In almost every genre, vocals are the centerpiece and the most important part of the song. Because it's a human singing, the lyrics tend to be what we as other humans focus on. We connect with it easier than other parts of the music. In this microphone Buyer's Guide, we will cover a few topics of great vocal recording. Then we will give some recommendations of our favorite vocal microphones and why we suggest them!
Some things to keep in mind...
Frequency response is a fancy expression that translates to, "the range of frequencies/pitches that a microphone can pickup." The microphone's diaphragm is what picks up the sound. The materials and size of the diaphragm determine the frequency response and ultimately what the microphone sounds like. This is important with a vocal microphone because the goal is to find something that fits both the singer's voice and the song. For example, an acoustic ballad with a female singer would benefit from a darker sounding microphone like a ribbon or the Blue Baby Bottle. A metal song with harsh screams would benefit from a large diaphragm dynamic for a smoother response.
Polar Pattern and Why It Matters for Vocals
A microphone's polar pattern is defined by the directions in which is picks up sound. The most common patterns of microphones used for vocals are cardioid. The polar pattern in a vocal microphone can add or take away room sound in a recording. If you're having issues with this, check out this article about removing the room sound from your recordings.
Shure SM7B - $399
The Shure SM7B is widely famous for its unmatched smooth response. It sounds good on just about any vocalist of any style and can handle EQ and compression for days without any bad artifacts. One of the best parts of this microphone is that it completely takes your room out of the equation. One thing to be noted about this microphone is that it has very quiet output. In order to compensate, many engineers use a Cloudlifter to cleanly increase the signal before hitting the preamp. The transformer in the Cloudlifter also adds a bit of color and can give any dynamic microphone a smoother response.
Aston Spirit - $449
Since its release in 2016, the Aston Spirit has taken the recording world by storm. It is a very sonically colorful large-diaphragm condenser microphone with 3 polar patterns, high-pass filter set at 80Hz, and a pad up to 20dB. Aston's Spirit has a transformer in the signal path which creates that very colorful sound which is great for sterile digital recordings. Transformers are described as "colorful" because of the way they add slight harmonic distortion to the high end. This will smooth out the harsh frequency range creating a more even high end response. Very similar to how digital saturation plugins work. To make vocals stand out in a dense mix, it helps to boost somewhere around 1kHz. This microphone is great for vocals because it has a bit more of a mid-range push around that area greatly reducing the need for EQ to save a vocal track.
Lewitt LCT-440 PURE - $269
Lewitt is an Austrian microphone company that makes the some of the best condenser microphones at incredible prices. The LCT-440 PURE is one of our favorites for the extreme versatility, unmatched clarity and sheer value at it's price point. This microphone alone proves that you no longer need to spend tons of money to get an incredible sound. The clarity that comes from the LCT-440 PURE capsule will compliment just about any voice and give you unlimited control during the mixing stage which is great for newer engineers who both need something versatile and also are not sure when to commit to a specific sound yet.
Warm Audio WA-251 - $799
There's nothing quite like the sound of an expensive tube microphone to warm up the vocals and place them perfectly in a mix. Lucky for us, Warm Audio released a very inexpensive version of the most legendary microphone in history. Instead of spending $10K on a single microphone, you can get that classic sound for less than a tenth of the cost and take every recording to the next level. Want to hear some sound samples? Check out our weekly show, PPA Unfiltered!
These are our top recommendations for vocal microphones. There are tons of options available today, so if you have any questions, feel free to call us at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton! Be sure to check out our other Buyer's Guides here.