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4 Cheap-Ass Microphones for the Frugal Engineer

Expensive microphones are overrated. Cheap microphones can go a long way to getting the sound you want, and all without shelling out a fortune.

Now you may not want to buy a $1000 condenser microphone to start out, because you can get a great recording microphone for under $100.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t upgrade when the time is right and you’ve outgrown your microphone, but don’t think that you can’t get a good sound with a low budget microphone.

Try out some of these options when you’re looking to start recording. Here are five condenser microphones that I’ve found that are under $100.

AKG Perception 120

I’ve used the Perception 220 microphone a lot and if this mic is anything like it’s older brother then I can definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a cheap, but dependable condenser microphone. It has a bass roll-off which is good to have in your home studio.

M-Audio Nova

M-Audio is the go-to brand for home recordists and budget studio engineers needing cheap microphones.

Audio Technica AT2020

This microphone blows everything else in this price range out of the water. It’s amazing how cheap it is but still sounds this good. Simple and easy to use and sounds amazing. The only drawback I see is that it doesn’t have a pad switch nor a bass roll-off which could pose a problem in a home studio session.

MXL 990

This recording microphone is a frequently mentioned microphone on the Gearslutz forums, as “great cheap microphones.” They’re supposed to sound great out of the box, but also lend themselves well to modding, if you have a DIY tendency.

To budget, or not to budget?

Noted, these are cheap microphones They might not hold their own against the $2000 recording microphones. But they certainly have their uses and for some applications and instruments might even win a microphone shoot-out with the big guns.

These are all viable and affordable options for the budget studio engineer starting out. You can also find other alternatives on Ebay where there is a constant stream of microphones going around for much less than the listed price. Who knows, maybe you can snag a $300 microphone for a fraction of the cost.

What are your favorite cheap microphones?  Let me know in the comments.


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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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  • I just bought an AKG D5 that I am excited to try. It retails less for than $100.

  • Björgvin Benediktsson

    Nice, I really like them. I’ll throw a dynamic mic post up in a few weeks probably. I always include and recommend it to everybody.

  • Useful blog post as so many want a great mic for very little I am sure it will be of benefit. if you can stretch your budget the AT4033 is a killer mic for £350.00

    • DING!! The 4033 is the way to go for a budget LDC. I sing the mic’s praises so loudly and often Audio-Technica oughta be paying me. I need to shut up about it.

  • Fanneh

    What are your thoughts on the Blue Yeti?

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      Hey Fanneh. I’m not sure since I’ve never tried one. It’s the USB microphone though no? Or do they have a normal connection one? USB mics are good if you are podcasting and such but I would leave a USB mic out of the equation if you are thinking about serious audio production. There’ s a bunch of online reviews if you search for it on Google though, they must know more than I do.

    • I’ve actually never tried it, but Blue microphones are a great brand.

  • Keldog357

    The MXL V67G…going for under $100 now. Good stuff.

  • Thunderaxe

    Cascade Fatheads. High-quality, inexpensive ribbon mics that can handle high SPLs. I’ve heard listening tests where they are virtually indistinguishable from $1600 Royer R-121s.
    I use them as drum overheads and close mics for guitar amps all the time.

  • adrian

    “I’ve used the Perception 220 microphone a lot and if this mic is anything like it’s older brother then I can definitely recommend it”

    But are you reviewing the 220, or a microphone you’ve never used?

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      I’m not reviewing the microphone per say, but rather putting my trust in the cheaper version being a perfectly good choice for a beginning engineer. Like I said in the post, I’ve used the 220 and I liked it so I’m assuming based on experience with the brand(I’ve worked in a sound reinforcement company that exclusively used AKGs) that it could be a great beginner microphone to start with. Great brand at a reasonable price.

  • Andrew Bauserman

    Just to update the list, here’s another 10 (8 dynamics and 2 condensers) under $100 to muddy the waters 🙂 If your room doesn’t sound great, a dynamic is a good alternative for vocals or even acoustic instruments. Plus they come in handy for snare, electric guitar, etc. (List is alphabetical, not by preference.)

    AKG D5
    Audix OM2
    Audix i5
    Rode M1
    Samson Q7
    Sennheiser 835
    Shure SM57
    Shure SM58

    AKG C5 (condenser)
    AT MB 4k/c (condenser)

  • Sam

    I was on Amazon the other day looking at microphones randomly and came across some really cheap microphone by Pyle-Pro….it’s basically a $15 reproduction of the Shure SM58 and 57 and according to the specs and reviews it’s pretty much the same…so I brought one…it sounds very decent for it’ little to nothing price… Think you could give me some tips on that mic? Is it really that comparable to the Shure or other pros?

    • Sam

      Pyle Pro PDMIC58

  • Elvis Reppe

    I always use USB microphones because they are very convenient and have so many features. ”

    <a href="My own, personal blog

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  • Flossie Allocco

    USB Mics are used today in so many ways. They can be applied for recording songs, a meeting, a Podcast or just conversing with people over the internet. They are so easy to use and their portability are two of the factors in making them so popular nowadays. The ways in which they are used are numerous, especially with all the many things that can be recorded on your MAC or PC.^

    Please do explore this useful website