To the uninitiated, setting up your home recording studio can be a pretty intimidating undertaking.
Soundproofing the walls, getting a broad selection of instruments, and having the right DAW and monitors is already a laundry list of to-dos.
When you factor in the need for quality mics as well, that list can seem insurmountable.
I’ve been in your shoes before.
Getting my first home studio set up was a long journey to be sure, but it was also completely worth it.
Having access to everything you need to record a studio-level album right in your own home is greatly liberating as an artist.
Now, while this article doesn’t tackle everything on the home-studio-laundry-list, we’re starting by taking one bite out of the elephant: microphones.
Microphones are a much-needed addition to the home studio.
While that might seem obvious, a lot can get overlooked when shopping around for the right mic.
A lot of that boils down to the mere fact that the world of microphones is confusing.
Cardioid, dynamic, large diaphragm, small diaphragm…the list of terminology alone could (and does) take up the pages of multiple textbooks
I won’t go into too much of that today (I’ve covered a lot of it in another post), but I will hone in on one type of microphone that I believe can instantly elevate your home studio and recordings.
And that’s the condenser mic.
Why Condenser Mics Make Sense for a Home Recording Studio
If you’ve done any amount of research on microphones, you know there are many, many different varieties out there.
The two most common ones you’ll come across are dynamic and condenser microphones.
Both varieties have expensive and affordable options, and both look like a mic you’d see in a studio setting.
So, what’s the difference?
Well, without getting too much into the technical aspects of what sets these mics apart, they both have applications that differ pretty fundamentally.
In general, condenser mics have a lightweight diaphragm, as opposed to dynamic mics which have a heavier diaphragm.
The diaphragm is normally a small, thin plate that, when hit by sound waves, moves to mimic the pattern.
When the diaphragm is more lightweight, the mic can pick up quieter sounds.
Because of this, a condenser mic can accurately record the nuances and details that happen when singing, playing guitar, or anything else.
Now, while condenser mics might be more suited for a home studio, this isn’t to say dynamic mics don’t have their place.
In live settings, or perhaps for recording very loud, percussive instruments, the heavier diaphragm will be a bit more durable and better suited.
That being said, I find in most studio cases, a condenser mic is definitely the way to go for a home studio microphone.
Top 5 Best Condenser Microphones for Home Recording Studios
Below, I’ve listed a few favorite condenser mics of mine that I believe will benefit your home studio.
There’s a decent range in this list in terms of budget and technical specifications, so ideally there’s something for everyone.
1. Shure SM27
The SM27 from Shure is one of the most versatile, powerful mid-budget mics out there.
It’s usable not just in the studio but also in live settings, which can be great if you’re looking for something to bridge the gap.
As well as that, it has a switchable low-frequency filter to reduce background noise.
This will help you keep the low-end in your recording without too much fuzz leaking in.
All in all, it’s an excellent option if you’re looking for your first mic and you have the budget.
- Durably built
- Versatile in live and studio settings
- Switchable low-frequency filter
- Recordings can come across a little too clean/bright
2. Audio-Technica AT2020
For a budget option, you can’t do much better than this handy little mic from Audio-Technica.
Its cardioid polar pattern eliminates noises picked up from the sides and behind the mic. For you, this means the mic is excellent at isolating the sound of your recordings.
Next to some live vocals, this device is pretty much unmatched for its price.
- Great at isolating sound
- Excellent option for the price
- Great for vocals
- Won’t be suited for recording all instruments
3. Aston Microphones Spirit
This microphone is another mid-range option with a ton of power to it.
Because this is a multi-pattern microphone, you’ll be able to isolate specific sounds almost completely and tune the frequency of your recording to specific vocalists and instruments.
This mic has plenty to offer and tons of experimentation to try out.
- Suitable for many different types of vocalists and instrumentation
- Fantastic at isolating sound
- Very bright sounding
- Gain usually needs to be adjusted quite high to make sure the mic is hot
4. Rode NT1-A
For beginners, this mic is often one of the best to start with.
Coming with a pop cover, XLR cable, and dust cover, it’s easy to set up and has everything you’ll need to get your studio up and running.
It won’t be the most powerful mic in your arsenal, but it can be your best friend for getting ideas down and using alongside other mics.
- Easy to use
- Comes with pop filter, dust cover, and XLR cable
- Great beginner’s mic
- Background noise still has the tendency to leak into recordings
5. Neumann U 87 Ai
This mic is last on my list for one reason, and that’s just how expensive it is.
However, if you have the budget, or maybe want to put something on your dream studio wishlist, this mic is one of the best options out there.
Originally introduced in 1967, this mic has been a consistent presence in studios all around the world since its birth.
This updated model is just as on par with its ‘67 predecessor and is well worth the money.
But it is a lot of money! If you’re a beginner, I’d refer you back to the rest of the list.
However, if you’re a bit of a mic fanatic, this one is an excellent pick.
- Versatile across all types of instrumentation
- Little to no EQ needed to fix technical errors
- Beautiful warmth and depth to recordings.
- Incredibly expensive
Picking a mic isn’t an easy task, and it takes time to find the right one that works for you.
It’s always good to be willing to experiment and try out different mics to see what you like and don’t like in a recording.
But at the end of the day, be patient with the mic you have. Start small and build your way up; you’ll learn plenty along the way.
If you’re interested in getting more info on how to fully build a home recording studio, you can check out my post on it here!