3 Great Condensor Microphones for Under £20
The barriers to creating things at home are falling by the day. What once used to require renting expensive studios—or thousands of pounds in audio equipment—can these days be undertaken with little more than the cost of a nice meal. One of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll likely purchase in terms of versatility, however, is a microphone.
When it comes to use cases, microphones are the most useful of all your audio equipment, as you can record pretty much anything with it. Sure, you could spend your hard earned cash on guitar amp simulation software and plug your axe straight into your computer, but you can’t record vocals that way. The same goes for drum software, keyboards, and any number of other things you might think to buy. With a microphone, you have a way to record vocals, acoustic instruments, amp’d instruments, and much more.
So, if you’re on a tight budget, a microphone should be the priority when starting out. And if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll want to spend as little as you can while still getting the most usable, decent product you can.
Fortunately, I have put together a handy collection of some of the best microphones available today for under £20. That's about $26 at the time of writing.
Now, before we get started, some microphones do require “Phantom Power”, a power source delivered via XLR cable. Many audio interfaces and mixing boards have this built in, however your computer will not. If you’re starting completely from scratch, you’ll need to factor this in. Fear not, however, a dedicated phantom power supply can be purchased for as little as £15. With an adaptor cable to marry up to your computer, you’re probably looking at an additional £25 on top of the cost of your microphone.
Don’t worry; these microphones are dirt cheap.
Everesta BM-800 Condenser Microphone
All the colours of the rainbow.
I’ve actually covered this mic before in another hub, though the company was called BT-SKY at the time. That hub covers the differences between different kinds of microphones, so if any of this seems confusing, check that out here.
The BM-800 is a condenser mic that, at the time of writing, can picked up for as little as £18.99 (in pink). Like many budget microphones, the BM-800 does everything comparatively well (comparatively, that is, considering the cost).
For your money, you get the microphone itself, a shock mount microphone holder, an XLR cable, and a foam cover. You don’t get a microphone stand so bear that in mind. Holding a microphone may be fine for singing, but if you want to record instruments you’ll need a way to mount it.
The BM-800 does require phantom power.
In terms of actual performance, it gives a great, clear sound that is particular suited to vocals/spoken word, and is definitely one to consider if you’re a vocalist, or perhaps looking at starting a podcast or doing voice over work. It’s a uni-directional mic, meaning that it only picks up sound from one side of the element. It’s important to note, however, that this is a quite sensitive mic, and can easily pick up a lot of background noise. If you plan to record in an environment with a lot of background noise (such as traffic) it might be worth considering a different option.
The mic body itself feels sturdy and not at all cheap. I haven’t dropped mine (yet!), so I can’t attest as to exactly how sturdy it is, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it would break in regular use.
It also comes in a range of different colours, if that’s important to you.
BM800 Vs AT2020
All the extras.
The Neewer NW-1500 is quite a distinctive looking microphone. It features a typical cylindrical body with an XLR connection in the base, but where it differs from the BM-800 is the microphone element housing. The NW-1500 places its element in a spherical grill on top of a thin neck, and can record from both the front and back. Though in my experience, one side sounds a little “warmer” than the other.
The look may be a matter of personal preference. In terms of quality, the NW-1500 is every bit as capable as the other mics on this list.
Where the Neewer NW-1500 edges ahead of the BM-800 is in terms of value for money. Like the BM, you get a shock mount holder and cable. Unlike the BM-800, you also get a small stand to hold your microphone in place, perfect for desktop mounting.
Furthermore, the cable included in with this microphone is an XLR to regular microphone jack. This means you can plug the mic directly into your computer with no additional hardware, though the mic can also be run on phantom power if you already have an audio interface.
Produce Like a Pro Tests Out the NW-1500
Tie Studio Broadcast Microphone
All about the vocals.
The Tie Studio Broadcast mic is a condenser microphone with a form factor far more suited spoken word than, say music. The body of the mic sports a slim stem that is perfect for holding when in use. This single design feature makes it ideal for a broadcast environment—such as podcasting—as the mic can be comfortably held in the hand.
It doesn’t need to be held, of course, and included in the package is a small tripod stand for mounting on a desk. There is a volume control on the microphone itself, allowing the speaker to easily adjust their level on the fly without the need for a mixing board. Like the other mics on the list, the Tie Studio Broadcast mic uses an XLR port, however it comes with an adapter cable to take that XLR output and channel it into a regular 3.5mm microphone jack. Combined with the ability to power the microphone via USB, this means, like the Neewer, it can be used with a regular computer or laptop straight out of the box.
Now, as the cheapest microphone in this hub (at the time of writing it can be picked up from Amazon for less than £14), you shouldn’t expect amazing all round performance from the Tie Studio. It is very clearly designed with broadcasting in mind—it’s in the name—and so it does spoken word well enough for all but the most high end set ups. But I wouldn’t recommend attempting to recording instruments or sound effects/Foley work with it.
And a couple more...
Fifine Studio USB Condenser Microphone
The Fifine Studio USB Condenser microphone missed out due to it being a shade over the £20 ceiling I placed on this article (£21.99 at the time of writing, to be exact). The Fifine is a good all round condenser mic that should perform well enough for most budget recording set ups in whatever capacity it’s needed; vocals, spoken word, acoustic instruments, etc. It is a USB mic so will work straight out of the box with your computer, and sports its own volume knob on the body of the mic. It's also quite stylish.
Pyle Pro PDMIC78
The Pyle Pro PDMIC78 is another microphone covered in the aforementioned “5 High Quality Budget Microphones” hub. It didn’t make the main list here, not because of its price (at the time of writing it can be picked up for less than £10!) but because it is not a condenser microphone, and comparing it to the others in this list would not be fair. The PDMIC78 is a dynamic microphone in the style (some might a copy) of the industry standard Shure SM57. It is a great microphone recording acoustic instruments and guitar cabs. Given the price of these mics, someone looking to record music at home might benefit from getting the PDMIC78 as well as one of the above mics.
So there’s your three great condenser microphones for under £20, plus a couple of extra suggestions. These microphones are remarkably effective considering their price. And with that price comes a lower barrier to entry when it comes to creating from home. Whether you want to make music, podcast, record sound effects for video games, or much more, there’s increasingly less to stop you chasing those dreams.