Must Have Studio Microphones

Want some professional insider information on which tried and true microphones you should buy for your recording studio? You found the right article!

Shure SM57

Many engineers call this the desert island microphone. It can record pretty much anything you put in front of it and at a good quality. Plus, it can handle a lot of abuse which is why you’ll find them on concert stages quite often. It’s a go to snare drum microphone and works great on singers as well. Many also like it on guitar cabinet speakers but these days I use a Shure SM7b. Speaking of…

Shure SM7b

Think of it as an improved SM57. I love this microphone for recording vocals, guitar cabinets and recently I discovered that in a pinch it sounds good on acoustic guitar as well. You’ll find it in radio stations quite often. The only downside is that it requires a good amount of gain from a mic preamp. It couples nicely with a Cloudlifter CL-1 or CL-2, Radial McBoost, Triton Audio FetHead or the Cathedral Pipes Durham.

Michael Joly Microphones

Unless you’re “in the know” then you probably won’t come across MJE microphones. They don’t have the marketing budget that the large microphone manufacturers do. But let me tell you, they sound great.

Michael Joly knows his stuff. He modified one of my old microphones many years ago and I still love it to this day for its realism/clarify/whatever you want to call it. Specifically the MJE-384 and his Rode NT1A mod are the ones I would recommend.

Slate Digital ML-1 or the Townsend Labs Sphere L22

A recent category of microphones is the modeling microphone. Wherein a spectrally flat signal is recorded and then modified by software. The two products that are out there right now that do this are Slate Digital’s ML-1 and the Townsend Labs Sphere L22.

The ML-1 sounds good but I do find the top end to be a bit harsh. Not cheap Chinese mic harsh but it doesn’t sound like I would expect a very high end microphone to sound. A good de-esser plugin will take of the issue but it still stinks because the ML-1 costs almost $1,000. It does come with a very clean preamp as a part of the Virtual Microphone System though, which the Sphere L22 doesn’t.

The Sphere L22 is unique in its own way though. It has TWO capsules! This provide a variety of uses including stereo recording, variable polar patterns and more accurate off-axis response compared to the Slate VMS One. The only two downsides are that it eats up an extra audio channel and costs $500 more than the VMS One.

The Slate ML-2 will be released later this year. It’s a $150 small diaphragm condenser microphone that models over 13 different microphones. I get the feeling that it will be sold out at a lot of stores for many months upon its release.

Sennheiser MD421 II

THE tom drum microphone. Also works great on electric guitar speakers and vocals. You can get them in a three pack for a little less money than purchasing separately. Some engineers say that the original white/beige colored model is the only way to go so if you have the money and want to track them down on eBay I say go for it. The clip design is terrible though so I recommend some of these from Wilkinson Audio.

AKG D112 or Shure Beta 52A

If you need a kick (bass) drum or bass guitar cabinet microphone then you can’t go wrong with either of these choices. I’ve used the Audix D6 and find it pales to these two models. It’s a one trick pony and simply doesn’t work on every bass drum. The D112 and Beta 52A on the other hand can get a usable sound on any kick drum. If you have a lot of money to spare then check out AKG’s D12 VR. I have no experience with it but if the price tag indicates quality then it’s worth a shot.

Sennheiser MKH-416

I can already see the looks on some faces after seeing this microphone on the list. Why? Isn’t it a shotgun microphone that is used on movie sets? Yes…why yes it is! It is also a hidden secret that many voice over artists keep. But I’m letting that secret out now!

Also, if a movie company ever needs ADR (automated dialog replacement) services from you then this microphone and one of the Michael Joly 384s (they sound like cardioid versions of the Schoeps CMC641) can handle those duties. You can also rent it out to filmmakers.

That’s it?

Yep…that’s it. You’re covered for most recording situations. Those virtual microphones made the list a lot shorter than it would have been.

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Author: Adam

Adam is a professional photographer, videographer and audio engineer. He started Real Home Recording back in 2011 and in 2017 launched Don't Go to Recording School.