Do you need to make some great quality recordings but think you lack the funds for a decent microphone to do the job? Good news! We have some great value options below as we reveal the Best Budget Microphones For Every task.

When it comes to recording, capturing superior quality source material is essential as it’s much easier to work with great audio down the line when you are mixing your song. Choosing and using a good microphone is the key to this, then, and fortunately, when it comes to buying microphones these days, the quality has risen and prices have, if anything, fallen. 

Producers and musicians now have a multitude of microphone types and options for every recording task and in this feature, we break it down to reveal what we think are the best microphone options are for a variety of common live and studio situations. 

If you are not familiar with microphone types and specs we detail these and more in the first part of our Ultimate Guide To Recording here. For now, we reveal our Best Budget Microphones For Every Task over several recording scenarios: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals, drums, stereo pair (multi-instrument), podcasting, and all-around studio, with a note on piano recording at the end.

Best for acoustic guitar

If you want really budget guitar mics, then check out our ‘Best general-purpose’ mic options further down. However, these will give you even better results for just a few dollars more.

Aston Microphones Origin

It’s a bit pricier than others in this category but the Origin has some excellent features. There is a rugged design that will protect it in any of its flexible recording roles, and it also has a built-in pop shield; you’ll need to factor that in separately for most other mics. Like others here though, it performs well all around and is great for both vocals and especially acoustic guitar.

RODE NT1-A

RODE’s NT1-A has become a classic vocal microphone but is equally at home picking out the detail with acoustic guitars, delivering as it does a very non-budget, clean, and full sound. It has a warm low end, exceptional mid-range, and lovely airy top end. If you are an acoustic guitar singer-songwriter, this is the real deal.

sE Electronics 2200 A

This does break through our price ceiling but you do also get a shock mount and filter. You also get great specs: low noise, high SPL, and a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. It captures everything evenly so is not just suited to the acoustic guitar – where it excels – but vocals and other instrumentation. See also sE’s X1 A mic for a cheaper acoustic recording option. 

Sennheiser MK4

Like other mics in this category, the MK4 excels at vocals as well as guitars – these really are mics that capture the intricacies of both. The MK4 boats great specs, as you might expect as it is in the upper edges of ‘budget’, but these really do deliver the results – great, high-quality crisp, and broad acoustic guitar recordings with minimal noise. 

Best for electric guitar/instrument amp

A range of mics that will record your electric guitar amp but are also equally at home with other amplified instruments…

Audio Technica ATM510

Audio Technica can be seen to have pitched this as a competitor to the ubiquitous Shure SM57 with its price and dynamic nature. It’s a rugged, cheap, and flexible option that is equally at home sitting in front of a guitar amp as it is handling live vocal duties. A great workhorse mic you won’t mind throwing into any live situation.

sE Electronics V3 

Another cheap dynamic option and yet another mic attempting to get a slice of the SM57’s live and instrument amp recording sales. It doesn’t quite reach the lows frequency-wise, but delivers a clean and uncolored sound and is built to last and for life on the road. 

Shure SM57

Who are we to argue with the best-selling instrument mic of all time? It’s a mic that is oft-copied but remains the industry standard for close mic’ing, amp recording and is the number one mic used to record the electric guitar. It’s also the favorite of most top producers the world over. 

Best for vocals

Most of our acoustic guitar mic choices – plus our general-purpose studio mics below – will do vocals and vice versa, but these four choices excel at voice recording and do it for a minimal outlay…

AKG P120 

Like its 220 sibling, the 120 boasts a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range, so will capture a range of instruments but the P120 wins out in the vocal category as it can capture detailed speech and vocals for a price that puts it well and truly among the other great vocal mics here.

sE Electronics X1 S 

The original X1 was already a great mic for many recording situations but the X1S takes its best features and refines the specs so will give you even more quality. Yes, it’s another one that could easily sit in our great all-arounder category below but gives you just that extra level of vocal quality, albeit for more money.

MXL 990 

What has become a classic budget all-around microphone, the 990 boasts a clean reproduction across the range. But while it is well suited to a wide variety of recording situations, it is particularly at home on acoustic instruments and vocals, delivering clear and quality results for the latter. Highly recommended. 

Shure SM58

Where the SM57 is the first-choice instrument mic for so many people, the SM58 is the best-selling vocal mic, and for good reason. It is sturdy, reliable, a great live mic – and also, for many, equally at home in the studio – and boasts decent specs and a solid build. It’s been the king of the vocal mic for six decades or more now, and there’s no sign of this changing.

Best for drums

You’ll need dynamic mics that can take a beating and these drum mic choices will take some beating!

AKG D112 mkII 

The D112 has long been many a producer’s first choice microphone for recording kicks – although it also sits well in front of amps for other instruments like the bass guitar. It has the kick drum in mind though, with a frequency response that focuses on the low-end with a nudge at 4k to push the kick up through the mix. Low cost, robust, and able to take a knock, it’s your easy kick drum recording choice.

Audio Technica ATM230

As with all our drum mics, here’s another dynamic designed to work well in high SPL situations – drumming in other words! It also handles low end with ease and its design makes it easy to set up for close recording with snares and toms or in other awkward spaces in and around drums. Match a few of these with a decent kick mic and your drums are sorted. 

Audix DP5A Pack

You might think we’ve smashed through our budget price ceiling here but not so – you actually get five mics in this kit, enough to mic up your entire kit. The pack includes the very well-regarded D6, great for kick recording. Add three toms, a snare mic, and all the clips you need and this is a great, one-kit-for-all solution.

Shure Beta 52A

  • $189
  • Small-diaphragm hyper-cardioid dynamic
  • www.shure.com

Another great dynamic mic designed for your kick recording (but one that can handle other low-end, high SPL duties like bass amps, for example). The hyper-cardioid design means that it focuses very much on recording the kick, rejecting all else around it so recordings are defined and the attack and punch pronounced – exactly as you want. Another industry standard kick solution.

Best stereo pairs

‘Stereo pairs’ of microphones are matched, identical models that are used to make, you guessed it, stereo recordings. The theory is that if you use matched microphones you get exactly the same recording in both left and right channels. They are commonly used on piano, acoustic guitars, as drum overheads, or for recording groups of singers.

As well as the pairs we recommend below, you could also consider choosing two of the same model of each mic from our budget general-purpose list below. Two sE Electronics sE7s, for example, make a particularly good matched pair.

Lewitt LCT 040

The Austrian microphone manufacturer Lewitt has a large range of award-winning microphones and these are some of the most recent, released just a couple of years back. They are already getting a lot of praise from producers using them as drum overheads and also for recording guitar. Really, they are small and light enough to go wherever you want them to go, and deliver great, clean recordings.

MXL CR21

Like the other stereo pairs of microphones in this list, these MXLs excel for drum overhead, acoustic instrument, or piano recording, but they are just about the cheapest you can buy, coming in at much less than a single mic often costs! Again the sound is clean and unfussy, delivering accuracy when needed. They are a great set of compact microphones you can use in any situation, and while it doesn’t really matter, they look pretty cool too.

Rode M5

These are crazy cheap considering the quality of the recordings they make – precise and neutral on just about any acoustic instrument. Indeed we’ve seen side by side tests where they’ve outperformed microphones many times their price and come highly recommended even as a single mic, although they are best employed as a pair. Rode even offers a 10-year warranty if you register the mics.

Best podcast mic

Some of the best mics you can get for podcasting and beyond, with direct connectivity and excellent flexibility…

IKM iRig Studio Pro

Like other USB mics, the advantages are you can plug the iRig Studio Pro into pretty much any device and it comes with its own level control so you don’t require an additional audio interface. With a broad frequency range, it is good for recording just about anything to a decent level but it excels at vocals so is great for podcasting and those many Zoom meetings.

RODE NT-USB

With the Rode NT-USB, you get everything you need in one package with a pop shield and desktop stand included. With this desktop use, the mic itself might be more obviously aimed at podcasting and handles vocals – both singing and spoken word well – but there’s enough quality here, as you might expect with the Rode name, for you to capture other instruments, acoustic guitar in particular, very well indeed. 

Shure MV7

Shure’s SM7B has become a bit of a mic classic but the MV7 takes its best bits and adds direct USB connectivity to make it one of the most flexible microphones in all of our categories. It delivers fine speech recordings, no problem, but can easily handle higher-end studio recording duties with aplomb.

Best general-purpose studio mics

Many of the other mics here are good for a range of instruments but here are some particularly cheap do-it-all examples. (And do obviously include the SM57 mentioned above in this list too!)

AKG P220 

With a wide 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range, the P220 is suited to a range of applications including acoustic guitar but also delivers warm and pleasing lead vocal recordings. It will also suit live vocals and should come with its own shock mount as part of the price so represents great value. 

Audio Technica AT2020 

The AT2020 is great value for what you get: a condenser for every occasion with a spec that delivers a sound well beyond that 2-figure price tag. These stats include low noise and high SPL – just what you are looking for – and it’s rugged too so you can throw it on just about anything, anywhere. 

RODE M3 

The M3 feels and sounds a lot more expensive than it actually is and with a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz will capture just about anything you want it to. There are better mics for self-noise, sure, but few boast better specs in this price range. A great all-rounder.

sE Electronics sE7 

One of the best all-around budget mics on the market, the sE7 excels on just about any acoustic instrument you throw at it including percussion, strings, piano, and guitar. It’s also a great budget option for the stage, equally at home mic’ing up the guitar and bass cabinets. Indeed it’s so cheap you could afford to mic up your entire band. 

Best for piano

Before we close, just a quick note on piano instrument recording. As mentioned, our stereo pair choices are all great solutions to record the piano and of course, all of the single microphones in our ‘Best general-purpose’ list will do a good job for very little outlay as will many other condenser mics. Overall the AKG P220, Audio Technica AT2020, MXL 990, and Rode NT1A are probably the best budget options not to mention the good old Shure SM57.

Next time

Join us next time when we focus on orchestral recording and the challenge of capturing so many different instruments in what can be very challenging recording spaces.