Best Studio Microphones 2016
The market is currently flooded with harsh, over-hyped microphones built with bad components. They look great, but fail miserably when put to the test in real world situations and often require sonic band-aids in the mix. The following LDC (large diaphragm) and SDC (small diaphragm) microphones have the highest cost-to-value ratio. They've earned it with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from users. A microphones capsule delivers the overall character, but the build quality and attention to design, circuits and components play a role as well. This is the ultimate list, starting with the absolute lowest price point reaching up to the high end. The following mics work brilliantly for game audio projects involving voice, musical instruments, foley and sound design work.
The Superlux CM-H8C is a multi-pattern LDC and completely dominates the entry level bracket. For years, these have drawn big praise due to their flat frequency response and a transparency rarely heard in budget LDCs. This allows recordists to hear the source as uncolored as possible. The CM-H8C has three polar patterns - omnidirectional, cardioid and figure 8 as well as a frequency rolloff switch, making it useful for just about everything. The neutral character of this microphone makes it a swiss-army-knife audio tool. The price could be several hundred more, but Superlux is known for extreme value, like that found in their HD681 headphones which cost $30 and sound amazing. The Superlux CM-H8C is the only budget LDC I've heard without the least bit of harshness. It ships with a stand adapter and hard shell case. $223 (cardioid-only version CM-H8B: $143)
Moving up the price ladder, the CR89 is MXL's fixed cardioid LDC with extremely low noise and a flat frequency response. It's brilliant on voice as well as instruments and foley sessions. With a subtle lift in the bass realm, the CR89 brings a bit of warmth and low proximity effect. Boosting any part of the frequency spectrum requires attention to details and better components. Legions of cheap LDC manufacturers try this and end up with harsh or muddy sounding mics. MXL has been at the forefront of the budget mic movement for years and continuously out-do themselves with vast improvements in quality. This mic really shines on VO and brings out the character of whoever or whatever is being recorded. The CR89 comes in a nice case and stand mount. $350
Mojave MA301 fet
Mojave Audio was started in a garage in 1985 and has emerged as a major disruptor of the high-end mic market. The MA301fet is a multi-pattern large diaphragm, solid-state condenser microphone. It's been compared to the Neumann U 87, a legendary microphone costing 4 times more. This mic exhibits super-low noise with a slight boost on both the low and high end of the spectrum - no easy feat! Each mic is inspected and tested by a meticulous staff with a build-quality that has earned the company legendary status. The FET spec makes this one a bit less fragile than tube-based vintage style mics. It's worth every single penny! The Mojave MA301fet represents the upper stratosphere of microphones. $895
Line Audio CM3
The Line Audio CM3 is hand made in Sweden and constantly wins budget SDC mic comparisons. In extensive mic shootouts, it rivals Octava Mods, Rode NT5s and a host of others, including the Neumann KM-184. The CM3 is a ruler-flat cardioid mic with that "buttery top" treble heard in vintage mics like the Neumann KM84. At just 3 inches, it's incredibly portable and comes with a really slick case. Grab a matched pair or maybe try their omni version, the OM3. These are the only two products Line Audio offers and they are extremely high spec for being so inexpensive. $160
The MA 101fet represents the high end of SDC microphones. It has both cardioid and omni capsules. With subtle bumps in both the low and high frequencies, it manages to "sweeten" the sound of anything you point it at. While there are SDC mics costing several times more, Mojave managed to enhance the overall frequency response in a way that's pleasing on literally everything. Mojave Audio has earned legendary status among the top engineers in the world - these are awesome! $575--------------
It has taken years of trial and error, as well as heavy research to come to these conclusions. Since the 90's I've been watching the budget microphone market evolve. The models mentioned above are unmatched, and those who do their homework will find them to outperform the competition with nothing but stellar reviews.