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Best microphone 2023: Superior audio for music recording, podcasts and vlogs

Whether you’re making music, podcasts, vlogs or just want a do-it-all microphone, we have a recommendation for every application

Whether you’re a recording artist, podcaster, blogger or vlogger, you’ll need one of the best microphones to capture the moment and present it in crystal-clear detail. While good-quality models range from under £100 to well over £2,000, we’ve focused mostly on microphones at the more affordable end of the market, but rest assured that every choice here is more than up to the task of recording the spoken word and, in most instances, capturing a captivating vocal or instrumental performance. 

A great microphone can make the difference between your recordings sounding muffled or magical. If you’re a home studio musician, a YouTube vlogger, a podcaster or regular interviewer, any of the microphones we review below will make your recordings or live stream sound more professional and pleasing to the ear.  

Read on and we’ll explain all the key things you need to know in our buying guide before listing some of our favourite tried and tested microphones on the market. 

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Best microphone: At a glance

How to choose the best microphone for you

How much do I need to spend?

If you’re a podcaster or blogger, there’s no need to spend more than £250 on a microphone. This is because anything between, say, £150 and £250 will be more than good enough to capture the spoken word in crisp detail, with little sibilance and no muddiness. You could also quite happily spend the same amount on a home studio recording mic used to capture vocals, acoustic instruments and guitars and get equally excellent results. Indeed, the only time you may actually need to spend more than £250 on a microphone is if you’re recording in a professional environment, you’re a signed recording artist or you’re just insanely talented.

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What types of microphone are there?

There are two main types of microphone design – dynamic and condenser. 

Dynamic microphones are extremely durable and are best suited to live work where there’s a lot of background noise. However, some dynamic mics are also perfect for studio recording of voices as well as a wide range of musical instruments, especially those of the louder variety, like drums, while some dynamic mics such as the Shure MV7 we review below are ideal for podcasting and vlogging.

Conversely, condenser microphones are much more sensitive than dynamic mics but also much easier to damage if dropped. This is because the diaphragms they use – the film that vibrates when introduced to noise – are large, exceedingly thin and very sensitive to even the quietest of sounds. A condenser mic also has a much wider frequency response than a dynamic mic, so it’s the perfect type of microphone to record the human voice, whether singing or talking, and most acoustic instruments. 

Also, condenser microphones are usually a bit more omni-directional than dynamic mics in the way they pick up sounds. For instance, like the shape of an inverted heart, a normal cardioid pattern condenser will still pick up sound between the ten and two o’clock position, with optimum performance when the sound source is directly in front of it. However, some more expensive models can be adjusted to pick up sounds in a full 360˚ pattern. 

Mics with an omnidirectional 360˚ polar pattern are perfect for interviewing people because the interviewer and interviewee can sit on either side of the mic instead of crowding around one side of it. They are also brilliant for capturing several singing voices at once, like a small choir or a rock group.

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Should you choose a USB or XLR microphone?

Some microphones can be connected via USB. These are the easiest for most people to use because you simply plug them into the USB port on any Mac or PC. Some can also be connected to phones or tablets via a suitable USB adapter, which is brilliant for high-quality recording on the go. 

USB microphones are essentially a microphone and audio interface rolled into one. They often have a headphone output so you can simultaneously listen to a backing track and monitor what you’re recording. If you’re recording voiceovers or podcasts, or want a simple way of recording or overdubbing vocals and instruments, then a USB microphone is a hassle-free option. 

However, when it comes to recording professionally through either a recording desk or via an audio interface, XLR is the most widely used type of microphone connection. Your audio interface will need dedicated XLR inputs, and you’ll need multiple microphones and an audio interface with multiple XLR inputs if you’re hoping to record several instruments and vocals at the same time.  

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The best microphones you can buy

1. Blue Spark SL Blackout: The best budget USB microphone

Price: £159 | Buy now from Amazon

Ideal for: Home studio recording & podcasting

And the award for most beautiful looking mic goes to… the Blue Spark SL. This bottle-shaped all-black beauty comes in its own sliding-top wooden box, complete with high-quality screw-in shock mount. 

The Spark SL is an excellent condenser microphone for capturing vocal performances with warmth and in-your-face presence. It’s not quite up there with the Aston Origin for analytical detail when recording vocals, but on the plus side the sound it reproduces is a shade more flattering – a good thing if you don’t want to hear the warts and all of your performance. 

Some users have said that the Spark SL isn’t that great for recording acoustic instruments, but we beg to differ. In our tests, this mic recorded acoustic guitar remarkably well; it sounded warm and articulate with oodles of bottom end and crisp treble that was easy on the ear.

Blue produces a wide range of both entry-level and higher-spec microphones for all types of applications, including vlogging and blogging. But this is a brilliant budget model to choose if you’re just starting out with your home-made recording studio. You won’t be disappointed.

Key specs – Type: Large condenser; Frequency range: 20Hz–20kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: Both; Dimensions: 22 x 4.5cm

2. Aston Origin: Best affordable high-end condenser mic

Price: £219 | Buy now from Gear4Music

Ideal for: Recording artists

This sterling all-British large condenser microphone is a top choice for both value and performance. By their very nature, condenser mics are delicate devices that don’t like being dropped. However, the Origin employs Aston’s unique wave-form spring headed metal casing which is said to “deform and then return to its original shape if given a heavy knock”. We’ll take that.

The Origin not only looks the part with its stressed retro-style design and mesh-knit pop filter, but its 1in “gold evaporated” capsule crucially produces a wonderfully tight, detailed, articulate and highly focused sound that captures every syllable and every breath with astounding accuracy.

In our tests, the Origin was as brilliant at capturing a vocal performance as it was recording an acoustic guitar when positioned six to eight inches away from the front of the sound hole. We have no doubt it would record other acoustic instruments such as violin, brass, woodwind and upright bass with equally impressive aplomb.

The Origin only has one polar pattern – cardioid – so it’s worth considering its larger sibling, the Spirit, which also features omni and figure-of-eight polar patterns for full 360˚ recording. On the plus side, the Origin features a high pass filter and a -10dB pad switch.

The Aston Origin can be bought solo (£185) or as a Black Bundle (£219), which includes an external pop shield and one of the easiest-to-use shock mounts in the industry. 

If you’re an established musician with your own studio and are after a high-quality large condenser microphone for recording vocals, acoustic instruments and electric guitar, this one delivers in spades.

Key specs – Type: Large condenser; Diaphragm size: One inch; Frequency range: 20Hz–20kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: Both; Dimensions: 12.5 x 5.4cm

Buy now from Gear4Music

3. Audio-Technica AT2035: Best budget XLR condenser microphone 

Price: £144 | Buy now from Amazon

Ideal for: Home studios and podcasting

For the price, this mic is a tour de force and small wonder, since Audio-Technica’s consumer mics are among the most popular in the home recording and blogging industries.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 has a standard heart-shaped cardioid pattern and is ideal for vocals – in our tests it produced a remarkably clear and precise sound with very little background noise. Although acoustic guitar admittedly sounded a little woolier when compared to the Aston and Austrian Audio mics, it still made a fair fist of our recording, sounding warmer than most while being crisp enough in the higher registers. 

Build quality is impressive throughout, and it ships with an excellent elasticated shock cradle that’s really easy to use – just push the mic firmly into it for a secure fit. The mic also comes with a simple zipped storage bag.

If you’re just starting out with your first studio or simply want a really good-sounding mic for your podcasts or vlogging, you might not find a better-value model than this keenly priced contender.

Key specs – Type: Large condenser; Frequency range: 20Hz–20kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: Both; Dimensions: 17 x 5.2cm

4. Rode NT USB: Best low-cost USB condenser mic 

Price: £139 | Buy now from Amazon

Ideal for: Podcasting, vlogging

Rode is one of the most highly regarded microphone brands in the podcasting arena, and this condenser mic is one of the company’s biggest sellers. What’s more, it’s a very decent mic for music recording, too. 

Designed to capture the spoken word or singing voice in crystal-clear detail, the Rode NT USB features a half-inch capsule and a standard frequency range of 20Hz–20kHz. Like most USB microphones, it also comes with 3.5mm headphone output with volume control and an on-board mix control, which switches between live monitoring and the sound of the part or parts you’ve just recorded. This feature is mostly useful when using the microphone to record different takes in a song.

This mic produces a warm low end that sounds natural and transparent, especially when used in close proximity. Plosives (or pops) are also kept to a minimum, especially if used with the included pop shield. To round off a very decent and keenly priced package, the Rode NT USB also ships with a great little desk tripod and a handy zipped storage bag. This is a top choice for vloggers and podcasters on a budget.

Key specs – Type: Medium condenser; Frequency range: 20Hz–20kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: No; Dimensions: 18.4 x 6.2 x 5cm

5. Shure MV7: Best dynamic USB/XLR microphone

Price: £259 | Buy now from Amazon

Ideal for: Podcasting, vlogging

If you’re looking for a tried-and-tested cardioid-pattern dynamic mic that’s tailor-made for recording podcasts and interviews all the way through to YouTube videos, look no further than this iconic stalwart.

Shure produces some of the best dynamic microphones in the music industry, specifically its SM57 and SM58 stage mics, so it’s definitely a name you can trust. The MV7 is easily one of the best podcasting mics you can buy. The fact it’s dynamic rather than condenser is no cause for concern because it’s proved itself time and time again with its warm, natural tone. 

It’s well suited to plug-and-play podcasting, too, because it can be used via USB or XLR and no phantom power is required. However, you will need to raise the input gain quite considerably with this mic and speak very closely into it to reap the biggest benefits. 

Onboard features include a brilliant sliding capacitor control to increase or decrease recording level, a 3.5mm headphone socket for direct monitoring, mic mute and a button to switch between mic gain and headphone volume. It also comes with ShurePlus Motiv desktop software that lets you adjust mic gain, EQ, compressor and limiter.

The MV7 isn’t really designed for recording music, though it could certainly double as a recording mic if budget was an issue. However, as a mic for recording or streaming the spoken word, whether it’s podcasting, gaming or vlogging, the Shure MV7 is a great choice.

Key specs – Type: Dynamic; Frequency range: 50Hz–16kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: Yes, via software; Dimensions: 16.4 x 9cm

6. Austrian Audio OC818 Studio Set: Best condenser microphone 

Price: £969 | Buy now from Thomann

Ideal for: Professional home studio use

Don’t let the high price put you off: this is one of the very best pro-spec recording microphones on the market right now. In fact, if you want a mic that’s arguably on a par with the performance and build quality of the iconic Neumann U-87 – a mic that costs about £1,500 more – this is it.

Designed by former AKG engineers – makers of the famous AKG 414 – the OC818 surely wins some kind of prize for most innovative mic on the market. Aside from its split dual capsule that allows you to record through two different XLR cables, the OC818 also features two pads, three low-cut filters and four polar patterns – cardioid, omnidirectional, figure-8 and hypercardioid.

On top of that, it also has a custom programmable polar pattern that requires an app. This app system allows you or an engineer to change the polar pattern on the mic remotely via Bluetooth. This is an absolute coup for engineers who can now change the mic’s parameters from a distance without having to walk back and forth from mixing desk to mic in order to experiment with each polar setting. What’s more, the dual XLR outputs mean you can even change the polar pattern in post-production after the recording has been completed.

As an added bonus, the Austrian Audio OC818 comes in a silver hard case with robust shock mount, a standard microphone holder and a spongy windscreen for reducing pops.

If you want to capture your voice with Neumann-like silkiness, warmth and stunning detail, this is the microphone for you. Likewise, if you want a microphone that’s capable of capturing all the nuances of an acoustic instrument performance or the raw power of a guitar amplifier, this again is the mic for you. In short, the Austrian Audio OC818 is arguably the most versatile and innovative mic on the market right now.

Key specs – Type: Large condenser; Frequency range: 20Hz–20kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid, omnidirectional, figure-8, hypercardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: Both; Dimensions: 15.7 x 6.3 x 3.5cm

Buy now from Thomann

7. AKG P170: Best budget pencil mic 

Price: £75 | Buy now from Gear4Music

Ideal for: Recording acoustic instruments

A small-diaphragm pencil mic such as the AKG P170 is ideal for recording acoustic guitar, brass and woodwind. It’s also an excellent choice for miking hi-hats or, if used as a pair, as overhead mics on a drum kit. This is because a small diagram can withstand higher sound pressure levels while offering slightly better accuracy in the lower end.

However, the P170 isn’t great as a vocal mic because the smaller diaphragm can tend to pop with loud singing, even when used from several inches away. Also, this mic doesn’t come with a shock mount. Instead, it fits a standard mic holder, which is thankfully provided.

In our tests, the P170 produced more woolly rumbles in the background, but this was likely due to the lack of an elasticated shock mount. Nevertheless, the faint background noise didn’t get in the way of our acoustic guitar recording, which sounded warmer and more direct than some of the larger diaphragm models. This is because the P170 doesn’t record as much of a room’s ambience – a good thing if your studio room hasn’t been acoustically treated in any way.

If you want to record vocals and acoustic guitar at the same time, the P170 is a perfect compliment to a large diaphragm model. Instead of using one mic to record both guitar and vocals – which is never ideal – you can position the P170 near the front of the guitar’s sound hole and sing into the larger mic. Job done.

Key specs – Type: Small condenser; Frequency range: 20Hz–20kHz; Polar patterns: Cardioid; Pad/low-cut filter: 20dB pad; Dimensions: 26 x 2.2cm

Buy now from Gear4Music

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