Live vocalists have a lot to worry about on stage. Not only do you need to worry about sounding your best, but you also need to worry about blending in with your bandmates, engaging with the audience, and sometimes even doing some on-stage acrobatics.
Finding a microphone that can handle all the abuse of a live performance, as well as life on the road, while still being able to capture the totality of your performance is one of the most important things, we singers have to do.
What mic type is best for live performance?
For the most part, most of the microphones that you’ll be seeing on this list are dynamic cardioid microphones.
Having a cardioid polar pattern essentially just means that the microphone only picks up what is directly in front of it, this helps you avoid feedback from the monitors as well as sound from the audience.
Cardioid mics come in three main types, that being cardioid, super cardioid, and hyper cardioid. The difference between all these types lies within how wide the polar pattern is.
Cardioids are the widest, picking up around 130°. Supercardioids are a little bit more narrow, and pick up roughly 115°. While hypercardioids have the slimmest response, picking up about 105 °.
For more information, check out our article about the different types of microphones.
From that point onwards, it really comes down to your performance style, and what parts of your voice you’re wanting to either accentuate or dilute.
We’ve also included a handful of condenser microphones, which are more suitable for the quiet, folk and jazz singers who want their voices to be held with a bit more subtlety and definition.
These are the best live vocal microphones you can buy:
The time-tested classic
What would this list be without the Shure SM58, perhaps the most iconic microphone of all-time. This microphone was invented sometime in the 1960s when Shure decided to put a grille over the SM57.
Its low price and durability have made it something of a staple amongst performers. In fact, the microphone is so well trusted that you’re just as likely to see it at a dingy comedy cellar as you are at the Sydney opera house.
This microphone is fairly forgiving in terms of its specs. It has a frequency response of 50 Hz to 15 kHz and its polar pattern is rather wide, allowing you to move around the mic and maintain a consistent sound.
Essentially, if you’re on the hunt for a live vocal microphone, you can grab an SM58 from your local guitar shop for a pretty modest price and not have to think about it afterwards.
If you want a microphone with a little bit more clarity in high-end, you should look into the Shure Beta 58A. This microphone has a slight peak in the mid range frequencies, as well as a bass roll off which will give your voice a bit more presence.
Check out our full Shure SM58 review
While any dynamic microphone is perfectly capable of handling the most intense performers, the AE6100 is specifically designed to take on the worst offenders.
This is a hypercardioid microphone, meaning that it will latch onto your voice and help it pierce through your mix.
Rappers and metal singers alike can take a lot of benefits from having this microphone in their arsenal, although it does come with some downsides.
The narrow polar pattern means that it rejects off-axis sound, so to truly get the most out of your hypercardioid mic, you need to keep close to the microphone. Unfortunately, this means that proximity effect and plosives will naturally become somewhat of an issue.
Thankfully, Audio-Technica has raised the bass roll-off to around 60 Hz to help tame any muffledness from proximity effect. You lose a little bit of range but receive a microphone with a high SPL and solid isolation in return.
A good all-rounder
The M80 is a great choice for nearly any singer, as it combines the robustness of a dynamic mic along with the sonic abilities of a condenser.
Due to a lightweight capsule and exceedingly thin diaphragm, Telefunken has successfully given the mic a wider frequency response without sacrificing the durability of its external design.
The microphone has a high-end presence boost, adding presence and clarity to your performance, but it also handles transients and plosives well.
This microphone also comes in 15 different colors, so you can glamorize your live set even further. You could even buy a matching microphone for every outfit in your wardrobe if you so choose.
It’s on the pricier side, at around $250, but its performance is well worth the expense.
Sennheiser e 835
A trusted choice
The Sennheiser e 835 is fairly similar to the SM58, except the Sennheiser has a wider frequency response. It’s also extremely affordable, making it one of the more popular choices for live vocal mics.
Likewise, it’s extremely durable and is more than capable of withstanding the trials and tribulations of touring life.
Its frequency response also closely resembles that of the SM58, however, the Sennheiser’s frequency response is notably smoother – especially around the top end.
Neumann KMS 105
The best of the best
For those of you who are familiar with microphones, you probably know Neumann to be one of the most prestigious and sought-after microphone manufacturers of all time. Their microphones have a reputation for their brilliant detail, warmth, and accuracy.
The KMS 105 brings all of this to a live environment. The capsule is taken after the K 50, which is often found in Neumann microphones that tend to run from five to six figures on the market.
Without drowning on, if you’re looking for the best condenser microphone you can get for a live performance, the KMS 105 has you covered. The Neumann is a supercardioid condenser microphone with a frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz.
One thing to note is that the microphone does require phantom power, so make sure to check with the venue you’re playing at to double check they can support your needs (which they should be able to but you never know).
To wrap things up, this is by no means the last or only list that you should look at when choosing which microphone best suits you.
There are many factors at play here, and it’s important to keep your style and budget in mind as you peruse through the infinite variety of mics available to you.
When all is said and done, you need to be comfortable with your decision. If you can’t settle for less than the best, then by all means, don’t settle.
Just make sure that the microphone that ends up in your hands is the microphone that will enable you to give the best performance that you possibly can.