We all want good quality recording, but not everyone can afford to purchase a Neumann U87, or even an AKG C414. So, we need budget-friendly microphones that give good performance and provide good value for the money.
Below we have examples in the major categories for affordable mics that are neverthless good quality mics, meaning they result in good sound for your recordings. We set a price of $500 as maximum limit, but most mics are in the $100 to $200 range.
We have not individually tested every mic in our recommendations, but all are from reputable brands that have a history of producing good microphones. And all are believed to be good choices depending on your application.
Dynamic mics tend to be more affordable due to the nature of their construction. They also tend to be very durable and so are good choices for live on-stage use. They are good for vocals, guitar cabinets, horns, and drum mics, whether on-stage or in-studio. Just about everyone can afford the venerable Shure SM57 or SM58. And, even the Shure SM7B is within range of many budgets.
Condenser mics used to be far too expensive for recording on a budget. But in the past several years, a number of mics have come on the market that provide good performance at a good price. And the nature of condenser mics means that they generally have a more open sound and wider frequency response. Consequently, they are a good choice for virtually any source, be it vocals, accoustic instruments, strings, horn sections, or percussion.
Condenser mics require phantom power, usually 48 volts DC. So, make sure your mic preamp or mixer is capable of providing phantom power.
Ribbon mics were used to record many of those wonderful recordings from the 1940's and 1950's, with their silky smooth vocals and horn sections. So, if you like that sound character, then ribbon mics will serve you well. Yes, ribbon mics are loved for their smooth sound, but they have always been on the expensive side because their construction is tricky. Still, we have a few examples to give you the option to record with that velvet smooth sound.
Unlike condenser mics, ribbon mics do not use phantom power. In fact, phantom power can destroy them! So, make sure your mic preamp or mixer has phantom power turned off before connecting your ribbon mic.
Ribbon mics usually have a very low output signal. And, so they require a preamp that has quite a bit of gain.
It used to be that you had to go to a professional studio to record anything of high quality. The main impediment was the lack of good mic preamps. Only studios had the very expensive preamps capable of low noise, good-sounding recordings. But, for quite some time now, very affordable recording interfaces have allowed great sounding recordings to be made in home studios. Belpow are a few very affordable examples that will get you started on recording.
Interfaces come in all shapes and sizes. Your main criteria should be the number of inputs you need. For a solo singer songwriter, or podcaster, one or two inputs may suffice. But, if you are recording a whole band you may need eight inputs or more.
Every studio, large or small, needs other gear to support recording vocals, guitars and other instruments. We need mic stands, cables, sound baffles, etc. Below are good choices for starting out, or adding to your recording gear.