In a home studio, it’s important to have the right tools for the right job. One of the most important tools you could own is a microphone that works for your voice. It’s a difficult decision to make because for many people the option of having lots of microphones at hand to test is unrealistic.
We’ve designed this guide to help you make an informed choice on the types of microphone available on the market. So you can gain professional results, no matter what your style is, without breaking the bank.
Rode NT1A – Tone with control
We’ll start with one of the lowest cost microphones in this list, the Rode NT1-A. This is perfect for a beginner’s investment into home studio recording, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a cheap sounding mic. On the contrary, the Rode NT1A stands up against far more expensive microphones. It has won numerous awards too for its exceptional quality and low noise.
The NT1-A is warm, clear and can withstand high sound pressure levels, which makes it extremely versatile for all sorts of recording applications, not just in the studio. It’s quiet in operation, making it great for voice overs and environmental recording. But where you’ll get best results is in your home, no matter your gender or vocal range. Expect crisp, shimmering highs and a smooth low-end to boot.
What we love even more about this fantastic product is the additional extras which include a shockproof cradle, pop shield and 20 foot XLR cable. We feel that’s testament of Rode’s commitment to the quality of this device, providing clarity along the signal chain all the way to your preamp. It’s highly tweakable too, meaning there’s lots of scope to alter the tone in your DAW. There’s a reason so many professional recording studios own these mics, even though it’s billed as a budget option.
SE-Electronics SE4400A – Vintage versatility
If you’re running a project studio, you know that having an arsenal of weaponry to tackle every audio eventuality is crucial. The SE-Electronics SE4400A is just that. A veritable Swiss-army knife if you like, capable of recording pretty much anything you can throw at it. It’s packed full of features including a dual diaphragm with four selectable polar patterns, which include: cardioid, hyper cardioid, figure of 8 and omni-directional. There’s two low frequency cut modes and two pad modes too.
The SE4400A really shines is in the vocal department. The tuned handmade capsule provides an open, airy high frequency response, warm lows and detailed mids. As you’d expect with a large diaphragm condenser, this microphone captures full bodied vocals, from baritone through to falsetto. It’s not a one trick pony either, offering unmatched tonal versatility for a microphone in this price bracket.
Aston Spirit Multi Pattern Condenser – Lush female vocals
The Aston Spirit Multi Pattern Condenser is one of those mics for the discerning audiophile. It works beautifully with professional vocalists who send shivers down your spine. It features a built-in mesh knit filter which rejects unwanted vibration and plosives which could otherwise ruin a flawless vocal take. This premium microphone has all features you’d expect from a high quality piece of kit such as omni, cardioid and figure of eight pattern selectors and an 80Hz low cut filter, it’s the sheer class sound which makes it stand out.
There is no honkiness which you can get from a cardioid-pattern mic; and with just a little lift in the air region this is about as natural sounding as it gets. For female vocals the Aston Spirit is ideal, providing lavish lushness with a haze of vintage smoothness. Close your eyes and be taken back to a 1920s jazz bar in Harlem.
Sure Beta 57a – Classic dynamic bite
Now the Sure Beta 57a is something of a legend when it comes to a low cost all-rounder microphone. For a start, it’s more rugged than Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies. They are literally bomb proof.
Although ideal for stage work, the Sure Beta 57a is also excellent for use in the home studio. It’s especially useful when you’ve got a strong rock vocal pounding into its diaphragm. The super cardioid polar pattern is excellent for picking up what’s in front of the microphone but rejecting unwanted sounds. That’s great for a project studio where the acoustic treatment isn’t at a professional standard. If anything, the Beta 57a works best for upfront vocals; rock singers or rapper who dig into the microphone, allowing them freedom of movement. In most situations, holding a mic isn’t the best way to capture a clean vocal take but the advanced pneumatic shockmount system minimises unwanted noise. In addition, you can take advantage of the bass response gained from the hardened shell of the capsule which facilitates the use of the proximity effect.
Rode NTK valve condenser – Smooth on the bottom end
Last up, the Rode NTK valve condenser microphone. It is super warm in a way you’d expect from a microphone that offers class-A valve/tube technology. Unlike the Rode K2 (Rode’s premium tube mic) the NTK has a fixed cardioid pickup pattern, which means that you’ll get all that full-bottomed tone of a vintage sound but at a cost that’s affordable for the home studio.
The NTK comes with its own power supply which cuts out any artifacts you might gain when running a valve microphone in a home environment. That means you’ll experience ultra-quiet operation and capture only the sounds you want. This mic also comes with a mount and lead, adding to the great value.
To round up, we loved this microphone for low end tones, like male crooners such as baritone or tenor voices. Even for higher pitched singers you’ll gain light and airy tones which you’d expect from something far more expensive than the Rode NTK valve microphone.