Ask us and the best vocal mic under £500, aren’t necessarily those with the highest price (bet that shocked you).
And that’s because while the price of condenser mics these days can indicate the sound and build quality (i.e. what you look for in a mic), it’s not necessarily an accurate indicator, especially when so-called ‘low end’ mics are becoming increasingly HQ.
In other words, telling the difference between vocal mics under £500 and those that retail for several thousands, is actually quite a task in 2022. One that only looks like it’ll become even harder in the years to come. Why?
Because in the end, an audio signal can only be so clear. So while if you were to compare today’s vast array of budget condenser mics to a top of the line Telefunken, you would notice some sort of sound difference, that gap will be a lot less than it was 5-10 years ago. So much so that many pro rappers and singers now record their hit songs using mics that cost under £500!
Therefore, is shelling out thousands on a top of the line condenser mic really worth it? In most cases, we think not. So, to prove our point, we’ve compiled what we consider to be ‘the’ best vocal mics around £500 on the market today…
The best vocal mics around £500 @ a glance…
12 of the best vocal mics around £500 (now) in 2022…
1: Rode NT2-A
Rode are a manufacturer with a reputation for engineering excellence, especially when it comes to microphones, so to not feature the NT2-A on this list would be a bit cruel. Then again, make this your vocal mic, and you’ll see why it’s worth a mention.
In fact, the moment the NT2-A hits your hands, you know it’s a vocal mic that’s built to last. The stainless steel outer is well-machined and finished in a smooth graphite, which feels matted to touch. It’s also weighty too, coming in at close to 1kg (860g to be precise) and despite the reasonable price, doesn’t feel cheap. A level of build quality that you don’t really expect from a mic that retails for under £500!
As for specs, the NT2-A isn’t no slouch, with an impressive dynamic range of 140db and a frequency range of 40Hz – 20kHz. Not only that but the NT2-A also boasts a rather useful switch, which unlike with a lot of mics on this list,allows you to alter the polar pattern (i.e. from which direction the mic receives sound). A feature that’s ideal if you’re recording in busy spaces and want to block out noise, or for combining vocals during a duet.
Out of all the condenser mics under £500, the NT2-A is arguably ‘the’ best all-rounder.
Features of the Rode NT2 A
2: Cad Audio E300S
You don’t hear a lot about Cad’s condenser mics, so we thought we’d put their E300s to the test… and we’re so glad that we did.
Staring from the outside, this large diaphragm condenser just feels ‘the business’. Unlike any other mic we tested, it’s all-metal body is covered in a rubberised coating, which makes it a real pleasure to handle. It’s solid too. Something that you’ll notice once you get the E300s in your hands, along with its overall weight. It’s heavy! Very heavy in fact, weighing in at a whopping 1kg! Although there is a reason behind that, beyond just rock-solid build quality.
Unlike the majority of condenser microphones on this list, the E300s can be powered either by phantom power, or 2x rechargeable 9v batteries. So, if you’re the type of musician who’s out and about 90% of the time, this means you can use the E300s wherever you go; with the E300s there’s no need for a plug! What’s more, all the time you are using phantom power it charges your 9v batteries!
And as for the sound of the E300s, we were also very impressed. The vocals were crisp, clear and not too bright. From our tests, we’d say they’re more leaning towards warm – another encouraging sign! Plus, opt for the Cad and you’ll also get a choice of three polar patterns (cardioid, figure 8, omnidirectional), which allows for a lot of flexibility when recording. All things considered then, the E300s is a hidden gem. But is it the best vocal mic for under £500? Potentially.
Features of theCad Audio E300s
3: Rode NT1 A
Google the “best vocal mic under £500” and no doubt the Rode NT1-A will make an appearance. And it does so for good reason, as this is hands down one of the best microphones for beginners that money can buy. Think of it as Rode’s reputation for quality bundled into an affordable package… or an NT2-A that’s been brought back to basics.
So what you get with the NT1-A is much as you’d expect. A large diaphragm condenser mic that’s made of machined stainless steel and has a good weight to it. The NT1-A tips the scales at 326g, which as you’d imagine makes it nice to handle. What’s more, the NT1-A is no slouch when it comes to sound either. In fact, it’s even earned itself the title of the “world’s quietest studio mic”, with self noise of just 5dBA!! It’s also got a reasonably flat frequency response of20Hz – 20kHz, which is almost identical to that of its bigger brother, the NT2-A. Combine this with its high sensitivity and vocals recorded through the NT1-A really do sound punchy and clean.
In terms of accessories, Rode delivers here too. So anyone who buys an NT1-A gets virtually the same kit as those who buy the more pricy NT2-A. This includes the company’s signature metal shock mount, which in testing proved itself to be worthy of the Rode name. Then there’s also a pop filter to catch those plosives, a 20ft XLR cable and even a branded dust cover. All things that suggest value and kind of make this mic, especially if bought in a bundle, ideal for any beginner.
Features of the Rode NT1-A
4: Blue Baby Bottle SL
If you’re into all things vintage, then we bet you’ll instantly fall in love with the Baby Bottle. A condenser microphone by Blue that really packs some classical swag, which no other microphone is yet to match. First impression are good then! The gold grill accented against the navy blue is something else. Much like the way the mic feels.
Despite it being significantly smaller than a lot of mics, there’s still a good amount weight to it (410g to be exact). So as you can imagine, the build quality is second to none. In fact, this mic is said to have bespoke Class-A circuitry that according to Blue, makes it one of the quietest mics in its class.
As for sound, the Baby Bottle is quite multifunctional too, however where it shines is recording singers and vocalists. Although saying that, it’s also designed to record instruments, so for a producer it’s certainly a safe bet. What’s more, the Baby Bottle also boats two vocal toys that allow you to refine your sound even further: a switchable 100 Hz high-pass filter and -20dB pad.
And if that wasn’t enough, just check out how it’s presented. While the majority of mics come in some ‘throwaway’ cardboard box (which usually ends up in the bin), the Blue Bottle comes in a cushioned wooden case, which we think makes it look like some form of rare artefact. Nevertheless, if you’re after the best vocal mic under £500, it’d definitely worth considering.
Features of the Blue Baby Bottle SL
5: Shure SM 27
If any mic on this list was to cause a Rode mic to quiver, it’d be the Shure SM 27. Why? Because not only is a solid built condenser mic that’s entirely made of metal, but it also comes with the heritage of Shure – a company that’s been producing world-class microphones since 1925! Therefore the SM 27 is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
For starters, it feels super solid in the hands, and nice weight to it at 600g. What’s more, in black this mic has an heir of stealth about it that really makes it feel like an underdog – something we’re adamant it is. Feel around the back and you’ll find a 15dB pad as well as 3 types of roll-off for the low end. Another feature you won’t perhaps notice at first glance is the shock mount, which is actually built in to the microphone itself!
And it works too, so tapping the microphone housing or your stand results in little interference. But on the topic of sound, that’s this mic’s real party piece. Unlike a lot of condensers, which can sound overly bright and a bit tinny, the SM 27 in our opinion gets it spot on. The vocals have a nice smooth bass to them, which really encourages you to get all up in the grill. So much so that you may have to wipe it, and as you do you may also see a slight shimmer. That’s because the diaphragm is coated in a thin layer of 24 carat gold… yes, gold!
Oh, and it comes with a cute gig bag too.
Features of theShure SM 27
6: AKG C214
This large diaphragm condenser mic best be at least on your radar when searching for the best vocal mic under £500. Reason? This mic’s part of what is quite a package, in which you receive a lightweight mic that clocks in at just 290g! And yet the body is fully metal, including the grill. But that’s only the start…
Choose the C214 and that’s not the only metal you’ll be receiving. Aside from a sturdy shock mount, you’ll also receive a hardshell storage case. Something that few other mics can boast! All of which makes the C214 ideal if you’re a touring musician, or just have a habit of dropping things. Couple that with stylish foam windscreen, which we prefer opposed to a pop filter, and you really do get a lot for your money.
Then go onto examine the mic even further and you’ll see that it’s not just a plain condenser. Aside from a full sounding microphone, you also get a high pass filter as well as a -20db pad. Toys that can really help you accentuate your sound. And on the topic of sound, this mic also does a decent job at eliminating background noise too, and can also be used to record live instruments. We found that electric guitar sounds really good through this mic! So on a whole, the C214 does tick a lot of boxes
Features of theAKG C214
7: Blue Bluebird
If you were a fan of the Baby Bottle (above), but not so much its price tag, then the Bluebird may be just what you’re after. A slightly more affordable, slimmed down version of the Baby Bottle, which comes with many of the same features. Although there are a few notable differences.
The first that you’ll notice as you notice as you coax it out of its wooden case, is its weight. At 455g, the Bluebird is 45g heavier than the Baby Bottle, but yet the build quality remains much the same – excellent. The Bluebird is still encased in a metal housing and in terms of design, embodies the same retro quirkiness too. On the front you’ll also find a high pass filter, as well as a -20dB switch just like you find on the Baby Bottle. In fact, the only real difference that we could see, besides the weight and colour obviously, is the change in sound.
Ask us and the sound of the Bluebird is slightly more bright than that of the Baby Bottle. And yet, despite the change in tone, you can still tell just by the sound alone that it’s a Blue microphone – while the brightness alters, it still manages to retain that unique tone that’s bespoke to virtually all Blue microphones.
In our testing, we found that the Bluebird really complimented high-pitched voices, as well as an aggressive delivery. But regardless of how you’re using the Bluebird, if you’re looking for the best vocal mics under £500, it or it’s bigger brother need to be part of the conversation.
Features of theBlue Bluebird
8: Audio-Technica AT2020
If price is high on your agenda, then the AT2020 may be right up your street. And that’s because for a lot less than £500, you get the microphone as well as a few added extras including a leather pouch. Yes, the quality may not be up to the same rigorous standard as a Rode mic, but that’s not to say it doesn’t feel solid – it does. All 345g of the AT2020 feel good to hold and that blacked out metal body and grill does give it a rather stealthy look.
What’s more, this mic has a very positive reputation online, so you could say it’s the mic of the people. A budget condenser that doesn’t break the bank. As for the actual sound, it’s bright but that does mean that the high frequencies can be troublesome. So if you do purchase this mic, we’d recommend investing in a pop filter or foam shield to numb those harsh plosives. However with that being said, the frequency response is much the same as the majority of mics on this list,20Hz – 20kHz, and the dynamic range is pretty darn wide. So for a beginner on a budget, the AT2020 is still pretty much a steal and offers unrivalled value at its pricepoint.
Features of theAudio-Technica AT2020
9: AKG P420
Just after a durable condenser mic and not really bothered about brand heritage or small differences in sound? If so, then the AKG P420 may be all the mic you really need. Why? Because this condenser’s pretty much got all the quirks and features of its rivals, only it perhaps doesn’t execute them with the same anal attention for detail. Therefore, in terms of value the P420 is hard to beat, especially if you’re a beginner!
The all-metal construction is solid, well built and there’s no give in the metal mesh grill. Something you’d expect from a lot of mics at this price point. And as for weight, you’d could call this a mid-weight mic as at 530g it’s fairly heavy, although it’s not too much that it’ll cause your boom arm to droop. What’s more, this condenser even comes with a rather swanky hardshell storage case, as well as metal shock mount. You really do get a lot of kit for the money!
That theme continues when you get to the actual sound, which is surprisingly warm in tone. But saying that, don’t expect it to compare to that of a Rode or Shure mic. If you’re after pro levels of recording quality, then the P420 is likely a bit ‘bargain basement’ for you. However, that doesn’t stop it from packing a lot of features. There’s a high pass filter, bass roll-off switch and even a -20dB pad, as well as the option of 3 polar patterns (cardioid, figure 8, omnidirectional)! So for those looking for a starter mic, the P420 couldn’t be more bang on!
Features of theAKG P420
One of the most compact vocal mics around the £500 mark
10: Rode M5 (Matched Pair)
If form factor is what you’re after in a vocal mic, then Rode has you covered. Their M5 pencil microphone is a great go-between if you’re after a mic that works well for vocals, but isn’t all that bulky.
Now, just to be clear pencil microphones (like the M5) aren’t primarily intended for singing per se. They’re more a HQ version of a shotgun microphone that’s best use is for either podcasting, making YouTube videos or sampling musical instruments. However, pencil mics like the M5 do a fantastic job of diffusing out any unnecessary background noise. Their polar pattern is very narrow.
In which case, if you’re performing in a wild environment or somewhere that’s rich in reverb, then the M5 could well be a better option than your traditional condenser. That’s because despite its size, this mic really does pack a punch. Not only does it have a healthy frequency range of20Hz – 20kHz, but it’s also built like a tank. A trend you’ll come across with a lot of pocket-sized vocal mics.
So much so that in terms of build, you could even go as far as to say that the M5 is on part with those costing 2,3,4 – maybe even 5 times as much. Think of them as Rode’s equivalent of a Telefunken C-12, only it won’t set you back close to £10k!! And yet, despite the quality of the build, Rode even include a protective zip pouch & carry case as part of the price. Generous if you ask us & exactly why if we were in need of a portable pocket condenser, we’d choose the M5 every day of the week.
Features of theRode M5 pencil microphone
Not a fan of condensers? Here’s the best USB vocal mic around £500
11: Blue Yeti X
When it comes to the best USB vocal mic, (for us) the Blue Yeti X takes her crown. Yes, it’s not going to give you the level of clarity you’d expect from a condenser. But if you’re just after a cheap vocal mic – perhaps for podcasting or YouTube – then the Yeti could be all you need.
This version (the X) is the creme de la creme of the Yeti range. So if you’ve tried the original Yeti and wasn’t all that impressed, then you need to at the very least, give the X a chance. In fact, if you’re a Yeti hater and abandon your prejudices, we think you’ll actually warm to like the Yeti X. Believe us when we say, we weren’t by any means fans of the original Yeti. But have since developed a soft spot for the X. Here’s why…
Rather surprisingly, it has the same frequency as the Rode NT5 above (20Hz-20kHz). And also, as a microphone, it feels far better in terms of build. There’s a robustness to the X that the original Yeti didn’t seem to have. However, the most noticeable difference is functionality. With Blue Microphones now being owned by Logitech, the Yeti X comes with a whole host of new features.
The most impressive for us, was access to Blue Voice. A piece of software that works very much like a DAW, by allowing you to tune the microphone to your voice. But that’s just the start. The Yeti X also offers you not one, not two, not three, but four polar patterns (cardioid, omnidirectional, stereo, bidirectional). Rare for a USB mic. Speaking of which, so is the clarity that you can achieve with this mic.
Unlike the original Yeti, which only allowed you to record at 16bit, with the Yeti X that’s been ramped up to 24bit! Something that’s no doubt to the Yeti X having 4 mic capsules, opposed to the original 3. All of which suddenly make the Yeti appear far more like a serious contender, than a wacky USB wildcard. In other words, potentially worth buying.
Features of theBlue Yeti X
The best vocal mic starter kit for around £500 (ideal for beginners)
12: Rode NT1 studio kit
If you’ve got a strict budget of just £500, then Rode have made things super easy for you. Simply because the NT1 is arguably the best budget Rode mic you can buy. And yet, you can get it complete with shock mount, XLR cable and a pop filter, all for not much more than you’d pay for the mic itself! In fact, at the time of writing this review, we found it to be even cheaper!! Just saying…
As for the NT1 however, this is a mic that does a lot towards helping you achieve a natural sound. Audio from this mic is flat. So much so that when it comes post production, it’s far more malleable than you get with brighter sounding mics like the NT1-A. You’ll find the high end is accentuated a lot less with the NT1. Hence why it’s often referred to as a blank slate. The Nt1 suits SO many people’s voices, so be you a singer or rapper, you can be confident this vocal mic will deliver.
What’s more, in terms of build, we’d say the NT1 feels more premium than other ‘kit rivals’ too. If you haven’t already gathered, Rode really do go the extra mile when it comes to build quality. The mic housing is all made out of metal and even the accessories feel super rugged. We’re particular fans of the shock mount you get with the NT1.
So really then, it’s no surprise that upon release, the NT1 was dubbed as the “game-changing mic”. Because it just is. And when it comes to vocal mics (even today), we’d say you’d be mistaken for thinking that it doesn’t have the edge. So, does that make the Rode NT1 studio kit the best vocal mic bundle you can get? We think so.
Features of theRode NT1 studio bundle
Budget bigger than £500? Consider this…
BONUS: Neumann TLM 102
When it comes to iconic vocal microphones, you can’t get much more impressive than Neumann. A company renowned for making some of the best mics in the business – a claim that their back catalogue really does prove. The likes of Bing Crosby, The Beatles and even Frank Sinatra recorded on Neumann mics! So as you’d expect, the TLM 102 is no slouch.
When it comes to sound, it’s arguably one of the best in this category. Aside from having low self noise and a slight treble boost for a brighter sound, this vocal mic’s party piece is how it handles SPLs. The TLM 102 handles even the most extreme SPLs without any distortion! All of which mean sound quality really is top notch.
It’s smooth in the low end and not too harsh at the high end either. And as for eliminating background noise, this vocal mic’s pretty much a ‘know it all’ at that too. In our testing we hardly picked up any whatsoever. Couple this with Neumann’s supreme build quality and the TLM 102 really is proof that you can’t go wrong with a Neumann mic.
Features of the Neumann TLM 102
What is the best vocal mic around £500? Our Editor’s choice
If we were judging this purely on sound and build quality, then we’d hands-down say the Neumann TLM 102. However because price is a big reason why you’re reading this blog, we’re actually going to take a bit of a U-turn. And that’s because for the everyday consumer, the TLM 102 is actually quite hard to justify.
Yes, we believe it has the clearest sound out of all the mics on this list. It’s also got a lot of heritage behind it, as well as famous names to back it up. But really if you compare the Neumann with something like a Rode microphone (the NT2-A for example), to the everyday ear there’s very little difference. And is that difference worth double, or sometimes triple the price? To most of you, we think not.
Hence why we’d encourage you to save your money and opt for a vocal mic that’s made by Rode, or if you’re more of the ‘on the go’ musician, the Cad E300s with it’s rechargeable quirks. Either are strong alternatives to a high-end condenser, yet deliver all the features you really need from a mic, and in the case of the Cad, even more!
So really the choice is yours – follow the masses and buy the…
Rode NT2-A – Best All-Round Vocal Mic For Around £500
or opt for the plucky underdog and invest in the…
CAD E300s – Biggest Surprise
But whichever way you sway, or however you’re looking to record vocals, rest assured you’ll be in possession of one of the best mics for under £500. Ask us and that’s worth a celebration… pop the champers!
Thinking of buying one of the best vocal mics for under £500, but looking for other kit too? Be sure to keep up with all our latest gossip around Vocals and Music Studio Kit. Equally, be sure to check out our comprehensive reviews of the Best Microphone Stands, as well as the Best Microphone Boom Arms too.
Or, if you’ve got a burning question about the best vocal mics, keep reading for yet more insight into the microphones and just how much they can enhance your vocals…