Top 11 Best Solid-State/FET Condenser Microphones In 2020


Since the introduction of the first solid-state condenser microphone in 1964 (the Schoeps CMT 20), microphone manufacturers across the world have adopted tubeless microphone designs and produced solid-state FET condenser microphones. Many mics have been sent to market since the mid-60s and in this article, we’ll talk about the best solid-state condenser on the market today.

So what are the top 11 best solid-state/FET condenser microphones on the market? Let’s split this 11 into the best 6 large-diaphragm and top 5 small-diaphragm condenser mics:

Top 6 Best Large-Diaphragm Solid-State Condenser Microphones

Top 5 Best Small-Diaphragm Solid-State Condenser Microphones

In this article, we’ll discuss the condenser microphone in a bit more detail along with the criteria that make up a great solid-state condenser mic. Finally, we’ll go through each of the listed microphones in detail to better inform and serve you, the reader.

For a more budget-friendly list of the best condenser microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

• 11 Best Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $500
• 11 Best Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $500
• 11 Best Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $1000

CLICK HERE TO JUMP AHEAD TO THE TOP 5 BEST LARGE-DIAPHRAGM SOLID-STATE/FET CONDENSER MICROPHONES

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What Is A Solid-State/FET Condenser Microphone?

A solid-state/FET (field-effect transistor) condenser microphone is a condenser mic that utilizes solid-state circuitry and a transistor-based impedance converter.

Before the invention of the transistor, the condenser microphone design relied on a vacuum tube amplifier to convert the capsule signal impedance and amplify the signal for the mic’s output. Transistor technology is capable of filling the same role as the vacuum tube and provides a cheaper, smaller and cleaner alternative.

In fact, transistors have largely replaced vacuum tubes in the vast majority of electronic devices. Audio gear, including microphones, is one field where tubes are still utilized for their characteristic “tube sound.”

To learn about my opinion on the best tube condenser microphones, check out My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Tube Condenser Microphones On The Market.

Back to solid-state condensers.

The condenser capsule is the transducer element of the microphone that converts sound waves (mechanical wave energy) into audio signals (electrical energy). This capsule works via electrostatic principles and is essentially set up as a parallel-plate capacitor.

In order to function properly, the capacitor must hold a fixed electrical charge across its plates. Therefore, the capsule is designed to have an incredibly high electrical impedance.

The [solid-state] FET acts as the impedance converter and internal amplifier of the microphone. The FET effectively uses the high-impedance capsule signal to modulate a stronger, lower-impedance signal which ultimately becomes the microphone’s output.

So the two components (capsule and FET) together allow solid-state condenser mics to function properly.

FET condenser microphones are relatively inexpensive compared to their tube counterparts. High-end solid-state condenser mics, as we’ll discuss in the article, are some of the cleanest, most accurate microphones on the market today.

The condenser capsule typically reacts very precisely to the sound waves around it. A quality FET and output circuit (or transformer) are capable of amplifying the capsule’s signal with clarity and efficiency.


What Makes A Great Solid-State/FET Condenser Microphone?

It’s important to note before we get into this section that each and every microphone model will have a different character.

A great FET condenser microphone can have as much character and colour as a vintage tube mic or it can be as clean and accurate as a measurement microphone (in fact, practically all measurement mics are solid-state condensers).

Conversely, cheap solid-state condenser microphones often suffer from a harsh top-end and thin body. These mics generally fail at providing us with the high-quality results we look for in a great condenser mic.

So what factors make a great solid-state condenser microphone? Well, it depends on the sound you’re trying to achieve and which applications the microphone will be used for. However, in general, the following factors make a great FET condenser:

  • Wide frequency response.
  • Accurate transient response.
  • High sensitivity.
  • Low self-noise.
  • Versatility.

Wide Frequency Response

A wide frequency response means the microphone will be sensitive to most, if not all, of the audible frequency spectrum.

The audible frequency spectrum is universally accepted to be 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz (cycle/second). Having a microphone that is capable of capturing and reproducing these frequencies as audio is important if we’re after clear and concise audio.

To further that point, it’s also important for a microphone to not overproduce or underproduce any particular frequency band by a significant amount. Having a relatively flat frequency response curve is critical unless we’re after a coloured sound that accentuates certain bands.

Of course, a perfectly flat curve isn’t always best. Having some variation in frequency-specific sensitivity gives a microphone character and makes it better suited to certain sound sources.

To learn more about microphone frequency, check out my articles Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples) and What Are Coloured And Flat Microphone Frequency Responses?

Accurate Transient Response

Condenser microphone capsules are cherished for their fast and accurate transient responses. The “cleanliness” of the typical high-quality FET maintains this transient response without overly affecting the dynamics of the audio signal (unlike a vacuum tube).

That makes high-end FET condensers very accurate. When combined with higher sensitivity, a condenser microphone will effectively capture the subtle nuances in a sound source.

Something to watch out for with cheaper condenser microphones is overshoot. Overshoot happens when a transient sound reaches the diaphragm and the diaphragm moves too quickly, coming back to centre position (and beyond) due to mechanical limitations before the sound wave would naturally cause the diaphragm to move back.

This causes a non-linear and distorted signal with an unnatural transient.

A deeper explanation of microphone transient response is available in my article What Is Microphone Transient Response & Why Is It Important?

Low Self-Noise

As the name suggests, self-noise is the inherent noise within a mic signal. In condenser microphones, this is mostly due to the active components in the amplifier circuit.

A low self-noise means a better signal-to-noise ratio and a greater dynamic range. It also means the mic will be more sensitive to the quietest, most subtle changes in a sound wave.

Too much noise in a recording can be distracting to the listener. Fortunately, transistor-based circuit designs can be very, very quiet.

For more information on microphone self-noise, check out my article What Is Microphone Self-Noise? (Equivalent Noise Level).

High Sensitivity

Condenser microphones are known for their sensitivity. A great FET condenser is sensitive to the nuances of sound and also has a high sensitivity rating.

The sensitivity to sound is due to the frequency and transient response and the low self-noise of the microphone. These factors allow the microphone to pick up and output the smallest details in a sound source. Of course, this makes condenser microphones shine in studio conditions but may cause issues in less-than-ideal and noisy environments.

A high sensitivity rating simply means that the microphone will output a strong mic signal at a given sound pressure level. This is due to the FET amplifier circuit in the microphone. A high sensitivity rating means less reliance on a mic preamp for gain and, therefore, more consistency in the microphone’s performance.

To learn more about the microphone sensitivity rating, check out my articles What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description and What Is A Good Microphone Sensitivity Rating?

Versatility

Versatility is not critical to performance but it makes a condenser microphone that much more usable inside and out of the studio.

Versatility in a solid-state condenser could mean any of the following:

  • Multiple switchable polar patterns.
  • High-pass filters.
  • Passive attenuation devices.
  • Alternate circuit paths.

To learn more about the aforementioned versatility factors, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

• The Complete Guide To Microphone Polar Patterns
• What Is A Microphone High-Pass Filter And Why Use One?
• What Is A Microphone Attenuation Pad And What Does It Do?


Differences Between Large-Diaphragm And Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones

The biggest difference between LDCs and SDCs is the size of the diaphragm. LDCs typically have a diaphragm diameter on an inch or more while SDCs typically have a diameter of half an inch or less. Of course, there is a grey area here but this is usually the case.

The noteworthy differences that come with having a different size diaphragm are posted in the table below:

 Small-Diaphragm Condenser MicrophonesLarge-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
Diaphragm Size1/2" (12.7 mm) or less1" (25.4 mm) or more
Transient ResponseMore accurateLess accurate
Frequency ResponseFlatter and more extendedMore coloured especially in the high-end
Address TypeTop or sideTypically side
Polar PatternsAny polar pattern. Very consistentAny polar pattern. Less consistent
SensitivityHighHigh
Self-NoiseMoreLess
PriceCheap to very expensiveInexpensive to very expensive

For a detailed article on the differences between LDCs and SDCs, check out My New Microphone’s Large-Diaphragm Vs. Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones.


A Few Extra Notes

Before we begin, I need to mention that this list excludes the following mic types even though many of the mics within the types are technically solid-state condensers:

  • Stereo microphones.
  • Digital microphones.
  • Lavalier/lapel microphones.
  • Shotgun microphones.

This list includes both small-diaphragm and large-diaphragm solid-state condenser microphones. The mics on this list have selected partly from my opinion and experience in the audio industry; partly from product research and forum discussions, and partly from asking my fellow audio technicians and mentors.

That being said, this list is ultimately my opinion. I’ve done my best to present you with the best FET condenser mics rather than a top 10 for quick affiliate sales. I have, however, included affiliate links that would result in a commission paid to me at no extra cost to you if you decide to buy through these links.


Top 6 Best Large-Diaphragm Solid-State Condenser Microphones

My New Microphone’s top 6 best large-diaphragm solid-state condenser microphones are:


Neumann U 47 FET

The Neumann U 47 FET (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is Neumann’s FET version of its successful U 47 tube microphone. It is said that the FET version came after the VF14 tube of the original U 47 became unavailable.

The U 47 FET was first introduced in 1972 and production ran until 1986. In 2014, Neumann began producing this microphone once again under the Neumann U47 FET Collectors Edition. This re-release is meticulously reproduced from the same components of the U 47 FET and shares the same design as the most recent, 1986 version. It is phantom-powered.

Neumann U 47 FET

The vintage sound of the new U 47 FET brings us back to the 1970s when the first edition was a wildly popular studio microphone.

Neumann’s U 47 FET is designed around the famous K47 capsule: a 34 mm capsule with a single brass backplate and two diaphragms made of 6-micron Mylar. To achieve the single cardioid pattern, the front diaphragm is gold-sputtered and center-terminated while the rear diaphragm is non-metallized and unterminated.

This microphone’s polar pattern is defined as cardioid, though the polar response graph shows a pattern that resembles the more-directional supercardioid pattern. The U 47 FET is a single pattern microphone, though the original U 47 tube mic, which was the first-ever multi-pattern mic, had a switch between cardioid and omnidirectional.

The U 47 FET has a smooth vintage character and is described as having a smooth top-end, lush midrange and an exceptionally clear low-end. From vocals to kick drums; loud guitar cabinets to quiet acoustic instruments, the U 47 FET delivers a clean and present reproduction of the sound in its audio signal.

On paper, the specs of the U 47 FET may seem worse than the other microphones on this list. However, rest assured that these seemingly “bad” ratings are actually part of the mic’s “vintage sound” and are a product of the warm, present tone of the U 47 FET:

  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 16,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 8 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 18 dBA (25 dB)

This microphone features a few switchable options. At the bottom of the microphone, near the XLR output connector, there is a high-pass filter switch that engages an HPF at 140 Hz. Right next to is a switch for a 10 dB pad.

A third switch, also found at the bottom of the mic, reduces the output signal by 6 dB without altering the signal in the bulk of the mic’s circuitry. This switch is mainly to prevent preamp overloading.

The microphone has a built-in swivel arm that serves as a hard mount to make it easy to attach the mic to a stand and make adjustments on the fly. Unfortunately, this mount does not provide mechanical isolation as a proper shock mount would.

The Neumann U 47 FET comes in a wooden storage case.

At its price point, I’d recommend this microphone as a multi-purpose large-diaphragm condenser in the professional music studio.

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

The original Neumann U 47 is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)

• Top 11 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals


Neumann U 87 Ai

The Neumann U 87 Ai (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video and/or Amazon) is yet another incredible reissue from Neumann. The Ai version (introduced in 1986) is the latest version of Neumann’s U 87 condenser microphone which was originally released in 1967 as a solid-state version of the legendary U 67 tube condenser.

The Neumann U 87 Ai is a large-diaphragm multi-pattern condenser microphone. It is an excellent choice as a primary studio vocal microphone and as a secondary instrument microphone in many cases.

Neumann U 87 Ai

Let’s start our discussion with the U 87 Ai’s K67 capsule. The version of the capsule used in the 87 has two backplates and two 26 mm centre-terminated gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragms.

This capsule has a fairly flat frequency response across all polar patterns and is highly accurate in terms of its transient response. The dual-diaphragm design yields three optional polar patterns in the U 87 Ai (cardioid, bidirectional and omnidirectional). The pattern switch is found just below the head grille on the front side of the mic.

Some adjectives used to describe the classic sound of the U 87 Ai are smooth and refined. Other, more critical words include bright and sterile. Like any microphone, it really depends on the sound source, environment and preamps.

The high-end of the U 87 Ai is well-represented and suits voiceover very well. It also sounds great on deeper singing voices but may be a bit too shiny for higher vocals.

Though best-known as a vocal mic, the versatility of the U 87 Ai makes it a great choice on many other instruments in the studio.

Regardless of the critics or the fanatics, the U 87 Ai is one of the most recognizable studio microphones out there and is a beacon of professionalism in any studio.

The self-noise is perhaps a bit high for this microphone but typically doesn’t pose any real-world issues under normal circumstances. The wide frequency response, accurate transient response, and sensitivity of the versatile mic, however, are right on the money. Let’s have a peek at the stats here:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:
    20/28/22 mV/Pa ± 1 dB (Omni/cardioid/figure-8)
  • Self-noise:
    15/12/14 dB-A (Omni/cardioid/figure-8)
    26/23/25 dB (Omni/cardioid/figure-8)

With a relatively low maximum sound pressure level of 117 dB SPL (for 0.5% THD), the U 87 Ai is fairly easy to overload. Though the FET circuit does sound nice when pushed a little bit, I would recommend staying below the max SPL. The FET amplifier just doesn’t saturate quite like a tube and can cause non-linear and unwanted results.

Fortunately, the U 87 has a 10 dB pad to increase the max SPL to 127 dB SPL. The switch for the pad is found just below the head grille on the backside of the mic.

Also on the backside just below the head grille is a high-pass filter switch. This switch helps to reduce the proximity effect of the microphone in cardioid and bidirectional mode. The HPF is actually quite thinning and is best used to mitigate proximity effect when close-miking rather than for ridding of low-end rumble.

The U 87 Ai comes in its own custom padded wooden box. For an additional cost, Neumann will ship it with its EA 87 Shock Mount. This shock mount effectively holds the mic in place while mechanically isolating it from the attached mic stand. Note that the EA 87 does have the tendency to sag over time and should be properly cared for. This included storing it away properly when the mic is not in use.

The original Neumann U 87 and the U 87 AI are featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)

• Top 11 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals


AKG C 414

The AKG C 414 family of microphones has been around since 1971 with the introduction of the original AKG C 414. Nearly a dozen C 414 models have been introduced to the market.

Today there are two modern C 414s on the market. They are:

AKG C 414 XLS (left) & AKG C 414 XLII (right)

The major difference between the two microphones is the presence boost just above 3 kHz in the XLII. This model produces a slightly more open high-end and naturally accentuates vocal intelligibility. Aesthetically, the XLS has a silver grille mesh and lettering while the XLII has a gold grille mesh and lettering.

Other than the slight difference in circuitry, frequency response, and colour, these mics are nearly the same and so we’ll discuss them as one in this section.

AKG’s C 414s are built around its legendary CK12 capsule. This gold-sputtered dual-diaphragm dual-backplate capsule yields breathtakingly accurate frequency and transient responses and allows for a whopping 9 selectable polar patterns in each of the new models.

These polar patterns include omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid, figure-8 and 4 intermediary patterns between each of the sequential patterns just listed.

These patterns are adjustable by a two-way button on the front of the microphone. The selected pattern is shown via an LED indicator above the pattern legend.

The new C 414s are among the most versatile microphones on the market. Along with the 9-selectable polar patterns, the C 414s also have 4-way switches for pads and high-pass filters. These buttons are found on the backside of the microphone and their positions are also indicated by LEDs.

Note that the LEDs are a nifty feature but can make hiding these mics in film applications more difficult.

The pad options:

  • Off
  • 6 dB
  • 12 dB
  • 18 dB

The high-pass filter options:

  • None
  • 40 Hz (-12 dB/octave)
  • 80 Hz (-12 dB/octave)
  • 160 Hz (-6 dB/octave)

With these options, either of the C 414s could easily be the most versatile microphone in any given mic locker.

As for the key specs, both models exhibit the following:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz across all patterns
  • Sensitivity: 20 mV/Pa across all patterns
  • Self-noise: 6 dBA across all patterns

The modernized components in these mics have allowed AKG to keep much of the classic sound of the older C 414 models while improving efficiency and longevity, and reducing the price point to a more affordable range.

I would highly recommend getting a pair of either of these new C 414 models for both project and professional studios alike. They sound incredible on vocals, strings, piano, drum overheads, room mics. You name it, and the AKG C 414 XLS and/or XLII are sure to perform!

Both mics come with the following accessories:

  • AKG H 85 shock mount
  • AKG PF 80 pop filter
  • AKG W 414 foam windscreen
  • Aluminum carrying case.

The shock mount is very effective at holding the microphone still while providing adequate mechanical isolation between the mic and the mic stand.

The PF 80 is a quality pop filter that aids tremendously in reducing plosives during vocal recordings.

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

The AKG C 414 is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)

• Top 11 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals


Neumann TLM 170 R

The Neumann TLM 170 R (link to check the price on Amazon and/or B&H Photo/Video) is a large-diaphragm multi-pattern FET condenser microphone with a transformerless output circuit.

The TLM 170 was actually the first microphone Neumann produced in its TLM (transformerless) microphone series. It set the bar high for the high dynamic range, low-noise microphones to come.

Speaking of the TLM series, I was originally going to add the Neumann TLM 103 to this list as I am far more familiar with it and it seems to be a much more popular microphone. However, after some more digging, I’ve found that the TLM 170 R is likely a better, though more expensive, solid-state condenser microphone. That being said, I still recommend the TLM 103 (link to check the price at B7H Photo/Video and/or Amazon) as a superb microphone.

Neumann TLM 170 R

Neumann’s TLM 170 R is built around the K89 dual-diaphragm capsule. This capsule offers everything we’d want in a high-end condenser microphone: multiple patterns; a smooth frequency response across all patterns, and a fast and accurate transient response.

Even the diffuse field response remains uncolored for all polar patterns, which allows the 170 R to shine in orchestral and big band settings as well as in reverberant environments when utilized as a room mic.

As for polar patterns, the 170 R has 5 selectable patterns (omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure-8) which are controlled via a rotary switch on the backside of the microphone.

Alternatively, these patterns may be selected via Neumann’s N 248 power supply unit. This unit provides full phantom power to the TLM 170 R and also has a dial to switch polar pattern. Simply set the microphone’s dial to “R” and you’ll be able to change the polar pattern remotely.

Of course, you don’t need the N 248 to power the 170 R. The microphone runs on +48 V phantom power. The PSU is useful, however, if you either can’t supply the full 48 from your preamp or if you need to be able to switch polar patterns remotely.

Speaking of switches, the TLM 170 R also features a 10 dB pad and a low-cut filter (at 100 Hz). These switches are located near the bottom of the mic on it rear side.

The TLM 170 R excels in orchestral applications as both a room/distant mic and as a spot/close mic. Its natural response, transparency, and high dynamic range of 130 dB is perfectly suited for these types of big arrangement applications.

This microphone also performs incredibly well as a vocal and voiceover mic, capturing the human voice in full, natural detail with clean transparency that really represents the voice well.

Let’s have a look at the key specifications:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz across all patterns
  • Sensitivity: 8 mV/Pa ± 1 dB across all patterns
  • Self-noise: 14 dBA (26 dB) across all patterns

Like the U 47 FET, the TLM 170 R may not have the best specs on paper, but the sound quality that this microphone produces makes these specs sound incredible. A self-noise of 14 dBA may seem high but is barely noticeable in the context of a mix, anyway.

This versatile microphone ships with its custom swivel-type mount and a custom padded wooden storage box.

Neumann offers the EA 170 shock mount for improved mechanical isolation at an additional cost.


Audio-Technica AT5040

The Audio-Technica AT5040 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video and/or Amazon) is the flagship microphone from Audio-Technica’s successful 50 Series of studio microphones.

Audio-Technica AT5040

This microphone has a remarkable capsule. Rather than a typical cylindrical-shaped capsule, the AT5040 capsule is made of 4 separate rectangular elements designed to be flush together. Each element’s output is summed together within the microphone’s circuitry.

Each diaphragm has two smaller resonant frequencies (dependent on the length and width) rather that one larger resonance as is the case with a circular diaphragm (dependent on the circumference). This, in theory, gives the AT5040 a flatter frequency response with less need for precise tuning.

Having 4 individual elements rather that one overly large rectangular diaphragm allows for a greater transient response without losing out on sensitivity. The entire capsule is shock-mounted within the microphone.

Audio-Technica’s AT5040 is phantom powered like most solid-state condenser microphones. Its capsule elements, however, are pre-polarized electrets.

The large capsule size and design allow the AT5040 to achieve an incredibly high sensitivity rating while still having an extended frequency response and accurate transient response. Let’s have a look at the key specifications:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 56.2 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 5 dB SPL

Since the capsule is so incredibly sensitive, the transistor-based transformerless circuitry within the mic applies no gain and, therefore, no additional noise to the signal.

The result is a beautifully crisp and accurate reproduction of sound. This microphone is truly awesome. It’s not only a novelty, it’s a wonderful microphone that sounds heavenly!

Even the shock mount of the mic is extraordinary, designed as a floating C-type clamp that holds the microphone in place at the end of a mic stand whilst mechanically isolating it from handling noise and low-end rumble.

The mic comes with its custom shock mount in a foam-lined carrying case.

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


Microtech Gefell M 930

Microtech Gefell isn’t a brand we hear of too often but the Microtech Gefell M 930 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is certainly worth mentioning on this list.

This small-bodied large-diaphragm condenser microphone has a fixed cardioid polar pattern and a transformerless output circuit.

Microtech Gefell M 930

The M 930 is built with high-end transistor-based circuitry around a custom M 930 capsule. This capsule is based on the famous M7 capsule but utilizes Mylar as the diaphragm material rather than PVC. The result is a fast transient response and smooth frequency response.

The capsule is shock-mounted within the microphone to reduce mechanical noise in the mic signal. This design feature has made Gefell confident that mic only requires its stock MH 93.1 microphone holder though I would highly suggest investing in the EA 93 elastic suspension shock mount for improved isolation.

The transformerless output circuit provides high sensitivity and causes very low self-noise. With that, let’s have a look at the key stats of the M 930.

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 21 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 7 dBA (13 dB)

There are no special switches or options with the M 930. It is a straightforward cardioid condenser with a fabulous sound. Its small size combined with its small mount/holder (if you decide to use the stock mount) allows it to be placed in all sorts of positions that may be impossible for larger large-diaphragm condensers.

The Microtech Gefell M 930 is a workhorse and I’d recommend it for any mic locker (as a single or as a matched pair) whether that’s for live sound, radio broadcasting, or the studio. Its natural sound is perfect for singing, speaking, and a wide variety of instruments and other sound sources.

The Microtech Gefell M 930 comes with its MH 93.1 microphone holder and a wooden storage case.


Top 5 Best Small-Diaphragm Solid-State Condenser Microphones

My New Microphone’s Top 5 Best Small-Diaphragm Solid-State Condenser Microphones


Schoeps MK4/CMC6

First on the list of SDCs is the modular Schoeps MK 4 + CMC 6 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) which is made up of Schoeps’ CMC 6 amplifier body and its MK4 cardioid small-diaphragm capsule.

Schoeps MK4/CMC6

We’ll start with the capsule. The MK 4 is Schoeps’ best-selling capsule. It’s a single-diaphragm cardioid capsule with a notably consistent cardioid pattern across its wide frequency range.

The rear null point is excellently attenuated and the capsule remains focused down to its low-end. This focus is needed for many close-miking applications but also works well in diffuse reverberative situations as well.

Now onto the microphone amplifier. Like the MK 4, the CMC 6 is a best-seller for Schoeps in its own product category. It is a high-performance transformerless pencil condenser microphone amplifier with 20 different attachable capsules, of which the MK 4 is one.

If you’re looking for a variety of polar patterns with this microphone, consider checking out Schoeps’ other capsules here.

The CMC 6 is a capacitorless and transformerless amplifier circuit that works equally well on both +12 V and +48 V phantom power. It does very little to colour the capsule’s natural frequency response and has very low harmonic distortion and self-noise.

It acts to drop the impedance of the capsule signal and outputs a strong signal with frequency-independent impedance for better impedance matching with the microphone preamplifier of choice.

The amp circuit also works to suppress interference in the signal and keep the audio signal clean. If that wasn’t enough, the CMC 6 also filters out the frequencies just below and just above the audible frequency range to ensure no extra interference gets in the mic signal.

Let’s check out the key specifications:

  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 15 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 15 dBA

The MK 4 and CMC 6 combination is like a match made in heaven. It is often a go-to for opera singers and other trained vocalists.

Its neutral and natural character excels on essentially all sound sources whether in the studio or on the stage.

The MK 4 and CMC 6 can be bought separately or together in a bundle, as is shown in the product link I shared previously.

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

The Schoeps MK 4 with CMC 6 is featured in My New Microphone’s 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones).


DPA 4006A

The DPA 4006A (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is another modular microphone but it comes prepackaged by DPA. It is actually made of two separate components:

The MMC4006 omnidirectional electret small-diaphragm condenser capsule and the MMP-A transformerless head amplifier.

DPA 4006A

As always, we’ll start with the capsule. The MMC4006 is a pre-polarized (electret) capsule with a single diaphragm. It works on the pressure principle where only the front side of its diaphragm is open to sound waves. This yields a consistent omnidirectional polar pattern.

The MMC4006 omnidirectional capsule in astonishingly transparent. Its high-end response is accurate without the slightest harshness and the low-end is well represented.

The frequency response is flat with a slight bump in the high-end. This high-end sensitivity can be changed, particularly for off-axis and diffuse sound by attaching various grids to the end of the capsule. These grids include:

  • DD0251 Free Field Grid: for close-miking, this grid produces the flattest possible response.
  • DD0297 Diffuse Field Grid: for distance-miking, this grid produces a flat response through 15kHz. On-axis near-field, this grid causes a 6 dB boost from 10-20 kHz.
  • DD0254 Close Miking Grid: for close-miking, this grid produces a soft high-frequency roll-off.

The MMP-A mic amplifier is ultra-transparent. It acts only to boost the capsule’s already fantastic audio signal and drop its impedance for proper matching with the mic preamps of choice. It is a clean design with a transformerless output. The MMP-A does feature a 20 dB pad in case things get too loud for the mic.

Whether solo or in a stereo pair, the DPA 4006A is an optimal omnidirectional microphone. I’d suggest a pair for any professional with the extra cash.

These mics are equally excellent for concert halls and spot miking acoustical instruments; for capturing ambience or a close-up sound source. With the 4006A, you can bet the audio you capture will represent the sound in the truest way possible.

Here are the important specifications for your information:

  • Frequency response: 10 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 40 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 15 dBA

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

The DPA 4006A is featured in My New Microphone’s 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones).


Neumann KM 184

The Neumann KM 184 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video and/or Amazon) is a famous small-diaphragm pencil microphone modelled after the legendary vintage KM 84 SDC. It is the cardioid model in Neumann’s KM 180 series of transformerless pencil microphones.

Neumann KM 184

The capsule of the KM 184 is the same as its predecessor though the rear ports have a different design for a more consistent cardioid polar pattern.

This capsule is designed by Neumann and is known as the KK 84. It has a proprietary crossed-slit backplate design that incorporates a series of eight intersecting grooves rather than the typical through-holes. These slits allow for more evenly distributed sound pressure variation at the read of the diaphragm, improving the polar pattern consistency across the capsule’s very natural frequency response.

The diaphragm of the KK84 made of gold-sputtered Mylar.

Compared to the original, the 184 has a slight presence boost from 7 kHz – 15 kHz and a low-end that is slightly less represented. The new 184 sound incredible on a variety of source and its presence boost allows it to be positioned at a further distance from the source. However, some engineers prefer the old 84 due to its flatter high-end and bigger bottom-end.

All in all, though, the Neuman KM 184 is on the most popular pencil microphones on the market today for good reasons. First, it’s a Neumann microphone, which immediately tells us it’s a high-quality product. More importantly, its amazing natural and transparent sound makes it a perfect candidate for both stage and studio situations on applications ranging from classical piano to heavy metal drums and everything in between.

Let’s have a glance at the key specifications of this mic that make it a top condenser:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 15 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 13 dBA

Though a bit pricey, I’d recommend the KM 184 (especially as a matched pair) to anyone in need of a high-quality set of pencil microphones. Their sound and versatility make them excellent tools in professional and project studios alike as well as in live sound environments.

The KM 184 ships with Neumann’s WNS 100 windscreen and SG 21 bk swivel mount.

The original Neumann KM 84 (and KM 184 by relation) is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)


AKG C 451 B

The AKG C 451 B (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video and/or Amazon) is a reproduction of the original AKG C 451 C from 1969. The original was part of a best-selling modular microphone system that combined the C451 EB amp and CK1 capsule and was the first-ever FET mic from AKG. In 2001, AKG made a remake of this popular microphone as the single piece C 451 B.

AKG C 451 B

The capsule of the 451 B has identical acoustics to the modular CK-1 from the modular mic system. The new capsule is an electret (pre-polarized) design that employs a 3-micron gold-sputtered diaphragm. The diaphragm is shock-mounted to reduce handling noise in the mic signal.

This capsule produces a uniform cardioid polar pattern across the entire frequency response. Speaking of frequency response, the C 451 has a lovely high-end boost to capture the airiness of a sound source without sounding harsh or overly bright.

The frequency response can be altered by engaging one of the two high-pass filters on the mic body:

  • -12 dB/octave @ 75Hz (Via Switch)
  • -12 dB/octave @ 150Hz (Via Switch)

Another switch offers two pad options:

  • Pad: -10 dB (Via Switch)
  • Pad: -20 dB (Via Switch)

The max SPL when the 20 dB pad is engaged is 155 dB SPL. This allows the C 451 B to record any practical source in a studio without any distortion.

As for the amplifier circuit, the transistor-based transformerless design is clinically clean. This, combined with the capsule, yields a neutral sound that truly represents the sound source in question.

AKG focused in on making the design of the C 451 B very durable. The microphone excels in the studio as well as on the road. It sounds top-notch on strings, piano, and drum overheads but also shines on most other sound sources as well.

As for key specs, the C 451 B has the following:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 9 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 18 dBA

AKG includes their SA 40 stand adapter and W 90 windscreen with a new purchase of their C 451 B.

The AKG C 451 microphones are featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)
• 11 Best Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $500


Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video and/or Amazon) is last but not least on this of the top condenser microphones on the market today.

This is a small-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone with a transformer-coupled output. It is the only SDC on this list with an output transformer.

Shure SM81

Shure’s SM81 phantom-powered SDC is built with durability in mind, like each of Shure’s microphones. The longevity and recognizable sound of this microphone make it a go-to for studios (and road tours) across the world.

The capsule provides a wide frequency response and cardioid pattern that exhibits excellent rear rejection. This makes the microphone excel in live situations where high gain-before-feedback is important and in the studio when isolation of a particular sound course is required.

The transformer-coupled output of the amplifier circuit give it a noticeably smooth sound compared to the sometimes sterile sounds of transformerless mics. Low RF susceptibility is another benefit of including the transformer at the mic’s output.

To go with the smooth sound, here are the key specs of the SM81:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 5.6 mV/Pa
  • Self-noise: 16 dBA (19 dB)

In terms of versatility, the SM81 is enjoyed in many situations, on many sound sources, and with many techniques. To add to the versatility, the 81 features a 10 dB pad switch and has three selectable low-frequency responses:

  • Flat
  • 6 dB/octave roll-off
  • 18 dB/octave roll-off

These roll-offs can help to mitigate proximity effect or could be used to reduce low-end rumble and handling noise in the mic signal.

The Shure SM81 sounds awesome on a wide variety of sources but is particularly suited for acoustic instruments such as guitar, piano, and cymbals.

With each new purchase of the SM81, Shure provides a custom swivel adapter, attenuator-switch lock, foam windscreen, and carrying case.

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

The Shure SM81 is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

• 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
• 11 Best Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $500

• Top 11 Best Solid-State/FET Condenser Microphones


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


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