The best cheap microphone

Reviews

A cheap microphone can dramatically improve the quality of your audio input during meetings, live streams or conference calls

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Which cheap microphones are best?

Microphones found in professional studios and performance settings can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. While these microphones offer unparalleled audio fidelity, most people will not require the specifications found in expensive, premium models.

Thankfully, cheap microphones can serve the same basic purposes as professional models at a fraction of the cost. The Shure SM48 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone provides the quality that has made Shure an industry leader the world over at a very affordable price.

What to know before you buy a cheap microphone

Your usage

Consider what your primary use of your microphone will be. Regular speaking or performing engagements require microphones that are light but durable and provide crisp, high-quality audio. If you plan to equip your karaoke machine with a cheap microphone that will not leave the house, you need not purchase a model built to withstand the rigors of the road. If you want to improve the quality of your audio input while video chatting or gaming on your computer, a microphone with USB compatibility will be the easiest way to achieve your goal.

Microphone types

There are many types of microphones available, but most cheap models will fall into one of two main categories:

  • Dynamic microphones: These microphones can handle loud audio input without any distortion or decrease in quality. They are ideal for live performances or scenarios where clarity and volume are prioritized over subtle or nuanced sounds. In addition, dynamic microphones are the standard when it comes to public speaking and singing as they resist picking up room noise.
  • Condenser microphones: They are more suitable for studio environments or situations where the audio source is quieter and more controlled. These microphones are great for podcasting, studio recording and radio. Moreover, they pick up more detail and noise than dynamic microphones, requiring a quiet environment for best results. To get more information on condenser microphones, visit the BestReviews buying guide.

Construction

If you plan to use your microphone outside of your home, studio or office, carefully consider its construction and ability to withstand bumps and drops. Most microphones are built in aluminum housing. Plastic construction is not recommended.

Connection

Microphones built with computer use in mind will connect to your device with a USB cable. Thus, these microphones do not require any additional hardware. Microphones built for more general purposes will require an XLR cable and an audio interface to connect to your computer but will easily plug into pro sound gear such as mixers, karaoke machines and other hardware equipped with an XLR input.

What to look for in a quality cheap microphone

Power source

USB microphones will get any power they need from their connection to your computer. Dynamic microphones generally will not need a power source, although some do run on batteries. However, condenser microphones often require what is called “phantom power.” This term refers to the power drawn from an audio interface or mixer and sent to the microphone through its XLR audio cable. Those looking for cheap microphones that require little setup should avoid models that require phantom power.

Signal output

Some microphones, especially condenser models, have low signal output. That’s because these mics are usually plugged into audio processing gear that a technician or performer will use to amplify or adjust the incoming sound to suit their needs. Suppose you already have an audio interface and some familiarity with pro audio gear. In that case, a dynamic mic will provide higher output without the need for phantom power or further amplification hardware.

On/off switch

Most general purpose microphones, aside from wireless models, do not include an on/off switch. These microphones are used when a sound technician has full control over the mic while a performer uses it. For home use, on/off switches are a convenient way to avoid feedback or unwanted audio amplification while your mic is set down or not being used.

How much you can expect to spend on a cheap microphone

You can get surprisingly high quality audio using microphones that cost as little as $40. Those who wish to achieve more professional results can expect to pay around $100.

Cheap microphone FAQ

How can I connect a microphone to my computer?

A. Some microphones are specifically designed to plug into your computer via USB. These mics are marketed towards gamers, streamers and those who simply wish for better audio fidelity in their conference calls. Microphones that are designed for use on stage or in a studio will require the use of an audio interface to connect to your computer.

How do I control the volume of my microphone?

A. Most microphones do not have built-in adjustment features. This means that any tweaks you want to make to your sound need to happen via either your computer’s software or the audio hardware that you plug your microphone into.

Why would I need a cheap microphone?

A. Cheap microphones are ideal for those searching for an inexpensive way to experiment with music production, present to an audience or improve the quality of their speech while video chatting. Even professional, experienced musicians and audio engineers can benefit from having a cheap microphone or two available for backup in case their primary model experiences a malfunction.

What’s the best cheap microphone to buy?

Top cheap microphone

Shure SM48 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone

Shure SM48 Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone

What you need to know: This microphone comes from Shure, a legendary brand in professional audio known for its high-quality products.

What you’ll love: Shure’s entry level dynamic microphone comes with a mount and bag for storage. Heavy-duty construction and reliability, hallmarks of the brand, are evident in this microphone’s solid build and simple design.

What you should consider: This microphone will require an audio interface to be used with your computer. No on/off switch.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cheap microphone for the money

Behringer Ultravoice XM1800S Dynamic Cardioid Vocal and Instrument Microphones, Set of 3

Behringer Ultravoice XM1800S Dynamic Cardioid Vocal and Instrument Microphones, Set of 3

What you need to know: An outstanding deal, this pack of three microphones comes with a protective case and mounting clips.

What you’ll love: These mics are from Behringer, a company known for providing budget-friendly, no-nonsense audio equipment. Featuring power switches, mounts and a case, this set is perfect for podcasts, church groups or karaoke parties.

What you should consider: These microphones are best for hobbyists and may not prove to be rugged or consistent enough for travel.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Blue Snowball iCE USB Mic for Recording and Streaming on PC and Mac

Blue Snowball iCE USB Mic for Recording and Streaming on PC and Mac

What you need to know: This USB microphone is a great value for those who wish to improve their audio quality while using their computer. 

What you’ll love: USB connectivity makes this microphone ideal for those who require simple, plug-and-play installation with no additional hardware required. Great for streamers on a budget. Available in two colors for Mac or PC.

What you should consider: Some users have reported poor customer service from this microphone manufacturer. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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