The Transom Studio Mic Shootout: The Key

Model Details Strengths/Weaknesses
A Studio Projects B1

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • No pad, no roll-off
  • Street Price: $79
Very inexpensive, cuts through nicely on the radio, good for higher/thinner voices, sounds best addressed from a little further away than some mics. may be too bassy for large voices.
B Sennheiser 421

  • Large Diaphragm Dynamic
  • Cardioid Only
  • multi-position bass roll-off
  • Street Price: $350
Classic voiceover dynamic, bright, even britlle, very immediate sound. Not rated very highly in our blind test.
C AKG 414 B-ULS

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Multipattern
  • 20dB pad, 75hz and 150 hz roll-off
  • Street Price: $800
Highly adjustable, with multiple patterns and 2-stage bass roll-off. Very flat and accurate. Can be too bassy without EQ, but with a little tweaking, a very detailed mic. Omni mode sounds great in the right room.
D Neumann TLM 103

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • No pad, no roll-off
  • Street Price: $900
Similar to the Neumann U-87 sound, but with no adjustable patterns, pads or rolloffs. Extremely low self-noise. Very smooth and sophisticated in the midrange. Flattering high-end boost makes is excellent for voice work. A favorite of two of our testers.
E Shure SM7

  • Large Diaphragm Dynamic
  • Cardioid Only
  • pad, roll-off
  • Street Price: $450
A very versatile and good sounding mic, works well on almost any voice, the sound cuts through well on broadcast media. Well-rated in our test.
F Neumann U-87

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Multipattern (omni, cardioid, figure-8)
  • pad, roll-off
  • Street price: $2,600
A standard broadcast mic for a reason: very smooth and rich. Might be too big on some voices without EQ.
G Shure SM-58 Shure SM-58

  • Small Diaphragm Dynamic
  • Cardioid Only
  • No pad, no roll-off
  • Street price: $100
Rugged, solid, a surprisingly good-sounding mic for the price. Thought of more as a singer’s mic, it is well-suited for spoken word, especially when its tight cardioid pattern can help reject spill from PA systems or extraneous noise.
H Rode NT-1

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • No pad, no roll-off
  • Street price: $200
Very bright and immediate, a good solid utility mic,. A little too hyped at the top and bottom for some voices.
I Audio Technica AT4050

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Multipattern (Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8)
  • 10dB pad, bass roll-off
  • Street price: $600
A bargain for a multi-pattern mic, very solid and versatile, yet no one in our test rated it particularly highly.
J Shure SM-57

  • Small Diaphragm Dynamic
  • Cardioid Only
  • No pad, no roll-off
  • Street price: $90
The surprise hit of the shootout, many testers liked the immediate, clear sound of this very affordable and durable mic. others found it a little thin.
K Schoeps P48 preamp with interchangeable capsules

  • Small Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Capsule (MK 21)
  • No pad, no roll-off
  • Street price: $1,300
A very sophisticated and detailed mic, it sounds best set back and above the speaker. It gives a very natural and smooth sound from this position.
L Shure KSM141

  • Small Diaphragm Condenser
  • mutipattern (cardioid and omni)
  • 15dB and 25dB pad, 3-position bass roll-off
  • Street price:$400
Used more often as an instrument mic, this can be just right for certain voices. Needs to be set-back a little from the speaker, and requires a good pop filter.
M Shure KSM27

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • 15 dB pad, 3-position bass roll-off
  • Street price:$300
The budget end of the new Shure large diaphragm mics, it’s a solid performer, but not particularly noteworthy.
N Shure KSM32

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • 15 dB pad, 3-position bass roll-off
  • Street price:$500
EQ-ed flat for realistic instrument recording, it sounded a little dead on voices
O Shure KSM44 Shure KSM44

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Multipattern (cardioid, omni, figure-8)
  • 15 dB pad, 3-position bass roll-off
  • Street price: $700
With a sight presence boost that’s very flattering on voices, this was one of the favorites of this author
P Oktava 319

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • 20dB pad, bass roll-off
  • Street price: $150
Very nice on many female voices, it’s a little overboard for more bassy sources. Quality varies from mic to mic, but a real bargain if you get a good one.
Q AKG C-3000

  • Large Diaphragm Condenser
  • Cardioid Only
  • 20dB pad, bass roll-off
  • Street price: $300
Solid, neutral, if a little cold, it’s a good utility mic, hard to find now, but the C-2000 and C-3000b are similar.
R Electro-Voice RE27

  • Large Diaphragm Dynamic
  • Cardioid Only
  • 20dB pad, bass roll-off
  • Street price: $450
A broadcaster’s classic, very vivid, forward sound. Cuts well on the air, Excellent inherent pop rejection. Can sound a bit edgy with some voices.
Jeff Towne

About
Jeff Towne

During more than 25 years as a producer of the nationally-syndicated radio program Echoes. Jeff Towne has recorded interviews and musical performances in locations ranging from closets to cathedrals, outdoor stages to professional studios, turning them into radio shows and podcasts. Jeff is also the Tools Editor for Transom.org, a Peabody Award-winning website dedicated to channeling new voices to public media. At Transom, he reviews field recorders, microphones and software, helping both beginning and experienced audio producers choose their tools. In his spare time, Jeff will probably be taking pictures of his lunch in that little restaurant with the strange name that you've been wondering about. 

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