 77B

The Sony ECM 77B’s main application is as a lavalier microphone in television and broadcast.

Industry Standardization Of The Sony ECM 77B

The ECM 77B has been a standard for decades in the world of television.

Sound Quality Of The Sony ECM 77B

The sound quality of the Sony ECM 77B is clean and clear. It sounds great on all vocal types when positioned correctly on the front of the speaker.

Link to check the price of the Sony ECM 77B on Amazon.

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41. Sanken COS-11D

The Sanken COS-11 was introduced in 1991. Today, this microphone is available as a “new and improved” COS-11D.

Sanken’s COS-11D is another go-to lavalier microphone for nearl all lav mic applications. The new 11D model has excellent RF interference rejection and sounds very clean even in high RF activity.

This mic has a very consistent omnidirectional polar pattern which makes positioning relatively easy. The COS-11D has a nice presence boost in its frequency response that suits and improves all vocal types.

Sanken COS-11D
  • Debut year: 2009 (original COS-11 introduced in 1991)
  • Capsule: Custom electret
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom JFET
  • Polar patterns: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 50 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 17.8 mV/Pa (-35 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 180 Ω
  • Self-noise: 28 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 127 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Sanken COS-11D

The Sanken COS-11D has earned a reputation as a go-to lavalier microphone in professional audio/video productions.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sanken COS-11D

Sanken’s COS-11D is a durable microphone that will last a long time in the field if handled properly.

Applications Of The Sanken COS-11D

The COS-11D is a lavalier microphone for clip-on miking of speakers and talen on video.

Industry Standardization Of The Sanken COS-11D

The Sanken COS-11D is an industry standard lavalier microphone for television and the great audio-visual industries.

Sound Quality Of The Sanken COS-11D

The Sanken COS-11D sounds great on every voice, providing a clean and crisp audio capture.

Link to check the price of the Sanken COS-11D on Amazon.

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42. Countryman B3

The Countryman B3 is yet another standard lavalier microphone.

This microphone, like the others, has an omnidirectional polar pattern and a frequency response that tailors toward the human voice.

The Countryman B3 comes in many colours and connectors. It’s also waterproof, making it a go-to for outdoors lavalier miking.

Countryman B3
  • Debut year: No release date available
  • Capsule: Custom
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom JFET
  • Polar pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 12.0 mV/Pa or 4.0 mV/Pa (no band or red band)
  • Output impedance: No value given.
  • Self-noise: 24 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 140 dB SPL or 150 dB SPL (wireless or phantom powered)

Popularity/Status Of The Countryman B3

Though Countryman is a relatively unknown microphone brand, their B3 (and B6) lavalier microphones have become cherished in the professional audio world for their high-quality and durability.

Durability/Longevity Of The Countryman B3

The B3 is extremely resilient to harsh weather and is even waterproof. The capsule itself is tough against physical damage.

Applications Of The Countryman B3

The Countryman B3 is a lavalier that works as well indoors as it does outdoors in the elements.

Industry Standardization Of The Countryman B3

The Countryman B3 is a well-respected industry standard lavalier microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Countryman B3

The Countryman B3 sounds great on practically ever voice, even when positioned in non-ideal locations (within reason, of course).

Link to check the price of the Countryman B3 on Amazon.

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43. Heil PR40

The Heil PR40 is arguably Heil Sound’s flagship microphone and is one of the greatest moving-coil dynamic mics ever.

Heil Sound’s PR40 is a low-mass large-diaphragm cardioid moving-coil dynamic mic with an incredibly wide frequency response and fast transient response.

This microphone has an internally shock-mounted capsule and an internal breath blast filter. These features make the microphone quiet and resistant to mechanical noise, vocal plosives, and larger air movements from drums.

The PR40 is one of the greatest moving-coil microphones on the market.

Heil PR40
  • Debut year: 2005
  • Capsule: Heil DM 6
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 28 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -53.9 dBV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 600 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Heil PR40

The Heil PR40 is an incredible microphone and sees some use in broadcast, studio recordings, and live sound reinforcement.

This microphone is known to be a workhorse in multiple industries.

Durability/Longevity Of The Heil PR40

The Heil PR40 is tough as nails and will last a very long time in the studio and on the road.

Applications Of The Heil PR40

The Heil PR40 is somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades.

It’s applications include miking drums (particularly kick drums), vocals, guitar cabinets, brass instruments, etc.

The settings the PR40 often finds itself in are in the studio; in broadcast; and on live stages.

Industry Standardization Of The Heil PR40

The PR40 is a popular microphone and has an impressive list of applications. That being said, it’s arguably an industry standard.

Sound Quality Of The Heil PR40

As stated, the PR40 has an incredibly wide frequency response for a moving-coil microphone.

It features a wonderful presence boost to help vocals and horns.

Its cardioid pattern allows it to reject off-axis sounds and focus on the intended sound source. This same pattern means the mic has proximity effect and so its bass response increases nicely as it gets closer to its intended sound source (which often sounds great on kick drums and vocals alike).

Link to check the price of the Heil Sound PR40 on Amazon.

Heil Sound is featured in the My New Microphone article Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

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44. Shure Beta 52

The Shure Beta 52 (and 52A) are legendary kick drum microphones and deserve a spot on this list as such.

Shure’s Beta 52 is a large-diaphragm supercardioid moving-coil dynamic microphone. It features a wildly coloured frequency response to capture the thump of the kick drum with the attack of the kick drum beater while rejecting much of the high-end and mid-frequencies.

This microphone has been a go-to kick drum microphone for decades.

Shure Beta 52
  • Debut year: 1989 (Beta 52A replaced it in 2002)
  • Capsule: Shure R175
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Polar pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 10,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: −64 dBV/Pa (0.6 mV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω

Popularity/Status Of The Shure Beta 52

Shure’s Beta 52 and Beta 52A are known worldwide as (arguably) the greatest kick drum microphones ever made.

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure Beta 52

The Shure Beta 52 is built with durability and toughness in mind. Whether this microphone is used in the safety of a studio or in the rough-and-tumble of the road, it will stand the tests of time.

Applications Of The Shure Beta 52

The Shure Beta 52 is known for its application as a kick drum microphone, where it easily excels.

The 52 may also be used to capture the low-end of other sound sources (like bass guitar cabinets), though it’s often advised to use it in conjunction with another microphone that can effectively capture the mids and highs of the sound source.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure Beta 52

The Shure Beta 52 is one of the recording industry standard kick drum microphones.

Sound Quality Of The Shure Beta 52

The sound quality of the Beta 52 suits kick drums beautifully, but it is kind of a one-trick-pony in the regard.

The coloured frequency response and supercardioid pattern do not necessarily sound great on any other sound sources.

Link to check the price of the Shure Beta 52A on Amazon.

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45. DPA 4099

When it comes to clip-on instrument microphones, the DPA 4099 line of microphones takes the cake as the best ever.

The DPA 4099 is a beautiful clip-on instrument microphone that captures stunningly accurate audio from instruments across their dynamic range.

Whether you’re a musician, live sound engineer, or anyone else who wants quality audio from their instruments, the DPA 4099 is for you. Regardless of your instrument, DPA has got a clamp/mount to attach the 4009 so that you can capture the sound easily and effectively.

DPA 4099
  • Debut year: 2009
  • Capsule: Custom electret
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom JFET
  • Polar pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 6 mV/Pa (-44 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: MicroDot: 30 – 40 Ω
    DAD4099/DAD6001-BC: 100 Ω
  • Self-noise: 23 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 142 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The DPA 4099

Since its introduction to the market, the DPA 4099 has become a go-to in professional concerts where acoustic instruments need to be close-miked or spot-miked.

This microphone is well-known in orchestral groups around the world.

Durability/Longevity Of The DPA 4099

The DPA 4099 is designed and built for the live performance. It can handle a bit of physicality. When treated well, this microphone will last a very long time.

Applications Of The DPA 4099

The DPA 4099 sounds amazing on (and can attach to) practically every acoustic instrument.

Industry Standardization Of The DPA 4099

The DPA 4099 is a standard due to its incredibly clean audio capture and its versatility on every instrument.

Sound Quality Of The DPA 4099

DPA is known for their high-quality and accurate microphones. The 4099 is no exception, providing a clean capture across all frequencies and across an incredible dynamic range.

Link to check the price of the DPA 4099 on Amazon.

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46. Shure Beta 98H/C

The Shure Beta 98H/C is, in my opinion, the best “budget” clip-on instrument microphone on the market and so I’ve added it to this list.

Shure’s Beta 98H/C (and the wireless WB98H/C) are marketed as premium cardioid condenser mics. They are miniature electret condensers that are design to attach to instruments live.

These mics easily clamp onto the bells of wind and brass instruments; the rims of percussion instruments; and even the bridges of acoustic stringed instruments.

The Beta 98H/C mics feature a swivel mount and gooseneck, which makes positioning the microphone easy. The cardioid pattern provides excelletn gain-before-feedback in live sound reinforcement situations.

Shure Beta 98H/C
  • Debut year: 2002
  • Capsule: Custom
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom JFET
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: –56 dBV/Pa (1.6 mV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω
  • Self-noise: 31 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 155 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The Shure Beta 98H/C is somewhat popular in the world of music as a clip-on microphone. However, if you’re not regularly spot-miked (or being spot-miked) with clip-on microphones, you may not recognize this microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

From the clamp to the gooseneck to the capsule, the Shure Beta 98H/C is a durable microphone. Under normal conditions, this microphone should last a lifetime.

Applications Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The Shure Beta 98H/C is a clip-on instrument microphone. This is its main application.

Industry Standardization Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The Shure Beta 98H/C is a go-to for many musicians in live and studio settings. In the world of music, the Beta 98H/C could very well be considered an industry standard.

Sound Quality Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The Shure 98H/C’s capsule is internally shock-mounted, which greatly reduces the amount of mechanical noise that may be transferred from the instrument.

The mic’s sound is clean and accurate. It will pickup the sound of its instrument with clarity and precision.

Link to check the price of the Shure Beta 98H/C on Amazon.

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47. Schoeps CMXY 4V

The Schoeps CMXY 4V deserves a spot on this list as the best XY stereo microphone.

The Schoeps CMXY 4V is actually made of two cardioid capsules (CCM 4Vs) that make up a coincident pair. The angle between these two microphones can be adjusted anywhere between between 0° and 180°.

This microphone works wonders as a coincident XY stereo pair. It captures sound accurately in terms of frequency and transient response and in terms of stereo space.

Schoeps CMXY 4V
  • Debut year: 1994
  • Capsule: 2x CCM 4V
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Polar patterns: XY (2x cardioid)
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 19,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 15 mV/Pa (-36 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 90 Ω
  • Self-noise: 13 dBA (23 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 131 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Schoeps CMXY 4V

The Schoeps CMXY 4V, like many stereo mics, isn’t overly popular. However, this microphone is known for its versatility as an XY stereo mic and by its high-quality true stereo audio capture.

Durability/Longevity Of The Schoeps CMXY 4V

With the condenser capsule and moving parts in the microphone, special care should be taken to ensure its longevity.

Applications Of The Schoeps CMXY 4V

The Schoeps CMXY 4V works amazingly well as an XY pair. It can be apllied near or far from an intended sound source to capture a stereo image.

When close-miking with the CMXY 4V, common sound sources include strings instruments and piano.

Industry Standardization Of The Schoeps CMXY 4V

The Schoeps CMXY 4V is an excellent microphone but not necessarily an industry standard.

Sound Quality Of The Schoeps CMXY 4V

The Schopes CMXY 4V, like all Schoeps microphones, is of high-quality and of high sound quality. It captures a very realistic stereo image.

Link to check the price of the Schoeps CMXY 4V at B&H.

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48. Sennheiser MKH 418-S

The Sennheiser MKH 418-A deserves a spot on this list as the best mid-side stereo microphone.

The Sennheiser MKH 418-S is a stereo mic that is setup to capture mid-side stereo audio. Its mid RF condenser microphone is supercardioid (shotgun pattern with the interference tube) while its side microphone is a dual-diaphragm RF bidirectional condenser capsule.

Sennheiser MKH 418-S
  • Debut year: 1998
  • Capsule: Custom Mid (supercardioid) and Side (figure-8)
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom bipolar transformers
  • Polar patterns: 
    M: super-cardioid/lobar
    S: figure-of-eight
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: 
    M: 25 mV/Pa (-32 dBV)
    S: 10 mV/Pa (-40 dBV)
  • Output impedance: < 25 Ω
  • Self-noise: 
    M: 14 dBA (26 dB)
    S: 22 dBA (34 dB)
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 130 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Sennheiser MKH 418-S

The Sennheiser MKH 418-S has become a fairly popular microphone in the film, television, and ever radio industries.

It’s a popular choice because of its clean directional sound in mono shotgun mode and for its versatility in being able to switch to a stereo microphone at any time.

Durability/Longevity Of The Sennheiser MKH 418-S

RF condensers are very resilient to harsh weather, humidity, and temperature changes. The MKH 418-S in an RF condenser that has great durability and longevity.

Applications Of The Sennheiser MKH 418-S

The Sennheiser MKH 418-S is a go-to in film, radio, television and reporting, both indoors and outdoors. It sounds great in mono shotgun mode and in mid-side stereo mode.

Industry Standardization Of The Sennheiser MKH 418-S

The Sennheiser MKH 418-S has become an industry standard in the film, radio, and television industries. Its versatility allows it to be used a regular shotgun mic (which is typical) and as a mid-side stereo mic if need be.

Sound Quality Of The Sennheiser MKH 418-S

The Sennheiser MKH 418-S is an RF condenser microphone, which means it has got a low self-noise and relatively high output. The output itself sound incredibly clean.

The mid mic is very directional but natural. The side mic provides a wide stereo image that can be easily collapsed to mono if need be.

Link to check the price of the Sennheiser MKG 418-S at B&H.

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49. Royer SF-24

The Royer SF-24 deserves a spot on this list as the best Blumlein pair stereo microphone.

The Royer SF-24 is an active stereo ribbon microphone and is the stereo version of the famous Royer SF-12. It features a coincident pair of bidirectional ribbon mics positioned one-on-top-of-the-other in a Blumlein pair configuration.

The active components of this ribbon microphone require phantom power but allow the microphone to be used with any quality preamp (rather than the specialty high-gain preamps many low-output ribbon mics require).

As a stereo microphone, the SF-24 is an excellent choice for capturing room sound and a full ensemble. In mono mode (with only one output connected to a preamp), the SF-24 can function like any other active ribbon microphone.

Royer SF-24
  • Debut year: 2005
  • Capsule: 2x 1.8µm corrugated aluminum ribbons
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FETs
  • Polar patterns: Blumlein stereo (2x bidirectional)
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz -15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -48 dBV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 300 Ω
  • Self-noise: 18 dB
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 130 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Royer SF-24

The Royer SF-24 is fairly popular among audio enthusiasts and music recordists. It’s a cool concept (an active stereo ribbon mic) and Royer executed its design a manufacturing perfectly.

Durability/Longevity Of The Royer SF-24

Ribbon microphones are notoriously fragile. Take good care of the Royer SF-24 and it will alst you a long time.

Applications Of The Royer SF-24

The Royer SF-24 sounds great as a room microphone and is fully capable of capturing a big, full sound of an ensemble (so long as the instruments are positions at proper distances).

Industry Standardization Of The Royer SF-24

Most audio engineers and musicians would not call the Royer SF-24 “industry standard.”

Sound Quality Of The Royer SF-24

The Royer SF-24 outputs a healthy mic-level signal, allowing for its use with most preamps.

As for the sound quality, the SF-24 sounds very natural (as many ribbon mics do). The Blumlein pair also provides an accurate stereo image of the environment in which the microphone is recording.

Link to check the price of the Royer SF-12 at Sweetwater.

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50. Crown PZM 30D

The Crown PZM makes this list as arguably the best PZM (boundary mic) ever manufactured.

Crown and AKG have both become parts of Harmon, and so this microphone may also be referred to as the AKG PZM 30D.

The Crown PZM 30D is a small-diaphragm electret PZM microphone with an omnidirectional capsule and a hemispherical polar pattern when positioned correctly against a floor or wall.

This microphone is a go-to boundary mic in the studio, stage, and television/broadcast sets.

It features a switchable frequency response (flat or rising). The latter improves speech intelligibility by boosting the presence range.

Crown PZM 30D
  • Debut year: 1990
  • Capsule: Custom electret
  • Transformer: N/A
  • Transistor: Custom FET
  • Polar pattern: Hemispherical
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity rating: -43 dBV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 240 Ω
  • Self-noise: 20 dBA
  • Maximum sound pressure level: 150 dB SPL

Popularity/Status Of The Crown PZM 30D

The Corwn PZM 30D has long been known as a go-to boundary microphone.

Durability/Longevity Of The Crown PZM 30D

The Crown PZM 30D is built to last and can withstand a bit of physicality. That being said, I wouldn’t suggest purposefully stepping on it.

Applications Of The Crown PZM 30D

The PZM 30D’s common applications include: boardroom miking (on desk); room miking (on floor or wall). Room miking includes the studio, the film sets, the broadcast arena, and the live stage.

Industry Standardization Of The Crown PZM 30D

The Crown/AKG PZM 30D is a go-to industry standard boundary microphone.

Sound Quality Of The Crown PZM 30D

The Crown PZM 30D has a consistent hemispherical polar pattern and picks up sound accurately at the boundaries of an environment without any phase issues.

Link to check the price of the Crown PZM 30D on Amazon.

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Recap

So there you have, a long list of what I believe to be the best 50 microphones ever made. This list, again, is in no particular order and is based not only on sound quality and status, but also on popularity, accessibility, durability, application, and whether or not the microphone is industry standard or not.

If you feel there should be another microphone on this list, please contact me at arthur@mynewmicrophone.com. Thanks for reading!

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