Punk PA: Budget Microphones. Part One. Vocal Mics.
It’s been a while since we did a live vocal microphone review. We took a look at the best budget microphones for vocals a few years back, but a few models have been deleted and there are some new ones, so time for an update.
There are some great microphones available at the budget end of the market, so if you find yourself in a temporary financial lull or if you need to buy a quantity of mics for a team of backing vocalists, a school, or a church then read on. This post will help you find the best cheap microphone for vocals for minimal outlay of your hard earned moolah. Although for these models, cheap is not the word. Inexpensive would be more appropriate.
For the purposes of this review, we’ve restricted ourselves to models currently £50 or under at the time of writing.
So what should we be looking for in live vocal mics?
Well, sound quality is the most important. This can, of course, be quite subjective. It may also depend on your role. What the singer likes, the sound man may not like so much. I tend to listen for a full bodied sound with lots of ‘presence’, clarity and detail without harshness or ‘rough edges’.
Effective feedback rejection is always good. This tends to be linked to the pickup pattern of the mic, with narrower patterns (usually described as super-cardioid, or hyper-cardioid as opposed to just cardioid) more effectively rejecting sound from the sides and rear and therefore minimizing feedback. That’s the theory anyway.
Of course, any item used on a stage or for touring needs to be tough and durable. So build quality should also be a factor. I look out for strong metal grills and metal chassis as well as features such as suspended capsules which can help protect the essential parts of microphones from knocks and shocks.
For crooners, handling noise might be a factor. I sometimes think this can be a bit overestimated in importance with prospective customers rubbing there thumbs up and down the mics chassis to check the noise it makes. Truth is nobody really does that whist their singing (at least no-one I know of or have worked with). Perhaps more important might be the mic capsule’s effective isolation from low frequency stage rumble and vibrations that might travel up the mic stand when the mic is mounted on a stand. These two factors are related.
We usually have a wide selection of budget mics available so if you’re in our locality, then you can come in and check a selection out. Do give us a call first to arrange a time and check stock, particularly if there is a particular model you’d like to try.
So here we go. Let’s review the best budget vocal mics around. Click the images and product titles for more information and sales:
It’s easy to see where the looks of this mic comes from, so if you like to stick with ‘classic’ looks then the PM580 is well worth a look. With high output and gain, it sounds great. Ideal for rock n’ roll type vocals needing to get above noisy drums and guitar amps. The sound might be a little too ‘rough edged’ for lounge/cocktail jazz, but at this sort of price, I don’t think we can really grumble. The value of the package is further enhanced by the inclusion of 5 metre XLR-XLR (please take not any manufacturers still including virtually useless XLR-Jack cables with their mics) cable and a foam windshield and it all comes in a rather nice foam lined ABS case. Build quality is high with an all metal barrel and heavy duty mesh grill. A switched version is also available for DJ/MC use.
Soundwise, this mic is undoubtedly our new sub £50 champion and overall the best budget vocal mic there is. The bass is warm and fat combined with a a bright and clear mid top. It’s sound rivals microphones with price tags well above three figures, and it’s built like a tank with a strong spherical grill. It will look good for a long time. It also comes with a 4.5m XLR-XLR cable into the bargain. Our only real problem with this package is that there is no clip supplied so that’s a slight extra cost and it comes in a very attractive retail package rather than a more useful case. But, again, small beer for a monumental bargain such a this.
Proel’s DM226 is another extreme bargain in the sub-£50 microphone department. Combining sleek, modern looks with a warm, detailed sound, this microphone has a flat grill making it perhaps more suitable as an ‘allrounder’. The flat grill makes it more suitable for close miking of instruments such as guitar amps and cabs than maybe a spherical grill. The DM226 is supplied with a ‘pencil case’ type case and a clip and there is a high value package available with a better quality cable than that supplied with the Pulse and JTS models.
Handling noise is good/negligible and we found the DM226 had excellent feedback rejection characteristics. Great for all types of vocals including rock, pop, jazz and gospel.
So there they are. Our picks for the sub £50 vocal microphone category. If you’re looking for vocal mics and things are a bit tight at the moment you won’t be disappointed with any of these models.
Next in our Punk PA Series we’ll take a look at some bargains in the instrument microphone department.