A more accurate title for this article might have been "Choosing a microphone for voiceovers", since these recommendations are specifically aimed at people who want to record a spoken word or singing performance and then blend it with music. This is not a guide for those who wish to record musical instruments.
My number one tip for beginners
Do NOT buy your microphone on the internet if you can avoid it. Go to a music store or a professional audio shop and ask for help from a real person. If you buy a mic online, then you’re less likely to get qualified support that is relevant to your microphone and your recording / computer setup. There are many different microphone types (we'll cover those in just a moment), there are many different ways to connect your microphone to your computer, and there are all sorts of potential technical issues that might frustrate you if you don't yet know how to deal with them.
You will be far better off if you can find someone to show you how to use your microphone properly. So don’t buy a mic until you have been given some instruction on how to use it and how to connect it to your computer. If you get home and run into trouble, then you can always call the shop where you bought your mic and request some after-sales support.
Take my word for it – if you are brand new to D.I.Y recording then this one tip alone may save your sanity!
The Right Mic
The best type of microphone for a voice recording is called a “large diaphragm condenser microphone”. Don’t let these technical terms scare you if they are unfamiliar. They simply refer to the way the microphone is constructed. Alternative types of microphone like “dynamic microphones” and “ribbon microphones” are not suitable for voiceover recordings in most situations.
The Right Price
Mics can cost as little as $10, and as much as $10,000. The trick is to find the right balance between cost and quality.
My general advice is this: Do not buy a new mic for less than $100. Sound quality will begin to suffer in a noticeable way with microphones below this price point, so forget about using built-in computer microphones or cheap podcasting mics. They won’t give you a professional sound.
There are loads of great mics available between $100 and $350 that will give you a totally professional studio-quality result.
You can spend more than $400 if you like, but it's unlikely that you will be able to hear the subtle differences between a $300 mic and a $1000 mic unless you have developed advanced listening skills in a professional recording studio environment.
Suitable Mics For Voiceover Recordings
This is by no means a complete list of suitable microphones, but it is a good cross section of popular microphones from reputable manufacturers.
Samson C01U USB
Recommended Mics ($100 - $200)
Audio Technica AT2020 & AT2020 USB
Audio Technica AT2035
Shure PG27 and Shure PG27 USB
AKG Perception 120 & 120USB
AKG Perception 220
Recommended Mics ($200 - $400)
Rode NT1A (my personal recommendation - probably the best balance of quality and price of any mic in this list).
Audio Technica AT 4040
Sennheiser MK 4
Shure Beta 27
AKG Perception 420
Before you buy
Remember – in order to actually record yourself, you will also need the following items:
1. A computer with recording software.
2. A microphone windshield & microphone stand
3. Microphone cable
4. An audio interface. An audio interface is a device that connects your microphone to your computer and converts the analog microphone signal into digital data. Unless you purchase a USB microphone, this item is essential. Audio interfaces are a mystery to most newcomers to D.I.Y recording – all the more reason to take my advice and buy your microphone & accessories from a retail music store, not an online store.