You have been asking and it's finally here! The top 5 best live vocal microphones in 2021 plus our pick for the best live vocal mic in general. Get ready because some of our picks might surprise you.
There might not be a more difficult role in a band than the singer. You have to be front and center, you have to channel all the energy of the band and you have to look good... oh yeah and you have to sound incredible. It's been almost one hundred years since Rudy Vallee first used a microphone on a live gig in 1930. Since then the technology has changed drastically (as well as vocal techniques), but the job of the singer hasn't. You still have to enchant the audience. Whether you are crooning, rapping, or death growling, your microphone is the conduit of your art. So you better choose the correct one! To help you make the right choice, here is our list of best live vocal microphones in 2021.
First thing's first...
Condenser vs. Dynamic
Before we get into specific brands we have to discuss your two main options when it comes to microphones for live performances. I've played gigs where the singer decided to use a condenser... it was dicey. It's not a great feeling sitting on stage performing while hearing the hum of feedback wax and wain in the background. It is my opinion that, in a live situation, the benefits of a condenser microphone do not outweigh the difficulties. When you think about the entire chain your vocals are going through, it's pretty clear that it is not worth it. Picture this: you're singing into a microphone, the signal is going down the cable, eventually going into the mixer at the back of the club, coming out of the mixer, going down another cable, and out the PA speakers. Then finally your voice is amplified into a potentially noisy room. Long story short... leave the condenser mics in the studio, that is unless it's a very intimate gig in a small venue. So now, without further ado, the best live vocal microphones - 2021.
No surprise here. Coming in at number one, this mic has always been at the top for best live vocal microphones. 2021 is sure to bring a lot of change, but this is one thing that is still the same. This mic is the industry gold standard: the Shure SM58. When a child draws a microphone, they are drawing an SM58.
Before we dive into why this microphone is our number one pick, it's time for a little history about Shure:
Shure was founded in Chicago in 1925 by Sidney N. Shure. Originally, Shure was a company that sold radio part kits. Then in 1931 Ralph Glover began developing their first microphone. This made Shure one of four microphone manufacturers in the United States of America. They were also contracted by the US government during WWII. Then in 1959 they introduced the SM58. Shure has been very popular ever since.
If we're talking best microphones for live vocals, this is number one. It is very durable. You can throw these mics around and they will still work. Not to mention, they are affordable too. This is another reason clubs love these mics. With their cardioid pattern, they reject all noise that isn't coming from a direct source (aka your mouth). This helps eliminate feedback problems. Its pattern is also even across the frequency spectrum, this means this microphone will perform consistently no matter who is using it.
On top of all of these benefits, with its integrated pop filter, you will not have to worry about any plosives. Those are hard "p"s or "b"s that make a 'pop' when amplified. For all those reasons and more, this mic is still one of, the best live vocal microphones in 2021.
Famous Albums with Lead Vocals on SM58
If a SM58 is good enough for Frank Ocean in the studio, its good enough for anyone on stage
Even if you have already corned the market, there might still be room to improve. This is where the Shure Beta 58A comes in. Ranking at #2 on our list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021, this mic packs a wallop. You know how engineers brains work, they are always trying to improve and refine existing systems. This mic comes with a super cardioid pattern. This rejects even more sounds that is not coming from directly in front of the microphone. Yet again, this reduces the chances of feedback even more. This allows the sound person to increase the gain on the microphone, without risking feedback.
One final advantage with this microphone is there is a bit of extra brightness. So that sounds cools, but think about the where your signal is going... it's going to the mixer at the back of the club. If the sound engineer thinks you need to be brighter they will turn up the high end on your vocals. So I am not convinced that brightness alone justifies the extra expense of this mic. That's why this mic is number 2 on our list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021.
Famous Albums with Lead Vocals on Beta 58A
It goes without saying if Bono used this mic for Joshua Tree in the studio it is good enough for anyone on stage! (Ok it was going through a Neve, but the point still stands...
Buckle up it's time for some musical sacrilege. This next mic on our list of the best live vocal microphones 2021 might make you question everything. When you are performing live, visuals do matter. This applies to every genre, imagine if a young Bob Dylan went on stage at Club Passim dressed like Frank Sinatra. Even worse image if Frank Sinatra went on in Vegas dressed like Bob Dylan. Imagine if MGMT went on stage dressed like Ke$ha... oh wait never mind. Anyway you get the point, there's nothing wrong with acknowledging visuals matter. That is where this mic comes into play.
Based off the Shure 55sh, the Shure Super 55 is a great choice if you are looking to spice up your look. Sometimes called the Elvis microphone, this is clearly a great choice if you are playing any vintage style, perfect for vintage jazz, rockabilly or boogie-woogie. This mic is also great for modern styles too. Yasiin Bey used it at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2019 when he performed with Robert Glasper, Chris Dave and Derrick Hodge. Yasiin Bey is a pretty cool dude, even if you are looking for a good live hip hop mic maybe consider the Super 55.
This mic is very similar to the Beta 58a, but man does it look good. This mic is definitely worth the extra cash. It has some built in branding, you will immediately stand out if you are using this mic. That is easily worth the extra $100. I know some band leaders who have actually worked this mic into their logo and poster branding. This mic will instantly give you a level of credibility on stage, then you just need the chops to back it up. That is why it came in at number 3 on our list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021.
That's enough about Shure, lets switch to a different company Sennheiser.
Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co is a german company founded in 1945 a few weeks after the end of WWII. (So they didn't make microphones for the Nazis.) Founded by Fritz Sennheiser (1912-2010) and seven other enginners at the University of Hannover, Sennheiser has grown to a goliath in the microphone world. Since 1980 they have even been producing headsets for Lufthansa, pretty snazzy. This german company is known for it's high quality products. It's a german company, they probably over engineer everything, but then everyone benefits.
Some people say "potato" and some people say "potata" but both of them can use this mic if they have a gig. What I'm trying to say is this microphone is a great substitute for the SM58. With this mic you are getting a boost in the high end which will make your vocals cut through even more. Plus all those extra ohms... mmmmmmm ohms. Don't worry about the ohms this mic is still a low impedance mic.
If you are curious about this microphone for live vocals, it might be a good idea to microphone shoot out and see if it suites your voice. It might enhance you your vocals. Or it will enhance the wrong parts of your vocals, so maybe ask a trusted friend/engineer to give you feed back on which mic you sound best on. Get ready for the next mic on our list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021.
Famous Albums with Lead Vocals on Beta e935
If it was good enough for Bob Barker, then it's good enough for you! Talk about built in branding. Plus maybe this mic will help you live to 96 years old too... probably not. It probably won't help you music career either. Stay away from this microphone, seriously if you see one out in the wild just run away. If you are walking in the woods late at night and you see a AKG CGN99C/Large 20 Inch Cardioid Condenser Gooseneck Microphone lying on the ground run or hide. It means Bob is out feed and you are in grave danger. Or even worse he is out spaying or neutering everything he can get his hands on. RUN! Ok I'll stop now. But remember all ways spay or neuter your drummer, it's the humane thing to do.
Ok that was a bad joke I'm sorry. The final best live vocal microphones in 2021.
At the end of our list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021, this mic is a nice option if you really want to use a condenser mic on stage. It has a super cardioid pattern so (hopefully) feedback should not be too big of a problem... just don't point the mic directly into the monitors. As this article has already established Shure is a trusted brand. Plus this mic has the largest frequency response of any of the mics we have covered here today. All the dogs in the neighborhood will love this mic.
This is a pricey mic, but if you have mastered your mic technique you might be ready to move up to a condenser mic and take advantage of the slight clarity difference.
Musicial PSA: Don't waste time and money on gear
As a conclusion to this list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021, I just want to drive home the point don't waste your time and money playing the gear game. It is a bottomless pit and it takes time away from what you should be focusing on, your art!
Please realize that good music is good music and great talent is great talent. Of course you don't want to use a broken microphone that makes you sound like a Speak & Spell. But any of the mics we have covered here today are perfect for any performer.
Notorious BIG displayed more raw talent on the corner with a busted PA in Bed-Stuy than most up and coming young rappers (check it our on YouTube). People would have taking notice of The Beatles no matter what mic they were using. Their skills in songwriting were undeniable. This also means that if you are not getting the response you are expecting, please self reflect and continue to practice and improve. Don't just head out to Guitar Center to buy a more expensive mic. Trust me, that is the road that leads to working at guitar center, practice and be self critical. Don't fall down the bottomless pit that has captured 99% of all aspiring musicians.
Please spend time honing your craft. Just grab a used SM58 and practice singing, then practice your stage presence.
I hope you have enjoyed this list of the best live vocal microphones for 2021. I've enjoyed writing it, we've had some ups and we've had some downs, but we're both leaving here knowing that the SM58 isn't going anywhere. Please feel free to reach out and suggest future topics. I'm thinking about reviewing studio vocal microphones next. Well goodnight and good luck. Over and out. The End! I hope your have enjoyed out list of the best live vocal microphones in 2021. Sign up for private singing lessons in Boulderr.