Best Microphones for Recording Under 100 Dollars 2021

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Sean McCauley
August 6, 2021

The best microphones for recording under 100 dollars are really good mics. From 20-dollar options to 100-dollar models, they all do a much better job than whatever you happen to have lying around. If you only want to buy one microphone, you'll want it to be cardioid and dynamic, so we'll spend a moment explaining what that means, then we'll get into it. All the below are cardioid dynamic mics.

[Looking for the best headphones for recording under 100 bucks? We covered that here.]

All microphones have a pick-up pattern. Their shape and design make them good at certain jobs but worse at others. Cardioid dynamic mics are best at doing everything. Dynamic means 'changing,' and the sounds they're expected to pick up will be changing. Sometimes you'll record vocals, other times a guitar ... everything.

The sensitivity pattern of a dynamic mic looks like this:

The circle in the top half shows where the cardioid, dynamic mic picks up sound. It picks up sound in the direction it is pointed, but not much sound at the sides or back. Point it at something and hit record, it won't pick up much of what's behind it or to the side.

(It's called a cardioid pattern because it's heart-shaped. You know, like cardiac).

In a pro studio, cardioid, dynamic mics are the choice for vocals and anything coming out of an amplifier. They're also used for drums, though, which basically means they're used for everything. Get them close to what you're recording, hush your background noises, and make the source of your sound loud. Done.

You can read up on the science of dynamic mics versus other kinds here.

So what are the best cardioid, dynamic microphones for recording under 100 dollars? Let's see!

BUT FIRST! You’re probably going to want an XLR/USB mic cord! So let’s just get that out of the way.

If you end up with a studio-quality mic, you're sure to want a pre-amp.

"What's a pre-amp? Why?"

If you use a gaming mic, it has a very low peak threshold and isn't easy to hear unless you "eat" the mic. If you speak up, let alone sing or yell, you will peak the hell out of the mic. Your voice crackles and gets all staticky, and you can't use that in a recording at all. The good thing about them, though, is that they don't need a pre-amp because they're not intended for anything more than talking at a mellow volume.

If you use a real mic, like one of the below, you'll start recording and right away notice that the levels are way too low unless you're shouting into it. That's because it's intended to take much more sonic information than the gamers' mic. Now, you can use your recording software to boost the volume, but A.) that can only go so far, and B.) you're going to distort your recording.

That's what the pre-amp is for. It will boost the volume of your vocals (or guitar, or whatever you're recording) before sending it to the computer for recording. It does this cleanly, clearly, and with ample room for control. They have inputs for .25" jack and XLR, and you can get specialized ones, too. They cost between 80-200 dollars for a good one, and they'll last forever.

We suggest the ART Tube pre-amp which was designed specifically for home studios. No, we don't make money on recommends.

It's also come to our attention you can get a Behringer U Phoria for about 50 ducats if you look around. We still recommend the above Tube MP, but if you're really counting coins Behrenger is a perfectly dependable, quality company and this little guy will do just fine.

XLR-to-USB Mic Cord

The best microphones for home recording need cables. Since you’re an indie musician, you’re surely recording on a computer, which means you’re probably going to want an XLR/USB cord.

Those are about a dollar a foot, so you can get this ten-footer for about ten bucks.

However, that’s only going to work if your vocalist is right on top of the compy. We recommend at least twenty feet so your artist can move around a little. You can get that option for only 17 USD right now. No biggie.

The best microphone you can get for under 100 bucks won’t mean a thing if your artist gets excited and rips the laptop off the desk because the cord’s too short.

But enough about boring cords. On to the mics!

Pyle-Pro Professional Moving Coil Dynamic Cardioid Unidirectional - $15

The best microphones for recording under 100 dollars will start at the Pyle-Pro. Technically billed on Amazon as the "Pyle-Pro Professional Moving Coil Dynamic Cardioid Unidirectional Vocal Handheld Microphone," you can't deny that the price has to be the best part about it.

Surprisingly, though, this little mic's cartioid pattern really does help keep interference and unwanted noise pretty low.

It's a strong little thing, great for taking on the road, and it's got a pop screen inside it so you don't even need to buy (or make) that.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

[Are we helping? You should see us distro music. You can put your single in stores for just 9 USD now].

Behringer Ultravoice Xm8500 - $23

For a couple extra bucks, you can have a name brand, the Behringer XM8500. The cardioid pattern works as well as it ever does, so you won't need to put in any extra work to record just what you want. Is it as crisp and streamlined a sound as you can get at the 50-dollar level? Nah, but it'll definitely beat the pants off of any old gamer headset you've got lying around, and don't even come at it with the mic on your earbuds.

Bottom line, for 20 bucks (and 10 on sale, which happens all the time) you're getting one of the best microphones for recording under 100 dollars.

One more thing, though, lots of these mics don't come with a cable, and this is one of them. Presuming you're a DIY artist using a modern DAW, you'll likely want an XLR to USB cable. You can get one here for about 20 bucks after shipping.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

GLS Professional Series ES58 - $25

The best cheap microphone for home recording may be this GLS which showed up during COVID lockdown. It’s cheap af and when you look at the reviews, it’s constantly being compared to the studio standard Shure mics (see below). Doesn’t have an on/off switch option, though, and some say it’s not built as solid.

But does the GLS sound just as good as Shure name-brand microphones? Read the reviews and decide for yourself, but two things are factually certain:

  1. The GLS is close enough that people make comparisons.
  2. It’s freaking less-than-half the cost of a Shure.

So if you don’t have a mic at all because they’re too expensive, the GLS ES58 should solve your problem right away.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

Shure SM48-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone - $40 (without on/off switch)

The best microphones under a hundred dollars will always include several Shure mics. There are lots of reasons for that, and one such reason is that they start at 40 dollars.

Like the others, it's got a cardioid pickup pattern to ward off feedback and unwanted sounds. It has a built-in pop screen, which is nice, and it's tailored specifically for vocals with a bright midrange and bass "rolloff" so getting close to it won't hurt.

Speaking of hurt, it's hard to hurt a Shure. Like, seriously, unless you're trying to kill it, you'll have this thing until the day you die.

This one also comes with a clip for your mic stand and a storage bag. That's nice.

This is the last of the budget models we'll cover. It's also probably the best of them by a long way, but dig it: no on/off switch, and it also doesn't come with a cord. Still, if you need a studio quality mic at a DIY price, this is a fine bet.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

Shure PG58-QTR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone with XLR to 1/4-inch Cable - $59

Right away we meet another Shure for about 20 bucks more. Not going to keep talking about the cardioid pattern because it's the same throughout: point it at the sound you want and it'll pick up less of what you don't.

The dynamic cartridge on this Shure, though, handles high volumes "without any skewed noises, lags or distortion," and once you use it on something really loud (like a snare drum or a vocalist screaming right into its face) you'll agree.

Like all Shures, it's practically bulletproof.

Oh, but don't forget the cord.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

Samson Q2U USB/XLR Dynamic Microphone Recording and Podcasting Pack - $60

The best cheap studio microphones also include this excellent deal from Samson. Samson isn't a brand with a long history in pro studios, but check out what you get for 60 dollars, here.

It's got the cardioid pattern you want, it reduces feedback for live performance, and it's die-cast and sturdy like the Shures.

But it also has a little headphone jack for direct monitoring, a USB and XLR jack, an on/off switch, a pop screen, a desktop mic stand and clip (seriously?) and to top it all off, the thing comes with not one but both cables, USB and XLR.

Considering the cables alone usually cost 12+ dollars, this is easily one of the best values on this list if not the best one.

So what's the catch? Mmm -- it's a budget brand. Read the reviews online and decide for yourself if it seems like the right choice for you.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone - $80

The best microphones for recording under 100 dollars must also include the name-brand version of the Samson, this Audio-Technica.

It's the exact same thing with everything ostensibly built a little better. Oh, and it has a volume knob on the mic.

Is the brand name and volume knob worth another 20 to you? Again, read the reviews and decide for yourself. Audio-Technica does have a strong history of dependability and quality products, and that's usually worthwhile if you can afford it.

...If you can afford it.

Note, too, that Fakespot gives the Amazon reviews on this product a big, fat D! Not great! You can't trust the reviews on this one!

AKG D5 - $95

The best microphones for recording under a hundred dollars has a top tier just under the 100 USD limit. These mics are all comparable in terms of quality, but at this price range they start to have different characters.

The AKG-D5 works best capturing high frequencies, like electric guitars and female singers, and you're going to hear a distinct improvement when you're recording the upper register. Drums and dudes are going to sound thicker than they do live, which can be good for certain tones if that's what you're going for. If you're looking to capture violins, crash cymbals, harmonicas and accordions, this is your piece. If you're recording baritone singers and bass guitars, probably not.

It's tough, though, and still has a dynamic range (the low-end muddiness notwithstanding) and it's never going to distort.

Definitely worth your cashola.

No cord, though.

Amazon Fakespot review: C. Not great here, either, but definitely better than the above Audio-Technica!

Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (ATR Series) - $100

The best cheap microphones for the studio include this killer Audio-Technica built specifically to cover all your needs.

Podcasting? Check. Live performance? Check. Studio recording? Check, check, check.

It comes with all the things the AT2005 does, but also sports a low-mass diaphragm. That means it has a great frequency response for podcasts, studio recording, live performance, whatever. And it's solid no matter what range you're capturing, too, unlike the AKG which really shines up top.

In other words, this is a jack-of-all-trades microphone, and it's pretty damned good at everything. Unless you're a female vocalist or going to be recording that register most of the time, do this one, not the other one.

Fakespot Amazon review grade: B.

Shure SM58 - $99

Aaaand the granddaddy of them all, the Shure 58.

If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting a legit professional studio, then you've seen one of these mics. It's been used to record everything and (probably) everyone that matters. It never dies.

It has a famously broad freq range of 50 Hz to 15000 Hz, so it's gonna grab anything you throw at it from a bassoon to a canary.

What's wrong with it? Doesn't come with a cable or anything like that. But what you get for 100 dollars is the assurance that if your recording comes out distorted or muddy or muffled or something, it is not your Shure SM58. The mic is fine. In fact, the mic is excellent.


Fakespot Amazon review grade: B, but that doesn't matter at all. This mic is straight-up legendary.

The Best Mics for Recording Under 100 Dollars Do a Fantastic Job

The best mics for recording under 100 bucks aren't just good enough. They're all darn good. The worst mic in this list -- and which one that might be is debatable -- will still do a good sight better than whatever random thing you saw at Best Buy last weekend. These are microphones built by people who know for artists who care.

No matter what you decide to do (and believe me, there are all kinds of other possibilities these days) the above list is a rock-solid place to start.

Thanks for reading! And have fun in the studio!