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The 5 best budget condenser and dynamic microphones under $100

For beginners interested in the art of recording, finding a reliable point of entry can be a bit daunting. Especially now, seeing that the market is completely oversaturated with low-budget condenser and dynamic microphones, some of which are great and some of them not.

I’ve tested over 20 microphones priced under $100 to bring you what I consider to be the best options that offer quality, versatility, and performance.

Quick recommendations

A rather obvious choice, the Shure SM58 is essentially the Mickey Mouse of microphones. Its durability, consistency, and versatility make it the best microphone available in the under $100 range.

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is my top pick for the best budget condenser. It offers an amazing performance for very little money. It’s also one of the most reliable cheap condensers on the market.


Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Why you should trust me

I’ve worked with a diverse spectrum of gear over my decade spent in the field of audio production and engineering, both in the studio environments and on live productions.

Brandon Schock, author and contributor at Higher Hz

Working with brands such as Shure, Sennheiser, and Neumann has lent me nuanced insights into the practical application of audio equipment, and what value it provides users ranging from novice to seasoned professional.

I myself started out with a handful of these microphones, namely the SM58, SM57, and MXL 990, all of which I still get plenty of use out of to this day. They’re reliable, solid, and extremely easy to replace due to their low cost and availability.

How I chose the microphones for this list

In curating this list, I focused on microphones that could be purchased new for either $100 or less, while also taking into account the durability and versatility of each one.

From there, I took into account each microphone’s specifications, versatility, build quality, and reputation. After which I handpicked my absolute favorites.

Best dynamic mic under $100: Shure SM58

  • Microphone type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 50 Hz – 15 kHz
  • Max SPL: 94 dB
  • Connector: XLR
Shure SM58 microphone
Image: Higher Hz

Coming in at number one on my list is none other than Shure’s SM58. These microphones have been the industry standard for decades and have been frequently used by countless artists both in live performances as well as in the studio.

They sound great, they’re barely $100, and to top it all off, these things are virtually indestructible. While the SM58 is most commonly used as a vocal mic, they’re perfectly capable of capturing electric guitars, and work well when recording drums as well.

Most professional studios will have at least a dozen of these on deck, due to their reliability and versatility in the studio, so purchasing this mic should be a no-brainer.

Read my full Shure SM58 review to find out more.

Buy Shure SM58 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best condenser under $100: Audio-Technica AT2020

  • Microphone type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 144 dB
  • Connector: XLR
Audio-Technica AT2020 microphone
Image: Higher Hz

The AT2020 is an exceptional microphone for a number of reasons: it boasts a wide frequency response (20 Hz – 20 kHz), has a high max SPL of 144 dB, and is quite durable.

Usually, condenser microphones are best suited towards quieter instruments such as vocals, acoustics, and violins. However, the AT2020 is a bit more of a Swiss army knife, and can work well on guitar or bass cabinets, or even as drum overheads.

Its versatility and performance quality make it one of the best options to consider when looking for a budget condenser microphone.

Read my full Audio-Technica AT2020 review to find out more.

Buy Audio-Technica AT2020 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best instrument microphone: Shure SM57

  • Microphone type: Dynamic
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 15 kHz
  • Max SPL: 150 dB
  • Connector: XLR
Shure SM57 microphone
Image: Higher Hz

Here’s another no-brainer for you, the SM57. It is the instrument-focused counterpart to the SM58 and, as such, has been an industry standard for decades since the conception of its design.

The SM57 is one of the most ubiquitous microphones available. Most professional studios have at least ten of them at their disposal.

These mics are extremely durable, and have a high tolerance for louder sound sources, making them particularly ideal for drums and electric guitars. That being said, they’re just as good on vocals, acoustic guitars, violins, and more.

Read my full Shure SM57 review to find out more.

Buy Shure SM57 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Most versatile budget condenser: MXL 990

  • Microphone type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Max SPL: 130 dB
  • Connector: XLR
MXL 990 microphone
Image: Higher Hz

Unfortunately, the MXL 990 doesn’t get quite as much love as it should. If you’re looking for a well-priced vocal mic that has more character than the SM58, the MXL 990 is a great option to consider.

The MXL 990 is a large-diaphragm condenser, with a frequency response of 30 Hz – 20 kHz. It’s extremely versatile, and is great for vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, violins, mandolins, flutes, room sound applications, etcetera etcetera.

Adding on to this, it sounds surprisingly professional in comparison to other microphones in this price range.

Read my full MXL 990 review to find out more.

Buy MXL 990 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best USB condenser for $100: AKG Ara

  • Microphone type: Condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid, omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Bit depth/sample rate: 24-bit/96 kHz
  • Max SPL: 120 dB
  • Connector: USB-C
AKG Ara USB microphone
Image: Higher Hz

At just around $100, the AKG Ara is a very capable USB microphone. It’s especially usable when it comes to recording studio vocals. I noticed little to no noise when testing it out.

It also works quite well on guitar amps. I liked the results I got using it some distance away from my amp.

Overall, the Ara is best suited for beginner music producers, folks who like tracking demos on the go and those interested in a cheap yet reliable podcast microphone.

Read my full AKG Ara review to find out more.

Buy AKG Ara at: Amazon

Honorable mentions

These are microphones that didn’t make my “best under $100” list but could have.

  • AKG P120. The P120 is the marginally bulkier alternative to the AT2020. This mic is definitely one of the best options for those of you who are searching for a solid yet cheap microphone.
  • Shure SM48. For what it is, the SM48 is a fine microphone for $50. It doesn’t sound as good as the SM58, nor is it as durable, but it is totally usable.
  • Lewitt LCT 240 Pro. The LCT 240 Pro is a decent entry-level condenser microphone, and can be used to great effect in a wide variety of applications. Its high-end boost can work wonders on the right vocalists and guitars.
  • Tascam DR-05X. For anybody looking to dive into the world of field recording, the DR-05X is a great option that won’t break the bank. It features a USB port so you can connect to your computer and record directly into your DAW. Finneas actually used this mic when recording Billie Eilish’s “&Burn,” so its usefulness in a professional recording environment has been well-tested.

Recent updates

  • Mar 6, 2024: Added the AKG Ara as the “Best USB condenser” and moved the AKG P120 to the Honorable mentions (personal preference). Updated text for accuracy and explained the picking criteria.
  • Mar 5, 2024: Added the Lewitt LCT 240 Pro to the Honorable mentions.
  • Dec 14, 2023: Verified accuracy of picks. Ensured that all the recommended microphones are still widely available for purchase.
  • May 19, 2021: Published original article with recommendations and test results.