In today’s world there are more microphones than there are items on the local Chinese food menu. Man I love that Lo Mein. Anyway, every sound tech is going to find microphones that they prefer to match up with specific gear. There are several go-to microphones that I have in my arsenal that reserve for special uses. With that being said, here are my top ten favorite microphones of all time.
1. Shure Beta 52
In my opinion this is the be all end all of kick drum microphones. With a natural increase in the 4kHz range, this mic captures the deep tones of the kick while at the same time representing the clarity of the beater hitting the skin. Its everything I’ve ever wanted in a kick mic.
2. AKG 414
The AKG 414 is one of the most versatile mics I’ve ever come across. This condenser mic has variable pickup patterns, pads, and low cut filters. It has a relatively flat response with some boost in the high-mids depending on the polar pattern. This mic can be used for overheads, vocals, horns, strings, and just about anything else that requires accurate representation and they work great as a matched pair for recording.
3. Sennheiser ew 135 g3
These are hands down my favorite wireless hand held microphones. Whether I have a preacher, a singer, or an MC; this mic just sounds the best. With a huge variety of selectable frequencies, it’s easy to stack eight wireless units on one stage.
4. Sennheiser e609
This is my go to mic for guitar amps. With a natural curve that dips at the 1kHz band, this mic scoops out much of those nasty mid-range frequencies that muddy up the mix. Not only is this a super cardioid dynamic mic, but it was designed specifically to mic loud sounds close to the source.
5. Audio Technica 4040
The AT 4040’s are used often as a matched pair. Just about anything that needs a good stereo image will sound great on these mics. I’ve used them as drum overheads with a beta 52 and not needed any other mics on the kit to get a great drum sound. They add a little color to the higher spectrum. There is a considerable boost at about 7kHz, a dip at about 9kHz, then another boost at 11kHz.
6. Electro-Voice RE20
The RE20 is a must have mic for anyone in the broadcast industry. Used primarily as a radio announcer’s microphone this dynamic mic sounds great in recordings. Even though it’s a dynamic mic, it has a pretty low noise floor. With interesting characteristics in the high-mids this mic will make everyone’s voice sound nice and full.
7. MXL 990/993
It’s hard to make a microphone list without adding something by MXL. What they have done to the pro audio industry is really interesting. They have put out some amazing sounding mics for dirt cheap. These condenser mics are every aspiring recording artist’s first microphone. I love using them as pairs, or individually for just about any recording application.
8. Countryman e6
This is the mic that all my pastors, itinerants, preachers, and teachers use. A very good head worn microphone that puts the element of the mic right next to the corner of the wearer’s mouth. One thing that I love about the e6 is that you can purchase mics with varying levels of sensitivity. If you have a loud preacher, you can get a quieter e6. With three sensitivities to choose from, there is an e6 for just about all speaking applications.
9. Rode NTG2
My NTG2 is a fantastic shotgun mic. This is my primary microphone when I’m on set filming, especially outdoors. When I’m in the field I don’t have to worry about phantom power because the NTG2 is powered off a double a battery.
10. Neumann U87
The U87 is every recording engineer’s crown jewel. At a hefty $3,500 this mic isn’t just bought – it’s earned. It is arguably the best vocal mic on the planet for recording vocals and is so sensitive, you can nearly hear the blood rushing through the veins of your singer. It’s that good.
What are some of your favorite microphones? Leave a comment below.
Tommy Scully is a technology consultant for churches nationwide working with audio, video, live streaming, and data systems. Having graduated from the Institute of Audio Research with a 4.0 GPA, his passion for audio led him to develop his own Church Audio Training Program. Tommy is available to speak, optimize, or consult with your church