Generally, you will come across two different types of microphones: condenser and dynamic. Condenser microphones are the most common types of microphones you’ll find in studios due to their warmth and high fidelity.
They generally have a greater sensitivity and typically have a louder output. As a result of the higher sensitivity, the transient and frequency response is much greater.
Additionally, the low mass diaphragm of a condenser mic can follow the sound waves more accurately than that of a dynamic microphone, resulting in superior sound quality. If you’re looking for a great mic, we’ve provided you with a few options so you can find the best condenser mic under $200.
Nowadays, there are many cheap condenser mics available. It’s our opinion that spending a little more money on a condenser mic will make a huge difference in recording quality.
Mics in the sub $100 category generally are noisy and offer much lower sound quality than a top-of-the-line microphone. Below, we strive to find a balance of quality by suggesting a few picks for microphones in the mid to lower price range. Let's get started!
Things to Consider When Selecting The Best Condenser Microphone
- Power Source
Condenser microphones require external power for their internal electronics. A condenser mic will either be powered by a USB (from your tablet or computer) or through what is known as P48 phantom power.
P48 phantom power is typically provided through your audio interface or mixing desk. You can alway buy an external 48V power supply if needed. If you plan on recording with tablet or laptop, you’ll need to pick up one of these external power supplies to give your mic enough juice to record at a high quality.
- Diaphragm Size
Typically, a condenser microphone can be classified as a large diaphragm microphone (LDM) or a small diaphragm microphone (SDM). LDM are generally the choice for studio vocals as they tend to warm up whatever is being recorded and capture more detail. Make sure you invest in a pop screen when using a LDM for vocals as they are very sensitive to transients.
SDMs are generally used for a solid, wide frequency response as they have a solid transient response. A great use case for SDMs is for recording strings or other concert type recording. Typically, for high sound level pressures such as drum kits or guitar amplifiers, an SDM should be used to withstand the high sound volumes.
- Polar Pattern
Manufacturers will specify the microphone polar patterns – a two-dimensional representation of microphones sensitivity to sound arriving from different directions. The majority of microphones use omnidirectional, cardioid, or figure-8 polar patterns. Many microphones have a single fixed pattern, while others have different patterns that can be selected by the user.
A common pattern you’ll find in many microphones is the cardioid pattern (see below).Knowledge of this pattern will give you an idea which mic to buy for which purpose. A Cardioid pattern captures everything in the front of the mic and rejects background noise. A cardioid pattern is ideal for capturing vocals and single instruments, while omnidirectional and figure-8 patterns will be useful for multiple instruments.
Keep in mind that unintentional background noise can be audible with omnidirectional and figure-8 patterns so pay attention to your mic placements.
For those who need a bit more on polar patterns I've supplied a video below.
Our Top Picks for The 3 Best Condenser Mic Under $200
1. Audio-Technica AT2035
- Large diaphram
- Includes pop filter
- Includes shock mount
- Only XLR output
- No inline controls
- No on-mic controls or monitoring
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Large-diaphragm microphone
- P48 Phantom powered with XLR cable
- Micro fibre cleaning cloth included
- 80Hz highpass filter and 10dB pad
The AT2035 has the largest diameter of the entire AT line yet has one of the more reasonable price points. We’ve chosen the AT2035 because when comparing to the AT4047, which costs nearly four times as much, we were hard-pressed to notice a significant difference.
The AT2035 has a nice balanced sound with a smooth response. If you are looking for a mic for home studio recording, the AT2035 has an excellent sound for a serious bargain.
Bottom Line: If you aren't concerned with on-mic controls, USB, or realtime monitoring, then this is a good bargain.
- Cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source
- Large diaphragm for smooth, natural sound and low noise
2. Rode NT-USB
- On-mic controls
- On-mic monitoring
- Includes pop sheild
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring jack to monitor microphone input in real time
- USB powered. Compatible with iPads
- 2-year warranty
- On-mic mix control
- Includes tripod stand, pop shield and ring mount
The Rode NT-USB has always been known as a quality USB microphone for home studio use. The 3.5 mm jack allows you to monitor the microphone input in real time while the direct mix control will allow you to control the mix between the mic input and source output.
We agree with the professional studio engineer Bejan Etezad when he said “The actual quality of the recorded vocals are beautiful, clean and does not require too much tweaking to get the vocals up to the industry standard. I would highly recommend this mic to anyone who does home/studio recording, podcasts and so on.”
Bottom Line: This mic comes with a ton of great features. However, the cost is higher than the Blue Yeti without adding many additional features.
- Buy only from Amazon.com (labelled ‘shipped and sold by Amazon.com’)
- High quality studio microphone with the convenience of USB connectivity
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
- Easy plug and play
- Expectational quality
- On-mic controls
- Multiple polar patterns
- Multiple condenser capsules for multiple polar patterns
- USB-powered studio quality recording
- Adjustable microphone gain for varying volume
- Zero-latency headphone output
- Capable of analog XLR recording
The Blue Yeti has become one of the most popular do-it-all condenser mics. If you are looking for a hassle-free option that gives you studio quality recording then the Blue Yeti is your perfect microphone. You can easily control the headphone volume, pattern selection, instant mute and microphone gain on the microphone.
The plug ‘n play option for Mac and PC makes for a hassle free setup. David G. Beneke sums up why this mic has been such a hit when he says, “I spent over 8 years in professional radio and 30 plus years doing voice over recording and sound mixing, so I have heard and used all types of mics and I have to rate the Blue Yeti at the top of my list.”
If you are looking for a cheaper option, I've compared the Blue Yeti to the Blue Snowball iCE here. If you want something in between the iCE and the Yeti, you can check out the original Snowball.
You will get everything you need with this mic for a serious bargain. It even comes with multiple polar patterns for different recording situations. Highly recommended. Make sure you pick the right mic stand and shock mount if you do decide to go with the Yeti.
Bottom Line: One of the best mic in this price point. It even beats many mics twice the price. A highly recommended option.
- Custom three-capsule array: Produces clear, powerful, broadcast-quality sound for YouTube, game streaming, podcasting, Skype calls and music
- Four pickup patterns: cardioid, Omni, bidirectional, and stereo pickup patterns offer incredible flexibility, allowing you to record in ways that would normally require multiple microphones