Best Cheap Vocal Microphone Test – 2018 Edition.
‘Cheap’ is an ugly word. We prefer inexpensive. Or maybe ‘budget’.
As in all sound equipment categories, there are bargains to be had, but a bit of research can go a long way. There will always be compromises with budget equipment, but these may fit with your requirements, or be of little consequence for your particular application. If you go into things with your eyes open then the dynamic microphone market has plenty of ‘hidden gems’ for those in search of a bargain.
We’ve always tested and tried equipment both in the field and in our demo/lab facilities, and so we can present to you our findings for the best budget vocal mic thanks to our tests over the last year or so.
For the purpose of this little survey, we’ve selected a range of microphones that are around the £50 mark or below. Way below in some cases. Of the manufacturers here, there is only really one of the ‘big names’ represented (AKG). The big name mic producers don’t seem to have entered this area of the market or, at least haven’t had much success in it. Sennheiser microphones start with the 825s which is a little above our area, selling for around £70, and Shure’s PG Series doesn’t seem to have a gained much traction, certainly in the UK.
We’ll cover the microphones in (roughly) ascending order of price.
Pulse PLS00543 Review:
Amazing Sound Quality for the Price – No Accessories – Not Great Build Quality.
So we really are ‘on a budget’ with these fellas. At the timing of writing, these are around £7 each, which is hardly worth the postage cost. Our most popular listing is for a pack of three around £20 to make the shipping a little more worthwhile.
Obviously, at this kind of price there are going to be some compromises, but surprisingly, in terms of sound quality and balance this mic sounds pretty good.
Firstly, the chassis is plastic and there’s quite a bit of handling noise, so it might not be ideal for ‘crooners’. The build quality is not exactly tank-like so we would try and avoid dropping them, but we would say this about all microphones.
But the good new is, we think it sounds great. The sound is really quite clean and clear and well balanced. Bass frequencies are present but not excessive which means the sound is warm but not overbearing. The output is a little bit lower than most of the other mics here so you may need to turn up the gain controls on your mixer a little more which, may introduce a little more noise if your mixer is not the greatest. Buy hey-ho.
If you need some mics for backing vocals (particularly female), for a rehearsal facility, church, or school and really are on a ‘tighter than tight’ budget then I really can wholeheartedly recommend this product. No additional accessories are supplied, so you’ll need clips and cables, etc. Actually a fairly short XLR – Jack cable is supplied which for most applications is useless with very few mic inputs now being jack type.
Pulse PM580 Review:
Great Build Quality for the Price – High Output – Great Set of Accessories.
Next up is the PLS00543’s stable mate, the PM580. Unlike the PLS00543 this comes with a whole slew of accessories including clip, 4.5 metre XLR cable, a foam windshield, and an ABS foam lined case. Build quality is better with a metal chassis and spherical windshield. Those wanting ‘classic’ looks will be satisfied, it looks very much like a Shure SM58.
Sound wise, we think the PM580 is OK. It has a higher output than the PLS00543, but sound quality wise we would go for the PLS00543 every time. The balance is heavily weighted to the bass end of the spectrum and the mid range and higher frequencies are somewhat rougher than it’s brand stablemate. For loud ‘rock n roll’ male vocals it may be the choice, but if you require anything a little more sophisticated then it may not be the mic for you. Of course, in applications where build quality takes precedent, then this would be the one. Available from around £17.
AKG P3S Review:
Solid All Round Performer, Classy Looks, Great Package.
The P3s is supplied with a decent quality clip and ‘pencil’ type case. The classiest looking of all the mics here with an all black finish and black grill. The flat grill and high SPL capability means it’s also great for close miking of guitar amps and cabs as well as percussion.
As you would expect from an AKG capsule, sound is well balanced with a nice clean mid-range and high frequencies alongside a warm but not excessive bass response.
In fact, the only thing we don’t like about this mic is the switch. Switches are unnecessary for most microphone applications other than DJing and MC uses, etc. Most manufacturers compromise by offering a locking switch on there budget models, but alas, not the P3s which has a rather small non-locking switch.
JTS TX8 Review:
Excellent Sound Quality – Very Solid Build – XLR Cable But No Case or Clip
JTS offer a range of budget microphones via their TX range of products which also includes drum and instrument mics. The TX8 is the live vocal microphone in the range.
Build quality is very heavy duty and tank-like so we reckon this mic can take some punishment and come up smiling. Once again, it is equipped with a switch but this is a large reed type switch with a lock, which we think is a good compromise for a general purpose mic.
Sound quality is excellent with a balanced sound with a crystal clear mid range and a warm bottom end. Output is quite high, and the pattern is quite tight so we were able to get lots of output before feedback.
Only real quibble with this one is the package. It includes a 4.5 metre XLR – XLR cable which is great, but may be a little short for some applications, and there’s no clip or case, although a decent clip probably won’t break the bank.
LD Systems D1020:
Very High Gain – Excellent Feedback Performance – Good Build Quality.
The D1020 may have slightly crept out of the £50 price bracket with recent price changes, but it’s still around that area, so we’ll include it here. We’ve always like the D1020. It’s a really good ‘rock n roll’ performer. If you’ve got a loud band to cut through the gain before feedback performance is excellent, combining a high output capsule with a very tight response pattern.
Sound is a little too weighted toward the bass for our liking but if you want a super-warm type of sound without such a ‘nuanced’ midrange and high-end then this may be the mic for you.
Package includes a decent clip and a ‘pencil’ type soft case.
So there you have it. Our favourite would be the JTS TX8, honourable mention for the AKG P3S, and if you’re really strapped for cash then the PLS00543 is a cracking mic for the money.
This post is presented in an informal manner for general information only. We accept no responsibility for any circumstances arising from the use or misuse of this information or the inability to interpret it.