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The Top 5 Must Have Microphones for Home Recording

Updated on March 16, 2013

Microphones: The Most Important Link In the Recording Chain

Microphones are the most important link in the recording chain. They are responsible for capturing the sound and nothing done to the sound later on in the chain will be able to make up for a poor mic. Selecting the correct microphone is vital if you want to make high quality home recordings. Look though the microphones on this list. They will give you a good idea on how to start or improve your mic cabinet.

1. The Shure SM-57

The SM-57 has been on almost every rock, pop, and R&B album made during the past 50 years. It frequently shows up on professional recording engineers lists of desert island mics. It can be used to on just about any instrument you may need to record and it will give you consistently usable recordings. It is mine and many others personal favorite for recording electric guitar amps.

2. The EV RE-20

The RE-20 is one of my most favorite microphones. I use it to record kick drums, bass amps, and vocals. I have used it to record guitar amps as well and it does a decent job but it really isn't the best choice. It also doesn't do a particularly good job on acoustic instruments, if you want to record these types of instruments I recommend looking at one of the condensers on this list. All of this said it is my absolute favorite mic for bass guitars and vocalist with a brighter vocal quality. It is also a favorite microphone for voice-over and broadcast work.

3. The Rode NT-1A

The Road NT-1A is a condenser microphone and has the lowest self-noise available. This makes it an excellent choice for recording acoustic instruments and vocals. I have gotten excellent results recording acoustic guitars and male vocals with this mic. It is less reliable on female vocalist, particularly sopranos. If you plan on recording soprano vocals often then you will find the RE-20 a better choice.

4. The Shure SM-81

The Shure SM-81 is my go to mic for drum overheads and acoustic instruments. It is one of the finest microphones for recording acoustic guitars. It gives a very natural recording of just about any source. Most of the microphones on this list will slightly modify the sound being recorded. With the SM-81 what you hear is pretty much what you get. I have recorded many instruments with this mic and it always delivers an excellent recording. One word of warning, you will need to be careful to only use this mic on quiet sources. It can be used on loud sources (such as drum overheads), but you will need to place the mic at a distance or the sound will distort.

5. The Audio Technica AT 4040

The Audio Technica AT 4040 is an excellent all around mic. It can be used on just about any source you can think of. I have gotten extremely good recordings of grand pianos with this mic. It also is my go to vocal mic if I don't have time to try out several mics on the singer. No mic closet is complete without it.

A Well Rounded Mic Closet!

If you want to make good recordings you will need a good mic closet. The mics on this list will give you the ability to record any instrument. There are many other options available today but these are my favorite microphones. Have fun recording.


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    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      Great brand! I know someone who needs a home recording microphone so I'll pass this information on to him. I know he will find it extremely useful :)

    • Maugustine profile image

      Michael Augustine 3 years ago from Arizona

      I work in film and the Rode NT-1A is our go-to mic for ADR. We have a minimal guerrilla style studio with the Rode (and our Protools rig) being the crown jewel, all of our VO and ADR sounds clean and of the utmost professional quality. I'll need to check out Shure's offerings when we look to upgrade, thanks for the great list.

    • rking96 profile image

      Rick King 3 years ago from Charleston, SC

      I have heard good things about the Audio Technica microphones. But I'd like to know more about the Shure brand.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      What a handy list. Thanks.

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 4 years ago

      I just noticed that microphones play important role in the recording chain; thanks for the info sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens, nice mics for home rec! Squidlike

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image

      IMKZRNU2 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Very informative lens. I hadn't given much thought to using a good mic when you make a home recording...thanks for shairing!

    • designsbyharriet profile image

      Harriet 5 years ago from Indiana

      Very useful information and interesting topic.