Studio Gears

Best Budget Condenser Microphones 2018 – Large & Small Diaphragm

Before we dive into the best budget condenser microphone, I highly recommend you to check out the ultimate guide to studio microphones first, where I went through different types of microphones and what those technical specs mean. That guide will help you understand which one is the microphone you need.

 

Here we go…

LARGE DIAPHRAGM

1. Audio Technica AT2020

AT2020 has been considered to be the ideal first condenser microphone for home studio, because of its budget price and the quality it delivered. The low-mass diaphragm let it handle higher SPL than most condenser microphones. Although some people categorize AT2020 to medium diaphragm condenser microphone because of it’s 16 mm diaphragm, I think it’s okay to put it here. The smaller diaphragm gives AT2020 a brighter sound which makes it suitable for vocal, drum overhead and room.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 16 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 100 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 144 dB
  • Sensitivity: 14.1 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 20 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 74 dB-A

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

There is also an AT2035 with higher specs and sounds more pleasant but the price is also higher. AT2035 has a low-frequency roll-off switch at 80 Hz and a pad to prevent it from overload. It is still affordable for most beginners.

Audio Technica AT2035

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 24.3 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 120 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 148 dB
  • Sensitivity: 22.4 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 12 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 82 dB-A
  • Low cut filter: 80 Hz
  • Pad: -10 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

2. MXL 990

This is the cheapest microphone on our list but the quality is surprisingly good. It sounds just like AT2020, but the frequency range is not as wide as AT2020. Although both microphones are very versatile, AT2020 is a bit more versatile than MXL 990. When it comes to vocal, I found MXL 990 sounds more pleasant.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 17.1mm
  • Frequency response: 30 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 130 dB
  • Sensitivity: 15 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 20 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 80 dB-A

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

Another choice is MXL 770, which has a low cut switch and a pad. MXL 770 gives your vocal warmer sounds than MXL 990.

MXL 770

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 22 mm
  • Frequency response: 30 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 137 dB
  • Sensitivity: 15 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 20 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 74 dB-A
  • Low cut filter: 150 Hz
  • Pad: -10 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

By now, you might be struggling to pick Audio Technica or MXL. If you are going to record vocals, choose MXL, and if you are going to record other source, choose Audio Technica. It’s just a reference, it really depends on your source.

3. Rode NT1-A

You can’t find a better deal other than this one. Rode NT1-A is probably the best sounding large diaphragm microphone in this price range. It has a very clean and clear sound which make it a good microphone for vocal and also other use. Rode NT1-A is known for its super low self noise and high sensitivity. Seriously, I think there are no microphones can compete with it.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 25.4 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 100 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 137 dB
  • Sensitivity: 25 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 5 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 89 dB-A

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

Rode NT2-A sounds warmer and smoother than NT1-A. It is also an extremely versatile condenser microphone with a switchable polar pattern, filters, pads and a high Max SPL, but it also cost more.

Rode NT2-A

  • Multiple pattern: Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Figure 8
  • Diaphragm size: 25.4 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 147 dB
  • Sensitivity: 16 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 7 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 87 dB-A
  • Low cut filters: 40, 150 Hz
  • Pads: -5, -10 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

4. Blue Microphones Bluebird SL

If smooth and great mid-range response is what you need, Bluebird SL will be your top choice. The -20db pad let it handle any loud sounds. Although Bluebird SL is a large diaphragm condenser microphone, it’s a highly directional microphone that acts like small diaphragm condenser microphone. This microphone may look strange, but the quality is just amazing.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: N/A
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 50 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 138 dB
  • Sensitivity: 28.5 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 11.7 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 82.3 dB-A
  • Low cut filter: 100 Hz
  • Pad: -20 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

5. AKG C214

AKG C214 is the affordable version of legendary AKG C414, although AKG C214 doesn’t like C414 is a multiple pattern microphone, they still have a similar sound performance. It’s a good news for us because we can now a have high-end microphone sound with an affordable price.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 25.4 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 136 dB
  • Sensitivity: 20 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 13 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 82 dB-A
  • Low cut filter: 160 Hz
  • Pad: -20 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

6. sE Electronics sE 2200a II

This is the most expensive large diaphragm condenser microphone on the list but still in a reasonable price range. sE Electronics sE 2200a II is the updated version of the original best-selling sE Electronics sE 2200a. Just like other multiple pattern microphones, sE 2200a II is also very versatile. Some said Rode NT1-A is too bright for some vocalist, sE Electronics sE 2200a II has a warmer sound that perfect for vocal.

  • Multiple pattern: Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Figure 8
  • Diaphragm size: 32 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 135 dB
  • Sensitivity: 22.39 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 16 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 78 dB-A
  • Low cut filter: 60 Hz
  • Pads: -10, -20 dB

CHECK PRICE : THOMANN

If sE Electronics sE 2200a II is too expensive for you, you can consider the latest version sE Electronics sE 2200, but it’s not a multiple pattern microphone.

sE Electronics sE 2200

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 25.4 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 50 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 125 dB
  • Sensitivity: 23.7 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 12 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 82 dB-A
  • Low cut filters: 80, 160 Hz
  • Pads: -10, -20 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

SMALL DIAPHRAGM

For small diaphragm condenser microphones, it’s better to by a matched pair.

1. Behringer C-2

If you are a beginner with a very tight budget, this microphone is for you. It comes with two matched microphones which are suitable for stereo recording, like drum overhead. Behringer C-2 doesn’t have any outstanding features but look at the specs and its price, it’s really a great deal.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 16 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 75 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 140 dB
  • Sensitivity: 8.9 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 19 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 75 dB-A
  • Low cut filter: 120 Hz
  • Pad: -10 dB

CHECK PRICE : AMAZON (pair)

2. Samson C02

Another affordable small diaphragm condenser microphone great for both studio and live shows. The highly directional supercardioid polar pattern make it ideal for cymbals. With an affordable price and quality sound, almost everyone who has used it left a positive review. Samson C02 is the best choice for studios on a budget.

  • Supercardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 12 mm
  • Frequency response: 50 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 134 dB
  • Sensitivity: 10 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 22 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 72 dB-A

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON (pair) THOMANN (pair)

3. AKG P170

With the price goes higher, so do the quality. AKG P170 is not the cheapest small diaphragm condenser microphone, but the quality and sound are the best in this price range. It has a crisp and accurate sound performance. The -20 dB pad let it record loud sound, like drums. AKG P170 is mainly designed for drum kit. It’s great to have AKG P170 on your cymbals.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 12.7 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 135 dB
  • Sensitivity: 15 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 19 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 75 dB-A
  • Pad: -20 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN

4. Rode NT5

When seeing Rode, you can expect quality microphones with reasonable price. Rode NT5 delivers professional studio quality but in a relatively low price. It is perfect for capturing acoustic sound, no matter is piano, choir or drum overhead, Rode NT5 can handle any source very well. This is one of my favorite small diaphragm condenser microphones.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 12.5 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 100 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 143 dB
  • Sensitivity: 12 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 16 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 78 dB-A

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON (pair) THOMANN (pair)

5. Rode M5

If you really like Rode NT5 but can’t afford it, Rode M5 is a cheaper alternative. Two microphones both have very similar features and performance. Both microphones are versatile and have a smooth response. M5 has less clarity and clean sound in the high end than NT5, which is expected since two microphones are in a different price range.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 12.5 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 140 dB
  • Sensitivity: 20 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 19 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 75 dB-A

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON (pair) THOMANN (pair)

7. Studio Projects C4

The price is a bit high, but notice it’s the price of a matched pair, so it’s still a nice budget microphone. Studio Projects C4 is a multiple pattern small diaphragm condenser microphone with filters, pads and surprisingly high Max SPL, which give it amazing versatility. One of its features is you can actually change the capsule to change the different polar pattern. If I can only have one small diaphragm condenser microphone, it will be Studio Projects C4.

  • Multiple pattern: Omnidirectional, Cardioid, Hypercardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 20 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 150 dB
  • Sensitivity: 12 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 16 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 78 dB-A
  • Low cut filters: 75, 150 Hz
  • Pads: -10, -20 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON (pair) THOMANN (pair)

8. Shure SM81

This may be too expensive for most home studios, but it’s worth to mention since it can be called an industry standard. Shure SM81 is known for its amazing performance on hi-hats as well as other instruments. The well-defined low end and clear sounding are its top features. Shure SM81 can definitely compete with other super expensive condenser microphones.

  • Cardioid
  • Diaphragm size: N/A
  • Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Output Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Max SPL: 136 dB
  • Sensitivity: 5.6 mV / Pa
  • Self Noise: 16 dB-A
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 78 dB-A
  • Low cut filters: 80, 100 Hz
  • Pad: -10 dB

COMPARE PRICE : AMAZON THOMANN


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