As seen in:
Shure
BETA 87A Supercardioid, Handheld
Samson Technologies
Go Mic Portable USB
CAD
USB Studio Condenser
Blue Microphones
Yeti USB
Audio-Technica
Cardioid Condenser USB
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Good

Professional performance from a company with an outstanding reputation. Unbeatable sound quality ratings.

Inexpensive and portable. Cardioid and omni pick-up patterns.

Great for speaking voice and guitar.

Four pick-up settings enhance control and artistic freedom.

Appropriate for vocals and instrumentals.

Bad

No USB connectivity. Primarily for vocals.

Occasional latency problems.

Background noise sometimes filters into recordings.

Heavier mic (3.5 pounds). Some controls look "flimsy," although they hold up well.

Extremely sensitive. Not good for Skype or intimate vocal recordings.

Bottom Line

Absolutely the best condenser mic for vocal performances and recordings.

A budget-priced mic that's not perfect, but it gets the job done.

A lower-priced condenser mic with a few known flaws.

The best condenser mic package for the least amount of money.

A well-respected product with a history of some minor sound quality flaws.

How we decide
BestReviews is committed to providing comprehensive and trusted reviews for products that matter to consumers. We do the research to help you save time and money.
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Products received from manufacturers
58
Models Considered
41
Hours Spent
1
Experts Interviewed
168
Consumers Consulted

Best Condenser Microphones

The condenser mics on our shortlist are within the financial reach of most amateurs. They've all received top ratings from customers, and all have passed our rigorous evaluation based on their sound quality, applications, and features.

Products we Considered

Shure
BETA 87A Supercardioid, Handheld
Samson Technologies
Go Mic Portable USB
CAD
USB Studio Condenser
Blue Microphones
Yeti USB
Audio-Technica
Cardioid Condenser USB

Considerations

Sound Quality

Whether you're presenting a live performance or making a recording, your microphone's sound quality is a top concern. Does the mic need a pop filter? Does it render any feedback or distortion? We describe what to expect, in terms of sound, from each of the products on our shortlist.

Applications

Some mics are best suited for solo performances; others are great for recording band jam sessions. In this section, we advise you of the different ways you could potentially use each product.

Features

Some mic packages include a stand, USB cable, and carrying case. Other packages are more "bare bones." We let you know exactly what to expect from each product on our shortlist.

Price

You could spend less than $100 or more than $1,000 on a good condenser mic. The products on our shortlist hover in a price range that's affordable for most amateurs; several of them would work well in a professional setting, too.

Considerations

Sound Quality

Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone

The Samson Go Mic is small and portable; simply clip it onto your laptop screen and begin recording. Because it's so small, some skeptics predict that the sound quality won't be the best. However, our research indicates that many owners are highly satisfied with the sound quality produced by the Go Mic. Some say that the sound is warmer and richer on the bass end than the treble; this is neither good nor bad, just an observation from some owners. (However, if you're planning to make recordings with a treble focus, such as a children's choir or woodwind ensemble, you may wish to hear a sound sample before making a purchase.) The ability to switch back and forth between cardioid and omni pick-up patterns makes it a versatile choice for recording different types of events, from podcasts to group meetings to jam sessions with your band. We did encounter a few complaints of "P" popping sounds and background noise, but when you consider the low price of this product -- just $39 -- it's not a bad deal at all, especially if you're not making a professional recording.

CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone

The CAD U37 Studio Condenser Recording Microphone features a cardioid pick-up pattern. This type of pick-up focuses on the main sound source and is purported to minimize background noise. However, some CAD owners tell us the mic is extremely sensitive in a large room. One user told us that the singing voice is the worst to record because of how sensitive the mic is, but the speaking voice and guitar record "perfectly." The manufacturer boasts a "studio-quality" sound which you can pipe directly into your computer via the included USB. Whether the sound is actually of studio quality is subjective, of course, but for most amateur and semi-professional owners, the CAD suffices. Overall, this is a satisfactory mic for most owners, but if you plan to record in a noisy room, you may want to invest in a pop filter and use the included "Bass Reduction" switch to minimize background noise.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone - Silver

The Blue Yeti USB Mic is a top seller. Its popularity is due, in large part, to its outstanding sound quality. Owners can choose between four recording modes: stereo (left and right channels are used for realistic sound), cardioid (great for podcasts, vocals, and any other recording where the performer stands directly in front of the mic), omni-directional (sound input is pulled equally from all directions), and bi-directional (ideal for solo instrumentals; sound input is captured from the front and rear of the mic). With so many choices, it's quite easy to achieve the finished product you want -- no matter what you're recording. Owners rave about the different pick-up options available to them. In omni-directional mode, for example, one person said they were able to record crickets chirping in their yard. If you don't want to pick up the sound of crickets, you could choose the more focused cardioid mode. One owner advised that even though this is a high-quality mic, you're likely to get better results if you use it in a sound-padded room. We don't know which pick-up setting this owner was using, but we do know that the Blue Yeti provides recording artists with powerful choices and plenty of artistic freedom.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone

The Audio-Technica Cardioid Condenser USB is a directional mic, meaning that it gleans sounds from whatever source is placed directly in front of it. However, it also has a reputation for being highly sensitive to other noises in the room. As one owner said, "If your stomach is growling, it will pick it up." Owners can control for this -- to an extent -- by adjusting the microphone properties in whatever software program they're using. This mic is marketed for many different purposes, including podcasts and musical recordings. However, because it's so sensitive, it may not be the best for Skype calls and intimate vocal recordings. Many owners are satisfied with the Audio-Technica's sound quality, calling their final product "crisp" and "professional." Not everyone likes the output, though. One owner said the sound was "tunnely." Another said the bass sounds muddy and the mid-range is practically "non-existent." "P" pops are a common problem with many microphones, and the Audio-Technica is no exception. (Buying an inexpensive "pop" filter is one quick solution to this problem.) Still, the overwhelming majority of owners say the are satisfied with the sound they get from their Audio-Technica.

Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

The Shure BETA 87A is the only "supercardioid” condenser mic on our shortlist, although the others do have cardioid capabilities. This hand-held mic is designed primarily for live vocal performances, and it does this job very well. Owners have used the Shure for vocal solos, intimate voice/guitar performances, professional on-stage performances, and in-studio recordings. Higher notes have an "airy" quality, the middle range is strong, and the bass is velvety smooth. Singers do not need to "eat" this mic; you could be six inches away and still enjoy a crystal-clear pick-up. This is the most expensive microphone on our shortlist, and it doesn't come with the USB capabilities that the other four have. However, it also receives the highest ratings of all of the microphones on our list. Customers cannot say enough good things about the sound quality they get from the Shure BETA 87A. Because it's designed primarily for vocalists, our research did not turn up a lot of data about instrumental sound quality. Shure does make similarly priced mics for instrumentalists that receive equally stellar reviews.

The Shure BETA 87A's high notes have an "airy" quality, the middle range is strong, and the bass is velvety smooth.
Considerations

Applications

Tech-savvy musicians and audio producers love the portability of the Samson Go Mic. Whether you use a PC or Mac, you can connect this mic easily to your computer to input your recordings. One owner we spoke to uses Audacity recording software with his laptop and his Go Mic for vocal, acoustic, and electric guitar recording. Another uses his Go Mic to capture improvisations that he later turns into full-fledged songs. Still others use the Go Mic for entry-level podcasting. It's not a studio-quality mic, and the sound will not be crystal clear and perfect. However, it serves the purpose of many amateurs and semi-professionals.

The CAD is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers. It comes with an eight-foot long USB cable that allows you to simply plug in and start recording. No drivers are necessary because the microphone is automatically recognized by your computer. (Note: a few owners had trouble getting their computer to recognize the USB. It turned out that they had received a faulty microphone. This is not a frequent occurrence with the CAD, but if it happens to you, be sure to alert the company before the 30-day return period is over.) The manufacturer boasts that this is a great recording device for both vocal and instrumental sounds. Our research indicates that spoken words and instrumentals might yield a better recording than vocal song due to the CAD's extreme sensitivity. Even though it's purported to have a cardioid pick-up, you are likely to get some room feedback when you use this mic. It's not a lot, and it's not a deal breaker for many amateurs and semi-pros (especially considering the price), but potential buyers should be aware of this. Recording for podcasts is a popular activity with the CAD, as is Skype and other VoIP programs. Many musicians tell us they like to use Audacity, a free sound software program, when making their recordings.

Thanks to the Blue Yeti's USB capabilities, owners can input their audio directly into their computer. The mic is compatible with Mac OS 10.4.11 and higher and Windows 8.1 and higher. A USB cable is included; once you calibrate the Blue Yeti to your operating system, you should be all set to make recordings. (Note: a minimum of 64 MB of RAM is required.) Because of the Blue Yeti's four recording modes (stereo, cardioid, omni-directional, and bi-directional), the applications are seemingly endless. Whether you want to record voice, instrumentals, speeches, interviews, or podcasts, you can do so easily with this product. Drivers aren't required; simply plug in the mic and begin recording.

The Audio-Technica Carioid Condenser Mic is USB-compatible with both Windows and Mac computers. It's a "plug and play" device, meaning that you simply need to plug it into your computer and you're able to make recordings. Software is needed to process your input, of course. Many owners use Garage Band for this purpose, but other programs are available as well. The Audio-Technica is great for recording voice-overs and podcasts, and many use it to create home studio and field recordings. Some use it for gaming, but others find the microphone to be too sensitive for games. The general consensus is that this is a great mic for digital recordings of all types.

The Shure BETA 87A is designed for live vocal performances, sound reinforcement, in-house recording, and broadcasting. Touring professionals find it to be a durable, rugged product that lasts a long time. When a touring performer replaces a Shure, it is often because his was lost or stolen -- not because the technology gave out. This speaks volumes about the Shure's quality! Unlike the other four mics on our shortlist, this condenser does not offer USB connectivity. You can still record with it, but not in the same way as you would with, for example, the Blue Yeti. As you can see, the Shure is a professional tool, but you don't have to be a professional to use it. If you're looking for high-end definition in your recording -- particularly if you're a vocal artist -- and you don't need USB connectivity, this could be your best choice.

The Shure BETA 87A is a professional tool, but you don't have to be a professional to use it.
Rafe
Expert Consultant
Rafe
Technologist, Product Review Professional

Rafe Needleman has been testing and writing about technology products for over 20 years. He has evaluated hundreds of products as editor of CNET and reviews/editorial director of Yahoo Tech.

Considerations

Features

Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone

The Samson Go Mic Microphone comes with the following accouterments: zippered carrying pouch, USB cable, adapter for mic stand, and cable clip. It also boasts the ability to record using both cardioid and omni-directional pick-up patterns. (This is great for those who want to record solos as well as those who want to capture an entire room.) A default Windows driver can be used for multi-track recordings, but one owner cautions that the default driver may not be the best in terms of latency. Other free drivers are available, however, so this should not necessarily be a deterrent. The Go Mic includes a headphone jack which can also help with latency. Overall, the features included in this package are admirable, especially for the price. One owner did tell us he wished the instruction manual were a little less "cryptic." If you choose to buy this product, you can also find some helpful tutorials online.

CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone

The CAD is larger than the Samson Go Mic, but not by much. It comes with a short desk stand and an eight-foot USB cable. There is no on/off switch, but you can tell it's working when the USB port light flashes on your computer. Disconnecting the USB cable turns off the mic. Interestingly, the CAD comes with no drivers. Owners tell us that they aren't able to find any online, either. The manufacturer says that no drivers are needed because your PC will automatically recognize the microphone. However, some computer-savvy users we talked to were dismayed that the company didn't offer improvement drivers over the default system. Even though this is a decent mic, we agree that it would be nice if CAD provided the opportunity to upgrade the system over time.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone - Silver

The Blue Yeti's most outstanding feature, as we've mentioned earlier in these ratings, is its ability to perform and record in four different modes. Whether you're performing/recording solo instrumentation, a jam session, a symphonic performance, a podcast, a speech, or something else, there's a way to configure the Blue Yeti so you get the best audio results possible. The mic includes basic controls for gain, volume, and pattern selection (modes). It even has a mute button, so if you want to pause in the middle of recording, you can. A built-in headphone jack lets you listen to yourself as you perform. The included stand is adjustable. Visually, the Blue Yeti exudes a cool retro look -- metal grille, shiny chrome frame. The manufacturer backs up these outstanding features with a two-year warranty.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone

The Audio-Technica is a USB microphone that comes with a USB cable, faux leather case, and tripod stand. It's a "plug and play" instrument, meaning that you simply hook it up to your computer (compatible with both Mac and Windows) and start playing and recording. Software isn't included because, like some of the other mics on our shortlist, the product automatically synchronizes with your computer. One owner calls it "ridiculously easy" to use. The only negative our research uncovered regarding features is that the faux leather case sometimes has a chemical odor. (One customer described it as a "WD-40 smell.")

Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

The Shure BETA 87A is a "bare bones" product in some ways. It does not come with a long list of extra features like other condenser mics do. You have to supply your own cord, your own carrying case, and your own stand. The only "features" found in the Shure BETA are the stellar sound characteristics that set this mic apart from the rest. A built-in pop filter eliminates the annoying "P" sound that some other mics put out. The Shure's wide dynamic range (up to 117 decibels) allows it to accommodate a variety of singers with a variety of personal styles. Its high-quality internal mechanisms eliminate distortion, lag time, feedback, humming, and a lot of the other annoying flaws that some cheaper mics have. In short, this mic has one extremely special feature: its superior sound quality. Musicians, both professional and amateur, rely on the Shure BETA 87A to give them the very best in audio quality.

The Blue Yeti's most outstanding feature is its ability to record in four different modes: stereo, cardioid, omni-directional, and bi-directional.
Considerations

Price

Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone

The Samson Go Mic sells for just $39. This is an outstanding price for what you get: the ability to record solo and whole-room events, the ability to input sounds directly into your computer, and a quality final product. This is not a studio-grade mic, but it's not priced as such, either. The Samson Go Mic's price reflects its portability, its small size, and its near-professional sound. A few owners reported issues with durability, but product flaws are the exception to the rule. The majority of owners are highly pleased with their little Go Mic and the functionality it provides. If you don't need perfection but you do want high quality, this budget-priced microphone is a superb choice.

CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone

The CAD is similar to the Samson Go Mic in many ways. It's small, portable, and does a sufficient -- though not professional -- job recording speech and song. People can use the CAD for Skype, podcast recording, voice overs, and musical recordings. At a cost of $40, it's not a bad deal at all. However, potential buyers should note that, unlike the Go Mic, the CAD includes only a cardioid pick-up pattern (not an omni pattern). The mic is so sensitive that some singers find it less than ideal for recording their solo vocals. On the other hand, speakers and instrumentalists -- guitarists in particular -- tell us that they have great success using this mic. Drivers are not available online because the mic is recognized by every Mac and Windows OS -- at least in theory. If your computer doesn't recognize the CAD, you may have a faulty piece of equipment (which needs to be returned within 30 days). Overall, if you're looking for a way to capture or convey sound -- and you don't need it to be perfect -- the CAD would be a suitable option.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone - Silver

At a cost of $122, plenty of musicians and other recording artists are thrilled to get their hands on the Blue Yeti. As one of the most popular condenser microphones on the market today, the Blue Yeti has a lot going for it. First and foremost, this mic offers recording versatility. It doesn't really matter if you plan to record a single voice or a room full of musicians; the Blue Yeti has the setting to accommodate your goal. Sound quality is outstanding, and customer complaints are few. One or two owners worried that the volume and gain controls were a little flimsy. Also, the weight of this mic (3.5 pounds) might be a bit disconcerting for those who are used to holding a lighter microphone. Overall, however, this is an excellent product that sells at a reasonable price.

Audio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone

At a price of $128, the Audio-Technica is a close competitor of the Blue Yeti. Loyalists exist on either side, and indeed, both are extremely sensitive mics that do their job very well. Whereas the Blue Yeti offers four modes of recording, the Audio-Technica offers only one -- cardioid. We think this is a significant difference, especially if you're trying to choose between the two. Our research turned up a few more complaints about the Audio-Technica than the Blue Yeti: the Audio-Technica has some issues with popping, and Skype and gaming aren't the best with this product. Overall, however, the contest is still a close one.

Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Microphone

At a cost of $249, the Shure BETA 87A is far more expensive than any other condenser mic on our shortlist. Comparatively, the Shure offers fewer features than any of its competitors. It's the very best vocal microphone on the market, however, and if you don't need USB connectivity, it could be the perfect choice for you. Owners count on the Shure BETA 87A to deliver crystal clear vocal amplification from treble to bass. Our research turned up no complaints whatsoever about sound quality. A few owners warned that scam artists sometimes try to sell counterfeit Shure BETA 87As. It's always a smart idea to verify a product's authenticity before making a purchase, especially in the world of expensive audio gear.

It doesn't matter if you plan to record a single voice or a room full of musicians; the Blue Yeti has the setting to accommodate your goal.

Best of the Best

You really can't go wrong with any of the condenser mics on our shortlist. All are lauded as superior products with outstanding sound quality. That being said, the king of microphones in these ratings is the Shure BETA 87A.

We realize that this is primarily a vocal mic, and for that reason, it won't appeal to everyone. But Shure is a champion company, and the BETA 87A is used by professionals, semi-pros, and amateurs across the world. Most mics receive a few criticisms here and there, but the Shure BETA 87A receives only compliments.

This mic is designed for both live performances and in-studio recordings. Vocal soloists, broadcasters, and acoustic guitarists have used it with great success. The manufacturer touts the Shure's pickup as "supercardioid" as opposed to just "cardioid." This has to do with the quality of the sound. You don't have to worry about distortion, humming, hissing, buzzing, or other nuisance noises with this mic. It pics up the soloist and reproduces a sound that sings both at the top of the treble range and the bottom of the bass range. In-between notes are just as strong and velvety.

At a price of $249, this mic costs more than any other product on our shortlist. It does not come with the extras that some of our other products include, either. You're expected to provide your own cord, your own stand, your own carrying case, and so on. Furthermore, this is not a USB-oriented mic. It's designed for live performances and old-fashioned studio recording. But if you don't need all of these extras -- and you want the very best in vocal recording -- this is definitely the mic to get.

Shure is a leader in the industry. If you've ever owned a Shure product, you're likely nodding your head in agreement right now. These products are durable and rugged. Most customers who buy a Shure don't seek to replace it any time soon. Rather, they seek to buy more Shure mics because owning a studio full of Shure products is a recording artist's dream.

Owners agree that this product is worth the investment. It's so good, in fact, that some counterfeiters have attempted to duplicate it. We recommend that you always check product authenticity when making a purchase like this. It's a purchase you're not likely to regret; in fact, we predict you'll be absolutely thrilled when you get your hands on this microphone.
Best of the Best
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Owning a studio full of Shure products is a recording artist's dream.

Best Bang for your Buck

All of the condenser mics in these ratings are outstanding products, but the Best Bang for Your Buck is definitely the Blue Yeti USB Condenser Mic. It's an extremely popular product among musicians and other recording artists for several reasons.

First and foremost, the Blue Yeti yields a terrific sound. This is due, in large part, to the four recording mode choices it offers. If you want a realistic sound with left and right channels, choose stereo mode. If you plan to record a podcast, vocal song, or any type of solo performance, you might choose to use cardioid mode. If you're recording an ensemble or meeting in a large room, omni-directional mode could be your best bet. Bi-directional mode is ideal for instrumental solos because it captures sound from both the front and rear of the mic. In short, the Blue Yeti's four recording modes give you a lot of artistic control over your final product.

Like most of the other mics on our shortlist, the Blue Yeti allows you to record directly into your computer. It's compatible with most Mac and Windows operating systems. (Of course, you'll want to check the specs for your particular computer before making a purchase.) You don't need to bother with drivers; this is a "plug and play" mic that will be recognized by your computer when you insert the product's USB cable. You'll need to use a software program like Garage Band or Audacity, but this type of software is easy to get if you don't already have it.

On top of it all, the Blue Yeti comes at quite an affordable price -- just $122. For the money, you get great recording capabilities, an adjustable mic stand, a built-in headphone jack, and a mic with an exceedingly cool retro look. If you're one to pay attention to the aesthetics of your equipment, chances are you will love its old-fashioned metal grille and shiny chrome frame.

Criticisms of the Blue Yeti are few and far between. A few owners worried that the volume and gain controls might wear out. And, at a weight of 3.5 pounds, it's not the lightest mic on the market. Nevertheless, the Blue Yeti remains one of the top condenser mics on the market today. We suggest that you try it for yourself!
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First and foremost, the Blue Yeti yields a terrific sound. This is due, in large part, to the four recording mode choices it offers.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Jess
    Jess
    Researcher
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Kriti
    Kriti
    Data Scientist