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These 7 Budget Mics Belong in Every Studio

Not so long ago, a professional recording studio with millions of dollars worth of equipment was needed to produce even a demo of a song. While many of the expensive analog devices still have fans in professional sound and music circles and are still frequently in use, conveniently, with the advance of computer technology, many technical necessities have gradually become optional. Today, even some Grammy winners produce from the bedroom and signal chains are shorter than ever before. However, a few pieces of equipment are still needed, of course. Besides the obligatory audio interface, the right studio acoustics and monitoring, it is above all the right microphones that no (home) studio should be without!

Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank these days to make professional recordings even in your own home environment with the right knowledge and skills. It doesn’t have to be the vintage U47! A few hundred bucks for an audio interface and the right microphone is really enough for a start. The selection is large, but can be confusing and the manufacturers’ advertising all sound more or less the same.

In the following, I would like to recommend 7 really good but budget-conscious microphones for various applications that should not be missing in any good (home) studio:

Aston Spirit

Aston Spirit, Regular price: €320
Regular price: €320

The Aston Spirit is a fantastic all-rounder! It is a robust large diaphragm condenser with switchable polar pattern and a very natural sound with a slight top boost. The signal-to-noise ratio is a bit lower than you’d expect from many modern condenser microphones, but this is completely unproblematic in 99% of recording situations.

Recommended applications: guitars, overheads, kick, room, strings, amps, vocals

By the way: The Spirit also has a little brother with a fixed cardioid pattern, the Aston Origin, which is even available for less than €200.

SM7B

SHURE SM7B, Regular price: €360
Regular price: €360

The SM7B is one of the most popular microphones of our time. It is a moving coil microphone, but relatively close in sound to a condenser. The SM7B is – typical for moving coils – not too sensitive to room acoustics and ambient noise and is delivered with a simple built-in pop screen. This makes it a perfect companion for songwriting sessions or podcast recordings. However, it also does a fantastic job on a guitar amp or snare drum! On the back, the SM7B has two selectable filters that can be used to adjust the frequency response directly at the microphone. Be aware that the output level of the SM7B is relatively low, which can be problematic with some mobile setups and/or low-priced preamps. For extra gain reserves, you can use a simple inline amplifier such as Cloudlifter or FetHead.

Recommended applications: vocals, podcasts, guitars, snare, hi-hat, amps

By the way: For more sonic flexibility, especially with instrument recordings, you can grab the SM7B’s integrated foam filter by the plastic ring and take it down to expose the microphone basket for a little more air in the top end.

SM57

SHURE SM57, Regular price: €105
Regular price: €105

The true classic on snares and guitar amps! But also on guitars or pianos, the SM57 often makes an amazingly good figure. Typical of a moving coil, the SM57 can handle high sound pressures very well. Chances are good that you or someone in your immediate circle already owns one or more SM57s. And since it’s widely considered nearly indestructible, I’m sure no one would mind lending it to you for your next session. If you regularly record pop or rock instruments, you can never have enough SM57s!

Recommended uses: guitars, amps, snares, percussion, brass

By the way: If you only have an SM58 at hand, but want to record instruments, you can simply unscrew the grille and open up the sound a little.

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☀️ Springtime Special ☀️
Save up to 30% on the AUDIO DIPLOMA online course and get 48 premium plugins as a gift.

❄️ Winter Special ends Feb 29 ❄️

Save up to 20% on the online course AUDIO DIPLOMA.
You will also get Native Instruments Komplete and all HOFA plugins as a gift.

TLM 102

Neumann TLM102, Regular price: €580
Regular price: €580

The most expensive microphone in this list, but still an affordable entry to the world of Neumann. If you frequently record vocals or instruments, this surprisingly small cardioid condenser mic is a good choice. Admittedly: It can’t quite match the sonics of the legends U47/67/87, but the comparison isn’t entirely fair based on the significantly different price range. In any case, with the TLM102 you have a very professional microphone with a natural, bright, but balanced timbre and a good off-axis response that can be used quite flexibly, especially in a pop context.

Recommended applications: vocals, pop piano, guitars

By the way, if you’re looking for a modern, bright vocal sound and can invest a bit more, the slightly bigger TLM103 is also a good option at just over €1,000.

Line Audio CM4

Line Audio CM4, Regular price: €150
Regular price: €150

This little microphone from Sweden is no longer an insider tip, and even in high-priced classical productions, 2-3 of these little treasures are often found in the sound engineer’s pocket to supplement the usual Schoeps and Neumanns when needed. The CM4 is an almost unbelievably good condenser microphone for this price range, with a wide cardioid pickup pattern and a very natural and balanced sound character. Particularly noteworthy about the CM4 is its balanced and natural off-axis (i.e., how the microphone picks up sound coming in from the side or rear). This makes it an absolute budget tip for anyone involved in acoustic music.

Recommended applications: piano, strings, main microphone, overheads

By the way, Line Audio’s Omni1 is also highly recommended if you’re looking for a good omnidirectional microphone in this price range.

LOM Audio Uši Pro

LOM Audio Uši Pro, Regular price: €130
Regular price: €130

The Uši Pro from LOM Audio is a real bargain and just about the size of an XLR plug. It’s a very small but fine omnidirectional condenser microphone. I wouldn’t necessarily use it as a main microphone, but the Uši Pro is great if you need to hide invisible support microphones from the audience or camera, or if you want to record additional room signals in an uncomplicated and inexpensive way. There are even magnetic mounts and the like available, and the mics are so lightweight that you can just hang them from the ceiling directly by the cable, so you can often save on the tripod with these mics. The timbre is relatively neutral.

Recommended uses: room, spots, foley, lavalier

By the way, if you’re looking for something even smaller, check out the MikroUši Pro, which is great for lavalier applications and does a great job in this area. For musical applications, however, I prefer the slightly larger model from a sound perspective.

Roswell Mini K47

Roswell Mini K47, Regular price: €440
Regular price: €440

As the name suggests, the Roswell Mini K47 features a K47 capsule, which is probably the most famous microphone capsule in the world with a rather bright, but usually not too sharp sound image. The Mini K47 is a transparent condenser microphone with a high-quality response. The wide dynamic range and detailed resolution allow flexible use even on loud and complex sound sources. A good, high-quality all-rounder for acoustic instruments of all kinds and a real bargain!

Recommended applications: overheads, guitars, vocals, amps, strings, brass

By the way: The Mini K47 is also available as a “High Output” version. This variant lowers the dynamic range significantly and provides more harmonics at peak levels, but is better suited for extremely quiet sources, in case you have to deal with this often.

Conclusion

Anyone who says that good microphones have to be expensive is definitely wrong. Many microphones under 500 € have earned their place in the most legendary recording studios in the world and can also provide first-rate sound in the home studio. Whether you’re buying your first microphone or looking to expand your microphone cabinet for upcoming productions, you’re sure to find the right candidate among the suggestions above!

Do you know of any other must-have budget microphone? Please share them with us and write them down in the comments!

Author

Christoph Thiers
Christoph Thiers
Christoph Thiers has been active in the music industry for over a decade and has worked on hundreds of productions of various genres as recording, mixing and mastering engineer. His track record includes artists such as Die Fantastischen Vier, Sarah Connor, Birdy, Nathan Evans, RAF Camora and Boris Brejcha, as well as numerous awards and chart placements. He is also engaged in new media formats and artist development, acts as a consultant to indie labels, artists and start-ups alike and has been involved in various software developments for professional music production. In recent years, Christoph has specialised in immersive music production and handles Dolby Atmos mixes for international label clients and renowned indie artists.

4 Responses

  1. Great article! Absolutely agree on the Line Audio mics! Wow what tremendous value in a tiny package. We did a just for fun in context shootout of the CM4 and OM1 on a chamber music rehearsal vs Schoeps MK5, MK21, and MK2H. The Schoeps were the clear winner, but not nearly the difference we expected. We were sold.
    The Neumann TLM102 is definitely the hidden gem of the Neumann line. Terrific little mics that are great on instruments and even do reasonably well on piano.

  2. Very useful, thanks Christoph. I have the Shure SM58 which I like as a vocal mic as well as the SM57 and I have a TZ Audio X2 which I got for less for reviewing it for them. The Shure is a Dynamic Cardiod mic and the TZX2 is a Large Diaphragm Condenser. I’m looking to add to my collection in principle but I’m going for some more plugins first. i’m eyeing up the Fabfilter essentials collection, they really are good. I’ve got them on free trial along with the Soundtoys, but of them I only really like the Filterfreak and the plate reverb. I think it’s more important to have Fabfilter products though. Totally excellent Dutch firm. The Shure is a great vocal mic really present it’s equally as good for spoken word as it is for music. I think if you wanna take your EP down acoustically my condenser mic is better. This condenser was about 180 but I got for half that. https://on.soundcloud.com/XdaAj It’s not bad. It’s got a bit of Fabfilter on it and another free compressor.

  3. It’s nice to see that someone has made similar choises as myself, as my microphone locker has the Line Audio, allthough the CM3 instead of CM4, the Roswell K47 Mini and the Shure SM57. The real gem in my collection, in the “still affordable” price range, is however the Rode K2 (I have 2 of them and acquired them secondhand for around 350€/piece. It is a superb vocal mic, but does equally well on very different sources, and on kickdrum it is as good as a Neumann K47.
    2 other microphone I like to mention is the Beyerdynamic M201, for me the best snare drum mic in most cases, and the Audio Technica ATM230, that is in my opinion a very worthy contender to the Sennheiser M421, but it is much better at separating sounds from adjacent sources. As tom/floor mic, I find them better then the M421, but it has to be said, the M421 is a more allround mic, but much pricier.

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