What would be my best options to start recording my sound?
Whether you’re starting a podcast or trying to record vocals for a music project you’re working on, you don’t want to sacrifice quality for price.
But when you’re first starting out, don’t be like me and blow a bunch of money on equipment that you don’t necessarily need.
In this article, we’re gonna talk a little bit about what to look for in a mic and how to find a quality microphone when you’re on a budget.
So what kind of microphones are available?
Choosing a microphone depends on what kind of sound you’re trying to capture.
It’s not the same to record your voice for a podcast than to record tones highs with an electric guitar or the sound of birds in a forest.
Let’s find out what kind of microphone meets our needs.
What’s important when choosing a microphone?
One point to consider is the maximum acoustic pressure level, which would be the same as the maximum point at which a microphone begins to distort.
The second would be the level of self-noise, which is caused by the collision of air molecules against its membrane. Other characteristics that we must verify would be the signal-to-noise ratio, the sensitivity to sound, the impedance and the saturation limit.
One big controversy that has been around for a while is the difference between a dynamic and a condenser microphone.
What Are Dynamic microphones?
Dynamic microphones are famous for being more robust and at the same time more resistant, saying that they withstand higher levels of abuse on stage. The structure of this is formed by a set of diaphragms, moving coil and magnet which makes its simpler design makes its price lower while remaining resistant, although this implies that its frequency response and its response to transients is less.
What’s A Condenser Mic?
On the other hand, condenser microphones are the most frequently found in recording studios, being a little more fragile but with better frequency response and dynamic response, what makes it stand out is the fact that it generates a recording more faithful due to higher frequency response and better transient response. These are based on an electrically charged back plate and a diaphragm assembly that forms a sound sensitive capacitor.
Condenser vs. Dynamic Mic
Did all of this go over your head?
Using a condenser or a dynamic microphone depends on what you’re trying to record.
If the source of the sound is strong and loud, let’s say, a guitar solo, you’re probably want to take advantage of a dynamic microphone. If your source has a rich tone, with a wide frequency response or a high speed attack, it is common to opt for condenser microphones.
In a professional setting, it’s common to have both dynamic and condenser microphones since they achieve their own results. But when money is an important factor and you can only choose one, a condenser mic covers a wider frequency and can achieve more.
Best condenser mics under $200
So for now, let’s focus on condenser microphones and narrowing down a quality one without breaking the bank. Let’s keep it under $200.
1) CAD U37 USB
When I first started recording on my laptop back in 2006, USB microphones were hardly an option. You first had to purchase an audio interface box that would hook up to a phantom powered mixer, which you could then hook up an XLR microphone to.
There was no plug-and-play USB option.
Today, there’s no shortage of USB microphones, but when talking about value, the CAD Audio U37 hovers around $50, which makes it an excellent option for the budget-conscious.
It has a USB input that saves you having to find a power source or audio interface to use it. It is available in black and silver and features a nice wide frequency response for excellent pickup, a 10dB protect switch to limit distortion and low-rebate to help with even more custom recording settings.
It has a plastic body but is perfectly sturdy for a couple of years, plus it comes bundled with a small tripod for use on your desk or computer.
2) MXL 770
This one is a pretty solid mic in terms of build and budget. It gives us a built-in decent quality FET preamp, a switchable low cut and -10dB pad and a decent sound pressure level (SPL) to help eliminate distortion. It comes with a shock mount and an impressive, tough and sturdy carrying case for travel.
Despite the fact that this one comes without accessories like a tripod or a pop filter, buying everything shouldn’t exceed $150, which is a pretty dang diddly good price if you ask me.
3) Audio-Technica AT2020
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is often compared to the CAD U37, but on steroids.
It gives us a high SPL to help with distortion control, high-quality diaphragm, and the cardioid pattern is ideal for sound isolation allowing only what is in front of it to be recorded, making the sound cleaner, giving a sound warm and clear that before was only achieved in professional studios.
The best part? You can get it all under $200.
4) Blue Microphones Yeti USB
The Blue Yeti microphone has probably been on the market longer than any of the other options, and it’s actually the first USB microphone I ever bought.
Still have it too! Lunky ol’ thing.
It has an integrated USB port, it’s the least expensive one here is has the most ratings and highest reputation.
It comes with a small adjustable stand that fits on your desk just like the CAD, and they offer a two-year limited warranty on it.
Does this help you narrow it down?
If you’re still conflicted, I personally recommend the Blue Yeti, but that’s only because I have experience with it and have been happy with how long it has lasted.