The Transom Studio Mic Shootout: Blindfold Test

Transom Mic Shootout

Update: Also make sure to check out our Handheld Microphone Shootout.

Mic Shootout Long-view

As part of an ongoing training initiative, AIR: The Association of Independents in Radio helped organize a mic shootout, seeking to compare a wide variety of announce mics in a neutral setting. In the large, quiet room of Studio A at indre Studios in Philadelphia, a few independent producers set up 17 mics side-by-side. The mics ranged in price from less than a hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. We concentrated more on the less-expensive mics, and the mid-range popular standards, rather than pricey esoterica or cult-classic mics, hoping to find some bargains that might be practical for the independent producer, or to confirm that some of the pricier industry standards might be worth the expense.

The best way to assess these mics is to listen without the prejudices of preconception, reputation, appearance and price. That’s what we did; listening up in the control room without seeing what mic was being spoken into. We identified the mics by letter code, only revealing their identities later. You might want to make notes as you listen to the samples below. We’ll reveal the mics’ identities at the end.

This was by necessity an imperfect test. The only efficient way to do this was to set all the mics up in a large room. While indre’s Studio A is a nice-sounding room, it’s not representative of the recording spaces most of us work in, and the mics will sound a bit different in a small booth. Some of these mics have adjustment switches that might make some voices sound significantly better, but if we’d tested all the mics with all possible combinations of patterns, pads and rolloffs, we’d never have finished, so we left all mics flat, and in cardioid pattern, if they had multiple settings. Adjusting the mic, or applying EQ or other processing can change the sound of a mic significantly. Similarly, finding the “sweet-spot” on a mic takes a little practice, so some of these examples might have changed significantly if the voice talent had worked the mic a little closer or further away or at a different angle. And of course, the condition of the specific mic can have a huge effect. (In retrospect I realize that the AKG 414 that we used in this test didn’t behave like others I have used and could have been suffering from age or wear.)

Still, this test should give an approximation of the different characters of the mics, and how they sound with three different voices. The fascinating thing we discovered in our test, with our listeners, was that there was no “correct” answer; there was no mic that everyone agreed on as the “best” on any of the voices, let alone all of them. Each of us had different preferences about what we liked to hear, some preferring the round warmth of one mic, others favoring the biting clarity of another.

Thanks to our test voices: John Diliberto, Elinoar Astrinsky, and Bob Leedom. They were reading excerpts from Transom’s “What Mic do I Get” column, but they’ve been highly edited, if you’d like to see the complete document, it’s here. Special thanks to indre studios for their generous donation of their facilities, and to AIR for logistical support.

Mic Bassy Male Voice Warm Female Voice Male Voice 2
A Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
B Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
C Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
D Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
E Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
F Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
G Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
H Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
I Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
J Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
K Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
L Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
M Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
N Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
O Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
P Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
Q Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3
R Download MP3 Download MP3 Download MP3

When you’re done listening, and have made notes about your likes and dislikes, you can see names, pictures and details of the mics on this page: Mic Shootout Key

The Transom Online Workshop, with support from the Knight Prototype Fund, helped update this article.

Jeff Towne

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, 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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  • Jeff Towne


    Taste in Mics

    Welcome, I look forward to hearing your reactions to the mic shootout, please feel free to post your opinions!

    I did not include the reactions of our panel for two reasons: we had a fairly small group that day, so I’m not sure it would be statistically all that relevant, one listener’s opinion would swing unrealistically large percentages; and the conclusions of each listener were so different that it quickly became obvious that this is more of a taste thing than an objective scoring thing.

    So there was no "winner" to our ears, I’m curious if you folks will find any. We felt more that the other extreme was true, it was surprising how similar many of these mics sounded, and how different mics flattered different voices differently.

    Of course the sound of any of the mics can be tweaked radically with EQ and dynamics processing, but it’s always better to start with a sound that’s pretty close to what you want, rather than trying to fix it later. I hope that this this test might be helpful to some of you for narrowing down a sound you like. It’s no substitute for actually auditioning a mic with the specific voice you plan to record, but if you don’t have that luxury, maybe we can at least get you closer.

    In the end it depends on the timbre of a particular voice, and the preferences of the listener: whether a bright, direct sound that will cut through on the radio is more desirable, or a warm, rich tone, or some other ephemeral sonic character.

    Of course we couldn’t test every single mic for sale, so we tried to have a range of prices and styles, and cover some of the popular favorites. A few more affordable models have been released since we did this test, which would have been nice to include, but hey, that’s the real world….

    Please let us know what you think!

  • Bob Leedom


    Mic Shootout

    As one of the few participants in this "contest", I was looking for a "winner". Didn’t happen. With more participants voting, I feel we might have come to some "Top 5" consensus. To add to Jeff’s comments, I found that: A) more expensive isn’t always "better", and B) condensers aren’t always "better" than dynamics.
    (By the way, no onee agreed on what is "better" either. It depends…) Jeff liked my voice on the dynamic Shure SM7. I trust his ears and his experience. Since I also own an SM7B, that’s what I’ll be using until I decide to try some other condensers down the road. For me, although this exercise wasn’t conclusive, it was interesting and educational. In this case, the learning was in the journey. – Bob Leedom, Phila. / AIR

  • Les Hall


    Content not means of capture

    I listened to these tests expecting one model to really shine. I downloaded the MP3s and listened using my above average computer speakers. I found the differences to be minimal. Maybe if I listen with good headphones I will hear something different. I played and played the Studio Projects B1 sample against the Neumann U-87 sample and find no discernible difference between a mic costing $80 and one at $2,600.

    Maybe I should train my ears better?

    I feel that if one’s content is interesting and listen-able it doesn’t really matter what mic you use. I’ve heard plenty of boring radio recorded with $3,000 mics and lots of amazing off the cuff audio captured with cell phones, rinky-dink cassette machines and the like.

  • Jeff Towne


    Content is king

    I’d certainly agree that what one has to say is far more important than the equipment used to capture it, but at the same time I have heard compelling stories ruined by distractingly bad audio quality.

    I think you will indeed have trouble discerning the differences between the mics on even decent computer speakers, and perhaps that’s an important point. Much of the audio created today will be played back on computer speakers or car stereos or clock radios or cheapy earbud headphones. And you CAN get pretty close in quality to the big expensive classics for not much money.

    BUT if you listen carefully on good speakers, even though these are MP3s, there are distinct differences between the sound of a U87 and an RE27. And it’s up to you to decide whether you prefer one or the other. And I think the Studio Projects B1 is an awesome mic for $79, but I wouldn’t say that it sounds the same as a U87.

    Part of the point of this exercise was to demonstrate that you can get pretty good quality without spending much money, perhaps even use a mic you already have, rather than pining for the studio classics.

    That being said, I was quite impressed by a few of the mics over the others, and at a range of price points. But I’m going to hold-off saying which ones I personally liked for a while, I’m curious what you folks think.

    Les, I would encourage you to go back and listen with good studio monitors or headphones, and maybe listen a couple of times, I think you’ll start hearing some differences. And let us know what you find!

  • danny


    diminishing returns

    What I found was largely what I already knew – My ears are in very poor shape. Still I could tell the difference between some mics. I asked my wife to listen and compare my blind favorite against the $2600 Neumann U-87, and she thought my pick – the SM57 sounded like a “higher end” mic but couldn’t hear much difference. When I told her the prices, she tilted her head and stared disbelief. The SM57 does seem to have a bias toward the higher end of the frequency spectrum, but then again my knowledge of mic is rivaled only by me ears.

    On my score sheet, I rated the Rode NT1 highest and the Audio Technica 4050 second. Going back through them though, I found the SM57 easier on *my* ears with a clearer sound.

    This shootout clearly defines the phrase “diminishing returns.” I am hunting for mics for our LPFM radio station, and if I have such a hard time differentiation between vast price ranges, then so will most of our listeners. We did just buy a pair of GLX 2200’s for radio drama work. Can someone give me an idea if we made a mistake or not? After listening to these samples, it seems like a very silly questions to ask!

    This test helped me out greatly!


    — Dan

    b *** please list your top blind picks… and be honest! ***

  • Connor Walsh


    My blind top picks…

    1. NT-1
    2. Re-27
    3. KSM 44
    4. SM-58
    5. KSM 27

    After that they got pretty close… I was counting things like plosives too, so that is something that can be changed with simply hardware like pop-screens.

    Most of all, I was shocked to learn, I obviously don’t understand what is a good sounding mic.

    Even though I wasn’t using a top of the range pair of headphones, and was listening to RealAudio files, should I have really rated the Neumann U-87 second last?

    I guess it says a lot about the acoustics I used to working in, and that I really need to train my ear!

  • Jod doodo


    What’s the point

    With all due respect I find you mic test patently silly. Testing a mic by having a single voice talk into it, really tells you nothing. If I might, for a moment, let draw a comparsion. Any decent guitar/insstrument will sound good, played all by itself in the music store or your living room, likewise any decent mic spoken into as in your test. The real test for a guitar is when it is played under actual conditions, that being along with other instruments, or in a performance situation. Guitar amplifiers are a perfect example of this, they all can make a decent show of themselves in the music store, but take them on stage and you quickely hear what sets them apart. SO if you are getting my point, what separaates good from bad, quality from no quality is when you test it under actual condtions. Then the stars start to shine,
    What you really need to do is record the same voice, the same way, saying/singing the same thing everytime on each mic, taking advantage of each mics qualities, allow for proximety differences, etc, And then droping the results into a mix with other instruments/sounds, then we could see/hear how the mic holds up under actual conditions……
    Just talking into a bunch of mics, is like play a dozen violins in the violin shop, they all sound great, maybe that’s why they let you take them home for awhile, And you can’t judge a car by reving up the engine on the lot, If one has learned anything in ones life it should be that we can’t really judge anything by first impressions or simple test.
    Hey that’s just my 2 cents,

    • Justsaying



      The test was not aimed at recording instruments but voices. It should have been obvious the Association for Independents in Radio only use mics for voice, not to record or broadcast music. Save your comments for mic testing for music recording.

  • Jeff Towne


    the point

    Well…. many of us make radio/audio/web productions that focus on an announcer reading or talking into an announce mic. Maybe there will be some background sound or music, maybe not. So I would say that what we did was very close to a real-world performance situation for a typical announcer. True, we were in a very big room, not a booth, and that WILL change the sound a bit, but it just isn’t physically practical to set up 17 mics in a voiceover booth.

    And we tested with three different voices, saying basically the same things over and over into all of the microphones. We didn’t rev them up in the parking lot, we took 17 of them around the block with three different drivers. I’m not sure I understand where the procedural flaw is.

    I’ll agree that this test isn’t going to help a singer find the perfect mic for sitting nicely in a mix, but then, that’s not the point of this site.

  • Peregrine Andrews



    As someone who records voices for radio very often, and mostly with quite expensive mics such as 414s and U87s, I was amazed at the Studio Projects B1 (sample A). To me that sounded one of the best – rounded and not sibilant. But if I’d known how much it cost in advance I may well have heard it differently! It is of course true that no single test can tell the whole story, but it’s been a great price-prejudice shatterer!

  • Jeff Towne


    Price surprise

    Hi Perigrine, I’m glad you had that experience! That was part of the intent of this test, to eliminate the presumptions we have about price and performance. I’d be reluctant to say that the B1 is "better" or even as good as a 414 or U87, but with certain voices, addressed from the right angle and distance, it does very well. There are a lot of under $200 large-diaphragm condenser mics out now, but I think Studio Projects makes some of the best of those budget mics.

  • Peregrine Andrews


    Jack of all trades?

    Maybe this mic happened to work well this time and 414s and U87s are more consistent performers. I read a nice quote recently that said that even a really bad mic is like a stopped clock – there are moments when it’s right. And that reminds me of Walter Murch’s great example of the Imax film of the Space Shuttle – the preferred recording came from a dictating machine mic hanging out of a moving car. I digress… but I suppose my point is that we should never think that good recordings can be bought. Sound engineers get really snobby about expensive kit and tests like these are a great way to bring us down to what matters.

  • Chris Roose


    What, no AT2020?

    As someone who ends up with a lot of Audio-Technica gear by virture of their price points, I would like to have seen their new large diaphram condenser in this test. It’s getting great reviews – anyone out there care to weigh in on it?

  • Jeff Towne


    AT 2020

    We actually did this test almost a year ago, and I’d been wasting time trying to figure out how best to present it… but the 2020 was not out then, or at least not widely distributed yet. AT gear is generally pretty good, but we did have the 4050, which is not directly comparable, it has a larger diaphragm, more patterns, and is WAY more expensive, but you can get a sense what AT designers are shooting for.

    I haven’t used a 2020 myself, anybody?

  • David Satz


    Just for the record, re: the Schoeps mike

    Hi–If your Schoeps CMC 6– microphone was tested with an MK 21 capsule, then that wasn’t a cardioid. It’s a pattern somewhere between cardioid and omni which some people call "hypocardioid" and others call "wide cardioid". Schoeps’ main cardioid capsule is the MK 4, and there’s a slightly brighter-sounding alternative called the MK 4V which is arranged so that its main axis is along the side of the capsule. But a lot of folks who record sound for film, video and broadcast seem to prefer an even more directional capsule, the MK 41 (which is technically somewhere between a supercardioid and a hypercardioid). –best regards, David Satz

    • Philiip Slade



      As an audio beginner trying to organize a small group of talented readers to record works of French literature, I pounced on a CMC6/MK41 kit offered at a very nice price by a retiring ENG video guy who used it for years on a boom pole. The logic is that this mic and the techniques used on location shoots solve many of the problems I encounter trying to operate out of an imperfect office/home studio or at readers’ homes or offices. But to the point: I passed right over the samples from Mic K in great part because of numerous audio glitches.

      When I revisited the recordings after looking at the key however, I recognized those artifacts from my own experience. My Schoeps is extremely sensitive to some forms of handling and, as far as I can tell, to various air currents, not to mention plosives. My guess is that it is much like a sports car: you need to learn how to handle it correctly, within its top performance envelope. You do run a higher risk of getting off the track than when driving a Camry, but that is the downside of that extra performance. Once you get into that territory, with good associated electronics (currently Apogee interfaces) and effective accessories, you start capturing remarkably clear and realistic sound.

      Now, my goal is not to flatter a specific voice for broadcast or voice-over work but to capture them all equally (I do not use the low-cut filter module much) and retain something as lifelike, clean, and detailed as possible from the original high-resolution recording session. I do own and enjoy an old Rode NT-1, BTW: but when, as a matter of curiosity, I recorded the same voice on two otherwise identical channels, one for the Schoeps and one for the Rode, a bit off-axis and minimizing plosives, etc. the results were interesting: the Schoeps definitely delivered more detail with more refinement and presence. That double edge (in addition to low self-noise) is, I would guess, what makes all the difference down the road, the difference between a mic that is good for working on one’s readings with sufficient detail for critical evaluation, and the mic that will actually capture a good reading in all its relevant dimensions for later editing. You see it in the waveform, and you hear it as you replay it in high resolution with high-quality gear. That’s how it feels so far…

  • Scott Koue


    RE mic tests in general

    I some complaints about the method of testing but just as the method is flawed so is the complaint. The ONLY way to know whether a mic will work for you is to try it out for your self. And that is pretty much true for most equipment. Everyone uses stuff differently. So the test is valid and limited. It gives a sense of the mics (it’s MP3 and a sense is all your going to get) and that I think was the point. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good sounding mic. Depending on a lot of factors like how you work and what you want to use the mic for, this may or may not reflect how it will work for you. Things that tend to show up in pricier mics are very low self noise, smooth and pleasing top end and low distortion. Sound differences between top end studio mics are pretty subtle. A lot of what costs $$$ is not nec. that important in radio. As an example a SM58 is fairly impervious to pop’s while big studio condensers are usually very sensitive. It doesn’t matter that the big studio condenser is a "better" mic, if your going off in the field to do interviews you will get better recordings with the 58.

  • cindy


    Mic Test Opinions from a Newbie

    Long time TAL listener – First time Transom visit. Here is my opinion. I look forward to find out the prices and detail info on the mics.
    I listen to voice tone or warmth. Being female, I listened to her voice tones to make my decision because I think male voices have a deeper warmer sound.
    Female E was not available. I did not like C.
    Mics O, P, Q, and R were my favorites.
    Mics G, H, I, A, and B were good.
    The rest of the mics would be accepptable.

  • jimi



    I also noticed that several of the sound clips were not working. Do you think this could be fixed? I’d really like to hear the female voice on the SM7

  • David Hall


    My Verdict

    Firstly I would like to agree with the earlier comments that content is what makes a radio program. As we all know the quality of AM radio is poor but listening to an AM station is not boring and uninteresting because of the sound quality. All of the microphones in the test will work quite well for producing a radio program and I don’t think that any of them were particularly unsuitable, but choosing the ideal microphone for the voice you are recording is the icing on the cake.

    Any way my favorites were as follows:

    1. AKG-414 B-ULS – I am an audio purist and this mic sounded accurate and uncoloured, which is what I like.

    2. Rode NT1

    3. Schoeps P48 with MK21

    4. Oktava 319

    5. AKG C3000

    Generally I didn’t like the Shure KSM series mics. I thought they sounded a bit thin. To my ears the large diaphragm dynamics lacked the frequency response of the condensers. The RE27 was the best out of the dynamics. The SM-58 and SM-57 were the worst sounding out of them all.

  • rjlhughes


    Just Thanks

    I"ve been testing my own small array of mics with my new iriver recorder, and your test has given me a remarkable benchmark for my own mics. I too have a very bassy voice and so I was especially appreciative of those samples. I liked the Shure 57 too.

    thanks again

    Bob H

  • Thomas Kim


    Microphone Selection Guide

    Hi all-

    Here is a posting on ziff-davis net’s blogs entitled, "Ode to the microphone: A podcaster’s selection guide."

    Don’t let the title throw you. Just because the article is targeted towards the podcasting community doesn’t mean that the authors don’t have some useful information and recommendations concerning inexpensive microphones for use under differing ENG/studio conditions.

    Useful for making decisions on how to stock your starter mic collection.

  • john davenport


    mic shootout revealed the brillance of RODE NT1

    Thanks to this site and the testing of the RODE
    NT1…I found my new favorite mic for my voiceover applications! I even bought the new
    RODE NT1-A! Great mics! They are tight on the
    HIGH and LOW end EQ but they cut throught like
    no mic can in this price range!

    John D

  • Neil Bergman


    Comments on mic shootout

    I was amused at how many of the mics I could’ve identified by their sound on the bassy voice.

    I have two questions. Is it common practice for voice over talent to speak into the end of a Sennheiser MD421? I use this technique specifically for horns to keep them from becoming obnoxious in the upper-midrange, but I would have expected anyone using an MD421 as a vocal mic to speak into the "front", which is physically the side of a 421.

    My other question is why you included the RE27 but failed to include the RE20. I can’t speak for radio stations, but I’ve seen far more RE20’s used for voice-over than RE27’s. They do not sound alike and it would have been useful to have included such a ubiquitous voice-over mic in your shootout.

    It was interesting to hear several mics I have not or have rarely had the opportunity to work with. Thanks for staging the shootout.

  • blairfisher


    Re: Comments on mic shootout

    I think you are mistaken about the capsule placement on the Sennheiser MD421. It is mounted at the end, and one is meant to speak or play into the end.

    It is NOT a side-address mike…

  • Ian Hlatky


    Thank you for posting this…

    I’m not a voiceover or radio artist or engineer, but a music engineer and producer. This was a fun and enlightening excercise…thanks for doing this and sharing. Here are my picks (in order of generally highest rating across all voices):

    1. Studio Projects B1 (scored straight 9s)
    2. Neumann TLM 103 (9s on all but female vox)
    3. Sennheiser 421 (which I own)
    4. Neuamann U87
    5. NT1 (which I thought was the best on the bass vox & I own)
    6. AKG C3000 (I also own)

    Thanks again. Very enlightening.

  • Stalker


    Hard test

    Did this test late one night with a really cheap pair of earphones, Sennheiser HD 201 ($20). I thought this was very hard and frustrating – didn’t agree with the comments on almost any of the mics. I’ll wait for a new pair of earphones, the Sony MDR-7506, and I will redo the test.

  • Maury Buchanan


    Thanks for the Mike Demos

    I had posted a page on my website with my three favorite mikes. I had no idea you guys had audio test of so many. I put your site as a link on that page at Thanks for your hard work.

  • mr.z


    my favorit is A

    I liked M and Q too
    was surprised after looking at the mikes names…
    i supposedto spend at least 500 Euros to get a Mic
    i like. But maybe theres in fact too much bass.
    Wonder how this works together with music..
    Thanks for this hhelpfulhootout

  • fujofly


    Thank You!

    I loved A, D and Q. What a wonderful example I wish I had this a long time ago. Thank you so much for putting this up online. Didn’t realize noise had so much to do with Mic’s and their qualities.

  • Bass


    Depending on what speakers I was listening through

    It depended a lot on what speakers I was listening to, and what level I set the volume at. For equal levels, I was most impressed with Mic D for the female voice.

    I thought Mic M was a good price compromise for a nice overall sound with perhaps a little EQ.

  • P. Lydon



    OK, so it’s not a scientific test, but a really good real-world shootout to help get an idea of voiceover and broadcast mics out there.

    I picked the Rode NT1 and Shure KSM27, although I also rated the dynamic SM57 high. Amazing because the SM57 is a mic I already own but have only used for live stage performance. Now I’ll give my trusty SM57 a chance in the studio for narration work… and heck, probably pick up one of those first two also!

    Thanks again!

  • jewk


    Which SM57 did you use? made in usa or made in mexico

    made in usa SM57 and made in mexico SM57 sounds different..
    plz let me know..
    and i really appreciate your sharing….
    thank you

  • Ben Zabbia


    Rode NT-1

    After listening to all 16 mics with a bass voice only. I chose the Rode NT-1. I liked the bass response and overall tone and presence.
    I have been using and MXL 990 condenser but I am thinking of getting a new mic. The Rode NT-1 seems like it would suit my bass voice.

    Thank Heaps!

  • Rosey



    I was surprised after doing this blind test I chose the $100. shure58 as my favorite! I was especially surprised because I have this mic, but it does not sound as good going through my alesis mixer as it did here. I wonder if I am doing something wrong. I absolutely love this mic for singing, but came to this site hoping to pick a good mic for dry track voice over work. Does anyone know what mixer they used to perform these tests.

  • Walker



    Wow! – this is the way to do this! Thanks transome for helping out so many people. I spent the weekend on you tube listening to condensor mics and had some good ideas already but listening to them side by side here gave me the info to make a purchase – the RODE NT1!

    Contrary to one of the posts here, I’ve found that a mike that produces a golden, creamy “spoken voice” translates into a quality sound while singing, espescially if the music is more “spoken” and melodic like folk or country. Rock vocals are in the upper midrange and surprisingly do not take much of a mike to capture, in fact a mic like a sure SM 58 will nail them. It’s the softer, richer ballads that take a great mic.

    My favorites were
    Rodes NT1 – hands down
    Shure KSM27
    AKG C-3000

  • john



    These blind tests sure are fun. I tested once, and scored the KSM-27 the highest. The next day, realizing I was really tilting my scale towards the mics with a fuller/powerful bass response, I decided to pick my favorites out of each category. My results:

    1. Neuman U87
    2. Shure KSM27
    3. (tie) Shure SM7, Rode NT-1, Shure KSM32, Oktava 319

    I sure want to use one of these shooting video, despite the what people say about cardioid. My AT 835b sounds horrible going into my Zoom H4n audio recorder, so I might pick up one of these, thinking it can’t get any worse (i did a test and preferred a 35 dollar AT wired mic to my AT835 shotgun mic).

  • Mike Abbott



    I know this is an old test – but I have to post and say ‘thanks’. As someone who is new to spoken word recording I’ve spent a few weeks educating myself on the basics. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘which mic is best’ question, but this post puts that into perspective. My feeling is that even the cheapest of these mics would be adequate for the majority of home studio users such as myself. For such users, it seems to me that vocal training, mic technique and a decent recording environment are equally, if not more important.

  • James Beach



    The comparison is decidedly murky, they all sound very similar (frequently to the point of being indistinguishable) to me listening on quality equipment. What is perhaps more illuminating are the comments. It would appear that most people concur with my experience and, when they found themselves favoring less expensive microphones over top-dollar classics, decided their ears are to blame for the discrepancy! They say they need to train their ears; I say, if you can’t hear a difference (or more rigorously, if you can’t pass a properly designed ABX), then there probably isn’t much of one to speak of, certainly not one paying a premium for. In this modern era of inexpensive yet precision manufacturing, diminishing returns kicks in early and perceived differences begin to radiate mostly from the imagination rather than anything real. Audio is perhaps most notoriously afflicted, maybe because it’s one of the most innately emotional senses second perhaps only to smell, but it can be found everywhere: high price tags make tasters enjoy the wine more, people enjoy fast food just as much as fine dining when they don’t know it’s fast food.

    Quality is important, to a point. To use photography as an example, gear is important because without a camera and without light you can’t make an image, but after that your subject and your creativity alone will take it the rest of the way. All these mics sound very good and none of them could be blamed for a poor quality production.

    • TD Gary



      If you can’t hear the difference between G and O or A and H, you must not have had much experience listening to vocals or your speakers are junk. It’s a little difficult to hear the differences on iPod earbuds, but using a pair of low-end monitoring cans, like the Sennheiser model HD 280, you can easily hear a difference between each and every one.

      I find I prefer the sound of the Shure KSM44. It’s not because of the price (there are more expensive ones on the list), but because I ran the vocal files through an EQ and found them very easy to manipulate into any style I know and still sound fantastic, especially compared to the cruddier mics I’ve used that hype up the highs. Thanks go to the curves in the KSM44’s frequency response, which are very predictable and smooth. To me, the mic sounds the most natural and the results are the easiest to tweak, and because that’s what I go for, that’s what I picked as the best. I would definitely buy that mic over the rest.

      To your camera analogy, you try justifying a year-2010 iPhone camera and a 40Watt desk lamp as ‘studio quality’. The results will always speak against that unless you’re doing something so artistically different that realism (and thus quality) is irrelevant.

  • Please fix



    Why would you go to the trouble to record all these microphones, but then ruin the whole thing and waste your effort by using a 112 kbps MP3 encoding? That’s just so thoughtless… and incompetent. 112 kbps falls below even the bare minimum. Even back in the year 2005, a bitrate of 112kbps was sub-par. The only kind of people who would actually encode something in 112 kbps is like some 60 year old grandma who downloaded Adware MP3 encoder from Yahoo search. Seriously. Yet some audio guy did this? What the hell? How about re-encoding the files. I don’t want to listen to some bullshit 112 kbps.

  • Augustus Michael



    I appreciate this shootout! I listened on a good pair of studio headphones through an Apollo Twin. My 4 top mics for overall performance were the AKG 414, the Neumann U87, the Rode NT-1, and the AKG C-3000. I was surprised by some of the other mics that I did and did not like.

  • joe night



    no stand alone record i rest my case

  • Adam Monroe



    Hello from the future!
    Listening to all these samples blind, these are the mics I thought sounded consistently good on all three voices:

    akg 414
    neumann tlm 103
    neumann u-87
    rode nt-1
    shure sm141

    Quite surprised by the Rode! Yes it’s a little hyped, but this shootout might have convinced me to buy one, as it seems to compare favorably with mics costing ten times as much. The AKG 414 and Shure SM141 were smooth, but I’d have to say the most expensive mic (U-87) was the most balanced and detailed to my ears, but I doubt I’ll be buying one anytime soon!

    I also thought the SM7, Oktava, and Schoeps mics sounded good on some voices, but not all. If people can’t hear the difference in these mics, you probably need to buy some good quality studio monitors or headphones, it makes a world of difference.

  • Lakshmi DelSesto



    My Favorite was K and then D. I typically love and prefer Neumann’s of which D is, but I”m surprised I didn’t pick F, the Neumann U-87, though it sounds like it has so many uses and functions I’m curious about its use in different settings. I liked some of the cheaper mics too, such as A, and P. I tried to look for common properties of the ones I liked, and it looks as though I liked Large Diaphragm Condenser mics, though my favorite, K, was a small condenser. But definitely also noticed how similar many of them were, and also how some just really sounded better on the female voice and some the reverse. I tried to pick mics as a favorite that didn’t have a gender voice preference, but that I liked on all 3 voices. Fun Exercise!!

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