Thanks to technological innovations, there are many options for home studio recording artists, webinar and podcast hosting, and even streaming. One of the most crucial components when it comes to voice (or vocal) recording is the quality of the microphone and nothing beats condenser microphones for that.
There are numerous decent quality options of condenser microphones for under $200. While these are not going to be threatening the top tier models and brands on the market (that also run hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more), they offer decent quality and clarity.
The MXL 9000 is a powerful tube condenser microphone that utilizes tube circuitry which provides a natural tone to the sounds you might record with it. In most cases today, that would be vocals and voice (singing or speaking). It offers a warm and rich midrange response and can provide an exceptional pickup for acoustic instruments, such as guitar or woodwinds.
The MXL 9000 requires phantom power, and depending on where you pick this up, that may be included in the package. It’s also highly recommended to utilize a shock mount due to the high sensitivity of this mic.
Also referred to as the Perception 420, it’s the first of two AKG condenser microphones that made our list of the best for under $200. AKG is legendary for microphones and other recording devices and continues to earn their reputation while heralding in an affordable microphone for the discerning individual.
The P420 accommodates cardioid and omni patterns and offers a -20dB pad switch that could be beneficial in certain conditions, as well as a bass cut filter to eliminate overpowering by low frequencies that could drown out the higher frequency sounds.
Audio Technica PRO 37
One of the first comments a person might make when looking at the Audio Technica PRO 37 is that it doesn’t look like a condenser mic. It looks like a regular dynamic microphone, but the internal components are what define this microphone as one of the best condenser mics in this budget range.
It offers an incredible transient response that makes it exceptional for live recording, but it also provides a low profile, which can be excellent when utilized in a live performance situation. Due to the design, it can also be ideal for situations where external noise may not be controllable. This is a versatile condenser microphone that would fit well in just about any home studio.
The Blue Spark has been making a solid name for itself in many facets of recording. More home podcast hosts and webinar hosts are turning to Blue Spark not just because of its unique design and color sequence, but because it offers some powerful built-in options, including a simple switch that can shift from normal mode to focus. When external sounds could be a problem, the focus switch provides some limitation on bleed through.
Using a specific cardioid pattern, Blue Spark makes it possible to record and even live-stream great quality sound without the same extra sounds that might get picked up by other condenser mics, especially those that run a few hundred dollars more than Blue Spark.
AKG Perception 220
This rugged, all-purpose condenser microphone is designed to appeal to the visual senses as much as the auditory discernment of an experienced pro. The AKG Perception 200 provides an option for bass-cut filter, which allows the user the opportunity to limit low frequency tones from interfering with higher timber dynamics that are often associated with clarity of voice.
The AKG Perception 220 also offers switchable attenuation pad for high SPL applications, and allows this up to 155 dB. This is a fancy way of saying it’s going to offer a great response and clear sound across a wide range of voice patterns, instruments, and other applications.
Making a Worthy Investment
In most situations, a person is going to be looking for the best condenser mics under $200 because they’re just getting into recording or live-streaming. This is a great place to start on this journey, but it’s also wise to make a worthwhile investment.
While more experienced recording professionals aren’t likely to be using these microphones for their main vocal tracks, many studios will have these or something similar that are used for other tracks.
It’s a good idea to keep this in mind when starting out; there are certainly other condenser microphones that cost a lot less than these, but they aren’t likely worth the money for those who are truly seeking quality and plan to continue with this hobby or profession well into the future.
Proper Set Up for Your Condenser Microphone
Whatever condenser microphone you use under $200, the way it’s set up is going to be crucial to capturing quality sound for the recording. Because of the sensitivity of these microphones, it’s essential to utilize a shock mount rather than having them affixed to a traditional microphone stand with a clip.
The shock mount reduces the risk of vibration being picked up through the ground, desk, or other feature and filtering to the recording. Some of these condenser mics will come with a shock mount, but if they don’t, it’s highly advisable to include this as part of your purchase.
When you begin recording in your home studio without it, you may notice odd thumps and bumps, even subtle, and most likely they’ll be coming through the floor and other surfaces and being picked up by the mic without a shock mount.
Ensuring a Quiet Recording Environment
Because condenser microphones are so powerful and sensitive, it’s crucial to make sure the recording area is as quiet as possible. That’s not always feasible, especially when there’s a great deal of road traffic moving by the house or apartment, there are roommates or other people living in the same house, and so on.
However, in order to get the best results on the recording, the baseline environment needs to be as conducive to quality recording as possible, and this means making sure the external area is as quiet as possible.
There are some steps that can be taken to help improve on this, including adding foam and other sound-absorption around the recording area, recording when few or no people are around, and seeking the quietest possible time of the day (and week) to record the most important parts.
When to Know It’s Time to Upgrade
At some point in time, as people gain experience in home recording, they will become more discerning as far as the quality, options, and versatility of the microphones (and software) are concerned. When that’s the case, it may be time to upgrade to a more expensive microphone.
More expensive doesn’t always mean better quality, but when it comes to condenser microphones, there is a significant difference in quality between one that costs under $200 and one that will set you back over $1,000.
If that time comes for you to upgrade your condenser mic, don’t pack up, sell, or ship this one (under $200) off to someone else; these can still be highly useful for a wide range of recording purposes, including for acoustic instruments, podcasts, and more.
When you reach a point when you know the clarity, timber, and acoustic integrity of your recordings can be better, but aren’t improving as you’d like, it’ll be time to consider upgrading from these condenser microphones under $200.