Choosing a Condenser Microphone

What is a Condenser Microphone?

Condenser microphones are typically more often found within the studio environment due to their ability to capture a larger frequency range compared to that of their dynamic counterparts. They have a louder output but are also more sensitive to loud sounds and the components are more fragile. Whereas, dynamic microphones are usually more robust and durable which makes them perfect in live situations, although using condenser mics in a live scenario is becoming more common. They usually require power in the form of 48v which is normally supplied to a microphone via an XLR cable from a stand-alone mic preamp or one that is integrated into a mixer or audio interface.

Which Condenser Microphone should I choose?

When it comes to choosing a microphone the first consideration is budget. What you spend on a microphone or microphones should reflect what you’ve spent on your studio’s console, audio interface, mic preamp’s and other equipment. There is no point in plugging in a £50 microphone into a £50k studio set up, make sure what you spend on your microphone(s) is relative to what you have spent on your studio equipment.

The next consideration is your microphone’s intended application. If you are just buying one microphone for a home or project studio, then the chances are that you’ll want something that’s a good all-rounder. However, you may want a varied selection of different flavoured condenser mics if you’re buying for different types of instruments and recording.

It’s also important to remember that personal preference plays a big part in your chosen mic. It’s very easy to be influenced by what other people tell you, what you read online and in the various pro audio publications. All of which provide a great starting point, but you should always try out or listen to audio tests if you can before making a decision.

Other considerations when choosing a condenser microphone…

The age old saying goes “You’re as strong as your weakest link” and that couldn’t more true when it comes to recording with microphones. If you’re going to use a £2000 mic with a £5 cable then the result is going to be more £5 cable than £2000 mic. Signal path is vitally important and whatever you decide to spend on a microphone, remember, it’s all about the balance (and I don’t mean left / right). You’ll need to spend a proportional amount on the cables, mic preamps (if you need them, most audio interfaces have them as do mixing consoles). Mic stands, isolation mats, shock mounts and pop filters, can all play an important role when it comes to the quality of the recording you’re going to get. 

What price should I pay for Condenser Microphone?

Well that really depends on your budget, and let’s be honest here, you’re going to get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get terrible results with a budget mic but as I previously mentioned it should reflect the money you’ve spent or are spending on your studio setup.

Here’s a varied selection of some of the Condenser microphones available grouped into different budgets. For our full range click here or if you’d like to test any of them in an acoustically treated environment why not visit our new demo facility in Luton. 

Budget Condenser Mics Up to £150

Studiospares S1005 Condneser MicrophoneStudiospares S1005 Condenser Mic Package £39

This is a great entry level condenser microphone and perfect for schools or the home recording enthusiast who is just starting out. It is ideal for musicians seeking the highest quality to faithfully capture vocalists, stringed and wind instruments. It comes complete with a shock mount and carrying case.

Audio Technica AT2020 Stand + Pop Filter Bundle £99

Audio Technica have an excellent pedigree when it comes to microphones and this mic delivers great results for price. The AT2020 is perfect all rounder suitable for podcast recording, vocals and instruments. Bundled with mic stand, cable, mount and pop shield, you have everything you need to plug in and record. With it’s robust construction making it very durable and it’s price this mic really is excellent value for money.

AKG C3000 Condenser MicrophoneAKG C3000 £145

I can remember when this mic was first launched in 1993 and since then it has become something of standard when it comes to studio and live recording. It’s robust build and versatile performance make this a great addition to both home and project studios as well as professional and touring outfits.

Low – Mid price Condenser Mics £150 – £500

Aston Origin Condenser MicrophoneAston Origin Condenser Mic £195

UK manufacturer Aston mics are a relatively new company to the microphone arena, however don’t let that fool you as the performance or their mics ooze experience. The smooth sounding characteristics make it great for vocal and instrument recording, coupled with substantial build quality make this a great option not for just the home / project studio but also the professional studios too. It’s relatively inexpensive price tag makes it a great option if you’re buying one or many.

Rode NT2A Condenser MicrophoneRode NT2-A Condenser Microphone £249

Australian company Freedman Electronics launched the Rode brand almost 30 years ago. In that time their microphones have become one of the most recognisable products on the market. The NT2-A carries on the tradition forged by the legendary RODE NT2. A professional large capsule (1″) studio microphone incorporating three-position pick-up patterns, PAD and high pass filter switches conveniently located on the mic body, the NT2-A is at home on an incredibly diverse range of sound sources.

Neumann TLM102 Condenser MicrophoneNeumann TLM 102 £489

If there’s one name that doesn’t require an introduction when it comes to microphones, it has to be Neumann and the price of the TLM 102 makes legendary brand accessible to home and project studios whilst not being out of place in professional studios. Developed for both vocal and instrument recording it’s silky sound allows vocals to stand out in the mix and instruments to sound the way they were meant to.

Mid to high Price Condenser Mics £500 – £1000

Shure KSM32 SL Condenser MicrophoneShure KSM32 SL Condenser Mic with Shockmount £549

Like Audio Technica and AKG, Shure have history when it comes to making microphones, so it should come as no great surprise that they have mics for all applications. The KSM32 is available in 2 colours, champagne or charcoal and is suited to recording vocals, instruments and drums.

Sontronics Condenser Microphone DRUMPACKSontronics DRUMPACK+ £739

When it comes to recording drums having a complete selection of mics allows for the most comprehensive results. The Sonotronics Drumpack+ brings together their award winning DM-Series microphones. With a total of 7 mics included (DM-1B, DM-1S & 3 x DM-1T, 2 x STC-10) this kit provides excellent value for money.

Blue Dragon Fly Condenser MicrophoneBlue Dragon Fly Condenser Mic £974

In the very unlikely event of you making your decision based on looks alone, the Blue Dragon Fly Condenser microphone is likely to be your first choice. However I must say with that beautiful design comes a quality microphone that features an innovative rotating head design allowing you make pinpoint adjustments to capture your audio. It’s ideal for vocals, drum overheads, acoustic guitar, piano and more.

Premium Condenser Microphones £1000+

When it comes to this kind of budget the chances are you’re going to want to try it out in your own environment. Hiring these is a good way to try them out or if you have a good relationship with your local dealer they may even let have one on sale or return (providing you take exceptional care of it).

Sennheiser MKH 50 Supercardioid Reference Condenser MicrophoneSennheiser MKH 50 Supercardioid Reference Condenser Mic £1499

The super-cardioid MKH 50 offers a higher attenuation of diffusefield and lateral sound than the cardioid microphone. It is principally designed for use as a soloist’s or spot microphone for applications requiring a high degree of side-borne sound muting and feedback rejection. The directional characteristics are frequency-independent.

Neumann U87 Nickel Condenser MicrophoneNeumann U87 Nickel £1999

The U 87 Ai is the epitome of a large diaphragm condenser microphone. Its tapered body and iconic headgrille design have become part of the collective consciousness: This is what a studio microphone looks like. The same is true of its sound: The U 87 Ai represents studio quality; it has become the gold standard by which other microphones are measured.

Earthworks SV33 High-End Cardioid Condenser MicrophoneEarthworks SV33 High-End Cardioid Condenser Microphone £2395

Following a heritage defined by jaw-dropping realism and unparalleled performance, the front address SV33 delivers vocal performances brimming with stunning detail. The SV33 is our flagship studio vocal microphone featuring a 14mm capsule that delivers warmth coupled with staggeringly precise audio performance. A true cardioid polar pattern provides freedom and ease for every recording session with an enormous sweet spot and incredible rear rejection, maintaining complete sonic accuracy for vocal performances.

Prices include VAT and are correct at the time of publishing. Please feel free to share your experiences on choosing a mic in the comments below and if there’s something you’d like to see us write about please mention it in the comments below.

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Jamie Gibbons

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